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The Alpha King and The Highland Prince

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~1603~

“Where is my husband!” the queen screamed, her voice echoing with the pain filling her body.

“I am sorry your grace. We received word this morning that he is returning from the battle, victorious but he will not be likely to make it in time.” Emily’s words were hurried as she rushed back to the queen’s side. She felt for her, the pains of child birth were difficult enough, even for wolf-kind, without having some kind of family support and absent any siblings, save her brother in law Peter, Talia had no one. The woman was strong nonetheless. She held her head high and pushed aside the pain so that she commanded a calm unlike any her ladies in waiting had ever seen.

*

*

Everyone at court knew her story and respected her for it. She was young, a girl barely blossoming into womanhood when the alpha-king had set his eyes on her. She had come to court after her father had been killed in another war the king had started and finished victoriously, as was his reputation. Talia Cornwall had inherited the title Countess of Brighton when her mother had passed away leaving her orphaned at 17. She became a ward of her father’s closest friend, a man she had called uncle, Lord Bishop, Earl of Guildford. The man served at court as a member of the King’s Privy Council and so his family had resided there for some time when he couldn’t part with his wife and she couldn’t stay without her children.

The king of England and Grand Alpha of England’s wolf-kind, William Hale the second, had watched her silently and from a distance at first. He took the time to survey his prey, noting her elegance and grace, the way she seemed to know so much even at such a young age. He watched her impress the ladies at court with her style and pride in all things while stunning the men with her beauty and spirit. Many had made advances but all were turned away as she had no interest in boys. She had always known that her husband would command her attention and respect, rather than attempt at teasing and flirting for her affections.

So over time the king had approached her, their first meeting on the dance floor when he’d joined in the celebrations after another of his many victories. He’d taken her hand before another could claim it and kept her his partner the entire night. He hadn’t spoken a word, just watched her, silently, steadily and ever so hungrily. Talia had known then, even as she’d given him a decent run for his money, that he was the one.

William had tried to bed her when he’d known certainly that she wanted him in return but she refused claiming she wouldn’t be a king’s whore. Her words had stirred nothing in him, he had already decided he would marry and mate her. A true mate coupling was often considered rare but there was no other the alpha-king had ever thought of after Talia had crossed his path. So he took her for himself and the realm had respected and praised their union. All the ladies aspired to be like Talia Hale nee Cornwall and all the men respected the king’s queen and alpha mate while secretly desiring knowledge of what a life with her might be like. Needless to say there was never a day when the king regretted his decision.

*

*

“That man…” she stopped wincing as she changed her position slightly in the birthing stool. “That man has always favored a battle it should not surprise me so, that it is what keeps him from his son’s birth.”

“I’m sure he would be here had he known the child would come so soon…”

“Even then Emily…” she groaned, “…even then that man would still be on some battlefield slicing through soldiers rather than holding his mate’s hand in the most…. Ahhhhhh!” she screamed as she felt the head of her baby pushing against her widening entrance.

“It’s time your grace, you must push.”

The queen screamed as she did so, her body clenching as she forced herself to expel the little one she’d kept safely inside her womb for eight months and a few days.

“That’s good my queen another,” Emily coaxed holding the woman’s hand a moment before returning to the child coming from between her legs. The queen pushed again her roar of pain and endurance an echo once more throughout the upper halls of the castle.

“One more my lady, one more, you can do this.”

She pushed a final time and felt the instantaneous relief when the child left her body completely and was caught in the arms of her first lady Emily. One of the others cut the cord and Emily stood laughing as she brought the newborn forth. “A boy my queen, it’s a boy.” Talia’s face lit up, glowing with more than just reflected light off the sheen of sweat covering her, but with her joy at having birthed a son.

“A little prince,” she cooed as she opened her arms to receive him. “My little prince Derek. Your father will be so pleased to meet you.” She cradled the boy in her arms and listened to his welcome wailing as she stared into his blinking hazel eyes, so large and round and bright. He was perfect, not a hair out of place even having come early.

“Talia!” she heard the shout of a voice heaving with having run a great distance. Her lord husband, the King come to his wife from battle, to be greeted with the sight of his heir, his prince in her arms.

“William, you’ve returned. They said you wouldn’t make it.”

“They were wrong, nothing would keep me from this,” he huffed.

“My love, it’s a boy,”

“How can I love you more woman? For you’ve given me all a man could hope for, love and laughter and an heir to carry on when I am dust. Let me look at him.” William took his boy into his arms and raised him up. He smiled approvingly before kissing his son’s cheek. “A fine prince you are and a fine king you’ll be.”

 

~1610~

Edinburgh Castle was lit up with shouts of praise and joyous singing in anticipation of the birth of the Scottish heir. The queen Claudia had gone into labor three weeks after going into confinement. The king had commenced celebrations just the day before and left them to be at her side for the duration of her labor. Grand Alpha-King John had refused to be ordered away from his wife’s birthing bed as she gave birth to their son, or at least he’d hoped it was a son. Though nothing would have pleased him more than to see his child, boy or girl brought safely into the world but the monarch and male in him, the king in him held a special hope that the child would be male. A male who could take the throne and continue his line.

“What if he does not take to this world,” Claudia worried to her husband as he held her from behind, holding her shoulders so she could feel him there.

“Ach Claudia he is my son he will be fine. Fine, strong and perfect. Leave your worries to God he will see our boy to us safely.” The king was unwavering in his belief that all would be well. His sureness gave his wife the courage and strength to continue on. He tended to have that effect on her continuously reminding her he was definitely her other half. King John Stilinski had always been a kind and loving man in all things. He had loved his people and earned their respect through his strength and love rather than through fear like a few of his predecessors.

The Scottish people had hailed the king and queen as the truest of true of all Scottish monarchs and would give their lives for either of them at a moment’s notice. The joy of the royal family was the joy of the common people and so when the queen had become pregnant they rejoiced, as much as they did now that she was birthing the future of Scotland.

“The child will be here soon, you must push my queen,” one of her ladies said clearly, with surety and conviction.

“Push Dia,” John whispered calling her the pet name he’d used so many times. She complied, pushing as hard as she could. The cry of pain that ripped from her throat wrenched John’s heart but he held her steady, remaining her rock.

“Again your grace, again.” Claudia pushed and immediately felt a strange pain overcome her, unlike what she’d felt before. She screamed as her body seemed to fight her to reclaim the child.

“Stop stop your grace stop pushing!”

“Adelaide what’s happening?” the king asked as a hint of fear crept into him.

“The child’s shoulder is caught against the wall of the queen’s passage, if she pushes he could break his arm and tear her walls. We must turn him.” The woman spoke solemnly and truthful, sparing no detail. The king had treated her as family all her life and she respected and loved him.

“Then do so quickly,” he said but she didn’t move, giving him a worried look.

“It will be painful my lord, extremely so.” His face immediately mirrored Adelaide’s before he turned down to face his panting and huffing wife. Her face was a mess of sweat and spittle as she tried to hold on.

“I am with you in this thing, I am here, use me, hold me and let us get our son out into the world so he can nurse at your breast and smile at your beautiful face, the way I do,” he winked as he placed his hands in hers and nodded. He mimicked the breathing pattern to remind her to do so and when she final found a breath that almost gave respite from the endless pain she nodded. The king turned to Adelaide and gestured with his head for her to proceed.

When the queen cried out John thought she would die. The pain in her voice was unlike anything he’d ever heard in all his years even as a warrior in the heat of battle. No man had ever screamed out a cry as terrifying as that. Her eye’s flashed golden as she reached for her wolf allowing the supernatural strength to aid her. It seemed like forever before Adelaide pulled her hand from between the Queen’s legs, slick with fluids and blood. She huffed out a breath and urged the queen to push once more, Just one large push.

Claudia did so and the cries came almost immediately. Their son was free and healthy and she laughed when she heard it. Once the cord was cut Adelaide brought the child forth to his parents, presenting him eagerly after smiling down at his face. The king took the babe and placed him in his mother’s arms and the crying ceased immediately. Claudia smiled at the boy and looked up to her husband who smiled as well. There was a soft shriek from the Queen’s arms and the baby began to giggle so much so his body vibrated with it.

“John he laughs, he’s laughing my love what a miracle you are my boy, my precious boy.”

“A miracle indeed. Adelaide look upon the miracle my wife has given us. Prince Germin Stilinski future king of Scotland.”

Once news had reached the outside the celebrations roared to a fever pitch as people danced and sang, lifting their voices to give praises for their blessing.

~1616~

Metal smacked hard against metal as they sparred, master and student. King William had insisted his son be trained by the best there ever was, who he admitted, only privately, wasn’t himself. Sir Alan Deaton, the commander of the King’s army was the most excellent swordsman in all of England. There was not a man who could best him when he held his blade and the king had hoped his friend Sir Alan would train his son to be quite the same if not better.

“I can feel the weakness of your stance when my steel collides with yours. Spread your legs, one further away from the other giving you a strong foundation and bind your arm to that sword boy.”

“I’m trying,” Derek articulated. He was only thirteen but he was tall for his age and his body had begun filling in early giving him an air of manliness.

“Try harder my prince, in battle there are no take-backs or do-overs. Your first chance is your last chance.” Derek nodded his understanding. “Now let your hand mold to the hilt of that sword and allow it to move as though it were part of you, an extension so that your reflexes are the sword’s reflexes.” Before Derek had a chance to nod again, Alan was coming at him, charging with an elongated arm, stabbing his steel toward Derek’s middle. Immediately the boy parried his hand swinging around, counter clockwise so that his sword swatted the knight’s away. He smiled at his own progress but immediately the knight retaliated, swirling about and bringing the sword with him so that its flat edge smacked Derek’s upper back and sent him toppling over thanks to his weak stance.

Alan walked toward him before standing there, towering over the boy, his face serious as his hand stretched down to offer the prince aid in rising. Derek turned over and pulled himself up before assuming an adjusted stance making sure his legs were far enough apart that he wouldn’t repeat his previous mistake and find himself flat on his face. Alan gave him a brief smile of acknowledgement and encouragement before resuming his impeccable mask of impassivity and attacking once more.

~1622~

King John and queen Claudia walked together, hand in hand along the ramparts, their eyes down at the ground near the side of the great castle, where they could see Germin and his teachers. The prince had taken to a nickname over the years so that all the court referred to him commonly as prince Stiles. John had tried to hold off on Stiles’ ambition but the young lad at his tender age had begged for his father to begin his training with a blade.

As soft as he was on the inside when it came to his boy the king could not deny him. He had hailed a few of the swordsmen of his guard, the ones he trusted above all else and petitioned them to be the prince’s teachers. Of course the men had happily agreed, few of the members of court even knew how to say no to the prince and the only ones who did tended to have good reason for taking such action. Like the cook for example who had to deny Stiles late night sweets as she had insisted he would wake on the morrow with one less tooth in his mouth each day until there were none at all.

The king’s smile was always present when he regarded his son, and especially now when the boy had basically put himself into swordsmanship lessons with the aspiration of being every bit a warrior as his father. “He is a fine young warrior,” the king remarked.

“I believe your opinion maybe unfairly influenced in his favor my love,” the queen pointed out, but love was shining in her eyes. John wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her against him. His chin nestled in the crook between her neck and shoulder.

“Perhaps it is so but I fear the truth is all that escapes these lips my darling.”

“And I do so agree. The men have taught him well. Look oh haha…” she laughed as she watched Stiles take on one of the knights. Sir Ralleigh had charged from behind, while Sir Fendry stabbed the boy’s middle. Stiles simply parried the thrust and quickly spun in some dance step of his own creation to smack away the other knight’s blade. Though they were holding back, well some of them considerably, before Fendry could regain his balance, Stiles had swiped down at his leg sweeping it out from under him so that he fell on his arse.

“That’s my boy,” the king murmured softly.

“You realize he only does this for you.”

“And by that you mean?”

“He’s learning the art of war to be a son after his father’s pattern,”

“What else would the boy do Claudia?”

“He does many things, and he is greatly talented in them. He also finds passion in them.” She had a tone in her voice the king couldn’t quite identify.

“What are you saying woman be plain about it.” John bit down on her shoulder playfully even as he commanded an answer.

“I don’t want him in battle.”

“He is a man Claudia and a prince at that, these things should they come about are unavoidable.”

“He is a boy yet, and even in his manhood he will not delight in the fight as you and your men do. He prefers…”

“The art and music and his voice is divine, all these things I know.”

“Then promise he will not fight, promise you will keep him from it.”

“Ach woman I am the king I cannot send men to battle and lead them out there and yet ask my son to remain behind. How would that look to the men, to our people?” The king released her and walked a short distance, his lips pursed now.”

“Germin is tender hearted and the men and the people know it. Our son has a light in him that lifts their spirits, they would want that protected just as I do, just as I know you do inside. Besides he is your only heir the good lord has seen fit to give to us…”

“Come,” he said turning about and reaching for her when he heard her words. “That is a blessing that I will cherish for lifetimes and love you until the end of those lifetimes… I will allow him the choice. I will not pressure him, I will make it his decision but you cannot counsel him should the time come and neither will I. Does that sound reasonable?”

She nodded. Her hand came up to brush gently at his cheek with her knuckles. She kissed him then deeply before turning to watch her son dominate the lesson his teachers had enacted.

~1620~

“Come on Derek she’s probably the most beautiful and definitely the most talented girl at court,” Isaac prodded.

Isaac was one of the sons of the vassal houses. His father lived at court since his wife had passed. Isaac and Derek had become close friends. He’d also fell into line with the king’s brother Peter who was young enough that he spent an awful lot of time with the boys. Peter had taken a few of the girls to his chamber and Isaac had pulled Derek along to join them. “I’m sure she’s quite talented.” Derek agreed, watching the woman strewn across Peter’s bed, her head on her hand and a glass of wine pressed to her lips. Her blue eyes undressed the prince openly as her hand skimmed the front of her skirts, fingertips pressing tightly against the fabric so Derek could see she was pressing against flesh.

Isaac shook his head, giving up and walked into the room taking the hand of another girl, Marguerite Chambers. She immediately slipped her hand into his and fell into his lap as he eased onto the bed higher from the young woman who stared down the prince, Jane Crowley. Jane lifted her free hand and beckoned the prince forward but he simply stood and watched, half reluctant half lustful.

“What’s the matter lad, is she not attractive enough for you?” Peter called from behind the girl who was straddling him. His hand fumbled between his legs to pull his cock free of the flap in his trousers. When the head of his erection met the wet warmth of the woman, Lynsey Doyle, he gasped in pleasure. “I’m sure she’s eager to make up for it in other ways, little prince.”

“Don’t call me that,” Derek mumbled.

“What was that little lord I didn’t quite hear you?”

“Don’t call me little uncle, for I assure you,” he stepped forward then the sly smile on his face spreading devilishly, seductively, dangerously, “I am far from little and merely worry that the young lady may find herself climbing the wrong ladder…” his eyebrow raised as did hers, but her own smile endured.

“Come then my prince, I have climbed many a tree in my youth and I’m surely prepared for the length and breadth of your own.” Derek had come to stand right in front of her and she moved then, slowly climbing his body until her eyes met his and he reached in to take her tongue with his own in the hot cavern of her mouth. Her hand went to his pants and he laughed raw low and throaty.

“How does she taste my lord?” Peter called.

“Is she as sweet as malmsey wine?” Isaac queued.

Derek reared his head back from the woman and held her chin in place as he looked over her shoulder, “Sweeter even than honey…” he smiled wickedly for his friend and his uncle while slowly pushing Jane’s head down so that should take his manhood into her mouth. The show of power and sexual dominance bolstered his image in the eyes of the men as they cheered him on.

~1626~

“His grace Prince Germin…” Stiles looked to the man with a creased brow and the gentleman quickly cleared his throat and covered, “…ahem Prince Stiles and Lord McCall.” Stiles had adopted the new name so well he almost completely replaced his own with it and probably would have had it not been royal. He and Scott entered the great hall and he smiled widely as he watched the people dance and sing in celebration.

“There she is Stiles the girl I told you about,” Scott whispered to his friend as he pointed less than discreetly at a pretty, tall and fair young woman with long waves of dark brown curls flowing down her back.

“Well then, she is gorgeous. And you still don’t know her name.” He laughed as his friend made a face before turning to greet his parents at the head table. “Lord father, lady mother.”

“My Prince come, kiss your mother. Where have you been the celebrations have sorely missed you.” Stiles moved then to embrace Claudia and press a kiss to her cheek. His father gave him a faux withered look as he pulled away and stepped down as if forgetting the man was also present. Immediately he leaned in to kiss the king on his forehead.

“My affections do not wane father,”

“As they better not.”

“I have been assisting Scott here with his lady troubles.”

“Your graces,” the boy said as he bowed to his king and queen.”

“Lady troubles, why you are far too young a lad to be dealing with such a thing,” the king remarked.

“And so handsome, you should be free of any troubles at all Scott. Where is your lady mother she is missed at court?”

“I shall tell her you are thinking of her, she still settles a few matters of my father’s estate as she has only now felt up to the task, and refused me lay a hand in it.”

“Ay she is a strong woman, she will survive, as you clearly have.”

Just then a familiar tune began to play, one the prince had come to call favorite. Scott turned to Stiles as did nearly half the room including the king and queen, expectantly.

“Well go on then boy the people are waiting for a show,” the king prodded. Stiles merely smiled and took off. He began prancing toward the circle of people dancing in the center of the room. His feet switched into a rhythmic pattern as his body swayed from right to left and then he spun in a circle.

Almost immediately the circle of people moved with him, matching his steps, following his choreography until they all danced in unison. The beat built and built until it hit a hook and Stiles began to sing, his voice raising and echoing throughout the room. The tune was joyous, upbeat and made everyone smile as they watched him.

His spirit was the talk of his court and many other kingdoms. All who knew of Scotland spoke of its prince, the master of sword and song, the artful prince, the dancing prince. The women in the room regarded him longingly, and so did many a man, their eyes roving possessively as if they would like to get him alone and keep his glory to themselves.

“We may have to provide him a guard just for the admirers he gains every day, to fend them off gently, some even forcefully,” The queen said dryly as she watched the looks of lust and wanting from many of the single people at court.

“Would that they had the courage to approach him, I would fear far more for their chances, as well as their sanity.” The king laughed knowing all too well his son’s ambition and standards.

~1621~

“Wipe your face boy, your mother would have hated to see you crying like a child over this. What’s done is done she used to say and it is the truth. England needs a strong prince. Even more so if we are to take France to war for what they have done.” The king’s words were harsh and cold. His tone unfeeling, his face a mask. He had done his wailing in private and had sent away all those who had witnessed his fit of grief as he did not want to be reminded of his moment of weakness. When Queen Talia died, or rather, was murdered the whole of England was dark and silent for weeks. The king had placed himself in seclusion until her funeral and then seemed to become a different person. He was colder, more cruel and short as well as harsh with his son.

“It’s my fault,” Derek mumbled. The king remained silent. “I accepted her, I should have seen what she was doing. I should have known.”

“I will say this just the once. There is no use casting blame. We all accepted Catherine Argent into our lives and we have paid the price for it. Your mother, brother and sisters are dead. There is only what lies ahead and we will survive to see the house of France fall for their crimes against us.” The king turned to look at Derek then. The two men stood level as Derek had grown tall to match his father’s height. “This is the last we speak of this. Hales never admit weakness or defeat, we are strong and enduring do you understand me… Do You Understand!” He yelled to which Derek replied with a nod of compliance.

With that the king turned and walked out of the room leaving Derek alone with a fresh set of tears and all his regrets to keep him company. Catherine Argent had come from France, their princess with a deal for the royal English family. They were, through her marriage to Derek, to bridge the gap between the worlds of the wolf-kind and the humans by binding the wolf-prince Derek to the human daughter of France.

The entire deal had turned out to be a farce created by the French king in order to infiltrate the kingdom of the Hales and execute the royal family. Fortunately they had not succeeded in killing the King, Derek or Peter but the rest of the Hales had paid the price.

~1627~

Stiles leaned into his father who hid the young man’s face away from the rest of the crowd that had gathered. “It’s time my son,” the king murmured against the boy’s ear as he stroked tresses of his silken brown hair. Stiles pulled away then and gave his father one parting gaze before he turned to Scott who squeezed his hand and then walked away.

“Fire!” someone yelled, and several flaming arrows hit the funeral pyre. The blaze rose quickly and as it dead the sobbing and cries lessened until they ceased and eyes settled on Stiles.

The prince stepped forward nearer the burning pyre and toward the center of the circle and lifted his voice beginning a song of mourning and of celebration. The tune was soft at first then built up rising to higher notes and the melody almost seemed to be a tangible thing in the air. Soon everyone joined him and sang a final song to their fallen queen who had died of a fever.

~1635~

The fields were rank with the stench of blood. The grass was covered in the thick red liquid and the earth soaked it up but couldn’t make it all go away. The hot afternoon day was filled with the sounds of steel on steel as well as the growls of English wolves fighting Scottish ones. Screams of pain, groans of fading life and cries for mercy could be heard just under the sound of warring as the day went on.

Time had finally pitted Scotland and England against each other. Prompted by his wife’s murder the king had set on a campaign to unite all the lands through blood, by eliminating their monarchs and creating one country under his rule. His son the prince Derek had followed him into battle against every other country. France had endured as an independent but all the others had fallen to King William’s command. All except for Scotland and Ireland. The countries had united declaring the Alpha-King John ruler of both lands and commander of the great armies of them both which he’d used to go into battle.

Stiles had followed his father into war, refusing to let the man out of his sight as he was afraid to lose another parent. He’d been a beast on the battle field, staying as close to the king as possible while cutting down any who stood in his way. Men had clambered to stay close to him and protect him but he hadn’t needed them to. Every now and then he’d shoot a glance around to find his father and make sure the man was safe.

The armies fought with fang and claw and steel until the land was so filled with blood it didn’t seem like it would ever wash away. And then the tide changed. King William had been cut down by King John and the roar of anguish and anger nearly vibrated the ground as Derek’s eyes changed from glowing sapphire to crimson and he knew instantly even as the power flooded his system that his father was dead and he was the new alpha-king of England.

Somehow father and son became separated in the grand charge led by Derek and Stiles was knocked to the ground. His vision blurred until he went dark and the last thing he’d heard before losing consciousness was the Scots call for retreat.

“What have we here,” the sound penetrated his dull, brief sleep and as he came to he could hear the hush that had settled over the battle field.

“Raise him up I will have his head,” Derek said as he came forward curling fingers around the hilt of his sword. Stiles’ head lolled as they lifted him and he fought to regain consciousness. He blinked rapidly as he tried to draw his surroundings into focus. Derek removed his sword from its scabbard and raised it when a halt was called.

“Your grace wait,” Sir Alan stepped forward inspecting Stiles armor, which was rather expensive, a compliment to his wealth and position. The knight’s eyes dropped to his dangling hand and noticed the ring on his finger and he gasped. “My king, this is the son of King John and Queen Claudia. This is Germin the prince of Scots.”

“I hear they call him Stiles,” another called.

“What’s a Stiles?” Derek queued.

“This boy apparently,” Deaton answered.

“I am no boy, I am a man and we will have your head for marching on us absent cause,” Stiles spewed the words venomously as he finally came back to himself and looked up to face the new king. As their eyes locked something uncertain occurred, Stiles wolf’s eyes flashed it’s bright and rare green as Derek’s scarlet shone for just a moment, before they returned to normal.

Derek gasped, “Your ey....” he took a breath and went on his face becoming cold and his tone mirroring that, “Haven’t you heard boy, the battle is done. Your father runs back to his castle and I come to find that I have his only heir. What a prize. I should kill you though, as he killed my father, a life for a life.” Derek’s tone became dark as he spoke of his father, his eyes flashing blood red.

“Your father deserved his fate and I will gladly see you to yours should you put sword in my hand.”

Derek laughed but it was withered and dark. “Not today little bastard, it’s the tower for you, and then we will decide what happens next. You’ll hardly enjoy it there but if only you can suffer some measure of discomfort then I can delight in some form of vengeance.”

Stiles spat in Derek’s face before growling his gaelic curse, “Go hifreann leat! – To hell with you.”

A hand came up to wipe the spit from his face before Derek swiftly brought the hilt of his sword down across Stiles head knocking him out. 

Chapter Text

Derek’s face had been grim during the procession. He’d held up his father’s coffin at the front and carried it into the church with the other men. Peter was at his side. Isaac and Alan had also been there, helping him carry the heavy burden that was his father’s passing. In his mind he raged. The human in him wanted a quiet place where he could quietly, stoically mourn the loss of his entire family save his uncle while the alpha wolf in him wanted blood. It wanted to rip people in half and wreak havoc and chaos until the world outside matched his mind and soul. Black and red, the colors symbolizing blood and death.

The service didn’t take as long as Derek had thought, though his mind had wondered so many times and for longer and longer periods that he wasn’t even sure if it had ended quickly or that he just hadn’t paid any attention at all and had missed the whole thing. Either way it didn’t matter to him. The service was for the nobles not for him. He didn’t quite know how to be soft and emotional anymore, his father had made sure of that after the death of his mother. He wasn’t even sure what he was feeling about his father’s death. He knew there was anger that the man was dead, but there was something else he dared not admit aloud lest God smite him for being too much a sinner to be worthy of King. Although somewhere deep inside himself he acknowledged that the King of a nation was by comparison, the greatest sinner of them all.  

Derek spent the necessary number of days grieving for his father and family in seclusion. The only person he’d allowed in besides his uncle Peter was his friend Isaac. Isaac had always been his greatest ally and closest friend. The man knew him inside and out. And while he sometimes had bad ideas or goaded Derek into doing something stupid he still always had the right thing to say and knew when not to say anything at all. Isaac had visited him often in his seclusion and so had Peter. Those conversations had gone in very distinguishingly different directions.

On the last day of his self-imposed seclusion both men had visited one after the other. Isaac had walked in the room, his cape swishing behind him as he moved confidently into Derek’s chamber. Derek was just dressing himself while one of the women he ‘bedded for comfort’, a trick taught to him by his beloved uncle, exited his chambers flashing Isaac a shy yet, accomplished smile on her way out.

“I see you are ready to face the world again,” Isaac charged, moving close and sitting on the man’s bed.

“I never stopped facing the world old friend I simply stopped tolerating it for a moment,” Derek supplied with a cocky smirk.

“Things have changed though my lord.”

“Nothing’s changed Isaac, all is as it were before.”

“You are the king now Derek nothing is as it were before,” Isaac mocked his aloof tone with exasperation.

“I was alone then and am now, the only difference is that I now can command wholly, without looking to anyone else before making my wishes known.” Isaac’s face grew dark and fell a little. Derek noted the change and sighed when he realized what he’d said. “I did not mean it as it sounded Isaac. You know I love you as I would my own flesh and blood, as I would a brother, because that is what you are to me.” He leaned down and grabbed the back of Isaac’s neck before pressing their foreheads together a bit roughly. “You have been my family when all others have gone and left me alone, were it not for you and Peter I may not have survived many things.” He released his friend who smiled a bit as Derek kissed his forehead and returned to dressing himself.

“He loved you Derek.”

“Yes I’m sure he did my friend. But things fade with time and loss and we have had plenty of both.”

“You should not start your rule with such a dark outlook on this life we have.”

“But one should maintain a realistic life view if one is expected to be respected as an intelligent ruler, should one not?” Derek pinned him with an intriguing stare as he raised one eyebrow and froze in a pose for a moment. Isaac burst out laughing before he rose and clapped his friend on the back.

“Indeed brother, indeed one must.”

“One must what?” Peter asked as he walked into the room with several servants behind him.”

“Uncle what is all this?” Derek asked as he turned around only to be nearly inappropriately groped by a length of fabric being pressed against him by a servant.

“Much to do Derek, including get you fitted for your coronation.” Peter’s voice was upbeat, excited even, as though his brother in law hadn’t just died a few days ago. Derek sighed. He had forgotten about the coronation or rather, the need of one for he was the new king and it needed to be officially declared.

“Can’t this wait Uncle Peter? We’ve just come from war, my father has just died and I’ve just finished grieving.”

“No it cannot. We have just come from war which means our enemies may think us vulnerable now, especially without you properly installed as King of England. That also calls to mind the matter of your prisoner in the tower.”

Derek’s eyes flashed quickly and it made Peter frown as he’d been the only one to notice it, though he didn’t bring to anyone’s attention. Derek would be lying if he said he hadn’t thought of the prince of Scots in his seclusion. After the funeral, after taking some time alone, when he had been lying awake deep in thought, the young man had come to mind. For no particular reason he could discern, Stiles had flashed through his head like a comet falling across a clear sky. His eyes, his green eyes. Derek had wondered about those eyes. He had never come across a wolf with green eyes before, certainly not in his kingdom.

“Derek,” Peter called the man, pulling him from his thoughts that had gotten away with him.

“Yes, I shall suffer through the fitting, but we will leave discussions about how to deal with the bastard to a later date. I’m not quite interested in diving into that situation at this time. A short peace, I think is far overdue if only for another day or two.”

“That’s an excellent idea,” Isaac praised when he saw Peter was about to open his mouth again. Peter simply spared him a mildly agitated glance before sighing and nodding in agreement.

Derek spent a good portion of the afternoon being fitted for his coronation. He suffered the nearly inappropriate groping and caresses of servants who he was certain had given him ‘the eye’ on more than one occasion. He had suffered through the nods and head shakes of Peter and Isaac over every length of fabric that was brought in and tried against his skin. When finally the last measurements were taken and the final pieces of jewels were chosen to add to the entire ensemble, he found some peace, or whatever variation of the thing, a king was allowed to have.

The servants along with Peter and Isaac left him be and he chose to go riding, as there were no pressing matters he was interested in attending to at that moment. He’d only taken three guards, the others were commanded to stay behind. They galloped into the forest on horseback. Derek’s steed was tall and large. He had powerful legs and a long broad neck. His coat was a lustrous ivory and he tossed his head with a determined eye set on the course ahead of him.

Derek had named the horse Edmure when he was younger. He’d grown up with it and watched it be trained in battle and blood as he was. Needless to say, Edmure always seemed to know what he needed and how to react to every situation they were in. If he wasn’t mistaken, Edmure also enjoyed the peace and tranquility of their treks into the forest. Derek was most at peace there and so was the horse.

Derek dismounted and grabbed the reigns, leading Edmure to a tree where he could tie the horse there. He walked forward, pausing only to give a shallow glance to his guards who knew by then, they were meant to shadow him well enough that he could feel alone in the place he enjoyed the most. He remembered coming when he was younger, when his mother had the time and she seemed to always have plenty of that when it came to him and his siblings. She would bring them deep into the forest and run with them, watch them play and tell stories of how she grew up and all the wonderful things she’d seen. Derek hadn’t always been sure she was telling true stories or fiction but he didn’t care.

She made him forget about the terrible weight, one day becoming king, had been on his shoulders. Others might have thought it was all fun and games and commanding the world but Derek knew better. When he was old enough to think for himself, he had come to realize exactly what his life would be from then on. He’d lived in a box and would continue to do so until he died. That’s what being the heir apparent was, living up to everyone’s expectations and not just his parents.

He sighed into the silence of the woods as he turned his face up to the breeze that rushed through the leaves. He’d stopped crying when he thought of his mother. In some ways it had been a good thing and a bad thing. He felt terribly guilty even still about her death. Whenever he thought of her and didn’t cry he was grateful no one would think him weak but also wondered if he were as hardened a monster as his father had become.

Derek spent a significant amount of time in the forests until the sun began making a descent. He took his guards and headed back to the castle. Peter and Isaac joined him for supper and he resigned to retire early.

***

Stiles had come to in a dark and cold room. The space was small and frigid with one window in a northern wall though it was far too high for him to see down outside the building. There was a single sheet of stone jutting out of the wall with a blanket roughly strewn over it. It had taken Stiles several minutes to figure out it was meant to act as his bed. The brutes hadn’t even shown the decency to lay him on it when they’d brought him to where he assumed was the tower. At least that’s what the dog-king had said, he’d be taken to the tower. It must have been the tower of London he thought. That’s where the king’s castle was meant to be and surely the brute would want to keep him close by. He was a prize after all, though they obviously neglected to treat him like one.

Stiles got to his feet and immediately felt the harsh pains taking over him. There was a deep ache in his legs and a striking one in his head which he suspected had a lot to do with the blow he’d taken there from the dog-king himself. That was evidenced, by the line of dried blood he’d felt on his face. He looked down as his hand fell away from his face and noticed, he’d been stripped of his armor and beautiful clothing, to be replaced with a simple, loose and discolored shirt, falling long over a pair of trousers.

He sighed as he walked over to the stone bed and sank down on it a bit harder than he should have causing his bum to collide harshly with the stone. He jerked up before sitting back down, a bit more gently then. His thoughts turned to the outside world, to his father and his home he probably would never see again.

His father had been injured in the battle and was rushed off the field. He must have been unconscious otherwise he would never have left the area without his son. His father must now either be dead or distraught at having lost Stiles. Stiles imagined so many scenarios to pass the time which was hardly a useful distraction as it only served to worry him further.

He was a prisoner in the tower of the dog-king Derek Hale, son of the tyrant who had marched on the lands of Scotland to claim them for himself. Stiles marveled at the things greed drove people to. The man had started a war and lost his own life and for what, to add another province to the long list of lands he’d already accumulated. How many lives had been lost already? How many peaceful nations disrupted, and royal families displaced along with those people who served and cared for them in this long running campaign of greed and power seeking. Stiles’ anger flared at the thought.

And now I’ve been abducted, he thought and the consequences of that situation were hardly promising. Either Derek Hale would execute him as an enemy of state or try to use him in some way to bring his father to heel, which though Stiles hated to admit it, would probably work.

He’d drifted into ponderings of his life for several minutes, bringing his legs up to cross under him on the make-shift bed, despite the pain. Minutes became hours, then, a noise caught his attention outside the door. It brought him back from his thoughts just before a man opened the door, grunted him a greeting which seemed more like an offering of displeasure, and tossed a bowl of something very nondescript on the floor near the wall. Before Stiles could think, the man was out the door, locking it and walking away.

Stiles climbed off the bed and inspected the bowl of dark slop. He grimaced at the thing, his eyes flashing as he growled slightly before tossing the bowl aside. The young wolf prince jumped back onto the bed and leaned himself against the wall until his eyes drooped and he drifted off again. His next several days had been spent like that, no visitors, no news of the outside and nothing edible he would consider putting in his mouth, not that he’d accept anything at all on principle alone.

***

It was a forest. Of course it was, Derek had spent enough time in forests to know what they looked like, even in the dead of night. Though this didn’t seem like just night. There was no light at all. The entire area was pitch black except for the soft glow of a single star that penetrated the darkness. That small amount of light illuminated the trunks of the nearest surrounding trees, enough, for Derek to make them out. Aside from that there was no indication of where he was. There was no wind and no scent and no sound besides his own breathing and beating heart.

He took a step forward, slowly and then another. He expected to hear the crunch of leaves under his bare feet but again there was no sound. He continued moving again, a few more steps but was stopped abruptly by the flicker of something in the distance. “Who’s there?” he called out into the darkness. There was no response. Instinctually he growled and that seemed to gain a reaction from the intruder. He noticed two points of light in the distance.

It was like they’d stepped out from behind a tree and were now in full view of him, straight ahead of him. The lights were just that, as far as he could tell. They seemed so far away all he could see was that they were lights but then something strange happened. They slipped behind another tree and instantaneously came from behind a different tree, but much closer than the one they’d hidden behind. Before he could remark on the occurrence or identify something tangible, it happened again, and again and again until it slipped behind a tree closest to the tree line near the clearing in which he stood.

Derek stumbled backward as he looked around trying to figure out where it had gone to and where it would come from but there was no preparing him for the way it had lunged out from another tree and headed straight for him. As it approached he finally got a comprehensive look and realized to his dismay what it was. Eyes! Two glowing eyes lunging at him while growing larger and larger. But even more than that, the eyes were green.

Derek woke with a start, his head aching from the shock of his dream, his eyes glowing sharp madder before fading once again to their harmonious blend of green and hazel. He sat up in his bed and felt the sheets peel away from him due to the sheen of sweat covering his body. He took deep breaths to calm himself and drove a hand through his slick, dark hair. A wary glance was cast at the woman in his bed before he swung his legs over the side and placed his head in his hands as he tried to will the headache away. Green Eyes. The words shimmered in the forefront of his mind and he was off in a heartbeat.

He’d made his way through the castle as quickly and silently as he possibly could. It didn’t take him long to get to the tower. He’d knocked hard on the wooden door at the entrance and the guards had let him in. “Take me to the Scottish prince.” It was a clear command and they did as they were told. The two men escorted him three floors up and left him with another man who seemed better dressed than they were.

“My lord a visit to the tower at this late hour, is everything alright?”

“Well enough Cromwell, let me see Stilinski.”

“As you wish your grace,” the man responded quickly before backing away and leading Derek down the dimly lit hall to a room at the end. Cromwell pulled out a bunch of keys and fiddled with them all before he retrieved the right one. He unlocked and opened the door before carefully stepping into the room first followed by Derek who stared at the young man inside. Stiles was standing underneath the high window and staring up at the sky outside.

“Leave us,” Derek said and the man, Cromwell, immediately left the room. Derek turned to glance at the several bowls of slop on the floor near the wall. He smirked.

“So the dog-king has finally come to visit,” Stiles whispered though he knew Derek would catch the words. He didn’t need to turn to know who it had been visiting in the middle of the night. He had picked up Derek’s scent at their very first meeting. It was something his father had taught him to do once the castle had been infiltrated by a spy from Norway. If he could identify scents in a short space of time, then he could always find the ones they belonged to. With Derek though it hadn’t been difficult picking up his scent in the few moments he’[d been conscious after being captured. And if the scent had been useless, Stiles would have remembered that voice anywhere.

Derek’s eyes flared at the insult but he resigned himself, oddly lulled by the cadence of the scots accent. “Is the bastard prince bitter then, I see you’re refusing to take advantage of my hospitality, what with your rations strewn across the floor.”

Stiles scoffed in response before turning around and Derek felt taken aback by the full sight of the young prince. “You insult me. I will not eat this shit and shame myself in the act.”

“Then you will starve.”

“So be it. Tell me, how will my father react to the news that his son is dead in the tower of London. The war would never end. Not only would his armies fight but every man and woman of my land will take up arms for me and then you will truly have war on your hands.” The words were spat out with such venom.

“Such arrogance to think this highly of yourself Germin.”

“Don’t you dare call my name,”

“I hear you prefer Stiles. Either way it matters not to me. You are nothing in this place, a simple peasant an omega and I am the supreme ruler of this court and presently your master.”

“I love my people and they love me, I know just how far they would go to rescue or avenge me. I’m not sure many others can say the same. Perhaps your own people are rejoicing at the death of their tyrant king while mourning his dog-son’s ascension to replace him.” Derek’s eyes burned scarlet as the back of his hand came down across Stiles’ face.

Stiles slowly turned, the shock receding at its own pace before his own eyes glowed emerald as he launched himself at the king, his claws coming up to swipe at the man’s face. Derek immediately blocked his arms and grabbed the wrist, twisting it so that Stiles was thrown to the ground beneath the king. Derek got on top of him, straddling his waist and grabbing the man’s arms at the wrist above his head to keep him from flailing in defense. He raised a fist to bring it crashing down but before he could Stiles roared at him eyes flashing terribly bright and Derek stopped.

The eyes, the green eyes that burned with such an intensity, ready to devour everything, held him pacified, almost. It took a few seconds for him to come back to himself. His glowing red fading as he regarded the fiercely defiant face beneath him. “You will remain here and you will eat and drink and live and I will decide your fate Stiles,” he said the name mockingly. “You are mine now, and nothing will change that.” He didn’t acknowledge the sound of more possession than loathing in his voice when he said the word mine before he got up and exited the room.

“Chain him and make sure he eats, I don’t care if you have to force the meals down his throat.”

“Yes sire,” Cromwell responded, and then Derek was walking off and returning to his chambers. 

Chapter Text

 “No!” the word echoed on a growl throughout the kingdom as the king had come to and demanded to see his son. He’d thought it was awkward that Stiles wasn’t at his side when he’d woken and naturally assumed his son might have been injured but he didn’t consider for a moment that his son was captured by the enemy, because he couldn’t believe no one in his army had seen to it that Stiles was protected at all times even in the heat of battle.

Some of the men summoned to the King’s room had tried to explain what had happened but before they could finish he commanded them to leave his presence before he saw them all executed for abandoning their prince. It may have been an exaggeration in his anger but no one was about to challenge him on that. All they could offer him was that his boy had fallen on the battle ground, last seen alive yet the enemy had approached him. It was several days before the king had woken that night and there had been no word from England on the wellbeing of the prince, so they had assumed he’d met his end by the alpha king Derek Hale as revenge for John Striking down his father.

The man had gone through several visibly different phases as he tried to cope with the new found knowledge. At first he had raged and howled curses at the English and their dog king while weaving promises of retaliation into his slew of disgraceful insults. Next he’d deny profusely the probability of his son being dead, rationalizing that the boy king would not have the balls to go through with it for fear of retaliation or some other thing that would surely befall him for raising a hand to the noble prince of Scots. He then took to pacing back and forth and proposing a trade of some sorts with the King that would appease him enough to release Germin to his father and people. Finally bitter tears found their way to his cheeks as he howled and cried out a song of despair to the dark night for the loss of his only boy. It had gone on for a long time leaving the entire kingdom melancholy and despairing in solidarity with the king.

 John was so distraught he hadn’t noticed the sound of the beating heart in the room with him, or the swish of the robe or skirts that just barely skimmed the floor as the woman approached him, stopping just shy of lunging reach should the king in his volatile emotional state choose to attack.

“Great Alpha-King John Stilinski of the wolf-kind and human folk of Scotland and Ireland and all the lands in between. Leader of your people and friend to mine, I have come to you as a favor to a being we honor and respect. Despair not, I have had a seeing…”

John just barely turned about to see who dared address him when his features lightened and he regained some kind of color in his cheeks. He stared at the woman before him, first blankly and then with a soft kindness and hopefulness that could bring a tear to any eye. He opened his mouth to speak but his words played out as some kind of half heard croak. He stopped and cleared his throat before lifting himself to his knees from where he was hunched over on the floor of his chambers. “Lady Marin,” he began again this time taking his words slowly and calmly, or rather as calm as he was capable at the time. “Tell me please, and tell me true. Dispense with riddles and tales, half-truths and double speak and simply tell an already grieving man who has already lost a wife if his son is too, truly gone?”

Marin stepped forward, moving slowly and as gracefully as an angel stepped down from heavenly realms as she came closer to him. Her sable skin seemed to glisten in the light of the torches that were lit in the room. Her body was small but emanated power from every pore and her eyes glittered with a deep understanding of life and loss and the magic that bound all things. A petite hand rose towards the king as she began, “I do not want…” she paused letting her hand fall in a way that made the king’s heart wrench unkindly in his chest. “I do not want to provide you with a hope that you may choose to believe is set in stone. All things change good king. But the prince of Scots is alive-“ –if only for the moment, she wanted to add but kept that bit to herself for fear of the king’s reaction.

“Oh blessings still rain down on me, how do you know Lady Marin, I mean can you be certain?”

“Have you received word of his passing?”

“No,” the king responded scrunching up his nose as he sat back on his folded legs. “but neither have I received word of his good health.”

“A childish game from an angry boy-king. I have had a seeing as I have said.”

“And what did you see?”

“Murky waters always provide an obscure view of the bottom of the river.”

“Marin…” the king growled as he got to his feet. Finally breathing in a half sigh of relief, the other half of which he knew would be held back for the day he held his son again, then and only then would he gladly exchange his tense breath for his son’s embrace. The woman smiled, “You know as well as I, that I cannot tell exactly what will happen, only the way things may unfold.”

“Then say what it is you believe could be most possible, this is my son’s life.”

“I am aware John,” she became very serious as her eyes became incredibly comforting for a moment but then resumed her almost detached manor as she continued. “Prince Germin is being kept in the tower, of that I am sure. Whether he lives or dies will depend on the Alpha-King Derek Hale and how he is affected by the prince’s unique… situation.” She said the word after a moment of finding the right way to put it.

“What does that mean?” the king begged sounding exasperated. He paced closer to the woman who only then lowered the hood that had kept her sleek and glistening ebony hair sheathed under thick fabric.

“It means John, that Stiles will either live so that Hale can find profit in his continued existence, or die by Hale’s hand as a retaliation.” John’s eyes immediately flicked to Marin’s chest as she finished her statement. They came back up to her eyes and his own were flashing red.

“What aren’t you saying woman? You forget I can tell lies from truth and by that specifically odd beat of heart I can tell that you’re leaving something out, and a lie of omission is still a lie.”

She barely flinched at his words. “Fine then. But not all that a seer sees is meant to be heard by those who cannot see as we can.” The king’s eyes merely brightened in their glowing scarlet, a low growl rumbling deep in his throat, a warning. “Please wolf-man, the whines of wolf kind have not scared me since I was a little girl and even then it was a passing fear like a child fears a frog until he discovers what fun they are to play with.” The words had a double meaning, the king could tell, not that she was admitting to enjoying toying with wolf-kind because even if she did John knew she would never speak on it. No, she was merely stating she could hold her own against them and wasn’t afraid to step into a fray should the need arise. He calmed then, his throaty rumbling dissipating until he simply looked at her helplessly, and she sighed. “A being like your son is rare, you’ve seen how the world reacts to him, gravitates even. Someone like that can be recognized as a powerful asset. Powerful men seek to acquire powerful assets, it is in their nature. However, in some cases when these men cannot gain that which they desire, they try to destroy it so that no one else may claim it and if so, use it against them.”

John expelled a harsh breath. Claws grew in his fingers and he balled his fists up so that their pointed ends dug viciously into his palm, tearing through skin and causing blood to drip from his knuckles down to the floor. Marin stepped closer to him then and took his clenched fist in her gentler, smaller hands. She smiled up at him as she lifted his fist and opened it. “Every action has its equal and opposite reaction and every consequence has the deciding factors which lead there.” She peeled back each finger until his hand was opened in front of her displaying the deep gouges where the four claws had stabbed him. The wounds immediately began to seal themselves. Marin looked down at his healing palm and John followed suit as she continued to speak. “It is how one responds to each situation, each action that helps determine the outcome.” When she looked up into his eyes, she was smiling again. The king simply regarded her with an openly confused expression shadowed by a hint of worry.

***

 The coronation had gone without a hitch. Derek was the most regal of all his predecessors through no fault of his own. He placed the blame for that at Peter’s feet who had brought in a host of jewelers and tailors to add more glamour and sparkle to the King’s clothing. When he’d sat on the throne and had scepter and crown placed in hand and on head, he looked every bit as much a crowned jewel as the one’s he wore. Somehow he couldn’t deny Peter when the man had insisted he wear everything he was presented with no matter how excessive he thought the garments and jewels had been.

He had heard gasps of awe and sighs of swooning women as he’d made his way down the aisle in the procession. He smelt the lust and desire oozing off the bodies of men and women who probably ran through secret scenarios in their heads, of coming undone by the king’s hand. For all their uncontrolled emotion, he barely noticed any of their faces. None of them had mattered, or registered in his mind. His thoughts had already been filled with something else. He had been having more dreams, dreams of forests and falling and green eyes and as much as he wanted to call them nightmares they didn’t frighten him half as much as the fact that his mind kept slipping back to what he could only determine to be the inspiration of the dreams, the only wolf he’d ever met with green eyes. He dared not even think the bitch’s name lest the thoughts take even greater root in his mind and he became unable to rid himself of them at all.

“Your grace,” Peter lowered himself in a bow before Derek from where he sat in his throne, presiding over the grand celebration that had been prepared in his honor. Derek side-eyed the space next to him, almost certain Peter had been there a moment ago.

“Uncle,” he called, gesturing for the man to rise.

“I’ve brought an esteemed guest to meet with you, perhaps you would like to show her how well a king can dance.” Peter eyed him knowingly, a wide smile spread on his face as he ushered the woman who’s hand he was holding, toward the king. Derek grimaced at his uncle before turning his attention on the woman. Who immediately bowed low so that her wealth of strangely reddish orange locks fell over her shoulder and bounced in an attractive rhythm before her perky breasts that were just bound by the fabric of her dress.

Derek reached out and tucked back the hair that had fallen behind her ear before tracing his fingers down to her jaw to tip her head up so that he could look into her eyes. They were a brilliant shade of green that reminded him of emeralds which he probably had one or two wearing on his person at the moment. “Perhaps my uncle does have a good idea for once. Shall we my dear?” He questioned, but hardly waited for the response as he took one of her small hands in his own larger one and stood up from where he was sitting. Only then did Derek realize the hush that had settled in the room. He looked around at the people who were all watching the woman whose hand he’d taken before glancing quickly back to him and then looking away. He smirked before resuming his descent from the throne and leading the woman onto the main floor.

They parted at the center of the room and took up their positions opposite each other to begin the dance. Derek raised a hand and she raised the opposite one before they stepped forward and circled each other. “And would a rare beauty such as yourself offer her name to a man such as me?”

“Do you mean a battle hardened warrior, or are you referring to your title of Alpha King of England?” she returned with a bewitching red lipped smile.

“You decide my dear,” he offered as they turned stance and moved in the opposite direction.

“Both are quite worthy of such a hefty price in my opinion.”

“Worthy,” Derek scoffed. “I suppose a woman like you is allowed to think that highly of herself.”

“I believe you mean lady, and every lady should think highly of themselves otherwise men may not think anything of them at all.” She challenged him with her words at every turn and he was impressed.

“Then my lady, may I have the honor of knowing your name?” Derek offered a half bow as they broke away again briefly to turn both right and left before returning.

“I am Princess Lydia Anne-Marie Martin of Denmark.” Derek’s eyes widened for a moment as he turned quickly to pin Peter with a glare before he just as quickly returned his attention to the woman before him and smiled wolfishly.

“So that is where that delicious accent is from.”

“You flatter me your grace.”

“You are quite a treasure my lady, I have truly enjoyed this dance.” He pulled away gently, gracefully as the music ended and bowed to the woman respectfully. “Perhaps you might join me again sometime, perhaps in a much less formal setting.”

“As your grace desires,” Lydia bowed to the king and watched him nod before walking away. The man grabbed his uncle’s arm and tugged him along taking him far enough away from the celebrations that no one could listen in on them.

“What the hell are you doing Peter?”

“Derek you must relax what is it you think I’ve done?” Peter countered with a raised eyebrow and a wicked gleam in his eye.

“Why the fuck is the princess of Denmark here?” Derek half growled.

“I don’t know Derek perhaps she prefers the weather, or maybe she simply fancied a change of scenery.”

“Don’t trifle with me Peter!” Derek barked at the man.

“Fine you got me then, I’m found out.” Peter raised his hands in surrender before stepping out from between Derek and the wall the man was pushing him against. “What did you think of her though?”

“Hmm let me see,” Derek said bringing a finger to his chin. “I thought she was a set up.”

“Be serious nephew, I’m trying ever so hard.”

“You’re tr..” Derek laughed, “Are you fucking joking. You’re setting me up Peter with some poor girl from faraway who…”

“… She is hardly poor. Her dowry is massive and besides she wanted this. She believes it would be a wise decision to unite the kingdoms of Denmark and England in marriage.”

“Denmark is not an independent any longer.” Derek stated dryly.

“It is until there is a crown prince installed there. Your father was ambitious but he had no way of holding the kingdoms to him after he conquered them. It won’t be long before they all individually rebel Derek.” Peter spat out getting slightly agitated. “Do you want to undo all of your father’s work by being daft?” Derek growled a warning to the man who merely pressed on. “The only way to keep the kingdoms is to have heirs to place on their respectful thrones. If you unite with Denmark, that will assure their loyalty and once you breed with their princess, and place sons on each of the thrones you currently hold none will be able to oppose you in the future.” Peter finished slowly as he read Derek’s pensive face for a reaction, hopefully the one he wanted to see.

“You speak as though it’s already decided…”

“Derek,” Peter stepped close and clapped his hands on the man’s shoulders, “my nephew, I know you want to make your father proud, honor his memory. This is the way to do it. Besides you need a queen. The coronation isn’t the end of the road, it’s hardly enough. Until you have a few pups of your own you can so easily be removed.”

There was a brief silence where Derek calmed himself and looked up at his uncle wearily. He breathed in deeply and then let it go. “Princess Lydia Martin then…”

“She’s the perfect match,”

“She’s certainly beautiful,” Derek agreed. Peter nodded as he spoke smiling again now that Derek was on board.

“Court her, make her feel special even if it’s just a deal on one front. You never know, you may grow to love her even, if that’s what you want.” Derek huffed his doubt. He wanted a mate and mates were supposed to know surely, without doubt, know. It was in the true admittance of a pure emotion felt toward that one person.

“Don’t doubt something you’ve yet to attempt at finding Derek.”

“Of course uncle,” Derek replied as he turned to return to the festivities.

“Another way to secure your father’s legacy Derek is to put a proper plan of action together with regards to the Scottish prince.” Derek growled again though he wasn’t sure why, maybe mental exhaustion. “It must be done son, we cannot simply hold the boy indefinitely. His father won’t hold back forever. The only lands your father has yet to take are Scotland and Ireland.” Peter gave the statement suggestively.

“What would you have me do then uncle?” the man queued through clenched teeth.

“Send a messenger to the king. Tell him his son is well in hand and will be maintained as long as their loyalty to England and you is announced and a formal decree is made declaring their joining with the united countries of Britain.”

“What makes you believe he would sacrifice so much for one man?” Derek countered, turning to face his uncle again.

“Because that man is beloved more than you and I could possibly understand, and besides, it’s the only son John has, he will do what he must to get him back.”

“The idiot refuses to nourish himself, presently I have Cromwell forcing food down his throat, that is hardly well in hand, and I hardly feel so inclined to change the circumstances of his stay either.”

“Sacrifices Derek, sacrifices must be made for the greater good, and that is a unified Britain. As William saw it.” Derek made a strange whine in his throat before he nodded and huffed again.

“I must be included in every part of this uncle. Nothing is to be done without my seal of approval.”

“Of course your grace. Now might we return, I believe poor Isaac was left to entertain the princess and she might be far more than he can handle.”

***

Stiles grunted as he tossed his head to the opposite side so the man couldn’t shove the spoon in his mouth. “God you’re defiant..” Cromwell hissed.

“And you’re a brute,” Stiles shot back without turning lest the man take another stab at his mouth.

“And what have you learned of me for you to make such a claim. We are neither friends nor acquaintances. We have not carried conversation nor have we passed greeting between one another. And that is through no fault of my own my young prisoned prince.” Stiles turned to look at the man a bit confused. It was the most he’d spoken to him for the past few days, since he was ordered to force feed him. The man had clearly kept his distance though, Stiles had, after a few days, caught the man casting sorrowful glances at him that seemed almost apologetic. He had yet to succeed in getting food into Stiles and though Stiles was strong and enduring he started to feel the consequences of his decision.

“And just why should I learn anything of my jailor, the man paid and commanded to keep me bound and force me to eat as though I were some wild beast in need of breaking.”

“We all follow the orders set out for us by the ones we call majesty. If your king came to you and ordered you to carry out an action against the supposed enemy would you not do so? Besides I have yet to force feed you anything in case you have yet to realize.”

The man was right, on both counts. Stiles knew he wouldn’t disobey an order from his father and he also knew the man hadn’t forced Stiles to eat. He’d attempted to get food in him but none of his attempts had succeeded and his methods had never escalated. Stiles expected violence but it never came. Stiles looked to him curiously, “Why do you not force me then, beat me as it seems you should have had to?”

“Because it is not my desire to terrorize you and say it is for your own good. Besides if you do not want to consume the food, you will find a way to expel it before it is swallowed. Or shall I beat your mouth open and beat your throat until it swallows and continue until there is nothing left to beat because it is all broken.” The man placed the bowl of whatever it was down next to him and half scoffed half laughed. “Rather, I would have hoped you’d see that if you wanted to find a way free, or to see your father again you would think it necessary to keep your strength up, but alas we are not all scholars.”

Stiles furrowed his brow before a small smile crept across his face, grudgingly mirroring the man’s smile in front of him. “What’s your name then jailor?” He asked after a moment of reconciling his newfound appreciation for the man’s wit with his discomfort at being imprisoned by him, though he supposed it was the king who was keeping him locked and bound.

“Cromwell,”

Stiles scowled, “That is your family name sir, what is your name?”

“Daniel Mahealani,” Stiles smiled at him again.

“That’s strong and exotic are you from our isles by any chance?”

“No prince Germin I am not I can assure you.”

“Well don’t say it like it’s a bad thing.”

“Hardly.”

“You’re an intriguing man Danny,” Daniel gasped. “What have I said something?”

“No it’s just my mother was the only one who ever called me Danny.”

“I’m sorry…”

“No no it’s fine, I like it.”

“Well of course you do. It’s far better than Cromwell, so stiff.” Daniel laughed at the man’s words. His accent making him sound as though he were singing them rather than carrying on a conversation. “Come then, Jailor Danny, feed me so that I may keep up my strength to find a way out and see my father again.” He winked at the man who returned it easily as he picked up the bowl and began feeding the contents to Stiles willingly accepted them despite the grimacing and scowling of displeasure at the less than welcome taste. 

Chapter Text

“You were the one who told me to dispatch the fucking messenger in the first place and here you are, now telling me to do the complete opposite!” Derek yelled. His hand came down hard on the flat of the table sending a resounding smack through the room. He rose to his feet, pushing back the chair he had been sitting on so he could pace in a corner of the room. The action wasn’t particularly calming or supportive in any way save the outlet it afforded for him to release the energy that rapidly built within.

 Peter cleared his throat from where he sat before glancing around at the others seated around the table. Derek had called a meeting of advisors to discuss their course of action concerning the Scottish prince. The table of men he’d summoned included Isaac, Peter, Alan and several others he didn’t often privately converse with outside of political matters. There was only one other face he did not recognize, a tall dark-skinned lad who’d accompanied Alan into the meeting room, but Derek hadn’t asked him to leave or inquired about his presence.

“Your grace, I’m not saying not to send the messenger, I’m only saying not yet.”

“What do you mean not yet, this timing is crucial. The man has not had word of his son in over two weeks what do you think he will do if this continues…”

“Nothing for a while…” the thought was voiced and the heads turned as the not unwelcome suggestion came from the only man Derek didn’t truly know well at all. “My king, if I may…” the dark skinned man interjected again, this time into the silence that followed his first offering.

“What is it and who are you?” Derek snarked, a bit irritated from the way the proceedings were going.

“Your grace, this is Lord Vernon Boyd, Count of Charleston.” Alan interjected, as though he were trying to diffuse a tricky situation. Derek simply sighed and nodded before he resumed his pacing.

“Go on then,”

“Your grace, the duke is not wrong in suggesting you wait to send the messenger.” Derek became visibly annoyed again but Vernon simply carried on without quickening or stopping as though he hadn’t noticed at all. “The condition of John Stilinski’s son and heir will weigh heavily on his decision when he receives your order. Might I suggest that for a week before dispatching a messenger the Scot’s accommodations be changed to suit someone of his title,” he paused momentarily with his head slightly tilted and his eyes narrowed at a point somewhere on the ceiling as though he were just putting his thoughts together as he presented them to the king. “The first week will give him time to have acclimated to his new surroundings. After this is done the messenger can be sent. It is at least a day’s ride to Scotland. The King will surely send a response to which you would be required to answer.” Boyd flailed a hand though the action seemed rather controlled as he continued to lay out his thoughts for his king on the matter. “He will certainly ask about his son and demand he be allowed to view him which you would deny and suggest he send a small party who will be allowed safe passage to verify that the prince is safe and well and will continue to be so as long as you are obeyed. From there it is probably the easiest path to tread as everything will have fallen into place.”

Everyone seemed to stop and stare at the young man as if he’d just done something incredibly brilliant or incredibly foolish depending on who was viewing him. He regarded them for only a moment before he proceeded to finish his thoughts. “Furthermore, word is bound to get around as gossip does tend to travel as I’m sure it already has about the Scottish prince now, however when others hear about your treatment of the prince and how you amicably negotiated a peaceful combining of the kingdoms, even in the face of such woeful circumstances, on the heels of the last king’s war, you will have earned the respect of royals everywhere when they take into account what may happen if they were in Prince Germin’s shoes. And really who wouldn’t back a king who’s proven his honor through and through. The actions you take today may set the tone for how you either take the kingdoms or lose them all, assuming that is the end you wish to achieve…” Boyd finally trailed off after Derek took another step bringing him ridiculously closer to the man.

“Apologies if I have said too much your grace,” he began but Derek rose a hand to silence him and slow enough, a smile lit up his features as he clapped a hand onto the man’s shoulder.

“You have quite the strategic mind Vernon Boyd Count of Charleston.” Derek commented openly as he looked around the room to see others nodding in agreement.

“Well he has always been one of the more intelligent young men I’ve come across,” Alan pitched in.

“I appreciate the accolades sire, I’m merely doing my duty and serving you the best way I know how.”

“And serve me you have. There is not one bit of your plan that doesn’t ring true, now to implement it. First step,” Derek paused as he looked down at Boyd.

“Germin’s accomodations.”

“Yes they need to be elevated,” there was a hushed bite to Derek’s words as he offered them, the idea grating against his need for revenge. Somehow though, he found that as hard as it was to admit that he needed to care for the prince of Scots, there was a slight bit of relief somewhere inside himself at having arrived at the decision.

“We don’t need to take him from the tower though…” Isaac started.

“Of course not, he is still a prisoner here,” Derek butted in.

“He just needs the appearance of a free man.” It was Boyd who finished for him.

“That is simple enough. Have him placed in the queen’s rooms,” Derek uttered with a wicked smile as he turned to Isaac who would obviously deal with the task at hand. “Have him prepared a proper meal and send in the tailor’s to provide something for him to wear.”

“And will I be taking on the care of the prince project then,” Isaac bit back plaintively. Derek glared at him and he hung his head a bit in shame a bit in defense.

“Sorry, your grace.”

Derek sighed at the showing and moved over to his friend, “Come now. Perhaps you’re right. Someone does need to take on the role of seeing to him if this is meant to work.”

“I offer my services your grace,” Boyd spoke up. His tone was even and suggestive as he looked at the king who regarded him with a shocked expression.

“Are you certain this is something you would not mind seeing to?”

“Of course not sire, it is but a small thing. Besides, in order to ensure that this plan proceeds as designed, it would be best to remain close to Germin. At least to make sure he believes in the new treatment he will be receiving.” Derek nodded and clapped his hand to the man’s shoulder once more.

“You are most definitely an asset Count Charleston. I will be sure to keep you close by.” He began to move and in turn brought the man with him. “Shall we proceed then. We should tell the young prince where his future lies.”

***

The soft but sweet melody of his voice filled the small cell as Stiles sang out the words to an old Gaelic hymn his mother used to sing to him when he was a wee lad. He sat cross-legged on the cold hard ground with his palms lightly resting on either knee. His back was straight and his green glowing wolf’s eyes were prominent in the dim lighting of his cell.

Stiles had realized a long time prior that somehow when he connected fully with all of himself, joining that which was wolf with that which was human, his abilities as simple and ordinary as they may seem became amplified exponentially. He didn’t know how to explain it or even why it happened, all he knew was that when he was both wolf and man at the same time allowing that energy of his two natures to blend, he could do anything.

The notes almost swiveled and danced in the air as he sang out keeping his eyes steadily connected to the friendly jailor he had taken a shine to. Lord Cromwell, or Danny as Stiles had taken to calling him. Daniel was leaning against the wall with his arms folded across his chest, though they were so loosely bound it looked as though they would, of their own volition, fall to his sides. This was due in its greatest part to the fact that the man had become completely entranced by the prince’s hidden talent. Danny’s mouth was slightly ajar as he continued to listen to the sensationally soothing, honeyed tone that caressed him in places that, if he had the time to really think about it, he might be worried.

When prince Germin had finished his lullaby there was a comfortable silence that fell for several moments while Danny continued to gaze at the man sitting in front of him. Stiles eventually began to feel a bit awkward and a slow, nervous smile crept across his face and he brought a hand back to roughly push back his long curled hair. “Um..” he began.

“Sorry,” Danny jumped in, closing his mouth and blinking rapidly for a while. His face was filled with a kind of unexpected awe that he seemed to have a bit of trouble communicating verbally. “That was… I uh… that was quite.. something Stiles I, wow.”

“Now I’m sure to be reminded of this as the most embarrassing moment of my lifetime thus far,” Stiles laughed.

“Hardly,” Danny countered, “You’ve lived quite the life as you’ve told me there is bound to be something worse than this moment, besides, I was paying you a compliment good prince. I finally got you to share your talent with me and I assure you the memory of what just occurred is a treasure I will be sure to keep safe for the rest of my lifetime.” He skilled deeply at the young prince and Stiles smiled back, mores easily this time.

“Might I ask what it is that will be treasured so,” the voice seemed to completely disrupt the entire atmosphere along with Stiles entire demeanor as he scrambled to his feet. Danny pushed off of the wall and turned to stand at attention before his King as the man and two others stood just beyond the threshold of the cell door that had only been kept slightly ajar, hopefully to avoid a situation like that  in the first place, however life…

“Or perhaps the better question would be to ask why Lord Cromwell is in here entertaining the conversational whims of our detained guest.” Though the words were spoken loosely and absent a specific tone, they could all identify a special bite to his words that internally made Derek quietly worry.

“Your grace,” Daniel piped as he bowed in respect. “Apologies, I only came to ensure that the prisoner was well in hand.”

“And is he then?”

“Yes your grace.”

“Then perhaps you should return to do some other work that surely requires your attention Cromwell.” Derek raised an eyebrow as he said the man’s name, sizing him up. Danny simply nodded and made a move to leave before the dark skinned gentleman to Derek’s right grabbed his arm to halt him.

“Wait my king,” Boyd spoke quickly lightly brushing his own hand to Derek’s shoulder.

“Perhaps this is a fortunate situation we have stumbled upon. As it would appear, Cromwell,” he nodded to the man he was still holding, “has befriended prince Germin or the other way round, either way this may prove… helpful with our present endeavor.”

Derek turned to look at him, then switched his gaze over to Danny who tugged then on his arm to pull away from Boyd’s grasp until the man let him go. Danny shyly made eye contact with the king before looking away, waiting for some kind of signal suggesting he should leave. The alpha-king eyed Daniel roughly, his lip twitching as though he was about to snarl. He finally broke off and turned to the prince, whose body was tense, heart rate was elevated and face was a mask of anger and hatred, the mixture of which Derek seemed to be unhappy with seeing, directed at him.

“Fine then.” Derek murmured. “Prince Germin,” he continued moving forward to stand in front of the man and giving him a short bow. “I do apologize for the way you’ve been treated thus far. You must understand I was in a precarious position and a volatile state following my father’s war and his death. I took my rage out on you and forced you into this lifestyle quite unbefitting of your title. I would like to amend the situation if you would be so kind as to co-operate.” The words were like a silken spell weaving its way through the room and all who were partial fell victim. Danny found himself leaning forward slightly as he actively paid attention to the king even more than before.

It was Stiles who had been most affected though. His entire body calmed and his eyes seemed to soften as his face displayed his slight confusion and momentary disconnect with the reality of the situation he had deduced. Before too long, he caught himself, lifted his walls and resumed glaring at the king. “If you wished to make a funny you could have sent a jester,” he uttered with not one ounce of humor in his voice. Derek merely smiled at him as his eyes roved, the action so quick on the young prince’s body that he didn’t even notice he’d done it.

“Please prince Germin, if you would accompany Lords Boyd and Lahey and myself to your new accommodation.” He gestured to the men as he spoke.

Stiles looked at them one at a time before turning his attention to the emptiness or rather lack of man power around them. “And where are the guard to bind my hands, shackle my feet and march me to a new cage?”

“That won’t be necessary, unless of course it is your desire to fight, right now?” Derek put it to him with the slightest bit of intrigue in his eyes. Stiles flashed a glance at Daniel after a long while, who nodded to him as subtly as he could without the others drawing the wrong conclusion about the action.

“Fine,” was all Stiles offered as he let the others lead both him and Daniel to the queen’s rooms in the tower. When they’d walked into the room the space was wide and the ceiling was high. There was an assortment of furniture laid out in the room in the most carefully placed patterns and the walls were decorated with portraits.

“Please, get acquainted with the space, you will be sent several servants to attend you for the moment.”

“And what I wonder has prompted this vast change of heart?” Stiles challenged as he turned about in the room to take in the surroundings.

“I’ve already told you Germin, if I may,” Derek asked inclining his head to a side but he didn’t wait for a response, “my grief got the better of me but I see clearly now.”

“Yes as you said. I must admit though, I’m impressed with the way you’ve learned to lie so well, even for an alpha. Your heartbeat was so undisturbed when you made that shite explanation…”

Derek laughed, his head tipping back just so and his eyes rolling back a bit. Boyd and Danny turned to look at him both clearly a bit shocked at his reaction to Stiles continued impudence. Derek’s laugh quieted and became a small but rather genuine smile on his face as he stared at Stiles for a moment not answering. “Your reluctance to believe in what I say is of course expected. I would like to point out though that you are still alive, and you aren’t being tortured or beaten or whatever else some evil tyrant would do to the enemy of his kingdom. That is because, while you must remain here presently, I do not wish to harm you.” His eyes roved the young prince again, this time the look lingering a little longer. “Anyway that’s enough of that, you,” Derek turned to Daniel and flagged him over. “You will move over to this wing in order to see to Prince Germin, and ensure his safety and health. This,” he gestured to Boyd, “is lord Vernon Boyd count of Charleston. He will be overseeing Prince Germin’s care while he is here, perhaps you can think of him as your ward for the moment.” He spoke the words to Germin after turning once more to face him. The prince regarded him with a cold glare before turning around and stalking off to the window in silence.

“Well if there is nothing else then, unless you are planning on revealing that I will soon be released…”

“That won’t be happening my prince, I do apologize,” Derek lied with a smile that said he was clearly unapologetic about it.

“Then leave me,” Stiles swatted a hand at the air in their direction as though he were the king and they would all do as he pleased.  Derek scoffed, turning to Boyd with an amused expression. “As the prince commands it.” He uttered before turning on his heel with Boyd behind him.

 

When they were gone and after several moments of silence Stiles turned to find Danny standing in the corner watching him curiously. “What do you make of this? He asked his previous jailor turned friend.

“I’m not quite sure what he’s up to, not that I ever know what the king is doing. It smells like a plot though, sorry I can’t be of more help. I’m not in his inner circle not that I would leak you information or break you out or anything like that if I could I mean…” Danny sighed, having clearly realized how much he’d tied himself up in circles trying to explain himself to Stiles.

Stiles just rose a hand to get his attention and silence him altogether. “No need for that. I understand who you are and what you must do. And I wouldn’t ask you to do anything to jeopardize yourself or your family, not for me.” Stiles took in a deep breath and expelled it harshly as he sank down onto the giant bed. “That man is trying to do something I just wish I knew what it was.”

“Maybe he’s trying to woo you,” Danny suggested.

“Don’t be foolish Daniel, I’ve heard that the dog king is quite the whore even from my home in Scotland.”

“Yes but that doesn’t mean that he’s exclusive to women. I…” he looked up and about him as though any moment someone would come in and accuse him of treason for having an opinion or sharing the little gossip he’d managed to pick up around court.

“Go on then,” Stiles smiled at him and lifted a hand to beckon him forward. Danny complied, moving close until he was standing just in front of the young prince.

“I saw the look he was giving me when he first came to retrieve us. He looked and smelled jealous of what I don’t know but that is what it seemed like.”

“Ha!” Stiles exclaimed loudly. “Even if that were remotely true, I could never feel anything for that arse.” Even as he spoke the words he realized his heart had stuttered just slightly enough to cast enough aspersions on the statement he’d made no matter how confidently he’d said it. 

Chapter Text

Soft laughter filled the surrounding forest like so much sunshine filtering through the canopy of leaves covering the sky over their heads as Derek and Lydia rode their horses in the forest. A single escort had been allowed to trail them. At the king’s insistence he was only allowed a few feet away within sight while the rest of both their guards were commanded to remain at the tree line until they returned or they were signaled in the event of danger.

The princess Lydia had challenged the king to a race of sorts using the turns between trees as obstacles through which they had to weave. She had immediately taken the lead when the race had started and through some interesting turn of events, had bested Derek in the race altogether. He chased her freely through the woods, watching as the fiery golden mane tossed back behind her, bouncing with every step of the horse and flying behind her when the breeze from her speedy lead picked it up and blew it behind her.

Lydia laughed again as she dismounted her tall white stead. A horse she had brought to England with her on her ship. Gallivanting footfalls came to a halt beside the princess’ horse, and in moments, Derek was off of Edmure and standing in front of Lydia, as she remained where she stood, watching him with a cocky grin. “I concede this point to you then princess.” Derek spoke the words with the accompaniment of a half bow and slight inclination of his head in respect to the victor of their little game.

“Of course my king. Might I add, you may have to get used to me winning. I tend to get what I want,” with that she smirked, a wickedly sexy expression on her, before turning on her heel and slowly walking off. Her flipped back and flitted in the soft breeze that blew in the airy forest.

“You’re an arrogant little thing,” he uttered, as he picked up and followed her but kept a slow pace so that he seemed in constant pursuit.

“tsk tsk,” Lydia tutted in response. “There’s a difference between arrogance and confidence, your grace…”

“Derek, please,” the king interrupted but Lydia simply continued on showing he hadn’t disrupted her train of thought.

“And while I may have both, I also possess the restraint and intellectual ability to smith my words so that the more admirable is never taken for the more aggressive and ultimately less attractive of the two. Besides, I prefer to be honest, most times,” she threw in as she tossed him a sly wink over shoulder, “so as not to appear misleading. And a little more truth for you,” she turned then, to glance at him and he nodded her on. “I shan’t be referring to you so informally or intimately, without first being presented a formal proposition.”

“A bit presumptuous, wouldn’t you say princess,” he remarked with mock shock in his tone, though her words somehow, hardly surprised him at all. At that, Lydia stopped and turned around to face him. Long red-gold tresses fell over her shoulder and cascaded atop her bosom in a ridiculously alluring display that kept drawing Derek’s attention to ‘not her eyes’.

“Let us do away with the pretense then, your grace. The facts are plainly obvious. You need a queen, a title to which I am suited in every way. We will provide a mutually beneficial alliance wherein I give you an influential allied nation and you give me a throne. And not just any throne, the throne.” When she said the latter her eyes gleamed with a danger and desire that made Derek wonder if he’d adequately analyzed just who she was. He kept silent though, as he continued to listen.

“My fiery spirit and independent nature excites you, while your deceptive reservation excites me.” His brows arched at her take on his nature, which was almost unfairly accurate. It meant she’d been watching him, and not just distantly or through rose colored glasses. No, she had studied him from the moment she’d gotten to court and every day they’d spent together since as he courted her and had analyzed just what kind of man he was.

“And finally, you and I clearly find each other attractive,” her eyes dropped down to her own breasts, before catching his eyes to ndicate where he couldn’t help but glance every so often. Derek’s face lit with a smile as he stared her down.

“You make it sound so impersonal.”

“Well it is a business transaction for all intents and purposes, your grace.”

“That doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy it,” he challenged.

“Who said anything about not enjoying it?” she countered, earning another arched brow. “I plan on enjoying every moment of our time together my lord, that is, if you choose to have me…” A hint of vulnerability highlighted her words but Derek realized by then, it was merely one of the ways she effortlessly and successfully managed to manipulate others. He smirked at her, as he remained silent. The quiet seemed to pull a reaction from the princess, a slight flinch, even as her demeanor generally didn’t waiver, even as she didn’t blink. It made him think that she was human after all, well…

After the moment lingered on for a delicate few seconds, he sighed, and took a step forward, closer to her, possessively invading her personal space. His eyes roamed her face, her body, caressing and touching her intimately with only the weight of his gaze. “You realize, my dear, our… compatibility is untested, physically anyway.”

“Then what more are you waiting for when I’ve all but thrown myself at your feet.” In the instant the words were free from her lips Derek grabbed her. His hands curled around her arms strong but gently as he pulled her into him, crushing her against his body so that even through the layers of cloth separating skin from skin he could feel the heat between them as her breasts molded to his chest and her hips collided with his pelvis. His mouth clamped down on hers and his tongue insistently pushed its way into her mouth, commanding entry and conquering the warm wet cavern until their passionate merging was desperate and hungry. Lydia’s eyes were shut so tightly that the force of her lidding them tight and the fire of their kiss brought stars dancing among the delicate blend of white and black behind her lids. Her mouth reacted to his submitting where he took the lead, most probably the only way she ever would truly submit to a man, Derek thought as he pilfered a true kiss from the now breathless princess. He pulled away and took a breath, watching her pant desperately, watching her eyes go heavy and her cheeks pink up with a rose colored blush that was slowly spreading to the rest of her. He could scent her arousal and it made him eager to know what the wetness between her thighs would feel like.

Suddenly his eyes locked on hers. The glittering emeralds half hidden by heavy lids and his mind went somewhere else. He remembered his dreams, the eyes that haunted him. Green eyes that were becoming more a part of his life than he’d care to admit to. Eyes that commanded his attention. Eyes that pushed him off balance. Eyes that shattered his resolve. Eyes that belonged to a prince he kept tucked away in the royal rooms of his prison yard.

“Derek!” Lydia pressed, her hand squeezing his shoulder tightly. The man shook his head as he came back to himself and studied her for a moment.

“I..” he tried but cut off before he said something less ike his normally cool and collected self than he preferred her to see.

“And I thought I was the one so affected by that display of affection,” she teased allowing her hand to linger on him, possessively.

“I take it a formal proposition is no longer necessary.”

“Darling, I thought that was the proposition,” she replied, her hand now trailing down the muscles of his bicep.

“I’ll consider it answered then.” He smiled for her though it didn’t completely light his face, and certainly not his eyes, not when his mind was still somewhere else, somewhere he didn’t want to be.

***

The waters were calm down by the small lake she had taken to visiting. For the several days Marin had stayed at the king’s castle in Scotland, he had insisted she be given rooms and all the amenities any other royal is afforded but she came and went like the wind. Blowing through the doors when the breeze picks up and leaving just the same.

Marin had felt restless in the confines of the castle, she always did as long as she’d known John but it was more to do with how she’d been raised in the open room of nature than anything he had done. It had been worse the entire day though. Which usually meant something was coming or shifting. Marin had walked along the line of the lake for several silent minutes, watching the flow of the water and how far she could see of it.

Eventually her body calmed and her head lightened. She walked toward the water and stooped down to dip her fingers in. As her hand left the water and that which she had gathered into her palm fell back to the source, her mind went dark and then almost immediately the light was back on and a haze was clearing. Marin watched on intently, looking, to anyone else, as though she were staring stark out into the night. When she’d finally blinked and sighed, having been freed of her vision she smiled softly to herself.

“The king is in conflict, choose wisely young prince. For this may decide the future of us all.” Marin sat back on her legs and closed her eyes. Her sleeve covered arms rose and her hands danced fluidly in the air weaving signs and patterns for a short time before she let them fall to her side and opened her eyes. She expelled one long breath and paused. Another followed then she stopped. One more came after that, and then another after that and she continued until there was a soft mist escaping her lips every time she breathed out one of those deep breaths.

The temperature responded, dropping drastically since Marin had started, so much so that there was a chilling mist riding the surface of the lake and moisture had settled on everything around. Slowly but surely the druid woman rose to her feet and regarded for a short moment the work she had done, while sending out her prayers that the outcome she hoped for was the one they all gained.

Marin turned about then and took off back to the castle, her skirts and cape swishing about her as she moved silently yet briskly through the night.

***

He shivered as he unconsciously tugged, pulling the blankets closer in to completely cover his half naked body as protection from the cold. There were goose pimples rising over his skin and he trembled with every blast of ice cold wind that blew over him like chilling breaths. Derek turned over, his body almost writhing beneath his sheets in discomfort as it fought outside while his mind fought within to maintain some level of control over the dreams that constantly ran away with him.

It was another setting like it usually was but the same main idea. He caught a glimpse of something in the distance, something that intrigued him and in his effort to seek it out, he became the prey being hunted by and eventually swallowed up by the green eyes. Wolf’s eyes. This time he’d been swimming in a lake he didn’t recognize. Somehow though, he didn’t care to know any more than he was free and enjoyed it. As he’d turned he saw the small flashes of light. The familiar hues that sent him in search of the source every time.

“Who are you?” he might call but there was never any response. Derek swam hard and fast to the direction where he’d seen it but there was nothing there. There never was. And just like that he’d turn his head to find that he was being watched by the same ever patient ever silent green eyes. They would disappear and reappear closer and closer until they were close enough to swallow him whole. He jerked out of bed, eyes scarlet, fangs elongated and claws raking at his mattress. The sheets were torn to shreds and littered the surface of the bed. Derek slowly came back to himself over a course of deep calming breaths. Breaths that became shaky and chattered as the cold became even more acknowledged with him awake.

He stepped out of the bed and walked quickly to the windows, shutting the frosted glass before slipping into his shirt and robe. He was walking before he knew what he was doing and ended up in the tower before he knew where he was headed. The familiar path did more to keep him from actually considering the gravity of him visiting his royal prisoner in the middle of the night. He walked that way so many times he didn’t actually have to think about it. And why would he want to. He’d visited the young prince more times than any other in his position would find acceptable. If his father were alive…

He stopped that train of thought before he stopped himself and turned around because if he were being honest he couldn’t help but go after Stiles. He wasn’t certain why but somehow he always got something from their little visits, even when the highlander had no idea Derek was even there. The king sighed as he wondered just what he was really doing and why he couldn’t stop himself even if he wanted to, which he realized he didn’t want to in the least.

It wasn’t long before he was standing in front of the prince’s room in the tower. And so he remained, for a long while, standing there and listening to what was going on, on the other side of the door. It seemed much less cold down here, and he could hear the steady breathing of the sleeping prince. His heart rate was slower than when he was awake and a soft comfort the king found though he couldn’t begin to explain why. He leaned forward and rested his head against the door frame and listened for as long as he would allow himself before he pulled the key out of his pocket. The key he’d taken from the night guard, and slipped it quietly into the hole before turning it and pushing the door open.

As he stepped inside, Stiles stirred for a moment but seemed generally undisturbed in his sleep. The candle to the side of his bed flickered in the fresh breeze that traveled into the room when the door opened casting dark, mysterious character shadows across the princes’ face. He wore his trousers and shirt to bed while the blankets covered only his feet. He lay on his back with his head tipped to one side exposing his throat and the sight made Derek almost purr with a possessive curiosity he dared not explain to himself.

He walked forward into the room to the side of the bed where the night stand stood with the candle atop it. His footfalls were almost non-existent as he moved as silently as he could to the candle. As he stood before it, the king bent low, eyes examining the sleeping prince before he turned to the candle and blew it out. He turned around and began walking away but was stopped almost immediately by the change in Stiles heart-rate. His body froze mid-step, while he waited, waited for…

“You seem to be making it a habbit…” came the soft raw voice of the newly awakened prince. Derek closed his eyes as he took it in. The sound seemed so… so… there wasn’t a word he wanted to use to describe it but it was meaningful.

“What’s it?” he questioned as he turned around to catch Stiles looking at him. His head had turned the other way to watch the retreating king. When Derek had responded, Stiles pulled himself up slightly so that he was almost sitting upright. His arms stretched outward as he yawned and Derek couldn’t help but spy the sliver of skin that peaked out from beneath the shirt as it rose slightly over his stomach.

“Hmmm visiting your prisoners, or is it just me that you find it necessary to see personally so often?” the prince countered with resigned interest.

“I…” he started but realized he didn’t quite have a rehearsed answer prepared. “I… am the alpha, I find it necessary to do many things myself, including checking in on as important a guest as you are. After all, I did mean my words. I intend to see that you are kept well and in the best of health and while I can resolve to keep you safe not all of my subjects may find themselves capable of caring for the Scottish prince therefore, it is best that I make rounds on you privately to ensure you aren’t… coming to any harm.”

Stiles remained silent for a moment, seemingly a bit shocked at Derek’s response. He sighed deeply as he turned away and looked out the window near the bed. “Well you’ve seen for yourself then, I’m fine. You can go now. Besides Danny will keep me safe.”

Derek cleared his throat to mask the soft rumble that escaped at the mention of Danny. “I beg your pardon,” he gave bitterly.

“Lord Cromwell will do his job and keep me from harm as it is what you pay him for. So you needn’t worry about me.”

“You seem to have developed quite the relationship with Cromwell now haven’t you.” The words were spat out almost jealously earning Derek an incredulous look from Stiles.

“I see a handful of people every day, you see to that, it would only make sense to have some form of relation with them, if only to ensure my own well being when I cannot truly trust my captor to do so himself. Not as long as I am his prisoner here. Besides Lord Boyd seems to be as kind as lord Cromwell is so you don’t have to get any ideas about the kind of relationship I share with Daniel.”

“I wasn’t,” he started but Stiles pinned him with a disbelieving eye that shut him up. “Fine as long as all is well here that’s all that matters to me.”

“You know, I never would have thought that one day I would be trapped in the English king’s tower as a spoil of war.” Derek winced at Stiles words, somehow offended by them.

“You aren’t a spoil of war. This is a delicate situation and I am handling it as best as I can. There are no easy choices here.” He expelled a harsh breath as Stiles looked away from him again. “You seem to be doing well enough though, sleeping better than I am at least.”

Stiles jerked back toward him as he said it. “What do you mean?”

“Nothing of importance to you.”

“Tell me.”

“Why?”

“Because looks can deceive. Not all that appears to be truly is as it seems.”

Derek thought about it for a while before he turned away and started walking off. “You should get some rest, apologies for disturbing your sleep.”

He was almost to the door when he felt the hand on his shoulder, turning him around. Derek reacted instinctively. He grabbed the hand and as he turned pinned it to the wall above the prince’s head as he pushed the man roughly against the wall. Their bodies pressed hard against each other as they stared into the other’s eyes, wolf’s eyes. Derek’s fierce and crimson and Stiles’ an enigmatic emerald. It took Derek a full minute to realize he was panting shallowly while he looked into the eyes that haunted his dreams for so long.

“Your eyes, how are they this c...”

“Unhand me you brute,” Stiles jerked forcing his body to grind into Derek’s making the man shudder. The reaction took him by surprise and he immediately let go of the young prince and backed away from him, losing his train of thought to a more destructive instinctual emotion.

“I’m sorry. You shouldn’t approach a warrior that way, ever it’s not… I should go.”

“Wait.” Stiles called but stopped himself from advancing as his body seemed to do automatically.

“What is it?” Derek asked taking a step forward, so that they were closer, maybe even too close for comfort. Derek cold feel Stiles body heat and Stiles could feel the warm breath escaping Derek’s lips on his skin. They stared at each other silently for a long time before Stiles shook his head slowly.

“Never mind. You should go.” Derek was immobile for a moment before he nodded and turned away leaving the prince alone in his room with his thoughts and his arousal.

 

 

Chapter Text

A swish and swirl of robes danced around her as Marin Morrell made her way into the throne room of Edinburgh castle where the king was just barely capping his rage at having received the letter he was reading. The letter he kept reading over and over until his face was red and the veins along his neck and temple pulsed with the adrenaline laced blood that made him want to rip things apart.

“My lord,” she said in that eerily calm and slightly complacent tone she often used.

“It is as you said. They have sent word finally.” He paced back and forth in front of her as he continued to narrate while flailing the letter around in his hand. “Perhaps I should be relieved as one of my men suggested but tell me how I can be relieved to know that my only son. The love of my life and center of my world, my only heir and future king of scots and Irishmen is in the hands of the son of that power hungry, crazed conqueror William. Look at the boy’s actions. He is carrying on just as his father did. I hear whispers of alliances he is forming and plans to march on the remaining nations his father had yet to take. How can I be hopeful when my Germin is in the hands of Derek Hale.” As he finished on an elevated tone, the room quieted and all eyes fell on Marin as the king’s did.

For a moment of complete silence she regarded him as a mother did a child who had no patience and got themself hurt trying to take something out of turn. “As I have said before John,” she uttered his name softer than she said anything else, “It is how one responds to a situation that can mean the difference between success and failure. Yesterday you had no idea besides my word that your son was still alive, now you have confirmation from his captor himself.” She raised a hand and then opened her palm expectantly, waiting for him to hand her the letter which she took with eager curiosity.

“Marin the man was a monster. How am I to believe his son could be any different. How do I know Stiles is being treated fairly, or well at all? He could be tortur…” the king trailed off not wanting to finish that specific train of thought.

“My king,” she rested a soft gentle palm on the king’s arm and squeezed it lightly. Her bright smile did something to lift his spirits as she followed through with words of encouragement. “Derek Hale is nothing like his father was. His father wasn’t even all that bad of a king or a man in his earlier days. That however is a tale for another time. My point is. The new alpha king is smart and he has intelligent advisors to guide his way. He wouldn’t keep your son alive this long without deciding on a purpose and possible outcome to which the prince’s continued living could suit. Furthermore it would serve contrary efforts to hurt the young prince if he is meant to be useful leverage in any way. Fear not. Germin is well I am sure of it.”

“Can we not refer to my son as though he were merely some idle thing to be used for barter and trade...?”

“I only seek to indicate fact. I am sure though that he is well,” she responded kindly.

“Have you had another seeing then, will you tell me what it showed you, in detail.” His eagerness for some morsel of information concerning the well-being of his child made Marin feel even more for the king but she shook her head.

“My people didn’t become as knowledgeable and strong as we are by relying on visions alone. There are other ways to learn what is needed to be learned. I’m sure a king could agree.” She scanned the letter as she turned away from him, giving him her back as she read.

“What are you saying lady?” he queued, brows arching in his piquing interest.

“Simply that more than one avenue has to be journeyed in order to achieve a certain outcome my king.” The words were called from over shoulder.

“Speak plainly with me Lady Marin, how often must I express my distaste for the riddles of the druid people you all seem so fond of trading in. I swear there must be a compulsory training for children of your order.” John stepped forward and grasped her quickly with a hand on her arm and turned her around. Marin moved as he pulled and turned to face him, her face an mask of slight concentration mixed with a weariness he knew was aimed at him and the hand he’d placed on her arm to turn her to him. The hand that felt slightly numb and tingled simultaneously. The king released her almost immediately as a man catching himself in the middle of a mistake.

“I speak the way I think. My lord,” she breathed. Her face was upturned to him in a proud manner as she stared into his eyes. Something happened then, something that made him feel very small as he stared back into her own eyes. Dark pools seemed to shimmer and come alive as she looked into him. And that was what it felt like, like she was looking inside him, sifting through more than his mind but his soul. Seeing things she shouldn’t see without his permission but it was he who’d authorized her eyes to look that way when he’d put his hand on her to begin with. His breathing became forced and increasingly ragged. “You bear much John, more than most men ever bear in their lifetimes. It is required of you to be burdened as a king of men. You are even more so burdened by the life your son was handed but you endure.”

He took a step away and pondered on her words. She always seemed to say so much more than she actually said. “Apologies lady Marin. This entire situation puts me on edge and it is wearing on my very sanity.”

“A king doesn’t apologize,” she said but it seemed like a challenge.

“A bad king does not apologize. A good king recognizes that fault may lie with him as it does with any other man.”

“Indeed.” She paused a moment before she continued. “I have a friend in the midst of King Derek. A friend who will keep an eye on your son as long as it is required. This information I do not give lightly so respect that I have shared one of my secrets with you. There has never been any pretense between us John so I need your trust. Not just the words but the belief that I will help you because I have yours and Germin’s best interests at heart.

“Who...” Marin held up a hand as John began to ask.

“Faith requires a lack of evidence otherwise it would not be faith at all and this is what I require. Can you trust me?”

John watched her for a minute, a second and then a third in silence but she never relinquished the powerful stare she’d settled on him. The king nodded then, remaining silent should she decide to speak again, and she did.

“Good. Then a response to this letter is of the utmost importance. It is as we discussed. You must demand proof of your son’s well-being. Request that a party of men be allowed to meet Prince Germin and ensure that he is being well kept. Do not indicate whether or not you will be attending them. Have it sent immediately, I trust you will know what to say.”

She turned to leave but he called out for her. Marin turned back at the door to wait for his words. “Will you not stay to see what I have written to verify it is what should be written?”

“If you can trust me to help you see your son returned, then I can trust you with this. I must make leave there are some things I must see prepared. Be well King John Stilinski. And if you have need of me send word. I will be here.” He sighed and nodded his agreement then watched her leave his presence. He stared at the empty doorway for a long time before he called for the servants to bring him his seal and parchment to word his response.

***

“Fucking dignitaries never seem to know their place!” Derek exclaimed as he pulled up alongside Vernon who’d been silently making his way down to Stiles’ chambers in the tower.

Lord Boyd narrowed his eyes and in a small voice spoke. “Perhaps you should cut their visit short my lord if it displeases you so.” Derek simply grunted at the idea and turned his attention to something else. The sound of a voice could be picked up by their enhanced hearing as they approached the door. It called out groupings of rhyming words that sounded like poetry. The accompaniment of the voice, with a cadence and tone so unexplainably right, made what was being read sound like subtle perfection. Derek had no doubt that anything that was read by that voice would be perceived by any and all who heard though he wasn’t about to admit that aloud, far less to himself.  

Boyd stopped short of the door and knocked, a gesture of respect however pretentious it may have been considering the status of the man who lived on the other side. “Come,” Cromwell called. The other voice, the voice Derek knew belonged to the one wolf in all of time and space he couldn’t seem to rid himself of, at least mentally, didn’t skip a note as Stiles continued reading. When the two men entered Stiles sat on his bed cross legged in the center with a book splayed on his thighs. Cromwell stood a ways from him with arms folded across his chest. His eyes lazed over Stiles a long moment. Much longer than it should have in Derek’s mind. He internally noted that the way Danny seemed to be constantly watching Stiles pissed him off very much. When the guard finally turned his attention to the now open door, Danny straightened up immediately and bowed. “My king, lord Boyd.”

“Oh far be it for me interrupt your story telling time Cromwell. No need to attend me or Lord Boyd. Why don’t you take a seat while you’re at it, why don’t we all Lord Boyd? Then we can attentively listen to young Germin Stilinski as he regales us with his favorite literature.” The king bit out the words as the fresh flow of irritation settled on him. His eyes darted from Daniel to Stiles who’d finally stopped reading at the beginning of the king’s rant. Somehow though, the absence of the young man’s voice irritated him further.

“Do not be an arse.” The statement was pointed and shot at the king as if an arrow from a bow.

“I beg your pardon.” Derek barked.

“You heard me. Do not be an arse. You’ve given me chambers and declared I be treated with the respect befitting me as royalty then bring your frustrations to my chamber and insult both me and my friend, the friend you decided I should have, mind you.” Stiles spoke his mind unrestrained though he seemed to have a measure less fire to his words than he usually did where Derek was concerned.

The king’s brows arched. “Look who is beginning to show his sense of entitlement once more.”

“Not entitlement. I simply request that a king act as kings are meant to and kings do not go back on their word when their mood is less than agreeable. Lest they be considered men without honor.” Stiles looked up then and chocolate brown met hazel green eyes and in that instant it was like a jolt of energy was sent through that contact and tingled its way down Derek’s spine.

He looked away immediately, eyes blinking and nose flaring as he settled himself and capped his restless irritation. “You are right in this I suppose. I apologize for the insult then.”

“My father always said a good king accepts that fault lies with him as it does with any other man,” Stiles nearly whispered the words but all the men caught it.

“That was dangerously close to a compliment prince Germin.”

“Don’t be ridiculous, you’re still an arse.”

“You’d do well to heed your own advice,”

“My unique position allows for a bit of breathing room I would think. After all I am still a prisoner here. My iron chains have simply transformed into that of silks and cotton.” He gestured to the sheets beneath him and clothing he wore. “To what do I owe the displeasure,” he lied with an air of disinterest. It had been a few days since Derek’s visit to Stiles’ room in the dark of night. He’d thought about everything that had happened between them constantly and many times over. He felt something, he knew he felt something, and there was no denying it. He’d spent his life learning honesty and honor above all things and didn’t want to go against his own nature by pretending all he had between the king and himself was hatred. But he dared not define the small bit of ‘something’ that lay between them so very obviously.

Stiles looked up to Derek, a soft, half-focused gaze under thick lashes that made the king avert his eyes when they’d met once more. Boyd turned to Derek who regarded him questioningly. “Would you like to tell him majesty? Or shall I?” Derek blinked back the momentary disorientation and turned back to face Stiles with a reserved smile.

“Germin, a messenger has been sent to your father letting you know that you are safe here with me at the moment. I imagine he must have been so worried all this time.”

“Are you saying that until now you’ve sent no word to my father that I was even alive?” Stiles demanded. Anger welled up inside him for the pain his father must have endured just not knowing.

“You forget little prince,” Derek snapped back, “we are warring nations. I owed your father nothing. I owed you nothing. In fact you owe me now for the life you retain. The life your father forfeited when he killed mine. Blood for blood. But you yet live, be thankful it’s in luxury and not in chains or a coffin for that matter.”

“Do you want me to thank you? Because if that is what you’re waiting for you can keep waiting for the rest of your days. I would gladly die if it meant being free of you and the noose I know you’re trying to tie around Scotland,” Stiles spat out as his rage welled up to a boiling point.

“So dramatic…”

“My king,” Boyd interrupted, pausing to see how Derek would react to his intervention. The king took a breath and turned to face him. He’d come to trust Boyd’s judgment so quickly others may have thought it was sorcery. “Perhaps we should inform prince Germin of our intent. He is after all an intelligent young man, he’s bound…”

“To figure things out already, if he hasn’t as yet,” Derek turned back to Stiles. “I agree, thank you Lord Boyd. Germin Stilinski, you will remain here as a ward of England, my ward indefinitely, as I negotiate the joining of our two countries into one state governed by me.”

“If all you wanted was power why don’t just threaten my death to…” but he realized exactly what he was saying was exactly what was happening, simply in a much more subtle manner. A means to achieve a more favorable end free of rash decisions and hot tempers. Stiles closed his mouth and looked away toward the open window. The action killed Derek’s smile and brought a frown to his brow.

“I expect a response from your father soon. I will of course keep you informed of his decisions and your fate.”

“May we have a moment alone?” Stiles requested, still looking away.

Boyd looked to Derek and Danny placed a hand on Stiles shoulder which drew Derek’s attention. His grimace forced Daniel to relinquish his hold on Stiles and step back. Stiles nodded to Danny who still awaited some assurance that he should leave.

“Leave us,” Derek said and waited silently until they were gone. When the door closed behind Boyd as he exited Stiles looked to Derek.

“Will you allow me a message to my father?”

“No,” Derek wasted no time denying the request. “That is out of the question.”

“Do you want me to beg because I won’t, not to you.”

“It would do you no good even if you did.” He didn’t add that the thought of Stiles on his knees before the king of England made him vibrate with eager anticipation for a host of reasons that had nothing to do with diplomacy or pride.

“He is my father. The last I saw of him was when he fell on the battlefield, wounded and in danger. I am a prisoner here, please. Allow me a message just a few words.”

Derek silently watched the prince as he made his case. Part of him wanted to agree though he knew he could not. Not for his country or his pride. “No, that is my final word on this. Do not ask it again.” Derek turned then to make his leave.

“You are a monster,” Stiles whispered. Derek’s eye twitched at the word but he didn’t respond right then. Instead he turned around and walked toward the defeated young prince. When he stood before him he bent over slightly and cupped Stiles’ chin in thumb and forefinger, raising it until glowing red eyes met Stiles’ brown ones.

“You have no idea who I am or what I am capable of. You do not know me.”

“Nor do I want to,” he pulled away from Derek’s touch and turned away, sitting so that he gave the king his back. He pulled his book back toward him and focused on that instead leaving Derek behind him to silently make his exit.

 

Chapter Text

“And perhaps we can use more of the flowers within. I want a bright wedding to signify the reign we will share for the people.” She turned her head to look at him and again caught his gaze lost in the distance, his mind far, far away from the here and now.  “My lord,” she called on him, but there was no response. “Derek!” Lydia tried again, her hand touching his shoulder gently. Immediately his own hand shot up and grabbed at her wrist, a knee-jerk reaction. The king blinked and looked down at her, bringing her hand to his lips to place a chaste kiss there before releasing it.

“I am sorry my dear, my mind I’m afraid ran away with me for a moment.”

“A moment,” Peter chimed in, “you’ve been retreating into your head for the entire morning. Is all well with you nephew?”

Derek turned to find Isaac and Boyd looking at him as well, curiously if nothing else. “I assure you all I am well. As a king there is much to consider, much to think about…” he trailed off as something caught his attention. His eyes pinned to the flash of green he’d seen in the perimeter. A flash that resembled to an unsettling degree, the emerald eyes of the young prince he’d been unable to stop thinking about. The glittering though didn’t come from wolf’s eyes but from a necklace around the neck of some highborn woman making her way through the vast dining hall.

“True a king’s work is never done but if you get lost in the vast expanse of your own mind in pondering such things there may not be much hope for you at all young king.” Derek regarded Peter with a hollow stare before turning back to his bride to be.

“What were you saying my darling,” he took a few grapes in hand, ate one and slipped one between her lips. She took it willingly but kept an eye on him.

“Only that I wish for a wedding the world will recount for thousands of years.”

“Then that you shall have.” He dipped his head as he cupped her chin in thumb and forefinger. His lips grazed hers softly and then more firmly. Lydia allowed herself to be consumed by the kiss and for a solid moment Derek did too. He heard the soft moan of contentment she tried to stifle and he smiled against her lips. When he pulled away gently and opened his eyes, he didn’t flinch at the sight before him. Glorious transcendant beauty embodied by a young prince staring back at him with eyes of honeyed caramel that becoming the most piercing green when he let his wolf out. The young prince smiled at him and he gasped. The only indication of his shock. “You…” shouldn’t be here, he meant to say but Stiles leaned in, took possession of his mouth and silenced him successfully as Derek simply allowed the action. His hand came up to the prince’s face and his mouth moved aggressively against the younger’s.

“Alright lovebirds that’s enough,” Peter called, rapping his knuckles on the table. Lydia pulled away from him giggling softly. Her face was flushed as she regarded the king who looked back at her dazed and slightly confused though he recovered quite quickly. It took him no time to realize he’d been dreaming of someone else and as bitter as he knew it should make him, the memory, as fabricated as it were was more than welcome.

“Perhaps we should move up the wedding, someone’s desire for me seems to have flared beyond that which we normally share. I couldn’t possibly ask him to hold out for too long. To lay claim to the body of his woman.” Lydia laughed as she turned away from Derek to give attention to Isaac as he addressed her.

“Well who could blame him with a woman as destructively enchanting as yourself.”

“Exactly,” Derek smiled, forcing it to look as real as it needed to be before taking up his goblet and throwing back a harsh gulp of wine.

“My lord, I have some business with my family to attend to. By your leave of course I shall make my way to my home and take care of this swiftly.” Boyd, as usual, spoke to the point and without pretense as he addressed the king. His voice never ticked or dipped and he maintained eye contact.

“Who then will liaise with our prisoner Lord Boyd?” Derek queued.

“I was to suggest you do so my king.”

Derek’s eyes widened at the suggestion. He took another swig of his wine before he replied. “Me. I am the king of England and the allied European empire why would I stop anything else I am meant to oversee to personally deal with the Scottish prince?” His tone was petulant, plaintive as though it would be a chore to be placed in such a situation.

“Well I shall return shortly my lord but I thought it would be your desire to see to the prisoner at this particular moment in time. We have yet to inform him his father’s envoy is presently en route. I thought it would please you to personally oversee their time spent here, especially when that envoy arrives. Nothing should get past you and it would weigh heavily on how the prisoner is received by his people to have you there as well. Besides you will best be able to set the rules of engagement if you are there yourself.” Boyd sipped his own wine and casually turned his attention away from the king to something else in the distance.

“Derek, son, forget this business I shall handle it in Boyd’s absence.” Peter proclaimed but Derek raised a hand to stop him.

“No. Lord Boyd is right. I shall take care of this myself.” The king sounded pensive as he spoke but no one put any stock into his tone. He quickly turned to Lydia and took her hand in his. Bringing it to his mouth, he placed a gentle kiss on her knuckles and looked her in the eye. “My dearest, I shall take my leave now, but rest assured all will be as you desire. Nothing about this wedding will ever be forgotten, this I promise you.”

She smiled at him and nodded in agreement. “Lord Boyd you are quite free to make your voyage but I expect you shall deal with whatever matters you must attend expediently, I need you here.”

“Of course, majesty,” Boyd responded with a bow of his head.

“Uncle, we shall speak again later, Isaac come with me please.” Peter bowed his head as well while Isaac rose and followed Derek as he made his exit.

*

“Leave us,” Stiles commanded when he saw Daniel enter the room. The two servants who were making themselves busy with cleaning the chambers quickly picked up their things and left the two nobles to their privacy. “You’ve been gone a while.”

“Not that long, besides I have heard news. I expect someone will be coming to inform you at some point.” Danny closed the door behind the servants and settled himself on the bed in front of Stiles who’d turned around to face him. He looked on intently and expectantly waiting for Danny to say what he had heard.

“There is a contingent of men on their way here from Scotland.” He paused dramatically to await Stiles reaction to the news.

“What!” The prince’s hands flailed about as he tried to rein in his anxiety. “How many men do you know? Are they coming to fight for me?” He almost sounded hopeful even though he already knew the answer to that question.

“Sadly no, they are coming to ensure that you are safe and taken care of…” Danny stopped when Stiles’ face fell. “You seem disappointed.”

“No, it is only because I do wish to be free of this place,” the prince relented.

“I understand but you are the one who told me it would be wise for your father to avoid war if there was an alternative.”

“Oh truly, did I say that…”

“Yes you did. Do not despair just yet. There is still time for things to move in your favor my prince.” Daniel smiled at him and there was a hint of something in his eyes that worried Stiles a bit.

“You shouldn’t address me in such a way. If anyone ever heard you there would be…”

“If anyone ever found out I was bringing you information from beyond these walls it would be my head on a pike. Yet I take the risk because it is for you.” The man spoke the words as if they so easily explained everything away. That in itself opened something else up to Stiles that he’d spent an awful lot of time ignoring. Now with so much time on his hands he found he couldn’t do so any more.

“But why?” he queried, digging deeper into the matter. “Why for me?”

“Why not for you?” Danny responded confused.

“It has been the same everywhere I go my entire life. People swaying their allegiances toward me. Doing things I wouldn’t ask them to do no matter the personal cost, all for me and I don’t understand why. I am nothing special.”

Danny reached out and took Stiles by the shoulders, holding him firmly there so he could hold the man’s gaze. “Do not ever deny yourself again. You are a rare creature in a world filled with the ordinary. You are much more special than I have ever encountered and I know I would do all that I could for you no matter what because when something that special comes along, you protect it.” They looked into each other’s eyes for a moment before Stiles leaned into Daniel who wrapped his arms around the young prince and held him tightly.

They had barely heard the door open when Daniel and Stiles were ripped apart and Derek had the guard pinned up against a wall by his throat. Red eyes gleamed and fangs extended to full length before the man, as he gasped for a clean breath. Claws dug into Danny’s neck while he grabbed futilely at Derek’s wrist to try and pry the hand off of him.

“What in the deepest hell are you doing…” Stiles yelled, lunging forward his own eyes shifting to that haunting emerald color. Before he got far Isaac was there wolfed out and barring his way to the king and his victim. Isaac pushed at the prince’s chest to back him away. Stiles growled in response, shifting his eyes from the man barring his way to the man about to choke Danny to death.

“In case you have forgotten your place Cromwell let me remind you. You are nothing that I did not make you. You court and wed who I decide and you certainly do not turn your eyes upon anything that belongs to me as the young prince does.” There was a swift intake of breath from both Isaac and Stiles at the declaration and what some may have mistaken it for despite what Derek may have meant. “And you,” the king turned his head to pin his glare onto the object of his frustrations. “do not presume that you can carry on any way you feel with any one that interests you. You are mine.”

“Yours?” Stiles coughed.

“My lord,” Isaac murmured looking back curiously at the king.

“My…ward, my charge and responsibility. I will not allow your willfulness to put my rule or my plans in peril.”

“I belong to no man, least of all a brute like you now release him!” Stiles roared. Derek blinked rapidly in reaction. His eyes faded to their natural hazel green shades and his brow furrowed in confusion. He quickly regained his exposure and as he did so released Daniel who fell limply to the ground. Isaac dropped his hand and shifted back as Stiles moved quickly to Danny on the floor. His hands inspected the man’s throat as it healed slowly from the wounds inflicted by the alpha. Derek watched on, his chest rising and falling heavily in an effort to regain complete control of his rage. A rage that flared up without warning the minute he saw Stiles in the arms of Daniel. In his head he admitted that the relationship they seemed to be growing, had quickly started to irk him beyond reasoning but now he was afraid his response might have been the same no matter who Stiles was clinging onto. His mind was tumultuous with doubt, confusion and anger and he didn’t want to have to deal with any of it. He side glanced his friend who was giving him weird looks. Derek sighed and stepped away from the two on the floor.

“Are you…”

But Danny stilled the prince’s ministrations with a steady hand. “Apologies my king. I shall not allow this to happen again.” Stiles regarded the man angrily as he spoke. Confused by his words as he was, Stiles remained silent. He accepted that he may only put Danny in more danger and he didn’t want that. Derek nodded and sighed again.

“It was not my intent for all this unpleasantness. My goal here was to inform the young prince of a new development.” He looked down to Stiles who glared back at him. The action only served to soften the king’s gaze. “An envoy from your father is on their way here to assess your current state. You should be receiving them later this evening. Please see to it that you are well dressed and prepared for their arrival.”

Stiles didn’t respond to him, or even look at him anymore. He turned his head and simply waited until the king took Isaac and left the room in a huff of annoyance.

He had been content with following the man just about anywhere but the questions gnawing at Isaac’s insides wouldn’t allow it. His mouth opened every few seconds as they moved along the dark hallways of the tower but closed again just as quickly. He knew Derek well. Years of friendship had created such an occurrence so he knew there was a lot more going on than a man, pridefully concerned with his authority being challenged. “Derek can I ask a question?”

“You just did my friend,” the king shot back without stopping or turning. His voice held that tone of distance Isaac knew meant the man was half there and half somewhere else in his head. Of course Isaac at that point was willing to bet he knew exactly what the king thought about so often recently that he tuned himself out completely from what was going on around him.

“Two questions then…” Isaac shot back eyeing the man from the side. There was no response that time which only mean that Derek had become so taken up with his own thoughts he’d just stopped listening. “My lord?” Isaac tried again.

“Hmm,”

“Questions?”

“Oh just get on with it then man,” Derek huffed.

“What just happened there, in that room?” Isaac noticed immediately Derek faltering, missing a half step in their movements even though he didn’t stop. Even though he continued on and composed his face into that carefully crafted mask of impassive disinterest that Isaac knew so well. It was the face the king wore when he tried to conceal all emotion. When he tried to bluff or win a wager or pretend he wasn’t in pain or even that he felt nothing at all. It wouldn’t work though because he knew that face.

“What exactly do you speak of friend?” The familiar calm and collected tone asked the question.

“I’m referring to you nearly beheading one of your own men, a nobleman and in the same line of action, claiming a wolf that is not the princess of Denmark.” Isaac spoke matter-of-factly so it sounded like he was remaining objective in an effort to bypass what he assumed would be Derek’s natural first reaction to being called out on his bullshit, and that was anger.

“Come on man,” he sighed, “I needed to ensure that my position wasn’t being challenged and that little bastard Cromwell has been asking for it for quite some time now.”

“How so?”

“He just… has. He’s been… doing things he shouldn’t, things that anger me…”

“Like getting close to prince Germin,” Isaac slipped in quickly.

“Preci.. what, no, no” Derek stopped then. Halting in the quiet long stretch of hall to try and gain some measure of ease with his breathing that was becoming ragged or the rage that was fueling a loss of control on his wolf. He breathed until his breaths faded into the silence that surrounded them. Isaac stopped and waited for him patiently to respond. He refused to let his eyes stray from Derek’s so he could pick up any lies the king tried to tell. “No, not because of.. that. I wanted them to develop some relationship just…”

“Just not a romantic one.”

“Exactly. I can’t have one of my men in some kind of love game with one of my enemies. Not to mention my best chance at bringing Scotland to heel.” The explanation wasn’t a bad one. In fact had Isaac not known Derek all that well, had he not grown up with the man and learned as he watched the now king of England learn how his heart works. Had he not seen the man develop a method to dealing with each individual aspect of his life, he might have believed for a moment what he was saying. But he had, he had done and seen and learned all those things about a man he’d call his closest friend so he didn’t hesitate to finish calling him out in the most subtle way he knew how.

“You see the way I see it, friends embrace each other all the time. Their behavior seemed platonic to me. Either way if they get involved in something you don’t approve of perhaps almost killing the man wasn’t the best way to leave him a warning.”

“What are you saying?”

“I’m saying old friend, that I know you. You’re interested in the prince.” Isaac made it a statement rather than a question which meant he wasn’t planning on arguing the point he’d already decided was more fact than fiction.

“Preposterous,” Derek offered as he turned and continued walking.

Isaac smiled at the incredible amount of offense he heard in the tone that was jam-packed with incredulity and a hint of force. “Derek you claimed him.”

“I claimed my prisoner. And even still, I am alpha king of a nation, everything under my rule belongs to me.”

Isaac scoffed. “I thought you didn’t want to be that kind of ruler.”

“I may have to be if people like Daniel Cromwell decide they can help themselves to anything and anyone they want. Courting a noble requires my permission least of all my highborn ward.” Derek’s complaints began to sound petty and childish mirrored by the sound of his voice as he spoke.

“Actually a proposition of marriage requires your permission, however I know what I know and you can deny it all you want but I have already seen it in you. You are attracted to something of the little Scottish spitfire and if you would basically duel another for him and then lay claim to him, I dare not declare my assessment of just how deep these feelings run. Especially when you are soon to wed Denmark’s next queen.”

“You are stumbling into dangerous territory my friend. I no longer wish to continue this conversation anyway.”

“As you say my lord, however may I leave you with one final word?”

“If you must,” the wolf king growled.

“When you are weary of counseling yourself on these matters while your fiancé is trying to discuss wedding plans, do not hesitate to turn to your friend. This is the purpose of our friendship primarily, is it not?” Derek didn’t answer though he had looked like he was going to say something but must have changed his mind.

*

It had been nightfall when Boyd had finally arrived at his manor. He had dismissed his guard the moment the unseated his horse and entered the house. For a nobleman with no extravagantly notable achievements or lineage his house was quite the sight. It was large building seated in the midst of a hedged garden with cobblestones on the ground leading to the front entrance. The windows were all adorned with heavy expensive fabrics fashioned into drapes. Carpets and rugs of all matching theme warmed the floors. Crystal and figurines decorated each room as large paintings drew the eye to the walls. Hand carved and polished furniture were the final additions to complete the home.

Boyd quickly made his way through the house and upstairs to the master bedroom. He instructed the servants outside to make ready supper, all so that they would busy themselves in a part of the house far away from his room where he needed the privacy for what he was about to do next. He locked the door behind him and fell to his knees at the side of his bed. Reaching underneath it, he pulled out an old chest that, by its color, one would have missed it even if one had looked under the bed.

Inside the chest were five crystals of different shapes and sizes. He placed them all in a small circle near the window. Rising to his feet, he moved to the window and pulled back the curtains so that moonlight spilled into the room and seemed to be pulled toward the crystals. Almost immediately they seemed to hum with with a resonating power that built and built until it was surging forward. In the center of the circle, moonlight thrust forth from within the crystals, each beam dancing together until they all blended and began to take form.

Vernon watched as the light formed into a silhouette that became more defined, expanding and sharpening until a woman stood in the center of the circle. Her head hooded and long skirts flowing about her feet. Boyd fell to his knees, “My lady of crystal I am your servant as always.”

“And a good one you’ve been,” The woman responded. “Rise child, tell me of the work you have done.”

“I toil to bring them together as you desire but forces drive them apart on all sides. The uncle Peter, pushes gracefully the king’s marriage to Lydia Martin and I have come to recognize she is a formidable opponent with a fearsome determination to have that which she desires. Right now that seems to be the king.”

“Seems to be?”

“Yes my lady. I have noticed a vacancy in her that comes with the loss of something. Perhaps if I can find out what it is I can rid ourselves of the dilemma she provides.”

“Remember Vernon it is not your purpose to eliminate their obstacles. Only to aid in facilitating their union. They shall do the rest.” Boyd nodded to the woman before she continued. “How fares the relationship between king and prince.

“The seeds are there my lady planted and watered as you taught me. The king clings to his pride and resolve while the prince clings to anger and despair. All that is left is to neutralize these emotions and they shall come together. If you are right their destiny shall lead them through with our help.”

The woman took a breath. Silvery glowing hands came up to pull the hood back revealing Marin’s face. She was as beautiful and as solemn as she’d ever been. High priestess of her people. Lady of the Crystal Cave. “They must or I fear the alternative will destroy us all. Return to the king’s side and whisper in his ear. Fight to give Germin some measure of freedom, find a way. If he is within Derek’s grasp, it will hasten the king’s desire to pluck him, like a fruit off a tree, ripe for the taking.”

“As you wish my lady.” Boyd bowed to the woman and with that she simply faded into nothingness as though her form had never been. 

Chapter Text

Stiles had been standing at the window for a long time. At least when he wasn’t pacing back and forth. He had bathed and dressed in one of the extravagant outfits the king had had sent to his chambers. He couldn’t eat in his anxiety so he’d passed on supper. His mind raced with thoughts. Who was coming, what they would say. What he would say. Danny had come and gone several times since the Derek incident, and even though he pretended to be fine, Stiles knew he was troubled by it. Who wouldn’t be. He could have been killed if Stiles hadn’t intervened which were all the words he refused to admit he was thinking to Stiles. So the prince had taken the liberty to air out Danny’s mind for him. The whole time Stiles spoke, his friend simply looked off in the distance, allowing for the occasional nod or grunt of understanding.

Eventually he merely smiled and repeated how fine everything was and that nothing had changed before excusing himself. Stiles had had to shove everything else on back burner when Danny returned with news that the Scottish envoy had arrived and would soon be brought in to see him.

“Will you relax a bit all that pacing is rather unsettling,” Danny chimed from where he’d perched against the wall near the door, arms folded across his chest with the fingers of one hand idly rubbing at his temple.

“Sorry, it’s just I…” Stiles blew out a harsh breath and forced himself to still again.

“I know, this is important, just try to remain calm, collected. Don’t want the king to think he gains some new hold on you if he sees you overreacting to whoever comes.”

Stiles scoffed and rolled his eyes so dramatically it looked like it took quite the effort. “That animal could never have any hold on me.”

“He claimed you Stiles,”

“It means nothing,”

“It means I was right in my original assessment of his interest in you.”

“It means you talk too much and think too much and should…” Danny had held up a hand to stop the talking. His head tilted to a side and his eyes glowed yellow for a moment.

“They’re coming,” he murmured as he pushed off the wall and closed the distance between himself and the young prince. He stood formally ahead of the man as though he were his bodyguard or something to that effect. Stiles hands fumbled with each other whilst he turned his attention to the door and the heavy footfalls he could hear from the other side of it now. He breathed deep and slow and waited and waited until he felt his hackles rising making him wonder if he had fully shifted. Just as quickly he pushed that thought aside when the door moved.

Derek entered the room, with Isaac and Peter at his side along with several members of his personal guard. The others waited for him to enter before he signaled them in. The men moved to form a circle around the room, planting themselves against every wall surface so that any and all of them could attack should the king wish it. The alpha king positioned himself in front of his young captive, watching him, taking him in. His face was a carefully placed mask as it often were in the best and worst of times. Stiles regarded him shallowly from behind the hollow protection of Daniel’s back.

Danny himself ducked and tilted his head to a side, baring his neck to placate the alpha he’d managed to anger every moment he spent in Stiles’ company. Derek glanced to the wolf once before turning his cool eye back on his ward. “Prince Germin,”

Stiles lifted his head belligerently as if the king had tried to ridicule him.

“Your father’s men are here to assess your well-being.” When Stiles made no other motions of acknowledgement the king smiled, a soft two-sided expression, then turned to the door, “Enter,” he called and stepped aside.

Stiles breath hitched in his throat when he saw the men that came through. The effect was caused by one in particular. One who’d had much of the same reaction. Stiles wasted no time in running toward the man leading the others into his fancy prison. Derek’s soldiers shifted aggressively but he held up a hand to halt them. Stiles threw himself into the Scottish man and embraced him so tightly he would have been afraid to break the man if he’d given a thought to anything other than his joy, relief and excitement for having seen his oldest and greatest friend. A man he’d sooner call brother than friend.

“Scott!” Scott McCall held him as tightly as he was being held. “I didn’t imagine father would send you to me…”

“Didn’t give him much of a choice I’m afraid. But there was no chance in all hell I was going to miss an opportunity to see you, make sure you were alright. I’m so sorry Stiles.” And the young prince could feel moisture spreading onto his shoulder from the tear soaked tunic he was wearing. Scott wept as he held his friend a testament to his regrets, his fear and his relief.

“What could you possibly be apologizing to me for?”

“Because I didn’t protect you, defend you. I should have stopped them from taking you. Brought you back home something… It was so fast, it all happened so fast..”

“Hey now,” Stiles said finally pulling away from Scott. He held him at the shoulders and gave him a light shake. “We fought in a war and there were casualties and losses and I got taken. There is nothing you could have done about that without most likely being killed yourself. So no apologies ok. I’m just glad you’re here.” Stiles hugged Scott once more and held onto him a bit longer this time.

Isaac turned his own head at the slight disturbing sound of growling and found his own friend, the king of England, baring lengthening fangs, claws and glowing red eyes. He stretched out a hand to grab the king’s arm just as he unconsciously stepped forward. Derek looked down at him in irritation and then found his hand with his eyes. Surprise lit his eyes when he noticed he’d partially shifted. The trigger had definitely been Stiles and Scott holding onto each other and now there was officially no more denying, at least to his friend what was going on inside him. Isaac was too intuitive to snow with some half assed explanation and if he were being completely honest, Derek wasn’t even sure he wanted to keep denying his feelings to himself anymore. The arrogance of royalty inside him pushed him to the thinking that there wasn’t any reason he couldn’t have what he wanted. And at the moment, what he wanted was for Stiles to stop grabbing onto any other man, at least for their own safety.

When Stiles finally pulled away he turned his attention to the men that had followed Scott in. There were several he recognized and a few he didn’t but he thanked them all for their journey considering how dangerous it had been walking into enemy territory without an army when it could have all been a trap. The men greeted their prince with bows and kisses of his hand as if he’d been a relic they’d made a pilgrimage to see.

“May I have a moment alone with my people?” Stiles called out, looking to Derek for an answer and refusing to refer to him with any formal or respectful titling. The king stared blankly back at him and didn’t respond. Stiles and Scott exchanged confused looks before Stiles turned back to the king. He stepped forward eyes flashing emerald. Just as he did a soldier rushed him, unsheathing his sword and thrusting the blade against the prince’s throat. Scott leapt into action along with all the other Scottish men but his savior had been the most unexpected.

One moment there was cool metal against his skin and a man there breathing down his neck explaining to him how he shouldn’t approach the king on the shift and the next the man was tossed against the far wall like so many rags. Stiles heard the sickening crack of the solder’s head smashing against the wall. The man’s sword had been freed from his hand and was now in the King’s grip. Derek moved at preternatural speed standing over the man with his own sword pointed tip to heart and pressing harshly against his chest. The king’s face was a dark storm complete with destructive lightning burning in his eyes.

“You. Do. Not. Move. Until. I. Command. It.” He gritted out through gnashing fangs so that every word sounded like a sentence on its own. “Am. I. Understood.”

The fallen warrior nodded his bleeding head furiously. Derek closed his eyes and breathed, calming himself so that his fangs and claws receded and his eyes went back to their natural hues of hazel green. Slowly, he turned around to face the others in the room. His own men avoided his eyes, looking on with faces of fear and determination. Even Peter looked confused while Isaac didn’t seem surprised at all. When the king looked to Stiles there was a relief from his normally tense and angry expression that made it so much easier for Derek to breathe easily. He found himself listening to the young prince’s heartbeat. It was surprisingly calm. He followed the sound of it, using the prince’s breathing to aid in his own, and his heartbeat to pattern his own beating heart to the pace.

“You were saying?”

There was a beat of silence following Derek’s words in which Stiles looked lost and confused, and then his face took on the usual contortion of unhappiness Derek seemed to evoke in him. “May I have some time alone with my people?”

“Clear the room,” Derek called out without skipping a beat. “There will be no plans of escape little prince.” He walked forward until he was almost too far into Stiles’ personal space to be referred to as acceptable formality but far enough away from the man that it couldn’t be called intimate. There was another word though that popped into the minds of many when Derek positioned himself so close to the young man. Possessive.

“I will not allow you to escape me. Please do not try, if only to ensure the continued safety of your people as they will be the ones who die when you are caught.” His eyes and voice were strained as he finished eking out his thoughts. His hand seemed forced to his side as though there was another place he’d like to put it, perhaps something he’d like to touch, caress. He wondered at that the moment he stopped talking and simply held the gaze of the Scottish prince. Watching his face, studying it the contours, the lines of bone and muscle. The softness of his flesh and pinking of his lips… With nothing further, the king exited the room after his men had left with Isaac and Peter on his heels.

“You heard him then,” Stiles announced once the king had cleared the room. He elevated his voice to address all the men. “Whatever you had planned, or were thinking of planning, forget it.”

“No Stiles, we can..” Scott tried but Stiles interrupted him.

“No Scott. Don’t even think about it. Whatever you’re thinking is never going to go smoothly not without us getting caught. And even if it works and I escape this castle all of you will die for it. No one is dying for me.”

“It is our duty to die for you, majesty,” one of the men interjected belligerently.

“It is your duty to follow my commands and I forbid any of you from trying to free me. Too many have suffered. I am the only one who is sure to survive the king right now and I will not risk any of your lives.”

“But King John…” another tried to pick up but Stiles silenced him with a stare.

“My father is not here. Furthermore as much as he would want me freed and safe back home in our lands he wouldn’t risk my life on a chance that I may make it all the way back to Scotland unseen. The odds are weighted against such an outcome. Am I understood!” It was not a question. Merely a command from a ruler to his people to enforce his word. The men all nodded and bowed. “Sit rest, your journey must have been long and tiring. Relax as much as you can, you are all safe here for the moment.”

“None of us are safe here old friend not even you. And I fear the longer you stay the more lost to us you become.” Scott offered the words wearily as he watched the men take up seats in chairs and on the ground, leaning against walls and other furniture in small groupings so they could either talk or fall to sleep.

“You shouldn’t be so worried. The dog king will not harm me. Not yet anyway if this was his plan. He will need to keep me alive and safe to keep my father in line otherwise he risks a war that will destroy his plan. If my father fights him, even if he loses, King John will cause a rebellion among the powers England has allied into one empire, I’m sure of it, at least I strongly believe so going by what I’ve heard.”

“And just where have you been getting your information?” Scott interrogated as he took a seat of his own on the bed. Stiles joined him quickly, bringing both legs to cross under him.

“I have a friend here at court. He keeps me informed on the goings on. Do not repeat this to anyone though. If he is suspected of treason in any form or fashion concocted by the dog king he could be put to death. I can’t have that.”

Scott cocked his head to a side and gave Stiles his intense best friend stare that asked a thousand questions without him ever having to even open his mouth. His giant puppy dog eyes glistened by the light of the candles that lit the room, making them sparkle like obsidian gems. “Whatever it is you’re thinking, I suggest you stop. Because I have not become romantically entangled with anyone here nor would I wish to.” Stiles tossed his head to look away and out the window where he could see the moon. It had risen high into the sky in the short time between the sun’s descent and the darkness covering the earth.

“If you say so, but may I just ask. What is between you and the alpha king?”

“What sort of question is that?” Stiles countered.

“A normal one that deserves an answer.”

“There is nothing between me and that animal not that there could ever be.” There was a special brew of emotion thrust into his words that made Scott sigh.

“The way you say that worries me.”

“Why?”

“Because I know you old friend, better than any other…”

“Then you should know this. A man like that could never inspire anything within me but discontent and disregard. He is a monster and nothing changes that.”

“He seems very possessive of you.” Scott continued after a brief silence during which he turned several thoughts over in his head. He did know Stiles and something inside him suspected a deeper more troubling occurrence about to spring forth from the root he sensed was growing in both his friend and the English king.

“I am his captive of course he’s possessive. Should he lose me he loses everything at this point. Let us be done with this talk. Tell me instead of my father and how he fares?”

Scott pinned his friend with a worrisome stare before relenting and doing as his friend asked. He told him of their kingdom and everything that had happened following the battle with the Englishmen considering he’d not have known anything having been captured.

*

Fingers danced down his bare chest and to the waist of his trousers. They were soft and gentle, grasping at him like an innocent hungry for a taste of the same sin that made prudent women liberated and desired. Derek watched as the young maiden pulled down the fabric and took his weight in her hand. It forced a groan from his throat. The sound, guttural and beast. His eyes flashed scarlet as they often did in times of emotional resonance.

He watched her smile up at him, at the way she affected him. He delicate hands moved up and down the king’s shaft tightly so that he had to restrain himself from taking her right then and there. As if anticipating the threat his lust posed to her imagined virtue, she slipped his member into her mouth so that it slid in deep, touching the tip of her throat and making her choke and cough out the long, thick manhood. Derek tossed his head back, his eyes rolling back in his head at the pleasure. She tasted him again and his eyes closed this time, But in the darkness there was no expected fantasy of the rest of the night. There was no overflow of hunger and desire to toop a young woman until she begged for mercy.

All he could see was another mouth taking him in to full length and handling every last inch as though it were a part of him. All he could hear was the sound of soft musical moans of pleasure and interest in continuing with such ministrations at the very least of not taking it a step further. All he could feel was silken fire running over his skin everywhere the man touched him so that before long his body was burning as easily as a willing sacrifice to the flames of desire. And when he’d look down in first time vision of a man he’d not before dreamed of. When he looked down and watched the one he gave his mind and fantasies to the most hidden of places. All he saw were green eyes looking back at him. Strong, stubborn, willful, emerald green wolf’s eyes.

Derek opened his eyes immediately and stood abruptly unintentionally throwing the woman to the floor. “Leave me,” he commanded waving a hand at her. She didn’t question him. She hurriedly gathered her things and took off before even dressing herself.

 

Chapter Text

Their bodies were bound for a long time. In a strong, tight embrace that made Derek a little uncomfortable but he dared not show it. At least not in front of his people and the others. The Scots and him. Germin Stiles Stilinski. Stiles. He’d spent an awful lot of time thinking about that name. Thinking about how that name felt to him. How much more he was noticing the effect the name and the man who laid claim to it made him feel. The fact that he felt at all was a thing of wonder in itself. And as often as he’d thought of him, he’d forced himself to forget his thinking until his mind was playing this awkward and uncomfortable dance with itself.

Stiles and Scott held together tighter than anything. Tighter than they’d ever held each other. Brothers, in every way that truly mattered. Stiles felt the slight wetness filling up his eye and closed it quickly. Gathering himself so that no one saw him crying, least of all Derek. He certainly didn’t know why Derek in particular popped into his brain but he chose not to give it too much thought. He pulled away slightly, just enough that he could nuzzle his friend in the neck. A more animal gesture than human but one of camaraderie and trust nonetheless.

“I must return to your father to report your state as I have promised but do trust in my promise to return.” Scott said the words quite formally in the presence of others but he knew Stiles would see through his patriotic stance and understand what he was saying.

“Don’t come back to this place Scott. As much as I have enjoyed you being with me even for just one day, I couldn’t bear for you to be a prisoner here like me. Trapped by a tyrant and forced to abide by his rules.”

Derek winced inwardly when he heard Stiles’ take on their time together thus far. Boyd, who had returned earlier in the day noted the change in him. Despite his attempt at concealing his annoyance, the king’s entire body went rigid and his fists balled. The skin was pulled so tight over his knuckles they turned from a blossoming pink to an angry scarlet. Much like the eyes he found himself flashing more often and there was no wonder in his mind, who was responsible for the lack of emotional control which led to his powers flaring like they did.

Boyd stretched out a hand and grabbed at the King’s arm. His royal highness turned to look at him once in utter agitation. Before taking a few deep breaths and allowing his hands to fall calmly and gently at his sides.

Scott laughed out loud and clapped his hands on Stiles’ shoulders the way he used to do all the time back home. “Trust me old friend. Trust me.” With that he pulled away so that Stiles hands fell away from him. Scott reached for one of his hands with his own and squeezed gently, keeping the gaze he’d held with his best friend. Staring into those eyes one more time.

“Enough,” Derek called clapping his hands together twice. “It is time to make your leave. I imagine once you’ve delivered your message I shall have your king’s response immediately.”

Scott turned slowly and regarded the alpha king of England with complete and utter contempt, a look shared by his friend and prisoner of the English. Derek kept from turning his eye on the captive, afraid of what his reaction might be if he were to do so. “As you say,” Scott offered before finally releasing Stiles and signaling to his men to follow him.

“See the Scottish envoy to the border, make certain they have left and place additional guard in case they decide they’ve forgotten something and try to return.” The king addressed one of the captains who had come down with his own men at the king’s request. The man nodded and turned on his heel to lead the Scots out.

Derek sighed and headed for the door, pausing just inches from the threshold. “I shall send Cromwell to you then, I’m sure you’ll need a friend now that they’ve gone. I imagine loneliness can be a harsh thing after such hours of company.” He tried to sound detached but an odd tone of emotion laced the words. Stiles didn’t notice it at the time, too blinded by his anger, his…

“I hate you,”

“In time you may just forget such things and learn a different way.” The king wasn’t even sure what he meant by his own words and truly didn’t want to stay there and attempt to figure it out. He almost jerked forward, stopping himself before he could get through the door. He turned about and looked to Stiles, just to capture a glimpse of him once more before he left the man to his rage. Stiles had already half turned so he could look through the window. The look on his face made Derek’s heart bleed. He realized in that moment that the more and more he found himself in situations like these, with responses like these, the more he wanted more. The less he wanted them to stop. Like a masochist bound to a fatal appreciation for pain, he couldn’t help but want to feel whatever he found himself feeling when he looked at Stiles or thought of Stiles or fantasized… He left without another word.

*

“Are you finally finished with that unfortunate business with the Scottish then?” Lydia queued, her face molded into a pouty look of annoyance.

Derek moved closer and took her face in his hands, “What is the matter my dear?”

“It only seems like you spend a lot of time concerned with that Scottish prince you keep locked away in your tower. How sad that is in itself.” She leaned into his touch and rubbed against his palm like a cat.

“I am…”

“One thing majesty before you are truly free of this business.” Boyd interjected with a solemn look to his face and a soft impassive tone in his speech as always.

“Get on with it then so I cannot be made to appear a liar.” Derek turned and Lydia sighed flailing a hand about her head as though she were surrendering to God.

“I was only to suggest, my lord, that you allow for the removal of the prince from the tower.” Derek’s eyes widened immediately, the shock of the suggestion throwing him for a moment. It wasn’t the suggestion itself but the voicing of it. He’d honestly admit in the privacy of his own mind he’d considered it, releasing the prince to live amongst the other nobles, to live freely at court. He’d watch him, he’d have more opportunities to, but he dared not decide to do something like that himself. Not when imprisoning him seemed like the more kingly thing to do.

“It would be a good move in my opinion my lord. You keep saying that he is not just a prisoner and that is true. He is your ward. In your care presently and there is no reason he shouldn’t be treated as such. He is no threat outside amongst others and it would be better for him to believe he has more freedom. It will also foster a better reception from the Scottish king which could lead to a more profitable and stable alliance over time.”

Derek sighed, turning to stare off into the distance, his head tilting just so as he thought it over. He set up his face as well, more for them than for him, to keep up appearances. If he was being honest the decision was pretty much made already. He’d only needed someone else to make that kind of suggestion. He was about to speak, opening his mouth when Lydia put a finger to his lip. Silencing him.

“Listen to him my king. I agree with him. Surely my opinion doesn’t count for much in the matters of men, king and country but if you’d allow me to speak freely…”

Derek grasped her wrist firmly in his hand and pulled gently but not before kissing her finger like any loving betrothed would do. “Your opinion will always count here, especially with me. You are to be my wife, do not ever hold your tongue with me.”

She smiled as she responded to him, a pink shading now on her cheeks. “He is a noble a prince not a criminal. Wars come and go and all is fair in a battle but the battle is over now, you have won. You have the advantage and now, it is the time to show your benevolence.”

Derek nodded, “Agreed,”

“Truly,”

“Yes my darling. And thank you Lord Boyd for being such a faithful servant and assisting me in the right direction.”

“It is an honor and a privilege to be trusted by you my lord. I only do my part to ensure that the prestige you have placed upon me is rightly earned.”

“Go to the prince this evening then and order his servants to pack his things. Have him come to our chambers to join us for supper this evening. While he is here, have his things moved to the third room in the southwest wing of the castle.” Lydia turned abruptly.

“Is that not the room closest to yours?”

“Yes it is. Does that displease you Lydia?”

“Well I don’t suppose it does I just don’t understand why you would want him there?” Her hand played nervously at her flowing red hair.

“Keeping him close is best. If he is to enjoy such freedom it should be monitored and somewhat limited in its infancy. What better place to keep him than close to his guardian where the guard is doubled and should anything happen I shall be able to intercede with haste.”

“It is the best idea my lady. For the king’s protection, as well as the prince’s.” Boyd’s eyes became shadowed by an almost practiced darkness as he turned to face the king again. “There are those who would see the prince ended in their fanatical loyalty to the king. Those who would think it best if he were, gone. The closer he is to the king the better for all involved.”

The moment he uttered the words, Derek’s eye twitched, his hand jerked and he placed full attention on Boyd, reading into the well played concern edging off the man. “Is this true?” he queued though he wouldn’t normally question Boyd. The shock of such a revelation stroked those unintentional feelings he held for a man he should hate on principle.

“It is my lord,” Boyd confirmed. Lydia glanced at Derek, taking in his reaction. Her heart jumped as she became uneasy with the subtle changes she noticed, Changes that had started long enough before today. Changes she was becoming afraid of though she wasn’t certain exactly what she feared.

“No harm must come to him. Do you know who those people are Lord Boyd?”

“No my king I do not. There have only been whisperings at court, among servants.”

“Perhaps we should round them up and torture names out of them…”

“Derek!” Lydia hissed.

“I doubt that would be the best solution, after all they are your people and it is their duty to you that drives them.” Boyd put in. Derek glanced at the queen to be and softened his face.

“Apologies Lydia, a king’s humor is occasionally distasteful.” She simply nodded in response, keeping her mouth closed as she pondered over his suggestion. Her mother had educated her about humor long ago. She’d said that women take care to never say what they think, not even in jest. For two thirds of the things said in jest are always someone’s first honest belief. “Leave us Boyd, my wife to be desires my attentions with concern placed on the upcoming nuptials and I desire her happiness in all things.”

“As you wish your grace,” Boyd bowed to him and then to Lydia offering the respectful issue of her title before he departed.

“Come now lady, let us discuss all you have been up to.” He cupped her chin between thumb and forefinger and leaned in to place a kiss on her lips, effectively putting aside all her uneasiness. His hand dropped down to hers and he clasped them together, lacing his fingers through hers.

 

*

Scott strode briskly into the throne room. The heavy doors ahead were pulled apart by two warriors armed from head to toe with dark looks upon their faces. A mere representation of the king’s state of mind since the whole situation had arisen. His only son in the hands of the enemy, a new enemy at that. Unpredictable and young. Young men were often petulant and petty. Cruel and crazed by the sweet seduction of power. And even though the lady Marin had come to court and clearly stood in the king’s corner he couldn’t fight off that instinct to fear the worst for his child, his heir, progeny.

King John regarded the young man harshly as Scott approached. He wasted no time getting to his feet and walking forward so quickly Scott missed the actually movement. It was like he’d blinked and the King of Scots transmuted himself from place to another. That was the power of an alpha-king, his alpha-king, and that power bled into mundane action the more frustrated the king became.

Scott immediately threw himself onto his knees and bowed low before his master, baring his neck to show total and complete submission. “What news then?” John called out. His voice was a gruff, harsh exclamation. He didn’t try to sound that way but the days had weighed heavily on him and it showed in almost all he did. It took much to wear down a wolf and the truth of it was John Stilinski was worn and tired and relentless.

“My king, I have seen him as have the men you sent with me. He is well.” Scott kept his position remaining submissive, not wanting to irritate an already incredibly irritated alpha wolf. No matter the relationship they shared before, nothing changed a man’s perspective on all others, like threatening his blood.

“Make into detailed terms the state of my son Scott McCall. For it is you who in my place has seen him at all. Perhaps I should simply share the memory of it…”

“My lord,” Scott interrupted quickly. “Apologies but let me explain, perhaps it is better to do so than to have you live through seeing him, only to release me and lose him again.” The king stopped short then, thinking on his words. Pondering on them, weighing them against his own suggestion. It was a hard choice to make but he had to choose one and Scott hoped he wouldn’t choose his own. He knew there was something in his head the king shouldn’t see. The thought had come quick and unbidden but the moment  John had suggested seeing Scott’s memories, he’d gone back to Derek Hale nearly killing one of his own men for putting a hand on Stiles. And then later on when he’d cleared the room for Stiles and imposed on his personal space. If Joh saw that and thought for a minute that Derek was interested even remotely in laying a claim on his son, the man would set off to war and die, for Stiles’ virtue and probably take hundreds to the grave with him on both sides.

“I only seek to avoid my Lord enduring any more pain than is necessary when I can simply offer a gentler way,” Scott uttered softly, gently and so kindly convincing.  The king sighed and turned away, probably trying to hide the tears Scott could scent.

“Rise Scott, on your feet and tell me then.” With the words, he turned about and moved back to his throne before sitting, dropping down into the seat heavy and leaden.

“He has been given royal chambers in the Tower of London. Though he is presently under restricted access, he is waited on by a handful of servants who see to his needs. He is offered proper food and drink and even has a guard assigned to him, to keep him safe as well as ensure he doesn’t escape. The man takes the latter less seriously though as he has become quite fond of prince Germin and the same can be said the other way around.”

“Surely he knows better than to trust an Englishman?”

“You know better than any the effect he has on those who are fortunate enough to meet him majesty.”

“I pray that effect falls on the English king and he releases my son to me.” He sighed throwing the thought away as quickly as it had come like hopeless fodder. “Go on.”

Scott nodded and continued, “He is dressed well, bathed as any other royal and aside from being kept in his chambers, lives as one. He is well sire and I did not receive the impression that the king was planning on changing the nature of his accommodation at any point.”

“You are a good and faithful servant and friend Scott McCall.” The king dropped his head into one of his hands and a rumbling growl emanated from his throat.

“Why then do you sound as if mourning my lord, the situation is hopeful.” He tried his best to sound optimistic for his king. The man though, looked up and into Scott’s eyes with scarlet glowing eyes.

“I mourn, not for my son, though I cannot help but fear a dark end to all this, but for my kingdom. Because the truth of what you say reveals only one option. I must submit my land and title to the English king to ensure my son is not harmed.”

 

*

Stiles entered the room preceded by the king’s two guards who’d been sent to accompany him as well as Lord Boyd, who’d fetched him on Derek’s behalf…. Derek. He’d wondered for a tiny fragment of time when he’d started thinking of the man as Derek and not just the dog king. The room they stepped into was large and dimly lit. Not that a group of werewolves required much light by which to eat. There were several paintings along the walls and items of furniture scattered in some semblance of organization in the room. The largest of which was the table. It was grand, spanning several feet. The top half was laid out with a bounty of foods including, cheeses, bread, meat and fruit. Goblets of wine and decanters were placed to the side of large platters seated before the two persons who’d been present.

Stiles immediately took in the presence of the king. The darkness did nothing to hide his unique physical perfection. He seemed taller in the room. His clothing was regal as always and his face was a hard sculpture chiseled into masterpiece. Stiles shook the thought from his head, forcing himself to turn from the man and study his companion. A woman, shorter than the king but as tall as himself. Her hair was pinned up high and burned a bright orange fire like the light of the dying sun before it fell beneath the waters of the world. She was a vision. More beautiful than any he’d come across since birth.

The men led him to the table and stopped short at the seat on the opposite side of the woman who stood next to the king. “My lord, my lady, Prince Germin Stilinski,” Boyd announced. Derek waved a hand at him and he turned on his heel ushering the guards from the room. The king then sat himself at the head of the table, where he was already positioned. Lydia followed suit, sitting down opposite Stiles, who just stood there, a bit uncomfortable, and a bit confused.

“Well then, don’t just stand there. Sit down, eat,” Derek coaxed flashing the young prince a wicked grin that stirred a curious reaction in his stomach, like the graze of butterfly wings fluttering ever so slightly against him.

 

 

Chapter Text

Stiles eyed the platters before them and then eyed the King. He’d seated himself comfortably and already began shoveling food onto his plate. He seemed to pay no attention to Stiles as he stacked himself a good helping of cheeses meat and bread. Lydia watched Derek and then Stiles, offering him a curious half smile as though she were not quite sure what she was to do with him. She then cleared her throat when no one moved and Derek glanced up at her. She inclined her head in Stiles direction and eyed Derek once more.

The king followed her eye as if he actually needed the help identifying the oddity in the room. He sighed audibly, “So are you going to sit down?” he queued.

“Why?” Stiles asked bluntly after another silent moment of assessing the situation.

“Must everything hold some deep meaning and ulterior motive with you,” Derek let out exasperated, the annoyance sharp in his eyes almost sounding out like the clatter of his cutlery on the table surface. In his own mind was an irrational anger at the way Stiles refused to see him as anything but a monster, an enemy, when he so clearly found redeeming qualities in the young prince.  

“I think what the king is trying to say,” Lydia jumped in, placing a soft palm over Derek’s tensed fist until it gentled and opened up splaying on the table. She took the cutlery with her other hand and handed it to him as she continued speaking with the prince, “is, we wished to share a meal with you prince Germin. In the spirit of peace even in this tense time. In the spirit if getting to know who you are. I personally know nothing more than you are adored by your people.”

Stiles looked at Lydia, as if he were trying to figure her out but couldn’t quite yet. At least not without some conversation. He sat down slowly but still in his chair as though were he to make one false move there would be dire repercussions. Derek looked at him again and laughed. “You should try relaxing little prince. No one is trying to poison you,” Derek added after he caught Stiles eyeing the food suspiciously. “If I had wanted you dead there would be more direct ways to take care of it. Poison is a woman’s weapon. Would you like me to taste the food for you?”

Stiles shot him a disgusted glance before turning his head and raising his chin belligerently. “I am not hungry.”

“No need for lies, you have not eaten since the morn so I would suggest you grab a bite, while you can.” He stabbed a piece of cheese with his fork and slipped it into his mouth all the while keeping his gaze steady on the young prince. Lydia cleared her throat again and gracefully nudged Derek indicating something to him with her eyes that Stiles didn’t catch as he was still denying the king his attentions. “Right I do not believe you have yet been introduced. Prince Germin, Stiles, I wonder which you prefer. No matter I shall call you what I please as you will obviously not tell me what I shall be addressing you by. So Prince Stiles, this is Princess Lydia Martin of Denmark, she is to be the next Queen of England.”

His face twitched in response. Stiles finally turned and nodded to the woman, deciding not to hold her acquaintances against her. “Pleasure to meet you my lady.”

“If only I could win such a reception,” Derek commented causing Stiles to fully and thoroughly roll his eyes. Lydia smiled at him.

“And yours good prince. I did not realize you had two names, May I ask which you prefer to be called, I would hope not to offend a new friend.” Stiles regarded her tensely, long and hard under which her own expression never faltered. She seemed warm and inviting off the bat but of course it was too soon to say. He chose though to take her at first impression.

“Stiles. I would prefer my lady if you would call me Stiles. No titling necessary, it is how my friends call on me.” He took special care to address her in a manner that rather obviously excluded Derek. It only seemed to amuse the king as his face stretched in a smile.

“I take it I am not counted amongst them then,” Derek pouted pretentiously, “oh the treatment one is shown after feeding and clothing his so called enemies.” He returned to his food joyously, glancing up only when he thought no one was watching to take in Stiles reactions, they suddenly seemed like the most pleasurable part of the evening.

“A kindness from an enemy is simply a weapon artfully disguised,” Stiles remarked pointedly as he idly played with a fork. He’d picked it up unconscious of the action, his hunger clearly manifesting itself. He was surprised when Lydia dished out a few items on his plate and before he could protest she’d thrown up a hand and shook her head at him. He offered her a weak smile and turned to the food, trying desperately not to approach it too eagerly and give himself away.

Derek smirked, “Did your father teach you that?” Derek asked a bit of sarcasm coating his tone.

“My mother, in fact, was the one who taught us both that lesson. Not that it is any of your business.”

“And how pray tell did your mother of all people come by such an important lesson, not that I’m admitting it’s truth in every situation. I can’t imagine a woman having much to worry about by way of enemies and wars aside from her husband returning absent his head.” His words annoyed Stiles because he knew exactly what the man was saying without saying it harshly.

“It takes more than just a single minded king to protect and prosper a kingdom.”

“So the king rules the land and the queen rules the king then. And in his weakness the queen rules the kingdom through her unfortunate husband,” Derek retorted absent mindedly though he seemed more engaged than he tried to let on.

“A woman’s wisdom and experience is to be respected. When a man, a king has a good woman he uses her just as easily as he uses an army to fell his enemies. My father knew that and made sure my mother was part of every aspect of the ruling.” Stiles responded bitterly, not looking at the man as he managed to feed himself around the angry words.

“Every aspect?” Derek pushed again on some angle Stiles couldn’t identify. “How is it then I did not spy her on the battlefield?” It was a half thought out question that surprised everyone who sat at the table. Lydia immediately turned to him frowning as Stiles turned, his face scrunched into an angry scowl.

“Because she is dead and has been for some time now,” the words were harshly let out through gritted teeth. His eyes glowed a deep emerald as he spoke. “My lady if you’d please excuse me, I feel a bit ill and it’s no wonder with the company I’m now forced to keep. Company I fear you too are forced to endure for if these are the views of a man you’re meant to wed, I pray mercy for your soul.” He rose immediately pushing the chair back beneath him with a grating screech and tossed the cutlery into the platter before turning about and leaving the room. Derek opened his mouth to say something but Lydia placed a hand on his silencing him.

“I doubt you’d appreciate your enemies discussing your family far less your mother, the woman you loved and mourned the longest and hardest of all of your line.”

“I didn’t..” he started but she cut him off.

“You know Claudia Stilinski has passed long since from this world. If it is your intent to make some form of peace with the Scottish heir, it is probably best not to antagonize him further.” She spoke calmly and plainly to him. Detatched from the situation, devoid of emotion as a teacher would teach a child a new lesson. Derek simply nodded and returned to his meal. He didn’t speak for the rest of the evening having lost himself in his own head. He hadn’t thought of what he was saying, how offensive it might seem, how callous. He’d enjoyed the conversation, however short. He’d enjoyed speaking with the man no matter what about and he had put his foot in his mouth and set his own progress back.

Long after Lydia had left and he’d assured her he had other things to attend to, he remained seated at the table thinking it over, thinking him over. Germin Stilinski, Stiles.

As soon as he’d cleared the room and walked through the door. Danny was at his side. His personal guard and watchdog. They walked in silence back to Stiles room, Danny anticipating that the prince needed the silence and the space to move on from whatever it was that had transpired. When he’d gotten to his rooms, the boys who’d been assigned to serve him came in, relieved him of his clothing and dressed him in night robes. He took straight to his bed without word and lay his head down, facing the window so he could see the stars.

Danny watched over him for a moment, but then left him in peace when it got later. Stiles lay there pondering his mother for a long time. Remembering her soothing touch. The calming tone of her voice as she’d sing him his favorite tunes to lull him to bed. He recalled the words and felt them dance off his tongue as he sounded them out softly. Slowly his mind drifted until he barely held the image of her there, right before his eyes as the lids shut and he dozed off.

The room was dark, but nothing the eyes of a werewolf couldn’t see through, far less for the alpha of wolves. Derek couldn’t remember the walk over, the motivation or how long he’d been standing in the dark staring at the sleeping prince. His back was pressed against the wall, his arms folded over his chest, the normal tension in his body completely gone in the calming presence of the young prince. He hadn’t dared to allow his mind to settle on just one thought, so he contentedly allowed his ideas to circle and swim around in his brain, finding refuge in the eye of chaos in his own head.

Stiles had stirred several times and each moment he did, Derek felt himself still, completely coiled and ready should he find the need to suddenly disappear from the room. Though he wasn’t sure he could force himself to actually leave no matter how much he responded to the disturbances in the young man’s sleep. It didn’t take long for him to be tested and just as he’d suspected he failed.

He knew the exact moment Stiles woke. His own body had tensed up again but only as he stilled himself and coiled again like a wildcat about to strike. He heard how the man’s heart had sped up, how his breathing changed, became deeper and then shallow. He smelt the anxiety radiating of the prince when his senses had flared and he realized he’d awoken to an intruder in his personal space. It was that moment Derek had made the decision. He wanted to speak, to address him, to apologize.

“Prince…” he started and his eyes strayed for a moment, looking to the food he’d brought to the man as an offering of peace, a gesture of goodwill. “I don’t know how to address you without so as not to make you unhappy. You prefer one name you afford to friends yet, I am not counted in such high an esteem… nor do I expect to be.” he rose his hands defensively, even though Stiles had never turned to look at him, as he added the last bit quickly. “Perhaps I shall simply refer to you as prince, until you tell me just what would make you hate me less, then I would address you by that name.” Derek sighed, it was only then he realized he’d moved closer to the man who remained still on the bed.

“I brought you some food, you didn’t finish eating and I thought you might be hungry…” he trailed off looking at the prince’s stretched out body, looking for some sign of acknowledgment or maybe an indication that the young man was interested in what he was saying. There was none. Stiles gave nothing away. He remained completely still, his eyes half lidded as he listened to Derek go on. “It is not the only reason I came by. You said a king owns up to his mistakes. I made a mistake this evening. A disgraceful one and have come seeking to apologize and perhaps earn your forgiveness. My insensitivity was staggering, I shouldn’t have made those comments I did about her, your mother and for that I apologize. I know what it’s like to lose a parent, a mother.” There was a beat of silence, in which Stiles let out a single slow breath on which rode the tension he’d built up in his body. His eyes felt wet and blurred but he remained quiet, despite Derek already having seen his reaction.

“I’m sorry,” Derek waited after those words for several heartbeats but Stiles said nothing in response. The king turned to take his leave and just before he was able to walk through the door he’d pulled open he heard the softest and most welcome words he could ever hope for…

“Stiles,” the young prince murmured, so softly any regular human would have missed it. Derek didn’t respond. He found himself holding his breath as his fingers tightened around the door’s handle. “Call me Stiles, please.”

A small smile crept across his face and he breathed relief into the air. His entire body responded to those tiny words. His body begged him to turn around, take in one last glance, venture a caress, skin on skin but he kept himself from betraying his dark thoughts, fantasies. “Good Night Prince Stiles,” he whispered into the dark room and exited it just as quickly as they were free of his lips. Stiles turned around almost immediately, in time to see his door closing, to hear the footsteps receding. A stray tear danced down the side of his face and seeped into the cloth beneath his face as his thoughts turned, to the dream he was having, of a man whose eyes shifted from the most beautiful array of green, hazel and grey to the darkest scarlet that reflected something in his own eyes, a desire he couldn’t yet identify with, or rather accept that he did.

Stiles was up long before dawn had danced its lights across the morning sky. He’d sat on his bed for long alternating a gaze steady on the horizon outside his window and the platter of food Derek had brought to him in the dark of the night prior. Danny had come in to check on him as did his servants who had come to prepare him for the day. He felt like a princess. They had arguably led much more caged lives than their male counterparts and at that moment in time that’s exactly how he felt. Though he noted how much more he seemed to find the bars slowly fading from his vision, where before, he couldn’t see anything but the crisscross of iron that kept him bound to a life he wasn’t meant to lead.

He’d gone through the motions for the servants, getting out of bed silently, having them bathe and dress him, the whole time consumed with thoughts he wouldn’t dare to voice, at least not just to anyone. When he stood before a full length mirror being dressed like some child’s doll, he heard a familiar voice. “If I’d known you’d miss me so desperately you would take a vow of silence I would have stayed.”

Stiles turned so fast one of the servants stumbled and fell at his knees. He uttered a quick apology, remembering to, only when he saw his best friend’s eyebrow arch wickedly high. The smile was far from slow in coming. Stiles ran to Scott and threw arms around him, hugging him harshly. “What are you doing here? Why did you come back?” Stiles questioned though he’d already known the answer to his question.

“I promised you that I would, or did you think my word meant so little now?” He hugged Stiles back just as fiercely, smiling into the man’s neck as he scented him, remembering all the years they’d grown together like brothers until that scent was so familiar to him, until it was almost his own scent every bit as much as Stiles had smelled like him without physical contact. It was a comfort to smell him again.

“Of course not. I just didn’t think father would agree, nor did I think the king would. Does he even know you’re here?” Stiles queued as he pulled away a look of concern taking over his expression. He didn’t relinquish his hold on Scott, keeping his hands firm on the man’s shoulders.

Scott’s face contorted into a curious expression that met jolly and confusion in the middle. “You would be surprised to know, not only did he approve, but the King Derek suggested, I be put up in quarters as close to you as possible as well as be your personal guard here at court.” Stiles scrunched up his brow in his own confusion.

“I don’t believe it,” he murmured, glancing to the platter he hadn’t touched since Derek had brought it in the night before.

“It’s the truth. So what do you say old friend. You and me take on the English and find some way to get you out of this mess, and this place. Though I must say you aren’t doing too bad for yourself,” Scott gestured around, finally letting go so the servants could finish clothe the prince.

“A beautiful cage is still just that, a cage my friend. Do not be fooled by the glamour. And do not say such things. If the king should find out you speak of escape he may have you dispatched for trying to disobey his commands.”

Scott laughed but said nothing more for a long time. And when he finally did he simply suggested they go to the throne room to make their presence known. Stiles didn’t see the interest such an idea held but Scott hoped the more people they met the more Stiles could work his magic on them, have them so quickly adore him the way most did. Hopefully the more people who turned their loyalties to Stiles the more of a chance they had at surviving and perhaps, even getting back to Scotland.

When Scott and Stiles entered the throne room, with Danny at their side the room became almost completely still, a hush settling faster than the news of a death could inspire. He was almost certain the reaction was prompted by the king who’d turned away from the peasants before him laying their complaints and concerns at his feet. He gave Stiles his undivided attention, lifting his head from where it was perched on his hand to look at the man, taking him in so completely. The king seemed to almost touch him with that glance, roving over his entire body from feet to head until their eyes met there and held for a moment. It was so electric. Stiles’ entire body responded to that one connection so physically. His heart sped up, his breathing increased rapidly and his blood heated, burning hot and harsh like electricity arcing through his veins before he managed to pull his eyes away. He turned to Scott who was staring at him almost disbelievingly.

“What?” he mumbled as he resumed his walk to the interior of the room. A few persons’ stares lingered on him but most of them had followed the king’s example and turned, however reluctantly, back to the matter at hand.

“Call the next case,” Derek said blandly whilst placing his head right back on its perch. He glanced back at Stiles once more but turned away immediately pinning Lord Spencer, the knight organizing the cases the King saw to daily, with a pointed glare. Stiles listened to the tone of the man’s voice, inspected his posture and his expressions. He was clearly bored, tired of having to sit there and hear it all day after day. Stiles knew it was the norm with most Kings. Some didn’t even attend the cases themselves, simply relegating them to another highly appointed member of the king’s inner circle. Stiles’ father had never been that way.

Back when his mother was alive, it had been the king and queen to oversee the issues the people of their kingdom went through. They took pride in that part of their job and made sure they both agreed on the outcome or verdict before a final word was given. They listened and determined what was fair. Growing up, Stiles had learned to follow that example. He didn’t know if he’d begun testing Derek right then or if it was merely curiosity setting him to scrutinize the proceedings so closely.

“Deirdre and Cort, approach your king!” Lord Spencer declared. Two persons immediately emerged from the crowd. The man moved briskly, walking with squared shoulders and long strides and a stern face to match. He looked young, perhaps barely out of his teen years, twenty three maybe. Though his garb was that of any of the regular villagers, he was rather clean and kempt. The woman was tall and had long flowing brown hair she had tied behind her. She seemed less sure of herself but still moved with pride. Her face appeared worn, weary and sad. They both bowed as they came to stand in front of the king.

“Speak,” Derek urged, gesticulating to the man first.

“Majesty, I am Cort Stanley. I live on and manage the small farm at the east end of Devenshire. It has been my responsibility since I became a man but made more so when my father was killed. Murdered, by that wretched woman there!” he pointed at her and shook his head furiously, “She killed him hoping she could take his land and money once the dust had settled but I know what she’s done and I intend on having her pay for her crimes, by your righteous hand of justice My king.” The woman had stayed silent through the accusation but kept shaking her head and sniffling as though she were holding back her sobs.

“How was your father killed and how do you know it was her who did it?” Derek asked, the vaguest hint of interest lacing the words, but it was so light, so barely there Stiles could have just as easily missed it altogether.

“He was poisoned. She’d been giving him this tea to drink for days, I became suspicious when I found out that he had been having physical difficulties around the same time. I’d catch him clutching his chest or having labored breathing doing every-day tasks. I’d thought nothing of it, but after he died, I became very suspicious. Then she tried to dictate to me about what we were going to do with the farm and the land and then I realized it was her who was responsible, all for the land my father built for his family. This is the bag of herbs she’d used to poison him,” He took out a satchel and held it up for the king and all to see. There was a gasp through the crowd. People turned their eyes on the woman, casting disdainful glances at her.

“Retrieve the evidence, inspect it,” Derek commanded Spencer before turning to Deirdre. “What say you to the accusation and evidence against you.”

The woman stepped forward and bowed again. She looked up to the king, making sure her eyes held his. Stiles couldn’t see straight into her eyes from where he stood but he could imagine what they looked like based on the way she held herself. She began talking, a soft yet throaty voice speaking up to defend herself. “I deny any guilt in the death of my husband. I love Velon Stanley with everything that I am and always will milord. That man took me into his life when I had nothing to offer but a hard past and more undesirable affairs attached to my name than a man could easily accept. He loved me unconditionally and I did the same for him. His family and world became my own and I could not and would not now nor ever do a thing to hurt him. And though I was not able to give him children, he gave me a son. Though he now accuses me of such treachery he is still my boy and I will not speak against him.” She turned to look at Cort who winced visibly at her words.

“I am not your son, I am the son of the man you gave devil’s claw to. I visited an apothecary my king and I was told that is what it was. I was told it can be very dangerous to administer to a man.” He threw the words at her  angrily.

Spencer brought the satchel to the king who looked at it and sniffed its contents cautiously. “Take the woman. You will be held until it is determined what these herbs are and then you will be tried based on the findings. Have you anything to say for yourself besides that, you have already spoken?” Derek spoke easily, without feeling, as though he didn’t care either way. It made Stiles stomach heave and burn with bile to see it. The detachment with which he could have a woman bound and imprisoned, maybe even executed.

He sighed and turned from the scene before him, whispering, maybe to himself, maybe to his best friend who seemed to mirror his own feelings, “Preposterous.”

“I beg your pardon,” Derek spoke up loudly, his voice booming yet seemed controlled even then. Derek turned his head to Stiles, watching him intently.

“My lord,” the woman murmured softly but he ignored her.

“Prince Stiles,” Derek called, “are you of a differing opinion?”

Stiles was shocked by the question, shocked even more that he’d been heard. It was true that they all had enhanced hearing being wolves but in a room full of people, surely all carrying on in their own little side commentaries, it would have been impossible to discern his particular words unless someone was listening for it. Scott and Danny looked at him, both with a telling, almost accusing look in their eyes. “I don’t understand…” Stiles said looking up to Derek confused and with a bit of annoyance still lingering from the handling of the woman’s case.

“I would venture to say that you disagree with my ruling. Do you not?” The room held its breath waiting for Stiles’ reply. No one went against a king ever, at least not in England. He was the smartest man in the room unless he acknowledged another, the strongest and fastest man unless he deferred to another, the victor in all games and wars unless he conceded to another. No one went against him, but Stiles was different. He backed down from no one when he felt he was on the right path and in his present situation, he had nothing to lose.

“I do,” he spoke out more pronounced this time, louder so that all the room could be sure of his words. There was a collective gasp followed once more by silence as they all turned to Derek to see what he would do.

“Then come forth,” Derek invited gesturing with his hand.

Stiles didn’t move, looking to him curiously. Lydia who stood near Peter off to the side of the king frowned and made a move but Peter who looked equally as disturbed held her arm firmly. “Come then, prince Stiles and see this case as you would if this were your court.” The chatter that erupted was outrageous. Everyone whispering until the collective whispers seemed insidious and all encompassing. Peter’s face turned even more sour than before and his grip seemed to tighten on Lydia who looked firmly at him and peeled his hand off of her with clawed fingers. They shared a grim look before turning back awaiting, as the rest of the room did, Stiles’ response.

“If this is some sort of joke…”

“I do not deal in jokes young prince. We are both royals here, there is a difference in opinion and I would have your views on this situation, if you would oblige me.” Again Derek beckoned Stiles forward and this time he didn’t hesitate. The young prince moved, stepping several feet forward before he even realized he had. He had kept his gaze steady with Derek’s and somehow lost himself. In what he could not be certain. The eyes, the voice, the challenge. He chose to believe it was the latter but faster Stiles was becoming more sure that he was no longer sure of anything when it came to Derek Hale. He paused as he turned to take in the woman who stood before the king and court looking confused and perhaps a bit frightened. Her eyes, now that he could see them, were filled with sorrow, and wariness. She wasn’t angry, she wasn’t disillusioned, she was simply hurt and tired and that told him more than words ever could.

Stiles moved to Derek once more and held his hand out, long spider-leg thin fingers splaying wide before the king, “May I examine the… evidence,” he added the last word a bit hesitant, that he could call it that honestly. He had learned many things growing up and part of his teachings had been about many herbs and poisons and devil’s claw while possibly lethal if used incorrectly, was an aid for pain. He knew that much about it for certain. Derek lifted the bag and placed it into his hand, all the while, keeping his eyes steadily connected with Stiles’. He saw the creeping blush upon his skin, from his neck to his ears. It seemed a subconscious reaction as Stiles himself refused to look away, staring the king down almost competitively. It made Derek smile a small ghost of a thing but a smile nonetheless.

Stiles took the bag and opened it, aware as he did so that the room had resumed its low thrum of chatter whilst he did his inspection. The prince sniffed at the contents, cautiously, not sure of anyone’s innocence or guilt just yet. At least not until he took the scents in and identified something else. Devil’s claw was not the only herb in the bag, there was also the scent of white willow bark and ginger, two things he knew quite well as one of them, his mother used to insist he drink in his teas as a boy and the other was given to her to alleviate her pain when she’d became sick.

Stiles looked back up to the woman knowingly and turned to her son in law. His eyes were harsh and angry at first but softened almost immediately. The boy radiated anger, rage even but more so he saw pain. Stiles saw pain in his eyes and was sure that that was what guided his actions no matter how wicked or vindictive they could have been perceived to someone else. “Cort, I am Prince Stiles Stilinski of Scotland,” Stiles began gently.

“I know who you are,” he replied belligerently.

“You will speak to royalty with the respect he is due or you will find yourself beneath my axe man’s blade before you can plead for that head to remain where it is.” Derek’s words bit like a sword of ice. The crowd shuddered and a glint of fear flashed in Cort’s eyes as his wolf’s eyes glowed their untainted amber. Stiles turned back to the king swiftly watching the expression on his face, the very carefully restrained rage in his eyes that flickered scarlet around the edges of those kaleidoscope irises. Derek turned his eyes to Stiles who frowned at him bringing that small smile back to the king’s lips and lighting his eyes so it was as though the previous anger had never been.

“Apologies my king, your grace, forgive me,” Cort began as Stiles replaced his attention on the man and his step mother. “I am simply caught up in my own grief and anger at that woman, who is not now nor will ever be my mother.” He bowed low and Stiles waved him up.

“I suppose you’re right, she didn’t birth you or bring you into this world. She didn’t conceive or carry you it is true. How long ago did your birth mother pass?” Stiles spoke to the man gently though he tried to keep his tone as objective as possible, never accusing.

Cort seemed uncomfortable for the first time, he cleared his throat and threw a hand roughly through his hair. “She did not pass your grace. She left my father and I many years ago. I have not seen her since I was very young and the memories I had of her have long since faded.” Stiles nodded, taking in the anguish in the man’s voice that he’d tried to hide.

“She abandoned you, I am sorry that is a hard thing to endure. A mother is irreplaceable, even a bad one. And then another woman walks into your life after it has been your father and yourself for a while and then he’s no longer just your father but her husband as well.” Stiles made it a statement, every word of which, Cort paid close attention to. Stiles almost missed the quick nod Cort had given him. It was gross honesty but he’d expected no less. If there was anything people responded to, it was his voice, his understanding, his heart.

“Were they married long, Deirdre and your father?” He kept speaking directly to Cort as he had suspected that was the true problem.

“Long enough,” he murmured.

“And did he love her?”

“Maybe he thought he did I don’t know.”

“Yes you do Cort, tell me, please, did your father love Deirdre?”

“Yes, which is probably what makes her betrayal so much worse, I thought she loved him too…”

“What about you Cort, did she love you?”

“What…”

“You heard me, did she love you?”

“How could I know something like that your grace?”

“Did she clothe you, feed you, tend to you when you were ill, speak to you in kindness? Any of these things or all of them, has she done them be truthful, for your father’s sake.” There was a pained look in the man’s eyes when Stiles added the bit about his father. He opened his mouth to say something but then stopped, eyes drifting to Deirdre and then to the ground.

“Yes she did do those things, all those things.” He admitted it grudgingly.

“And did she ever treat you or your father with ill will?” Stiles pressed, feeling like he was coming to the end and the truth.

“Not that I could see,” Cort answered quicker that time, though his eyes remained plastered to the floor.

Stiles turned then to the woman who had kept herself silent as she stared at her son in law with a concerned expression upon her face. “Deirdre, how long was your husband ill?” The question shocked the entire room. Their voices rising to a din that had Derek raising his hand to gain their attention and silence them. He seemed puzzled himself, his brow knitting together in a frown, his eyes holding curiosity and awe. Cort’s head shot up at the question looking at Stiles first and then Deirdre, pinning her with his accusing glare.

Deirdre seemed confused herself but Stiles was certain it was for a different reason. She did not move to hide the truth answering, “Several months milord, how did you know?”

Stiles smiled at her kindly and spoke again, “This bag,” he held it up, “contains devil’s claw, white willow bark and ginger. Devil’s claw can be lethal that is true but it is also used in aiding in the alleviation of pain so does white willow bark and ginger which, the latter of the two is used often to improve quality of life.”

“He had a lot of pain milord, it grew worse and worse every day until it became so unbearable he could no longer pretend and had to lie in bed and be tended to full time. I thought it was serious but he thought it would pass. Or maybe he didn’t, maybe he just wanted to give us hope. Give me hope.” Her eyes glistened as they filled up with tears that slowly crept down her cheek. “I begged him to tell Cort what was happening but he refused. He said he would never leave the boy to fear his father would abandon him to death like his mother did in life. He made me swear to carry the secret to my grave and I vowed I would. I am so sorry?” She said turning to her son in law.

“W..what are you s..saying?” Cort asked, stuttering slightly as his lips began to tremble.

“What she’s saying,” Stiles began, moving forward then, toward the two people, “is that she tried to respect your father’s wishes and spare you ongoing grief and pain. What she’s saying is that she kept your father’s pain at bay as much as she could because he was dying and his stubbornness and underestimation of you kept him from being honest with the son he loved so dearly. What she’s saying is that she loves you.” Stiles came to a halt right in front of Cort who shook his head and looked away from either of them, mumbling his denial to himself. Stiles lifted a hand and touched his palm to the man’s cheek and turned his head until Cort looked him in the eye. His other arm rose toward Deirdre and beckoned her forward. She came without hesitation and placed her hand in Stiles’ own.

“Cort Stanley, this woman did not kill your father. I think you know that. I think you were left behind by one parent and then by the other. I think you blamed yourself for your mother leaving and now that your father has passed, and you feel someone should be accountable, you put the blame on Deirdre because you can’t bear to be responsible for both of your parents leaving you alone. But no one is responsible for this Cort. Your father died because bad things happen all the time, this is part of life. We lose the ones we love. But one thing your father did not do, is leave you alone. He found a woman to love, a woman who loved him and you and took care of you both. He found a woman who, though she did not conceive and carry you in her body or give birth to you through pain and blood and sweat, she was there for you because she loved you as if you were her own. The woman who left you behind is not your mother, not your real mother. This woman…” Stiles stated as he lifted Deirdre’s hand to Cort’s cheek to replace his own and then used her hand to turn his face to hers, “is your mother.” Deirdre’s face was a mask of sorrow and worry but also of love for him. Cort allowed himself to see it and simply broke down in her arms. Everyone heard him begging for her forgiveness, apologizing over and over and asking for her to not leave him too.

“This is settled, the woman is not guilty, no one is I think they both will now agree.” Stiles let his eyes settle on Deirdre who thanked him silently over Cort’s head before kissing the man and suggesting they go home. Cort thanked Stiles and turned to leave with his mother. Stiles turned to Derek whose face was for the first time not perfectly contorted into an impassive mask or a half slipped mask allowing only safe emotion to be displayed. His eyes were wide with wonder and his mouth slightly ajar. He looked younger then, boyish almost innocent. Stiles smiled then, softly at first and then wider before he caught himself. It felt like approval or acceptance to see Derek looking at him like that and he couldn’t help the way his heart clenched at the sight forcing him into awareness of that smile he’d offered his captor, his enemy.

Stiles bowed to Derek and with a short, “Lord King,” a term he found he could safely use to refer to Derek without suggesting submission or acceptance. He walked away from the throne and headed for the exit. Some watched him intently, respectfully, and admiringly while others seemed annoyed and hateful but he paid neither any mind. Scott and Danny, who also had a face filled with awe and respect he couldn’t quite tame, appeared instantly at Stiles’ side and walked with him out of the throne room.

***

 Derek hadn’t been able to get the day to leave him a moment’s peace. He was fascinated with what Stiles had accomplished. It was magnificent and inspiring. He didn’t even care that the prince had done something he couldn’t. His thoughts simply stopped short at the prince. His meetings had been a daze as did the conversations he’d had with his uncle and Lydia who both disapproved of calling a foreign monarch, and essentially a prisoner of war to oversee one of the king’s duties no matter how well some might have considered it went. In his head, he kept going back to Stiles and all else seemed to matter less.

He had been walking briskly. The night had fallen and the company of other women continued to disinterest. Sleep too had failed him as a safe haven from the thoughts and desires that grew so fast he could not easily escape them. He had found himself setting off before he could stop himself, and he was not even sure if he wanted to stop. He was at Stiles door about to push against the wood of it when he heard music. The soft and delicate notes of a harp, from what he could now hear, cast a spell in that room and beyond it. It was shortly after the last few dizzying notes he heard the voice, as harmonic and enchanting as nothing he’d ever experienced.

“The surface is crackin, the lines on my face, show the courage that I’m lackin here, and the beauty that awaits. Home is just a word without a time or place, I’ve fallen in and out of love with the loneliness I’ve traced and I can’t wait, to start again, I can’t wait to start again. When the darkness and unknown become your friend, and I can’t wait to start again.” Stiles sang out the words but he did so much more than that. He told a story, conjured a picture, memories of pain and stark emptiness and then memories not yet had of possibilities, dreams not yet dead, hope. Derek’s fingers stiffened on the door as he felt his heart clenching in his chest. The harp played out a soft and seductively soothing tone before Stiles sang out again, raw emotion emanating from him. Another voice joined him, harmonizing so that the blend of voices made the music all the more enchanting. The other voice held slightly less emotion but Derek was so focused on Stiles that he barely noticed it.

“The voice of a thousand whispers, with answers I can’t find, I make promises, to the wounded love, in the corner of my mind. When the night before has left you and the smoke has filled your lungs, and you don’t know what you’ve come here for or the person you’ve become, and I can’t wait, to start again. I can’t wait to start again, when the darkness and unknown becomes your friend, no I can’t wait to start again, oh oh and the agony’s turning into thought, and nothing is what I thought it was,” the second voice broke off and Stiles’ own soared higher and higher taking the music up to a fever pitch, to the stars as they transcended the physical plane and moved somewhere spiritual, “Oh and the agony’s turning into thought, and nothing is what I thought it was, and I can’t wait to start again, I can’t wait to start again, when the darkness and unknown become your friend. No I can’t wait to start again.” The harp played on for a short time and then slowly, softly ended the song.

Derek’s hand moved slowly up to his face. Now that the music had stopped, he had become more aware and noticed the cold trail of liquid the tear had made as it slid down his face. “This won’t last forever,” he heard someone say, Scott McCall, he was certain, the man must have been the second singer he’d heard. Derek listened as the man, friend to Stiles continued. “We will be free of this one day, now you should get some rest.”

“Thanks for being here Scott,” Derek heard Stiles say and then, by the sounds of the room following those words, he assumed they’d embraced each other. He moved from the door preternaturally fast. Slipping into the frame of a nearby doorway as Scott left Stiles room and went to his own. When he was certain the man was gone, he moved again, silently going to Stiles’ door and very gently opening it to enter. The lights had been put out but he noticed the harp in the corner of the room near the bed. The light from the moon shone through the window and hit the harp so that gold glinted in the darkness. Stiles lay across his bed, wearing nearly nothing. He lay on his back with his head tilted to a side, facing the window leaving his neck exposed, long and inviting. He looked breathtaking there. Strewn across a bed, his upper body exposed, his skin like porcelain coated with cream, ethereal in the moonlight that bathed him through the window. His hair spilled out wildly around him stretching out and untamed by the leather thong with which he’d normally tie it back. Derek only then really noticed his hair how long and striking, how shiny and lustrous, how exquisite it was. The king unconsciously moved forward, a jerk reaction he had to fight down, but the movement caught Stiles eye and he turned immediately, eyes glowing emerald as he sat up quickly and backed away.

“It is only me prince Stiles, please do not be afraid.” His voice sounded foreign to him. Full of something he didn’t recognize, several things, the greatest perhaps, longing. He stared into those emerald eyes, the thing of his very dreams and wanted to fall into them, as he often did when he closed his eyes to sleep.

“Why have you come?” Stiles asked softly, not moving. His body had shifted into a position from which he could lunge forward should he need to.

“I..” Derek began but wasn’t sure what to say. “I haven’t seen you since earlier in the throne room, when you saw over that family’s troubles.”

“The man you were prepared to dismiss and the woman you were prepared to throw in a dungeon. I remember.” The last two words sounded like a reprimand and Derek winced inwardly feeling guilty.

“Yes, well I am not a perfect man.”

“Mind saying that again, my disbelief at hearing such words come from your mouth is surely understandable. Not to mention you are clearly understating how vastly imperfect you are.”

Derek smiled, “I won’t disagree with you young prince. I handled the matter poorly but you didn’t. You saved that woman and that man, not just from me but from themselves. You put their family back together. How can you be so…” Derek sighed, unable to find a word for what he could picture so clearly in his head.

Stiles tilted his head curiously at Derek and the small action made the king’s body react hotly. “I help people where I can. My mother used to say, a king who pays little mind to the needs of his people will lose his kingdom one way or another. But a king who mends the heart as much as he ends disputes or tends to their lands and protects his kingdom will build an empire in which all who reside, will give their everything to defend.”

Derek leaned against the wall and crossed his arms over his chest. “Your mother was a wise woman indeed.”

“Yes she was,” Stiles offered softly. He settled then, drawing his knees up to his chest and clasping his hands around them. It felt like a defensive gesture.

“That song you sang, with Scott..”

“You heard us, how long were you listening?” He questioned icily.

“I’m sorry, I came to you and you weren’t alone. I would have left but then I heard you and I.. I wanted to listen to it, the song, to you. It was so sad though?” He’d phrased it as a question to which Stiles eyes softened as his body tensed in an odd oxymoronic combination.

“My present situation leaves much to be desired King, is there any wonder that my songs are somber.” Derek didn’t have an answer to that he could give without sounding regretful and guilty so he changed the subject.

“Your song? You composed it, wrote it?”

“Yes.”

“Do your talents know no bounds?” he teased bringing a smile to Stiles lips, one he quickly cast away when he remembered… his brow furrowed then as a stray thought came to the forefront of his mind.

“Why do you come to me?”

“Pardon me?” Derek deflected.

“You said you came to me but I was not alone. Why do you come? This is not the first time and I feel as though it won’t be the last. You do not send for me or summon me. Sometimes you do not even try to wake me when you think I am asleep, but you stay. I do not understand.”

“Nor do I,” Derek said so softly Stiles barely caught the words even with enhanced wolf hearing. “I have something to ask though.” Derek continued right on speaking up and switching topics again afraid of where things might lead if he let Stiles talk again anymore on the subject of his growing obsession, and that is exactly what it was, an obsession, with a man he should not think too much of because of who they were, players on opposing sides of a chess game. “You must miss the freedom of nature, the transformation and the moon. At the last full moon you were… in the tower. The next one approaches quickly and I would lik… I was hoping you would agree to join my nobles and myself on the run.”

Stiles breath caught in his throat at the proposal. At the last full moon he was bound by chains and kept in the tower. He couldn’t shift or run or feel that connection to the wild that brought his wolf calm. The offer was more than anything he could ever have hoped Derek might be willing to offer him but something in him rejected it. “I don’t think…”

“Please do not deny this thing. I have taken much from you I understand. But I do not wish to take more. You are my ward, and until I decide otherwise, it is my duty to see to your health and comfort and this is part of that. Run with me… with us,” he added hastily.

There was a long silence between them as Stiles thought it over. Several times he opened his mouth to speak but stopped. Finally he sighed and spoke up. “I expect Daniel and Scott will be allowed to accompany me.”

He phrased it as a statement but it was definitely a question a request. “Of course they will. Say yes Stiles, please… do not deny this.” The way Derek said his name was the last thing he expected to turn his decision but it did. He emphasized it so… longingly, making everything in Stiles unable to deny him anything in that moment. He nodded slowly and Derek smiled at him. “Good.” He just stood there then, staring at Stiles for a long time, before the prince cleared his throat. “I should go, you need to rest. Lydia was hoping you could join us for breakfast,” he threw in eagerly as he made his way to the door, pausing just short of it. “If you don’t feel up for that in the morning, I won’t hold it against you,” he said giving the man a choice so he didn’t feel cornered or dictated to, so he wouldn’t have any reason to change his mind about running with the court of England. He shot Stiles one more look before turning and leaving his chambers.

Stiles let himself ease back down until he was lying stretched out again. He brushed long tendrils of hair from his face and sighed, his eyes glowing as he did so, a purely emotional reaction, as he thought of Derek. The King of England, coming to his room and asking him to join the run at the full moon. The whole thing seemed like a dream he was having. A dream, not so much a nightmare anymore. When had things changed, when had he become partial to Derek Hale.

 

Chapter Text

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           The sun was dimmer, the sky a paler blue. The winds seemed to blow lightly against unresponsive trees as though they were being defiant for the sake of it. The town didn’t sing out beneath the castle as it usually did, filled with the hustle and bustle of Scots going about their errands from day to day. It was as though the entire country had lost its soul and was simply coasting until he would return. Prince Germin Stilinski. Stiles.

Edinburgh Castle was quiet, unusually so. The king had suspended all non-emergent matters indefinitely. Servants moved about quietly, barely gossiping as there was nothing left to gossip about. Or they had simply lost interest for the moment. Nothing was as it was or should have been and everyone knew the reason why. Stiles was so much more than a prince to these people. He was their joy, their peace and their happiness.

The king was silent as he moved seemingly aimless through corridors and up flights of stairs until he could feel the soft caress of cold wind brushing against his naturally hot tempered skin. The doors leading out onto the ramparts of the west wing tower were open wide. There was a light mist lingering out there, but through it he could make out the billowing skirts of a woman’s dress dancing around her as she stood there, supported by the stone of the crown shaped edge wall.

John had known Marin far better than to simply walk up to her and disturb whatever she was in the middle of which was clearly something. This was the first time he’d noticed that mist and it was far too eerie to have been naturally formed. Instead he leaned against the frame of the door and watched expectantly, as though something magnificent was about to happen.

The druid woman had been standing there for what seemed like mere seconds but must have been longer. She’d been seeking after something, carrying around a feeling within her that unsettled her deeply. She’d needed a space to force that feeling into providing a seeing for her. It had worked. Almost the moment she’d stepped onto the ramparts and looked over the edge of the stone wall, she slipped inside herself and the visions danced before her eyes. Mist had formed and birthed pictures she tried as hard as her years of training and experience would allow to follow each and every one of them without grasping too harshly at one specific image. She’d learned the hard way what it meant to have the gift of sight. The amount of uncertainty foresight carried.

Most assumed seeing the possible futures was cut and dry, an easy endeavor but it was hardly that. It was a science, something you worked at. It was deciphered through legends and keys and the maintenance of an open mind. One had to remember that a vision was often crafted with metaphor and imagery, one thing to represent another so that nothing was ever exactly what it might seem to be. As the mist cleared she felt the presence behind her and sighed inwardly, knowing instinctively who it was. King John, waiting for her. He would know her well enough to know not to interfere or at least when he shouldn’t interfere. He’d also known her well enough to know when he might venture an approach which he already started for.

“Lady Marin,” he called, his deep, gruff voice soft, mimicking a child’s innocence.

“King John,” She replied equally as soft. She took the moment to quickly steel herself before turning to him.

“Why have you come to this place?” he questioned moving forward slowly. His eyes roamed the area, the ramparts. It was a place he’d come often but not for himself, never for himself.

“I needed a connection to your son. The sense of him is strong here.”

“Have you seen something new?” he questioned again, a hopeful note in his voice, but she knew it wasn’t a hope that she’d seen something new, but a hope that she would share the vision. Marin tilted her head and frowned at him, to which he raised his hands in mock surrender. John moved forward again until he stood next to her, separated by a scant few inches.

“This was his favorite place you know.” John looked down to her and then turned away, moving forward and out of her way towards the wall. He placed his palms down on the cold stone and took in a deep breath. Almost instantly he could hear the voices from his memories of times long passed. Hear the laughter of a happy family. Hear the hope for a future not littered with blood and bodies and ravaged by war. “My son.” He let the words glide out on his breath and stared into the black of night, almost as if he was looking for his face there, in the shadows. “He used to love this place, being high up above everything else, almost touching the clouds yet still so far from the sky. The wind blowing his hair back in its breeze, his mother and father at his back. He always was reassured in this place, it’s why he would come here, why he would ask us to take him when he was still too young to be trusted with his own adventurous nature.”

“You speak of him as though he’s already passed from this world.” Marin declared the words, a soft warning to the man.

“I speak of him as though he is no longer within reach. Am I wrong?” John dared not turn round and see a glimmer of anything in eyes he knew couldn’t hide the truth from him forever. Marin didn’t reply. The king nodded to the unanswered, yet answered question. “I have come to grips with the current situation Lady Marin, you need not coddle me. But I will stop asking.”

He felt the hand on his shoulder then. Petite and warm, piercing through the all-encompassing cold that had settled in his skin for days now. “Do not give up on your son. He may be out of reach for the moment but he is not lost John. Believe in me even by smallest measure.” Her voice was so earnest it almost brought tears to the king’s eyes. He turned and took her hand in his as he did so. His large one covered her smaller hand so completely. He brought her fingers to his mouth and placed a soft kiss there, an action that made her start as she hadn’t expected it.

John smiled to her, “You mistake me my lady, I do not doubt that you are looking after my boy in whatever mystical way you can. I only accept that until it is required I can have no part in keeping him safe. I understand and accept this because I trust you with his life. I know you will not disappoint me.”

When he pulled away and relinquished his hold on her she almost stumbled backward a half step and watched the king disbelievingly. “Do not disappoint me Marin,” with that the man nodded to her and offered one parting smile before he left her to her devices.

She’d always known of his particular affection for her. She’d always had her own affection for him but nothing could ever come of it. His kiss had startled her because as carefully constructed as her emotional barriers were, he had the tools to send it tumbling down. The druid priestess turned her mind from what had just transpired and concerned herself once more with her seeing and more importantly what it was most likely to mean. She had to get a message to her eyes in the English court. The prince’s life would depend on it.

 

***

“You’re unusually quiet…” Danny offered up softly, his gaze settling on Stiles astride the horse before him. There was no reply. The prince hadn’t spoken much the entire day. He’d woken up seeming distant, been dressed, had breakfast with the future queen and her king and spent the rest of the day quietly moving from one place to the next, one task to the other. Scott too had noticed and silently worried about where his friend’s head was at. He and Danny shared a look before he turned forward once more.

“Stiles,” he called, “Stiles!”

The shout jarred the Scottish prince from his thoughts. He turned back quickly smiling but it was faint. “What is it?” he queued.

“You’ve been deathly silent my friend. I now you well enough to know there’s far too much going on in your head. Even Danny can sense something wrong..” Scott sounded almost pleading as he stated his facts.

“I do not know what you would have me say,” Stiles uttered as he turned back. His voice was so low, if their hearing hadn’t all been enhanced, the others wouldn’t have heard him at all. “I am fine, mostly..”

“Mostly,” Daniel pointed out. “Why only mostly then. I thought this would make you happy, you decided we should go.”

Stiles winced internally. The words weren’t an accusation but in his own mind they’d come off that way.

“Stiles if you don’t think this is the best idea I think we would both be more than happy to turn around…” Scott gestured to himself and Danny even though Stiles hadn’t bothered turning back.

“No, we go,” he said adamantly. I haven’t shifted in far too long. Danny you haven’t shifted since you’ve been assigned to me. And Scott I couldn’t deny you your freedom.”

“Stiles you are my family. You are my prince. When you’re free so am I, don’t forget that.” Stiles shot him a smile and a nod of acceptance and thanks.

“I appreciate the sentiment old friend but it is unnecessary here. I want this, I have just been dealing with some things today.”

“Perhaps you finally see as the king does where you’re concerned.” Stiles glanced back again with pursed lips and dark eyes, a look of fake threat.

Scott raised his hand in mock surrender, but laughed as he did so. “Deny it as you like but I think you and I both sense the shift in that man. You probably more so than I.” Stiles’ horse slowed and halted forcing the others to stop as abruptly as he did. The path they had been trotting along was equal parts of dirt and stone. They were moving through the forest to the far end opposite the King’s castle. The light was slowly fading in the sky and soon the moon would be at its highest and brightest. The prince’s eye settled on a few horses moving steadily, far ahead of him and his men.

“He visited me last night.” The words were whispered against the soft blowing breeze of nature. Scott’s brow arched as he turned to Danny to exchange another look.

“But I was with…” Scott started but Stiles cut him off.

“It was after you’d left me. He’d been there, listening to us… to me.” Stiles spoke so softly, almost reverently of the moment that had been buried in time and darkness.

“What happened, did he…” Scott moved forward on his tall black steed, positioning himself adjacent his friend so that he could look him in the eye, suddenly filling with ferocious protective need. “Did he hurt you?” His own words fell a few octaves to a tone Stiles knew only too well was reserved for those who were sure to meet Scott’s torturous retribution.

Stiles shook his head quickly and pat Scott’s hand from across the distance separating them. “No no, not that. He wouldn’t do that to me.”

Scott looked deep into his prince’s eyes and allowed himself to settle, allowed the dark fury that had begun to gather in him to dissipate. “You say that with such certainty my friend.” Scott offered it suggestively.

There was something that passed between the two of them. A reluctant understanding, acceptance, surrender. “He asked me to join the shift then,” Stiles admitted matter-of-factly.

“You said he invited you at breakfast…” Danny tossed in.

“I lied.”

“This place is certainly not doing much for your character, what with all this deceit, and to your own friends...” Scott laughed it off but he could see Stiles was having difficulty with whatever he’d truly start coming to terms with in his mind.

“I’m sorry,” Stiles finally admitted on a harsh expulsion of breath. He kicked off, moving at a snail’s pace on the horse, the others following pace behind him. Danny and Scott looked at each other once more. Both of them knew, both of them understood. Somehow, it seemed as though they were all just waiting for Stiles to deal with the truth himself and admit it.

They continued on in silence moving toward the center of the forest. Along the way, they passed several groupings of people, either astride horses or walking alongside them toward the same place. As they slowed coming up on their destination they noticed the king’s entourage but not the king himself. Stiles halted a good distance away and turned the horse, bringing it and them closer to a tall solitary looking tree which was a bit odd in the middle of a forest. As he swung his leg over the side of the horse he felt hands on his waist and immediately settled into them with just the smallest hint of protest, assuming they were Scott’s.

With a slow forming smile he spoke, “I have not needed you to dismount a horse in ages I do not know why you can never relinquish your need to assist…” He trailed off into silence as he turned and his eyes met the powerful yet lightly amused gold, green and hazel of Derek Hale’s. “Lord King,” he uttered taken aback. Stiles tried not to notice the way everyone around them seemed to stop what they were doing to take note of what was going on between the king and his charge. Scott and Danny stood near their horses, unsure of what to do to aid Stiles in what was surely an odd experience for him.

“My prince, apologies if I offend with my careless concern,” Derek offered with a slight bow of his head and half bend of his body. “I only sought to ensure your safety.”

“Safety… in climbing down a horse’s side, I assure you Lord King I have done it enough times to be able to get by quite well on my own, no assistance required.” Stiles spoke the words calm and majestic with his head inclined and his chin raised a bit. Derek only smirked at him an intolerable amount.

The king leaned in closer without seeming too intrusive, to others, as for Stiles everything he did was intrusive. “I yearn for the day when you call my name, your formality feels tragic.” Stiles’ eyes widened, clearly affected by the words which to him seemed far too personal to explain.

“I..I.. perhaps the day you stop being uh king then all your other wishes will be taken care of.”

“We must thank you again your grace,” Scott butted in as the best friend anyone could ever hope for. Stiles was certain he’d run out of witty remarks to fend Derek off with. “My prince and I have not ran in some time, and given the circumstances, the gesture is greatly appreciated.”

Derek half turned his head to where Scott had moved closer to them but his eyes did not stray from Stiles who was finding it just as hard surrendering the gaze. “You are welcome. I decided it was best to ensure Stiles’ full health and happiness was seen to.” With one more brief smile he took a few steps back and spoke up so all could hear him. “Come all, gather round. The moon rises to its peak in the sky and we come together once more to revel in our power, in our gifts. Tonight we run through the forests of our land, reclaiming them once again in the name of our ancestors, in the name of our past rulers, and in the name of your present king.” He tossed his head back and let out a deep rumbling howl that echoed throughout the forest, shaking branches and vibrating through wood. Bringing leaves dancing through the light breeze of the night to the ground that rumbled as much as Derek’s roar did.

All the wolves in the forest ‘were’ and otherwise tipped their heads back and did the same, including Stiles who for all his fight couldn’t ignore an alpha’s call. His eyes flashed green as he closed them and cried out his begrudging agreement. When the howling ceased Derek’s hands went briskly to his clothing, two men on either side of him, rushed to help unfasten buckles and undo buttons until all that remained on him was his trousers and the King’s seal pendant around his neck so all could identify the king in his wolf form.

Stiles couldn’t help but fasten his gaze ever so tightly on Derek as he, with aid, unveiled himself. Hazelnut skin so smooth in some places and then bunched up into tight folds of muscle in others, it held the prince’s attention like nothing else could. The king was picturesque. Tall, broad-shouldered, hard bodied like temptation of sin itself. He watched Stiles watching him and smiled, a small slip of a thing more to himself than anything else, an acknowledgement of his small measure of victory. He grasped the waistband of his trousers and slowly tugged them down so that his lower body revealed itself.

Stiles heard the breath hitch in his throat, felt the beating of his heart transition to a wicked pounding he was certain all the other wolves were listening to, not that any but one of them mattered. He tried to avert his eyes but the pull of the man’s body was far too much. His small waist, pelvic bones and then his throbbing manhood sprung free of his trousers which made one wonder how he managed to fit such a powerfully large thing into such a restraining contraption. As the fabric dropped to the ground and Derek stepped out of it, his penis bounced around, drawing further attention to itself. Stiles licked his suddenly dry lips and turned around.

The action made the king want to laugh but he managed to maintain his composure. He raised his hands in a gesture of invitation and everyone around him began removing their own clothing. Lords and ladies secured their garments and stood awaiting the king’s next move. Stiles sighed before bringing his hands to undo his own clothing. Being naked in public was no big thing for him or anyone else for that matter, not when your heritage was wolfkind. But being naked in front of Derek Hale was a much different thing, one that Stiles wasn’t certain he was prepared for, not when the king’s eyes made him feel as if all others in their presence simply disappeared and no one else existed, but it was too late now to undecide this course of action. Danny and Scott went to him as was their duty and helped slowly undress him.

Derek’s smirk faded into nothing when Stiles started shedding his layers. This time it was the king’s breath that caught in his throat when he saw what Stiles looked like without all those clothes on. He was beautiful. He was blessed with creamy skin, smooth and delicate yet an aura of immense strength bathing him.  His arms sported tight bulges that suited his body type and his chest was defined while his stomach sat flat on him. Derek’s eyes flashed unconsciously, his desire flaring so that everyone around him close enough to scent it, smelled the lust coming off his body and those who couldn’t tell by smell saw the way his cock twitched every now and then as he held desperately to some semblance of self-control.

Stiles removed his trousers himself which brought him bending over at which point Derek simply turned away, realizing that the grating noise he was picking up was the growling coming from his own throat. With no further delay, he glanced to the moon and let the transformation wash over him. He could feel the change lie a thousand needles tickling at the sensitive flesh beneath the surface. His body contorted as hair sprouted all over him, as he resized and reshaped so that his head grew its snout and his hands and feet became paws. Black fur covered the wolf that now stood large and tall in Derek, the man’s place.

Everyone in the woods followed suit until the grandest pack of multicolored, multi-sized wolves stood about pawing at the ground, nuzzling each other and waiting on their alpha king to kick off the run. Stiles was the last to turn as Danny and Scott in wolf form stared at him expectantly. Danny was a grey wolf with black fur on his ears and paws, while Scott’s fur was silver streaked in places with black. As Stiles turned his bright emerald green eyes shone, piercing through the dark as white fur pure as snow itself covered his transformed body. He butted Scott in the side with his body and tossed his head to a side.

Derek looked over at him, awed by how breathtaking his wolf form was, by how unique and gorgeous his eyes were, green like nothing else he’d known. No other wolf’s eyes had ever been green before to Derek’s knowledge and white fur on werewolves was incredibly rare. Derek tore his scarlet eyes from Stiles and howled once more before taking off deeper into the woods with all those who had come following their wolf king.

Boyd ran along the left hand side of the king, keeping his eyes open as a good servant would. His blue black fur was slicked back by the dew he’d been running through in the tall grass. His head snapped to a side when he caught a glimmer of shimmering silver light. There was nothing there but he remained wary. Several more times a dancing silver stream of light shimmered on the periphery of his vision until he noticed a silhouette beckoning him in the shadows. Stealthily he slowed down until he was distanced from the king enough to break away without suspicion.

Boyd galloped away from the running pack into the forest following the shapely specter to a stream that bubbled and flowed peacefully in the night. The silver ghost walked right into the water and simply descended beneath its lapping waves and popping bubbles. The wolf padded over to the stream and peered inside but was greeted not by his own reflection, but that of the woman he served in all things. The mistress of the druid people and lady of the crystal cave.

He grumbled at the water as he couldn’t speak in this form, but she understood him nonetheless. “You must be cautious my friend, our young prince is in danger.” She doled out the information quickly, without pretense. “I have had a seeing. Direct the king to his path now more than ever, I fear he is the only one who will be able to protect prince Germin now. Be vigilant. Whatever this danger is, it is close and it is coming though I cannot tell yet when.”

Boyd nodded, an awkward action for a wolf to act out but it was a man beneath that flesh. Marin’s hand gestured for him to leave and so he did, running at his top speed to track down the prince and king and push them once more together.

Stiles, Danny and Scott had broken off from the main pack at Stiles insistence. The less time he was forced to spend with Derek the better off he thought he’d be. They’d got off to a quieter part of the forest and simply ran about enjoying each other’s company and reveling in their ability to run free in their wolf forms. Scott suddenly, came to a halt, his ears cocking up and his body going completely still. Danny eyed him curiously and then turned mimicking the action. Stiles tried to move past Scott to where he was staring but the wolf barked at him viciously and kept sidestepping ahead of him to keep the prince back.

A twig snapped and it was then they finally saw what lurked beyond the shadows. A large wolf with pitch black fur padded its way out of the darkness. It’s large red eyes glowed brightly as it inspected the others and the situation it had walked into. His canines, bared as they were, dripping with saliva as the soft rumbling echoed from his throat ceased and retracted almost as if he recognized the wolves before him. Stiles took a step forward and cocked his own head to a side inspecting the new addition. He noticed a scar to the side of the wolf’s eyes and at once barked his recognition. Stiles turned back to Scott and gestured to the scar which his friend scrutinized himself. Scott too barked and walked over to the wolf who did somewhat of a bow as Stiles approached.

Then as though it were a meeting of old friends, they all hopped around each other nuzzling and playing. Their fun was short-lived though. A growling emanated from the opposite side and as they’d turned over, they could see the vicious guise of the alpha king making his way towards them with Boyd at his side and several others to his back. Stiles knew instantaneously what it was that had incurred the king’s wrath. He immediately stepped away from the familiar wolf he and Scott were greeting but that had only created and opening for the king to jump in and place himself possessively in front of the prince.

The familiar wolf growled only to be drowned out by Derek’s louder more guttural and bloodthirsty growling. Stiles barked at the new wolf to stop. He looked at the prince confused but stopped altogether. Derek tossed his head back and howled and all the wolves nearby bared their throats to him except the new wolf to arrive. He seemed to be looking to Stiles who yipped at him to do as everyone else. Instead, the wolf tried to take a step to Stiles causing Derek to strike fast. He lashed out quickly with fangs and claws ready to tear the new wolf’s throat out. Stiles barked at them both but neither paid him any attention. The two opposing wolves circled each other baring their teeth until Stiles roared at Derek who just barely glanced at him, but the moment the king looked to the prince, Stiles took off, running away at top speed in the hopes that Derek wouldn’t be able to resist his natural urge to chase him down.

The king hesitated for barely a second before he snarled at the new wolf and sprinted off after Stiles, chasing him down for quite a while before he would actually catch up.

***

The sunlight prickled at his eyes and prodded him into consciousness. He felt weighted down, restrained. It should have been uncomfortable but somehow Stiles felt at peace and at home in whatever binds he’d tied himself up in. It was warm and as soft as it was hard which was oddly perfect. He opened his eyes slowly, letting a little light in at a time. He struggled to turn into a position that would allow him to get to his feet. The sight he met forced his jaw to drop and his heart to explode into a drumbeat he wasn’t prepared for.

Stiles was wrapped up in the very naked king who appeared to still be asleep. Their legs were tangled, Derek’s arm was fastened around Stiles and neither of them had a stitch on. Stiles immediately panicked and in doing so transformed into a wolf once more, to wiggle his way free of the King’s hold. Once he was out, he took off running as fast as he could to track down his friends. He was barely out of sight when Derek opened his eyes and smiled to himself, lying there stark naked in nature’s bed, completely satisfied with himself.

 

Chapter Text

Perhaps he knew he had to make a move, do something besides sit in a chair staring outside the window of his presently assigned chambers. Yes there was probably a lot to do however, the idea of moving seemed so impossible. If he moved then the world would come crashing into his sweet little escape and then everything that had happened would no longer be a minor avoidable issue. He could feel them staring holes into his back, his guards, his friends.

*

His mind flashed back to earlier when he’d come galloping through endless forest, sniffing them out in his wolf form. He’d barked into and bit at Scott’s ear to rouse him while Danny hopped up the moment he’d heard the rasping call of the white wolf. “Stiles?” Scott queued wiping the sleep from his eyes. Stiles barked at him again and then once more, cutting him off before Scott could ask what was going on. The prince wolf trotted forward and turned back to them simply to toss his head forward in an attempt to communicate his desire to leave the woods.

“Turn back Stiles,” Scott offered but the wolf shook its head and growled to them before turning forward and taking off at top speed. He never looked back to make sure the others were following not with all that was racing through his brain. Scott and Danny had briskly gotten things together, packed the horse saddles and gotten on to chase after the wolf they couldn’t hope to catch. By the time they’d gotten back to the castle walls Stiles was pacing back and forth in a circle at the tree line. Once he’d seen them he moved again padding his way down onto the pathway leading to the entrance. Daniel waved to the guard at the gate who let them through instantly, giving Stiles a strange look as he moved into the castle in full wolf form.

Stiles hadn’t stopped for a breath until he’d climbed all the way to his chambers pausing momentarily only so that the men accompanying him could open doors to let him through. He stepped in first followed by Scott and then Danny. As soon as the doors shut, Stiles reverted to his human form. Scott quickly tossed him his cloak which the wolf gladly took. “I need to bathe…” he muttered but of course the other two both heard him quite clearly.

“Wanna tell us what just happened?” Danny questioned but the prince simply repeated his first thought made sound.

“I need to bathe.”

Almost immediately Scott’s face lightened and he stepped in closer. A comforting hand rested on Stiles’ shoulder. “Hey what happened?” Stiles looked up at him slowly, the eye contact a mere second but that’s all Scott needed. “Let’s get you bathed then.” Danny turned to open the door to bring in the servants but Scott stopped him. “No,” he’d said, let’s just take care of this ourselves, he doesn’t need anyone else in his space right now.”

Danny nodded his agreement and moved to fill up the tub with water so Stiles could step in. Together, Danny and Scott washed the prince clean until he asked them to give him a moment. Grateful just to hear him speak, they both left the room so he could have some time alone. The water had become cold against his skin, that’s how he’d known he’d been sitting in the tub for a long while.

Stiles couldn’t remember when he’d decided to get out of it, but he had and instead wrapped himself in a robe and sat in the chair facing the window with his knees brought up to his chest so he could tighten his arms around them. When the boys had thought enough time had passed, they’d peeked into the room and saw him sitting there. They both entered and took up opposing positions on either side of the room and simply waited.

*

“I’m sorry,” Stiles uttered in the softest of tones that almost missed the ears of the other werewolves in the room. Danny’s head jerked and Scott balked at the sound and the words they enunciated. The man’s best friend moved instantaneously then stopped himself just as quickly knowing all too well how easy it would be for Stiles to shut down once there was physical contact.

“And what would you have to be apologizing for?” Scott asked trying to keep it subtle and safe.

“For this morning I.. I just couldn’t…”

“Hey,” Scott called, as Stiles began cutting off mid-sentence. “You listen to me now Germin Stilinski, Prince of Scots, I am yours to command as you wish so I move when you say or growl, either way works,” he added to see if he could prod a smile out of his sullen friend. “More than that, I am your friend, your person no matter what. I don’t care, what happened, as long as you are alright. I would like to know though, if you feel comfortable telling me, telling us,” Scott gestured to Danny, “because only if we know what’s going on can we really be of help no?”

Stiles looked up at him then and turned to the other side to glance at Danny who offered his most reassuring smile. Stiles tried to smile back but it was strained. He turned his gaze back to the dull neutrality of landscape as he began to speak. “I lay with the king last night.”

There was complete and utter silence in the room. Not a word, not even a breath managed to escape any of them until Scott got to his feet slowly. “You lay… with… why would you?”

“I don’t know, I can’t remember all of it. I just know that I woke this morning in his arms and neither of us were clothed.”

Danny and Scott exchanged looks, Scott’s more reluctant worry and Danny’s more surprised and thoughtful. “Perhaps you did nothing and all of this fear is unwarranted.

“Did nothing,” Stiles snapped. “I woke this morning with the king of England’s cock pressed against my arse. Do you really believe that we did noting last eve. Because I certainly don’t.” Stiles sighed and relaxed against the pretense of comfort from his chair. “Apologies Daniel. I can’t believe this is happening.” His hand went to his face barring it from view.

“My prince, please do not fret unless it is absolutely necessary.” Danny began, stepping forward until he was at Stiles side and kneeling there, one hand massaging a circle on Stiles arm. “Only alphas ever retain most of their memory when in wolf form especially on a full moon and for the rest of us it takes years to achieve that kind of recovery. For all you know neither of you engaged in any… carnal acts.” Stiles let his hand droop a little so he could catch the confident look Danny was giving him.

“Why did you run off with him in the first place?” Scott asked, pacing behind the prince’s back, clearly less reluctant to believe Danny’s theory. “I remember you making him chase you, which was hardly a good idea by the way but I can’t…”

“Koda!” Stiles shouted. Jumping to his feet.

“What?” Scott asked turning suddenly.

“Koda, Scott. They’re here, I remember if I hadn’t gotten Derek away he would have fought Koda.”

“Speak of the devil…” Scott said as he approached the window and caught what had gained Stiles’ attention so abruptly bringing that old Irish devil to mind. A small group walked toward the castle walls with their horses beside them. They were a statuesque bunch with long flowing dark hair and solid builds. Bodies of those who lived and grew up among the hardships of the forest. “I remember now they showed up in the forest last night…” Scott finished his thought as Stiles sprang into action.

“I need to get dressed, help me,” the prince called as he scrambled to get clothes on. Danny rushed to his aid with Scott on his heels.

“Why do you sound so…”

“Afraid,” Stiles offered and Scott nodded in answer. “They are Irish royalty, Scotland may have sovereignty over their land but that does not relinquish their title or worth. If the king finds out who they are he could keep them prisoner here like he’s kept me.”

Scott’s face changed, identifying the grim truth in Stiles’ eyes. All jokes set aside, Derek could very well take the Irish royals prisoner and hold them as more leverage over Scotland’s king. Scott helped the others get Stiles dressed and as soon as the last item was fitted snugly in Stiles set off with his guards at either side. Nobles and officers watched as they moved briskly passed them through the halls of the castle until they arrived at the entrance and burst through.

“I see no royal seals about you.” A knight called who’d been talking with another soldier at the gates.

“Stop!” Stiles yelled as he capped his run and powerwalked over to the foreigners and the king’s men. “Wait please let them through.”

“I take no orders from the king’s ward!” the man declared his voice gruff with disdain.

“Then what shall you tell the king who’s fondness of me increases every day when he comes to sort out my complaint of your clear dismissal of my request. Lest we forget our places here as I, though a ward am still a prince, a royal. Certainly he won’t be too happy with one such as you who would deny that which would increase my comfort and peace of mind which is all the king seeks to provide or so he’s said to me. Perhaps he is a liar then because you make him so. Or shall I ask him myself if his men would make a liar out of their king?” Before Danny could open his own mouth to make a case for the foreigners, Stiles’ words were swift, whipping the knight with each syllable until his eyes were wide with fear and reluctant acceptance that he’d lost that round.

“Very well,” the knight surrendered after a long silence. “Who are these people then?”

“I’ve already…” One obvious Irishman with a prominent scar on his face began but Stiles cut him off with a look.

“They are emissaries from Ireland, friends of the royal family there and devout in their service of nature’s teachings. They travel to many lands bringing greetings and blessings from the mother earth.” This time he surprised even himself with his fast thinking and ability to pull complete nonsense out of nowhere and make it sound believable.

“These two,” the knight pointed on the largest of the men, “Naturists?”

“Do you not believe that we could serve the great mother, for it is our own heritage you mock man,” The one in front spoke up playing along with Stiles quick served lies.

“Then why did you claim to be nobles of Irish court? That is a treasonous offense.” The knight pressed further hoping to catch them in some kind of deceit.

“We are considered nobles at Irish court,” said the woman who travelled with them. She was as tall as the men and even taller than a few of them with the blackest hair of them all. It was long and flowing and almost glittered like black diamond.

“If you require a higher power to settle this problem I suggest you send someone to find the king and bring him here and then you can explain to him your stubbornness.” Stiles dropped the final blow effortlessly pinning the man with an evil glare to add to his worry that Stiles would truly ensure trouble find him.

“It is fine, let them pass.” The man signaled to the officer to move away and he did, allowing the group through. There were four men and one woman. The first two men walked straight for the young prince and his best friend and stood squarely before them, towering over them almost.

“Laochra le chéile go maith.” Well met warriors. The men who were identical in most every way spoke in unison, the Irish greeting.

“Sláinte agus bás maith mo dheartháireacha,”Health and a good death my brothers. Both Stiles and Scott answered. The one who’d spoken before to the knight leaned in and took Stiles almost roughly in his arms, before picking him off the ground and dancing twirling him about as if he weigh nothing at all. Stiles grasped the man as tightly as he himself was held and yelped a little when he was jerked off the floor.

“Prionsa Beag le fear tar éis fás cén pléisiúr tugann sé dom a bheith shiúil ar tú sna foraoisí Béarla, cé go mbeidh gá na cúinsí comhrá.”Little prince to grown man what pleasure it gives me to have stumbled upon you in the English forests, though the circumstances will require a conversation.

“Tá mé overjoyed a fheiceann tú cara ró-shean, ní mór dúinn a labhairt an teanga coitianta sna tailte cé. Cuir dom síos madra fáin.” I am overjoyed to see you too old friend, we must speak the common tongue in these lands though. Put me down stray dog. He lashed the man’s back playfully and waited for his feet to connect with the floor before he leaned in and whispered, “Caithfidh ár mhalartú focail a dhéanamh go príobháideach, nach bhfuil sé sábháilte duit anseo. Tá sé fiú níos mó contúirteacha a imirt le liom mar seo anseo, go háirithe nach bhfuil i láthair an ríogh.” Our exchange of words must be done privately, it is not safe for you here. It’s even more dangerous to play with me like this here, especially not in the king’s presence. As he pulled away he felt the man’s lips press firmly to his forehead and noticed out of the corner of his eyes that the brother had embraced Scott just the same.

“Duke enough,” Scott complained, playfully swatting at the man’s face.

“Koda, Deucalion, it’s been quite some time,” Stiles smiled still holding onto Koda’s arm.

“Too much time Stiles, Scott, Ireland misses your antics.”

“You say that as if you’ve been there anytime soon. You’ve been travelling for years, never seeing the need to return so long as your father carries the title of king,”

“Hardly a meaningful title since he joined hands with Scotland and elected your father as overlord,” Koda spoke loudly and gruff almost disapprovingly but Deucalion smacked him hard on the head though Koda barely flinched.

“Don’t let his tone fool you hóga iathghlas, he appreciates not having to lead the country…”

“Just this small brood will do,” Stiles finished for Deucalion, “and don’t call me that. I haven’t been a pup for a long time.”

Koda threw his arm around Stiles shoulder and pulled him closer. “You will always be my emerald pup.” At that Stiles growled and flashed his wolf’s eyes making Duke and Koda laugh loudly. “I have travelled the world over and have not yet found eyes that light green like the jewels in a king’s coffer.”

“What’s this!” came a different gruff voice, but this time the malice was definitely intended. Stiles immediately pulled away from Koda until they were physically separated. Danny and Scott bowed their heads as the king made haste to stand between Stiles and Koda.

“Lord King,” Stiles bowed his own head as he spoke softly, eyes averted and heartbeat rising violently.

“It’s you again, the wolf from last evening. A wolf who does not belong to my court which makes you not English and certainly not one of my men so who are you and why should I let you keep your head after invading my borders without permission.” By the time he was done speaking his eyes were glowing crimson and his teeth had begun to lengthen.

Koda flashed his own scarlet eyes and glanced momentarily at Stiles who’d tried to fit a plea to follow his lead into his eyes. “Naturists, good king of England. We bring blessings from Ireland.”

“You do not look like any naturists I’ve ever seen before.”

“I assure you Lord King, they are as they say…” Stiles tried but Derek cut him off.

“Then why were his hands upon you as though he intended harm?”

Stiles rolled his eyes quickly before answering, “This is Koda and Duke.” Stiles began using the names he knew nobles wouldn’t recognize of other nobles. Otherwise Derek was sure to know the names of the Irish princes, considering their striking appearances and twinship. “When my father traveled to Ireland I often played with these men, when they were just boys. They are close to the royal family and are close friends of my own family. That is why we are so… familiar. They only seek a short rest before they make their way back home. Will you allow it?”

Derek stepped forward further to inspect the men. They were tall standing at about six feet for the least with sculpted faces and an air of class about them. They were exactly similar to Derek in every physical way right down to the shared scar slashing across both of their left eyes. “That’s quite a distinctive scar you two share, I can’t imagine it was easy to come by, identical on both of you…”

“King Hale!” Stiles let out forcefully, drawing the man’s attention to focus completely on him. Derek turned immediately and looked into Stiles eyes. For the first time they both saw something there they’d never seen before. Stiles saw a desperation, a yearning and a weakness he wouldn’t match with Derek Hale any day. As for Derek he saw a softening, an opening for him as small as it was and that more than anything else, assuaged his anxiety and tempered his anger. In that single moment all he’d wanted to do was reach out and pull Stiles against him hard and not let him go. “Will you allow it?” Stiles asked again, almost begging, almost.

“You are welcome to three days of English hospitality, but this is a precarious time and it wouldn’t do for Irish nationals to get hurt while within my custody, and as I cannot guarantee your safety that is the best I can do.” He addressed the Irish but he never turned back to them, never took his eyes from Stiles as though he was delivering a hidden message. Stiles seemed to understand because his face ripened quickly and his heart sounded as though it would explode.

“Thank you good king,” Deucalion responded.

“I trust Lord McCall with the aid of Cromwell can get you situated. Perhaps now is best, while I speak with the prince of Scots.” All eyes shifted from Derek to Stiles each glance filled with concern.

“Perhaps we may speak another time I am not feeling to well at the moment and would prefer some rest…”

“Leave us,” Derek barked, overriding Stiles. Danny began moving but no one else did, their fealty sliding automatically to the young prince. Stiles looked to Scott and nodded signaling that they should take off. Scott reluctantly nodded in agreement and turned to gesture to the Irish brood. As soon as they were gone with their slow pace, and backward glances, Derek began slowly walking, turning back once to jerk his head forward after noticing Stiles hadn’t moved. “Walk with me, please.” Silently, Stiles did as instructed.   

They walked in silence together for a moment with Derek constantly looking down at the man at his side. “I don’t mean to upset you,” Derek began.

“What gives you the impression I am upset?” Stiles responded.

“You would rather avoid me, you won’t look at me and you’ve hardly said a word and you haven’t scowled or grimaced at me in a while, I’m getting worried.” The king waited silently for the smile that crept up on Stiles face before he allowed himself to chuckle at his own good humor. Just then a child crashed into Derek and fell to the ground. As quick as anything, Derek was there on his own knees picking the boy up. He got a good look at him and let out a roaring laugh which surprised Stiles. “Gray Crispin what are you doing falling into the king of England, I should have you hanged for your crimes sir,” His voice was serious then but the smile on his face and the look in his eyes wasn’t.

Stiles watched the lad get to his feet and raise his wooden sword to the king. “Never,” he said, “You’d have to catch me first,” he shot back with a wicked grin.

“Alas you are quite right Mr. Crispin for I would make poor a match for your speed and effortless grace. What’s your mother doing letting you out of her sight?”

“Ma’s preparing for the banquet m’lord she told me to be constructive with my time so I came to practice my dueling,” to punctuate the boy did a little flourish of his faux sword.

“Careful there, young knight I wouldn’t want to be done in before I accomplish anything.” Derek faked fear as he gestured for Crispin to put down the sword. He clapped the boy on the back and then turned to Stiles. “This is my friend Prince Stiles Stilinski.”

“Hi there,” Stiles said jumping in instantly. He’d always felt at ease with children.

“Are you really a prince? I thought King Derek was the last prince in England… well before he became King I suppose.”

“Yes I am a prince, just not an English one,” the last part he spoke in the Scottish brogue he’d long learned to switch on and off depending on the region he was in and the accent they held.”

“Run along now Crispin and don’t hurt…”

“I won’t hurt myself I swear m’lord,” he groaned, cutting Derek short.

“Well I was going to see anyone else but that too applies.”

“G’day king Derek, g’day prince Stiles.” With a wave and another sword flourish he skipped off to be a young lad.

“You’re quite good with him…” Stiles offered easily as Derek began walking again, leading him off into wherever.

“His mother works in the kitchens, she’s a good woman who lost her husband and he’s a good lad who lost a father, I can relate.” His voice didn’t change but Stiles could sense the dark turn in him.

“I am sorry that you lost your father…” Stiles offered in a sincere tone in an attempt to earnestly push forward that he did mean it.

“I appreciate you saying that,” Derek answered. “I have a question of my own though if you would oblige me?”

“What is this foreboding feeling that has suddenly come upon me…” Stiles let out sarcastically before turning to Derek who was looking at him half seriously. “Please do ask, it wouldn’t be fair otherwise.”

“Why did you run from me this morning?” Derek’s tone held no heavy emotion Stiles could detect. It was simply even. He’d even turned from Stiles so the prince wouldn’t have to feel too caught off guard or under heavy pressure.

“I can’t… imagine what you mean?” he lied through his teeth.

“I wasn’t asleep this morning Stiles, when you woke in my arms, I’d been watching your peaceful slumber for more than a few moments. I heard your heartbeat change when you were waking and I simply closed my eyes but my own heart was a thunderous din I’m surprised you didn’t hear it and realize…”

“I…” Stiles stopped, his entire body refusing to go further. He immediately began looking for a way out by identifying their surroundings. They’d entered the castle and had been walking down one of the halls. From the looks of it, it was a back hall leading to the throne room.

“Before you stutter yourself into a sick bed, we did not… nothing happened. I chased you, caught you, we played about and then ran together until you were exhausted and collapsed in the forest. I couldn’t resist the natural instinct to lie next to you, warm you up and ensure you were safe through the night.”

“So we didn’t have…”

“No, I would not take advantage of you in any situation and I am personally offended that you’d think I would.” He did look offended. He looked hurt and it was suddenly too much for Stiles.

“I can’t do this right now,” he murmured as he turned on his heels and tried to walk away. Before he managed to get very far there was a hand fastening around his wrist.

“Don’t walk away from me. I’m tired of you always running in the other direction.” Derek sounded angry but there was more hurt in his eyes than anything. “Why do you deny it?” he demanded, placing himself squarely in front of Stiles so that his pure mass seemed to block off all routes of escape. He took a step forward and Stiles took a step back.

“Dddeny what,” the cornered prince mumbled, seriously affected by the king closing in on him.

“Deny what is happening between you and I?” the king took another step and so did Stiles.

“What could happen, nothing that’s what.”

“Not nothing,” another step pushed Stiles back against the wall and Derek’s hands were suddenly pressed on either side of the wall and pinning the prince between him and it, two hard places.

“Please don’t,” Stiles breathed harsh and ragged, like he could barely get control of his own breathing.

“Don’t what, my prince, don’t want you, even if I could I can’t think of how I’d convince myself not to. Don’t think of you every waking moment, my mind won’t allow it. Don’t dream of you every time I shut my eyes, those eyes of yours won’t allow that either.” Derek’s right hand moved from the wall to cup Stiles’ cheek the touch almost electrocuting them both with the power behind it.

“This isn’t right, this could never work,” he eked out grasping desperately for a lifejacket.

“Stiles…”

“There are too many things,”

“Stiles…”

“You’re betrothed to…”

“Stiles shut up and let me kiss you, for it is all I ask this moment, all I have thought about for a long time now.” The desperation in the king’s voice for him sent Stiles reeling. Derek leaned in but at the last moment after staring at that perfect mouth draw near, he turned away, denying the king access.

“I can’t let you… I’ve never been…”

“What is it,” Derek said leaning back and looking with near wide eyes, his tone infinitely patient. “Have you never been kissed.”

“No, if you must know.” He hissed the words lifting his chin belligerently, finding pride in the midst of his own anxiety and fear.

“That is nothing to be shy about my prince. For it would be the greatest honor I could be bestowed to be the first to touch this lips with my mine.” The prince’s eyes almost glazed over as he watched Derek in disbelief. The king took his chance then, moving in before Stiles could shore up his defenses. Derek leaned in and placed his lips gently against Stiles’.  Stiles’ lips were soft and warm. The feel of it was more than he could have ever hoped for. Something so chaste and barely there gave the man more pleasure than any carnal encounter he’d ever experienced.

Stiles slowly reacted, allowing himself to be lost in the moment. Gently Derek let his tongue slide from between his own lips and through Stiles’ own as they reluctantly parted to let him in. At that moment Derek became slightly more aggressive. His hand moved from Stiles’ face so that he could snake an arm around the man’s waist. Stiles’ palms rose to press lightly against the massive wall of the King’s chest as Derek, invaded him, his personal space, taking the first of is virginities and stealing his last breath along with it until Stiles thought he was surely dying.

“Derek,” he whispered against lips as Derek slowly pulled back, his glowing scarlet eyes opening just as slowly to see emerald ones glowing back at him. He smiled and placed another kiss to the prince’s lips, before kissing his cheek and then his forehead.

“I think that’s the first time you’ve ever said my name.” The shit eating grin on the king’s face was enough to melt Stiles’ heart and bring laughter rumbling to the surface. Reality was faster though, crashing down on him fast and hard.

“I have to go,” he said, turning out of Derek’s hands with preternatural speed. Before the king could stop him, he was almost running down the hall.

“Do you see,” Peter whispered into Lydia’s ear after pulling her back through the doorframe where they’d watched the royal tryst unfold. That boy is a problem for you and the future of this country as well as all of Europe. Something must be down, to end his bewitching curse on the king. Someone needs to save us all from him, before it is too late, and you are sent away, and shamed. Your family disgraced and your country dishonored.” Peter’s venom poisoned the woman’s mind until her eyes glowed with her building rage.

“What would you have me do?”

Chapter Text

The cool breeze blew the dark and light fabric of the drapes that hung partitioning the world from the princesses’ room. The space was wide and large as befitting royalty no doubt. Paintings hung upon the walls depicting scenarios and people from different times and they were all placed in ways that seemed each work of art held somewhat of a personal touch to them all.

Lydia breathed out sharply when cold air danced across her soft, supple and sensitive flesh. Goosebumps rose where he blew soft, wicked breaths against her skin. The cold breeze followed his lips and kisses so that every place his mouth touched was quickly treated to a whisper of cold that sent fire racing through her veins and straight to her untouched core which made her undergarments wet with her excitement. He kissed trails from the nape of her neck to her lips and licked his way into her mouth with no resistance. Lydia settled into the man’s arms, dressed only in her silken night garments, the feel of which only added to the intensity of forbidden desire she was experiencing. The same thing she always felt when she and Jackson were fortunate enough to have moments away from the judgmental eyes of the outside world.

The princess responded so readily to him, their lips melting together like they were one. When he reluctantly ended the kiss she reached palm up to cup his face as he tucked lost strands of strawberry blonde hair behind her ear. “I love you,” he admitted his face reddening slightly, as it always did when he bared his vulnerabilities to her. She smiled at him but her eyes were serious, they flashed gold and turned to the human green they naturally were and every bit as much love as he had for her shone there.

“I love you,” she offered pointedly. Then her eyes darkened as she turned her mind almost unconsciously to the harsh realities of their situation. “Why must I have been born into so high a station.”

“Why must I have been born so far beneath you..” Jackson responded evenly his eyes trailing away with his words.

“You are not less than I. Please remember that,” she pleaded with him, her hand holding his face as she forced his eyes to stay with hers.

“The world we live in tells a different story my princess. How can we hope to continue with this? We don’t speak of it but we must, at some point. I am the baker’s boy and you are the daughter of the king and queen. If we were ever found…”

“It would not end well I know.” She got off her bed tossing back the sea of sheets that tried to entangle them and sighed. “And I know we should discuss this but for right now can’t we just enjoy these moments.” She sighed and turned back to face him. The young man who had stolen her heart from a distance and then every day again since they’d started their little trysts. “Can’t we just live in the now while we have it.

Jackson was about to speak when Lydia’s handmaiden Rebecca ran into the royal quarters flailing her arms with a frightened expression on her face. She didn’t need to speak for Lydia to know what she was about to say. “My lady my lady,” she called, “your parents are coming to see you right now…”

Before she finished Lydia had already darted to Jackson and hustled him to the curtains partitioning her quarters from her balcony. He grabbed her and kissed her harshly before disappearing into the waving mirror of fine silks. The young princess barely had the time to turn around to see her mother and father, king and queen of Denmark strolling briskly into her quarters. She gathered her robes about herself and folded her arms over her bosom.

“Lady mother, my lord father,” she bowed slightly,” what brings you to me room so early this morn.”

“I have delightful news my daughter,” the king announced as he approached her. Heavy yet gentled hands took her by her shoulders and beckoned her up and closer so that he could plant a kiss on her forehead.

“What is it then that couldn’t pace its reveal until breakfast.” She smiled staring from mother to father, waiting as they glanced to each other and then back at her. The king looked ecstatic while her mother a bit less so which worried Lydia.

“The new king of England is quickly establishing his empire but he is yet without a bride. And with no queen at his side and no heirs on the way he and his position are forever vulnerable,” the king explained as he walked over toward the balcony. Lydia turned and watched him, her face ripening the closer he came to the closed curtains.

“Father!” she almost yelled, catching his attention and forcing him to turn back and focus on her, “ahem,” she cleared her throat and coughed. “What does all this have to do with us father? What’s the good news?”

“You my beautiful princess, you will travel to England, and you will be courted by the king and become his queen.”

The shock left her speechless for a while. Her jaw dropped and her eyes burned with the tears that itched to fall instinctively knowing she wouldn’t be able to get out of this. “Father please wait,” She pushed a harsh hand through her hair as she stepped closer to the king. “Please I don’t want this. I don’t know the man and I surely don’t care for him. Up until a few days ago you wanted nothing to do with England’s monarchy yourself now I’m to join them, why?”

“Oh sweet child, this is your duty. I thought you would be pleased. You will be the most powerful woman in the world.”

“That means nothing to me. I want to be able to marry someone I love or at least care for, or know. Don’t force me to England please.” She pleaded with her father her hands clasping as she stood just before him.

“Lydia,” the king uttered as he took her clasped hands in his own. “We are royals, our duty is to our people and our kingdom. We don’t always get to put ourselves first. This is important and it must be done.”

“No,” she cried pulling her hands from her father’s. “Mother,” she said turning to Queen Nathalie. “Please talk some sense into father you cannot do this to me, this is insane and I won’t do it.” Just then her father grabbed her shoulder, spun her to face him and let his hand come crashing down across her face.

“Speak that way of your king again and you will be punished far worse than you thought was possible. And don’t you ever turn to your mother to change my decisions. How selfish can you be? We are at war yet we do not have the forces to save ourselves from our enemy and Denmark will be collected like a bauble on Derek Hale’s necklace if we do not find some way to endear the entire country to him. Otherwise people will die, your mother and I will die perhaps you as well and someone else will be gifted our home to run on his behalf. This way we prove ourselves to him and save ourselves and our people. Can you not see that!”

The king took a few calming breaths and reached out for her, to touch her but she flinched at his approaching hand and he stopped. “I’m sorry for striking you as I did. But you must understand there are few choices in this life we were born into. All of us must do our part, even you.” He sighed, staring at the hand print on her face with regret. The king walked to her door to exit but paused for a moment to call back one last thought. “You will go to England and you will be courted and you will charm the king into choosing you officially. If this fails, we will be endangered and disgraced Lydia. You have only one option please do not disappoint me.” At that he took his leave leaving his daughter and wife.

“Why did you not speak for me?” Lydia questioned her mother.

Nathalie did not respond right away, she walked to her daughter, place a hand lightly on her reddened cheek and took her daughter in her arms. “I’m sorry child, but how could I speak out against an idea which was mine to begin with.” Lydia pulled away immediately.

“What?” she asked a look of horror firmly etched on her face.

“Yes daughter, it was I who placed this idea in your father’s head, and I who set him on the path, he simply believes it was all his doing. Always remember men need to believe that they truly are the authority for the loss of confidence is what truly damns a nation.”

“But how could you…”

“Send you away to be married to a man you do not know or love,” the queen cut her off, “darling that argument has been used for years by every woman who comes to find she truly has no choice without power and even then when a woman becomes powerful and gains the ability to make choices she must keep her freedom and independence secret. Lydia your father’s approach may have been wrong but he is right, we, are right. When I was your age I was more or less sold to your father, I didn’t know him or love him but I learned to because it was my duty. Lucky for me he was a good man. You see as a princess you are simply a pawn in your father’s game, to be used as he sees fit. I found a way to make this beneficial for you as well. Besides there are no other options. If you truly think about all this you will see. This decision saves the lives of many including your own.” She paused to evaluate the defiant expression on her daughter’s face. “I know you care for the kitchen boy but it must end.”

Lydia gasped when her mother made the statement. It was a slap in the face as she’d been so careful. “How did you..”

“I am queen my dear, I’ve learned where my power comes from and just how to keep it. Besides I’m your mother, did you really think I wouldn’t notice the signs. I will take my leave so that boy can come in from the cold but say goodbye and don’t see him again or there will be consequences.” The queen walked away without a second thought. Lydia turned as Jackson came through the curtains cautiously. The dam that held back her tears before suddenly shattered as she looked upon him for the last time. He reached for her to hold her and whisper assurances she knew were lies…

*

*

Lydia turned ferociously her eyes still glowing as Peter mused about how threats should be eliminated. “You would see me murder a fellow noble. I could never get away with something like that. And if the king is infatuated with him it will only end badly for me.”

“I have not said the words murder my lady, but tis not a bad idea. I only believe that as the betrothed of the king there are many who would die to ensure you sit on the throne. And die to keep any obstacles out of your way especially one as dangerous as Stilinski. Do not underestimate your sway with these people. They know you and love you. “

“What you are asking is too much”

“All I ask is that you think on how best to deal with this problem an do what sits well with you, but have the courage to do what must be done. Save your happiness from this thief who would steal it from you.” Peter’s words were almost hypnotic snaring the young woman until she was actually shaking her head to be rid of his words.

“No!” she yelled and tore out of the room after Derek. She caught up to him quickly as he tried to go after Stiles. “My king!” she called out and slowed her own pace when he stopped and turned back to see her approaching. Lydia let go of her skirts and adjusted her hair before stopping in front of the king and painting a smile on her face.

“Princess Lydia,” Derek said almost awkwardly, like he’d been interrupted at the wrong time, which she knew he was.

“Are you excited for our wedding?” She stepped into his personal space and tried to put her hands on his chest but he side stepped so quickly she nearly missed the action. It left her hands falling awkwardly through nothing and back to her sides.

“Of course I am,” he recited as if the words were merely rehearsed. She wondered then how long he’d sounded like that, how long she’d ignored her own instincts in favor of blind duty.

“As am I, perhaps we can discuss some final arrangements that should be made.”

“Not now my dear, I have a few important matters to attend before time is lost.” He tried to turn away but she stopped him with a gentle hand on his arm and another curious question.

“What business is it, perhaps there is something I can assist with. After all if I am to be your queen I must share the burden of the heavy crown you wear.” She said it in her most beguiling tone, her eyes softening and her finger tracing light circles on the king’s bare flesh.

“This particular burden is my own to bear and not so dire that I should find the help of my bride to be to settle the matter. Worry not Lydia. All is well.” With those words he took off leaving her standing in a pool of her own racing thoughts, bleeding out of her as though the victim of physical torture.

“Do you see princess? He slips away, faster than you can grasp. Something must be done.” Peter whispered against her ear as they watched Derek disappear down the hall.

*

Stiles walked into the King’s dining room, his eyes darting nervously about for the man in question. The room was empty except for the two servants at the table setting it and the guard at the door he’d come through. He turned almost abruptly, instinctively, as if he could sense it. Sure enough the king was standing right behind him, evaluating him, appraising him almost. Scarlet eyes looked down on him and he knew he was helpless the moment he’d connected with them.

“Leave us,” Derek ordered and all who stood within range of his voice stepped out of the room until he and Stiles stood facing each other, unmoving. It had been a few days since they’d last stood face to face, since they’d touch each other in unchanging ways. Days since the king had taken what he wanted, finally.

“Where is the queen to be?” Stiles asked in a strange tone that leaked his Irish accent. It was his nervousness, uncontrolled that made him lose his grip on his brogue.

“Have I told you how the way you speak, your native brogue sends fire rushing through my veins. From the moment I first heard it. Why do you hide it?”

“I asked you first, where is your betrothed?” Stiles remained adamant even though his heart fluttered and his face brightened in reddish hues.

“She’s about, she will join us shortly, which is why I don’t want to waste this brief time.”

“And what would you do in place of conversation?” the prince ventured but he knew what the answer would be.

“I want to kiss you again. And I think you want me to as well.” Derek smirked at him his eyes settling back to their entrancing rainbow of color.

“I want no such thing,”

“Is that what you’ve told your friends?” Derek queued as he stepped forward and further into Stiles’ personal space. The other man didn’t retreat, finding he couldn’t move his legs. “That you don’t want me. That I forced myself on you?”

“I haven’t said a word to anyone, I would only like to forget that this has ever happened. Surely there would be a battle on our hands should Scott, Koda and Duke find out what you’ve done…”

“What we’ve done, you mean,” Derek whispered as he placed a hand on Stiles arm and let it feather down to his hand until their fingers were brushing lightly against each other. “And what of this Koda, the naturist? Something tells me I shouldn’t approve of your… attachment to each other.” His other hand followed the first making physical contact with the prince and Derek could feel through his skin how his heart was exploding in his chest.

“It is none of your concern who my friends are Lord King,” Stiles uttered defiantly but his body betrayed him the way it almost leaned into the king and his ministrations.

“No don’t do that, I only long to hear you say my name again as you did before. Please?” He made it a question and his eyes almost killed Stiles with their adorable sincerity.

“Der…” He tried but the weight of emotion accosting him was too much. “This is wrong, we can’t just…”

“Can’t we, I am the king of England.”

“With a princess waiting to be wed to you and I am your prisoner…”

“Not anymore, I fear the tables have turned young prince. It is I who is under your command now, say my name…” he whispered as he leaned in lifting his hand to cup Stiles’ cheeks. His lips closed on the prince’s so easily, so naturally, as though they were made for this. And the prince let him. Stiles let him take his pleasure once again. Derek suckled gently on his lip, not once probing him too harshly with his tongue. The kiss was so delicate and sweet Stiles almost cried. It was his second and just as perfect as the first. As Derek pulled away he moaned.

“Derek,” he cried softly, his eyes shut tight and forehead pressed against the king’s. Somehow his hands had ended up on the strong wall of his chest. “This is dangerous,” Stiles whispered.

“Do you honestly wish me to stop?” Stiles sighed and shook his head slowly. Needing no further invitation his arms curved around Stiles’ waist and his mouth moved in for another possession. He kissed the prince more passionately this time so that their tongues entwined in the warm caverns of their mouths darting back and forth, rubbing against each other, dancing an intimate movement to a tune their bodies received on instinct.

When they pulled apart, Stiles was breathless and Derek looked like a hungry predator. He looked up then, his eyes darting quickly to the closed door. Stiles heard it to and immediately backed away from the king, moving to a seat far enough from him without being suspicious. Lydia walked through the door with her two ladies then. The expression on her face was of reigned in fury.

“My king I’ve heard a peculiar tale and wished to shed some light on it. Your advisors, informed me that our wedding is to be postponed?” She made it a pointed question as she glanced from Derek to Stiles and back.

“Yes well, I’ve been informed that it would be best to push back the wedding until all our guests are able to attend. There is a bit of a situation with one of my kingdoms and it must first be resolved before we can hope to be wed.”

“Hope to, but…” She began but Derek cut her off, his eyes going to Stiles first and flashing red.

“I’m sorry but you must excuse me. I can’t possibly enjoy this meal while there is so much to do. Please though, do sit and eat and let not my troubles extend to you.” He began walking immediately cutting off any protests either of them might have had. As he walked out he walked past Stiles and brushed his hand against the prince’s as if an addict seeking one last dose of his chosen opiate.

Stiles turned to Lydia and gave her a forced smile as he sat down to eat. Lydia and her ladies sat down all the while her eyes not moving from where they lay fixed on the prince who simply ate in silence.

“He has become quite taken with you…” she let out the open ended statement as if searching for a specific response.

“I am his ward, his prisoner.” Stiles replied a little desperately.

“You are foolish if you still believe that. Maybe you cannot yet leave this land but you are no prisoner in this castle. Some might say you have more power than I hold and I am meant to be his queen.” Lydia let out the words matter-of-factly, completely void of any malice or anger.

“I do as I am told,”

“No you do something else, I cannot yet figure out what but he is influenced by it.” Has anyone asked you about your wolf’s eyes?”

“What about them?”

“They are green. I don’t know what you’ve heard but I have not yet come across green wolf’s eyes beside yours.”

“I am aware, my eyes are different and rare,”

“Not rare prince Stiles, unique. No other possesses what you do, clearly in more ways than one. Some might even call your unique possessions enchanting like sorcery.” As Stiles looked up at her, after her response which spoke to more than just one thing, he had no idea what to say. Lydia rose from her untouched food and her ladies followed suit. “You play quite the game, but your disregard for the others involved and the natural order of things might find you more trouble than you desire.” She turned on her heels, her ladies following suit and walked out of the dining hall leaving Stiles to his barely touched platter and a mess of worries. “Find Peter Hale and tell him I wish to see the huntsman, now!” She issued the silent orders to her lady Amelia who simply nodded her response.

*

*

Lydia adjusted her hat as she stood in the courtyard outside the carriage that had parked a few feet ahead. Her mother stood next to her with a solemn expression on her face. Lydia began to take a step but her mother stopped her.

“I suppose your animosity to me cannot be so easily assuaged for what I have done but soon you will see my daughter. We must make a sacrifice, that is the life we lead.”

“Except I am to be your and father’s sacrifice,” Lydia responded sharply.

Her mother shook her head. “I will tell you something child, my last lesson to you before you take your life into your own hands. Men run this world we live in. That has yet to change but the difference between us and the unfortunate women who are trafficked from one predicament to the next is that we are royal and powerful enough to run the men who run the world. Lest you thought they did it all on their own. Some think men are the only ones with a mind for battle and strategy and state. No, men think with their egos and their cocks and are far more ruled by their emotion than we are. They think because we let compassion guide our hand it makes us foolish and unfit but they are wrong.” She stepped closer to her daughter and took her chin between thumb and forefinger so that she tipped Lydia’s head up to catch her eyes. “Let him court you, beguile him, entice him and keep his affection. Reward his loyalty and subtly punish his callousness and disregard. Be the queen he desires, be all he desires and when you are in his castle in that which would be yours, do not wait for a crown to secure your reign, or ascension. Talk to the people, make them love you, need you. Win his kingdom and then turn the women. Have the women turn the men, turn all their hearts to you and watch. Monitor the state, monitor his affairs step in where you must and never let anything threaten your future or your happiness. A man, no a king’s power is bold and obvious, loud and harsh sometimes painful,” she stroked her thumb across Lydia’s lightly bruised cheek were her father had struck. “But a queen, a queen’s power is in her grace and mercy, in her beauty and subtlety, in the shadows cast by her spies and the silence of her poisons. Never let anyone or anything stand between you and the chance to be untouched and never give up that power, that individuality for anyone.” Nathalie hugged her daughter tightly to her as the king approached. She whispered, “And play the parts they need you to. Pretend to be whatever they need, it makes guiding their hands that much easier, trust me.”

As she let Lydia go the king appeared at her side. “My daughter,” he called, “safe journey, I hope you can forgive what you believe to be my slight against you someday.”

Lydia turned from her father to her mother and then back, something dawning on her finally, as though her mother’s words were the last bit of a puzzle she couldn’t solve. She smiled, a soft, kind smile. “I understand father, and I can’t forgive you…” she paused as she took in his expression and the way emotion flashed behind his eyes. “For there’s nothing to forgive. We must all play our parts, I know this to be true.” She leaned in and embraced her father who hugged her back tightly. Her eyes fell on her mother who was smiling and understanding passed between the two women.

*

*

Lydia turned away from the open window and her thoughts of times passed as the double doors creaked open. Her two ladies and a tall, muscular gentleman entered. They all bowed except for the man who took a moment to look her over before half bowing. “You are the huntsman Dante of the borderlands? The one who hunts any living thing for the right price?”

“Aye milady, that’d be me. I can’t see why you’d want my services being a royal and all but what is it that I may be doing for ya?” He responded quickly, his hands feathering over his empty holster.

Lydia looked him straight in the eye as she replied, her eyes glowing amber as she let the words let out with an even yet underlying sinister tone. “There is someone standing in the way of my happiness. I need your help to remove them.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

The door slammed hard behind him as he walked back into his quarters alone, or at least he thought he was. When he looked up from his thoughts he only then noticed how full the room was. Full of men he’d been keeping at a distance with what he believed to be good reason.  Ahead of him was Scott and Daniel, looking very strained and as though, they had been slightly defeated. Behind him, was Koda who’d closed the door and Deucalion sat off in a dark corner on his right.

Koda’s heavy arm fell onto Stiles’ shoulder as he ushered him along, deeper into the room until they were standing right before the bed where Danny and Scott had been standing. Koda turned the man about rather quickly and forced him to sit down. “It would appear, my prince, that we are being avoided which is very difficult as we… naturists are your guests and friends and Scott and Daniel here are your personal guard at this foreign court, so perhaps you could explain to me why you have been going out of your way recently to keep us at arm’s length.”

“Let him breath Koda, he’s been holding onto all kinds of secrets, we wouldn’t want him to choke on them and pass out now would we?” Deucalion offered his snarky bit from the shadows, his disapproval of Stiles’ treatment of them quite evident in his tone.

“You do realize my friend that honesty is usually the best course of action. I mean whatever is going on between you and this English king who has taken you captive is your business and we are far too sullied by our own past endeavors to judge you too harshly.” Koda’s tone softened as he spoke.

“Stiles, we just want to know what’s happening. You haven’t been yourself for a while now and it’s starting to worry me,” Scott offered as he moved closer his intent to place a gentle hand on his friend’s shoulder in a show of encouragement. Before his hand could touch though he lowered himself, in a half bow and sniffed the air around Stiles, his eyes going wide with shock and, if it was at all possible, even more worry. “Stiles,” he worried out loud, his silent accusation confirmed by the reluctant return of glance Stiles gave him. Eyes flashing for a split second before become docile brown pools once more.

“I beg your pardon,” Duke announced as he and the others did the same as Scott, all taking their cue from him. Stiles silently cursed the gods for allowing wolves to have such heightened senses. He wasn’t even sure how Lydia had missed the telling mingling scents that gave away him and Derek’s careless indiscretion.

“What have you done?” Scott asked out in the open now.

Stiles turned his head from them all but couldn’t hide the way he worried at his bottom lip with his teeth. “I think…” He started and then paused before the overwhelming riptide of emotion escaped his being the wrong way. “We’ve,” he paused, “Shared something.” He seemed almost dazed as he admitted it. His eyes became wet with confused and defeated tears. I’m afraid I don’t despise Derek Hale as I’d thought.” He tried to ignore the ease with which he mentioned Derek’s name, and the pleasure it gave him to say.

The first eye he’d caught when he’d come back to himself was Koda’s and there was a shallow covering of concern and care in his eyes that topped a deep hurt Stiles was able to catch before the man’s expression darkened eyes flashing red and back so quickly it looked like his eyes were like blinking stars in the sky. “This is what you’ve been hiding.” He said matter-of-factly through clenched teeth.  

“With good reason brother,” Deucalion butted in rising to his feet, his own eyes alight with a different look. Disappointment and a profound loss for understanding of any of what was happening. “You of all people, how did this happen. He kidnapped you, he hides you here and lays claim to you he cannot so much so that we, the princes of Ireland are playing pretend on your behalf so as not to incur the wrath of your jealous lover. What a strange predicament we find ourselves in.” He ended in a very curious polite tone, like the one people used for sarcasm.

“Whatever happened to not judging me and being honest, is this not exactly what you asked for. The bare truth is at your feet, do with it what you will,” he said a tad bitterly and turned his head pointedly to a side so he could stare off into the considerable lack of unoccupied blank space.

“Stiles we’re not…” Scott had tried to start but Koda was quick and had slowly been inflating with rage. When he spoke his voice loud and thunderous and scary and he walked right up to Stiles face to speak, not touching him but commanding his attention as the man fumed.

“How dare you. Perhaps you have forgotten who you are and the world that we live in. You don’t think you hate him the way you once did. What would it matter how much you did or didn’t like him. The man is a tyrant, he kidnapped you and has held you here every day and for what, so he could slowly woo you into being his own while he marries the pretty little Denmark Princess because he wants a queen and the heirs she will bring. You think you have feelings for him, romantic feelings, that’s a laugh or maybe you are just not the person I thought you were.” The moment he’d said those particular words, Scott was sure it was all over, he was going down a dangerous road and nobody would be able to stop or save anyone else. “Perhaps you’re not the caring, fair, considerate man I had thought you’d grown to be. Maybe you easily forget the one’s that love you as you’d not bothered to see to my brother and I and our people since we’ve come here and played this game of yours. Oh and let’s not forget the one that loves you most of all. After all your father who was injured on the battlefield hasn’t seen you in oh just a few months but why should that even matter to you at all, not when you have the affections of the English…” he didn’t get the opportunity to finish that thought. There was a blur of glowing emerald a very loud, very disheartening, smack, crunch and then crash. When everyone managed to finally settle their eyes Koda had been launched a few feet back on the ground, his nose was bleeding furiously and his face was a mask of utter shock and pain. Not the surface kind though, the kind that comes from deep beneath the surface that leaves you feeling as though your entire planet shifted and the deathly consequences litter your feet.

“Don’t you dare ever talk about me and my father that way!” Stiles was fuming with a dark rage he didn’t know personally. His eyes as green as they glowed were dark and heavy. The glow multidimensional as it seemed to almost emanate from his head and leak out wherever he moved. Scott automatically moved to rest a hand on his shoulder but the slight twitch from Stiles body as if bracing for impact stopped him.

Koda quickly and elegantly brought himself up to his feet, full height and stature. A powerful hand came up to his nose to reset it with an audible crunch that set Stiles eyes transitioning back to their more manageable honeyed brown. As his eyes changed so did the expression on his face going from volatile rage, to shame, regret and despair. Koda stared hotly at him for a moment, his eyes filling with something Stiles was afraid to see but couldn’t look away, tears…

With no word, Koda turned from the prince then and walked out the room, not storming, or making a scene, just a quiet exit and that’s how Stiles knew what he did was damn near damaging to the man not to mention it had earned him Deucalion’s wrath. The room was silent for a few moments after Koda left. Everyone seemingly waiting for something to happen.

“I didn’t mean to…” Stiles tried but Deucalion didn’t give him a chance.

“Just like you didn’t mean to fall for the enemy, but you did Stiles. You know how he has always felt about, you, your lack of reciprocation he got over, but to come and find you give that heart which was far too good for him to a man who has brought nothing but suffering and pain to both our lives and our people, can you possibly for a moment fathom the pain he was in before you ended it so violently just now…” Duke pinned Stiles with a glare and it wasn’t anger he saw anymore but disappointment. That was too much. He began to weep where he stood. In response Duke simply sighed and announced he was going after his brother if he hadn’t managed to kill himself yet.

Each word was another knife wound to his heart, breaking him in ways he hadn’t even realized was possible. He turned around, trying to gather himself, even while conscious of the flood of tears streaming down his face and the loud harsh groaning that escaped his throat as he cried out his pain. His eyes caught Danny there, staring at him. The man averted his eyes almost immediately but not quick enough to hide the confusion and maybe even disappointment.

Emerald leaking pools found Scott’s puppy dog brown ones and he lost all control. Stiles began a collapse to the floor which Scott barely managed to break with his arms. He pulled his best friend into his arms and held him tightly. Scott smelled like iron and, leather and Scotland and in that moment, Stiles cried for more than himself, more than his illicit relationship with his jailor or his tumultuous confrontation with a man who loved him more than he could fathom, he cried for more than the hurt he was causing the Denmark princess Lydia and the way she looked at him with fire and ice in her gaze. He cried for more than Koda’s pain and Deucalion’s wrath, Scott’s comfort and Daniel’s disappointment. They may not have understood everything about Derek and Stiles and what was happening but they weren’t all wrong. So He cried, he cried for his mother’s long absence for she would have the words of wisdom that would lead him to the right decision. He cried for his father’s separation knowing exactly why they were apart and how he had dishonored those circumstances. Finally, he cried for his home because he had long been from it, long since, run through the mists and forests of the highland.

Scott looked up at Danny and as if they had all been brothers from the beginning of time, the third man knelt to the ground where Scott had eased himself and Stiles and he wrapped his arms around them both, sealing Stiles in the center of their arms, where a soothing calm and comfort could engulf him and quiet him. They remained that way for so long neither of them could really tell. They remained until the prince had cried himself to sleep and even then they stayed, protecting his still bleeding heart from the bereft feel of loneliness to his subconscious.

 

*

She gasped sharp and deep as her body shot up off of the bed where she’d been resting. Her eyes were engulfed in white and she seemed to completely freeze in position as if the moment had paused while her mind travelled elsewhere. In her mind’s eye fragments of scenes unfolded like watching a play in pieces or through the eyes of a diseased mind that left the present often, returning only at random intervals. There was a woman, or at least it seemed like a woman she spoke, her voice was thick and heavy though she spoke in hushed tones. “He will be where he is meant to…” she said before she faded along with the dark background she stood before. Another woman came into view now, much clearer. She had dark hair stark like a raven’s wing. She walked briskly through a hall that seemed to slowly build itself brick by brick around her as she moved. Her feet clothed in soft peasant’s shoes and her body adorning a long brown skirt and white bodice covered by a large brown shawl. She was a commoner, had to be. Her hands seemed dusted with a film of some white powder,

She paused in front of a door and knocked on it three times wrapping loud enough to be heard but soft enough to not seem rude. When the door opened there was a silhouette but the seer was unable to make out who had peered through the open frame. “The king wishes…. his majesty the…” the words came in and out as though sound could merely be controlled by one dial that someone seemed to keep turning up and down in her head. “No…” Marin heard emanating from the silhouette but then there was another and she only needed to see the glowing green to be certain. No one had eyes like those, none but for the prince of Scots himself. “…the forest,” the young woman finished and dismissed herself having given the message she’d been sent with. And just like before the entire scene crumbled to give way to the construction of a new location. Yet it was insubstantial. The entire scene was all walls of darkness, but this time Marin was there, walking on solidified shadow, with skirts in hand. She followed the same path winding down, taking note of the crisp fresh smell and the sound of running water. There was a loud cracking sound and a feel of wind rushing past her ear and when she turned she noticed the arrow lodged in a large mass of black. Blood started to ooze from the shadow painting it all over as it leaked and spread, coming alive. It spread fast and far painting the entire scene in scarlet.

Marin stared intently watching what appeared to be a forest become animated in blood and as she looked down she saw it creeping up her leg, engulfing her bare feet and swallowing her gown. She called out, screamed tried to run but she couldn’t move. She screamed one more as a voice called out in a thousand tones. “…there is someone standing in the way of my happiness…”

She woke with a start, falling back to the bed, her eyes normalizing, pupils returning. “No!” she hissed as she threw herself off the cot. “She rushed to the corner of her room where she kept her family’s chest. It was large and a curious shade of obsidian. The wood was mountain ash, a precautionary measure. She opened its large gold ornamented lid and lifted first the uniquely shaped stone, a crescent moon. Her eyes darkened as her mind quickly travelled to thoughts of someone who she’d missed for far too long, a sacrifice to the commitment of their callings. She placed the stone down and rifled through the chest for the crystals. When her hands settled on the several crystals of varying colors from amber to mint she retrieved them all and positioned them in a circle around herself. She faced a full length shard of mirror she kept framed against a wall and stared into it, but not to stare back at herself. She looked into it as if there was something in there she was trying to find. Her eyes peered in and didn’t stop at its surface but ventured much further, much deeper as if there was a journey to be made and at its end she’d find exactly what it was that she needed.

After a moment, the natural light that was rather scarce in the dark room seemed to increase, creeping its way into the room through cracks and over surfaces and by crawling along the walls toward each crystal. The light filed into the crystals filling them as they began to hum and glow crying out in a tone so low yet so high a frequency no one could hear.  Marin never took her eyes of the glass. And as they remained, they seemed to glow themselves as if channeling the reactions of her crystals. Her lips moved all the while, mouthing words, stringing together incantations in an old Irish variant that most wouldn’t even begin to comprehend.

Suddenly, signaled by the music of the crystals, harmony of her incantation and heavy energy filling the room, the glass became slightly misted and alive. It seemed as though a new world was initializing in the mirror. The mist rushed forth then as though someone was travelling over a large distance at great speed. Along the side of the slipstream one could see figures as if landmarks on a journey. It all then stopped, at a shadowed man’s back.

“Servant of the crystal cave I call to you, hear me now. Find seclusion and look to my form in the world of reflection.” The figure remained completely still for a moment and then there was an unmistakable nod of his head before he began moving. The mirror followed him as he turned corners and opened doors. Finally he entered another door and paused, waiting, listening. He then moved, turned toward Marin and bowed,

“Your servant hears your call my lady, what urgency forces your hand like this?”

“He is in danger..” she hissed.

“No my lady he was rescued last eve from the stray wolf,” Boyd responded proudly.

“Then you are wrong for I see no danger from his own kind but from another. There is blood on the future, lots of it, it is undeniable. A plot of some malcontent from within the castle. A hunter, will slay him if you do not save him. It happens soon I feel it. The forest, you must find him, get the king there.”

“My lady…” he replied, alarmed and confused. “I thought.. it will be done,” he finished resolved.

Her eyes softened. “Warrior I know you struggle. I have faith in you because you are worthy of it. Now go rescue our future before it is too late.” Boyd nodded and turned away. All too quickly the image dropped, and light that glowed from the crystals faded. Marin fell to the ground, holding her head, blood, leaked from her left nostril. She wasn’t ready to do that quite yet, she’d not yet recovered from her last few visions.

 

*

Stiles stared out the window as he fastened his belt, the final touch on his ensemble. His eyes were dark, tired his cheeks flushed and lips a bit swollen from biting down his cries. If he hadn’t healed completely it’s because he didn’t want to. “Are you sure this is what you should be doing right now my friend?” Scott queued concerned.

“Yes perhaps it would be better to find the Irish nobles and…” Danny trailed off unsure how to proceed after all he didn’t know them at all and this was Stiles’ private business. As much of a friend as he had become he didn’t want to overstep, he knew how Stiles could react to that now.

“I appreciate your doubled concern but I know what I have to do. I’ve hurt Koda and he needs his space but he hurt me too,” he knew it was a illusionist’s compromise as he said it but he didn’t care. “and I need my space as well, to think things through…” …and find comfort in Derek’s arms. He didn’t say the last bit.

“But to meet with the king,” Scott started but Stiles held up a hand.

“That’s just it, even if didn’t want to he would still be King and I would still be unable to refuse. The request is a façade, even now. I know that, but there are things that must be said.” He sounded so sure of himself, so convinced.

“At least let us accompany you?” Scott pleaded.

“No old friend, I know these woods now I will be fine.” With that he hugged Scott quickly to silence him, patted Danny’s arm and left to go find his King.

*

The landscape of the forest bathed in the amber kaleidoscope of the setting sun’s light was breathtaking. Even one such as Gerard had to stop and admire its beauty and serenity before he set off to lay his traps for the oncoming prey. Gerard had neither love nor hate for the wolfkind he simply sold his ability to end them to whoever desired one gone. In this case it so happened to be the imprisoned prince of Scots. “This might be fun,” he muttered as he turned away from the dying light and set off into the woods.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

The hard sound of heavy boot-falls on the castle floors were a thundering herald that the king and guard were about. Derek took the helm of the three man ship while Boyd, who had rose tremendously under the king’s favor and Isaac brought up the rear, completing a triangular formation. Their boots were echoing beacons announcing authority, power and presence. Derek’s face was a more carefree shade than it had been in quite some time. His feelings for Stiles continued to grow every moment of the day and he welcomed it easily. Isaac was a quiet simple accompaniment while Boyd seemed more anxious. It was his roundabout suggestion to the king to include the prince in a sparring session. Naturally it had been a well-designed ruse to get Stiles into Derek’s line of sight and thereby safe in his immediate custody.

As the three men walked by, all they passed in the halls would stop and bow eloquently to their king showing their respect. Derek noticed the small flutter of anxiety within himself as the door to Stiles’ rooms loomed closer. His hand was preparing itself, balling up and becoming a fist before he even stood at the door. A small smile stole at his lips before he registered it, not that he would care. He felt, happy, genuinely happy, which wasn’t without its own complication but it was worth it. A soft polite wrapping on the door returned no answers from within, though Derek’s auto-tuning ears identified two beating hearts. Neither of them sounded right though.

“Prince Stiles,” he called as he knocked on the door once more and waited as patiently as his breeding and possessive nature would allow. Behind him the two men who followed exchanged a look at the king’s oddly accommodating behavior. Derek was generally a good man but a royal’s entitlement was never lost on him to say the least. Silence, again was the answer for a short skip of beats before, the door pulled open. They were greeted then not by the Prince but his best friend.

Derek’s smile twitched as he peered almost right through the man and then looked behind his head. “Lord McCall, I trust you are well.”

“Aye your majesty, but I…” he trailed off looking immensely confused. He too peered about Derek’s person not to register the guards who trailed him but as if he expected another.

“Where is Prince Stiles?” Derek questioned eloquent and cordial. He began moving forward without invitation as the entitled often do. Once he’d entered the room he locked onto the other heartbeat, being Daniel Cromwell. The king’s face fell. Danny’s cheeks reddened and his eyes narrowed in utter confusion to mirror the faces of everyone besides Isaac who simply had no idea what was going on.

Scott turned and followed the king his mouth opening for a pause before he spoke. “I don’t understand, why are you here, king Derek,” he added with a bow so as not to seem disrespectful.

Derek turned swift and hard facing Scott with glowing red eyes. “I don’t like your tone McCall,” he commanded warningly.

“I think we misunderstand each other lord king. I only query why you’ve come here when my liege has already set off to find you as requested.” Scott articulated his explanation quickly.

“Requested, by whom?” the question crawled free of his thin lips and grinding teeth a deadly whisper. Isaac’s tensing body caught up to the present situation as he began to intently listen to the goings on. Boyd feared inwardly as his mind started working. Scott and Danny exchanged a worried look as Scott responded.

“By you my king. A servant delivered a message that you requested the prince meet with you in the forest.”

At that moment the room became heavy with tension most of which emanated from the wolf king. The room was thick and heavy with it, so palpable it could be touched, as certain as it held each man fastened in place.

“I made no such request! I’ve sent no orders and certainly commissioned no servants this day, well not to fetch me the prince as you can see I’ve come to him myself and you tell me that I have sent him elsewehere.” Derek admitted the facts as he thought over what he’d learned.

“If it was not you, then who called for him?” It was Danny who put out the question and as the other eyes turned to paint him to the room the fear in his own eyes was matched four times over.

*

A fresh English rain had fallen, a light drizzle that had brought down the sky scents from their perch to hold the attention of those walking through the hedges of rain drops. Stiles walked through the woods almost leisurely. Every step he took disturbing not one twig or fallen leaf. The wolf in him coated every characteristic. He was graceful, quick and dangerous as he moved through the forest only half thinking about the walk, his mind more focused on the destination.

It would have been a good idea to ask exactly where in the forest the king had thought to summon him to, but for some reason that question wasn’t included in the conversation with the maid that had come to deliver Derek’s summons. He hadn’t worried though, somehow he felt as though Derek would be in the place they had first slept together, as wolves through the night of a full moon.

Just the thought of that experience made him audibly gasp. It was so intimate, and though he might not remember all presently in time the closer he comes with his wolf the more he would recall. But such a thing was often only done when it was a wolf and his true mate, spending a full moon night together, alone, just a pair under the influence of the primal change force.

A sharp pain clenched his heart for a moment as his mind flashed to another. The one he’d truly hurt most of all in this whole, whatever it was. Koda. He’d put hands on Koda, the only man besides his father and his best mate he knew for certain would do, give or sacrifice anything for him, except maybe, he wasn’t so sure, Deucalian was off limits. When it came to Stiles Koda tended to become fiercely protective and unwaveringly loyal. Stiles had seen the twins arguing over something he’d done once, Duke condemning him and Koda defending. The argument did not become very heated but Koda had pushed until Deucalian dropped the matter and apologized. When he’d walked away, Koda winked at him and promised as long as he was about Stiles would always be safe, happy and free.

The stray memory brought a shimmering pool to his eyes causing the honey brown in his eyes to glint like amber in a beam of sunlight. Koda loved him, completely, totally and irrevocably. Stiles had even sometimes wondered if they were meant for each other but he was simply too young to feel the bond. Once he’d gotten older he started to wonder if Koda might ever find love when he was so invested in his own love for Stiles.

“What am I doing?” he threw the question to the squirrels scurrying rapidly over the high branches, to the pigeons flying low overhead to perch on tree tops to survey the ground, to the ants retreating ahead of him into their colony. He’d hit Koda, and for what telling the exact truth, because he didn’t want to hear it. He’d offended an old friend and it didn’t sit right with him.

But what of Derek? He heard the thought echo in his brain and hit the walls as it bounced back and forth. There was something there, he was certain of it. They just needed to figure it out. Stiles focused on the path as he neared the place where they’d slept together. “Derek?” he called out not seeing or really smelling too much. The rain fall had messed with the scents on the ground, but just on a breeze came a familiar scent of male, leather and wine he could attribute to Derek. He couldn’t help the unbidden smile as he turned to walk toward the faint scent he noticed the smile and felt a pang of guilt for his happiness after what happened with Koda. He also noticed he was starting to feel warm, physically, but it was a tingling warmth that burst like bubbles against his skin.

*

The thunder of boots were much louder leaving the prince’s quarters than approaching them. There were added feet to the march and with the determination and fear that drove them the sound of their shoes hitting the ground beneath them were a trumpeting command announcing their approach an that all before should make themselves scarce as this was certainly not the time to get in the way of a king’s procession. Anyone who eyed their faces as the team of men navigated their way through the castle, would have commented on the dire strain in each of their faces, set in grim hard masks as they moved as quickly as their feet carried without breaking into a full run. Scott and Derek competed for the lead, Scott putting his etiquette in the presence of royalty aside when the life of his best friend, his brother was presumably in danger. Danny was slightly behind them and to Scott’s right while Isaac and Boyd rushed behind and to the left of Derek.

“Isaac find Alan,” Derek called without looking back, his voice was sure and precise as if he’d crafted every word of the order in his mind before he’d given it. “Tell him that I require him to lead fifteen men into the forest to aid in our search for Prince Germin. Right now he could be unharmed but I would not risk the chance that whoever requested this meeting under false pretenses only wanted to exchange a few private words.”

“There are far less treasonous ruses to employ.” Boyd added from the side as his mind worked out his own strategy for finding Stiles and keeping him safe. His eyes were intense with the secret knowledge he did have. The forecast from the Lady Marin. Blood on the future she’d said, and now this. His eyes darted to Derek’s face. He could only see it from the one side but he could tell that behind the cold stone mask the king portrayed he was in desperate anxiety and dare he even think it, fear.

“Go!” Derek barked to Isaac who kept up in case there was anything else the king would add. The booming order had barely sounded before Isaac turned on his heel and bounded down to the east wing where he’d be most likely to find the King’s favored council and trusted knight Alan Deaton.

The soft sunlight barely crept past the netting of greying clouds that had ensnared the skies massively in some places and less so in others. The cold breeze bringing scents of ocean and greenery was a cruel whip against their skin and in their noses. They were masters of the wild where Stiles was assumed to be but the wind, the outside world, merely reminded them that anything beyond the walls of the castle was part of an expanse that was far more than even an army could traverse thoroughly enough and in time. Hopefully not enough time had passed to pull Stiles far enough away from them that they couldn’t find him.

The men stole across the grounds in a tensed but focused silence. People in the courtyards stopped their daily goings-on to cast a weary or curious eye their way. Their tight formation was like palpable ball of power that emanated a cold vengeance as they made haste across the grounds to the forest entrance Stiles would have used, Deucalion caught Scott’s eye only because he was moving toward them on a trajectory that would place him in their way and knowing Duke he would stop them or attempt to before Derek ripped his clean off rather than entreat the Irish prince in disguise to aid. He frowned and turned his head even as he continued to walk a perfect path toward their goal without watching ahead or bumping into his companions.

“Something is wrong.. Stiles…” Scott called out to Duecalian’s unasked question. A testament to the kinship they shared, Duke nodded and opened his mouth but he voice Scott hear came from the man he had not seen. “We’re coming.” Koda hadn’t moved with his brother when they’d seen the strange fellowship galloping down the way. They had both found it strange the opposing collection of team mates moving with such single minded purpose but Koda was still reeling from his own trials that day he didn’t care to be concerned but when he’d heard Stiles was in trouble or might have been, as if there were a distinction his body shifted from one state of being to the next and he responded instinctively.

He was moving and so was his brother and in formation they formed to add to the king’s numbers. Derek didn’t stop but his eyes did veer off to the right where the men had joined closer to Scott. “I don’t know what use naturists would be if there is a fight..” his voice was cold but level.

“Then let us pray that prince Stiles has not been lured into a violent situation,” Duke took up before Koda was swiftly drawn from his focused calm to the jealous place which would certainly shoot back with a few choice words for the king.

 

 

*

Stiles noticed how much slower he had been moving. To non-wolfkind it might have not even occurred but he’d started walking two paces less every ten seconds and he’d also had to work on keeping his breathing even and it hadn’t been easy. The tingling warmth on his skin had certainly not come from the inside and it was starting to feel slightly searing like a burn. It was more prominent on his legs where he had worked through the grass. The path he’d been following had become less and less sure as he’d noted his loss of the scent he’d been tracking, the scent he’d attributed to Derek.

It wasn’t that the scent had faded though, it was more like he couldn’t pick it out of the air anymore. Like his ability to sift through the chemical changes in the environment, in the air had simply become ineffective. It bothered him greatly, the less wolfkind he felt, he wondered if it was because of his anxiety but he couldn’t escape the harrowing feeling that there was something he was overlooking.

He had walked out of the trees and followed a clear pathway along the line of a creek which led to some caves just barely hidden by the largely grown vegetation. The tree line was a distance off from the short blades of grass that seemed almost tended to and neat toward the cave entrance. The water between Stiles and the other side o the forest was crystal clear and glistening in the sunlight but slightly dimmer than he’d think it should be, at least to his eyes.

Further ahead along the path the entrance to the cave became more obvious. The mouth slowly came into view as he moved toward it, the dark opening revealing itself behind and through the wide long leaves growing high from the ground. It was oddly quiet, he noted the absence of the squirrels and birds, even the smaller creatures, bugs, snails and other things that slithered and crawled amongst vegetation. Stiles wondered in forced privacy why he continued on when he had this feeling, when he’d not yet even seen or spoken to Derek, when he hadn’t caught a scent on the winds in some time or heard more than the average ear, or when felt a hot sticky tingling burn on his skin. Still he kept on thinking if there was nothing and no one there he would keep his patient calm until he could turn his righteous fury onto the king wherever he was.

The cave was very dark, too dark. As Stiles walked into the depths of the earth’s mouth he became incredibly uneasy, regretting his blind faith or was it hope for taking him so far outside his comfort zone and for what… He tried but as much as he focused or reached within he couldn’t access that part of him which would allow him to see in the dark recesses of the cave as clear as if he were standing in an open field in the middle of the day. He continued on slowly, “Derek,” he called out expecting not to hear anything at all and he was certainly not disappointed. He could just barely make out the end of the cave. It was a few paces further and seemed like dull obsidian grey as if a shadow taking form. He stopped completely and breathed out heavily. As he turned to leave pondering his utter disappointment he saw it and his gut clenched.

There were few times fear truly had gripped him in his life, and that is to say true fear. The kind that brings with it a heat under the skin but a cold sweat atop it. An irrationally fast heartbeat he couldn’t justify at the very least because of the racing of his mind that placed him in a closed off tunnel trying to find a way out running a thousand scenarios. This was one of those times. He scanned the man and noted the hand on the crossbow in one hand and the other on the hilt of the sword sheathed to his side. Stiles instinctively stepped back a few paces and wasn’t quite certain what had struck him first. It might have been the sound of the high pitched screeching that seemed to drag on forever before the combined dull sharp crack of metal on bone accented by the squelching of flesh and squirting of blood, or it was the intense layered pain that slowly and excruciatingly revealed itself as the contraption he’d unknowingly retreated into snapped closed around his leg like the steel jaws of a giant beast.

It seemed like he was experiencing the situation from inside himself and outside. He saw it happen to him and felt it in sections. He watched his own mouth open, once soft and supple, naturally reddened lips now pulled taught and a fleshy, yellowish white color which would match the pale white of his face perfectly. Stiles heard the voice if one could even call it that, sound so foreign to his ears as the echoing scream nearly lit up the cave in a color synesthetic event. They weren’t pleasant, the colors a dark shroud of shifting shadow overhead, while his leg felt as though icy flames had engulfed his foot to the very bone of his ankle. He barely saw a few feet in front of him but was able to catch the grin that had broken over the man’s face as he tilted his body at an angle which allowed light to Illuminate his distant features.

 

*

“Why was he even walking about the grounds unaccompanied?” Derek demanded his head snapping to Daniel, pinning him with a cruel stare that threatened vengeance for his failure to assume the role he was appointed to. After a long stare he flashed his wicked eyes toward Scott so he would be made well aware that the accusation in his question extended to the highland lord as well.

Danny opened his mouth to respond but then turned his head and forced his narrowing eyes straight ahead. A still, blank expression spilling across his face. Scott caught the sight of him and immediately felt sympathy for the man. “My liege did demand he be left to his devices Lord King. As he is my master and by your appointment Lord Cromwell’s I imagine you might understand our hesitation toward displeasing our master by disobeying his word.” He looked to Derek for merely a fraction of a second before turning his cold gaze away as if unwilling to waste another moment giving him such precious focus. The words were a secure defense, a direct challenge and with the merit and grace behind it all there was not much Derek could do but huff and flare his nostrils.

The flare was not just at his displeasure of the company or the situation they were thrown together in but also because, the scent of Stiles had been becoming weaker and weaker in his nostrils until it was such a faint wisp of chemical on the wind that he couldn’t identify it from the cold numbness of wind blowing passed I'm. They had run out passed the physically familiar patch of nature Derek and Stiles had slept in. When he’d walked through growing blades of grass budding from the soil under longer blades that had looked trampled or broken he’d felt a warmth he allowed for only a moment. The scent had brought them down through dark trees growing so closely together they almost posed a serious obstacle to the men. A light could be seen off further in the distance as if the trees cleared up some ahead.

“I can’t…” Scott started, pausing as if he were afraid to even speak the thought lest he brought life to the idea but Deucalion picked up and finished what he couldn’t, no, wouldn’t say. “I can’t pick up a scent anymore.” He said levelly, thinking, his eyes dark with the shadow of his racing thoughts, they touced at Scott’s face and an answering fear met him.

“I'm sure if we fan about we can pick it up again,” Derek groused, irritated that not even he could deny Deucalion’s words.

“I do not mean his scent I mean any scent,” Duke confessed in an expulsion of breath.

“I know and do you feel that against your skin, the sensation?” his brother chimed in their minds beginning to work and feed off each other.

“Aye, my legs have been on with the burn for some time now.” The response was quick, ready.

“Mine too, it started a while back when we went through that clearing, it is like a tingle on the skin and then my legs got warmer and the tingle got sharper until it felt like a burn or somewhat. I assumed I would heal, I mean wasn’t paying that much attention to it in light of… the situation…” he trailed off.

“What do you think it is, Duke?” Scott asked, turning to the calmer of the twins. He knew it to be true because he felt exactly what Daniel had described.

“I have a suspicion but you’re not going to like it,” he drawled his Irish brogue thick and wispy leaving the barely audible t in the it drifting off into the winds in a crescendo-ing release.

“Out with it,” Derek called his temper already high but he tried to maintain his calm in an effort at the very least to get to Stiles quickly. He too couldn’t deny something was affecting them in some way leaving them unable to track the way they should normally be able to. His eyes drifted passed Deucalion’s tilted shoulders which faced the king, to his brother who had stooped low to inspect a plant.

He had given thought to the man on and off, the way he was so close to Stiles, the way he looked at him, the way he jumped right in to come find him when earlier he’d seen the man storming away from the prince’s wing in a furious rage which suggested to Derek that maybe Stiles really was not lying to him when he implied there was no relationship between them but if he was being honest, even then, he didn’t believe it. This man who was as attractive as any he had admired either from afar or up close had feelings of some kind for Stiles, his Stiles and they were immense.

“This feels like wolfs-bane poisoning.” The words were a grim sentence expelled from Deucalion’s mouth. It meant so much at once and for all those who had comprehended exactly on how many levels this just escalated the terror was in their eyes. It reflected easily from Scott, to Deucalion and Derek. Daniel spoke up not yet having pieced it all together. “That’s impossible, wolfs-bane does not grow in these forests and the growing of it outside the proper facilities is outlawed besides…”

“Here,” Koda interrupted as he stood to his full height holding something delicately between his thumb and forefinger outstretched. The look on his face was a mixture of concern and disgust as he held up his hand so they could look. He held up a stem from one of the plants growing nearby, it had large broad leaves that fanned out like hearts and thin long stems which connected leaf to main stem. Scott furrowed his brow wondering why a plant could make Koda look so personally affronted, but as he stepped closer he noticed something strange. There were tiny grains of what appeared to be bluish dust covering the leaves and stems.

“I wouldn’t recommend touching it,” Koda said, “well besides having been walking through it this far.” The others came closer to look closely at the plant, Duke had hung back letting Derek and Daniel see. “This…” Derek began and Koda finished pointedly,

“is certainly wolfs-bane, blue wolfs-bane. Someone has dusted this part of the forest with it which suggests to me that…”

“…this whole thing is a trap.” Deucalion finished his sentence easily having arrived at the same conclusion earlier.

“But who would?” Daniel pondered out loud softly. He didn’t finish the thought. There was a breath of air and the tension rose by a thousand in the forest scene.

“I can just barely feel him,” Deucalion spoke as his eyes darted about the forest trying to solve a thousand problems at one.

“Feel who Stiles?” Derek barked stepping uncomfortably close to Duke in his ferocious worry. Koda stepped closer to his twin brother, slightly ahead of him, his body tilted so he could easily slip completely in front of Duke if need body, stance readied should he need to defend his brother. The movement was fluid and unconscious, a pronounce declaration of the powerful and deadly creature he was. Derek barely noticed until he turned his head to Koda as he spoke up. “He means the wolf, he can barely feel it and I know what he means, we have all been slowly poisoned, I’m sure the only reason we’re not severely weakened and in pain is because it would be too fast, whoever did this needed Stiles to get far enough away to be private without fearing a cavalry arriving too quickly if anyone should notice the prince missing.”

“I agree,” Scott says, “We can’t stay here either, we have to keep on going, we have to assume that he’s not too far ahead of us.”

“But if we can’t scent him how do we find him?” Daniel poses the question trying to help sort through the mess with them.

“We follow the direction the scent was taking us before,” Derek called already turning back to where they were headed.

“I think we should take another route,” Deucalion offered quickly as they all got to moving, following after the English king. “This path we have been following has been laced with wolfs-bane I’m afraid if we keep on it we will be too weak to be of any help to Stiles if we make it to him in time.”

“No we don’t have time for that,” Derek roared whipping his head back in irritation, his eyes a dim crimson. Scott noted that, as disconnected as they were from their wolves Derek could still span the space between him and his wolf and call it forth. Perhaps for Stiles alone… The others noticed as well some widening eyes less noticeable than others. All except Koda.

“He’s right,” Scott starts quickly, “if we keep going we know his scent led down this way which means we have a better chance of finding him.”

“Also,” Daniel pitched in, “We have been running through these woods while Stiles was most likely walking, I’d say we have a better chance of being able to fight if we keep up the pace.” The others nodded quickly acknowledging the solidity of their logic and with not another moment spared, the five men broke off in a run where Derek had led them.

They had barely gotten  a few hundred feet when they heard it, just near the lit up tree line a guttural, disturbed roar of a cry that sent chills down their spines and set lumps the size of boulders in their throat. Koda’s eyes widened as they turned a bright crimson, Derek’s did as well, and before Scott could see it, they had both launched forward in a blinding burst of speed. Duke leapt off after them and just nearly matched their speed while Scott and Daniel followed closely behind. As the two lead alphas neared the tree line they jumped over a fallen tree stump and dodged branches sending them into a synchronized weave until they broke the tree line and burst into the overwhelming light pool. From where Scott lagged behind, he didn’t identify which body had transformed into the giant wolf.

 

*

“Apologies for the circumstances under which we had to meet,” the man said as he moved closer to Stiles, gruff voice echoing ominously as the sound rebounded off of cave walls and bounced back and forth until it hit the back wall and was thrown back to the entrance. As he moved into the darkness of the cave Stiles couldn’t make out the best of details. He was also terribly deterred in all things by the massive bleeding sore of a wound that encircled his ankle, held tightly by the massive jaws of a bear trap. It had taken him some time to stop heavily seething as he tried to control the sobbing cries that threatened to burst forth like water escaping a dam. Once he’d managed to stop fidgeting desperately he had been able to control his breathing. The wound couldn’t heal until he got the trap off but the man ahead of him who came forward rather slowly as if giving him time together himself and ward off the pain, was another problem.

Stiles tried to find a voice to speak but when he opened his mouth he simply gasped, eyes widening in horror and swimming under a burning pool of fresh liquid. “Please don’t push yourself, you’re in quite the predicament friend.”  The man continued on not fazed by the barely held together prince feet ahead of him leg mangled by the jaws. “I won’t let you suffer if that’s what you’re wondering, it will be quick,” he said it with a grim grin and gripped the sword tighter, twisting the hilt in his hand. Stiles eyes flashed green and he jerked, immediately despising himself for it as a fresh wash of burning ice devoured his ankle and shins. Blood squirted from an exposed vein, from the movement and just as quickly receded as he settled.

“I am prince Germin Stilinski of Scotland heir to the throne of Scotland and Ireland and I demand to know who comes to claim my head.” He didn’t know where he found the voice and even though it sounded about a tenth as strong as he’d intended he was grateful there was dignity in it. He sounded like a royal, like a prince, a weakened one but a prince nonetheless. The man stopped, in spite of himself staring into the emerald eyes, half mesmerized half curious. A frown creased his brow and he cocked his head to a side.

“I am nothing but a servant of coin majesty,” the man said, his gruff voice curling the word majesty into something dark and filthy and Stiles feels instantly disgusted to receive the man in any way, as if he sensed the man devoid of any real humanity.

“Then let me make the counteroffer f.. for my life,” he stuttered a bit as his eyes lost focus for a fraction of a second. He was losing blood slowly and if it kept up, he would die anyway.

The man chuckled low and odd in the placement of the scene. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that one, but what people tend to not understand is it would be severely bad for business were I to break my contracts every time the target offered me a promise of more. I’m not a greedy man you see,” he utters as he resumes walking forward, raising the crossbow slowly as he proceeds.

“Then at least tell me who signed my death warrant?” Stiles put it to him again in an attempt to stave of the inevitable for, just a few more seconds why? Would someone be coming for him? He’d stupidly told his guards, his friends to leave him alone. He’d not told anyone where exactly he’d be and they thought he was meeting with the king. What if they had not even noticed it was a ruse, what if no one did until far too late. For all he knew Derek was hunting or in meetings and no one would notice that Stiles wasn’t with him. He looked helplessly up at the approaching hunter and tightened his jaw. If he would die, he wouldn’t die alone. If he had to rip his damned foot off he’d take the man’s throat out as he left the world, leaving one less assassin as a parting gift.

“I’m sorry again friend, discretion in business is necessary. Nothing personal here either, just the job, you understand.” As he came to stand right before Stiles, the prince looked up into his eyes. He was an older man but still strong and in control of the better capabilities he possessed. His eyes were dark and cold, though it might have been the darkness of the cave. Stiles could feel himself tire rapidly and feel dizzy but he gripped his sanity, holding tightly before it could be lost to the racing storm of his slipping mind, slipping spirit. He focused all of his energy on coaxing out the wolf as much as he could reach through the pain and the wide chasm of disconnect.

He felt the faint response within him and his eyes glowed slightly brighter. Claws lengthened from his curled and concealed fingers and he waited for the right moment to strike. The man raised the crossbow, not taking his eyes off the prince. He brought the loaded arrow tip level to Stiles’ head and held his finger at the trigger of the weapon. Stiles eased himself as much as his state and tortured body would allow. He allowed his ears to hear more, his eyes to see harder, he tracked the finger on the trigger and the sound of the slow squeeze which seemed to slow down just for him as the finger’s pressure increased. He saw the muscles ripple subtly under the man’s skin as the flex came to the finger allowing it to press in. He heard a click and woosh and he moved. One arm reaching up quickly to grab the arrow before it could pierce his skull, the other slashing out at the hand that held the cross bow. The man yelled and dropped the weapon reeling back with the bottom of the sword hilt to bring it crashing into Stiles’ temple.

The pain was instant and double-fold as Stiles feels his head explode, at the same time his leg is yanked from the trap where he’d settled himself and immediately he feels himself slipping into blackness. His eyes flutter softly as he watches the man tower over him and raise the sword but before he could bring it down a giant wolf clamps its jaws, with its rows of razor sharp enlarged teeth, around the shoulder of the man. Before he closed his eyes finally he saw the blade pierce the wolf as the man rotated maneuvering himself. There was another sword, a roar of a wolf, the man rolled out of Stiles’ sightline and he drifted, unable to stay awake any longer.

 

Chapter Text

He wasn’t sure if it was just a dream or if it was a nightmare. Stiles had assumed it was the first because in it he came to no harm. There was desperation and fear as he was faced down, against a jagged wall of rocks, about to be struck by the hunter the hunter’s neck is clamped down on hard by massive incisors, and then Stiles saw the large red eyes watching him, more human than wolf, intelligent and aware and threatening. He jerked so hard upright that Scott almost fell off the chair he’d been sitting on, or rather dozing off on for some time now. Danny was standing in the corner talking to Alan Deaton and another man who carried a black leather bag that looked like a medical kit. When they heard the commotion, Sir Alan excused himself, with a reassuring nod to Stiles and hurried off. The doctor genuflected to Scott Stiles and Danny in a very timid way and left as well. Scott was heaving a sigh of relief as he got to his feet.

“You had Daniel worried for a wee bit,” he uttered but the words were not nonchalant as he’d intended. They were filled with joy and relief and happiness and comfort. Scott stepped forward, reached out his arm and grasped Stiles accepting arm with his hand pulling the man against him tightly so he could wrap him in a one armed hug that engulfed the warrior’s greeting almost like it sealed it there.

“I’m sorry Daniel,” Stiles said but he looked right at Scott smiling. Then he caught himself, shaking his head, “the hunter?” he asked frantically as if he’d just remembered the ordeal himself.

“Dead,” Danny called evenly as he moved in closer and half bowed. Stiles grabbed his arms and pulled him down for a hug, easily understanding such contact would never be perpetrated by the lord, it would be highly inappropriate and presumptuous under normal circumstances. “I was worried for you, your grace, have you been having unwelcome dreams?” Danny asked kindly, remembering seeing Stiles toss and turn and sweat while he slept under their watchful eyes.

“Perhaps one or two but nothing I won’t overcome in time,” he shrugged it off as it were nothing. I keep seeing the wolf killing him, the hunter, who found me?” the way he spoke, the phrasing was so abrupt as if he hadn’t gathered all the pieces quite yet or he knew what happened but the order was jumbled and it was talking some doing to set them right again in his head.

“We all did my prince,” Scott chimed in, patting the man’s shoulder before moving lower down the bed to check his leg, it was almost completely healed now. “You’d been poisoned by wolfs-bane, slowed down the healing process a lot. I think their medicine man said it was good timing we found you as we did, any more exposure and the damage would have been too great for the healing.”

“Who is we?” Stiles said frowning in response to a pang of discomfort searing down the front of his head. He finally looked about the room for the first time. He was in his own chambers but things seemed different. He saw the two of them but heard five heartbeats, thanks to his overwhelmingly heightened senses he was trying to reign in. The other two were near his door. And there were bars on his windows, those certainly weren’t there before.

“Daniel, myself, Derek…”

Stiles perked up, his eyes narrowing at Scott unconsciously smiling. “It was him wasn’t it,” he called interrupting Scott. “I keep remembering a wolf, that saved me, a shaggy black wolf, it was Derek wasn’t it. He saved me.” He’d said the words and they were obviously true but he felt like they were wrong, his head throbbed again and he saw it once more, playing in his head. The wolf, the sword, “Oh no is he hurt, was Derek injured trying to save me, tell me he’s alive.”

“Stiles,” Scott barked to get his attention. He looked confused as did Danny.

“What? Just tell me,” Stiles said sounding exasperated and ready to accept the inevitable bad news.

“We weren’t alone, there were two others, Duke and Koda and it wasn’t Derek who stopped the Hunter from killing you, it was Koda.”

Stiles eyes widened as he looked from Danny’s to Scott’s candid faces, “Koda,” he whispered.

 

*

It was like a dark heavy mist he was running through. His eyes were scarlet with fury and desperation. His limbs were lithe and free as he ran or galloped like a horse. The hulking mass of the black wolf form he’d assumed was like a black shadow piercing through the dim light on the path. Koda had always received the world in more ways than the average person or wolfkind. It was his heritage, the blood in his veins that held more than the essence of his wolf. It was his connection with nature, with the earth and the surrounding environment, the people about him, the animals that roamed. That connection magnified the abilities of his wolf in ways that made the prince’s pain waft out the opening of the cave like a dark mist. It was Stiles’ fury and fear that he tasted like bitter herbs on his tongue. Koda barely panted as he heaved his way along hitting the opening almost faster than the eye could see.

He wasn’t sure where the strength had come from or maybe he did know. He loved Stiles in a manner that he could not define whether the man recognized his existence in their shared world or not he was irrevocably tied to the young prince and that which was wrought between their spirits, or at the very least his spirit to Stiles’ could not be undone. The giant black wolf took in the scene before him through large scarlet gems, glowing with malice. He saw the fallen face of his friend, his unrequited love and then he saw the hunter raising his sword. His canines lengthened even further if it was possible, and he had the man’s chest and back pressing against his long menacing fangs. Koda wasted no time, never taking his eyes off of Stiles, he clamped down hard until he was crushing metal and armor, piercing flesh with a crushing sploosh and breaking bone with a snap and a vibrating crunch. Bent and broken metals scraped against his curled lips and vulnerably soft gums.

Maybe his focus was divided, because he had not anticipated Gerrard’s next move, or maybe he’d thought that the force of his crushing blow or bite, would have been enough to do the man in. The hunter couldn’t maneuver himself, he was aware of that. He was also aware of the fact that having been caught this badly he would not make it out alive. He squinted back the stars swimming before him and re-established his grip on his sword. He pain-stakingly brought his free hand to his sword hand and rotated his wrist and the sword so that it was tilting on a crescent to face behind him, where the heaving mass of the wolf would soon force him down to his knees. With what strength he had left, pushed back, driving the sword as far as his arm would allow and then a little further still, until his upper arm near his socket was screaming in response to the action.

As the wolf received the blade it roared out in pain, releasing him for a second so that the immense relief and fresh flood of pain from that relief melded together knocking the wind out of him. He barely had time to buckle before a sharp stabbing of claws was digging into his back with a heavy force that threw him off his feet. As Gerrard fell at an awkward angle, he noticed the hilt of his sword sticking out of the wolf’s upper right side under his right front leg, while a fraction of the tip stuck through the back upper shoulder of the wolf.

He tried desperately to reach for one of the many weapons hidden on his person. At least he could finish the job if he had the time but his arm didn’t respond, his legs didn’t respond. His other arm worked but only to feed him immense pain. He tilted his head and was met with the quicksilver slide of a sword and the glint of scarlet eyes.

 

*

Koda was silently sleeping in the large bed of the private quarters his head of household had appropriated to the naturists as per the king’s order of course. Anyone could have just pretended he was sleeping but it was a deader sleep than one could easily be retrieved from. The clothes covering his body to help maintain his heat and healing concealed the ragged and dangerous wound that slowly healed while he lay unconscious. Derek stood in the corner of the room near the door, leaned against the wall of rock, staring down at the healing Irishman.

“You would die for him,” the king whispered into the candle lit room. He was just barely aware of Alan standing outside the door. The man was so good at creeping up on him or maybe it was the distraction of another man who loved the one he loved.

“As I understand it, so would you.” He uttered the statement  into the room but the words fell into the cold stone beneath their feet.

“He is certain to survive this?” Derek questioned, his voice gruff and sore sounding as if his vocal chords had suffered overexertion. He narrowed his eyes, focusing on the healing Celt, adamant about avoiding Alan’s all to wise for his own good line of questioning.  Alan raised a brow but proceeded into the room slowly approaching the body of the man. He wasn’t a doctor, per se but he had his talents. He had led the efforts to save the wolf or rather help the wolf naturally save himself and he was certain that Koda would survive. His healing was jumpstarted and assisted and he would soon wake or at the very least, he should soon wake.

Alan lay a palm on the man’s covered leg and peered down at him as if he was trying to uncover something behind the man’s bowed eye lids. “Nothing is ever certain my king,” he started, looking back briefly over his shoulder at Derek who still remained his idea of a safe distance from the Celt. But safe from what, was anyone’s guess. He opened his mouth to rebut; however his old mentor was continuing and turning away as if the king’s impending words didn’t matter. Alan had that way about him, of carrying himself, speaking and behaving as if he was of the oldest royal family. He always seemed to hold such power even when completing mundane tasks. “But this one will awaken, eventually.” He breathed a soft exhale and then turned his body fully.

The man clasped hands behind his back and straightened his shoulders as he narrowed his eyes at his king. His head tilted to a side, “I wonder if you will as well though?” Alan let the soft thought out of his head voiced by a curious tone.

Derek grimaced, “I sincerely doubt the aptness of your riddles at a time like this.”

“Perhaps this is the most relevant time,” Alan countered seriously, not tearing his intense eyes away from the King, of England and so much more.

“Perhaps not,” Derek commanded again, his voice rising in power and sinking in depth, “not when, lives are threatened in my kingdom, so close to me, by a hunter who almost succeeded.” He was almost yelling as he tore his arms from his chest and slammed a closed fist down hard on the wall of rock next to him. His hand felt a warm throb while the wall seemed to vibrate for a few seconds.

“Not when a life is threatened, one so close to you it breeds discomfort, and something else.” Alan parried again, hardly phased by the king’s booming voice and supposed anger. His own words were well chosen and Derek’s eyes snapped to him flashing scarlet as though he would be upon the older man rending his bones to dust if he continued.

“Watch yourself Lord Deaton with what you’re getting at,” The rare formal titling, which Derek reserved for when his friends really wound him up had an effect, though it might not have been the desired one, if he were honest he’d know Alan would never back down. Alan simply nodded and turned away as he continued, by now he’d known how simply averting his intense powerful, see-far-too-much eyes he could get the king to receive him better than pinning him with unrelenting truth and challenge.

“My king, an acceptable fantasy is not the same as a proclaimed truth and we, unfortunately, do not get to exist in both worlds.”

There was nothing but silence between them for a moment. Derek’s eyes stopped glowing like living rage. His heartbeat slowed down and he thought. He heard the man’s words repeat itself in his head and he knew exactly what the man was talking about. He had barely stopped speaking in code but Derek couldn’t deny that he had known Alan long enough to ply meaning from most of his words. But what relevance did they hold here?

“Do you think me weak?” Derek asked, softly, his entire tone changing and all at once he was a young prince again, being tutored by one of his father’s best.

“Whose opinion truly matters?” Alan asked genuinely wanting Derek to remember, to again understand.

He had wanted to say his, thinking of his reluctant lover, the one he didn’t want to think about right now, because it made him desperate and longing, fearful and furious, lost but whole at the same time. “Mine first and theirs following,” he recited as he’d remembered being taught many times that he had to determine absolutely what he was and wanted and let that illustrate the world around him. He had to know himself before the people could know him, his people. Lessons of a king he thought.

“Then do you think yourself weak?”

Derek sighed again, running a hand through his long black hair, he was tired and exasperated. “I think I do not know what to do.”

“The answer usually lies in the problem itself.”

“The problem is I love him,” Derek groused finally moving further inside toward Alan. He was angry again but not at the man, he was angry at himself. “I love Prince Stiles, I want him more than anything I have ever truly wanted, more than everything yet I fear such a relationship can never be. Look at this, he was targeted, by a hunter, targeted Alan in my kingdom, I can chop off all the fucking heads I want, the fact remains he is not safe and I don’t know if it is my fault, I think it is I…” his face and his hands fell. Alan turned to him, the king’s eyes were dark, the darkest shade of green, he’d ever seen, so dark they removed any trace of the multicolored flecks that swam in his eyes giving more life to the vibrant green. “He was almost… part of me needs to be with him and another part doesn’t know how to face him.” As he said the words he felt a shocking ripple of energy and knew that if there had been one moment in the history of the world where someone should have been able to go unseen simply by willing it, it was this very moment. He heard two voices answer him one belonging to Allan, the only warning which was no warning at all, “I think you’re about to find out,” and the other Stiles.

“It is true, Koda,” Stiles gasped as he paused at the door, staring in wearily his face unreadable for emotion. Derek turned wide eyed, his capes billowing back behind him to face the prince stepping through the doorway now, looking frail yet strong all at once. Derek’s eyes flared and Alan bowed to the prince before stepping to the side of the king nudging him as he took his place subtly hiding the tug back to reality. Derek was happy to receive it, the shock, awe, pleasure and gut wrenching anxiety of having Stiles here was incredibly possessive.

“What are you doing?” Derek called stepping forward but then stopped himself. He had tried to sound kind but only managed a groused tone. He eyed Scott behind Stiles a hand on the small of his back for support. “I mean, you need to be resting.”

“All due respect your grace I feel I am still capable of deciding how well to do I am to walk about or visit a friend who was hurt on my behalf…” he trailed off, eyes falling on Koda. “If I may your grace to request a moment alone,” Stiles spoke addressing the king but Derek noticed he didn’t even look at him.

“Your grace,” Stiles repeated, now placing the stare of his warm brown eyes on Derek who just then realized he was meant to answer at least several heartbeats ago.

“Oh yes certainly. I shall leave you to it,” he sounded awkward and strained and suddenly, he was very happy to leave that room. Stiles certainly did nothing to help that either. He himself felt awkward and strained, which was most of why he didn’t really leave his eyes lingering on Derek. There was so much going on.

The king moved, Alan following and Scott stepped aside turning his back to the door to give Stiles his space. “Derek,” Stiles called, after taking a deep breath and turning back just as the king was walking through the door. Alan went on without him. Derek jerked around as if startled.

“Yes,”

“Thank you,”

“Whatever for?” Derek asked only half sincere.

“Coming to find me, caring for him,” Stiles gestured to Koda. “Thank you,” he said and jerked as if he wanted to step forward, but then turned around and walked toward Koda.

“I came as soon as I felt something was wrong… I couldn’t possibly…” the words blew off into the ether as he couldn’t find a way to express whatever it was he was trying to say.  It didn’t matter, nothing changed for the moment, Stiles still wouldn’t look at him and what’s more the words Derek did manage to get out seemed to only make the young prince feel cornered, if the evasive expression he tried to conceal was any indication of his mental state.  As Derek walked away reluctantly, he heard soft foreign words in that highland accent of Stiles’. He sighed to himself and stepped out the door closing it behind him. Turning to Alan who stood waiting for him, “I want the head of whoever else had a hand in this. Where is that fucking servant girl the one who delivered the message?”

“We’ve sent men to her home to find her, she was not in the castle kitchens where she works, The cook reported that she has not turned in for her duties and hasn’t been since since yesterday.”

“Find her,” Derek hissed and walked off with Alan keeping in stride.

At the end of the hallway the men parted leaving Derek briskly marching toward his own quarters, mind overwhelmed with the events of the last few hours. The young king was so consumed by warring emotions he felt like he was being ripped apart by a hurricane from within. Rage at the ones responsible for the attack on Stiles, confusion as to  the reasons behind it, Uncontrollable desire for a man he honestly hardly knew and concern for the empire he was pursuing. Those were only the most prominent issues on the surface of his brain, deeper lay the minefield of smaller worries that also plagues his life presently.

When he got to the door of his chambers he was so distressed and drained he could have simply collapsed within the doors. As he pushed them over he wasn’t free to fall apart as he so desperately felt like doing. The princess, his betrothed, was standing just ahead of him facing the large four poster bed, gown flowing eloquently down her body. Her early stage sunset colored hair was propped up high on her head, twining at the apex of her skull in a knotted braid while the short remaining wealth bathed the back of her neck in a soft cascade.

Her head turned, and green eyes pierced him with an underlying pleasure and concern. “My king,” she called as she lowered herself in an elegant curtsy.

“My lady,” he gasped out almost breathless with the surprise of her presence at such an unpleasant time. “I don’t think this is the best…” he began but she was cutting him off with a shaking head. Any other time he might not have brooked this sense of entitlement but he was utterly exhausted and extremely vulnerable. Even if he knew she was trying to handle him he wouldn’t care.

“Please do not shut me out my lord.” She started raising her hands defensively toward him, as if trying to calm a feral beast in the wilds. “If I am to be a partner, and comfort to you, an asset in this joining, you must allow me to be that missing part of your life. I am to be your queen but you must let me be your wife. I am concerned for you, so much is happening and you were in a battle just last eve.” She stepped closer to him, her voice was soft and gentle, like a caress on his skin as she moved toward him slowly. “We may not have spent as much time together as I would have liked since coming here, but I still care for you, you are good and strong and I want to be there for you, Derek,” she called out his name as she finally stood face to face with the king. She settled one of her defensive palms on his cheek and the other on his chest. The hand on his chest moved in slow soothing circles while the other stroked him with a thumb.

“My lady I…” he called but he didn’t know what he was saying, or trying to. His body needed this though and he wasn’t sure he could deny it no matter the source of the comfort, affection and solace. He leaned into her touch, completely dissolving before her.

“You don’t have to speak my darling,” she whispered as she brushed her thumb over his slightly parted lips. “Just be and let me care for you as no one else has.” Her hand on his chest inched its way up to his face and gently, taking his cheeks in her hands, she pulled him to her so she could steal his lips, taking his breath in as he sighed against her lips.

Derek felt numb and alive at the same time. A chaotic contradiction, engulfing him as he gave in to what was happening, letting his body take whatever it required even if it came from the wrong one. His mouth let hers take the lead, and guide him however she desired, taking whatever she needed from him. 

When he moved in response against her, she let her hands slide down his head, neck and arms and settle on his hands to raise them to her body. She placed them at her hips, and slid them over the curve to her waist where she released him to keep hold, as she moved closer so that he could easily slide them back down the rounded curve of her behind. Lydia deepened the kiss then before breaking off to nibble and lick at the flesh of his neck and his earlobes. She could hear the groaning response emanating from his throat. She wrapped her arms around him and pulled backward so that he would follow her easily to his bed. Somewhere he could, even if just for a few moments, forget.

 

*

He could feel it. That was probably why he’d remained agreeably quiet for most of the venture. When he’d accepted he couldn’t smell anything past his own upper lip he realized he was gravitating. As they walked he was being pulled ever so subtly in one specific direction and that, and that alone left him a strange peace of mind that he had not thought possible. He knew where he was going even if he didn’t know where to, it was to Stiles. The destination for his mind, body, soul or combination of the lot was all Stiles. The variables of whether he intellectually versus emotionally understood and accepted whatever truths either his body or mind were experiencing were trivial.

It was Koda who moved first and his action was surprising if not a bit daunting for all the personal, emotional reasons Derek refused to analyze at the moment. The man before him transformed completely, even under the constraint of the aconite poisoning they had all suffered. Derek didn’t have the time to feel envious of the man’s immense strength or ponder at his insecurity’s concerning the measure of his and Koda’s love for Stiles. He felt a tremendous tugging sensation along the energy thread of connection he was following toward Stiles. He broke off in a high speed chase behind the giant wolf which was, in this form, too fast to stay neck in neck with. But even Derek was an immense speed incomparable to normal men or wolfkind. He didn’t look back to know he and Koda had left Scott, Deucalion and Daniel behind them following at a decreased pace to their own.

Once they had broken through the tree line it was a break neck speed run for a short distance to the cave entrance where Derek was just taking in what was happening. Koda had gotten there first and had not hesitated to clamp down his giant jaws on the body of the offending hunter, to quickly protect Stiles who was on the floor in a crumpled mess. His leg was gruesomely bound to a wolf trap and covered in blood that pooled down to the ground staining it a darker black than it was in the faded light of the sunset

There was an agonizing roar as Derek witnessed a blade slicing through the large wolf’s back. He was already moving, unsheathing his sword which didn’t sing from the sheer speed of the action. He launched himself in the air holding his arms in tightly as he griped the blade with both hands. He tilted himself sending his body into a rapid spin with the blade held horizontally outward. As he landed on a twist he released one hand and let his swinging arm bring the blade across and through the neck of the collapsed hunter, so that the head a ribbon of scarlet formed around it like a colored crease. Derek kicked the man’s head and it went flying several feet from his body. “Stiles!” he roared eyes still glowing a challenging bloody red.

 

*

Derek raised his head abruptly, as much as he’d wanted to forget the things that happened, he couldn’t and his work wasn’t yet done. And whatever the weight of his distress he found he wouldn’t completely lose himself in this woman. For all her beauty and breeding, all her kindness and promise of stability he couldn’t be overwhelmed by her the way he was so unequivocally enraptured in the Scottish prince. He pulled back, pulled himself off of her and rose to his feet.

Lydia’s face was flushed with confusion and embarrassment at her failed attempt at seduction. All the more dangerous as they were not yet married and he could just as easily view her wanton behavior as a sign that she had carnal knowledge. “Your grace,” she gasped in question.

“I cannot,” he cut her off and stood on his own two feet quickly shoving at his shirt to get it back in his britches where she’d tugged it loose and began pulling his britches down. “The prince has been attacked and nothing is safe,” he breathed, I must sort this immediately.” He wouldn’t look at her as he scrambled to get free and out of the room where he had been so easily ambushed. Derek pushed through the doors still stuffing shirt in britches and righting his attire when he looked up and noticed the Scottish prince staring at him unceremoniously, the look in his eye a dying light that fell silent, his lips slightly parted as if he were gasping or finding it hard to breathe and then he was turning and walking off down the corridor. Derek was stunned, he didn’t move for a long time, and then he turned down the nearest corridor and walked away.

*

“You convinced me he would be triumphant in this, you promised this would work. The king is neither moved toward me nor has he lost interest in his little prince. Thanks to this monumental failure I could lose everything, we could lose everything,” She expressed darkly.” Lydia was seated in a deep and comfortable birchwood chair draped and fastened in fine, colored silks. Peter regarded her with cold humor.

He stood before her in her presence chamber, alone, guards and ladies sent elsewhere to give them a moment of private discussion. Something most might be curious about under normal circumstances but with the talk of the kingdom, being Derek’s predisposition to the happiness of his newest prisoner of war, they were unusually safe meeting in private. “Your grace, I invite you to maintain your calm. It is unfortunate that the hunter failed, however this may prove advantageous even now. It is tensed between them now…”

‘It is tense throughout this kingdom, he will not stop until the accomplices are heads on the pikes at the tower…” she trailed off suggestively. What she would not say out loud is that they were the accomplices and it was their heads Derek was searching for unbeknownst to him.

“Calm yourself Lady Martin, I have dealt with the loose ends which means nothing comes back to the source. You are safe, but you must beguile the king, now is your time, I worry your only time.” Peter tried to persuade her in a kind tone but Lydia knew what he was now, some part of her, a big, good part regretted listening to him in the first place.

“What do you mean, dealt with the loose ends?” She queued horror birthing in her mind.

“The only one who can identify you in this plot, I have had her removed, no one will find her or hear any confessions she might have been forced to provide. With no tongues left to wag you are safe.” She noticed how he kept referring to her alone as if he had had no part in the attack on the prince.

“It sounds to me, my lord as though you have removed yourself from our private alliance,” she suggested in a soft thoughtful tone.

‘Not hardly, your grace, I am simply practicing my detachment from this situation, should one constantly behave as though he is not a part of something who is to say that he was…” He smiled cruelly and Lydia thought of the kitchen maid.

“She is surely dead then?” she asked but she knew it was certain before he nodded his head. Lydia sighed as she shook her head. “This changes nothing, he is still devoted, he shan’t turn away from the prince, not by my hand, for I have tried, to try any harder is to suggest that I am not pure and classed and highborn. To try any harder is to give a king cause to doubt my eligibility. I cannot try any harder,” she whispered exhausted with the lies and deceit and blood on her hands, when had  she ever had blood on her hands. She couldn’t say that she was especially kind and appreciative of the lowborn but she knew she had never disrespected them outright either. Had never trampled on their lives or used them as if they were disposable, until now. What would Jackson think of her if he knew what she had done, what she was capable of. 

Chapter Text

The room couldn’t be more laden with tensions and tempers. Every inch of it reflected the mood represented by every action and expression the king maintained. The cold silent stone and doors heavily guarded and barred from outside intrusion. Even the lighting of the place, by shadow casting torches that were scant enough to have wolfkind drawing from their supernatural ability to see through the dark to make out minutiae on facial features.

Scarlet eyes hummed in and out of existence as purposeful pressure placed on the men before him, men of his council and men of his guard he had made responsible for finding the wench, who had dared to deliver the order that almost resulted in the…. His mind faded the thought even as it’s brief echo in his mind caused scarlet eyes to burn brighter and more furious, a second longer than he’d intended.

The king sat upon his throne, he’d had moved into the small privy chamber for effect. He would have no cocky soldiers before him today. He expressed his full power with that small action and expected it to motivate as much iterate the brevity of his resolve. To his left was the Duke Peter, his uncle, keeping a calm almost lightly amused appearance as he silently viewed the proceedings. On the right and slightly behind Derek, the only man if he was honest with himself he didn’t ever really worry to have at his back, Sir Deaton  and to his right was Lord Cromwell. Isaac was stone faced as he surveyed the captain of the guard who Derek had had Alan task with finding culprits for the executioner. The man stood nervously before the small closed council, a young, thin and frail looking girl with stringy brown hair and tattered clothes beside him. She was beside herself with barely concealed terror.

“And who is this?” Derek finally spoke through barely moving lips in a tone so low it did take wolfkind hearing to pick up his words. This caused the captain of the guard to swallow audibly as he had well known this to be an indication of the scale of the king’s fury. Derek flickered a gaze to the woman, who in the very back of his mind felt a mite of pity for, for being dragged into this.

“This is a friend of the missing maid sire,” The guard captain was quick to respond scrambling for words to launch out of his mouth if only to diffuse the king’s surely growing rage. “Tell him girl!” he groused at the young woman who nodded profusely as she wiped a careless tear from her cheek as though it had no right to come at a time like this.

“Aye m’lord I did work in the kitchens with Minerva I did,” her voice was a trembling thread ready to break any moment.

Derek watched the smallest quirk of a smile alight on the captain’s face which made him wonder how he had allowed this man to lead the men of his city guard. In focusing grand scale he had clearly lost sight of some key small scale elements. He peered down at the woman and sighed softly trying to provide the smallest of encouraging smiles for her, something to at least assure her that her own death was not eminent as many must assume of Minerva.

“Tell me dear,” Derek said, raising his voice to be heard naturally and softening his tone just so and just for her, coaxing a little confidence and some truth from her. “where did, Minerva like to go when she wasn’t attending her duties?”

The woman looked at him curiously, forgetting her fears in light of his open kindness, she then looked to the captain in confusion and then back to the king.

“Go on,” Derek beckoned with command as well as kindness in his voice.

“Well I… I don’t know m’lord. Minerva was very to herself an all that she didn’t talk much with the other kitchen girls…”

“But is she not a friend of yours?” the king pressed this time more steel as his anger mounted.

“Uh m’lord we worked in the kitchens we weren’t really friends really I…”

“Leave us.” His commanding of tone punctuated his encounter with this girl so well she almost tripped over her feet trying to get out of the little room. Derek turned his black gaze on the captain and in a dark yet perfectly articulated and controlled voice of rage he spoke. “If it were possible for me to be addled enough to not understand your reasoning process, your incompetence would stagger me. However, I can come to the conclusion that a small-minded man would presume, if she worked in the kitchen, simply any other kitchen somebody should know her whereabouts,” he said this last line with such a comedic turn of phrase and altering of voice, to this goonish grunting sound, that sent Isaac turning aside to cover his unbidden smile.

“Unfortunately,” Derek continued, “the world is not as simple as you are. Did you even question her, prior to bringing her before my wrath. A more foolish king would have executed her for not knowing anything and you for bringing her to me. Thank your God I am not foolish. Where is the girl’s family?”

“She sshe has no family my lord, her parents died years before of the black fever and now she occupies their cottage alone.” He ended smugly as if to prove to his lord that, yes indeed I did my home-work and thoroughly investigated the bitch as you commanded. The difference between his stuttering commencement and his arrogant ending almost made Derek laugh in disgusted amusement.

“Unmarried?” Derek pressed, his mind already working at a particular train of thought, the fool before him clearly did not even consider.

“Yes, my lord,”

“No lover to speak of,” his mind connected dots even as the were-captain before him grew more confused and uneasy.

“My lord…?” he seemed to ask in response to Derek’s question as though he didn’t know where his king was going with all this.

“Did you not inquire, as to whether a woman of her age, unmarried and with a house of her own, a place where-in, without the saddling intrusions of affectionate and involved comrades,” he paused here for effect pinning his still pulsing scarlet and hazel green eyes, which could have had a mesmerizing effect on the man who was made their victim. He picked up lips moving effortlessly while eyes never moved themselves from their target. “…could secret a lover for trysts with regular ease.” The disdain loaded in his thin tone, delivered from a mouth that spoke in volumes, while barely moving had the reek of fear emanating now from the captain of the city guard. “And you assume because a girl works with another girl this.. bonds them in some deep relation? What faction of malfeasance do you represent here within my court,?” he asked seriously as if accusing a treasonous villain of the highest act of betrayal and then with less bite, “what powerful idiocy is this in my employ?”

 Derek turned his now steadily burning scarlet gaze on Alan as though he posed the question to this man, as if he could offer some suggestion as to what moment of weak-mindedness caused him to elevate such a fool to his position. Alan kept his gaze, steady and stone, remained silent just as Derek knew he would. This man was no stranger to his antics. He sighed his frustration and turned his eyes back upon the guard captain.

“Is there nothing progressive to report to me, captain” and he uttered the title with such reluctant allowance and obvious disgust it sent a shiver of prescience through the man forecasting the end of his career.

“I… sire she… there’s just no trace my lord I… don’t know…”

“Of course you don’t know,” and for a moment he was soft and placating almost understanding, his eyes even mirrored the false sentiment as he half leaned forward complete with furrowed brow and tilted head. Then there was the burning lava of scarlet erupting from the eclipsed hazel-green of his eyes and the bite was returned. The darkness and rage and utter disgust was back.

“Captain remove yourself from my presence, you are stripped of your rank and title. Another will be appointed in your stead and this time I will thoroughly ensure their competence to the task as there was clearly some miscalculation in your own appointment.” He sneered the words and then barked, “Be gone!”

“Majesty,” came Peter’s voice slick and cautious as he intruded on the charged silence, “Perhaps that was a bit rash…”

“I suppose you expect me to tolerate such gross incompetence in my own empire, in my own city no less.” He burned a glare into his uncle to silence any further protests. Peter smartly kept his mouth closed. “I will require a list of candidates for the replacement of that dolt. I will choose one myself, I expect highest quality, men with reasoning capabilities.”

The men all affirmed their understanding of the needs of their king with a nod and quiet aye. “Alan I expect you will resume this investigation yourself, I expect results…” and then on another track, “where is Boyd, I expected him?” he sounded mildly annoyed.

“I anticipated, my lord, your desire to have a talented man investigating this Minerva, especially with no progress from Captain Tole. So I asked Sir Boyd to look into things himself as a favor to his king. His observational skills are superb and I find his ability to reason out the most probable conclusions astonishing, his instincts are a gift.” Derek nodded at Alan’s explanation, quelled by his initiative and good decision.

“If it please my lord nephew, I would be more than happy to devote my attentions and those of my men to solving this problem.” Peter appeared sincere but roiling emotions made his scent a tangle of feelings indecipherable just then. Derek shook his head.

“Be not concerned, your grace,” Derek uttered, using formal titles to remind his uncle that on his throne no blood ties would change his mind or coerce his decision making. “I trust Lord Deaton as much as I trust you, he will be responsible for this investigation.” He didn’t explain that he trusted Alan more and especially trusted him not to get distracted or pursue his own desires. He turned then to Deaton and continued, “Keep using Boyd on this I agree with your assessment of his skill, and his instincts. If he hadn’t suggested we retrieve the prince on the day of the attack, something fatal may have occurred…” he trailed off as his eyes glazed.

Of late they had been doing that. The only indication of his mind’s long flight. He would be there and then look away and be somewhere else. Somewhere deep inside himself yet high in a tower with a view of all memories he would be drowning in then. He felt like the knight who fell in love with the goddess Melusine, cursed to never truly have her all of her and to try would be to lose her always. In and out he would drift, going and coming seeing and maybe, on some level registering what he saw but not in the present, not as it was happening. This was the fate he had been afflicted with since Stiles was attacked. If he was being honest with himself the travelling the day-dreaming might have started long before the attack. But one thing was certain to have occurred only after.

Somewhere in himself he heard the words echoing, bouncing back and forth off every wall within himself mind body and soul. Whispering a truth he had slowly become certain of. He was loathe to admit it but the words were and adamant call to the part of him that had been touched so deeply by another. Cannot Stay.

They were at an impasse. A king with a prisoner he now wanted for his own, and a princess expected to take his hand and be his partner, his consort. Cannot Stay. He was in love, with a Scottish prince he could not logically have, a prince whose father and nation would sooner see him dead. Cannot Stay. And the object of his deepest affection was nearly killed and he entertained no delusional notions that he wasn’t directly to blame for the attempt on Stiles’ life. Some fanatic who despised what the prisoner represented, any opposition to their king, their emperor. Some sycophant seeking some kind of revenge for the death of Derek’s father the last Alpha-King. Cannot Stay.

“Majesty,” he heard weakly through the layered haze of his thoughts, despairs and those damnable words of reason he wished more than anything he didn’t have to surrender to, cannot stay. “Her grace princess Lydia will be preparing shortly, her ride will soon begin,” Isaac reminded him gently.

“I shall be along shortly. Everyone give Lord Deaton and I the room.” His statement curt and a bit choked. Peter disguised his eager curiosity as he regarded the men and slowly exited after half bowing to them. Daniel and Isaac both bowed and led the way out.

Alan stared at him with a perfectly blank expression yet the intensity in his eyes as usual was discomforting.

“The prince,” Derek began and went silent again as though the words wouldn’t find their way out of his mouth. His eyes traced patterns in the floor, some futile attempt to distract from the distress of what he was about to confess.

“He cannot stay,” Alan finished for him. This sent Derek’s head shooting upward at the man to engage him in an intense holding stare. His mind rattling out the thought, the assurance this time that that man did read minds.

“How do you pick thoughts from my head like you do,” Derek spoke softly after a moment of quiet regard.

“Your thoughts are displayed plainly upon your face, in your mannerism, lord. Forgive me but my observation skill does not wane with my ever-increasing age. Another few seconds passed and Derek’s expression eased minutely.

“Indeed it does not.” The king’s eyes darkened again. “But no, he cannot stay.” A pained grin took possession of his face as his eyes became filled with wet that gave the fading scarlet of his wolf’s eyes a dim warped glow. “What a thing this is Alan for the depth of my love I must send him away from me.” His voice was a little choked as his tone became husky as though he could just barely manage to keep himself together, as though any moment control would not be enough to hold back the ferocity of his distress and anguish. “What a cruel thing, for a man to rip his own heart out if only to ensure it’s safety.”

“Love is a callous companion, great in its ability for passion, unconquerable in it’s dominance of man, selfish in it’s demands on the ensnared and wicked to it’s most devout servants.” Alan’s words were blades of truth that sliced at the king’s wrists and left him bleeding his sincere love.

“Alan,” Derek called out in a long, drawled and gritty tone. It sounded like a plea to Deaton, “I can’t… be the one…”

“I will organize the departure with discretion sire,” Deaton gave him kindly anticipating again what he needed, what he didn’t want to have to say out loud. Dancing with whatever little denial he could muster to distract himself from the harsh finality of his decision. His old mentor and friend regarded him again with one of those intensely probing stares, a thing Derek came to realize over time was almost exactly what it appeared. A gentle probe of observation into the man’s face his hands his muscles and how they tensed and relaxed. “Will you not want a final meeting, my lord, a farewell as it were?”

“What I want and what I can manage, unfortunately lie at parallels that will never intersect as I am bringing myself to accept. Send him…” he cleared his throat hotly, “send him away quickly, I do not wish to be involved in his… departure.”

Alan nodded and waited a moment before turning on his heel and leaving the room and his king to the silent torments of his own mind.

 

*

Peter paced quickly to his privy chamber as his mind worked leagues a minute. Things were not going exactly as he had planned them but with the right maneuvering he should be able to steer all the moving parts of this game back into the right direction.

The next part of his plan was delicate, even more delicate than the serving wench and the murder plot. He had to rid himself of the Denmark bitch and in so doing Derek as well. He’d have to end both Derek and his little Scottish bonnie most likely at the same time and make it look as though the princess organized their demise.

He sighed as he turned into his wing and waved off the guards standing at his door. The one on the left informed him of the guest waiting inside and he willed away the smile of satisfaction that tried to play itself across his lips. He nodded and entered briskly, the men opening the door before him and closing it once he’d stepped through.

He took two steps and stopped at the black garbed figure before him, offering his back in what Peter knew was a false sense of opening. That sell-sword would be heavily armed and ready for anything. It was why the Duke had bothered to keep such a creature on retainer for as long as he had. When it came to loyalty the man was rather trustworthy. At least Peter could trust him to work for his pay. As long as the money was there so would be Artio.

“You found him.” Peter stated matter-of-factly.

“Aye m’lord, the lad’s been found and fed the story,” the man’s rough tone was quick and sharp in response. A no nonsense way of speaking.

“And he’s been brought to the city…”

“The lad’s been led by his desire aye,” The man responded.

“Good good, and his installation was seemless?”

Artio nodded “He was armed with the necessary documentation and assignment. “Peter smiled icily and moved to a table with a chest hiding underneath it. He retrieved a brown leather pouch from the table and bent to open the chest from which he filled his pouch and handed the bag now filled with gold pieces to the sellsword.

“Remain available, I may require your services again shortly.”

“Didn’t have much by way of plans m’lord, I’ll be around, you know how to find me. That all?” he asked with a familiarity that would have gotten another killed for insolence, with this man, Peter was merely amused.

“For now.” Artio nodded and Peter returned the notion before the man excused himself from the duke’s privy.

The grin that possessed the Duke’s face was of disturbing delight as he thought to himself on how many moves were left to play before he took the king, queen and the whole damned board.

 

*

“Summer comes, winter fades, here we are just the same, don’t need pressure don’t need change, let’s not give the game away. There used to be an empty space, a portrait without a face but with your presence oh your grace, everything falls into place,” Stiles hummed after completing the first stanza. The words left his lips like petals of the cherry blossom making with sound the sight that captivated and stole breath. His voice was wispy and soft and then rising higher and more powerful to bring passion to words. His eyes were softly shut as he poured himself into the little ode to his old friend and companion, his recent rescuer and victim.

Koda’s chest rose and fell at a quiet constant which suggested to all that he would soon be fully recovered and awakened but it was still a worry that he had not yet opened his eyes. For a wolf and an alpha the state he was in, the enduring unconsciousness, was a bit disconcerting.

Stiles continued, “Heavy words are hard to take, under pressure precious things can break and how we feel is hard to fake, so let’s not give the game away. Just please don’t say you love me, cuz I might not say it back, doesn’t mean my heart stops skipping when you look at me like that, there’s no need to worry when you see just where we’re at, just please don’t say you…”

The Scottish prince trailed away his voice trickling to silence like the beautiful noise of ceasing rains. His eyes settled on Koda’s steady and intense gaze as he opened them. “I don’t think I’ve heard that one before,” he said in a voice gritty from lack of use.

“I don’t think I’ve ever sang it for you,” The lilting tones of their home accents adding a singing quality even to their statements.

“Why does it sound like it was meant for me?” he asked but the question was weak. He wasn’t really looking for an answer, rather he wanted Stiles to know he understood. Stiles was quiet for a few moments, his eyes tracing the Irish prince’s face, his neck and shoulders, almost as if inspecting for lasting damage he knew wouldn’t be there. Koda following his eyes intently smiled, “The scars you cause me, hóga iathghlas, are not left evident upon flesh.” Stiles turned away from him then, tears biting at his eyes, dismay threatening to swallow him briefly.

“Stiles,” when the prince didn’t respond he said more firmly and more authentically to them, “Mo phrionsa, mo bhréag, Féach orm.” My prince, my liege, look at me.

“You nearly died for me, you’ve lain unconscious all this time on my behalf and rescued me from the worst danger I have been in…”

“But,” Koda prompted cutting off the tirade, that surely came from a place of guilt, knowing there was something else, something missing, something the little emerald pup was building himself up to.

“But,” Stiles emphasized, “even still I cannot return your feelings.” Stiles’ lip trembled with the admission he knew he had to give. Koda smiled reassuringly at Stiles in response, as if things played out exactly as he had imagined.

“We do not choose who we love, or love in return,” he offered with a sagely quiet and accepting tone that stunned Stiles into a few more seconds of silence.

“But the love I do bare you Koda, as a friend even as family. We are brothers if not by blood then by the bond of years and nothing can change that.” Stiles pleaded with his words, trying to convince, trying to pretend he didn’t know he did it because he felt guilty for being saved by the man he did not love with the romantic passion he had slowly started reserving for the English monarch.

“You know,” Koda began. A serene look in his eye and resigned set to his jaw. “Something about being put in the grips of death’s jaws, sets the world about in a new perspective.” His eyes almost glazed as he shot forward and past Stiles at the speed of light, his mind travelling far ahead where his body would not be able to follow so easily, freely or quickly.

Stiles regarded him in silence and slight wonder, sensing the depth of the change in the man before him. He was different now, in a fundamental way that translated to his entire being.  “The things you’ve seen and done, the places you’ve gone and the one’s you’ve loved,” a little focus came back to his eyes then as they settled upon the Scottish prince, who still offered him the silent and remote reverence from his position near the bed. “Things begin to add up. Your life is totaled and the sum of it all… if it doesn’t reflect the you you’re.. you’ve purposed to be then… ach” he scoffed. “You let me ramble on with all this sentimentality…”

“Sound’s a lot more like enlightenment to me,” Stiles finally offered his eyes, still dancing with the remaining light of awe and now amusement. Maybe Koda wasn’t all different.

“All I’m saying is I think I can… move on,” the words left him almost begrudgingly, but they left nonetheless, and Stiles immediately received the sincerity with which they were sent as well. Koda held his gaze and that drove home even further the honest new reality he was providing between them. “You have something to you,” he said eyes still holding Stiles’. “Something special, different to you than anyone else, to your wolf… your eyes,” his mouth opened again but nothing came out, like he was searching for words but the right ones wouldn’t find their way to him.

“I’ve suspected for a while,” and those words were like an accusation hurled at Stiles. Stiles felt anticipation mounting in him, he found himself then wondering if Koda had found out something about him to do with the difference in his wolf’s essence from most other wolves. He found himself leaning forward unconsciously, eager to have some enlightenment on a personal mystery that he may have shrugged off in multiple situations but had always wondered at in his life. The wondering compounded by the fact that his own bloodline yielded no answers to this history mystery.

Koda saw the light in his eyes and smiled sympathetically understanding what the prince must be misconceiving at the choice of those words. “I mean you’re special, and I may not know exactly how or in what ways that differs from the rest of us but I think that I’ve allowed that difference to be confused for something else where I’m concerned. But I think that now I’ve been able to clarify a lot. I love you, I always will love you but it’s ok for that to be from a place of respect and.. and reverence.”

Stiles couldn’t find the words to respond so he simply nodded and reached a blind hand which Koda took with his own and gave a brief squeeze. They both looked to the door then as the approaching sound of boots encroached on their softer isolated moment. In seconds a contingent of 3 came walking in with all the reserved command that had become synonymous with Lord Deaton. Two guards flanked him, the crest of the English wolf king emblazoned upon their tunics. 

Koda moved to tug his hand free of Stiles in anticipation but the younger man would not relinquish his hand and the Irish noble had to fight back the amusement threatening to betray itself on his lips. A brief entertaining thought came to him, something along the lines of finally getting Stiles to hold onto his hand and it only happening once he really gave him up as a lover. “Lord Deaton?” Stiles said questioningly, his eyes narrowing over Deaton’s shoulder and between the guards as if he would be able to make out Derek there, like the king could or would hide, ever.

“Your graces,” Lord Deaton offered without the slightest hesitation or mistake. Stiles’ brow furrowed in worried consternation. Koda smiled openly taking this as an acknowledgement that his instinct about this man he had never really interacted with was one of the more capable, more intelligent and certainly more cunning ones. There was of course no reproach in Alan’s tone which added even more anxiety to Stiles’ emotional landscape.

“Lord D…” Stiles began but Deaton waved him off as he cut in.

“Apologies your grace, but I fear the present situation and my task presumes me to relinquish the delicacy of this pretense, you’ve very cleverly perpetrated, at least between us.”

Stiles again narrowed his eyes behind the man this time settling them on the guards beyond their guest. “Worry not after these good men,” Deaton waved a hand to indicate the guards. “They honor the request of discretion placed upon them when they enter the king’s service, and my own. They will hold their tongues at my command.” He regarded Stiles with a kindness that lit his eyes in compassionate understanding. “Besides the news I bear makes moot the point of previous deceptions.”

Stiles rankled at the word deception but then the meaning of the man’s words completed it’s collection and his mind and he immediately refocused on the man with intensity burning in his gaze. “What news?”

“You as well as your party of foreign dignitaries which for reasons of expediency will include the Irish princes and their companions, are charged with returning to the lands of your border at earliest convenience.” Alan punctuated the words with meaningful stress which spoke volumes to the Scottish prince, whose mind was already turning to the one place from which this could have come. No other man would have the authority to send away the king’s guests let alone his ward, and what could have, would have been so much more.

“Return..?” There was incredulous questioning in his voice. He spit out the word in shocked surprise like something that had been stuck behind a tooth and finally expelled. “D.. His majesty sent you with this message?”

“None other, your grace.”

“He’s sending us home?” Koda remarked a bit confused. As he spoke Stiles released his hand, he could smell the man’s rising confusion and worry.

“Yes, your grace,” at the direct acknowledgment of his own station Koda blushed and quieted turning back to Stiles, watching the play of emotions on his face, where he could clearly mark, concern, then anger and then fear before the prince’s implacable mask was returned to it’s strength.

“And he did not desire to inform me himself?” Stiles tried not to sound indignant, but it could not be helped.

“His majesty must delegate many delicate tasks, this is the nature of an empire of this magnitude.,” Deaton offered, with not a flinch or hesitation to suggest he wasn’t simply prepared for anything no matter how much deflection was necessary.

“And where is his majesty now?” Stiles questioned this time sounding down right annoyed.

“He should be returning thus from his ride with the princess Lydia.”

Stiles almost growled at the admission, his emotions making a mess of chaos within himself. He was nearly through the door before registering that Koda was calling after him. All he could manage was a barely audible growl about speaking with the king.

 

*

Returning to the courtyard was an enormous blessing to Lydia after the long and quite frankly, uncomfortable ride she’d had with the alpha king himself at her side, when he wasn’t sending his steed into a half trot ahead of her regal mare Adelfine. She spent a lot of the time between answering his inane questions wondering why he was even there in the first place.

Lydia had spent the evening prior, switching moods between brooding anger and fearful anxiety. She had berated herself a million times for allowing that devious bastard of a Duke to manipulate her into ceding to dark and seductive whispers. She couldn’t believe she’d allow herself to slip into such a mold, become such a queen. She didn’t think her mother’s words were to lead her down such a course, but what was she to do. She’d lost her love in coming here, rather without choice, and she would lose so much more if she didn’t secure the throne she was sent to this land to ascend.

Then the king, the man who was meant for her chose another, in his heart, he chose another completely displacing her, sending her into an unsteady headspace and position. What would happen if she didn’t secure this throne. What would her lord father and lady mother do. King and Queen of Denmark, for how long without her hand in Derek’s bound by the land’s law.

So, she had looked forward to the ride, looked forward to clearing her head and resetting even if temporarily. Nothing could set her to rights, to peace like travelling through the green aboard her friend and companion Adelfine. She had been prompt to the stables, not just waiting to be brought the mare by the stable-hands. Not waiting for another to prepare and whisper to her before the ride. No. She went to the stables and dismissed those who would take the good work of readying Del away from her and did it herself.

She was leading the horse out with a private smile and thoughts already carried away by the slipstream they were casting in her mind’s eye. It was a bit of a sensory shock, when she made her way to the gates, 3 guards and two ladies at her flank and 3 guards somwhere further behind, to see the alpha king standing there, about him a small escort of guards and their horses all saddled and prepared and waiting.

“I shall accompany you,” was his address to her and with that he slipped one heavily polished boot into a stirrup and kicked his leg over into the other, seating himself completely on his Edmure. It was a full minute and a half before Lydia allowed a guard to help her up onto the back of her horse, tight lipped all the way. As they left the courtyard the silence that accompanied them was heavy and nearly oppressive.

Much of the ride was no different. Derek seemed very far away and almost grief stricken, at the very least smelled of sadness. When he did speak to her, he asked things that he either should have know or shouldn’t care about. Lydia sensed very heavily that these were simply moments when he found himself back in his body, back in this moment with her and tried to fill in the silence even though he was already on his way back to whatever far away memory palace he’d travelled to.

Needless to say, she spent most of the ride wishing she was anywhere else. Even the small reprieve of peace that Adelfine provided, was adversely affected by the presence of the King. The only blessing she counted among that morning was the fact that she barely had to conceal her true feelings as Derek was so distracted it would have taken a lot more than an unhappy face to rouse his attention.

A smile of relief crept across her features when the courtyard peeked through the tree line. Even Adelfine picked up to a jovial trot and suddenly it seemed so much easier to forget the arduous journey that had been their ride. They pulled in quickly to the courtyard and she had to refrain from jumping down from her side saddle position. The princess didn’t even notice Derek pulling in and dismounting near her, a barely there gaze drifting through the crowd and over the castle, not really settling on any one person or thing, in one of his gone moments.

The princess didn’t even notice, nor would she have under normal circumstances, the young man dressed as a stable hand who made his way toward her, head down but his eyes, elsewhere, not like the other stable hands or servants. So of course, the shock to her was monumental when that stable hand had taken the reigns of Adelfine, the reigns she still held, fingers brushing against hers lightly, yet knowing, how could they be.., seemingly unintentional, but still drawing her attention as they were meant to, a thing she might have figured, if she had noticed him before.

She also didn’t notice Derek as his eyes and wondering soul drew back to reality, through the gone moment and now at the in, the here moment, settling on the image of a Danish princess, staring more deeply into the eyes of a servant than would have ever been remarked as acceptable in high society, especially from a betrothed princess. As that image was painted in even further detail, when one registered the look of mutual familiarity quantified in their expressions one accented by pleasure and the other, that of the princess, by guilty awareness.

The princess released the reigns and the man took control of the horse immediately leading it away. The encounter was seconds at most. Lydia was moments restoring her mask of noble arrogance mixed with feminine kindness and softness. She spared an open glance at Derek whose eyes were glazing again as he drifted off face turning off in the direction the stable hand had gone and then continuing in a wide slow arc as if aimlessly searching, the gone moment again.

She sighed her relief, while signaling her first lady. Adalina, was a petite woman with deep set blue eyes and platinum blonde hair, held tightly back in a large bun that was decorated with the princess’ choice of headdress for the day, a simple satin draped tiara with falling ribbons of green and red which matched their crimson and emerald dresses.

“Adalina,” Lydia said softly while she smiled generously to those she could see around them. She turned suddenly and pinned her eyes to the woman’s, “Do you know me?”

“My lady,” she murmured clearly confused, it was the oddest question in itself, and from whom it came. “Of course I know you I’ve been with you for years…” she trailed off not knowing exactly how to respond.

“Look there to Del’s stable boy,” Lydia bid her not pointing or drawing much attention to their conversation as best as she could. As they turned to walk into the castle, Adalina looked over to where the man was receding with the magnificent horse. From the angle at which they stood it was hard to make his front, all she could see was his profile and nothing truly registered to her though she got a vague sense of familiarity about him. Then thanks to his need to turn and guide the horse through a side door she noticed his features and even at this distance, bit her tongue to keep calm.

As the woman’s cheeks flushed Lydia knew she herself, had not taken leave of her senses then. Adalina turned to face her and allowed her eyes to widen as if to say, how is he here?

And because Lydia knew her, as more than just a lady, she gave a slight shake to her head to deny her hand. In the Danish tongue she addressed Adalina, “Vi skal diskutere dette i mine lejligheder, du bliver nødt til at gøre mig en tjeneste.” We shall discuss this in my apartments, you will have to do me a service.  

Chapter Text

The king hadn’t noticed his riding companion preceding him inside, her small entourage in toe. He took a leisurely pace as he made his way after her. Walking just a few steps behind her and her ladies, into the castle, he nodded at grey and melding faces along his path, not really seeing them, though his eyes were probably the best of all within his kingdom. What with him being their Alpha king and all that.

However, the thing which afflicted him, was not nearly so simple as a physical ailment. Or some temporary distraction to any of wolf-kind who could regenerate, damaged body parts with ease over time. No, the thing which dominated his mind, terrorizing his dreams and stealing his heart, as well as the better part of his concentration, was another wolf. And perhaps not the one originally intended for such purpose. A wolf with glittering emerald green eyes that he must send away for both of their goods.

As he pondered along this train of thought, his gone moment at its peak now, he did not notice quite so quickly the bundle of furs and leather with glowing green eyes that approached him with such speed, it could only suggest terrible purpose. The guards moved to intercept the highland prince just as the scent of him and the luminescence of his exquisite eyes called Derek abruptly from his mental absence. The princess Lydia, slowed her own pace until she was nearly idling beside Derek and his men looking curiously from the heated expression on the Scottish prince’s face, to the dawning resignation on the king’s. She felt a bite of annoyance scratching at her sensitive insides as she internally defined the situation about herself.

There was barely concealed fury on the prince’s face complimented with accents of angry confusion that caused his face to darken in ways that sent jolts of electricity up Derek’s spine and an aching fullness to his groin.  Gods he wanted to kiss that mouth, fill it with his own tongue and then later in the privacy of his rooms’ seclusion, fill it with his cock which throbbed like no other for Stiles and now it seemed Stiles alone. He wanted to pin those emerald eyes with his own scarlet stare while he stole as much pleasure as could be drawn from that perfect little…

Damn it all to hell he thought as he marshalled his thoughts. The prince was too close, there was no time and nowhere to escape from him now, which was probably exactly what he wanted. Derek wanted to run! The whole point of sending Deaton to handle the Scottish Prince’s departure was so that he would not have to feel the pain of sending away the one thing he wanted most. And here he came, a thing Derek had not anticipated, though for the life of him he didn’t know why he had not thought that this naturally emboldened and impassioned creature of change would not come to him.

Before Stiles could halt before them and offer his brief and highly meaningless bow of faux respect, Derek turned toward the princess beside him, in a quick-witted attempt at preemptive strike. He quickly embraced her gripping her lightly about the forearm with one hand, and about the waist with the other arm and placed a quiet but convincing kiss to her lips. The action caught her by surprise. Given the recent state of their affairs Lydia expected that kissing her was the last thing on Derek’s mind but there he was invading the private sanctity of her mouth with his probing clumsy tongue in a kiss that seemed far more obscene than should be while holding no definite depth of emotion.

When the king pulled away from her, eyes glazed, not even seeing her in front of him, she understood. His faded eyes were on Stiles and his kiss was just a message. Saying what, she couldn’t know just then, though she had her guesses. She turned to Stiles, whose jaw worked in confused frustration, and then to Derek once more who seemed to say with his face, take that! Heartbeats went by and then Stiles abruptly as though he’d forgotten this to begin with Lowered in a half bow eyes distrustfully staying with the king and his bride to be.

“Your majesties…” the prince uttered through grit.

“Prince Stiles,” Lydia offered and after another charged beat of silence, she turned to Derek who didn’t even bother looking her in the eye as she audibly dismissed herself from the king’s presence. She spared one final accusing glance at the prince, who was too preoccupied to notice and then broke away from the little gathering with her people following along.

 

*

"Hvordan er dette endda muligt, han kan ikke være her, og gudens ved, at jeg bestemt ikke sendte for ham ..." How is this even possible, he cannot be here, and the gods know I certainly didn't send for him... she fumed in her mother tongue, even as her heart warmed and softened as she thought back to the wealth of private times they had shared. The passion they had secreted in dark Danish nights. The stolen kisses hidden away from the rest of the world under the beams of sun and moon light. Why is he here? The question reverberated in her mind, bouncing off the walls and filling her with anxiety and a mite of fear. For if anyone found out she had a secret lover, the princess of Denmark, England’s supposed queen to be… well let’s just say it wouldn’t be her position or honor she’d need to worry about keeping, so much as her head.

Adalina, her first lady in waiting, another noble however minor, and old friend stood quietly to a side as she watched her lady and friend. Her mind too worried at what was happening just now and how they could maneuver out of it. She had, been with Lydia for years as she’d recounted to her mistress so if there was one person who would know about her secrets, it was Adalina.

She had been the one to arrange for their trysts in the night and the day. She had been the one to ensure the security of their secret. Adalina wasn’t a typical noblewoman, no matter how minor her station. She was a romantic and didn’t see the dividing lines that separated the highborn from the low. It was with these notions that she had accepted the charge of helping her lady find time with a man she had come to love of her own volition, Jackson Whittmoresen.

Lydia was silent for a while, drawing Adalina out of her own thoughts and to the needs of her mistress. “What would you have me do my lady?” she prodded, remembering Lydia’s last words before they quickly escaped the seeming threat of the courtyard. Green eyes darted up to find Adalina’s, the woman’s words drawing her grace the princess out of herself and to purpose.

“Tonight,” she said slowly, carefully, as though still constructing the whole plan. “I will leave the banquet early, before I do, you will prepare my rooms to receive… him. He should enter through your apartments. I will dismiss my personal guard…”

“…How majesty?” Adalina queried. She had always found if she had the full extent of the plan she could cover any mishaps that may occur. It was a testament to the devotion she felt to her lady. ow H

“I will send them to drink, assuring their roles will be completed by guards of the king’s appointment. This of course will be a falsehood but it will keep the doors clear until this meeting has reached its completion.”

“And what of the king my lady?” she asked concerned.

Lydia bit her lip in frustration and suppressed anger. “That fool is far to distracted to notice my absence let alone my plans. He will not interfere or find out. He cannot!” this last she admitted with persuading, yet cautious enthusiasm to which Adalina nodded almost reassuringly to her mistress. There was silence between them for a moment and then Adalina asked the thing that most plagued her mind at present.

“Majesty, what will you do tonight, with… Jackson?” her blue eyes were slightly widened in question the only expression that betrayed the otherwise serenity of her face.

“I will find out why he has come and how,” She mused as her thoughts slipped into ideas more personal and more sultry than previously planned even as she whispered to herself, ever quietly and ever far in the back of her mind that, the purpose of tonight must not be confused or forgotten, no matter the depths of loneliness or how much, I’ve missed him.

 

*

 

Stiles stared at the guards meaningfully and then to Derek, his eyes and the question within them sounding out in Derek’s mind as if he could simply pick the man’s thoughts from his head. The king reluctantly waved the guards back from their aggressive positioning before the highland prince but purposefully did not dismiss them. Maybe that would communicate something to the beautiful little wretch. They regarded each other openly, Derek maintaining with some difficulty an aloof expression, which sometimes weakened into what seemed like a pained face, while Stiles simply glared in barely concealed upset.

There was such a long pause of silence between the men facing each other that the guards around them started looking back and forth questioningly and even more pointedly at their King, not daring to speak but silently pushing for an order, any order. Finally, there was a break in the ominous quiet.

“Lord king,” Stiles uttered tensely, the last word lingering with a hint of distaste highlighting its syllable. Derek sighed in subconscious reactive frustration.

“Are we back to that then,” he muttered before he could stop his mouth from betraying him.

“I’m starting to wonder if we ever left,” the prince replied sounding a little resentful. This sent an unexpected fissure of pain through the king’s chest, and he forced himself to keep his heartbeat from thundering out of control, even surrounded as they were in a sea of hearts. “Your man Deaton, you sent him with a message…?” it was half accusatory and half questioning as though he didn’t want to believe that Derek had, actually taken those actions, that the king wasn’t truly thinking of sending him away.

Somewhere inside himself, Stiles recognized the insanity of his thoughts, his actions, his being there right now to do what, argue to stay. Nothing made sense anymore, but that was the least of the reasons why he simply couldn’t stop himself from continuing course.

“Sir Deaton will handle your transit back to Scotland.”  Derek spoke abruptly

“Why?” his charge responded in like fashion.

“Because I am a busy man there is much to do the wedding will…”

“I mean why are you,” he paused looking about at the guards wearily for a moment before he sighed and continued, “sending me back.”

“Sending you home you mean?” Derek iterated, curiosity at the nature of the prince’s ruffled feathers, wrinkling his brow.

“Yes,” Stiles grunted, and Derek almost laughed out loud at the ungraceful sound that was not synonymous with Prince Germin Stilinski. In fact he sounded so much like Derek it made the king’s heart soften just so, weakening him to this man even further.

“I thought it would please you to be returned?”

“I only seek after the motivations behind such a decision, you made quite the point of explaining how and why I could not leave and suddenly…”

“Well you weren’t almost killed then were you,” Derek spat annoyance rising swiftly and then falling away just as quickly. Stiles almost stepped forward with an outstretched hand but aborted the act quickly. The king sensing the movement before he even saw it moved back. The near fear in his eyes met the hurt in Stiles and his fear turned to guilt at which point he turned away from Stiles and walked off with guards in toe.

“But what of…” Stiles began but cut himself off as he watched the guards and their half-turned backs. Derek hadn’t turned, and perhaps it was a small blessing he didn’t revealing more in his eyes than he would ever allow to be said.

“Our business here is concluded little prince,” Derek groused audibly, and then with as much sincerity and eagerness as he could fit in his tone he spoke again, “Now I must see to the details of my wedding, it vastly approaches.” And with those final words, each one a knife stabbing and hacking at his throbbing heart, he took leave of Stiles and the dream that was them together.

Stiles feeling the burn of tears in his eyes had to force his gaze away from the retreating back of the king and his men. He beat himself up for the way he felt, the way he was reacting. What did he really think would happen, that Derek would have dismissed his bride and taken him as consort, as lover. And who would rule what kingdom, what would happen to their countries. Stiles felt his heart sink at every new idea and every argument for why his desired outcome could only fall apart.

 

*

The wind blew in soft breaths that wafted drapery and sheets like spectral visitors in the night. The lady stood before her full length mirror wearing a night dress and a long black robe, hood drawn back to reveal her flowing black hair that almost glistened with beams of reflected moonlight. The expression on her face betrayed her constant appearance of serenity and calm as she took in the new development.

It was a testament to her talent that she had sensed the need to make this contact now. It also spoke of the connection she shared with the one with whom she communed now. “What!” she hissed soft but sharp in the dark night, expressing the depth of her incredulity at this admission. The room she stood in was lit only by sparse candles that cast soft glows of radiant light to feed the image in the mirror glass. The door to the verandah of her room was opened allowing moon glow to stream in and enhance the natural powers she had used and bent to her task now. Her eyes were dark and heavy as she pondered on the words she’d received.

The prince of Scotland, returning before the task was done. It could not happen. Her visions showed what would happen if Stiles and Derek didn’t bond, if the special magick of Stiles own existence did not have enough time to work.

“No,” she urged, “he cannot leave,” her voice was grave to the reflection she looked upon which wasn’t hers. It was the visage of a man she looked upon. A man with dark skin and features, dark hair and powerful penetrating eyes reflected in her person. “All is lost if they do not succeed in finding their way.” Her fears were quantified in this news. She looked solemnly into the mirror at the man who stared back with similar expression, faces not guarded by the weight of secrets or the need to sustain masks.

“Brother,” she whispered, fear accenting the word which made Alan Deaton’s heart tighten to hear his sister in such straits. Marin, of the two of them, always had the better control, control of self, control of emotion and control of power. “If the Scottish prince returns, I fear what will happen in England. I see betrayal and death and the threat remains. You must guide him brother, to the truth.”

Alan knew she was referring to Derek. But it was not so easy to position or direct the king of England, especially when the weight of emotional factors complicated everything. His personal relationship with the king had been built on trust, loyalty and an enduring respect that kept the man from lying to his lord even at the expense of pride, the king’s or his own. But then again, his sister and himself had been trained well in abandoning emotion or pride as a governing factor of the self.

His mind turned then to the real task, the threat they faced. The threat that sent them both into action all those years ago. Thoughts trailed a suspect he sniffed out long before but was never able to truly catch in any kind of incriminating act, though his deep sense spoke of the treachery that lived in the suspect’s very soul.

“Have you been able to identify in your visions the direct source of the threat?” he asked fishing for anything more that could secure their success. She peered at him patiently, simultaneously sending her mind seeking after every scrap of information she had drawn from the future, until she could order her thoughts and then nodded.

“It was as you suspected. It will be his blood who betrays him. The black and bloody duke, is what my vision whispers now.” She shuddered recalling some of the things she had seen. Her visions were hardly ever precise and often explained ideas or concepts of the future in metaphor and symbolism, with deeper meanings within meanings and multiple interpretations as the future is never set or finite.

Her words had a double pronged effect of bringing wary relief and concern to Alan who had now suspected for some time that the Duke Peter Hale, would be at the center of the trouble that would bleed out of the English kingdom and swallow all of the European empire in a tidal wave of blood and despair. Deaton had seen the man become subverted by greed, entitlement and a hunger for power that threatened the safety and security of all who stood in his way.

He thought for a moment and then looked at his sister once more, “What of the princess, have you seen anything of her, I’m concerned that she may have been subverted by the Duke?”

“The attempt on the prince…” Marin uttered thinking on his words. Deaton nodded at her, his own mind drawing memories of suspicious looks he’d caught between the princess and Peter and her fearful concern whenever the witness was discussed in her presence, the missing kitchen girl.

“Only whispers in the crystal cave, something of a plot that failed. She’s scared and something new has come to spin her wildly about. It all spells misfortune to me brother, but I can assure whatever plots are undertaken in that kingdom it is the Duke’s doing. He must be stopped.”

“He must be caught.” Deaton clarified, “but how?”

“I’ve seen something new up his sleeve, something to do with the princess and an old or new lover…” she scrambled to put tips and clues of vision fragments together, it wasn’t easy. Suddenly she remembered their childhood, their training with the druids of the forest nemeton. She remembered the day their designations took them in opposing directions. Twins bound to be separated by duty, yet, held together in that duty to their people, to all people. The lady of the crystal caves and the lord of the stone circle, leaders of two aspects of the druid power and wielders of two great magickal strengths. Where his domain was space and gateways, hers was time and sight.

She saw further and deeper than any other that existed. The boundaries of time threw down at her behest and revealed to her in dreams, visions and the abrupt extra sense what may come, what was occurring any and everywhere and what had gone before. Being raised in the forests of the great nemeton brought lessons of commanding the visions, coaxing them out, drawing answers through time to the caller, to herself. Then, quite shockingly, she felt a frisson of cold and an impression solidified in her mind of a set stage, three players, the scorned woman, the forbidden lover and the king’s rage. Finally, the sound of laughter and the executioners blade coming home to the chopping block in a wet grunt of satisfied hunger. The words spilled out of her, her mind tuned and trained to decipher her mental clues in seconds arriving at the conclusion most likely.

“He plots now against her, I feel certain of it, but it must also include the king. In the end in the darkest premonitions it is the black and bloody Duke that sits on the throne of death, with one heel on the neck of the world and the other on the English king’s neck. The only chance for these nations for all of us is to ensure the success of his influence, the croí a shealbhú.”

“The heart hold,” her brother murmured in response a sound that barely projected passed the confines of the mirror realm through which she viewed him. He thought on her words as she considered all the lines of time, the threads of possible future that intersected and rode parallel each other, until her inner eye was tangled with the actions that led to actions which led to outcomes she could not control. But for all the lines she could track, every line that did not include the heart hold, the prince Stiles working his particular innate power on the king of England, led to disaster death and destruction for many.

“I can’t see how I could force his remaining here. The king is adamant about him leaving and because of the nature of our cultivated relationship I cannot push him.” Deaton sighed as he thought deeply on things. There wasn’t a way to force the king into an action in this matter that didn’t involve directly explaining all things to him and that, certainly would ensure trouble. “The thing is, it is his heart that pushes the prince from the border. He fears for his life and would sacrifice desire to ensure that the prince continues in life…” He trailed off as what he was saying lit up a new train of thought, his mind quickly explored so that it could order thoughts and explain this new tack to her.

Marin, so in tune and aware of her brother, the way he thought, the way they worked together, was also onto a mite of his revelation. Perhaps it was some residual twin connection that they shared, even more deeply as youngsters long before their training took them down different paths they would never intimately share as they had every other experience as children. She watched him carefully, noticing how his brain worked. She waited patiently and quietly giving him time to word it and at once she saw the reaction of jaw muscle tensing which told her he found what he was working out. “Tell me,” she said.

“Perhaps the problem is not a matter of having the prince as the croí a shealbhú work his influence, it seems to have already found home in the king. This is clearly evidenced by his concern and his sacrifice. It isn’t helplessness or anger that drives, but love. He fears that that which he loves should be destroyed if he were to stay, so to rescue heart he sends it away.” He paused momentarily to give her time to assimilate all this information with her visions and her personal knowledge. A light in her eye told him she had bandied atop his train of thought and now followed him down the path it led.

“The influence of the croí a shealbhú has already succeeded in this land many of those who have made contact with him have fallen to his power. He sways their allegiances, all of them. Perhaps then the real issue now is to use what you can see in your vision of the bloody one to trap him. Stiles was in danger here, now, with him gone the king can marshal his mind with a bit of prompting and direct his wrath…”

“…to the bloody one responsible for the threat, yes brother you’re right, but what of his betrothal.” Marin asked as she picked up his beautiful mental construct and tried to fill in the missing pieces.

“I truly do believe that the heart hold’s influence has significantly changed him. If he can be successfully convinced of his uncle’s treachery he will see that Stiles doesn’t need to be away from England. Some other solution can be made for the Denmark princess. The question is now, how do we proceed with the trap?”

Just then Marin became abruptly alert, her senses only then carrying back some information to her that made her go rigid with the lateness of the timing. Alan watched her worriedly and was about to speak when she uttered the final words. “Watch her well, watch her tonight.” And with that she turned away waving a long elegant hand before the mirror. The image of her brother faded quickly freezing his image and the expression of lightly concealed alarm on his features in the glass, for a mere second, before it dissipated like frost in warmth.

Marin walked toward the door and without hesitation opened it fully to reveal king John standing outside, brow furrowed, Eyes burning chasms of boiling bubbling lava and mouth set in a grim line of anger and frustration. She wondered fleetingly how much he’d heard but when he spoke she winced at her foolishness for not spelling the doors to her apartments in his castle or for at least not sensing him earlier.

In a gritty gruff voice interlaced with the growls of the inner wolf that seemed barely caged in that moment, “Heart. Hold. I. Will. Have. Truth. Or. Heads.”

 

*

It had taken a lot of digging and a lot of sleuthing, walking around the city dressed like one of the common people, a thing he hadn’t done in many, many years.

Boyd missed it, though the common of the kingdom of England weren’t nearly the same as the common of Ireland where he was originally from. His mind turned then and turned again so as he walked purposefully through the dirty streets of the small town he was presently searching through, he drifted ever so lightly in his mind until he was surround by the lush green shrubbery that seemed to go on for miles where it paved and flattened into lighter lime green fields and hills.

Should he turn around he would see trees that stretched on for miles and miles as the eye could see and this was only if one were to step of the main road which led to a community of rambunctious but loveable folk going about their tasks all the while laughing and gabbing and singing about the trials of the day and the love of their hearts and the blessings of the king. He missed his home indeed. There was a profound difference in the contentment of the people going about their daily lives, in the things they valued and how they behaved as a community.

He had gotten to spend a bit of his childhood enjoying the freeness of his people, he had gotten to know what it meant to live under a good king in a fair kingdom which helped when he was chosen, an orphan boy by the lady of the crystal cave for his purpose. Such a far-reaching plan she had sending him to England where he would work toward one day entering the king’s service and influencing in ways she would guide along with his developed sense and intelligence.

Now here he was searching for the end of a fraying thread for an answer he was fast losing faith in finding at all. Lord Deaton had placed him in charge of investigating the case of the missing kitchen girl who delivered the fatal message to the prince. Of course, this was to remedy the bumbling of the affair by the incompetence of the guard captain, or this was what Lord Deaton had said to him confidently before it had even been reported that the unfortunately foolish man had failed. Boyd had thought then how the man often guided him closer to his mission and this in turn led him to wonder if it was all part of the lady’s great plan.

Boyd had questioned silently and persuasively the individual members of the kitchen staff, most of whom had nothing profitable to offer. Some of whom provided valuable intelligence, such as the older linen washer woman in the kitchen who had noticed the secret looks between the serving boy Dobrey and the girl Millie. She and her “woman’s intuition,” she had whispered, “put it together that must be the reason she hadn’t taken a husband among what few callers came round, and her with having that little cottage to herself now that she was an orphaned little big woman.” But to a woman that ancient, Boyd had thought, everyone must be a little big somebody.

Boyd had found Dobrey and had a conversation with him, very persuasively and Dovbrey had revealed, ‘he hadn’t seen Millie in a while and didn’t give a pissing fuck where that tramp had gone off to though he had a mind just with whom.’ Dobrey had then described in detail the man he had seen Millie walking off into the forest with, when he’d last seen her, and he would have gone after her too just to tell her what he thought of her for being such a whore, well that she was a whore, but the guy was a big lad much too tall and too big and he looked like he knew how to handle that blade he carried at his belt side, and well he had a blade, Dobrey didn’t…

Boyd had sighed with disgust at the cowardice and ignorance of a man who had claimed to love her not recognizing danger to his woman. Whoever that man was he had surely killed that girl and disposed of the body so well they couldn’t find it even now. He asked Dobrey if he had seen the man around before, but the boy had denied adamantly saying he would have remembered that type of sort to be coming round.

That had left Boyd with searching through the streets for like descriptions and questioning possible sources for information concerning the same. There had been no success for him since he started days prior and none now hence his fading faith. It was therefore, quite the shock when Dobrey came bolting up to him very conspicuously and flailing his arms as if hailing down a horse drawn litter. “Be still man,” Boyd groused.

“Oy I seen him in the tavern just now the same bastard thas gone with my Millie I did.” Boyd was immediately alert.

“Show me.”

Dobrey led him to the tavern until they got to the door and Boyd grabbed him by the arm pulling him about the side of the building to enter through the side door as another patron exited. He watched carefully as Dobrey found the man with his eyes and Boyd who traced those eyes silenced him before he could open his mouth and give them away.

“I see, that one by the window nod if yes,” Boyd applied a swiftly grown claw to the man’s wrist as he subdued the glow of his eye a trick he was taught by the lady of all persons.

Dobrey nodded and Boyd immediately dismissed him with a gesture. As the scared little man exited the tavern, drawing attention Boyd made his way to a table behind his suspect. Maybe hope isn’t dead after all he had thought slipping into a seat with a good vantage.

 

 

*

Lydia was uncomfortable and unconscious throughout the entire banquet. Though the lavish laden tables with meats and cheeses, breads and puddings, sweets and cakes of all kinds was more than impressive in its enormity as much as it’s extravagance. There was enough food to feed the kingdom and the rooms were filled with nearly that number. Ornate and elegantly adorned men and women traversed the floors hand upon arm, chattering in appropriate but excited voices while in the center of the mixing and flowing crowds, dancers came together and parted in animated movement to the sounds being drawn out of beautiful carved and strung instruments of music.

The banquet halls were merry and exuberant and a thing to behold even among the nobility who frequented such affairs but the lady in question, the princess to be bride queen was quite distracted. Of course,  though the king himself who sat at her side noticed none of her unsettled and anxious behavior. It seemed he’d spent almost all of the banquet not so much in a gone moment of mind drifting or wool gathering but in his own distracted state of heavy thinking that drew other images before his eyes as opposed to that which occurred in his immediate reality.

To the king’s right and just a bit behind him stood Lord Deaton who seemed to be keeping an entertained eye on the crowd to the princess’ mind though his very well-trained eyes kept themselves trained on all including her, and her restless behavior. Adalina, the princess’ first lady returned gracefully through the crowd from wherever she had dismissed herself to minutes before.

Before being allowed to sit by the princess who stopped her with a gesture of the hand. Lydia got herself up and leaned forward to murmur softly to Derek “My lord, would that I retire early I am feeling a bit weary.” When there was no response she muttered his name impatiently to which he roused and waved her off before she could speak again. With that the princess quickly exited the banquet hall and presence chamber through which one could get to the living apartments rather quickly.

Deaton noticing the entire exchange of course, and wary of the princess after his sister’s warning leaned over the king’s shoulder to offer a mite of advice on an item he knew personally had continuously slipped the king’s mind. Levering him with the need for a distraction from his mind and from this party he queried in an even and measured tone.

“My lord it was your desire to inform the princess of the vast advancement in your wedding’s schedule was it not?” Derek grunted and shook his head then inclined it to Deaton a dazed expression in his eye questioning the relevance of all this now. Alan was mildly surprised that the king had heard what he had said on the first go of it, clearly Lydia’s intrusion on his thought travel had jarred him enough to still be generally present. He disposed of these thoughts and elaborated for his king. “Perhaps the news would ease some tensions within the princess and even lift her spirits or whatever ails her. Good news is its own remedy in many respects. Also, perhaps,” he ventured thoughtfully on a dangerous gamble, “should the princess be up in excitement about the duties of quickly approaching nuptials, this may send a message to a certain prince on the adamancy of his travel plans.”He disposed of his mask just a bit in order to provide Derek with an eager and encouraging expression.

Derek thought on this briefly and nodded. In his own mind he thought about it and it made sense. Lydia would fawn over him in her relief, Stiles would see and make no more bones about leaving. Quiet and brooding and with scant a word to dismiss his presence from the table or even the feast, he got up and walked out of the hall.

He let his mind drift as he had become so recently want to do as he made the short journey from hall to apartments, though it only seemed so to his mind. He had waved off guards at the onset to be alone with his wondering thoughts on the way. He had waved off guards at the onset t

When he finally got to the princess’ rooms he had been bathing in scenarios of past stratagems that might have saved his hand of its current course of action. The surrounding area was dark and there were no men standing before the princess’ rooms which did something to draw his attention back to the present as the picture was out of order with what he had expected to find. It is funny he thought then how discrepancies in the reality we know do more to distract us than outright acts of physical distraction.

Just then the sound of a muffled admonishment caught his ear and his ears flared at the words escaping an unsealed door around the corner of the hall which ended in the wall of apartments ahead of him. The words were faint but he made out an apprehensive “I will not see her come to harm at my hand.”

Following that was an even fainter, “You are already here,” and “she must see you.” This naturally sparked the king’s curiosity and anger as he was already painting a picture of what was happening, considering the first voice was surely a man, an unidentifiable man and the second one he had become familiar with over time, Adalina. The king moved slowly toward that slightly cracked door, the only reason he could pick up this conversation by wolf hearing.

“Jackson!” came Lydia’s voice and the wealth of emotion in it, shocked the king whose eyes began to shine as his mind put pieces together. Mounting fury was all that kept him immobile and silent. The next words he picked up left him seeing red almost literally. It was the unidentified male and he had said the words, “My love.”

Chapter Text

Years of training and self-discipline showed its powerful result in Marin Morell as she preceded the guards who accompanied her from her chambers into the king’s presence chamber. The room as she encountered it was as cold and silent as the stones that built up the ornate pillars and walls separating floor from ceiling. Even the cruel curves and wicked slashes of symbols and runes carved into some of these stones, seemed to emanate an aura of chill and unacceptance. She idly eyed the large paintings of the late queen Claudia and royal family portraits of the king, his wife and son that adorned the walls ahead of the chamber against where his throne sat, having the effect of the current royal family looking out on those who approached the king.

Rather than sigh in frustration at the sudden turn, she reminded herself using the cold and logical inner voice of the Lady, all things will turn as they will in the grand circles of the life wheel, the sight be my guide and my mind be my hand to divide the way I see.  It was a small mantra that told the user your power is yours for its purpose and it will guide as it must through any, and all situations. Even those unforeseen, and this thought brought a bitter amusement to her mind. For she was the one gifted with the sight, foreknowledge, precognition or prescience whatever one will call the gift, yet at what may seem to be crucial times in the construct of time the gift appears to fail terribly when most required.

But of course, she thought to herself many forces work beyond the realms of human and supernatural understanding. “We are but pawns,” she muttered to herself, causing the king to stir in his thrown. This movement, minute in its expression and enactment drew her from her inner-self to the outward environment, but not before she scolded herself for not maintaining inner and outer awareness in duality, simulflow, a thing effortless for someone of her ilk and power.

King John sat, back straight, rigid in his heated anticipation. Oh how his mind had been tortured and tantalized by the wee snippets of conversation his alpha wolf’s hearing had drawn to conscious mind on approaching the lady’s quarters. How he had been made to feel betrayed by a woman who was quickly swaying him in affections. She knew, the extent of knowledge he knew not but aye she knew something of the strangeness of his boy, and his ability with other people. She knew something enough to have a name for it, croí a shealbhú as if I couldn’t remember all the old Irish tongue.. he snarled mentally. It took enough of his might simply to dim his eye glow so his reckless fury didn’t betray too much of itself.

He surveyed her, watching in stern appraisal, holding himself firmly in check as he decided the best course of action to depart now. She almost nodded to him as though she knew his thoughts, as though she understood his displeasure and momentary absence of words to move them along and with a steady gaze she began to speak.

“You desire words from me, honest words and it is my intent to provide that you seek.” Marin’s tone was high and flat commanding the attention of those present while informing all that she felt neither trapped nor imprisoned in this situation. As though it were not her very life, could be threatened by the results of these proceedings.

“There is a story that you must hear for the truth is laced in its entirety. You must listen to this story without judgment and ask not of things you should not know. This is to say, all which pertains to a realm outside of your own jurisdiction as lord and protector of these lands, you must leave undisturbed and unquestioned.”

She broke off her stare minutely to spare a glance about the room at the few men who stood guard at posts selected to box her in and make her feel the futility they believed she was in. How savage and beautiful they looked with their furs draped over leather lined backs and chests. Thick hide boots covered their steady feet positioned slightly apart with knees bent in subtle tension that spoke of readiness for battle at the slightest hint of provocation.

“brave and loyal soldiers all,” she mused nearly to herself before she pinned the king with her piercing dark eyes, “We must have the room, my lord king,” she added quickly enough to not be misconstrued as sarcasm. “There are things I will divulge to you that none other should hear, no matter the trust forged through long loyal service to his majesty.” Her eye caught his immediate resistance and for a moment overwhelmed by a curious empathy she dropped her mask of implacability and revealed in her eyes the pleading with which she would compel his cooperation. “Please,” she called out.

King John, shocked by the unexpected and powerful display of vulnerability from this woman who would present herself as such an immovable stone in the glade, he raised a hand and with a firm wave, dismissed the men from the room. His guard captain approached in protest but the king silenced him with a turn of his head.

“I am in no danger Rollan, it must be done.” But the captain just glared his mistrustful defiance of this situation. When he didn’t move, the king growled his name, “I will call should she require restraining now get out.” The man glanced back at the woman, witch, he thought in such an aggressive mental manner it was as though he could make his thought corporeal and hurl it at the woman. Rollan turned back and walked out of the room turning to look to his king once more before closing the doors behind him.

“Is he fiercely loyal or terribly mistrustful?” She asked openly though her voice had this distant sound to it that made the king wonder if she had meant the question rhetorically. He was also aware that he was angered by such a question, he had considered it to be a foolish thing to ask or ponder considering the circumstances. These thoughts shaped his next words.

“Perhaps both, however at present I would say the latter was with good reason.” Marin’s eye darted sharply to his, her mind renewing its wholeness. He could see for a fraction of a moment the sorrow in her eyes and then it was gone, replaced once more by the smooth unchangeable mask of serenity she often maintained. John saw this, even as quick as it was gone and it softened him a degree. “Go on then,” he invited, voice more than just a growl this time.

Marin surveyed the king quietly for a few seconds and with a look as though she were sighing with her mind, though her face hadn’t moved, she began her tale.

“I ask that you listen without prejudice and hold your thoughts about you, restrained, until the story has been told.” He nodded shortly, although she didn’t seem to have needed his acknowledgement of the request, seemingly expecting his compliance, as though he were not the king sitting there in his throne. He refrained from bristling audibly as she spoke.

~

“The thing I remember most fondly about my time as a youth in the greens and groves of the Ireland forests and valleys,” she sighed audibly and it was as a gust of wind blowing. The sigh itself eased through her body like wind through trees, just the kind among the forests she spoke of remembering. The words continued to spill from her lips, ushered upon the forests breeze of a sigh which seemed to swirl in her mind a whirlwind of creation, painting in the scene of her past life.

  “…just that, the green, the verdant color, the life of it, the freedom of it. As a youth running through the brush in reckless abandon, there is nothing more freeing than knowing you are untethered in the wildest of all things, that savage nature.” Marin paused swept up in her own words and the magickally vibrant image painted by memory, though outwardly there was no obvious tell or sense of effect.

Her eyes narrowed on the king in his chair and she picked up, almost caught back in the grip of reality by his anchoring eyes.  her tone as soft and impartial as ever. “But despite my time as a free child of the forest of druids, I was nonetheless a child of the druids, my brother and I both. Twins of the blood.” There was a slight hint of resentment in her tone that seemed to have escaped her martialed control.

“That you will come to find comes with its own duties. The druids are a dedicated community with two powerful, interconnected and nearly interdependent communities. These are the scholars of the cities of kings and the magick callers of the forests of the nemeton.” Marin suddenly lowered her gaze and with a swift up turn of the corner of her mouth, pinned the king with a conspiratorial stare, before uttering, “I’m sure you have determined I belong to the latter community.”

King John was momentarily offset by her quick turn of behavior and kept there by the way she quickly slipped right back into that implacable mask. “Now within, the earthchild community, for that is what those who were blessed by nature with gifts of innate magick, there are three sects. Neither is greater than the other but each station must be headed by a chosen of the blood. Well the process of choosing is the same for all but one station, The high priest, or priestess of the Nemeton is often determined by the retiring high priest in a lifelong apprenticeship of children of the blood deemed worthy to the station. Or worth training at least. But this sect, the sect of the nemeton is not to be the focus of our discussion. The knowledge you seek comes from the explanation of my own position and station and that of my brothers. As lady of the crystal cave and lord of the stone circle.”

She took a breath then as she thoroughly remembered the extensive series of events which led to her and her twin brother Alan ascending to their respective positions as leaders of two thirds of the infrastructure of a powerful people. The early visions, the displays of fractions of power that one day would grow to something enormous, and well managed amongst the shadows of the forests of their people.

“We were tested. There’s always a test.” Her shadowed mind and shadowed heart replayed images of the times of the testing. Grave and sad times which brought more lessons than either of them cared to learn at that point of their lives. The time when children lose their innocence and have it replaced with the guile brought on by seeing through to the heart of the world itself.

Marin recounted then for him in hollow detached voice the trials of her youth which risked sanity and death itself for the reward of becoming the beacon at the helm of a great power.

“Do you know how a prescient mind is trained to the task?” she asked, though the way she eyed him suggested that she did not expect an audible response. After three heartbeats of silence, she answered herself. “It is through painful acceptance.” Marin paused again as though that was the most simplified and self explanatory thing in the world on a topic that was most common court conversation. Another few heartbeats of silence passed, and the king half wondered if she was trying to find the right order of words to explain herself. Her eyes were completely unreadable, as they often were.

“In order to navigate the realm of possibilities, one must first accept the inevitability of the future.” Her voice took on a husky persuasive tone as she spoke the next words almost as if she were imitating someone she’d heard iterating this same lesson she was now imparting on him, once before. “It will come it cannot be avoided. And once the choice has determined the outcome it will not be changed.” Another short pause punctuated the confession.

“This means,” she continued in her normal tone, “the future is ever shifting ever changing, but once a choice is made and its reaction set in motion it also becomes set in time. This in turn means that time will move forward and the outcome we choose by our decision and the decisions of those who affect our lives cannot be stopped and must be accepted, this is the only way to view the endless possibilities in sanity.”

“When I was tested I was sealed away and made to view my death in several hundred timelines all based on the actions of my brother and those who would be set upon his path in his test which would be to save me from my death.” The king did an excellent job of maintaining his composure while listening to her tale but she still noted the twitches of shock and discomfort that words were inspiring behind his flesh.

“The goal of my test was to understand that the only way for him to succeed would be for me to be in danger of death and accept that death should he not succeed. I was made to humble myself before the vastness of all time and recognize that my place would be to lie on a stone slab beneath a contraption of spikes that would impale me if my brother could not find the power within to travel to me and remove me from the danger.” She explained these things with a dark and calm conviction that stunned the king and earned even more of his respect. He understood something of what she was saying.

He had shared discussions of the mystic world with his wife, saints preserve her soul. They had even, in fact on occasion discussed those who could see into the future. It was always her belief that no one should hold such power because of the selfish nature of all peoples. They could not be steadfast in the face of personal despair even though it meant saving far more than one life from tragedy. He had agreed with her because he knew his own heart and how much he would sacrifice to spare her an ounce of pain, unfortunately, no matter who else or how many else would have to suffer in her stead.

So, it wasn’t a great leap to understand Marin’s words now as she explained the lessons she took great pains to learn. And now that he could see to the core motivations of her spirit and her purpose, so much about her, her demeanor, the way she managed to maintain cool, calm and constant acceptance, made sense. She lived every second more than once and having been taken to the very worst of what was possible she could no longer be surprised by linear time.

“It is a strange and liberating thing to realize that you are willing to give up your respectable selfishness,” she paused for a moment allowing herself a tiny smile at the choice of words. A quick glance at the king revealed a quick upturn of his own mouth.  

“I would imagine so,” the king venture speaking for the first time since she began, effectively breaking her rule to save anything he wanted to say until she was done but he sensed this was no disruption, and that she was nearing the end of her confession. She glanced up at him again and even as her eyes staked him in place he felt the pressure lift almost tangibly as she disappeared inside herself to find the last few words that would round out the tale.

“In the end we both succeeded in learning our respective lessons, neither of us too worse for the wear. My brother ascended to the mantle of Lord of Stone Circle making him the leader of the sect of travelers and controller of one of the greatest relics of our times. I ascended to the mantle of Lady of Crystal Cave and it has been since, our mission to ensure the continuance of our people and safeguard all lives when it is due.”

Suddenly her face became grave and he knew the danger was approaching the bad part that he’d been waiting to hear threaded through her story like an intricately hand woven tapestry. At the very least the bad part that concerned submerging his son and heir in the intrigue and danger of this world this woman lived in and seemed to command from her place in the night shadows.

“Many years ago, the visions began, not my regular visions not inane things that could be ignored with the passage of time as simply something that a precognitive should not interfere with. No, these, were vast, widespread like a blaze of the forest that spreads and rises until the flames are licking the very last leaf on the highest branch of the tallest tree and all the life of the forest is consumed and transformed to death and ash.

 I began seeing a great disaster looming over all people, like a creeping black tide that had nothing to do with natural black of night. This was the black of malintent and hatred. Over time, I divined the major components within the vision the main players, antagonist and protagonist. The English King and the Highland Prince, the heart hold. But before I go any further on my dark visions let me first explain this to you to at least alleviate some of the fears I hear in you.”

The way she said it was almost an affirmation to him that she certainly could pick the thoughts out of his head like a magic trick. It must certainly be one of her gifts either born or acquired. John remained silent and attentive though now what he really wanted was right before him he couldn’t help but feel the bindings on his patience slackening, not quite ready to snap but close.

“First let me say, that the karmic balances of the supernatural world are such that, when a great evil is born into the world out of the womb of magick itself, that same womb in time crafts its opposite to keep the scales of the unseen world in balance. Thus, in every few generations there is born a soul with a special endowment, a gifting for persuading the hearts, the very beings of others, turning them completely to that special soul. This soul, this person can only be good. It is like a magickally crafted being made for great purpose. That is what your son is. A specially crafted soul made for the purpose of combatting the darkness that I have seen coming.”

“Why him, why Germin?” the king gritted asking the one thing that burned at him, no longer able to hold himself back in anticipation of the end of her explanations.

“Perhaps there is no reason, or perhaps in the wisdom of the maelstrom that is the ethereal body of magick this world breathes and lives upon, there is every reason. Your son is the one to have fought against the surviving English king, he was the one to be taken, he was the one who turned this king’s heart and began averting him from the path which led to such utter destruction.” She paused to pin her eyes to the king’s and with a breath and an intense glare she rounded up saying, “I do not presume to understand all truths at the heart of the mysteries of the supernatural world, but I do know that every circumstance has placed the highland prince in the path of the English king and on the grand stage this battle will be played out on they are the only two players who can make a difference.”

                    

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

                     The king sat in his presence chamber, peering absently through the tinted spectrum of the stained-glass window, his thoughts taking him far and wide as he tried to make sense of the spiral, that had become his life. The past few days in review kept cycling in the forefront of his memory. The princess Lydia and the supposed betrayal. The violent attempt on the life of a royal within his keeping. His own inability to keep a handle on his mind or his court and finally, the most troubling and mentally consuming issue of his entire existence. The issue of the prince, Stiles.  

He sighed heavily as his heart seemed to stutter at the thought of all this. He glanced toward the door hearing the faint sound of oncoming boot falls. This drew his attention to the present and the fact that he had been coaxed to wait here for Alan Deaton who would advise him on his next moves. There was no one else he trusted under the circumstances and especially when it came to helping him think or order his riling thoughts that burned and thundered and raged like a storm within the cage of his mind.

In a quick flash of memory, he was taken back to the corridor outside of his betrothed’s chambers. There was the husky sound of the man’s voice admitting his concern and the softened voice of his lady to be admitting her betrayal. He closed his eyes and pressed fingers to the lids almost pushing into them, the tension and slight bite of pain bringing some relief to him in the form of distraction. How did this all fall so far out of hand.

“Perhaps our current predicaments are far more salvageable than my lord realizes.” The words were strong and sure and penetrating. Derek looked up to see that Lord Deaton was standing in the doorway staring at him expressionless but for the deep analyzing stare maintained in his eyes. How does he do that? Derek mused to himself really staring at Deaton now. Taking in everything about his presence in that doorway. His face serene and undisturbed. His eyes intense and focused and seemingly incapable of missing a thing.

“Apologies for jarring you from your preoccupation. Let me again say that it is not minds that I read but behavior.” His tone was soft but carrying and purposeful.

Derek opened his mouth to say something but closed it again.

“Do you wish me to begin or is there something you’d like to express to me first?” The question at first caught the king off guard but then he realized what the man was saying and silently, inwardly thanked him for the gift of those words. Deaton was telling him that he was free in the privacy of his company, a trusted friend, to say all that he felt and thought without judgement or the expected silent reservation of acceptance those who served royalty delivered without question.

“I have lost love, found betrayal, even in the depths of my own, though I cannot suffer it to continue. I feel like my kingdom slips from my fingers and I simply watch as it goes. I am a failed king.”

“Lord, you must relinquish these thoughts to the shadows at once.” The voice that spoke now was firm and when Derek looked up to his advisor and friend’s face, when he looked into the eyes of his friend and confidante, he saw harsh truth and a command that persuaded his attention and obedience despite the reality of their roles. In this instant he was not king but supplicant and Alan was the ruler delivering his dictates.

“A large mistake of the aristocrat who truly works in favor of his people is to diminish himself under attack. You are the strongest defensive line between your people and the people who oppose you and your kingdom. Hold fast to your resolve in defense of the dream of your empire or it will all fall to nothing.” Derek was reduced to an acolyte looking up at his master in fear and awe. That was the magnitude of the power revealed in Alan Deaton now. Hold fast to your resolve

After a few moments of quiet regard, the king looking upon his servant as though the roles had very quietly but very completely been reversed, Alan looking on in that unperturbed sense of calm as though he had not just scolded his king, Derek gathered enough of his senses to wonder at just how much of this man he truly knew and what was left undiscovered beneath the surface. He opened his mouth several times but blew the words out as wasted breaths for their inaccuracy in expressing the feeling and thought roiling within him.

“What would you have me do?” he asked, and there was earnest quality to his tone.

Unexpectedly a deep look of scorn came upon Alan’s face, “Are you asking me to be king,” he uttered in a measured tone of serious disgust. “Will I be ruler and you the hand by which my works are done.” He gave Derek a hard stare. And then his voice softened to a more musing quality, “or will you command the best of those who will stand at your back and then make your ruling as king.”

It was a long time before the words and the tone in which they had been delivered fully settled upon the king in his high chair, his seat of power. Every second that passed though, every second increased the firmness of his back against that seat until he looked to his advisor with the pride and strength that was previously lacking. The qualities of a true king.

“Have you any advice then before I make a decision.” This time when Derek spoke there was steel in his voice and Deaton had to grip himself firmly not to smile.

“In fact your majesty, I do have some new information you must consider.” He turned to the great doors then and moved slowly forward. “I sent Sir Boyd to carry out something of a private investigation into that kitchen maid, the one who delivered the message.” Deaton got to the wooden doors and unlatched them before pushing them open to reveal Boyd on the other side. “He uncovered some interesting information.”

At that, Boyd entered the room looking solemn but triumphant as the king turned from one man to the next. “My king,” the man said humbly bowing low, his knee meeting the ground in a swift collision that left a dull thud to echo about the room in the absence of any other sound. “There is something you should know.”

***

The princess of Denmark looked up from where she sat on royal blue chaise holding a spool of fabric in one hand and needles in another. She had simply held the items, unintending to do anything with them though, she had thought she had when she’d picked them up. Maybe she did intend to distract herself with some needlework as it seems Adalina was doing but somewhere along the line of picking up the items she had gotten lost in the replay on her mind’s eye of the previous night’s activities.

Jackson, he was there. In her arms, holding her, telling her that nothing had changed in his heart and nothing could have made her happier, except, perhaps not being in this situation to begin with. But before much more could be said and exchanged the king, who somehow had found out had had them arrested and sent to the tower of London to await trial and judgement.

She thanked what she hoped was mercy in him to have appointed her and her lady to the queen’s suite in the tower though, Jackson was no doubt confined to some depths of the dungeons. She shuddered to think of the ill treatment he would surely be made to suffer on her account. The brutality and violation of all peoples that the king’s justice called interrogation. And how he would be questioned, she considered, her mind racing and blanking and racing again, every time it touched upon the idea of such pain inflicted, an imaginative picture reluctant to be finished its construction in her mind’s eye lest she faint from the fathoming of it.  

 How would they get out of this one. She kept thinking it. Working it over in her  mind. Nothing would come. Nothing that could save her head even if there was a chance that the trial could be totally fair. And what advantages did she have, what friends could she count on to help guide her out of this terrible mess. None! No one here to help her but her maid Adalina and she was stuck in the same beautiful cage as her princess. All she had was a failed alliance with a horrible…

Wait! The roiling world of her spinning imagination stopped then, striking upon that once failed but still existing, frail though it were, connection. Peter Hale. The Duke, he must see me, she thought. Whatever the dissolution of our shameful partnership, I know his secrets and though it may only build a small scandal the distraction could still work to delay things in my favor.

It was a shifty plan, built upon an unstable foundation more dangerous than any she had experienced in her years, but it must be done. Her now steadier fingers set aside the needle work and she rose to her feet in one swift motion. She paused at the height of her ascent as though she needed to take a moment to gather herself for what she must do next.

Toward the door, Lydia set herself moving to address the guard she knew would be there. A movement caught her eye and she dismissed Adalina’s stirring form with a hand on the way to the door. Tilting her head up to the grates slightly aligned with her forehead, Lydia knocked upon the door three times before announcing her desire. “Bring me the Duke Peter Hale. Tell him the time of practiced detachment must now be put aside lest things be learned that be better left to the shadows.”

There was a long silence in which the princess thought the man would outright ignore her but then she heard his soft grunt, alerting her that a bit of motivation was in order. She may be imprisoned but she wasn’t without the presence and tone of command accumulated over years of living in a position of superiority in the social and political hierarchy of the world.

“I am still princess and until it is renounced the future queen of the empire of England. Not to mention, my future husband has asked that I be treated with courtesy has he not,” she gambled and paused letting it sink in. Whether he did or didn’t, her being a princess and saying it made it real to this guard who may rarely, even come into contact with his king to know what he was truly like. When she felt like she had made her point, putting as much aloof tone and disdain as she could muster in her words, she finished smartly. “It’s been said that the Danish kings have a long memory, but it is the queens who remind their kings of their rage when they forget. What would you like me to remind the king of you, when all this foolishness is at it’s end.”

That did it. She barely caught the guard calling back his assent as he made his way to find the Duke as commanded.

*

It didn’t take long, though Lydia felt like every moment in prison was an eternity. When the boot-falls that alerted her wolf senses the men were coming, it was such a relief she was worried the duke would easily sniff out her emotions if he stood before her. “Leave us,” she heard his confident and commanding low voice. Footsteps of the retreating guard, and then the clicking of the door. Adalina, who Lydia had only quieted with a cursory explanation of what she was doing, remained seated and working on her needling with quiet hands, though she gave a concerted glance to the door at regular curious intervals.

“Princess,” he seemed to slowly but deftly grab the word with his tongue and hoist it out of his mouth at her, leaving it dripping with impatience and impetuosity. “You summoned… me”. The pause, acted as an effect to greater highlight his incredulity that the condemned woman would deign to shame him by calling him to such a place, to her.

She waited a moment, marshalling her body to not betray her creeping fear, uncertainty and concern that this gambit of hers would fail tremendously. When she felt as though she held the mask of her face as impassive as possible, giving her a feel of being shored up in defensive armor, she addressed him.

“Indeed, I did, thankfully my message was relayed accurately,” her words were meant to draw his attention to the barely veiled threat she had seeded in her summons of the duke initially.

“Yes, I expect the guard delivered word for word what you expected me to react to.”

“And you have,” Lydia remarked quickly cutting him off. Her intent, to remind herself that he must consider the threat substantial to have come and to point the same out to him. The princess of Denmark was no fool.

“What I have done, my unfortunate princess,” the words were laced with such disdain, “is afford you the privilege of an audience with royalty as the king himself will not, and will soon wash his hands of you entirely.”

The princess’s eyes widened briefly, before she commanded herself to give nothing away once more and quickly reoriented herself to an impartial mask, unreadable. With tight control of her voice she explained, “Will he still, once the truth of the mastermind behind the attack on the highland prince is revealed… somehow I doubt he will be so quick to be done with me and the tales I can tell.” She allowed herself a small smile of satisfaction while fire glinted in her eyes as she regarded the Duke.

“Tales, what a terrifically apt term for those fanciful stories of yours. Stories that will be believed by no one. The final efforts of a disgraced princess fallen low and looking for any road to redemption.” He glared at her coldly. “The evidence is insurmountable my lady, and tarnish my name all you will it shall not save you. Nor shall it save your little lover downstairs.” The venom in him was so powerful she could almost choke on it. She invariably stepped back as though he had physically shoved her, the shock of his plan sending her crashing low.

“You cannot do this, they will believe me…”

“Over his uncle. His family and protector, throughout his life, advisor and friend,” the duke chuckled darkly, “oh no, you foolish little wench he will believe nothing but that which I tell him and you,” Peter stepped closer to peer through the grate of the door down at the woman he wouldn’t even acknowledge as an equal. “You will die for your crimes. Perhaps, had you secured his love there might be a chance for your silly juvenile plans, however, you couldn’t even do that. You have outlived your usefulness to me, but I must thank you, for presenting the perfect ending to years of planning.”

With that he turned on his heel and made to leave. “You are evil Peter Hale!” she accused hurling her heated words at him with all the force of hatred she could muster, tears burning in her eyes, one of them escaping to glide down a cheek. Without looking back or even stopping his stride he called with a soft chuckle, “I must confess it’s true, but I make it look so good.” He didn’t make it out of the building before Lydia was on her knees at the door sobbing with her lady holding her, though, there was not much by way of comfort that she could offer her mistress.

 

***

 

Alan Deaton cleared the castle alone and with no final glance slipped into the woods. He walked quietly, silently seeming to glide through the brush and trees. When he had gone some distance from the place he had claimed as home for a vast majority of his life, he sent his senses seeking all about him to ensure there was no one nearby, none following and none to see what he was about to do next.

With a deep breath and a dive inward to that place within, where his greatest power lay waiting to be touched, waiting to be called and activated, he opened his eyes now alight with a luminance that seemed to emanate from the miniscule components of his druid body. All at once the dim glow of his eyes spread out to every part of his body, and the form once solid and imposing in the darkness of the wood seemed to vibrate and shimmer until it completely collapsed from existence, leaving the space previously occupied empty but wafting, with a heat, that quickly dissipated.

Leagues away from London, just outside of a circle formation of large stones, a form wavered and shimmered into existence a distance away from one of the gate openings of the nearest stones. The form winked into firm being and continued his stride as though it’s last step wasn’t taken over hundreds of miles away.

As Alan approached the henge, Stonehenge, he thought back over the years he had completed this ritual since the very first moment he had enacted it. There was no full moon today, as he had been unable to get away at the last but no matter. The ritual itself had changed over time, going from a sealing once a year since he had first used it, to a drawing and giving of power from and to the relic to hold an equilibrium, after he had closed the time gap between his first travel back to the moment he had caught up.

These thoughts in turn brought him to the very beginning of it all. Lord Deaton walked through the gate, finally making it to the grand and powerful structure, feeling the force of energy barely held beneath the surface brush against him, like slowly breaking the surface of stream, and then engulf his being as he stepped through. He was suddenly overwhelmed and drowning in the strength of magick in the relic. He gasped inaudibly.

As he made his way to the center and lowered himself to sit cross legged on the bare ground, his mind went to work as it usually did, settling his energy and binding it to the flowing and heady energy of the henge until they formed this cooperative exchange of power that slowly hummed in him and out toward the great magickal relic.

Setting himself to the mindless task of his equilibrium, his inner thoughts went back to the beginning. His first travel. What an awe it was to do so. His power as a child had always allowed for him to move short distances in space as he chose. The more he had worked his power the stronger it became. But the greatest wonder he had experienced was after the trials. After he had rescued Marin from her ordeal, her facing down of death. After he had stretched his gifts to their limit in order to get to her in time.

Once they had been tested, the twin druids had taken up their respective mantles, knowing that their lives would only continue to divert and they would never again share the unique twin existence they had until then. His new duties and tasks simply took him away from her, gave him far more to be responsible for than just his sister. Never had he imagined that the diversion would become so profound.

In their late teenage years, the visions had started for her and it was not long until the two leaders of two of the most powerful sects of the hidden world had determined what needed to be done in order to safeguard the future from the terrible destruction his sister could see. There was only one thing to be done. Alan and Marin had combined their gifts backed by the strengths of their relics to allow Alan to travel to a place where he could position himself to help his sister save everything.

With her sight amplified by the crystal cave, she could pinpoint a specific time through which Alan might be able to slip into a life in English court where he could one day be an advisor to the next king. With his ability to travel made increasingly more powerful by the stone circle and bound by magick to his sister’s prescient navigation, Alan Deaton with little hesitation turned from his present and travelled through the past, to a time where he could easily succeed at his mission.

Using druid tricks and gifts he was able to make a name for himself and become an accepted member of court, unnoticed until he was ready. Every year since, on or near the day he first traveled back, on whichever day there was a full moon he had returned to the henge to seal the open rift created by the break through time. When he had finally caught up to the date on which he traveled, his ritual then became to balance power within himself with the power within the henge.

Today he did not need to be within it to travel great distances, however, using it to bring the power of travel to equilibrium within him every so often he gathered the power he needed to eventually leave a legacy of travel stones himself. This was one of the great tasks of the Lord of the stone circle.

Each grouping of stone circles increased the resonance field used by travelers in every generation to move across space. Each grouping of stone circles made the travel easier and the ability to sustain power easier. Out in the world Alan had already begun the formation of his own circle, his legacy as the Lord of the Stone circle did before him to add to the power of the traveler myriad. But for some time, he was unable to concern himself with his legacy as safeguarding the future of the world would be what ensured his ability to leave a legacy.

With that thought, he came to the present state of the court, Boyd and his discoveries and what they had agreed upon. With any hope things would go as they had determined, and the final crisis could be averted. For the first time in his life Alan wished he had the gifts of his sister. He wished he could see forward along the lines of time.

 

 

 

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

The highland prince had been on the road 4 days, halfway through his journey to return home. He rode behind guards appointed personally by Lord Alan Deaton to ensure his safety on the way, a small number only due in fact to the contingent of family friends who also accompanied the young prince. To his right was his closest friend and greatest ally Scott McCall. On his left was another old friend, and someone who had to learn to relegate his affections for the prince into a safe and appropriate place within himself, as his love could not be returned. Koda, prince of the formerly Independent land of Ireland and twin brother to Deucalion, looked over at Stiles, trying his best to mask it so as not to draw attention. Even if he had though, the prince was so consumed by his own troubling and weary thoughts, that he would never have noticed or bothered to pay the gesture any mind.

Koda pursed his lips and turned back quickly to glance at his brother who pulled up the rear with his lady and the men they had travelled to England with initially. Duke offered him a wan smile, easily interpreting his look. Koda had loved Stiles for quite sometime but recently had come to terms with the fact that the young prince would not love him back, at least not in the way he desired. In fact, the young prince was completely enamored of the king of the expanding English empire and enemy to his own father, whose country was at risk of being absorbed into the empire.

There was certainly a reciprocation of feeling on the English king’s part as far as the twin princes could tell. However, for his own reasons the king seemed to discourage any further contact between himself and the almost obvious object of his affection, Stiles. Perhaps they were good reasons though, at least that’s what Koda considered, riding alongside the distracted highlander. The king was meant to wed the Danish princess Lydia Martin and there had been rumors of unrest between the two as a result of the king’s affection for Stiles.

When Derek had commissioned his man Deaton to send the prince home, it had taken them all by shock, even though none of the Scots or Irishmen besides the smitten Stiles approved of such a union. Still, seeing the pain and confusion in Stiles since he had been informed of his forcible exportation made all those who love him somber and morose.

Stiles had spoken to no one about his feelings on the matter. Rather he had remained quiet for the duration of the journey. Only speaking when he was directly and forcefully addressed and even then, there was no enthusiasm to his words and deeds. Even when Scott had started one of his favorite songs on one night’s rest, the prince had simply risen and slipped into his tent to sleep or more likely avoid the presence of the others.

“Nearly there now,” Scott announced, his voice slightly bumpy as his horse encountered some incredibly rocky terrain. “The king your father will be joyous at your return.” He looked over at his friend who didn’t even seem to have heard him at all. “sire,” he uttered. Still no response. “Stiles,” he called a bit louder to which the man simply said “Yes,” and urged his horse on further.

Koda caught Scott’s eye behind Stiles’ back and the two shared a concerned glance before resuming their vigil. None of their efforts would reap any reward it would seem.

Meanwhile, Stiles continued to be lost in the drowning sorrow of his thoughts, which rolled and tumbled with one main idea at it’s heart. I thought he cared for me, was I that much of a fool. He couldn’t fathom why Derek would send him away and the brief words they shared after he found out about the king’s intent proved nothing either way. Why would he do this, Stiles wondered.

The king had taken such care with him, he had proven his kindness and compassion and much greater than that. He had proven his desire for the prince a desire that was returned in kind. Stiles thought back to the kiss they shared the very first time. It was everything he had ever expected it would be when he found someone he could love, even though he himself had fought it on some levels within himself. No longer. He knew what he wanted and now learning that he would be exiled from just that, broke his heart into many fragments.

He was somewhat aware of his friends rallying behind him. Trying their best to turn his mind from despair, to refocus his thoughts on positive things. His reunion with his father, which, he was truly happy for. He simply wished that it did not have to be under present circumstance. Somewhere along the lines, he had imagined himself going back with Derek so that the man could return him in person and perhaps gain some measure of forgiveness and favor from his father while they courted.

Now all of that was simply a lost dream. Here he was on the road to Scotland, astride a beautiful horse and surrounded by those who loved him and he could not seem to find the energy to provide them with a smile, for the effort it took away from his wallowing was too great. Instead, he preferred to think of Derek so he could curse him and cry over him in the privacy of his mind.

Maybe I was just a fool and he was never what I’d imagined, he mused, the idea a dagger in his chest but perhaps he needed to entertain the possibility that, maybe, he had just been wrong about the man. After all he was hardly what anyone would call popular due to his annexing of kingdoms into his empire, an inheritance from his father the conqueror.

He was loath to secure this thought as truth but how else could he move on from this. He could either love the man or hate him but whatever the final decision he had to lose this feeling. The distraction of it was diminishing. He saw the way it affected those around him and he had never been that person. If anything, he had always been the one to promote good will and balance, joy and camaraderie. This, what he was doing now, would no longer work.

Still though, he felt the bite of his dark emotions tugging at him and knew the immense task mounting before him. He would have to grieve this, and let it go.

 

***

Lydia Martin walked into the room with head held high and face serene despite the growing unease within herself. Her green eyes scanned about her at the faces peering back with various expressions of disgust and disdain. No doubt they had all been told stories about her disgraceful actions. The princess who would dare to spurn the affections of the king of the new empire. Affections, she could laugh at the word, she considered in her thoughts. That man might be capable of affection true, but it was certainly not for her. As she made her way forward through the convened court of nobles, she let the events that had led up to her imprisonment and now trial play out in her mind repeatedly.

If she had known now what she did then, things would have taken a much different turn. If she had allowed herself to remain true to her real nature instead of being manipulated into becoming as scheming and conniving as most other high nobles in kingdoms all over the world, she might not have to worry over losing her head. Almost everyone in her life had added some kind of influence to what she had now become and she had done things that could never be taken back.

The attempt on Prince Stiles perhaps the worst of it all, and then having that woman killed to cover her tracks. She had to work to avoid looking as shamed as she felt as a result of her own behavior. Her parents, mentors at court both in the Danish kingdom and here, in the court at the seat of the power of England’s growing empire. Peter Hale, the vile duke who had played her like a harp, stringing her this way and that until she had thrown her lot in with him and done heinous things, and for what… a man who clearly did not love her. Maybe he was capable of care but not the way she deserved, not the way anyone deserved of a real partner.

No. she had seen the way he looked at the Prince. And perhaps her own bitterness at being refused a true love had fueled the vengeful fire raging within at having felt cast aside and cuckolded by the man she was sent to marry. She didn’t need to glance back to know Adalina was dutifully walking behind her, maintaining as much class as she possibly could, emulating her princess and offering solidarity to the woman as they both faced what could be a detrimental ordeal.

They approached a podium set up for the accused and stood before it with proud faces raised toward the men seated ahead. She didn’t recognize them all as she gazed in a sweeping arc over their faces. Lord Alan Deaton was one of the few faces she did notice, along with Lord Cromwell the senior and finally the hated Duke Peter Hale.

She refrained from sneering at him like a wild animal when he fixed her with a cruel smile. His evil eyes brought her back to his most recent offer. He had addressed her before the court convened as she waited to enter, him being the last to make his way inside before the accused. Softly he had made it clear she understood that there may be a chance to save Jackson from hanging for a crime he did not commit if she restrained herself from implicating the Duke in her horrendous crimes.

She had balked in incredulity at the way the man simply divorced himself of any wrongdoing. The fervor with which he spoke suggested to Lydia that had she not known as a fact that he was the mastermind behind all this trouble even she would have a hard time believing it of him. The princess took a deep breath as she noticed the king himself was not present.

“Your grace, princess Lydia Martin, you have been brought here on crimes of treason and adultery against your king and former betrothed.” Lord Deaton began with an impartial tone and clear eyes staring straight into her as if he could see into her soul. “Your lady in waiting the Lady Adalina is also being charged with aiding in your treasonous and adulterous activity. How do you plead before this court?”

She blinked once and then with a firm voice declared, “Not Guilty.” This was followed by Adalina’s echoing response of not guilty and then a throng of murmurs and whispers throughout the room.

“The evidence against you my lady, unfortunately is quite damning. Let the evidence be reviewed before the court.” Deaton turned to Lord Cromwell who retrieved a parchment off of which he read.

 “The princess Lydia is accused of adultery and treason upon being a arrested by the royal guard after being found in flagrante with a lowborn lover in her private apartments within the castle. She is accused of plotting to cuckold the king based on her actions with this man identified as Jackson Whittemore a migrant resident of the kingdom of Denmark. Her Lady found with her and a clear participant and facilitator of this treachery is also thusly charged.”

Lydia reddened having heard the charges which only served to blacken her before all and disgrace her further. “What does the lady have to say with regards to the charges she faces?” Lord Deaton asked looking at her again as calmly as impassively as if they were sitting in a dining hall and sharing a spot of tea.

“The charges have been greatly exaggerated and manipulated in order to create a crime where there is none. I was only made aware of this man coming to my rooms on the evening in which we met. It was brought to my attention that he brought news of my homeland and in my long absence from the kingdom of Denmark, which holds no representative in this court at present,” she added ensuring that the violation of her right to have peers present at any trial of a high noble was pointedly remembered by these men and the witnesses. “When I met with him, which yes, was facilitated by my lady who recognized him for what he was, an old servant of my father’s kingdom, I merely embraced him as I would embrace any reminder of my home. For this I have been unjustly vilified.” She felt confident in her words as they provided a more than plausible story, and considering her position, created something of a chance for her to survive this intact.

“Perhaps, Lady Martin. Are you aware of the proper channels through which such acts must be conducted? Are you aware of the suspicious appearance of the choice to forgo such protocols in order to meet secretly?” Deaton pressed her once again, his voice neither wavering nor changing though she felt the gravity behind his words. She gave a quick glance to Adalina who stepped forward and tried to speak only to be quickly silenced by the hated Duke with a raised hand.

“You will remain silent woman, the questions are addressed to the princess. Whatever her fate, shall so be yours and thus I suggest you allow her to prostrate herself before this court and explain her dark deeds.” He turned then to give Lydia his full attention. “How did this man get into the castle?”

She was a moment in responding, the anger and hatred welling up in her like a tangible lump in her throat that she could choke on. Through almost gritting teeth she responded, using every fiber of her being to refrain yelling out that it was all his doing. “He was brought in by my lady. She was convinced by this old servant of my family that the news he carried required immediate attendance and that by the time he went through the appropriate channels it would be too late to respond. Besides he carries no formal seals of royalty, the guards would turn him away at the door in disbelief.” Her counter was quick witted, but she was starting to understand that the Duke would turn the pace until she was wrong again and again in order to trap her.

“And we of the court are expected to believe this. A man with urgent news from Denmark, with no seal from the king of said country comes to you in the dead of night, ushered in only by your loyal servant the lady Adalina, and you agree despite recent threats against royalty,” he articulated these words to remind her of the response she could never give, even as he antagonized her to the highest degree. “Furthermore, you became physical with this man because the so called servant reminds you of home. Are we to believe that if you came across a mouse from Denmark you would hold it to your bosom because it reminded you of home…”

There were chuckles and jeers across the room as others fell under the persuasive and dismissive tone of the duke. “No I…” she tried to say but he cut her off, no doubt refusing to let her finish a thought in the hopes that it would make her appear flustered and unable to form a valid response thus, making her appear ever more guilty. What a devious creature.

“Are you also suggesting the king is a liar?” The bold question sent a hush throughout the room. The princess was stricken, unsure as to what he had meant by it as well as unsure how to respond to the dangerous question. After it became clear that the man was purposefully unwilling to elaborate on his words, she took a deep breath and tried to navigate. “I could not and would never make such a claim my lords.”

“Then you have surely convicted yourself here lady as it is by the king’s testimony that you were addressed as a lover by this man you claim to be a mere servant of your family. It is also by the king’s testimony that you addressed this mere servant in the ways befitting of a lover. This coupled with the facts of your illicit meeting is quite damning indeed. But I suppose the princess was not previously aware that the king had heard every word uttered in your secret tryst. This was ensured by the enhancement of wolf sense.”

Lydia turned to Adalina in shock. It was clear that neither of the women had been aware of that bit of evidence and before she could scramble for some kind of defense, to muscle them out of the corner they were being backed into the duke spoke again, this time addressing his fellows.

“With no witnesses to your defense and nothing that can dispute the testimony of our king and protector I move that we proceed to judgement.” Alan Deaton for the first time seemed to gain expression and looked at the women near apologetically before retaining his mask and turning to confer with the softly whispering men. Lydia was quickly becoming frantic, unsure of what she could do. If she revealed the truth of Peter she would also damn herself to surely suffer the consequences for the attempt on the Scottish prince, and there was no guarantee that the duke would even be charged. There was also the matter of Jackson’s life which would surely end if she admitted their relation. She was well and truly painted into a corner and though she kept opening her mouth with some half thought out ploy, she could not find anything to say, adequate enough to save her life.

“We the court of nobles,” Lord Deaton began, “find you both guilty of all charges and will be sentenced upon the morrow by his majesty the king of the English Empire. This court is adjourned.” He banged a gavel and it was as though the loud echoing sound resounded in her head indefinitely. Her face was a mask of shock and fear and she found herself unable to do or say anything, even scream out in defiance. The last thing she saw before being led out of the room, was the look of triumph on the face of the hated Duke.

 

*

Duke Peter Hale entered the throne room of his king and nephew feeling as smug and victorious as he had ever felt. Not only did he manage to influence the departure of one threat to the hold he had on his nephew and thus the seat of power that governed the empire through him, but also a new threat would also be eliminated very soon.

That foolish princess really thought for a moment that she could have it all, but like many others before her, including Derek’s very father the late King, she had learned that her place was only afforded to her by his grace and that could be taken away at any time, once they outlived their usefulness to him.

The duke had spent artful year after year weaving webs and lies around every useful and influential man and woman at court and throughout the grand and growing empire of England in order to ensure that nothing happened that he didn’t want to. The unexpected arrival of the Scottish heir to the throne, had nearly scared him due to the powerful threat he had begun to pose, what with weaving his spell about the king. And Derek, what a fickle heart he was, allowing himself to be seduced by sweet words and songs, what folly.

But yes, it had been a bit of a scare when he thought he would no longer be able to control, no, guide his nephew to making appropriate decisions that benefited his growing empire, and the Duke. Now that problem was gone and he barely had to do much, though it hadn’t been taken care of the way he had planned, the boy didn’t perish at the hand of that clumsy hunter but no matter. He was out of the way and with any luck, and much manipulation, he would stay that way.

Someone would die though, and he was glad for it. The foolish princess Lydia would meet her end when the axe man took her head and with it, the secrets she held concerning their treacherous but temporary alliance. It made him smile thinking how she must believe that her sweetheart would be saved, but he too would have to disposed of. She might not yet know, but it was Peter who had dug into her background and found out the not too well kept secret of her love affair with the Danish man Jackson Whittemore.

It was Peter who had his agent find the man and coax him to coming to the city of London, under false pretenses, where his love, the princess would be waiting. Little did they know, that once reunited, the affair, after having some time to build into a fiery conflagration, would be exposed and thus explode.

So, of course he was more than pleasantly surprised to find that far ahead of his assumed timeline the king had already found the two together. What could be better than this. Now with a bit of maneuvering it seems the duke would be free of all of his problems, and he didn’t even have to break a sweat.

It occurred to him that if his nephew had died along with his father all of this would not be necessary. How much easy it would be if the man died of a broken heart, then the duke could replace him and not have to rule from behind his seat any longer. Such thoughts were nothing but a game of fire but he had played such games for years, and had developed quite a taste for the ruthlessness of the burn.

“My king,” Peter announced as he entered. He was surprised to see Deaton there already, certain he had been ahead of the man but no matter. The advisor had inadvertently acted on Peter’s behalf countless times, despite the unflappable honor and loyalty he seemed to bare. “I trust you’ve been informed by Lord Deaton, the verdict has been handed down.”

“Yes I have been informed.” Derek’s tone was sharp and short and it brought a frown to Peter’s face.

“May I pose a suggestion as to the senten…” before he was done the king pinned him with an irritated glare.

“No you may not, I will decide her punishment. In fact I already have and do not require tutoring on how to deal with traitors and adulterers uncle.” Peter looked between the king’s sour expression and the unchanged passivity of Alan Deaton’s

“Is everything well with you Derek,” the duke ventured but could see immediately that he had only caused more displeasure in his nephew.

“In these rooms, a vestige of my power and office you will address me as King. What informalities I decide to address others with is my right as ruler here, uncle.” He said it with such vehemence that Peter physically recoiled as if he had been hit.

“That is well understood sire. I simply wished to…”

“You are not here to make wishes like a daydreaming child, you are here to serve me in all things. Do not forget it. Lydia Martin will lose her head and it will be done at the most earliest of conveniences, 3 days hence.” His dismissive tone told Peter that his input on the subject was no longer to be contributed.

“When will you make the announcement, sire.” He added, hastily ridding his tone of the reluctance. He hated being commanded especially by his apparently ungrateful nephew.

“You will declare it tomorrow and attend the execution as I will pay that little adulterous bitch no more honor at having me present. Is that clear?”

“You will not attend the execution?” Peter asked in confusion.

“Is that not what I just said, are you getting senile uncle.” This brought a crimson flash of fury to Peter’s face, but he tried to play it off with a hard crafted smile.

“No I will not attend. I will remain in my presence chamber, in seclusion so that I may review the plans for continued expansion of the empire. The guards will all attend. I want them to see what happens when treachery is found. No matter the proximity to the throne all who oppose or disrespect their king will be found headless.” Derek turned a self-satisfied look to Deaton who hadn’t changed his expression at all.

“Perhaps I should sit with you sire, and offer council”

Derek laughed a deep bellowing thing that felt like spittle upon Peter’s face for what it implied. “If I require your opinion,” he said the word with exasperation making him sound like the idea was simply foolish to him, “I will request it. Until then do as you’re told. Now leave me.” After a moment’s hesitation in which the king’s eyes became scarlet of the alpha, Peter backed away a few steps, bowed and then turned about to make his leave.

Walking away from the room, confused and more than a little upset, the duke began to revisit his ideas on ruling in the king’s stead. But first he would have to be gone for that to happen or work. Rather, he’d have to be dead. Peter had learned though, that anything and everything is possible, with simply a bit of hard work and determination.

Lord Deaton watched the man exit the throne room with his placid expression remaining though he thought down the many lines of possibility for what the most likely outcomes might be due to the duke’s nature and motivations. Derek tuned his hearing to the footfalls and enhanced to wolf sense in order to determine when the man would be far enough away from them to allow for them to speak freely.

As soon as he was assured of distance by his own inability to track the life signs he associated with his uncle, he turned to the man next to him who had been waiting it seemed, for just the same thing. Derek Knew Deaton was no wolf, and rare as it was to have a non-supernatural so high up the food chain and an advisor at that, he appreciated the diversity of experience and council that offered him.

“Do you think that was enough?” Derek questioned, referring to the secret plan he and Deaton had concocted based on Boyd’s findings.

“I’d say it was a powerful start. Maintain his ire and we shall provoke him into revealing himself.” Deaton responded still thinking, and his tone of voice reflected just that.

Derek thought then of the princess and her unfortunate role in all this. However, before he had a chance to voice this himself, his friend remarked on it in that terrifyingly clairvoyant way he had of picking up on one’s thoughts. “all must proceed as planned, despite the stress under which we must put our supposed unfortunate victims. This is already terribly delicate and we cannot risk upsetting the plan, by revealing it to others.

What they were attempting was dangerous, but it had to be done. Days prior, Sir Boyd had revealed to the king and lord Deaton that he had tracked down the man responsible for killing the witness they had been searching for. After watching him for a few days, Boyd had lured the man into a trap of his own and abducted him in order to extract from him truths, and what many truths he had discovered. Many truths indeed, and quite terrible considering.

The man had explained to his benefactors, that the assassin was hired by the king’s uncle to do a lot more than just murder the kitchen maid. He had also been made to track down some Danish man and bring him here, luring him with specific lies concerning the princess Lydia. Once he was here the man had maneuvered Jackson toward work within the castle where he would no doubt eventually make contact with the princess himself.

In the height of his pain he explained that the Duke did not spell out his plans but from what he knew, the king’s uncle had expected an affair to ensue. One that would eventually be outed and cost all parties involved their heads. He also mentioned hearing the Duke insinuate that he was the true power behind the throne of England’s empire, and he would not relinquish his hold on the reigns of power to either the princess or the prince who had been sent away.

The suspicious remarks and summation of all that had happened, had led the three to conclude that Peter, somehow engineered the ruse which sent Stiles into the forest and to what would have been his doom, if his two suitors had not instead found him and fought of the hunter.

Derek had had to take some time to cool his rage which eventually did subside enough for them to determine a course of action, but his gleaming red eyes did not abate until long after the other two men had been dismissed from his presence.

His first instinct had been to find his uncle and rip his throat out with his teeth and his heart with his claws. It had taken much council from his friend and advisor as well as much time thinking about Stiles and how he was alive and unharmed for the man to relax. Once he did though, his determination was as flowing and as powerful as rushing rapids.

His treacherous uncle would be made to pay with his life for his betrayals and manipulations. Blood or not, what he had done was unacceptable and unforgiveable. And the man clearly placed no weight in family. Otherwise, he would not have done this to his own nephew, someone he was meant to love, guide and protect. Derek had always known Peter wasn’t the most caring man, smooth though he was, but he had no idea that all this time his Uncle was capable of such evils.

So, they had planned, and Deaton had proposed something desperate, but it seemed to have some sound logic to its inner workings. After pondering long and hard the man had suggested they push the Duke. He had clearly worked hard to be a manipulator behind the scenes, holding power to him like a lifeline. It was the only thing he seemed to value so it stood to reason, if he would go that far to secure his place, what would he do if he found that yet again threatened, except this time, by the king himself.

Deaton supposed that the Duke might, if presented with opportunity and motive, move to have the king killed. And considering he tried his best to keep his hands free of the dirty work, he would most likely have his agent, currently in the custody of Lord Boyd, do the job.

Derek then had suggested they find Lydia guilty of whatever crimes necessary in order to make a show of her execution, one which the king would not attend. In fact, all his house guards would also attend as a demonstration against treason or at least that would be the reason given. Following Deaton’s train of thought, he supposed that the Duke might look at that as an opportunity to move against his nephew.

Alan then added that Peter would also most likely immediately dispose of his agent to tie up the last of his loose ends in order to quickly end any investigation and ascend the throne himself. Anticipating these actions, they would be prepared, and Lydia would be spared with the executioner having orders to desist at the last moment.

“Do you truly believe this will work Alan?”

Deaton looked at him deeply and nodded his head, “It is risky but we will take utmost precaution. I believe it will work, and I also believe it is our best option, for without proof beside a cut-throat who could be disposed of at any time even under the king’s very own protection, it would be unwise to murder your uncle before all the empire. He must be justly taken down and his plans dismantled.”

“See to it then,” Derek commanded and directed by the dismissal in his tone, Deaton left to find Boyd and co-ordinate the details of their plan.

I will have to kill my uncle, Derek thought and put his face in his hand. Traitor he may have turned out to be, but before that, all Derek had known was that he was family, and the last of the family left to him.

 

***

 The reception waiting at the gates of the castle was immense. It would seem nearly every scot had lined the streets for miles and at the gates stood every noble present. A vast contingent of guards and ahead of them the King John Stilinski with the Lady of the crystal cave, Marin Morell to his right. The king positively vibrated with anxiety and nervous excitement. It had been far too long since he had seen his son. Far too long. This was a gift, a treasure beyond his wildest dreams. When the rider had come galloping through the gates at top speed, screaming “The prince of Scots!” John who had been coming in from a ride, had felt his heart stop and stutter.

He had hastily commanded the man to tell him the details of his message right there in the courtyard, not bothering to take him inside or offer him refreshment though it was clear he had journeyed fast and hard. When the man had found enough breath replaced in his lungs to speak without gasping, he had recounted the message he had been sent with ahead of his party which included the prince Stiles. “Your grace, my liege his grace prince Deucalian sent me forth to inform his majesty that his heir is on the way. He and all held by the English king have been released and travel now for home. We had camped for the first four day leg of the journey, and I was dispatched to ride post haste to reveal this news. They should arrive within the next two days my lord.” It took the man everything in himself not to collapse to the ground once he had fulfilled his duty. The king had summoned a guard to take him to the kitchens to provide him sustenance.

He then himself made for his presence chamber where he summoned the Lady Marin to confirm this. Normally he was not a man to rely on the supernatural art of seeing, but where his son was concerned, he would not allow false hope to fill him and destroy him should it prove itself false.

The woman who had found between them a different kind of relationship following their previous confrontation, wasted no time confirming the truth for him, saying that her brother had already informed her, when last they communicated that the prince was to be returned to his home. She had also added that this was a representation of the effect his unique ability and soul had  already begun to have on the English king.

John had bristled at that not wanting to acknowledge any emotional connection between his son and the monster who had taken him. He could not fathom that Prince Germin would deign to intertwine his life with that of the one who had set his kingdom against his father’s, injured his father and then abducted him, in an attempt to strongarm his father into conscripting his kingdom into the expanding English empire.

Now, at the break of dawn, riders had galloped down every street and alley announcing that the heir to the Scottish throne, would return on that day. No one knew exactly when as that would be hard to determine, but shortly after the messages had gone out, it seemed every man, woman and child, had emptied their abodes and littered the streets in the hopes of glimpsing and greeting their prince as he rode home.

When the king had assembled his royal reception, he was astonished at the numbers that awaited Stiles. He knew that many would come, it was the way of the common folk, but the multitude suggested something to him he had been affirming privately ever since Marin had explained the unique nature of Stiles’ soul and gifts. His son had been a man of the people as had many royals of their line before him, but none had ever elicited a response of such magnitude. Surely this had to be the effect of the croí a shealbhú, the heart hold.

He was losing himself in a flood of memories of his son growing up, every time he had done something unexpectedly wise and compassionate, which made the man respect and love him even more deeply than any father thought possible to love their child, when the uproar began. It sounded like the roar of the ocean was flooding down the path of the road and he knew it could only be one thing. Roaring cheers in greeting of the oncoming envoy, moved from person to person down the streets until it reached the gates and everyone except the royal reception was screaming, crying and cheering.

Before long, John made out the first riders being welcomed by flowers and beautiful fauna being thrown at their feet, creating a carpet of multicolored beauty to usher in the return of their lost patron. It was like a saint being greeted by his religious fanatics.

Soon the riders were close enough that the king was able to make out the figure of his son astride a steed. It was then that his vison zeroed in and he saw nothing else. Unconsciously he began to move forward, unable to help himself and disregarding whatever foolish protocol that might hold him back. This was his son, returned and unharmed. He noticed when Stiles saw him and picked up the horse’s speed.

Before much longer, though to the king of scots it felt like uncounted years, his son was halting the horse before him and jumping down to throw himself into his father’s arms. When they embraced, the tumult was deafening. John Stilinski wrapped his arms around his boy and squeezed him so tightly he nearly feared he would hurt him, though he could not help himself.

“My son, my son,” he kept repeating unable to say anything else in his relief and overwhelming joy. His face was wet, but he didn’t remember when he had started weeping, the emotion was so strong.

“Father,” Stiles heard himself say and himself began weeping with joy. He had been so consumed with thoughts of Derek along the journey that he had never truly processed where he was going and what that meant. But now, seeing his father, holding him when the last image he had of the man was his fallen body on the battlefield, it was as though a dam had broken within him, releasing everything inside that had previously been held back. “You are well”

“Well,” his father responded with a shaky laugh, still with his son crushed against him, unwilling to relinquish his hold just yet. This of course was more than ok with his son who for at least this moment in time was more than content to be held by his father, for as long as they both needed. “You are the one who was abducted my son I am rejuvenated by your presence. There are no words to express my happiness.” Finally, he let the younger man go and held his shoulder’s at arm’s length in order to inspect him.

“Did he harm you?” the question brought a sharp edge to the king’s voice and fire in his eye. Now that Stiles had a chance to really look at his father, he noticed many things. The greatest of which was that despite his claims, he looked like he had aged many years in their separation, no doubt a consequence of the stress and worry that separation had caused. Wolves aged slower and thus maintained much longer life spans than humans or other supernaturals without regenerative abilities, however the inadvertent mental strain had made his father look his age. “Stiles!” his father called when he didn’t respond.

The prince then turned his mind to his father’s question and in so doing, Derek. The thought sent a flood of emotion rushing through him and his father smelt it on him sharply. When the king furrowed his brow Stiles quickly responded, “No I was not mistreated,” not in ways you will understand, he thought and was immediately shocked to find his eyes locked with the lady Marin. The stare was unusual and gave him the uncomfortable sensation that she wasn’t just staring at him but inside of him. He suddenly became very afraid she had somehow known exactly what he was thinking and the way in which he meant it, though he convinced himself that that was a ridiculous idea.

He turned from her powerful and deep gaze, thinking for an instant that she reminded him very much of Derek’s man Deaton. Then he berated himself for calling him by name even in his thoughts. Internally grimacing, he pulled himself from going too deep into his own mind and turned back to his father.

“I was treated fairly, then he released me for whatever reason. I do not care I am simply pleased now to be here with you. Someone needs to ensure you take care of yourself in mother’s absence.” He was quickly sorry for bringing up his late mother as he knew how sad it made his father to discuss her. Fortunately, under the circumstances his father did not seem terribly affected.

Just then Scott and the twin Irish princes came to a halt behind Stiles, having dismounted. “Scott, thank you for bringing him home safely,” the king addressed him with eagerness and glee, taking his hand in a grateful embrace. He offered the same to Duke and Koda and thanked them for accompanying his son home, before offering them accommodations and nourishment for as long as they desired to stay. “Come now, let us go inside and feed you all,” John placed an arm around his son’s shoulder and walked with him inside while directing one of his men to have the kitchens prepare to serve the feast they had been commissioned to prepare in anticipation of the arrival of his boy.

*

 “Are you sure everything is alright my son?” King John asked for the umpteenth time. Beside their initial reunion, the prince had spent most of the banquet in heavily distracted silence. Every time the king tried to address him. He seemed to be miles and miles away. Not necessarily unhappy to be home but certainly very preoccupied with his thoughts.

Stiles shook his head and turned weary and almost sad eyes to his father which, he quickly masked with a smile that barely tinted the previous emotions there. “I’m fine father, simply tired from the long journey. Perhaps I should take my leave now and spend some time resting. I think I need it.”

The king hesitated a moment but then nodded his agreement. “Rest well Stiles.” The younger man smiled wanly and exited the room after coming to his father’s side to place a kiss upon his cheek. Hardly distracted by the actions, the king heard Scott’s mutter of “I thought surely he would be better once we got here.”

Turning his attention to his progeny’s friend and guardian, he posed the question, noticing then that the Irish princes and Scott had both been staring after Stiles with similar expressions. And clearly having caught his words as well they had turned to exchange a glance with him that concerned the king. “What do you mean by that Scott?”

“My liege,” Scott sputtered unprepared.

“Be honest with me, he is my son and you are his greatest friend.”

Scott glanced again at the princes and then sighed, “He was like this on the journey your grace, I…” he was unsure then how to proceed, not wanting to betray the confidence of his friend, “He and the Hale King shared an… unconventional relationship.”

“What kind of unconventional relationship?” the king pressed his mind cueing up thoughts of Marin Morell explaining the heart hold and Stiles’ connection to the king, a connection he did not want to acknowledge was possible or real, a connection he did not want to accept.

“Your grace,” Deucalion offered, silencing his brother with a look as he tried to open his mouth. He had always been the one with more finesse of the two brothers. “You know that Stiles has been a close friend of both my brother and I for many years. He is even closer still to Scott. What I am saying here is I don’t think any of us want to jeopardize that friendship by confessing something for which it is not our place to say. It may be best to approach him with your concerns. At least that way you will have an unfiltered understanding of all that has transpired. But know this, things between him and the English king were unlikely and not what one might expect given the roles they began with.”

The king grimaced before he could stop himself. Deucalion had sounded somewhat like Marin the way he spoke. Having thought of her then only brought home all she had previously explained to him about his son, causing his fear to grow exponentially. It couldn’t be possible, he thought. But the more he sat there staring into their weary eyes, reviewing all he had learned, the more he worried that it was.

“Thank you for your candor Deucalion. Perhaps I will do just that.” But not today, he thought. Today he would set the dark thoughts aside and thank the gods that his son had returned, and in one piece.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

King John had just about forgotten how long he’d been standing there, at the entrance to the ramparts, one of his son’s favored places. When he’d sent guards to retrieve him and they had returned empty handed and unsure of where the prince had absconded, the king’s first reaction was terror. He had only just had the boy, no man, returned to him and already he was gone. But in the flick of an instant he came back to his senses and thought on who his son was. He may have endured much in the past months, but he was not that different from who he had always been. And who he had always been, was a prince who liked to hide when he was troubled, one who liked to stand atop the high places and see if he could view his troubles as clearly as he could view the lands of his father’s kingdom.

The king had stared at his son’s back for some time, thinking on the best way to approach him and ask what he would. A topic still devoid of comfort for the king for truth it may reveal. A truth he most certainly would not be prepared for no matter how many explanations the lady Marin provided on the matter.

“Will you not speak a word father? Or does it content you to watch me in silence?” John wasn’t surprised. Troubled though he was, any being encroaching upon his time of privacy was always noted by the young prince.

“It is one thing to know what one wants to say, it is another to relay such sentiment in the proper way,” the king offered in response, thinking just how much he sounded like the oft cryptic lady of the crystal cave.

“You sound very much like, him,” Stiles replied. His words brought a frown to the face of his father as he pondered on who his son might possibly be referring to. Hoping that it wasn’t the English Alpha-king he despised so much.

“Whose tone do I echo my son, tell me it is a wise man and not a fool.”

“Lord Alan Deaton, the king’s man. Commander of his armies and advisor to De… the king himself.” Stiles grimaced when he caught himself. The familiarity would have to go but still it caused him to forget himself, his current position on things, on the king who turned him away, on the man who let him go.

King John cleared his throat, not so blind as to miss the slip his son had made. He knew enough to know that it could have only been one name he nearly called out with such informality. His enemies name was Derek Hale, is Derek Hale. “What troubles you Stiles?”

He was a moment in answering but the pause gave him time to decide just how to answer that question. He didn’t lie to his father. He never had and refused to begin now but the issue was so delicate. “My mind is afflicted with many distractions father, let me not burden you with them, the kingdom may suffer were I to offer my petty troubles to the ruler of so much more than one mind.”

“King I may be but I am also and still your father Stiles. All that concerns you, too concerns me, besides…”

“Besides,” Stiles urged still without turning, something if done by any other would have earned a proper scolding. No one ignored the king even when he intruded upon their solace. Only his beloved son in the depth of some despair from which John felt like he could do nothing to save him.

“I’ve spoken to your companions, to Scott and the Irish princes…”

Stiles rounded on him immediately, eyes widened and heartbeat elevating. His royal father wouldn’t need wolf sense to identify the anxiety dripping off him and his somewhat desperate response to those words. “And what did they say?” He tried to keep control over his voice, but he sounded very clearly out of sorts at learning his father had consulted them. Men who knew his secrets, or at the very least the one secret he had been keeping close to his chest in more ways than one. Friends or no they could not defy orders of a king, their king.

“Be calm, my son, for your friends have revealed nothing to me of the turmoil which besets you. They asked only that I come to you myself, which I have done. Now I ask that you treat your father, who has loved you and respected your person and your choices all your life, with the same respect and a measure of courtesy. You may be no mere boy to be looked after,” he paused to really look into his boy’s eyes, only to have Stiles avert them. Lowering them to study something upon his tunic as though it held for him the greatest of fascinations. John sighed and continued, “but you are still my son, the one I raised and loved and cared for when you were sick right alongside your mother, or have you forgotten. Tell me what is going on.”

Stiles looked up at him then, heard the command in his voice. He wasn’t asking as just a father but also a king. The prince gnawed at his lip unsure of what to say. In his own head and heart, he was still sorting through all that had happened. Sorting through his feelings and thoughts. Deny as he might though, there was one thing he knew. One thing he had come to be rather sure of and could no longer simply hide, especially from himself. But to say it aloud… he thought with a measure of terror. How to tell his father the king of Scotland and Ireland that he had given his heart to a mortal enemy, and then had it trampled in the aftermath.

“Please,” his father urged in a ragged whisper. He could tear his hair out and still would not be able to force his son to tell him the truth. All he could do was plead and hope that it would be enough.

“Father I…” He began his words catching on the gasp of his own breath. “How can I confess what I’ve done, when I can barely accept it myself.”

“I begrudge you nothing Stiles I never have and will not begin now.” John took a step forward, but at seeing his son flinch had to stop. The hurt on his father’s face at his involuntary reaction cut the prince deeply. He hadn’t meant to react that way he just didn’t know how to tell his father of his betrayal, the betrayal of his heart. With a sigh he removed the distance between the two of them and fell to his knees at his father’s feet.

“I have betrayed you with my very heart your grace. How can I confess to my father of the things that I have done which by their very nature go against my lord father.”

“What things Stiles? Speak your heart to me for it can never be false, I know this to be true. What it does can never be a betrayal. A man must follow his path where it leads, if he does so truly and with honor, he betrays no one. The only crime would be to betray yourself. The only crime would be to betray yourself, that I would not have.” The king put one hand on his son and bent down to take Stiles’ hand with the other.

“Look at me boy,” Stiles obeyed reluctantly, afraid to stare at the sincerity and severity in his father’s eyes. Afraid that in doing so he would let the man see the truth in his own without speaking a single word. “Let the next words you speak be the truth and the heart of the matter. I would have no more secrets between us and no more pain or uncertainty in your heart.” His worry for his heir was much greater than his concern over what truths the prince may tell. Whatever else he may be, the constant of his life was his love for his family and his refusal to let anything keep him from loving them as passionately and as freely as any king, no any man, could, should or would.

“Father, I loved him… I love him still, even after he has turned me away and sent me home. Even knowing he must wed his exotic princess. Even seeing his passion turn to scorn for whatever reason there may have been I still love the English king. I love Derek. I did not want to but I do and now I fear I cannot make myself stop.” Tears began to well in his eyes as he confessed the words. A torrent of honesty washing out from deep within himself. From the core of his soul. Now that the words were set free like the break in a damn releasing all the water it would hold back, more and more rushed free and fast until Stiles was barely able to control their flow.

“He was my enemy, he is yours and yet I gave him something I should never have. I let him into my heart and gave it freely. He was so kind, and careful. He saw me and I know he gave me as much of his own as I gave to him but now, something has changed. Something is different between us. Since the attack he has turned from me and now I am here. I never thought he would do it this way. Even now I don’t believe it.” His words were rushing so fiercely he hadn’t noticed the tightening of his father’s hand on his own or the strength in the grip on his shoulder. It was all John could do not to turn away from the truth he had commanded of his son. But there was something else.

“The attack?” the king questioned, fear and rage rising within as he tried to tamp it down for the sake of his boy who for all intents and purposes was currently safe and sound.

“An assassin,” Stiles hesitated, only then noticing the swift change in his father.

“He tried to have you….”

“No, no, no, do not think it, he would never. Even after our last encounter he would see no harm to me.”

John rose to full height in his agitation at hearing about the attempt on his son’s life. Naturally his first inclination was to think it the plot of the king who held him hostage.  “The intrigue of the English court is far more dangerous than our own my son, it would not surprise me if….”

But Stiles cut him off again, dismissing the idea outright. “No father, I told you it was not Dere… the king. He would not see me come to any harm. In fact, it was him and Koda, who tracked me down in the forest after I received a falsified summons. It was Derek who killed the hunter who meant to kill me and then cared for the man who rivaled him for my affection though I could never feel the same… What I’m saying is, he didn’t want me hurt, it was the last thing he wanted.” Stiles looked to the ground as his father pondered his words.

“Get up my son,” John said his voice sounding rasped. Stiles obeyed, slowly rising from the ground. “I will not dwell on the past. You are with me now and safe and that is what matters despite my displeasure of the trials you have been forced to face. But…” he paused, then turned away from his son so Stiles would not have to see him fighting himself on what to say next. “You truly love this man, the man who was your captor. A man who fights to conquer all kingdoms like his father before him.”

“He is not his father! And has only done what a dutiful son with a limited view of what it means to be free even from legacy would do. He follows his father’s path because he believed it to be the right thing, to carry out his father’s final dream. But he is not his father and I do love him.”

“But he sent you away,” John tried.

“He sent me home. He sent me back to you. I admit, it is not the way I wished it to happen and much still confuses me on how things ended but is it not what we both wanted father? For me to come home.”

“Aye it is,” John confessed. “But he is our enemy and to be wed to another Stiles.”

“Do you think I don’t know that. He may be promised to her, but he does not love her. Whatever his feelings for me now he does not want her.” He said it spitefully as if it were her fault they were in this predicament. Truth be told, he did not know who to blame for any of it. The more he spoke though, the clearer some things became while others became as murky as muddy water.

“I am not betrayed by your honesty Stiles, but I need some time to think upon this.” With that the king turned to leave pausing for just a moment at the door, and then disappearing through it. Stiles sighed deeply before turning back to look over the kingdom once more.

A whiny of a horse brought his attention to men gathered at the gate. It looked as though they prepared to leave. As he scanned the group, he recognized Daniel to be one of them and frowned. He had barely paid the man any attention despite him being a member of those assigned to return him home. He hadn’t even thought on the assignment then, though it seemed so clear now a gesture of kindness as he had become very close with the other man despite their beginnings. Now having done his duty apparently, he would leave, and without a word. Stiles took off then at a jog hoping he could make the gate before his friend left to return to his own home.

Daniel Cromwell looked about a final time almost expectantly. Perhaps he had hoped that the prince might have said a word or two before Danny might return to his liege. That though, might have been some wishful thinking on his part. When Danny had been committed to joining the small party of guards set with returning the Scottish prince to his home, the man had counted it a small blessing that he was allowed this mission. The prince however, hardly seemed to notice that he had even been there the entire ride.

Danny had taken no offence. He knew, personally knew the hurdles the prince had jumped throughout his time as ward of the English king. He knew that the two had been drawn together, bit by bit until it was fairly undeniable how they must feel about each other. He watched the love blossom between them and then watched it get tabled as other plots and schemes seemed to take precedence over wants and desires.

He slipped his foot into the stirrup and heaved himself onto his horse, swinging the other foot over and saddling himself as comfortably as any rider could. With reigns in hand and the other four men he had led as the prince’s guard prepared and waiting at his back, he was about to signal his horse to move when he heard his name being called.

“Danny!” The shout came from the front gates of the castle and closing in.

He turned his head, brow furrowed in discomfiture when the sun hit his eye. “Danny!” it came again. As his eyes adjusted to the influx of light, he noticed then the figure of the Scottish prince flanked by three guards, their full armor gleaming in the sunlight and capes of white billowing behind as they half jogged to keep up with their prince.

“You weren’t planning on bringing me all this way and then leaving without a word, were you?” The prince slowed to a walking pace and smiled cheekily at the man.

“I thought perhaps you may fail to notice,” the words were out of his mouth before he could censor them for how bitter they sounded. And perhaps somewhere in himself he did feel a tad embittered but that was only a small part. Still, the prince winced at the presumed reprimand.

“I think I deserve that.” He admitted it, stopping fully just a step from the man’s horse. His guards stood a few paces away, wary of their prince and his desire for something of a private moment. Danny glanced at them and thought how different the relationships in a kingdom varied. “I must apologize my friend. I treated you coldly on the road. I’m sure Lord Deaton meant to offer a bit of solace in having one I would consider a friend from foreign court escort me home. To be honest I think I treated everyone rather coldly, but it wasn’t my intent.”

Danny shook his head then, “Think nothing of it your grace, I think your friends were quite aware of your personal struggles.” Stiles gave him a weak smile at that, his mind turning at the reminder of the reason for his dark reminiscence on the way home. “I must confess though my prince, it was not Lord Deaton who gave my charge though he did appoint the other men,” he waved a hand to indicate the four other Englishmen.

“You speak true? Who the…” he stopped as he thought about it.

“It was the king my prince. Who knows better of how you managed to convert an Englishman to your kind heart? I think he thought perhaps it would be a kindness to have me lead the men to take you home. We do enjoy a good rapport if I may not be too presumptuous on that regard.”

“Not presumptuous at all, I consider you friend, but are you sure?” Stiles asked as if the man could be mistaken where his orders came from.

“As sure that my family name remains Cromwell your grace. The king stood before me as you do now and made it clear that should anything happen to you on our journey, I best cut off my own head as his punishment will be neither so swift nor so merciful.” Danny almost shuddered though he maintained a grin that seemed quite genuine. Stiles looked at him in confusion processing his words. “That doesn’t sound like the command of a man who has washed his heart clean of you your grace.” Danny added the last bit for good measure and watched the wheels turning in his friend’s head.

After several moments of contemplation, the prince spoke up. “A hard man our king,” he sounded far away still but quickly brought himself back. “Must you leave this moment?” He looked with pleading eyes at the Englishman while waiting for his response.

“I don’t suppose so your grace, but I can’t delay for very long, the king will be expecting my report within a fortnight.”

“Then you still have a few days to stay here and see a few things I’d be delighted to show you. Would you do me the favor and grant this request? I am not your liege, but I would be so honored.”

“No, your grace, the honor is now and forever shall be mine.”

“Good then get off your horse and call me Stiles. In my country my friends dispense with most formalities, even in public.” He waited, patiently with a smile as Danny dismounted.

“Alright boys, we take a few more days, do with em what you will, but behave yourselves.” He turned to the prince and nodded, “Stiles,”

“Come.”

 

***

“It’s a good day for a royal execution,” the Duke said smugly as he walked the executioner, Sir Dantos, out into the courtyard where the block was set atop a platform, ready for him to carry out the king’s justice. It didn’t really matter who was beside the duke though, he could have been speaking to a soldier or a lady. His pleasure at having finally arrived at the day when all his loose ends would be tied was palpable. He could kiss a newborn babe, so long as it posed no threat to his plans otherwise even the babe would be put to the sword.

The bells had rung, and the yard was quickly filling with common folk eager to watch some treasonous highborn bitch lose her head, as was Peter Hale. He lifted his head to the blue sky where the sun’s rays peeked ever so often behind the large, fluffy white clouds as they made slow progress across the sky.

He drank in the sounds of the commoners chittering like chipmunks in the trees. Some of them talking excitedly, some expressing lament for a great beauty like the princess and others condemned her for a traitor. Little did they know, hers won’t be the only death bought and paid for today, and the day was young.

A hush stole the noise and replaced it just as quickly with a surge of excitable chatter which soon became an uproar, with every commoner trying to talk over the other as if they could not all see that the prisoner had been brought out to meet her sentencing.

Peter looked over to the entrance of the tower where the two women had been brought out. No longer dressed in her fine scarlet gowns of silk and satin with white and gold brocade. No longer adorned with her jewels of diamond and ruby. Oh how we have been brought low, the duke thought, surveying her brown sack dress tied at the waist with a measure of rope, her hair loose and a mess about her pretty face. The king had ordered her to be dressed like the common whore she acted for her crimes. Her lady Adalina followed in similar fashion.

The women were ushered by two guards and it gave Peter only too much pleasure to gracefully walk over and gloat as only a victor could. Four of his guards flanked him causing many to scurry out of his way lest the cold, stone faced men cut them out of the way. He stopped rather close to them and turned up his nose as if taking the smell of the gutters.

“My how things have changed for you,” he expressed with feigned sorrow on his face. “But alas one sows the rains and reaps a storm.”

Defiantly Lydia raised her head, her green eyes turning from the vicious and spiteful man. Not deigning to give him neither the validation of her stare nor the satisfaction of her words.

“Ah,” he moaned, sickeningly to hear ears. “Nothing to say, no fire to spit or has it all gone out.”

At that she did something she had never done before. With as much vehemence as she could muster, she quickly lurched forward and spit at his face. She even had the satisfaction of watching his smug expression turn to a bitter scowl as her spittle decorated the bridge of his nose, before the back of his heavily ringed hand connected with her cheekbone and sent her sprawling.

The crowd jeered behind him as she fell, and Lydia immediately felt the persistent sting of a laceration on her face as well as tasted the coppery bitterness of blood in her mouth. Adalina gasped in shock and horror as her mistress fell. She tried to assist her, but the guard held her firm forcing Lydia to get herself to her feet while the other guard prodded her with cruel words. She was a moment gathering her senses as her aching head seemed to be vibrating and her eyes burned with blurring tears. Before she rose though, she forced them down, unwilling to let anyone see her cry and certainly not willing to let the Duke see it.

Lydia struggled to her feet and raised her chin again, defiantly. The duke moved in close then, his face cruel and cold, “Pity I could not arrange for your lover to die before your eyes,” he whispered. “I’ll have to settle for ripping him apart slowly with the knowledge that his troubles begin with your name.”

She gasped in response but gave nothing else. What had she expected from a treacherous monster like this? Before they moved off, the guards retrieved sack hoods from their sides and placed them atop the women’s heads. “What is this?” the duke asked addressing the men, clearly displeased at having the faces of the two bitches hidden away. To his mind it diminished their humiliation to be hidden from the crowd like this.

“The king has ordered that they not be allowed even their beauty at the time of their punishment.” The soldier was blunt.

The duke paused for a moment and then smiled as he thought about it. “My nephew,” he announced with amusement in his tone, “Seems to be far crueller than I anticipated, and here I thought he had such little humor in him. Take them.” Peter stepped aside, allowing the two guards to shuffle their prisoners forward. He rounded with his men following him and moved through the crowd to the opposite side where he could watch the prisoners be led out from the tunnel arch they had walked into and up the stairs leading to the block.

As the executioner stood back so that they could be led to stand before the block to the tune of hundreds of jeering voices, Peter waved for the man’s attention and told him to take the shorter woman first. He wanted the princess to feel the blood on the block where she would lay her head. He wanted her to feel the despair and grief of knowing her lady was dead because of her as she waited to follow.

He was eager to stay and watch but in order for his plans to succeed the man had to ensure the guards were present to catch the assassin and kill him before he could escape, and hold the knowledge he had of the duke’s involvement in the death of the king against him.

“I have a terrible feeling, let us go to the king, I know he wished all the men to witness what betrayal buys but he is unprotected in the castle and it worries me so.” With that he turned and left the grounds to seek the king out in his presence chamber where the foolish boy king was expected to be.

Peter could almost envision his demise as he and the guards behind him, made their way hastily into the castle and through it’s halls. The place was nearly empty save a few servants going about duties that not even the princess’ execution would allow them respite from. When the men got to the doors of the king’s presence chamber the Duke bid them guard it, before slipping inside and closing the door behind himself. He turned around and at first didn’t notice anything. Then he saw the high chair facing the window with a crown peaking out above its top.

Peter approached slowly, smile on his face as he steadily watched the unmoving crown. He must have missed his hired sword but no matter. It would be simple enough to lure the man out for payment and have him killed discreetly and disposed of by one of his loyal guards. “Poor Derek,” he muttered as he was close enough to reach out and touch the crown. Only then did he notice the heartbeat he hadn’t picked up before, his own, drowning out much, as it thundered it’s excitement.

“Oh I wouldn’t say that uncle,” Derek offered as he stood from the chair and turned to face the duke. “Why are you here I wonder?”

Peter had to hold himself very still not to betray his own motives. “Oh I uh…” he stammered grasping for the right lie. “I was concerned for your grace, within the castle under no guard. I wanted to ensure you were safe.”

Derek smiled knowingly and it terrified his uncle. “And you have, now you may leave me.”

Just then Alan Deaton came out from another door from the interior, there was a smudge of crimson on the sleeve of his tunic. Derek spared him a scant glance and nodded to which the man responded with a nod of his own, exchanging no words that the duke could use to decipher just what was going on around him. “Your grace, your grace,” Alan said to each in his placid way of speaking.

“Lord Deaton,” Peter said as he backed away. “I will take my leave my king.” He turned around and made for the door, praying that the alpha king was not at that moment listening to his deafening heartbeat. As he reached the door the king called out, “Oh and Uncle,” causing Peter to pause abruptly as if yanked to a halt by a string, “it’s a beautiful day and all is well, no need to lose your head, on my account.”

At the finality of his tone Peter took his cue and opened the door dismissing himself. He was in a hurry to put much distance between him, the king and his man until he could determine what had gone wrong, and what was going on in that room. “Stay with your king,” he commanded the guards as they made to walk after him. He needed no escort for his next destinations, but he would have answers.

“Is Boyd attending his duty?” Derek asked with a smug smile on his face.

“With the devotion of a man’s shadow in the high sun my king,” Deaton responded, and even he allowed a smile of satisfaction at a plan well laid. If they were right the duke would sign his death warrant with the rest of his actions that day.

 

***

“I swore an oath that I would never again be surprised by you my king,” Marin’s voice was soft as she addressed him from over shoulder. He hadn’t caught her peering into the mirror as he had last time. She stood facing the window, watching the world outside framed by the stone as if it were a subtly moving picture. She had sensed his approach so sharply it was almost as if it were a vision she’d received. Her door had been ajar, and it occurred to her that perhaps she had seen him coming and left it half open in invitation.

John glared into her back under half lidded eyes. He wasn’t happy. He had never been particularly fond of admitting his own folly, even though he always knew it was what was required of the honourable and just man and especially a king. This time though, this time was personally bothersome to him considering the nature of the situation.

She had warned him of the roles that would be played on the grand stage as she called it. She had warned that his son and his enemy would be pulled together like marionettes on string where the string bound them one to the other and only ever drew them further and further in. He had not wanted it to be so and denied it with adamance but if a man could stop a thing by denying it with his mind and heart then the world would never move forward.

“I suppose you would be pleased to know you were right,” he admitted gruffly, a small frown taking root upon his face.

“The seeing brings me neither sorrow nor joy, only understanding of what must be and what will be.”

“Duty bound to your crystals and your visions is it?” he queued but it wasn’t really a question, more of an evasive maneuver, an avoidance.

“Ask what you will my king. I am sure you did not come here to discuss my commitments.” She turned to face him. Her face was serene as always. An implacable mask of sweetness and supposed innocence that the king was starting to realize held behind it, countless collections of knowledge and secrets. Perhaps things he would not want to know given the option.

Suddenly every wall within him came tumbling down. Crumbling like so many loose stones as he chose to confess his deep trouble to her. When he let himself admit it, this woman, though he could not have her, and he certainly didn’t need her to say that to him to know it, was the closest he had ever come to feeling something for another since the death of his queen. His beloved Claudia. John wasn’t sure if that made it easier or harder to say what he would.

“How can I surrender my beloved son and heir to a man I despise more than the wretched death that took my wife.” The words were a ragged confession from his lips and his eyes fell to the floor, unable to meet her steady and powerful gaze.

“May I ask a question your grace,” she opted after studying him for a moment, standing there wallowing in his self built despair. She felt a twinge of something, seeing him this way, though what she would refuse to determine. John raised his head then to look at her with eyes that said, ‘what has ever stopped you from asking, anything’. To this she smiled wryly and continued. “Do you know why it is you despise him so?”

The question was a shock. It took the king aback and he visibly recalled as if slapped by a fool. “He is an arrogant fool! who has persisted in conquering the kingdoms to rule them all as one empire as if it were his right.”

“That was his father, and a prince is shaped in the image of those who raise him,” she responded blandly.

“He took my son hostage!” the king came back angrily.

“Two kings at war and one is defeated of course hostages were taken. He also ensured no harm would come to the prince and returned him to his home safely and with nothing to gain from it.”

“He asked for me to surrender my kingdom,”

“And have you?”

“I… no I have not,”

“And still, you have your son, unmolested and in rather good health save a little heart sickness.”

“He has taken his love!” the king shouted furiously.

Marin simply pursed her lips before him, unfazed by his mounted rage. “The prince’s love is not a spoil of war that can be taken when the dust settles and the bodies are buried. It is a gift that can only be given freely, and it has. The heart hold was made to love, and he has chosen to love the one man, the one king whom, by that love’s transformation and re-education can change the world. Do you hate the wild wolf who is taught by its parents to hunt and kill? Can you despise the lion who has learned few others can fight against him and win? All creatures are the sum of what we have been taught. Just so is the English king.” She stopped there to give him time to feel the essence of her words. To be scolded by their very truth.

The king grunted and moved passed her to stare out of her window. She had him there. He was loathed to admit it but all she had said was true. Now he couldn’t think of a reason to hate the man at all.

“Do you know why the late king William began his crusade to unite the kingdoms under his banner your grace?”

“I’m certainly about to find out,” he grumbled defiantly.

“He had thought to unite his house with that of the French royals thinking it would create a strong alliance, a bridge between wolf-kind and human. A wise and just decision from a man hoping to be a good king for many years more and provide a good example for his son and heir. All his sons and daughters. And so, the princess Catherine Argent was to be the intended of his eldest. She infiltrated their house and burrowed into their good graces and when all was quiet and unsuspecting, she let assassins into their kingdom under false guise. With their aid and by her own blade the queen and all her children save one were murdered. You see the Argents had their own legacy. They had been secret hunters of wolf-kind seeing them as monsters and beasts.”

John turned to look at her, his face a furrow and frown of flesh as he listened. He had not known the extent of the demise of the Hale family. No doubt an endeavour of the late king to keep the great and tragic moment of weakness a secret.

“The loss of his children and his wife drove the king near mad and thus he decided that in order to safeguard his kingdom and final son from such treachery, he should have to conquer all kingdoms and ensure they followed one, safe rule, his own. Now tell me your grace, if your wife Queen Claudia,” John growled softly and without intention at the mention of her name though the lady only ignored him and pressed on. “Gods rest her soul, were murdered along with your son in such a fashion, how far do you think you might be tempted to go for vengeance.”

She let the implication stand in the air so that he could understand what she was getting at. “Now imagine the prince Derek growing up in that castle with naught but a father mad with grief and a taste for bloody revenge, tell me do you fault him still…” There was no response. “So, I ask again, do you know why it is you despise him so?”

John looked up and stared into her eyes and knew his every argument was defeated, for he had none to withstand the truth in her words or her eyes. Worse still, he was beginning to see just how wrong he was about so much more than his grudge against the English king.

“I think what truly troubles my king is what troubles any parent who truly loves their children more than themselves, more than a crown. You must let him go. His power, his gift is a love that can save of us all. But right now, the one who needs it most, the one who is in true danger of more than just darkness, is an enemy that is no enemy, but a boy still in need of teaching.”

At her insistent words, words that cut right to the core of what really was tearing him up inside he felt the burn of tears and the overwhelming emotion that lit a scarlet glow in his eyes.

 

*

“Your lands are more beautiful than any I have had the pleasure of seeing prince Stiles, I thank you for the tour of sorts. You certainly fit much inside the span of two days,” Danny laughed as he picked up his goblet. The prince, whose own laughter at a previous joke had trailed off and into a deep reminiscence involving Derek had barely heard the words. He was no longer so much sad as he was upset that the man thought sending him away would end the feelings between them. Princess or no, whatever he thought he had to do was wrong, but what could Stiles do now. He felt the light squeeze on his arm then and looked up to see Scott urging him back to the present. It was then the words of his foreign friend registered though he hadn’t really heard them all, he nodded and picked up his own goblet, raising it to match the men and women around him.

“To Scottish, and Irish hospitality,” he gave a lingering look to prince Koda who responded with a boyish grin, “and immense beauty, may the wonders never fade.”

“Hear hear,” they all responded. As men and women drank from their cups Danny leaned into the prince and whispered.

“You’ve done a fine job of staying in the here and now Stiles but I don’t fault you for thinking of him.” Stiles blushed mildly but gave the man a piercing look. His eyes flitted from Danny to Koda, who he noticed was looking over at their table, though this time the prince was certain the lingering stares had nothing to do with him for once.

“You’re one to talk lad, it seems you can’t keep the one you think of from your toasts or your mind, nor it seems can he.” Stiles nodded to Koda who waved unashamed causing Danny to blush a deeper crimson than Stiles’ father’s eyes on his angriest day.

No sooner had he thought it than the king entered the hall and moved purposefully toward his son, the lady Marin not far behind him along with his guards. He seemed serious and that made Stiles somewhat anxious. He got to his feet before the man was able to close the distance.

“Father what’s wrong?” he asked.

“Only that I have to sacrifice my happiness to do what is right,” the king replied which caused his son to frown deeply.

“What are you talking about?”

“Please,” he said gesturing for his son to step away from the table. “Walk with me my son..”

“Father tell me what’s going on.”

“Walk with me, please, what I must say is not easy, I wish to not have an audience of wolves to do it.” At that every head facing them quickly turned back to their dinner plates. Stiles did as he was bid and stepped beside his father out of the hall. The guards remained at the door, but Marin followed a few paces before stopping outside and letting them drift further away.

“I will command you to do something which will sound strange coming from me I reckon, but it is what I want.”

“Father you’re scaring me…”

“I want you to go back to England. Go with the guards who are returning and a contingent of our own men, take Scott with you.”

“I don’t understand,” Stiles admitted his heart a rapid beat of hummingbird’s wings.

“To be honest my boy, neither do I. But you told me you love.. love him, the English king. King Derek Hale.” He almost did very well at not gritting his teeth or biting off his own tongue to say the words. “And you have said that he feels the same. You will not rest easy until this thing between you is resolved, seen to, fixed. And I have been made recently aware that what I despise is not that man but losing my son, my only son.” The king laughed then and it sounded as though he were almost, relieved. He glanced down the hall at Marin who watched from her distance. “It would seem I was the soft hearted one all along not your mother. I just don’t want to let you go. But I must, and you must. My boy,” he placed firm hands on Stiles shoulders and looked deep into his eyes. “You are so much more than a mere prince, a mere man. You have a heart that will change kingdoms and men. It’s time I let you use it.

“What are you saying my lord?” Stiles queried, his eyes a stinging, watery, reddening mess because he knew what his father was saying. And more than just saying but providing an answer to his latest question. What could he do?

“Go back. And you had best find your love. But as your father and king I must say that should he hurt you, he will find a war that he will not win no matter the numbers in his army.” Then more quietly and with an embrace, “I love you boy, I only want you to have what you want, what you deserve, find it, fight for it.”

The two men clung to each other tightly as the younger sobbed lightly in his father’s arms. John met Marin’s eyes over his son’s head and smiled as she nodded to him before returning it in kind.

 

*

By the time the Peter Hale approached the tavern, night had well and truly fallen casting its shade of darkness over everything. He emerged from the far forest and shifted back to his human form, quickly clothing and cloaking himself where no one was present to see. It was the smartest way to travel undetected and avoid unwanted eyes that may recognize his person. He had tried to move about his day as normal following his encounter with his still living nephew.

The rage within him was rivaled only by the fear that something more dangerous than he anticipated was happening. Where was the assassin who had been hired for the deed? The man had been paid half of a handsome ransom by  Peter’s cutthroat for the job yet it had not been completed. There was ample time and opportunity what with an empty castle and a distracted king. Even the noise of the crowds who had watched the princess’ execution assured no one might notice even with wolf sense that their king was being murdered in his keep. Yet Derek still lived.

Someone would answer for the foolish mistake and they would pay dearly for it. The duke approached the tavern slowly looking upon it with distaste and anger. The plan was to have met his man here and give him the rest of the gold he had been promised for both himself and the hired assassin. If things had gone to rights the assassin would have been caught and killed in the castle and shortly after leaving this tavern the cutthroat would too meet his end.

Peter glanced over his shoulder for the umpteenth time ensuring there was no one behind him. As he ascended the short flight of steps, the familiar odor of commoner, and piss as well as shit mead assailed his nostrils more pungent than ever. There was something else though, under it all something oddly familiar though he couldn’t seem to put his finger on it.

He pushed the weathered, old door open and made his way inside to the usual seat near the back where he was to meet the cutthroat, making sure to retreat more deeply under the hood of his cloak. It wouldn’t do especially now, to be noticed by anyone. Not that he truly expected one of these lowborn swine would notice him. They hardly ever even knew what the royals looked like. Their memories often consisted of imaginative depictions crafted over years of second-hand stories and short glimpses on the king’s road or as the royal families sailed down the river past their huts and hovels.

He would be rid of all the common folk if they didn’t make up the bulk of those he would rule as king. Besides who would be his servants and who would die as patsies in his plots if they were gone. Peter sat himself and waved away the wench who came to ask what he wanted. She gave him no talk seeing the murderous glare in his eye.

He huffed in displeasure at having to wait even a second in this place. The duke waited for no one and certainly not in this downtrodden filthy excuse for an establishment. The door at the back creaked, gaining his attention and he saw the man he had been waiting for finally walk in. He seemed to be almost hobbling, his gait unsteadied. The man looked scared. His scarred ugly face contorted in what looked like a combination of worry and terror. And that he should be, the duke thought. I will kill you for failing me.  

When the man finally got to the table and sat down Peter wasted no time his rage getting the best of him. “What happened, you fool! Did you even hire the… man?” he caught himself before he could use the word assassin. It was unlikely there were many wolf-kind here but he would still be a fool to implicate himself so blatantly, despite the lack of a successful plot. “You owe me a death!”

The man said nothing. He only kept looking over the duke’s shoulder with that ridiculous expression on his face. Peter thought perhaps he should lighten his tone. The man was clearly far too frightened of him to speak. And one did catch more flies with honey than vinegar. “Well, speak man or has the wolves taken your tongue,” he implored lowering his tone.

“I’m afraid he can’t your grace. It wasn’t the wolves who took his tongue but I.”

Sir Vernon Boyd stepped through the back door and pulled a hood back from his face. He bore a bloody sack in one hand and an unsheathed blade in the other. And on his face was an unabashed grin. “At my liege’s request of course.”

“Kill him!” Peter commanded on instinct, not yet realizing that the entire tavern had gone silent. Not yet comprehending completely what Boyd had said. The next voice that spoke sent an icy, crippling chill down his spine and through his stomach until he was unsure if his bowels had given out.

“Now why would we do that uncle.” Peter turned slowly and everything came crashing down on him. That scent under the piss and shit, the reason it had been so familiar, was because though they had dressed themselves in commoner’s filthy rags, the unmistakeable scent of wolf-kind and of the king’s guards and soldiers couldn’t be completely hidden away. His eyes flashed as he took in the scene behind him.

The king walked slowly through the door flanked by Isaac Lahey on the right and Lord Alan Deaton to his left and surrounding them, every man in the tavern, most assuredly king’s guard and members of his city’s watch-guard stood with sour looks on their faces and wicked blades removed from their concealed places. That was the other scent he had taken but couldn’t place, the hidden steel.

“With no tongue left to speak, he has but his hands to point me to his employer,” Derek finished, his face grim. Peter turned around to face the betrayer, only to be greeted by the man’s damning finger pointing right at him, his eyes fixed on the king who wasted no more time. “Take him!” he commanded.

 

Chapter Text

The Alpha king walked slowly through the halls of the tower of London. His boot falls echoed ominously as he progressed, four guards at his back following suit. His tunic was of simple white silk and his breeches blackened leather creating a powerful contrast as one fell over the other against his burnished cream skin. He had dispensed with the crown, not needing to announce the power that everyone knew intimately was his, especially not the one now suffering at the hands of said power. The hall was dark, and the torch held by the warden preceding the king threw shadowy flickers against the walls as they made their way.

This part of the tower was different than where he had kept his previous high valued prisoners. The princess Lydia he had afforded the courtesy of keeping her dignity as a princess and his betrothed, formerly betrothed, and Stiles... his highland prince, he had at first meant to keep the prince in good health as a bargaining chip, but then. Then he had become so intertwined in the prince and his magical green eyes, eyes he had dreamt of once. Eyes he saw sometimes when his own eyes were closed.

This time though, he did not want to afford the traitor any courtesy, any dignity. This man relished power, influence and the lavish perks of his high station. Derek wanted to take it all from him. Tear down all the things he hoisted high on a pedestal and watch him wallow in the filth he would consign so many others to without a second thought. Peter deserved none of his mercy.

The warden paused at the door and slipped a key into the lock so he could open it for his king. When he placed a hand on the door handle to turn it, the king stopped him. “Leave me,” he commanded to which the warden responded with a bow of his head. Something about the fact that the man was mute pleased Derek considering his last keeper of the prisoners Daniel Cromwell, the one he had had to force himself to send off with Stiles despite how much it irked him, had fallen into a companionship with his prisoner which still bothered Derek despite the lack of a real reason for it. Or was jealousy a valid enough reason. He knew that Daniel would protect Stiles as if they were family and that is the only reason he did what he did. Maybe also because he thought Stiles might appreciate a friend leading the king’s men as opposed to a stranger. Stiles did have a way of turning people to his side though.

Derek slid open the wooden slat in the door held behind a small grate that created a window opening. He peered in for a moment taking a deep breath. It was dark, complete absence of light being part of the treacherous man’s punishment but of course the king could see using wolf sense. Peter sat along the far end wall, back against it, one knee raised his other leg stretched out. His head was bowed, and he seemed asleep, but Derek knew better. The fallen duke had probably heard him coming the moment he got on the same floor. He didn’t expect that his uncle would let his guard down for a moment.

Pulling away, the king turned to his guards, “Stay outside, if you hear anything strange, come in and slice his fucking head off.” He smiled grimly knowing Peter would have heard this. Then he turned back to the door, turned the handle and pushed it open.

*

King John woke with a start, his eyes flaring in his discomfort, sweat soaking the furs covering him despite how cold it was in the room. His dreams had been vivid and particularly terrifying, it took some time for him to catch his breath. He ran a hand through his hair and tried to compose himself. Mind wandering in and out of what he had just seen, it wasn’t easy to find stillness let alone sanity. The one thing he was most afraid of was losing the last of his family, his son. And he had already given his blessing that the boy go away, back to the place of his original capture.

John sat up and stared into the dying fire at his hearth. Dreams. What was he doing, he thought as he calmed, thinking on it. I’m not a prophet or a witch. His mind turned to Marin, the one who could really dream the future. She had convinced him and now he saw danger in his sleep. Danger to his son. Battles and sword play and blood. He had felt terror. He had assumed without really knowing that Stiles would be hurt. His only son and only heir.

Coming to a decision, the king threw the wet furs off him and swung his feet over the edge of the bed. Donning, robes, he briskly left his rooms, and dismissed the guards outside his door who sought to chase after him on his way down the halls and through Edinburgh castle. The lady was kept in a wing not far from his own and it took little time to get to her door where two guards were posted in that hall, more for the protection of the nobles and important persons who slept there but also to keep an eye on them for their king, especially the Lady of the crystal cave.

“Sire,” the guards acknowledged immediately. John waved a hand at them and they rose. He moved to Marin’s door and quickly opened it, his urgency causing him to bypass the formalities of knocking and announcing himself, he was king after all. When he opened the door, he first thought the woman to be asleep in the room under bunched up furs but soon realized there was no one in the room at all. He hurried to the adjoining privy chamber but that too was immaculate and empty.

In ire he turned to the opened door where the guards stood confused, “Where is the Lady Marin?” his tone was dire.

“Your grace, she hasn’t left the room,” the man tried unsettled at his king’s anger and the apparent lack of the lady in the room which, he only then noticed as he looked about it, casting a cursory glance.

“Are you foolish boy? Do you see the lady here?”

“No, your grace,” the man answered quickly not willing to upset his king further.

“Then where has she gone?” he asked incredulous. The man only looked at him blankly too afraid to sputter that they simply had no idea where she could have gone to. “Can either of you explain to me how a single woman manages to leave a room in a guarded hall where there are two...” he stopped abruptly realizing what must have happened. He had come seeking the lady of the crystal cave to interpret his dream. A woman who herself could see into past present and future and that was probably the least of many gifts she possessed. On the night he had confronted her about the heart hold, and whatever secrets she kept, he had heard her talking to someone, someone who answered back, though she had been physically alone in that room. She had been facing a mirror, and she had confessed to a brother who could traverse far spaces with a thought. Would it be so strange to think that she could have slipped right passed these guards without them seeing her, clearly victims of some kind of bewitchment.

The king sighed and told the guards to go outside and wait there, his anger diffusing itself by the power of his logic. John walked to the window in the room and peered out of it aimlessly. As his eyes fell on the river ahead, he could make out a slender robed form standing before the stream. He tried to determine if it was Marin and then the figure turned and clearly looked up at him. He couldn’t explain the feeling that came over him or was it a thought that took over, but it suggested calmness and patience. Instinctively, he seemed to know that he should wait there, and she would come to him. As if picking the thought from his head, or being whom it emanated from to start with, the figure turned fully and walked toward the castle. John sighed deeply and sat, turning to face the door in anticipation of her return.

*

The horses thundered their way along the road. Dust kicked behind them as the contingent of men rushed along their way to the destination. They were getting close now. More than half of the distance covered on the way back to England. Stiles rode triumphantly at the head of the party, Scott to his left and Danny to his right. His steed galloped along with powerful, muscular legs carrying him as though he were riding the wind itself.

One of the men called out, directing their attention to something ahead. It looked like a small grouping of men surrounded by fallen men and horses. A few spooked steeds ran off in several directions one of which moving steadily towards the group riding inbound. Danny said something about them wearing English livery, but Stiles could just barely make out his words over the thunder of hoofbeats and the screaming of the wind rushing past his ears. He turned back to study the scene that was fast approaching. The men there, now noticeably fighting amongst themselves, the coppery scent of blood starting to become definable the closer they came, had not seen the incoming group yet.

To Stiles’ horror, he recognized one of the fighting men for the king he had been riding back to. His sword was in hand and sweat covered his brow, the droplets becoming more distinct as the prince rode in and time itself seemed to still about him. In the stillness came clarity and sharpening of the senses that flared within him as he noticed more than just the king, the man he now knew that he loved, but the one who fought him. His uncle the Duke Peter Hale. The man attacked with rage and relentless fury. The king’s men had all but a few been struck down and now his remaining loyal guards were surrounded as was he.

Stiles grasped his reins even more tightly and lowered himself on the horse begging it with his words and his will to move faster. It seemed to understand the urgency and rushed forward even more rapidly than it had been going. Trying to take their cue from the prince’s steed the others hurtled after him trying to keep up but despite their efforts, he left them in the dust kicked up in his wake.

Steel clashed with steel as the Duke’s men advanced. Peter himself seemed to only care about the king and barely noticed when Stiles’ horses rushed forward into the fray. His own sword was in hand before he could think to pull it free of the scabbard and as he rode through the outer line of men closing in and attempting to take down the remaining guards of the king, Stiles swung his own steel and loped the head off one man. There was hardly any resistance with the speed and strength he used to attack.

Turning around in a wide a rc he relinquished little of the horse’s speed as he made his way back. This time he stood atop the back of the horse and balanced himself synchronizing with the speed of his steed. When he was close enough, he launched off the beast and landed on another of the Duke’s men his sword spearing down into the man’s back until he was pinned to the ground beneath the blade. There was a squelching sound of ripping flesh and a bloody gasp that left spittle splattering from the fallen man’s lips. Stiles rolled under the swinging blade of another man come to fight the arrived prince. Quickly reorienting himself as he got to his feet, he parried a blow and twisted the sword so he could spin into the man’s reach and grab his sword arm before running him through.

His company finally caught up to him and joined the fight. Somehow the ruthless determination of the Duke and the overwhelming numbers of his men made all the difference and soon his own men were cut down, some wounded, some dead. He saw Scott fall to his knees still trying to defend. Stiles ducked an oncoming blade and spun under it to bring his own slashing upward to cut across the man’s stomach. He spun once more bringing the blade around to slash at his back before elbowing him in the face.

He rotated his body just barely avoiding another man’s downward slash and swung his sword arm with a speed that caused the tip of the blade to slice the man’s throat like he was cutting through butter. His eyes caught Danny stabbing another man who had come for him but then Danny was quickly disarmed by Peter who turned and with a flurry of slashes had wounded him gravely to defend and avoid Derek’s blows.

As Stiles caught sight of Derek, he noticed blood dripping from the man’s arm and seeping through the tunic at his chest. Peter ducked under a swing and moved in close to stab at Derek’s leg which succeeded before he kicked hard into the king’s chest sending him sprawling. Stiles yelled and attacked but the fury that took over his judgement did not aid him. The strength of Peter’s rage and his years of experience was more than a powerful match. He quickly disarmed Stiles with a few heavy blows the last of which turned into a twirling flurry of swordplay that allowed the duke to cut at Stiles’ fingers and get under the hilt of his sword to leverage it out of the prince’s hand.

Paying little mind to a fallen secondary opponent, Peter turned back to Derek who was gasping and trying to get his bearings. “No!” Stiles screamed as the bloody duke pulled his arm back and swung swift and cruel to behead his nephew.

Stiles shot off his bed, roaring and with eyes so bright they could light up the night with their emerald glow. He could barely catch his breath. His eyes were swimming with oncoming tears. Guards burst into his room at the noise and he could barely find the calm to dismiss them let alone breath easily. The dream, no nightmare had terrified him beyond words.

“Your grace,” one of the guards, the leader of his protectors, rushed to him and tried to help him untangle himself from the bedding and sit upright at the edge of the bed. “What is it my liege what’s happened?” the man asked frantically trying to determine the threat. But Stiles had no voice to tell him that it had only been a troubling nightmare. Instead he flailed his hands at the man which was no answer at all. The other two guards in the room just switched between regarding their prince confused and looking about his chambers for some threat they couldn’t see. Stiles, still gasping pointed at the firmly closed window.

The leader of the guards commanded the men to open the window, but first inspect it as he helped Stiles to his feet. The prince was gasping for breath and as soon as he was brought near the opened window, he pushed them aside and threw his head into the cold night air. Stiles gulped up refreshing breaths of air as he willed his body to relax and his heart to stop threatening to beat right out of his chest.

It was a long time before he could speak enough to tell the men that he was fine, that there was no attack and they should leave him. Reluctantly, the captain signalled the men to exit. Once they had, he asked his prince again if he was sure everything was well, to which Stiles had nodded and smiled the best he could though he could tell by the man’s worried face, he remained unconvinced. But following his orders the man left the prince to compose himself.

Dreams were just dreams, Stiles thought, and he wondered that he might have caused it himself what with his upcoming travels and anxiety at feeling the need to save Derek from himself and stop him from trying to run away from them and what they shared. But it had felt so real. It wasn’t the first dream he’d ever had where he felt like he was physically there, like it had happened or would happen. He knew he wouldn’t be able to sleep after that and resigned himself to thinking about what he would say to the man when he saw him again in a few days.

Try as he might though, he couldn’t shake the feeling that it was more significant than tricks of the mind and a vivid imagination. Stiles lit himself a candle and turned his mind to a song he felt rise up in his hearet when he thought of Derek. A song he had been working on for somet time.

*

Marin walked back into her chambers, completely unfazed by the presence of the king of Scotland and Ireland standing across from her and staring her down with all the intensity he could muster. Over her shoulder the guards appeared still and focussed and as if they hadn’t noticed her at all. She turned and closed the door behind her then pulled down the hood of her robe.

“Did you spell my men?” The king asked in a clear but bothered tone.

“I needed a private moment.” The words were meant to be an answer to more than one question, the others unasked.

“Did you need to escape the castle that badly,” he pressed.

“I am neither a bird nor a wolf to be caged,” She looked at him pointedly and the word wolf held a double meaning she seemed to communicate to him with her eyes. “Nor am I your prisoner here or am I mistaken?” She took his silence as answer enough. “You did not come to berate me on my ability to conceal myself from the eyes of wolf-men. So, let us dispense with the distractions good king.” Her words as always were spoken with such serenity, such undisturbed calm. “You wish something of me.”

“I had a dream, a terrible thing. I... you convinced me to let my son go and now I fear he will be heading into terrible danger,” the king admitted.

“I persuaded you to see things as they truly are and not colored by your preconceptions of what is. Tell me what you dreamt,” She crossed to her chest and pulled free a candle which she lit, though the king had not seen what she used to bring the flame to life. The more he thought about it, she didn’t hold anything in her hands besides that candle.

“It was unclear, but there was fighting, and blood and I saw my son’s face, he was afraid. I worry that I have made a mistake.” in a softer voice this time giving up all the command of his kingly station he asked, “Can you tell me anything of it?”

Marin studied him for a moment. Once again, giving up some of her aloof nature on account of this man, she responded to him with a sympathy that he seemed to reach and draw out of her. She was no stranger to compassion, but it was best held in check with all other emotions in her designation and with the work she often had to do, which held no special love or sympathy for any one man.

“Your son is a powerful being John. Life is fraught with many dangers and uncertainties. You cannot protect him from it all. Eventually he must find his feet to stand, find his wings to soar high. He must come into his own otherwise he will not be able to withstand the tests of time that will come.”

“Have you seen something?” he asked knowing she was as likely to evade as she was to answer.

“I’ve seen many things, but you do not want to know them. It is not your responsibility to handle my futures.” He only regarded her with a defeated look. “There will be danger. And he could fall. But for him to succeed, he must face his trials alone and become who he is meant to be. He is needed, by many more than just you.”

*

“Why?” Derek asked. He had been standing there in silence surveying the traitor for some time. He had perhaps spent the entire day thinking whether actively or in the back of his mind what exactly he would say to his uncle when he finally made the time to see him. It just so happened that the only time he could find was in the early hours of the morning long before the dawn would break when he had finally accepted that he would not sleep until it was done.

Of all the things that formulated and dissipated in his mind, all the accusations and curses. He had not expected that at the end of it all, what he would settle upon was the simplest of all, why? Peter remained as he had been when Derek entered. Remaining so still and so apparently despondent that if wolf sense didn’t indicate the man’s waking heart rate, Derek might have thought him to be unconscious.

When he thought the man would not respond at all he opened his mouth to say something, but the low and rumbling tone of his uncle’s raspy voice came forth. “Why what?”

The response angered the king, but he quickly reigned himself in. Learning of his uncle’s mastery in manipulation made him look at the man in a completely different light. He wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of yanking the chain of the king this way and that, nephew or not. “Why betray me?” Derek breathed.

Again, a long moment passed but his voice broke once more from beneath his bowed head. “Did you know, I became a man when I was fourteen years grown. That’s when I first killed for our house, while Talia was dancing in court and smiling with diplomats. I completed my education of our family affairs, when I was sixteen years grown, while she was being courted by the heir to the English throne. I became a man and avenged the man who slew our father while she made love to the new king of England and became infested with his spawn. And yet, she became alpha of our family pack because she was older. What sacrifices had she made I would ask myself. What hardships had she suffered I thought. Nothing came to mind. Even then I maneuvered our family line, I taught her to navigate the world she adored so with such blindness, foolish blindness. And then she bore a son, and then another and another and daughters to fill up the royal nursery with her foolish husband. A man who could not protect his family.”

When he withdrew his voice, it was like silence engulfed the entire room swallowing them like the dark. “Did you know that when she died at the hands of those pathetic assassins, I did not weep, I did not grieve I laughed, for she was a foolish girl who trusted a foolish man but then the power that should have been mine and would have been if not for you and your siblings was passed down to you. Another fool.” Peter raised his head then and the look of amusement there, nearly sent Derek’s patience and resolve to stay in control careening off an edge.

“Did you know, that your reckless, fool father nearly bungled his own plan, the only wise thing he ever thought up. I had to whisper in his ear and teach him too how to navigate and build the world I desired, the world he thought he desired. He began to lose his resolve and so I positioned him against the Scottish king. Far better swordsman than ruler perhaps but good enough to best your fool father. I convinced him to let no other cut down King John knowing that should they meet in single combat he would surely fall.”

Derek’s eyes widened at the revelation. His fury mounting in him as the pieces of what his uncle offered slipped into a grand puzzle, he did not even know needed finishing. “Of course, I had to find a way to rid myself of the imbecile before he destroyed everything we had built. And then came you. The usurper to my birthright. At first, I thought you could be used, molded but you too failed me. Letting that Stiles,” he hissed the name, “come in and ruin you, ruin my work. If only the hunter had done his job a moment earlier, I would have been rid of at least one problem. Why? You ask me. Because you are a fool as your father was a fool as your mother was a fool. Why should I let fools destroy the empire that I have been building for years?”

Derek had to fight down the urge to change and leap forward so he could tear the bastard’s throat out. He gritted out through a clenched jaw. “You will die for your crimes.”

Peter only smiled briefly and very unsettling. “No trial then?”

“I have all the evidence I need.”

“At least I got to watch that bitch die. Thinking she could threaten me. How children often grasp at straws.” The duke sounded satisfied with himself. “Another failure for you.”

“Wrong. The princess another victim of your treachery is quite safe in her chambers.” Derek spoke with a smug satisfaction of his own and it gave him great pleasure to watch the traitor’s face crumple in confusion first and then rage. “That’s right, at first I thought I’d halt the execution once you left but that was too risky. I had the bags put on their heads, and I had them dressed in rags so that I could switch with true criminals slated for the headsman.”

“She helped me plan your little prince’s assassination don’t forget,” Peter spat, temper flaring just a mite out of control before he composed himself.

“The way I see it. You manipulated her from the start. She may have made terrible mistakes but without you guiding her and my mistreatment perhaps none of it would have been possible. I am not without my forgiveness. Just not for you.” Peter tried to speak but Derek had had more than enough. If he remained any longer, he would kill his uncle right then.

The intensity of the duke’s glare could cut flesh and it pleased the king to know he had put it there. “This is the last time I will address you as uncle, and the last time you will look upon me before the day of your execution. And I promise it will be soon.” With that he turned around and exited the room, slamming the door shut behind him. One guard signalled the warden to lock it up and the king and his men made their way from the tower of London.

It was no small feat, getting himself back to bed, but after a long time spent fighting the racing of his own mind as well as it’s preoccupation with a man he had come to hate over night and a man he had come to love in quite the same fashion, the king had drifted off. He had hoped for undisturbed sleep but his time in the land of the somnambulist was far from uneventful.

Primarily, he was simply lucid in the dark, like a child stuck in a place where they could see nothing thanks to the absence of any and all light, though his other senses worked just fine. His ears picked up the light drip and flow of what he could only describe as water. His nose scented the soft burning of what he could only liken to the flame of a candle. He knew he wasn’t awake, but he didn’t entirely feel like he was sleeping either.

In his waking he would realize that he wasn’t entirely aware of the beginning of the dream, only that he came to lucidity somewhere along it’s course, but he would never forget what had come next. At first it sounded like a comforting low rumble of the chest and simultaneously a song of windchimes as if the two sounds worked together to play him a perfect song.

In time that song gained a clear and beautiful voice and lyrics that seemed to sink into his skin, his heart and his soul. Awake but not, he allowed himself to be drawn in and seduced by the song which seemed to permeate his entire being like he was drowning in it as though it were an ocean he had been tossed into, to eagerly and purposefully submerge himself in and never break the surface again.

All today I’m just a drop of water. And I’m running down the mountainside. Come tomorrow I’ll be in the ocean, I’ll be rising with the morning tide. There’s a ghost upon the moor tonight, now it’s in our house. When you walked into the room just then, its like the sun came out...

Silence engulfed all and then the voice as clear and more musically enchanting than anything he had ever heard before cut through the silence with a vocalization that brought with it a ripple of energy that worked it’s way into and through Derek’s ethereal body, making him feel as if he knew something inside his soul he had not yet known or truly understood.

I’m a droplet in a sea of nothing, looking for another to combine. Maybe we could be the start of something, be together at the start of time. There’s a ghost upon the moor tonight. Now it’s in our house. When you walked into the room just then it’s like the sun came out.

The silence came again as if without the voice there was no music. But when it came back it brought along a blinding light of illumination that flickered like a candle flame. Derek closed his dream eyes but could still see the fiery light beyond lids that were closed tight and also not really there at all. The song continued, and as it did, he recognized the angel’s voice he was hearing. His Stiles.

It’s like the sun came out, and the day is clear. My voice is just a whisper, louder than the screams you hear. It’s like the sun came out. At the start of time.

The last two lines continued to play over and over, overlapping each other like an answer and call. As they continued, the light beyond Derek’s ethereal lids seemed to lighten and become more manageable as well as distinctly identifiable, until he was able to open his eyes. He realized then he wasn’t looking at one blinding light, like the sun, but two distinct orbs of magnificence.

Two globes of swirling and shattering light that weren’t white or gold or yellow, but green. Shining emerald eyes shone before him like suns large, enchanting and drawing him in until he could fall right through them like pools of water. Eyes the likes of which he only knew existed in one person, his Stiles.

Derek woke quietly and completely sure of only one thing. He could no longer carry on the way he was. There was something he needed to do more than all else and that was to go and find the man he had sent away and bring him back himself. In however long it took that dream to play out, he realized he needed to have Stiles with him, or he would have nothing at all.

From what he could tell it was rather close to dawn and as far as he was concerned it was close enough for him to gather some men and leave immediately. The king had summoned Lords Deaton and Boyd to his presence chamber. Deaton had been the first to arrive and never failing to emanate a sense of precognition he spoke directly to Derek’s intentions upon taking the measure of his king.

“You’re going after him.” It was a statement and not a sentence. As much as Derek had often wondered if the man could read minds by some witchery, he had started to simply accept this manner of knowing a man from his measure as something natural to the instinctive and deductive skill of his most trusted advisor.

“You always know my mind don’t you,” the king responded gathering a few papers before picking up his sword and scabbard and fastening them to his belted waist.

“Your eagerness and nervous jubilance are quite apparent, your grace. I could think of nothing else that would spark such life into my previously unmotivated king, if you would forgive my bluntness.” As he replied he stepped forward to assist Derek in fastening the sheath.

“I can’t... I won’t be without him.” Derek corrected his words before continuing. “I love him. I know it now, completely, truly, irrevocably,” he laughed thinking to his dream and his love. “There are no obstacles left before us.”

“I take it you have determined what will be done about the princess you were meant to wed.”

“I have an idea, but I need Stiles for that. I need his council.” Derek scoffed, “I need him. If I must have an empire, I will rule it with him, with wisdom, with love and with alliances. He provides all of this for me and so much more.”

“Then there is nothing left to be said on the matter my king, retrieve your prince. What would you have me do in your absence? If it were for any other matter I would council against leaving your kingdom however I understand the gravity of this particular situation.”

“I know you do, that is why I am leaving you with my seal of authority. Govern them while I am away, I trust no other to do this task. And keep the traitor in hand until we return. Stiles must face him with me before he meets his end.” Handing Alan the papers he had gathered, he said, “These are to silence any disputes of your absolute authority. There are also instructions to the builders for something I wish constructed in the forest, see that that is donel.”

Just then Boyd came in and bowed to his king. “Your grace,” he called, head bowed.

“Have you assembled the travelling party I required?” Derek addressed him, motioning for him to rise.

“It is done my king, they await your grace, at the gate.”

“Excellent. I require you to be Lord Deaton’s personal guard. Ensure his will is carried out as if it were my own and nothing happens to him in my absence.”

“It will be done your grace,” Boyd answered swiftly.

“Now excuse me my lords, I have a highland prince to find.” With that he left the men standing there, his cape billowing behind him as he exited his presence chamber, several guards folding into a procession behind him as he made his way to the front gate.

*

“Are you ready Stiles?” Danny asked as he passed by the prince who was attaching a bag to his saddle.

“I think I’ve been ready for a while my friend, are you ready to go home?” Stiles returned with a bit of an anxious smile. He hadn’t been able to get back to sleep last night following the panic of his nightmare. Instead he had washed his face in a basin and lit a candle by which he perfected another song he had been working on for some time. He was eager to sing it for the king once he tracked the man down and made him see that they belonged together. It had the perfect lyrics for them and the perfect title he thought. ‘Start of time’ he had called it, thinking that once he and Derek could actually be together, it would be the start of many things, including a time of peace, love and joy for more than just them.

“To see you make a lovesick pup out of my hard-edged king, I would not miss that for anything this world had to offer.”

“Really,” Stiles crooned as he noticed Koda approaching over the man’s shoulder and knew that it wasn’t for Stiles he had come. The prince nodded at the Irish prince inbound to which Danny swiveled his head about to see what Stiles was pointing out. Lord Cromwell’s cheeks flushed bright red as he saw Koda coming forward.

“I wanted to wish you a safe journey Lord Cromwell,” Koda called, “And to you my friend,” he added to Stiles before reorienting his attention.

“Please Prince Koda, call me Daniel or Danny whichever you prefer.”

“Only if you promise to call me Koda,” the prince responded grinning broadly.

Danny beamed in turn and spoke the untitled name. Stiles turned back to his horse to finish his adjustments when he noticed the woman who was standing right behind him. It startled him that she had gotten so close without his detection of her presence. “Think nothing of it good prince, I’m rather light-footed,” she said, making him wonder if she could read minds as well. His father had said a little of the Lady Marin, but he clearly trusted her to rely on her council and to allow her to reside in the castle unencumbered.

“Lady Marin,” he sputtered, “you... startled me. I must have been quite distracted.”

“Yes, disquieting dreams can leave a lasting effect on our ability to remain in the here and now.” Her words gave him a start and he studied her suspiciously.

“What do you mean?”

“Your father has certainly shared with you my propensity for speaking in what he considers cryptic tones. He has also told you I’m sure, that I have a knack for seeing many things.”

“Are you some kind of witch?” Stiles asked bluntly. The woman only smiled in return.

“My apologies for my amusement. For all that I can see, I have never discovered why most men think first of witchcraft when there are many other and older ways of divining truth and possibilities.”

“Did you cause my dreams?” Stiles whispered the words as if afraid for anyone to know of them.

Marin’s face became grave then. “I could never violate the privacy and sanctity of one’s mind. It is the last haven many of us have from the world. I do however, like you have been informed, see many things. Truth and possibility. You are very special Germin Stilinski. You have always known this, and it is not something anyone could explain to you. Because of your own uniqueness, you have glimpsed both truth and possibility, but nothing is set in stone.”

Stiles was confused but said nothing allowing her to continue. Her words rang true to him and he sensed that she tried in her own way to help him now. “Dreams are messages, sometimes from ourselves and sometimes from the forces without. The future is not set, but it is setting. Your father would march you forward with an army at your back, but they would fail to save you and the rest of us. In order to do that, in order to fight the possibility you have seen. You must face the future on your own terms. By doing so you will become who you are meant to be. It may seem frightening and dangerous, but it is the only way. Ascend to your rightful place amongst men and magick. And you will save us all.”

“I don’t understand what any of this means,” he tried but she dismissed his protests with a hand holding a dagger hilt forward.

“You will, good prince. You are the holder of hearts, the croí a shealbhú, your spirit is is unconquerable and your influence is unavoidable. Your gift is your heart, your song, your voice, use it. And use this gift to defeat your enemy. Keep it at your back and all that you seek will be yours. Now take it.” She held the dagger forward.

Stiles hesitated for a moment, still very confused and wary of her cryptic words but he couldn’t deny everything in himself urged him to trust her. So, he took the dagger, and fastened it in its sheath to the back of his belt. Marin nodded and stepped back, just as his father made his way forward.

“You look ready.” John spoke the words with a smile, but his tone seemed dark, concerned.

“Is everything alright father?” Stiles said picking up the note in his father’s voice. He also didn’t miss the look that passed from his father to Marin before he responded.

“It will be my son. I believe in you most of all.” Stiles opened his mouth to say something, but his father cut him off quickly. Stiles could sense the anxiety in him. “Do not let this old man keep you any longer. I simply wished to embrace you once more.” John took Stiles in his arms and held him tightly, in his ear the man whispered. “Be safe and come back.”

When Stiles pulled back, he inspected his father’s face for a long moment before nodding affirmation. “I love you da,” he said, the way he used to when he was just a boy. John nearly cried but held himself in firm constitution.

“And I you my boy, now off you get.” Stiles hugged his father again before mounting his horse and leading his men out the gate.


*

The heavy door swung open and the mute warden slid a tray inside on the dirty ground. He turned to leave, satisfied with the duke sitting in the same position he had been in the night before. “Wait,” Peter called getting to his feet. The warden swung around and placed a hand on his hilt while his face began to shift.

“I only wanted to say,” Peter continued, voice silk and elegance in a way it had not been before. His eyes held a gleam of something the warden found highly suspect. “That nephew of mine did me a service making the warden a mute. You couldn’t call out if you tried.” Just then a blade split right through the back of the man’s skull and out his mouth. The only sound leaving him a crack and squelch of bone and sliced flesh and a gasp of air as he died. “Well that took you long enough,” Peter remarked, wiping the splatter of blood from his face before sidestepping the still standing body of the warden, held up only by the strength in the sword arm of the Duke’s man before he exited his prison cell.

 


Chapter Text

The lady Marin stood at her window, staring out over the lands and the small mass of water that ran a short distance from the castle. Cold winds assaulted the leaves in trees and made branches sway as though the ancient sentries had come alive enough, to protest the possibility of the negative outcomes of the day, with a violent flailing of their massive appendages. The top of the normally settled river made tiny waves, echoing the trees’ protest with a motion of their own. Even the animals seemed unsteady and unsettled as they went about their instinctive daily routine with a harsh abrasive quality, very unlike their natural behaviour.

All this, was a simple testament to the interconnected spirit of the worlds, both seen and unseen. She, as the lady of the crystal cave, was particularly in tune to the world of spirit and magick, as much as she could feel the touch of a hand upon her cheek. Sensitive as she were to the vibrations that were a representation of this world, she could feel the subtle thrum of power that permeated the very air she breathed. It brushed against her skin and played a tingling tune down the length of her spine. It made her hair flutter and flow like it were caught in a breeze.

Marin turned from the scene she’d solemnly looked over, closed the window so as to allow not a ray of light of the day into her quarters. She made for the large standing mirror mounted up against the far wall adjacent the large wooden doors leading out into the rest of the castle. Aside from her normal grace and poise, she moved with a sensitivity and caution that was a reflection of her perception of the gravity of the day. It was a turning point, no doubt. Many things hinged on the progression of events of that day. The fate of the world as they all knew it rested atop the shoulders of a prince, who could not afford to second guess himself and his gift. A gift he was not in truth consciously aware of.

The lady tried not to doubt her’s and her brother’s handling of the whole situation. She tried not to fear that her choices might have been the wrong ones but with something so delicate, there were few choices and fewer paths upon which she could tread. It was a difficult but necessary task determining that she could not simply tell the prince about his gifts. Something so aggressive would surely breed more doubt in him than anything else. When what she needed, what they needed most of all was for nature and raw talent to take its course, to have its way.

Instead she had allowed him to live, to love and to affect the world around him as naturally as he knew how. His instinctive ability to turn hearts to his purpose, to his side, always won out. But that was barely scratching the surface of the gift that was the heart-hold. She could only hold fast to her belief that his true strength, would emerge when most needed and the instinct to guide that strength would win out in the end.

Wringing her mind of it’s human inclination to doubt and despair faced with the unknown, a facet of humanity she had learned long ago to place in a tight box within herself, until it was only accessible at her desire, she approached the mirror and lowered herself to it’s right side where now sat her chest of relics and tools. Slowly, reverently, she unclasped the three ornate iron locks upon it’s lid and opened the chest, to reveal the treasures within.

In the same manner as she had moved to it and opened it, she reached in and pulled out items a piece at a time. Seven quarts crystals were first. Each piece’s grooves and rough cut edges matched the other as if portions of a once whole, larger crystal. The faintest glimmer of lights caught the cracked edges like glittering snow in the heart of winter. She placed them all around the mirror as soon as she freed them from their resting place, in a circle where the mirror acted as an eighth piece in an unbroken chain.

Returning to the chest she pulled out eight white wax candles and placed one in the opening between each of the crystals and the mirror. Out of the chest for a final time she pulled out a flagon, within which held water from the river. Walking a circle about the crystals and candles she poured out the water slow and steady, ensuring that the falling unbroken stream connected every candle and crystal and sealed off at the mirror’s edges.

Marin corked the flagon and set it back into the chest before stepping into the centre of the circle she had created, making sure to grip at her skirts and raise them off the ground so as to avoid the line of liquid she’d emptied there. With one final glance about her to ensure all the openings had been closed, and a casting of her mind’s eye to ensure the ward she had set upon her quarters remained strong and implacable, she set her eyes to the mirror, relaxed her mind and body and gazed with complete and unflinching concentration.

With the crystals representing earth and the connecting trickle representing water, a focus of intent and controlled flare of her energy set all eight candles aflame in unison, providing a representation of fire and the flickering wisps of smoke that escaped them, wind. Marin,as a user and manipulator of magick achieved by tuning of spirit and physical selves, represented the final great binding element of the realms of being; magick, spirit and physical. The work she sought to do this day would have been easier done at the seat of her power, the crystal cave. However she had only her gifts to traverse the world and its times with her mind, not through space as did her twin and so if she were needed there at the castle, she couldn’t risk being absent the presence of King John.

The lights of the candle flames danced about in the otherwise dark chambers, throwing exaggerated shadows upon the walls, floor and ceiling. Light seemed to be consistently absorbed by the crystals in their circle almost dimming them as the crystals drank in this light but also amplifying it with it’s own reflection, recast through all it’s facets as though they were diamonds to refract the light fed them.

As the light fell upon and threaded itself through the moat of water connecting the elements of Marin’s undertaking, there seemed to be hundreds of glittering points dancing upon the ground. The water itself did not seep into the floor or dissipate or dry. It kept its form like a tiny moat that bound the elements within it.

Smoke wafted near unnaturally from their tiny flickering points of origin, too small to create the amount of vapour that rose, under any normal circumstance. As it gained ascendance into the quiet and dark space surrounding, it slowly curled and twisted in the air creating another point through which the light would pass, on it’s way to the mirror which received all of this like a thirsty portal. The ivory tunic dress she wore, with it’s daggered sleeves and long folds covering her bare feet caused a vague notion of floating in clouds to bloom in the back of her mind. But she did not entertain it consciously. Instead she commanded her mind and spirit to focus on the task she had set before herself.

Marin never broke the connection. Her eyes unblinking and her mind fixed upon the task of calling forth a world eye, through which she could see all bound or touched by the elements of earth, air, fire, water and spirit. Each element becoming a looking glass, each reflective surface becoming a window. The mirror seemed to divide into segments cut apart by the threads of smoke. Light filled each segment until they all glowed a bright and powerful white. Before long, the white cleared away like clouds unveiling a blue sky and each segment revealed a different scene. Her eyes not focusing on any one took them all in. Her mind categorized them instinctively, identifying each place she peered into.

One segment held a view of London from the river Thames. Another gazed onto an open space of green hemmed in by a circle of large stones from the vantage of one of the stones in formation. One view was distinctly of the princess Lydia’s face as she gazed upon her own reflection in a looking glass. One view came from a trunk of a tree which overlooked a large group of armed men adorned with ruthless scowls, awaiting two oncoming riders outfitted with richly crafted steel and mail. Another, a moving image of a dark dungeon corridor, through the torchlight which lighted the way and an open cell coming into view in Marin’s mirror.

She took in a deep and settling breath through her nostrils and expelled it silently between lightly parted lips. “And it begins.”


*

Lord Deaton moved silently, as was his custom, through the dungeons. The jailer for the higher floors had explained to him when he came calling after the keeper of the lower dungeons, that he had not in fact seen the man since the previous evening, when he had gone to give the duke his supper. Immediately, the lord regent became incredibly uneasy at the news. His senses had been beating at him for some time but he could not pinpoint the cause of the trouble stirring within.

When the jailer informed him of his compatriot, he began to suspect what had had him in knots he wouldn’t dare let anyone see. Briskly but quietly, he moved through the dungeons, four men of the guard shadowing him, torch in his hand. As he moved, he felt the lightest of spiritual touches around his being. It was a flickering sense of awareness that there was another presence among them. It was fleeting and faint, but once it had touched him, a kind of touch he had experienced many a time before, he knew instinctively that his sister was casting a wide net to peer through the world.

Could it be... he wondered, but the thought slipped away from him as he and the guards following came upon the scene awaiting him at the duke’s cell. The door had been left ajar, the escapee caring not a bit for maintaining the appearance that he had not fled. A body was splayed upon the ground just inside the door. He didn’t need wolf sense to smell the harsh metallic scent of blood so strongly he could taste it in his mouth.

He toed the door open and found the warden he had been searching for. His face split by a terrible gash that parted his mouth to his forehead in even halves that remained connected at his chin and the crown of his scalp. The dead man’s lifeblood had emptied upon the floor and spread out in a wide pool that nearly painted the entire width of the small room.

Deaton heard the gasps of the men behind him as they surveyed the scene before them. Green these men, he thought, newly appointed to their king’s service, never to have truly seen death and blood if their reactions were any indication. Relinquishing the thought to oblivion, he turned his mind back to the present problem. Fighting back a curse at what the grisly scene before him could only herald, his mind worked through the facts and possibilities near as quickly as his sister could. There was yet no trial. There would be no trial as far as the king was concerned but that also meant that until his execution, there would be no proof provided damning the duke in the eyes of the kingdom. Aside from the stories that had been leaked from his capture. And it was no secret that the small folk accepted lies and fantasy, as easily as they accepted the truths provided by their own eyes.

With no trial and no Duke held imprisoned, were anything to happen to the king, the current succession would require the duke be installed as his heir. Furthermore, most if not all of the men who were present at the duke’s arrest were riding now with the king to retrieve the prince Stiles. The lord regent hissed in protest to his own summation.

Sir Gavin,” Alan turned to the first man behind him. A knight of great height and a hefty build, with sandy brown hair cropped short on his head and a wealth of beard that made his thin lips look like a secret hidden in wilting bush.With all haste make for the barracks and assemble a small party of men to bolster the king’s party, thirty. Ride to meet the king on the road and alert him that there may be grave danger, the duke has escaped. I don’t know how he will do it but he will most definitely go after the king if not today, then in the near future. His grace must be made aware of the threat. Ride without respite, he has just over a day’s lead on you and there is no guarantee he will make repeated breaks save for ensuring the horses last the journey. He is eager to get to where he is going.”

“My lord,” came the man’s response as he turned quickly and ran back down the hall.

“Sir Kevan, assemble enough men and round up all the staff who have come into contact with this wing and bring them to the king’s throne room for questioning. We must know at once how this has happened and what the bloody duke plans to do next.” The other man nodded and took off after his fellow knight of the guard. He was of a similar build but with clean shaven face, hair as dark as night absent the bright moon and a stern disposition despite his fresh appointment.

“You two appoint four more guards not including yourselves to stand guard over the princess. She may be a target of the duke’s vengeance.”

“What of you my lord,” the brawnier man asked, Micah his long raven coloured hair tied back with a leather thong from his plump and somewhat beaten face.

“Worry not after me, I will assign new detail once I am free of this place but I must examine this scene first. There may be some indication as to who may have participated or where they came from or went to. Only do as I say and ask no more questions. At once!” he barked, for the first time in quite a while allowing his true emotion to filter into his tone in order to have his point firmly felt by the ones he addressed.

My lord,” they both called as they hurried off. Deaton watched them disappear down the hall and then through the door at the end of it. He turned back to the scene giving it a cursory look, sure that there would be nothing useful here but sparing the effort to be quite certain. Once he was satisfied that all he could see here was the aftermath of the gruesome and treacherous act of the duke’s escape, he stepped further inside, making sure not to step into the pool of blood on the ground. He closed the door behind him and with a deep breath, and a marshalling of his energy shifted his form through space to the familiar location of the stone circle of Stonehenge. One moment closing the door within the depths of the dungeon, the next turning around to face the open air and large standing stones of the circle.

Quickly he went to one of the inner rings, pulled free his leather glove with his other hand and placed his palm upon the cold stone there. He felt the thunderous jolt of power that connected with him as he placed his hand on the stone and immediately set his mind to reaching across the distance of space and through the powerful relic of the stone he had no doubt his sister could use to see from wherever she had cast her net of sight.

“Sister, my lady of crystal cave I have need of you,” he whispered as he reached with spirit and magick.

“I am with you my brother,” came a response soft but clear that seemed around him and within his own head. He opened his eyes and removed his hand, to stare purposefully into the stone as though it were as clear as a mirror or a surface of still waters. Suddenly a woman’s face appeared in the rough granite just as if it were a reflection through the pool of clear water. It was Marin’s face.

“The duke, he has escaped the tower of London...” he began but she cut him off.

I know. He is on his way to confront the king. As is the croí a shealbhú.”

“They will clash upon the road.” He made it a statement knowing exactly what this all meant, “This is it then?”

“The first and final true battle. This will determine the fates of us all.”

“Is there nothing more we can do?”

“I have armed the prince with what I could. The rest must be up to him.” She was solemn in tone but he thought he heard a flicker of reservation in her voice.

“We have both sacrificed much and done all we could do for this. I only pray it was enough. You will be watching?”

“I have pulled forth all the power I have at my disposal to keep an eye along the lines. I felt it necessary to gross such a force, this is the most important day of all our lives. I must know the outcome immediately.” She didn’t tell him though that if there was one final thing she could do, some whisper she could cast upon the wind to assist in ways she knew she mustn’t she would do it to keep the darkness of one man’s heart, from plunging the entire world into endless nightmare.

Call to me should you have need or news, I would know the moment the thing has been decided. Good bye beloved sister,” he whispered, the words holding more than just a conclusive tone for their brief conversation but also a preemptive note of sorrow for an outcome they both prayed would not come to pass.

***

Derek paced anxiously at the clearing where he and his men had stopped for a brief respite. He had taken only two breaks since setting off the day prior and those were only to give the horses time to rest enough and take water, that they may not die before seeing him through to his final destination at Edinburgh castle.

The men of course he knew were exhausted but it mattered little to him under the circumstances. He wished he could share his immense desire with them. He would if it didn’t make him fill with a jealous rage at anyone thinking of Stiles in the way he did. He wished he could share his eager sense of purpose but that, was his and his alone. That was what fuelled his drive to make it to Edinburgh castle, where the prince would be.

He hadn’t yet thought of what he might say once he saw the man. He would surely be due for quite a bit of apologies, but how to explain his reasoning or lack thereof. Everything he had done, seemed so necessary before, but now it just all seemed like folly. How could he have ever thought that he could do without the man, his man, his highland prince. Perhaps he had called it sacrifice to himself but even now he felt like he was far too selfish in this regard to be a sacrificial lamb for the world. Stiles was his, would be his, from the moment he found him again and forever after, at least if the prince would have him back.

He had ridden without stop for the better part of the first day, halting only for a few hours before dawn so the men and horses might rest. By his calculation, he was making very good time. Depending on the kind of ride it could be very quick to travel to Scotland and they were moving rather quickly. He had barely set his mind to the inane details of the travel, but their ride through the countryside, across the fields of farms and hold-fasts and into the great Midland Forest was a blur of hard riding. They were getting nearer the halfway marker.

The king broke from his circular pacing in the clearing of trees near the end of a large stretch of the forest that would signal them breaking the half point. He made for his horse, tied and drinking from a spare stream that ran through the forest. Brushing back glossy and lustrous black hair, the king whispered apologies to his steed for the pace.

“There will be a horse's feast for you and your companions when we arrive at the Scottish kingdom, I swear it.” He promised as if the words would be understood and appease the tired horse. Derek looked over his men who were holding themselves up well but were very clearly tired as well as if not as much as the horses. Sighing, he resolved to give them a little more time, and it certainly hadn’t felt like very much.

When he had inevitably commanded them to ready themselves for departure once again, he could sense the resistance to their orders, though no man voiced his true feelings. It was the wolf in Derek that allowed him to scent their irritation and frustration with the current situation. You will have as much time as you need to recover, once we get there, the king couldn’t help thinking, he simply wasn’t willing to slow their pace down even a little, not until he had Stiles back and in his arms. To his singularly focused mind, enough time had been wasted.

The men mounted their horses following the royal example of their commander as he sat atop his steed primed to get on with the journey. Before the last of his company had finished swinging leg over saddle, Derek had spurred his horse forward and was kicking up dust, already picking up an impressive speed that sent him hurtling over the land.

Rapidly the overhead bleeding green of the abundance of leaves on tree branches melted into mixture of azure and misty white of the clouded skies. The path took them out of the soft soiled route through the forest and onto the harder, sun scorched earth of the travelling road unprotected by the canopy of wet branches or soft dew catching grasses. The horses’ hooves pounded the ground hard yet left barely a print, rather drawing from the earth a drumbeat of sound announcing their way while drowning them in the procession of the king’s party.

Pleasure captured Derek in it’s grasp having made it through the forest which signalled the half way marker of his journey. They had not gone too far when a small party of men could be seen further along astride horses of their own, blocking the way. They all stood seemingly in wait of something and were garbed well. Far too well to be mere brigands or mercenaries. Even at his company's current speed it was not difficult to make out boiled leather and well crafted helms, sturdy and polished armour as well as well fed and trained horses.

The king slowed considerably, before they would meet and signalled for the two men on either side of him to ride ahead and clear the way, unwilling to let this small group of brazen fools be the reason he was delayed any further. His men needing rest was one thing, whatever brand of criminals they were was quite another.

Make way for the king!,” one of the outriders shouted, but the five men he addressed paid him no mind. The man grunted whilst his companion made a more comprehensive announcement. “This way comes his grace Derek Hale the king of England and emperor of the new British Empire. You will let him pass or meet his justice here upon the road.”

He has no patience for delays this day, move yourselves from the path,” the first man added for good measure, hoping to rouse a healthy fear in the men blocking their way but still they did not budge. The outriders looked back to their quickly approaching king who raised a hand that they might stay their blades, before reaching for their swords. They were still outnumbered pitting two against ten and as confident as he were in the skill of his men, the peculiar opponents gave some pause.

“What is the meaning of this! Make way for your king.” Derek used his most commanding of tones as he halted his horse a few paces from the line of ten that stood in his way. For a moment he thought none of them would answer him, and his mind turned to making quick work of them with steel in hand for their insolence and interference in his plan for the day but then one of them spoke.

The one centre right , whose voice was gritty like gravel grating against each other had said, “No king of ours.” Just four words of defiance but like a trumpet heralding the arrival of something monumental, everything changed. As the two outriders ahead of the king placed hands on the pommels of their sheathed swords, arrow heads emerged swiftly through the backs of their throats, and bloomed out the fronts like iron flowers grown over night. Simultaneously arrows, accompanied by a high pitched sound of their slender shafts cutting through the wind impaled several horses including the two atop which Derek had sent his two men to clear the way.

The king’s head swivelled as men and horses around him went down in an uproar of terrified whinnying, grunts and groans of pain and screams of warning from those still atop their horses. Men still with mounts grabbed their reigns and quickly moved to form a loose formation about the king who had managed to side step his mount just as an arrow had come slicing through the air, seeking out the legs of the black steed.

Those who had been unseated but still lived either being missed entirely by the unseen archers or simply not targets scrambled to their feet and pulled their swords from scabbards to join the protective formation. Derek had brought just over fifty men with him and already he had lost nearly a quarter of that number, before they could even truly identify the threat.

A few of Derek's men lunged toward the line of ten but he called for them to hold position unwilling to be reckless with their lives in his haste and surprise. The men who had moved, quickly returned to formation alongside other soldiers of the king's company, a testament to their training.

Arm yourselves!” he called out to his men as he still tried to pinpoint the location of the force who had been firing on them. The tree line was not too far off, but the distance was far too great to fire with such accuracy. Turning himself about cautiously, the king sighted a string of large boulders along the sides of the road, each large enough to conceal a man or two. Gritting his teeth in anger at having been caught foolishly unawares he called out, keeping a wary eye on the five men standing in the way still motionless, still waiting.

Come out and face us like men, or are you too craven to stand and fight.” He pulled his own sword from its sheath. Before he was finished speaking, he heard the advance of more horses and turned as did his men to where they had emerged from the wood. A host of men as many if not more than his own were coming after them. At the helm of this incoming host, was a man wearing armour so polished that the golden light of the sun gleamed in refraction off of the surfaces of his hauberk. An equally shiny gauntlet was gripping the hilt of a sword with a familiar ruby encrusted pommel. The large chestnut coloured destrier with a length of snow white hair from its four hooves up to the knees the man rode, was also no stranger to Derek. And once he got a better look at the face, he realized to his terrible surprise, he was staring at the cruel smile of Peter Hale.

“Your grace!” came a shout from one of his men along his right flank and looking to where the man had pointed, he saw longbow men coming out from behind the boulders where they had been lying in wait to ambush the king, arrows nocked and strings pulled back loosely every bow marking one of the king’s men for firing.

“How?” Derek asked as his uncle approached and halted his man a few yards from where Derek’s few were now boxed in.

“I told you boy, you are a fool just as your parents were. Clearly I am not the only one who thinks so. Perhaps it would have been wise of you to take my men into custody when you took me or did you think they would be blindly loyal to their fool king. Well, they will soon have a new king.” Wasting no more time in his eagerness to be rid of his nephew, Peter commanded his men to attack while the stunned Derek processed his words.

The king was a moment in harnessing his thoughts, the revelation of the last few moments reeling for him but when he heard one of his men yell Defend Your King , he felt shocked back into action. J ust in time. A whistle of an approaching arrow caught his immediate attention and knowing where it was coming from this time, he swung his sword in a sweeping arc that sliced the arrow head off the shaft , breaking it’s trajectory and velocity as he tossed his head aside, to avoid the broken pieces.

The men about him erupted into a flurry of action. True to their training and keeping to a tight formation they all combined wolf sense with training to avoid being caught off guard by the attackers flurry of arrows. This time they were a lot less effective as Derek’s soldiers, much like himself sliced arrows in the air before they could make their marks. A few caught the arrows in hand and tossed them with preternatural speed and force like darts back at the ones who had sent them sailing through air. A few of those longbow men fell dead to the ground, distracted by the renocking of their arrows in bows as well as having no free hands with which to defend.

The ten men who had held the road now with swords in hand tried to harry the king’s men from atop the backs of their horses but to their dismay, companions of the outriders who were killed in the beginning of the battle, slashed at their horses wounding them terribly until every man was uns eated and forced to advance further on foot.

There was a tense stillness where the wary men of the king’s party watched their opponents watching them with tightly sheathed fury. Suddenly a man yelled and everyone was moving. Those who held swords on foot forming the thin line of protection between the king and the still horsed duke’s men, charged forward while the remaining horse riders hurtled after the bow men attempting to use speed and height to offset their ranged advantage. Derek atop his steed saw none but Peter and was after him with dark determination

Steel met steel in a loud clash and clang of weapons. Grunts and shouts of defiance and pain filled the air around them as men cut and parried, side-stepped and rolled to avoid blows before spearing their swords forward only to meet blocking sweeps from the enemy’s weapons.

Derek and Peter headed straight for each other. The duke slashed the throat of a man caught between them on his way sending the lifeless corpse sliding off the side of his horse which bucked and veered away, running off and out of the battle. Derek knew it would be a fruitless attempt trying to take his uncle on horseback, so when they had traded a few clashes of steel and turned around for another pass. The king, using one hand to gain leverage on the pommel of his saddle, launched himself off the horse with all the wolf’s strength he could command and speared into his treacherous uncle with the force of a boulder slung from a catapult. Peter gasped having the wind knocked out of him, and the two men hit the ground hard rolling. Derek retained a firm hand on his sword but the surprise attack had caused Peter to lose his grip leaving him temporarily without a weapon.

He man o euvred himself atop Derek and wound back to punch the king once, twice, a third time before Derek could twist himself free of the man’s weight enough to bring his elbow up into Peter’s face. Heaving harshly he tossed the older man and quickly got to his feet.

A yelling soldier came swinging for the duke but Peter, far too quick and well versed in the art of combat dodged the blow with p racticed ease and kicked the sword free of it’s owner. While the blade hurtled upward in the air Peter made swift work of the soldier, getting behind him as he had lost his balance in the evasion and breaking his neck with a twist of deft and strong hands.

The duke caught the blade on it’s way back down and stabbed it into the unprotected throat of another of Derek’s men as he ran passed toward one of the Duke’s own. Derek roared, his eyes aglow with Scarlet fire with the rage he felt at watching his men fall. Peter only gave him a wicked smile as they met once more.

The sounds of battle and death surrounded them. Many of the longbow men had been dispatched by the advancing line of cavalry. The five riders however, who had blocked the road, came up on their unprotected flank joined up by a few other soldiers of the duke’s party and killed a number of the king’s men, before they could reorient enough to provide a suitable defence.

All of the riders rode no longer, with their horses either having been killed or throwing them after the pain of a grievous wound, and then running off out of the battle. Metal clanged against metal and blades scraped their edges together as men tried to pit skill and swordplay bolstered by supernatural force against each other on both sides.

Shifted soldiers howled as they moved so fast fighting each other it would have been hard for a human to follow the movements clearly. Derek and Peter fought furiously. Derek tried to keep his mind on his single opponent though he often had to narrowly avoid a blade and cut down a man who would try and kill him on behalf of his uncle, often coming out of some blind spot created by the battle. Many of his men were falling, overwhelmed by the numbers coming up against them.

However he had managed it, Peter had planned well and quickly. In a small part of his mind, Derek cursed himself for stopping to rest at all the first day. They might have lost a horse but it would be likely that the duke would not have caught up to him enough to plan this fight out so well.

The duke advanced again swinging his sword so that Derek was forced to duck with all his wolf’s speed. He felt the gust of air dragged along by the blade that ruffled his hair where the blade would have severed his head, had he not been quick enough. Rolling to his uncle’s right he came up with a sweeping slice of his sword that the man blocked. Jumping to his feet, they went into a series of thrusts, parries and near misses that spoke volumes of both their skills.

Derek lunged forward, feinted right and then attacked left with a move Deaton had showed him once, but Peter twisted and spun like a dancer avoiding the lash and following up with a swift strike of his own, that sliced through Derek’s sword arm. Pain lanced through the man as his wrist momentarily weekend. He could feel the depth of the cut and enormous pain it brought with it, making it hard to hold onto his blade. Blood began to seep through the light clothing of his gold and bronzed doublet under which he wore mail but that hadn’t covered his arms in order to not restrict his range of motion on the long ride. He had dressed in a manner that would allow him to move swiftly and not tire his horse too quickly, not anticipating an attack like this on the way. Blood leaked down his sleeve and made his sword hilt slippery in his hand.

Peter grinned wildly and deigned to speak a few words before he carried on the assault. “I’m going to kill you fool, as I should have done long ago.”

~

The horses thundered their way along the road. Dust kicked behind them as the contingent of men rushed along their way to the destination. They were getting close now. More than half of the distance covered on the way back to England. Stiles rode triumphantly at the head of the party, Scott to his left and Danny to his right. His steed galloped along with powerful, muscular legs carrying him as though he were riding the wind itself.

His mind had been consumed with thoughts of the king but garnished also with tidbits from nights prior. His dreams, the words the lady Marin had spoken to him at his departure. The ominous sense of finality that filled him with every galloping step his horse made forward to what he had swiftly come to see as his destiny. Inside himself he felt uneasy as if his very soul could sense something not being right with the world, with the way things ought to be or rather the way he wanted them to be.

One of the men called out, directing their attention to something ahead. It looked at first like a dwindling host surrounded by fallen men and horses, a scene he would have attributed to the aftermath of a battle. Cold gripped his heart, as the look of it brought his dream to the forefront of his mind. A few spooked steeds ran off in several directions one of which moving steadily towards the prince and his men riding inbound. Danny said something about them wearing English livery, but Stiles could just barely make out his words over the thunder of hoof beats and the screaming of the wind rushing past his ears. He turned back to study the scene that was fast approaching. The men there, now noticeably fighting amongst themselves, had not seen the incoming group yet. The coppery scent of blood starting to become definable the closer they came.

To Stiles’ horror, he recognized one of the fighting men for the king he had been riding back to. His sword was in hand and sweat covered his brow, the droplets becoming more distinct as the prince rode in and time itself seemed to still about him. In the stillness came clarity and sharpening of the senses, that flared within him as he noticed more than just the king, the man he now knew that he loved, but the one who fought him. His uncle, the Duke Peter Hale. The man attacked with rage and relentless fury. The king’s men had all but a few been struck down and now his remaining loyal guards were surrounded as was he.

Stiles grasped his reins even more tightly and lowered himself on the horse begging it with his words and his will to move faster. The prince’s eyes flared emerald as he urged, and it seemed to understand the urgency and rushed forward even more rapidly than it had been going. Trying to take their cue from the prince’s steed the others hurtled after him attempting to keep up but despite their efforts, he left them in the dust kicked up in his wake, along with feint urgings to await their reinforcement.

Steel clashed with steel as the Duke’s men advanced. Peter himself seemed to only care about the king and barely noticed when Stiles’ horses rushed forward into the fray. His own sword was in hand before he could think to pull it free of the scabbard and as he rode through the outer line of men closing in and attempting to take down the remaining guards of the king, Stiles swung his own steel and loped the head off one man in one swing of his sword. There was hardly any resistance with the speed and strength he used to attack.

Turning around in a wide arc he relinquished little of the horse’s speed as he made his way back. This time he stood atop the back of the horse and balanced himself synchronizing with the speed of his steed. When he was close enough, he launched off the beast and landed on another of the Duke’s men his sword spearing down into the man’s back until he was pinned to the ground beneath the blade. There was a squelching sound of ripping flesh and a bloody gasp that left ruby spittle splattering from the fallen man’s lips. Stiles rolled under the swinging blade of another man come to fight the arrived prince. Quickly reorienting himself as he got to his feet, he brought his sword up over head, to block the down ward swing from his opponent, then twisted the sword so he could spin into the man’s reach and grab his sword arm before running him through with a backward thrust of his blade.

His company finally caught up to him and joined the fight. They maintained their mounts as long as they could, riding down wounded men and slashing at fighters in their prime as they rode through their lines and formations. As well as they fought though, the duke’s men matched them. Aiming smartly to dispatch the horses, so as to even out the playing field, the prince’s soldiers were forced to dismount if only to avoid the loss of all their horses.

A fresh eruption of metal on metal rang out, every blade now well fed with the blood of an enemy. Stiles’ numbers had helped initially but the Duke had come with more men than the king had first counted, and even the fresh infusion of fighters was no great aid to the battle. Stiles’ men were being cut down, forced to fight one to two and three in some cases, some wounded, some dead.

Stiles saw Scott fall to his knees still trying to defend against a barrage of attacks by three men on him. Scott managed to parry a downward swing so that it only made a glancing hit against his armoured shoulder, before thrusting his steel upward under his opponent’s helm into his neck. Before the second man could react he pulled free a dagger sheathed at his side and swung low to stab into the man’s booted calf and then quickly thrusting it between his legs causing him to scream and drop to the floor.

Now finding it difficult to manoeuvre his weapons thanks to the bodies stuck on their other ends and out of breath Scott was unprepared for the third man however, who kicked out powerfully. The blow struck his wrist and he heard the snap of bones before a lancing pain shot through him. As he looked down through widened eyes, Scott watched a length of blood stained steel, slide easily from his stomach, drawing with it a choked gasp from his throat.

As his oldest friend fell to his knees and then face first into the ground the prince of Scotland screamed The sound jarring like a shock wave. Rage consumed him even as the battle raged on around him and he instinctively funnelled it all into his fight. Stiles ducked an oncoming blade and spun under it to bring his own slashing upward to cut across the man’s stomach. He spun once more bringing the blade around to cut a deep and horrid gash into his back before elbowing him in the face.

Rotating his body, he just barely avoided another man’s downward slash and swung his sword arm with a speed that caused the tip of the blade to slice the man’s throat like he was cutting through butter. His eyes caught Danny stabbing a soldier who had come for him but then Danny was quickly disarmed by Peter who had been slashing his way through the crowd of newcomers. The duke turned and with a flurry of slashes had wounded Danny before turning back in time to defend and avoid Derek’s blows, who had come to strike, in defence of his soldier.

Derek finally, truly noticed Stiles for the first time as Stiles caught sight of him. The shock, joy and immediate fear there, unbalanced the king. Stiles noticed blood dripping from the man’s arm and seeping through his doublet at his chest. The inadvertent distraction was enough though and Peter ducked under a swing before moving in close to stab at Derek’s leg which hit it’s mark before he kicked hard into the king’s chest sending him sprawling. Stiles yelled and attacked but the fury that overshadowed his judgment did not aid him. The strength of Peter’s rage and his years of experience was more than a powerful match.

There was a short show of battle within which Stiles felt almost confident. He parried initial thrusts with his sword and yelled as he lunged forward, slashing furiously at the duke. Peter swung low and Stiles flipped forward, avoiding the swipe at his legs. Landing to the Duke’s left allowed him to back hand the man heavily leaving him staggering forward. The prince twisted and raised his leg, bringing it down with all his strength to kick down at Peter’s head but the Duke rolled and raised an arm to block, relinquishing his sword in order to gain purchase. Grabbing Stiles’ leg he twisted it and rolled again, forcing the highlander to twist and fall away, his sword dropping to the ground.

Peter got to his feet fast and kicked Stiles in the face. Blood sprayed from a fresh gash in the prince’s face as his head whipped to a side. Peter kicked again but Stiles grabbed at his leg, got to one knee and swept his boot under Peter, kicking him off his feet again. The prince grabbed for his fallen sword and spun about bringing steel bearing down on the duke but Peter had also found his sword and his feet. Throwing a handful of dirt into the prince’s eye, he quickly disarmed Stiles with a few heavy blows the last of which turned into a twirling flurry of swordplay that allowed the duke to slash shallowly at Stiles’ fingers and get under the hilt of his sword to leverage it out of the prince’s hand and toss it far out of reach. He kneed Stiles in the stomach and brought the hilt of his sword to bear painfully across the prince’s face, knocking him to the ground.

Paying little mind to a fallen secondary opponent, his eyes only on the prize of the crown and throne and the obstacle keeping him from it, Peter turned back to Derek who was gasping and trying to get his bearings. “No!” Stiles screamed as the bloody duke pulled his arm back and swung swift and cruel to behead his nephew.

For the second instance that day, time itself seemed to slow down around the tired and wounded prince. He saw all without seeing, he sensed the hurt of his companions and friends. Smelled the death of the fallen soldiers around him. Remembered watching the sword spear into his best friend who now lay dying on the blood soaked earth. He heard the rough and vigorous beat of hearts, as slow as war drums marking the procession of an army. Watching the duke rear back his sword gripped tightly in both hands, about to swing a killing blow. Watching Derek on the ground wounded and panting but looking to him, only to him, resigned to whatever fate he would meet at the incoming blade, though his eyes confessed a million things he did not have the chance yet to say with his words, Stiles’ heart burst.

He felt a ferocious expulsion of energy emanate from within himself and outward. An all encompassing understanding engulfed him, and every strange instance of his life came to bear on this one moment. Scenes of his journey through played in his mind at hyper speed. Scene’s where he had made those who opposed each other find peace, where those who had opposed him had come turned to love and admiration, where he had with words and deeds called forth a response from within men who had no cause or desire to heed his word or command. He heard a thousand voices whispering past his ears like howling winds in a storm. Voices that spoke of destiny, of hearts and minds, of control and ancient magick, many of which he did not understand, but one he did suddenly and swiftly. It was Marin’s voice telling him to become what he was meant to be.

The eyes of the highland prince then became emerald fire, burning nearly as bright as a torch in his head, and his cry of protest became a bark, a roar, a howl and a song all at once. Peter froze in an instant as time resumed its progress unmolested. His rearing arms halted behind his head as if his entire body had been transformed into a living statue of gleaming armour and male and paled skin. The only part of him not serenely frozen was his face which was a mask of dazed confusion As long as the sound escaped him Stiles knew the man would not make a further move. He saw Derek regard him with astonishment and he wondered somewhere in himself what the man saw and heard, for he no longer felt the same. He felt as if he had shifted or transformed yet he felt like much more than just a wolf.

The song he cried out faded then and he caught his breath. But the Duke, somewhat dazed was coming back to himself, slowly being released by whatever Stiles had done to hold him. The prince looked about for a weapon but there was nothing about him. For all the dead and wounded soldiers all around them nothing was close enough to win him the day. Then suddenly, remembering the dagger at his back, with great urgency he found it’s hilt with his good hand, pulled it free, giving it a quick toss so that he gripped it’s blade for a more accurate throw. And in one preternatural flick of his wrist, enhanced by every ounce of strength he had, the bare blade was twisting through the air, light making it a glimmer of a shooting star until it buried itself hard and deep in the back of the duke’s neck.

The wicked traitor’s head whipped back from the force of it. The sword slipped from his now loose fingers and he fell to his knees gasping inaudibly. With a final gurgle and cough his face careened into the dry, dusty earth before his shocked nephew.

Instinctively Stiles rose and turned taking in all the men and yelled in a voice that seemed many voices in concert, “Stop.” the music in his one word was undeniable and none on the field of battle, friend or foe could help but cease whatever action they had taken. His eyes blazed a heated glowing green that seemed to swallow the men who looked into them.

“Drop your swords, and relinquish your arms.” Every man carrying a weapon let it go immediately, no hint of protest, no question as to why they should or did what they were bid by this strange prince.

“Enemies of the crown, Enemies of king Derek Hale, you now surrender. Fall to your knees.” His words were woven with spirit and song and burned through them like fire and ice. All those who had come to fight at Peter’s behest dropped to their knees, and raised their hands in surrender.

It was then and only then that Stiles ran toward Derek, who tried to rise despite the pain in his leg. Stiles fell beside him and stopped his rising. He placed a gentle hand on the man’s bloody cheek and Derek could feel the warmth there bolstering him, pulling from him pain, as black veins raised on Stiles’ hand and arm.

“My prince.”

“My king,” responded the magical young man with glowing eyes, his voice still a chorus of heavenly song.

“You saved me.”

“I could do no other. There is something I must tell you,” he whispered and his eyes began to dim and his voice returned to a singular beautiful voice.

“I love you,” Derek countered before the younger man could finish. Then with an eagerness and reckless desire he had not felt since the last time he had put his hands on the one before him, Derek framed his face between his palms and pulled him close so they could kiss something fierce, deep and passionate.

When they pulled away Stiles was the one dazed and Derek, to him seemed to glow with a fire that came from within. “Then we are in agreement,” he managed breathlessly. “Because I love you.” This time he leaned down to his king and heart and kissed him again fiercer still than their last.

“You killed my uncle,” Derek whispered against love bruised lips. He breathed in the scent of Stiles so deeply he hoped it would live inside him forever. He hoped he would never have to be far from that scent or have the misfortune of forgetting it. The prince laughed softly at his words.

“Well I could not let him have your head, I intend on every bit of your body belonging to me and only me. Allow me to make that perfectly clear, your grace,” A rumble of pleasure roused in his throat even as he frowned. It was an adorable combination Stiles found he could hardly resist, so he kissed at the king’s brow.

“That’s the ferocious highland prince I love, but do something for me,”

“You mean besides save your life,” Stiles mused playfully.

“Say my name,” Derek urged, “From now until our last day, I want you to say my name. I want to be your Derek as I want you to be my Stiles.”

Brown eyes met hazel green in love and acceptance and Stiles leaned down to plant a soft kiss on his ear before whispering, “Derek, my Derek.”

Derek’s eyes closed as he felt warmth and joy flood his entire being. Stiles’ body moulded to his in their embrace. A throat cleared ungracefully and a tired voice rasped, “Stiles.”

Derek opened his eyes again to see Danny holding up a haggard and barely living Scott. The king allowed Stiles to turn about in his arms, releasing him once he saw the state of his lover's friend. When Stiles actually saw Scott again everything came rushing back to him and he ran to his friends side. He helped Danny ease him down on the ground and his eyes filled with tears. Switching to the Gaelic tongue Stiles spoke, "You can't go, as your prince I forbid it."

"I'm afraid, the fucker left me no choice Stiles," Scott responded in kind though his voice was far more ragged and his breathing laboured. He tried to scoff but the action only made him cough gruffly.

"What am I to do without you. You're my best friend in all the world." Stiles voice was breaking with every word as was his heart.

"Luckily I've approved a replacement." Scott nodded at Danny who stood just behind the prince's right shoulder and then to the king who stood over the left, he added, "You'll help him won't you." Derek put his hand on Stiles' shoulder and nodded.

Scott went into a bout of coughing again and all three men leaned their hands down to touch some part of him and take his pain away. When the heaving subsided he looked to Stiles again. "You have been the greatest friend in all the world. My brother, I love you, you know it." He breathed once more and then not at all.

Stiles sobbed softly, his head falling onto Scott's own so that their forehead's touched. "And you have been mine," he whispered when he could. Gently, he closed the eye lids of his friend's vacant face and rose to his feet. "Rest a while," Stiles uttered, brushing away the tears on his face with the back of his hand

"I'm sorry," Derek offered up, placing a hand on the back of Stiles' neck and pulling him against his chest. The embrace was brief but he filled it with all the comfort he could muster before they separated.

As they looked about and saw the scene of violence and surrender around them Derek returned to his previous astonishment. His eyes fell to the prince beside him who only then looked more than slightly surprised at what he had wrought.

“How did you...” he breathed, unable to articulate the end of his question.

“I’m not entirely sure. But what I do know is that we cannot remain here.”

Derek turned his attention to the corpse of his uncle on the ground. Using his boot he kicked at the dead man’s arm so that the body turned over. He regarded it for a while a mixture of emotion on his face. Surviving men from his own host as well as Stiles’ party came flocking to them waiting for some kind of instruction. Men held their bruised sides and battered bodies. Blood seeped from cuts and gashes that left them all a torn and messy sight. Those commanded by Stiles to surrender remained where they were on their knees with hands raised, some uncomfortably so but without moving from their positions as if that were the only thing they lived for now, to obey that final command.

Derek felt a hand in his and didn’t need to lift his eyes from the traitor to his blood, to know it was Stiles returning the gesture of comfort and strength. “Your men and mine, await a command Derek, what shall we have them do?”

In response, the king sighed and looked up, leaving with that body on the ground the last of his hatred and fear. As he surveyed the men about him, and then Stiles’ handsome face once more, he made a show of pulling the prince into his arms, and kissing him rough and possessive so that the men would know something. Stiles was his, openly and that they would be an unquestionable partnership.

“You men have done your duty to me and to my prince admirably, and with honour. You have my eternal thanks and as always my loyalty as you have proved I have yours.” He glanced down at Stiles once more before finishing his words to the combined host about them. “I know you are all tired and wounded, but there is something yet I must finish. Though he be with me now, If my prince agrees,” he called stressing his claim to the highlander, “We ride for Edinburgh castle.”

“I thought you’d wish to return home?” the prince put forth not entirely against the idea but willing to do that which would make Derek happiest.

With all the love in his heart he smiled at Stiles, “I must first make concession with your father. I fear I have taken his son without his permission once too often. If I would make a family with you it would not do for yours to resent me. Also I think Scott deserves to be laid to rest in his own home. Besides my home will forever more be wherever you are.”

“You honour me,”

“You were coming back to me, despite all I’ve done. You love me, I can do no other but be worthy of that love.”

Stiles’ eyes glistened at the confession and he could feel his heart swelling for Derek. “I must warn you, my father will be a hard man to turn to your side.”

“If he is as devoted to you as I plan on being, my love, then it may not be as hard as you think,”

“Your grace, the men will need some time after the battle.” Danny announced standing just before the body of his new found fallen friend. Suddenly completely confident and without a doubt in his own abilities. Stiles spoke, “I can take care of that.” Eyes lighting up with an emerald glow he raised his voice. “You who have surrendered, take the pain of the men you have fought and injured, take it all then bind each other’s hands and prepare for a long march.”

Without hesitation, every man who had been on their knees rose and went to one of the king’s men or the prince’s and offered hands, at first met with reluctance, but at nods from their monarchs, acceptance. As commanded the men pulled pain from those they touched, and when every man, though still physically wounded, was free of the gripping and crippling pain of their wounds or injuries, they proceeded to bind each other at the hands until one man remained who submitted to being bound by Danny.

“You must explain that to me,” Derek begged reverently.

“Perhaps I shall,” Stiles offered, “the moment I understand it completely.”

“Fair enough, Let’s go home, my love.”


Chapter Text

The alpha king of Scotland and Ireland sat sombrely on his throne. His mind was entirely preoccupied with thoughts of his son and all that had concerned him since before he’d gotten him back, right up to the moment he had let him go. It had been rather difficult for a man such as he to accept that it was time he let his son have the freedom to make his own decisions and mistakes if that be the case. No matter how much he found Stiles’ love for the English king absolutely confusing, irritating and perhaps a grave mistake, he wasn’t the father or the king to forbid it or keep him from the man he would love.

John had since settled from his state of constant aggravation following his son’s departure for London. It was like whatever heavy sense of foreboding that had hung in the air had suddenly lifted or dissipated leaving behind it a cool breeze that blew the worries away. He could not quite put his finger on it but he felt as though there was nothing left to actively be concerned after.

When he had turned to the lady Marin with what kept his mind and heart heavy she had only given him a sympathetic smile, a rare occurrence for the unmoving rock of a woman she was, and told him that the world had set its course and he should await the new path on which they all tread. Word would soon come and only that could truly set him to rights far better than any regurgitated visions from her tongue.

As he sat on his throne in the empty room, save for the four guards stationed about him, two at the foot of his lofty seat and two at his door, he allowed those words to pass through him too. There hadn’t been much time passed since Stiles had rode for London so surely he could not expect a messenger quite so soon but he itched for some information about his boy and the consequences of his venture, good or ill, but preferably good.

The light crown of simple gold inlaid with rubies and sapphires interchanged at five points around it’s perimeter, felt rather heavy on his head. Even the common attire of his richly adorned bronze surcoat, stalkings and gold belt seemed to disagree with his very skin. He knew though, it had little to do with his clothing and everything to do with how uncomfortable he felt not knowing anything about what was happening with his son and heir.

In his state of unrest, with red eyes flashing the flare of his senses, he heard the running footsteps of a man approaching outside his door long before he got there. He heard the voice of the human servant, clearly identifiable by the way he panted, having been winded so easily by his run down the hall and probably through the castle, by the sound of his urgency. Something about the chord of his voice struck the king.

“Let the man in,” he commanded raising his voice to the powerful tone of King. An unmistakable sound the guards outside picked up despite the distraction of the man they tried to turn away on king John’s previous orders to remain undisturbed. They obeyed without question, opening the doors immediately to admit the man who, by the look of him was a lesser guard. “What is it then?” The king asked when the man dropped to a knee before him.

“Sire...” he panted,

“Get your breath man and let me have the whole of your message unmolested.”

The guard paused momentarily and took deep breaths which John could see filling his lungs by his expanding chest beneath his studded leathers. Wisps of curly sand brown hair were plastered to his sweaty forehead. Eyes as dark as coal blinked rapidly as he tried to compose himself. “Your grace,” he began again, more even toned. “Word from the castle gates, an envoy approaches from the high road. The prince has been spotted alongside the Alpha king of England.” The man lowered his head as soon as the last words left his mouth, wary as every other Scot was as to their king’s grudging dislike for the opposing King Derek Hale.

“Is he a prisoner?” The king queued when he finally found words to summarize the most important thing he needed know after his shock had managed to clear the speechlessness from him.

“He rides unfettered my king, they both ride at the helm of the combined host of the prince’s and the king’s men. There seems no enmity. We know not what to make of the procession.”

“Go forth and gather a host to meet them at the gates and find lady Marin, have her meet me there as well.”

“The lady is already there my king, she has been standing on the ramparts of the castle gates since my watch began. She is the one who bid me bring you the message. It was strange. She commanded me right before the word came to the gates.” His face became wrinkled with confusion as the king frowned at the news.

“Bloody seers,” he muttered, “very well then, go now and do as I command.” At that the sentry guard ran off to call forth his king’s men as the king himself stepped down from his throne and made for the gates, his guards falling in behind him.

*

Down at the gates, King John had a small host of armed and armoured men awaiting the procession from the high road. He stood at front and centre, his stewardess, the woman he and his wife had made responsible for the goings on of the castle many years passed, lady Melissa McCall stood to his left. Her gown of rose patterned rouged silk hugged her body tastefully as the skirts with its hemming of embroidered gold leaves fell just shy of the ground. Over her shoulder was a fur trimmed cape and her hair was bare and pinned up in swirling buns atop her head.

At his right hand was the lady Marin, wearing a deep emerald robe gown with a silk hood drawn down off her head where her dark hair was plaited in a single thick braid which fell over one shoulder. Just behind them stood the men of the king’s council and behind them the armoured men he had had the sentry assemble. John watched in silence as a procession of horses trotted forward making their way down the road and through the gates.

The king held his breath as he saw his son, a bit worn but unharmed and unfettered as had been reported to him. He looked sombre riding in alongside the king Derek Hale. John forced his face to remain unchanged at the sight of the man, though he felt a clenching of his stomach to look upon him. He willed himself not to react, not until he knew what the situation before him truly was. As he thought it, he noticed a look pass between the other king and his son, that he could only describe as a mixture of comfort and longing. Then Stiles looked to him and smiled. It was weak but genuine. He noticed Stiles venture a glance at Lady McCall, saw the way his face nearly caved in on itself with what a widower could clearly define as grief and guilt. It was only then, that he noticed he could not see his son’s best friend and companion Scott on any of the horses around or behind them.

~

Before they had departed from the plains on which they had fought, after a long rest, men dispatched by Lord Deaton had rode to meet King Derek on the rode, bringing with them news they had already learned at the cost of blood. Still they had been useful. Derek ordered them to take the prisoners back to England as well as the English dead including the corpse of his traitorous uncle. Stiles, enforcing the king’s command, used his newfound power to issue a command of his own to the captors, that they would obey the English knights and soldiers and give themselves into the keeping of Lord Deaton, to await the king’s return in the tower of London.

This had made the riding much easier and safer to Scotland, as the number of Scottish fallen was much fewer, though the weight was felt just as heavily by them all as the prince had lost his greatest friend. They had taken a leisurely journey then allowing the werewolf men to not labour themselves so hard as to hinder their natural enhanced healing. Stiles had been brave and strong where he could, but in the moments where they did stop to camp and rest, Derek had held him in private as he sobbed for the immense loss he felt. By the time they had made it to Scotland, most were fully healed and Stiles had found his strength again, at least physically. His emotions though, were still a riling turmoil within him as he dreaded addressing Scott’s mother, who had been the stewardess of his father’s castle for years.

The horses stopped a few paces away from the host and Derek dismounted first. He swiftly took the reins of Stiles’ steed as the prince dismounted, before handing them to Danny who John had learned became a fast friend of his son at the English court on their prior stay at Edinburgh castle. He watched Stiles slip his hand into Derek’s and squeeze it as they made their way forward. John’s brow raised as they approached. He inspected the foreign king then, as the man clearly and bravely regarded him with something in his face that was nowhere near the smug and insufferable monarch he had once thought or seen on a battlefield. He looked, disquieted.

“Father,” Stiles said, as he finally closed the distance, releasing Derek’s hand and wrapping his arms around his father, who embraced him firmly.

“My son,” John replied, his only thought then to enjoy having his boy back and safe. “I was worried.”

“I am well, I promise, very well. But there is something...” Stiles pulled away and looked to his father’s left where Lady McCall was now nervously scouring the horsed men for her own son. When he stepped to her, John knew then what he would say. “My lady,”

“My prince,” she responded, after bowing gracefully with a kind smile, but confusion lay in her eyes. “Where have you left my Scott, is he not with you, your grace?”

Stiles tried to still himself to deliver his news but could feel his insides burning and his eyes welling up, as he tried to speak. “There was a battle on the road. Scott fought valiantly, but there were too many men on him and he was mortally wounded...I am sorry...” he couldn’t finish it. Melissa only stared at him, uncomprehending, her head shaking at odd intervals as if denial and confusion reigned in her mind. Stiles could feel himself slipping and then Derek was there. He stepped forward before anyone could stop him and took Stiles’ hand in his. Standing next to him, angling himself in a manner which half shielded Stiles and placed him in front of the woman who could not understand what she was being told.

The action froze king John where he stood, for the tenderness and sincerity of it. “Lady McCall,” Derek said, his voice soft, kind and comforting. “I am Derek Hale, alpha king of England and the new British empire. It was a battle against me that the prince Stiles and his riders happened upon on the road. Despite what differences our countries may have had, the honour and bravery of your son shone brightly as he stood by his prince who intervened. If it weren’t for your son, his loyalty, strength and sacrifice the prince might have not lived today and I may have fallen as well. It is the farthest thing from a fair trade, but what he did saved his liege and a king who now owes him a debt that can never be repaid. I cannot express enough our sorrow for what you have lost. But I can promise that your son will forever be remembered for the truest of heroes that he was. And whatever I can do for you, only name it and it shall be yours. My debt to him is my debt to the woman who moulded him.”

Tears streamed down her face as he spoke the words. Her comprehension and her loss sinking in as he went on. It was a long while before she was able to speak. “Thank you, your grace,” she whispered to Derek before turning to Stiles. “He was brave?” she asked as if only Stiles could make her believe it.

“To the very end,” he nodded, his voice cracking on the final word.

“His body,” The words were like hot coals in her throat, hurting her to say them but needing to know, needing to see.

Stiles glanced at Danny who walked toward the back of the halted host, each of the soldiers parting before the grieving woman, where the body of Scott McCall was hoisted up on a wooden slab by two wolf kind soldiers. Melissa rushed aside the slab they held and placed hands on the cold face of her lifeless boy. A choked sob escaped her, which caused Stiles to turn away from the sight. She spoke a few words in Gaelic, so softly even those with flared wolf senses found it difficult to hear. Then she stepped back “I must prepare for his internment,” she released on a harsh expulsion of breath. “By your leave, your grace...” Melissa raised her reddened eyes and weary face to her king, awaiting his reply.

“Of course my lady, whatever you need do not hesitate to ask.” He closed the distance between them, took her hands in his and kissed them before letting her make for the castle. With a gesture, indicated that the men holding Scott on the slab should follower, and they obeyed.

When Lady McCall and her fallen son had faded through the dark threshold of the castle doors, Stiles turned then and hugged Derek deeply, in thanks for his intervention. It had been far too difficult to explain to his most trusted friend’s mother, how he had fallen. Derek held him tightly, lovingly and placed a swift chaste kiss on his cheek, before his eyes fell on King John and his body unintentionally tensed. Stiles composed himself feeling the tension and guessing at it’s source, whispered the words, “Be brave,” before releasing the man and letting him stand on his own.

There was an intense silence that lingered as the two men stared at each other for some time. King John looking upon Derek hotly, with a mixture of irritation and barely leashed fury which but for his son would have already spilled out and burned the man before him, along with all the men who had accompanied him here, like a mythical dragon’s fire. King Derek returned a crumbling proud stare that was salted with anxiety and peppered with a light anger held in contention with a bravery that worked to reach his eyes and remain. Stiles standing aside Derek, had to marshal himself into not taking Derek’s hand, as his father would lose any mite of respect he might have developed for the man, in the last few minutes if he hid behind the prince.

“King John... your grace,” Derek spoke, his voice deceptively strong and unwavering in spite of the emotions Stiles could scent off of him, and only hoped his father could not, distracted by his own emotional preoccupations.

“The Hale king, at my gates,” King John offered. His voice was thin and laced with displeasure. “At another time, such a thing would mean war.”

Derek refrained from biting his lip. Stiles gasped, “Father!” but John raised a hand to silence him.

“But you have returned my son a second time, and for that, I’m grateful.” Stiles expelled his held breath knowing how difficult it must have been for his father to admit such a thing. “I must ask though,” John continued with a steel tone, “For what purpose have you come here? If it is to ask for the surrender of my kingdom to your empire, I’m afraid my answer will be the same as it always has been.”

Derek blinked, and Stiles could almost see him biting his tongue within his tightly clenched jaw. But when he spoke he was calm and even toned. “Your grace, there has been justifiably, much cause for enmity between us. You slew my father at the battle of the scarlet fields,” he iterated, and there was a slight pique to his voice as he said it, but so small it was easy to miss. John ruffled slightly, his indignation showing heavily on his face and as Stiles watched, he could almost hear his father saying, that it was steel on steel and fair as is all that occurs in war. Derek continued, “And I took your son captive after my army won the day. But something happened, between us that has changed everything. Something that has helped me grow and learn from mistakes of my past.” He glanced at Stiles and his entire being softened as he continued.

“I am not the same man I once was, before all this. And I am certainly not the same alpha king who was raised to position by blood and loss. I have been a boy trying to honour his father and his king’s wishes. A boy whose entire family royal or no has been misled and manipulated. I now see that the vendetta of a grieving husband and father is not the foundation upon which a prosperous kingdom can stand. I now see that if I am to lead, it must be with wisdom, justice, kindness and fairness and not just by fear. The only way that I could have been able to see this, any of it, is by the guidance of your son’s hand and heart. A heart that has captured me whole and changed me for so much better.”

John broke his glare of Derek and looked to his son who was flushing with pride and joy to hear Derek’s words. And as he caught his son’s eye, the king of Scots softened by small measures to the king before him. He turned his gaze back on Derek as the man continued to speak. Professing with honesty the contents of his own heart.

“Truth be told your grace, neither of us wanted to feel the way that we have come to feel for each other, but neither of us regret all that has led us to where we are now. Your son taught me what it means to be a good leader and what it means to love truly and wholeheartedly and I will be forever in his debt for these gifts he has bestowed. So I have come to ask something of you now, in the eyes of men and all the powers that be, but it is not the bending to my will of your kingdom I desire. Hard as it may be for you and has been for me to see, I love your son with everything that I am which itself is a rare gift for a monarch. And I humble myself before you grand alpha king John Stilinski, to ask for your blessing in making him my true life’s mate.”

Once the words were spoken there was an eruption of gasps which fell into quiet surrounding the silent royals, who stood staring at each other. For the first time since the reception, king John looked completely off balance. No disdain or irritation on his face, just complete and utter shock and a mild sense of awe at what was being confessed and requested of him. Stiles too looked at Derek with a mixture of surprise and devotion that left his mouth slightly ajar in his stunned receipt of Derek’s words. The only one who looked unfazed by the words was the Lady Marin who may have even seemed pleased though the look on her face was a hard thing to decipher, but one might have sworn there was a certain amused quirk to her mouth.

“Your life’s mate?” John questioned flustered. It was no small thing. In the history of werewolf monarch life mates were rare. Surely his own wife the late queen Claudia had been his but few wolves in royal family’s mated, as their arrangements were often political and thus not allowing for true pairing to be found. A life mate bonding was an irrevocable commitment between two wolves. Once bound they would and could abide no other in their beds or their hearts. Furthermore for two royals to become true life mates would be to make them equal partners in all things from the bedchamber to the throne. Which meant that Derek was asking that Stiles become his true and equal partner in his empire. The gesture was extravagant and unignorable.

“Yes,” Derek affirmed, this time turning to Stiles and nodding with a smile as he regarded his little love’s look of surprise and pleasure.

“You truly mean this.”

“I do your grace. If I were to bind your son to me and me to him I could, nor would see him diminished in any capacity. Just as well I would count on his wisdom and grace, judgment and kind but strong heart to guide the future of our peoples. As I have told him. He has deigned to love me and I will forever work to be worthy of that love. As I will work to mend the rift between our houses and heal the hurts wrought by the mistakes of my father and myself. So I ask again, for your blessing, please, for I know what it means to him, as well as myself to have it.”

Feelings built up on top of each other in the Scottish king. His old hatred for the English borne of their own moves against him and his people. His pain at Stiles being captured and held, used against him as leverage. The dark rage that had built within him since the beginning of this feud, eventually aimed solely at Derek Hale. “I don’t trust...” he began but the rest of the words caught in his throat when his face turned ever so slightly, catching a look from Stiles. It was fear, hurt and the beginnings of disappointment. Those looks brought forth memories of Stiles. How distraught he had been when he had returned, the reason for that pain. The conversation they had had, his exchange with Marin. They all crashed down on him like torrential rain and drowned his dark feelings, and his deep bias against the English king that possessed his heart.“My son, this is what you want?” John asked Stiles his voice tight and quiet, his mood and prior feelings entirely diffused by the actions of the English king and the look on the face of his boy as he was about to hurt him with the unfinished confession of distrust.

“Aye da it is,” Stiles said his own voice reedy as he struggled to not become a sopping mess at the sentimentality that flooded the courtyard.

Unconsciously, king John found himself turning to the lady of the crystal cave, who’s dark eyes returned his look with firm reassurance, communicating in her silence, that this, was a moment destined, among the others she had hinted to him of. As he looked back to Derek, his eyes were hard, at first, but then his hand raised as his eyes relented and he opened his fingers, inviting the younger king to grasp his arm. “Then I with whole heart and open acceptance, bless your union, and wish you true happiness.”

Derek let go of a breath he didn’t even know he had been holding and took John’s forearm in his hand and as he felt the king of Scots fingers close around his own, he smiled as John nodded at him. When they released each other, Stiles first hugged his father tight and firm and whispered his love in his father’s ear, before turning to Derek who before the cheers of all around them, wrapped him full in a loving embrace and kissed him thoroughly.

“It is done,” Marin uttered quietly as she regarded them with a pleased expression.

*

It had taken little time for everyone come to Edinburgh castle to be settled into lodgings. The visiting soldiers had been put into barracks outside of the castle alongside Scottish man. Their horses groomed and watered with care. Derek had been seen to special rooms, set aside for visiting royals, in a separate hall from the prince and the king. Surely it had been John’s unconscious or perhaps very conscious attempt at keeping the two apart, at least physically until they had conducted their mating ceremony which had not yet been decided upon. There were far too many other things to take care of just then. Though the blossoming love between them was a point of mutual joy, they were content to set the finer points of their royal union aside momentarily to deal with other more immediately important things, such as the internment of Scott’s body which would come on the morrow.

Consistent with Scottish traditions that had gone back hundreds of years, the corpse of the fallen lord had been committed to his house, where his mother and a staff of her appointment, including a favoured cousin and an aunt and uncle who had fostered Scott in his youth for several summers, would wash the body and wrap him in clean cloth covering him completely from head to toe. It was their due to sit watch over the body to ensure that no evil spirit possessed the corpse, freshly freed of the soul it once housed.

On the morrow the body would be brought to the tomb of Angleadh where nobles who served the royal house were laid to rest beneath stone. Only the royals, the family and the chosen few close with the deceased would be allowed at the tomb, before the body would be taken in and laid down.

While Derek, convinced to go and settle into his chambers by his new betrothed, was busy with seeing to his men and taking a moment for rest and recuperation, Stiles and lady McCall travelled the body of his friend to the McCall keep not far from the castle. It took a trip through the main town and a ride down the High road for two miles before breaking off onto another well kept road for another two miles into the town of Aberfirth where Scott’s uncle governed the town in the name of his king.

Thanks to a messenger sent out before their departure the Lord of Aberfirth was waiting to greet them with warmth and condolence for Scott’s grieving mother. Naturally Stiles had offered to stay the night with her and help sit over the body for the evening, but she had gathered enough strength of will to thank him and bid him return to the castle. He had a new mate to attend to, one currently left alone with his father, who despite his recent consent of their coming together, still had to overcome years of enmity a feat that would not be made easy especially in the absence of that which bound them in peace. Stiles knew his father would try but years of habits and conditioned thoughts were difficult to break. He also needed to get some rest of his own having been on the go since he had arrived with King Derek from their travels and the previous battle.

*

As he made his way to the dining hall with only Danny and two of his guards about him, Derek wished Stiles would hurry back from the McCall keep so he wouldn’t have to be alone with the man’s father. He also wished his best friend Isaac was here and not back in London helping Deaton run his empire in his absence. As far as he was concerned, the more buffers lay between him, and the king he had very recently held animosity for and knew the reverse to be even more true, the better.

The doors opened before him on the brightly lit hall with fires burning upon torches all along the walls. He was not surprised to find his men, as well as what he recognized to be the soldiers who had ridden to his aid with Stiles, filling the long tables of the hall. They fitted themselves next to each other on the numerous benches that sandwiched the tables where metal plates and bowls lined the surfaces, awaiting food to fill them. Mugs accompanied each setting with mead and ale sloshing out of them as the boisterous men joked and toasted while they drank. Girls wearing simple gowns of dark wool, walked back and forth with pitchers, placing them down upon tables where there were none.

Derek regarded intricately woven tapestries, depicting older kings and heroes along the walls as he approached the head table where the king and his favoured guests and councillors already sat. There were three spots empty, where he, Stiles and the Lady McCall would sit, the latter of course not present as she had made the journey to her estate ran by her brother, where Scott’s body would be brought to observe funeral rites.

Danny and his guards followed him along the measure of the room, before Danny broke away to seat himself on a table just beneath the King. He eyed the high table with personal interest but did not find what or rather, who he was looking for which left a slight look of disappointment on his face. Derek’s guards stood themselves against the wall behind the king. As Derek rounded the table John raised his head to peer at him for a moment before standing, once he had taken the man’s measure as well as displayed his dominance in his own hall. Every other man and woman in the hall rose in respect. Derek nodded his appreciation of the respect shown him, then stood at his chair and waited for the king to seat himself before following suit accompanied by all the other bodies in the room. The hall quickly resumed in its boisterous noise of chatter, laughter and the clanging of cups.

A servant brought forth wine and filled Derek’s goblet, while the king she served, glanced down the table. There was an empty space at his side, no doubt for Stiles, on the other end of which sat king John. To the Scottish king’s left was the woman he had seen standing aside him earlier that day but was unable to pay much attention to, given the nature of the reception. He wondered then if the king had remarried, though he could not remember ever hearing anything of the sort. The thoughts flew from him quickly as the other monarch addressed him.

“I am eager to learn how you managed to bewitch my boy,” he said with a huff of repressed laughter though there didn’t seem to be much humour on his face.

Derek took a swig from his goblet, let the equally sweet and sour dark ruby liquid coat his mouth, then swallowed it down. “I must confess it is quite the opposite. I find myself wondering how it is he managed to ensorcell me.”

“Mayhap you lack the fortitude to withstand a passing fancy. Mayhap you lack the wisdom to distinguish such from enduring love.” John took another gulp of his own beverage as a flare of heat blushed Derek’s cheeks, and he had to fight to keep his eyes from emulating his ire.

“Does his grace seek to disparage me or insult his son who I have come to find is quite more than a passing anything as well as wiser than most...” He turned to face the king who he could only then see was paying far more attention to him than he had initially thought. Brown eyes focused intently on his face. He could feel them assess the red in his cheeks and analyze the tightening of his jaw.

“His grace,” the lady at his side, spoke in a quiet smoky tone accentuated by the lyrical melody of her Irish brogue, “seeks to discern the true from the false in matters close to his heart. But often in endeavours to prove that which our history has decided to be truth, in order to save a loved one from a perceived error, we tend to push that loved one much further out of our reach than their own choices would bring them.”

Derek stared at her deeply, the words and the manner in which they were delivered, reminding him so much of the man he left behind as regent of his kingdom. John turned to stare at her as well with a heated expression, though it seemed to dissipate quickly as he absorbed the wisdom in her words. “You did indeed give your blessing,” she added as if responding to something spoken.

“I wish you would stay out of my head woman,” John complained before turning to face Derek.

“And I continue to assure your grace that I do not see his thoughts, only his actions.

“The lady Marin,” John said tracing Derek’s eyes to the woman just beyond him. “She has a tendency to speak to the truth at the heart of all things, that being the least of her particular talents. Lady Marin, the King of England, and the new British empire.”

“It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance my lady.” Derek nodded deep acknowledgement, his thoughts on the tip of his tongue. “You remind me of someone within my own court,”

“I assure you he does not read minds either. People have a tendency to give their inner thoughts away in their behaviours, especially when they attempt to conceal those innermost thoughts from those around them.” She regarded him knowingly, her dark eyes catching the firelight and dancing with flame for a moment then she turned away to gaze down the hall.

“How did you...” he began but then he scented Stiles and looked up just in time to see the man lowering a hand from waving off the guards that flanked him on his way down the hall to the head table. Cheers and the scrape of chairs against the floor heralded his procession down the aisles of tables.

“I hope father hasn’t been torturing you too much in my absence,” he gave as he rounded the table and took a seat between his lord father and soon to be lord husband, but not before kissing his father on the forehead dutifully and Derek on the lips chastely.

“No not torture, but he might have thrown a test or two my way.” He leaned in and kissed Stiles on the cheek again, “I’ve missed you,” he whispered, then pulled back. “How fares Lady McCall?”

“As well as can be expected given the circumstance. I cannot imagine her pain, but I know my own grief and I know it must only pale in comparison to hers. Where he was but a friend, albeit the greatest of friends a man could ask for, he was her child. A man grown, yes, but still her child all the same.”

Derek regarded him with a wealth of compassion and reached for his hand, giving it a light squeeze. The action was not missed by John who settled a little more. It occurred to him then that Derek in his retort was right. His son was no fool, never had been and if this was the choice he had made, then it was rightly made. It also occurred to him that if his son and the seer at his side had both seemingly passed the English king with their seals of approval, then there was naught he could do but follow their lead. Despite how difficult that was for a king whose job it was to lead.

Drawing himself out of his musing he noticed Marin staring at him with an uncomfortable intensity and he had the terrible suspicion that she had been reading him just then. Not his thoughts perhaps as she argued, but his quiet repose and thoughtfulness on the heels of his earlier test and his inspection of Derek’s caring reaction to his own son’s grief. Suddenly, absent her ordinary character of stony passivity, she gave him a dazzling and broad smile which kicked him right off balance. She nodded, and then turned back to watch the antics of the lively men at their tables.

“King Derek,” John began grabbing his goblet which a servant refilled at a wave of his hand.

“Your grace, please call me Derek. I would do away with such formalities if a new family should be forged between us.”

John nodded, one eyebrow arcing as he did so but more from pleasant surprise than anything else. “Derek, I owe you an apology.” Derek tried not to choke on his swig of wine as Stiles turned sharply in his father’s direction. Surely he knew his father to be the kind of king who acknowledged his own wrong where it was required, but he hadn’t considered the man would ever do so with such ease where Derek was concerned. Derek set his goblet down and turned his undivided attention on John.

“No son should be condemned for the actions of his father. Certainly not a son who has suffered in the ways you have. Truthfully, I could hardly blame your father for the directions of his decisions on the heels of his loss. Where I lost only my magnificent wife, he lost nearly his entire family. I couldn’t speak as to what kind of madness that would send me into were I to have endured through such a horror. But you have changed. I believe it, or at the very least I believe you are changing. And I am starting to believe that you truly love my son. Only a fool could dismiss the way you look at him, or your willingness to make him your equal in all things. So allow me to say now that no one will ever truly be good enough for my boy...” Stiles looked at him half amused and half weary not entirely sure where he was going with what was meant to have been an apology. “But no one in all the world could be worse than you.” He speared Derek with a harsh stare and for a moment, the other king thought he was being insulted but then John began to laugh, followed by Stiles and soon Derek was swept up in it like the current of a wave.

“To the alpha-king of England and the future alpha king-mate!” called John as he stood and raised his goblet, voice cutting through the din of the hall with its commanding, kingly tone. The call was echoed by every one else present, goblets and mugs rising high, with liquid sloshing out of them as they all cheerfully toasted Derek and Stiles. The prince couldn’t help but smile widely at his father who yet again did anything but fail him as he raised his goblet and Derek did the same, the genuine thankfulness on his face no mask or illusion.

The night went along without a disruption in the feasting. Men made boisterous jokes and shared loud stories of the battle, the prince’s triumph and the king’s valour. Stories began to spread of the prince’s unique ability to command by compulsion and Stiles caught many a glance of awe and some slightly fearful his way, though the fear in the eyes quickly turned to a mix of pride and adoration as they gazed at him. It pleased him to know the men were happy with their prince but he didn’t miss the fear when it flashed over their face. His father had always mentioned how kings must inspire a healthy fear in their men but the idea of people he was meant to lead one day and always protect and guide, fearing him, did not sit so well with the prince. He cast an eye to the Lady Marin who seemed the source of knowledge of mystical and magickal things and vowed to have her confess the truth of what he was and was capable of.

King John’s genuine laughter broke through his haze of thoughts and Stiles’ eyes were drawn to the face of his father next to the woman, as he regarded Derek with no ill feeling emblazoned in his expression. Some part of Stiles was surprised that his father had warmed so quickly to Derek. But when he thought of the kind of man his father was and how much he loved his son, it seemed a lot less strange that he would give an honest chance to the man his son had chosen for lover. Especially when that choice was a king and former rival, an alliance with whom would effectively end the feud and destroy any possibility of future war between the kingdoms of Ireland, Scotland and the new British empire.

The kings at the high table traded amiable conversation and Stiles lost himself in the pleasure of the evening, forgetting his grief over his lost friend and his weariness of his powers and the implications of them, for a time. Courses of food made their rounds throughout the hall, starting of course with the royals and esteemed guests at the high table, before portions were directed by them to favourites and favoured men for valour, or acts of glory, and then to the others who were eager to feed themselves. Suckling pig stuffed with apples and peaches, venison with tangy red wine sauces, mince pies and other dishes cycled through the room until the wafting scents of delicious meals were permeating the enclosed space making every hungry man’s mouth water. They all ate until they could stuff themselves no more.

A few hours after the dishes had stopped flowing, excited chatter began to taper off and the feast hall began to slowly clear. His father, weary from the day, departed the hall, kissing his son on the forehead on his way to his chambers. By then he had been thoroughly plied by the extremely potent beverages made for wolf kind that he had consumed, which Stiles had no doubt, attributed to his quickly changing mindset where Derek was concerned. As he made his way out, he grasped Derek’s shoulder firmly and squeezed it. Lowering himself to the man’s ear, he whispered, “My blessing you have, but I leave you now with my warning, hurt my son ever, and the pain I will rain upon you will give you cause to beg for a death that will never come. Stiles balked at his father staring wide eyed as he left, not missing the words he’d spoken so softly. He turned his gaze upon Derek who only smiled and mouthed the words, “I’d expect no less.”

Derek and Stiles made to excuse themselves as well, but Stiles stopped to speak with the lady Marin first as his love waited for him patiently amidst the company of some of his men who remained.

“How did you know?” He asked her sliding into his father’s chair before she could make to leave.

“I know many things my prince.”

“But the blade, the one I used to kill the duke. That was the blade you gave to me, I feel like it was more than coincidence.”

“I only gave you a means to defend your future, our future. I have not explained much of my station but my mantle in this life is to see the threads of time and all its variations. I prepared you for an eventuality that I prayed would come.”

Stiles considered her words in silence for a moment, allowing time for the deep message within her words to settle within him. “And my... powers why did you not tell me what I could do? And what exactly is is that I do, I mean I know what it is but I... don’t know.”

“You are the heart hold, prince Stiles. The very name of which defines what you are capable of. But that is not something anyone could tell, it is only something you can learn by flexing your abilities like any other muscle that sets your body to move. Let your instincts guide you as they have done all your life and the action will be right. It has already saved many in your first true discovery of it. You are the light created by the force of magick to balance against a great darkness loosed into this world by the same force that brought your power to life. Do not hide from it or fear it, continue to embrace it and it will be the blessing that sets the future on a golden path.”

He continued to stare at her intensely. She returned the regard with her own powerful gaze. “Can I ask one more thing?” he put to her after assessing what he really wanted out of her.

“You are the prince of Scots, I am but a servant.” she replied.

“Have you always known what lay ahead for us, Derek and I?”

“What I have known is that the world would have need of your light. What I know now is that a king poised to rule an empire of immense power has need of that light. All the choices that have led you here have been your own, and they have brought you where you want and need to be do you deny it?”

“No,” he shook his head once.

“Then go to your king and embrace the future that you have chosen no matter who may or may not glimpse it in one facet of a thousand visions upon the surface of a crystal.” Stiles looked back at Derek and caught the king looking longingly at him. When their eyes met, it was like sunshine falling on both of their faces. Derek stretched out a hand and Stiles nodded at the woman, smiling and excusing himself so he could go and take the proffered hand, before leaving the hall.

Stiles had taken Derek, on a long walk around the castle, both dismissing their guards so they could have the intimacy of private time between them. Something they had been without in most of their acquaintance. They had walked through dark rooms and lit ones, shared kisses in secret places of Stiles’ childhood, and embraces along the ramparts with its exquisite views. They walked through the ballroom which was a breathtaking sight of old craftsmanship. Adorned with brightly coloured and detailed tapestries, rich adornments and a central lined spiral staircase with carved banisters which led to a second floor balcony overlooking the room, Derek was charmed to experience the beauty of his lover’s home this way.

On the tail end of their little tour, Stiles brought the king to the Queens garden terrace, a place of memorial for the late Queen Claudia. His mother, had loved working with plants and flowers, and building up the Castle garden had swiftly become a great passion for her. Because of her enduring love she often found her peace within it. It was the place she had spent most of her time when not with her husband or son.

When she had died, the king had ensured it would be maintained, and had a stone mason carve her likeness into a statue that stood in the centre of the room, upon a platform in the middle of a pool of clear water dressed with water hyacinths and lilies in light pink and blue colours. The work had been exquisitely detailed and truly expressed how glorious and beautiful she had been with a ready kind smile that lit up a room in much the same way her son’s did now. Derek had remarked on how beautiful she must have been if her likeness were any indication and then he and Stiles spent an hour cuddling each other, taking in the fragrance of the flowers surrounding them.

When, by their wolf sense they noted the lateness of the hour and that most of the people who had been up and about in the castle had most likely made their way to their bedchambers, Stiles walked Derek down to the rooms which had been prepared for him. At the door, in the dim light of the torch hanging at the wall sconce, Derek drew Stiles into his room, and away from the prying eyes of the guards posted in the hall.

Once the door shut behind them, Derek had Stiles thrust against the hard wooden panel of it, his hands gripping so firmly into the man’s flesh that it went from pink to rose, the blood flaring out beneath his fingertips under the surface of Stiles’ tightly pressed skin. The prince tried at a gasp but had it swallowed up by the dominion of Derek’s kiss. Lips worked furiously against lips until the prince of Scots, one released, was panting and gasping for breath, his lungs burning with a delicious fire that had started somewhere in his groin and quickly spread everywhere else like wild fire.

Derek leaned into the crook between his shoulder and neck and took the scent of the man beneath him deep into his nostrils and then further, like he could fill his entire body with the essence of Stiles. He felt the prince’s hands grasping at him firmly for purchase to support legs that had suddenly become unsteady. They kissed again, this time even deeper and longer, a thing neither might have thought possible but were both happy to prove themselves wrong on that score.

They nearly breathed one breath, oxygen pulling from one lung and into the other and then back again as if the one breath they shared could last a lifetime if they just kept hold of each other tightly and did not let go. “I should...” Stiles expelled on a harsh breath, trying to draw more oxygen into his lungs to replace what he had been sharing with Derek.

“Don’t leave,” Derek begged in a whisper as he pulled the younger man into his arms, caressed and felt the warmth of him there. “I struggle to believe this is not all a dream I will soon wake from. I know a king should not admit fear, but I would rather spend every moment with you near than to wake with you away and be frightened by wondering.”

Stiles stared up at him for a long time eyes reflecting a similar fear to Derek’s before his head nodded in agreement. At once Derek’s hands were reaching for the fastenings to Stiles’ doublet and trying to tug them free with overeager hands. Stiles was happy to assist him, allowing the man to undo what was bound and then pull the richly embroidered fabric free until his crumpled white under-tunic was all that remained over his breeches.

Derek quickly relinquished his own garb then so that he soon stood bare chested wearing nothing but his own breeches. Sun kissed skin almost glistened in the low firelight of his chambers. His nipples were tight peaks against his muscled chest and the ripples separating his abdomen into hard sections were definitive and heat-inducing. Stiles breath caught in his throat at the sight.

The king smiled at his reaction, pleased to have that effect on the one he would call love. Stiles’ eyes met his and the prince reached for the low hem of his undertunic and pulled it over head slowly, making Derek’s heart race as he watched the milky pale skin beneath reveal itself. He felt frozen as he watched, as he wanted and yearned. He felt a quickening between his legs and then the gentle restraint of the breeches as his thickening member fought against it for freedom.

He took a step, and Stiles mirrored his action until they were throwing themselves into each other’s arms with the ferocity of men and lovers, and hugging and kissing, and begging with their hands to never let go. Exalting each other with tongues that spoke their desire better than words ever could. Derek reached down to grasp Stiles’ waist and hoisted him up, never once giving up that mouth the kisses of which sent liquid fire burning down his throat and straight into his now throbbing cock.

When their chests met, skin touching skin, electricity arced between them and Stiles felt a shudder of pleasure run through Derek and into himself. The kisses made him dizzy but the contact made him strikingly aware. All his life he had waited for this. A moment like this. A person like this. Someone who could make him feel such passion and pleasure. Someone who could love him and he could love them back equally and explosively. So much time they had wasted, time they needed to make up for. And that very thought consumed him and set his oldest dreams aside in a haze of uncontrollable desire.

The king felt legs wrap around his own as he turned and moved, carrying his mate to be, through the door that would lead to his sleeping quarters and then to the bed, where he would take him and take him again until he was sated, though he knew that it would be a long time before he would have even half his fill of the young prince. He felt the edge of the bed against his knees and carefully laid Stiles down upon it before he guided him back while crawling up the bed so that they were comfortably lain on top of it. He could feel Stiles’ answering hunger in the firm shaft that rubbed against his as he ground himself between the man’s legs.

“I have dreamt of this for a long time,” he breathed against the prince’s ear. “Seen your face, your eyes in my dreams at night. I have wanted you for far too long.” Derek untangled himself from the eager grip of his lover and lowered himself down the man’s body intending to bring him pleasure like he had never experienced.

Then there was Stiles’ halting hand grabbing at his face, and the love crazed rasp of his voice, barely leashed asking him to stop. The words Derek had spoken had been a ringing bell waking him from the depths of his passionate fever dream. A lifeline tossed into the depth of warm water that enveloped him and threatened to drown him.

“What, have I done something wrong?” the king asked, afraid he might have hurt the man he vowed he wouldn’t hurt again.

“No, but would you think me a fool or a tease, if I asked you to wait?” Stiles sounded like he himself wasn’t really able to wait lending a note of incredibility to his words.

“What do you mean wait?”

“I mean until we are mated, truly and fully. We are both men and royals. I know what hungers assail us and what desires we aren’t expected to refuse, and I’m sure you have had many... others. But I have not. Is it so stupid of me to want to have it done right, honourably?”

Derek stared at Stiles, in wonder, as if he saw him for the very first time. A smile broke against his face and Stiles pulled his hands back in self conscious irritation. “No no no, you misunderstand my smile, beloved.” Derek grabbed for Stiles’ hand and brought it back up to palm his cheek, then kissed the inside of the palm. “You are truly the rarest and most beautiful of gifts. You are wondrous and bright and honourable and I love you. I have waited my whole life to belong to you body and soul. I think I can wait a while longer, though, we must be mated as soon as possible. My wolf will not be denied his true mate for long. And I yearn to possess you in every sense of the word.” He leaned down for a kiss but Stiles turned his head aside so that Derek’s lips only brushed his cheek.

For the second time the king’s own words had shocked Stiles out of a cocoon of bliss. He had latched on and been brought back to the painful time before this day. Before the blessing of his father, and the confessions of love and desire. Before the death of his friend and the battle which brought it about A battle that caused them both to bypass the very real issue that had separated them, an issue which had made Stiles a very different person when he mourned the proximity of a man who conquered his mind and heart. When he was distracted and distraught and inconsolable, always going back to the moment, when Derek had dismissed him, without so much as an explanation, or even a kind word to make the parting sting a mite less.

The king felt hands pushing at his chest then and found Stiles pushing him off, gently while pulling himself away so that he sat on the edge of the bed with his back to the king. “What is it?” Derek asked knowing for a certainty that the mood had been completely altered.

“Then why did you send me away?” The voice that spoke the words may have tried to hide the feeling that possessed them but the attempt had been futile as Derek heard every once of disappointment and hurt that seasoned them in a manner that could not go unnoticed. The king breathed out a sigh and ran a hand through his dark hair.

Perhaps for a moment he thought, they had bypassed the explanations and the apologies but he realized that the battle and the death of Scott McCall had only postponed the inevitable. And for the life of him he could not remember all the words he’d strung together in preparation for this very moment. What he would say. With another sigh he decided to speak plainly and honestly, to not shy away but face his mate to be and show him the truth as well as speak it. Stiles may have been a proud and fierce creature but he also felt things deeply, and could be hurt just like anyone else.

Derek moved to seat himself behind the man, lowering his legs on either side of the prince’s so that the younger man was sat between his thighs. He wrapped his arms around Stiles’ folded ones, before the prince could get up and flee from the closeness, and squeezed tightly the stiff form in his arms against his bare chest. It wasn’t meant to woo away the man’s fears or insecurities or excuse Derek’s own past behaviours. Nay, it was only meant to show him that if life mating was to be their future, that even when there may be a fight, or disagreement, there would be no lack for closeness between them, no running away or burying their pain but only facing it, together.

“The truth is, I was scared. You had nearly been killed once, and I knew it was my fault. I knew that one way or another, the blame must be laid at my feet. Furthermore I love you, I did then. You were all I thought about, all that filled my dreams at night and in my waking hours. You were my weakness as much as you were becoming my heart. And I have always been a fool when it came to my emotions. I think that was a thing my father trained within me, to run from them, bury them in anger, resentment and an outlet for vengeance. The only way I knew how to manage what I felt, my love and my fear, was to send you back to your home, where you would be safe. I thought it would keep me safe from you, but it did not. In fact having you gone was far worse than I had imagined.” Stiles stirred beneath his touch and relaxed against his chest as he continued to explain. The soft words caressing him as Derek’s strong arms held him firm and gentle all at once.

“When I found out about my uncle and the things he had done, Some part of me was pleased I had sent you off, because that meant he could not harm you again, or at least try. Once I had him in the tower I knew that the first thing I need do, was come find you, and explain to you that whatever I was before, I am nothing without you now. That I can be nothing without you at my side and that I would spend all the rest of my days finding a way to make you believe me, until I take my last breath, because I need you. I want you, and only you.” Stiles looked up at him then, emerald eyes glowing.

“I am sorry, for sending you away. I am sorry to have hurt you in any way that I have and I know that I have. If you can forgive me I will spend all our lives together, ensuring that you never regret it and proving that it will never happen again, Can you? Will you forgive me?”

In answer, Stiles tilted his head up, bringing the full force of his swirling emerald eyes glinting with their power to bear on the king. Derek felt as though hands were drawing his own head down, though Stiles’ arms were firmly caged beneath his own. He dismissed all thought when their lips met and forgot everything but that they were together, as that was all that mattered to him. When he lay them down, they spent the rest of their waking communicating their love for each other with lips on lips, until Stiles fell asleep in his arms, warm pale skin nestled easily against heated tan flesh. Derek placed one kiss on his soon to be mate’s forehead and drifted to sleep thinking on their future, as no more just the alpha king and the highland prince but an alpha king life mated pair.

The day had come too quickly for the liking of the young prince. He would have liked the night to linger. Though he had slept, Stiles could have sworn he recalled every moment he lay entwined with the one his heart had chosen for him. If not by the conscious recollection of his mind then by the physical memory of his body. He was first to wake and it had given him the greatest pleasure to lay there, limbs tangled, covered in his scent and drowning in desire. As much as he willed his morning stiffness to still, it would not, and the feel of Derek’s warm thigh against the length of his hard shaft, slightly rubbing every time he inhaled and exhaled, made Stiles’ leak with inflamed excitement.

He turned his head toward Derek and felt the expulsion of warm breath as the man exhaled on his face. The tangy sweet scent of wine was still heavy on his tongue and the heat of his breath made Stiles shiver and sent goose flesh rising on the backs of his arms and his neck. Stiles sighed. What an exquisitely torturous position he found himself in.

“Good morning.” The raspy deep voice brushed against his skin and lit a fire that curled in the depths of his stomach. Stiles raised his lashes and stared at Derek’s closed eyes.

“You’re awake,”

“Have been for a short while, I didn’t want to move.”

“I didn’t want you to move either. I didn’t even notice your waking.”

“A little preoccupied?” Derek moved his thigh brushing Stiles’ roused cock with hot friction. He groaned in response.

“You’re a monster.”

“I shouldn’t be the only one waiting in pain for our courtship to be ended. If we are to be mates, my love, we must suffer together.” Derek laughed a deep throaty thing, and Stiles bit at his arm in haughty defiance. They tussled and play fought with each other, laughing all the while until they fell back to the ground wrapped tightly together and kissing fervently, tasting the sweetest of wine’s on each other’s lips. When they broke apart, Stiles nestled himself against the delicious warmth in Derek’s skin which answered the warmth in his own.

Suddenly the prince grew silent and still and Derek’s wolf senses were assailed by the scent of sadness. Instinctively he held his prince more tightly and whispered the words, “I will be with you.”

“I know but...” Stiles bit back a cry and fought to hold the tears that threatened to fill his eyes and spill down his cheeks, back. “He was my greatest friend. No one in all this world, knew me like he did. He was my brother.”

“I am sorry Stiles. I can’t help feeling this is my fault. If you hadn’t come upon me in that battle...”

“You would be dead.” Stiles finished for him and struggled out of his embrace to rise and meet his eyes. “And if you would be dead then so would I because I too am nothing without you, not anymore. If it’s anyone’s fault it’s mine.”

“No. If it is not mine then neither is it yours. He was an honourable man, and a true friend. He died serving his liege and helping save a king. As I said to his mother he was the truest of heroes. We cannot dishonour his memory by diminishing his sacrifice.” Derek framed Stiles’ face with gentle hands and looked him in the eye until he could see his words had hit their mark. Then he lowered his head and took his lips just as softly as he held Stiles’ face soothing away the ache of his heart in a fluid motion, like a balm to soothe the hurt of burned flesh.

“I must get dressed,” Stiles said pulling away, “the servants will soon be wondering where I am when my room is empty and I shudder to think what my father would do when he hears I am missing from my bed.”

They both laughed and kissed again before they rose and helped each other get dressed. Stiles had to convince Derek with a hail of kisses and teasing words to remain in his chambers and find him later.

~

As the sun dipped ever so slightly from the apex of it’s daily climb, bright golden light touched down on the beautiful stone carved images of sword and crown tangled with ancient Celtic symbols, triquetras and wheels, at the two top ends of a great stone framework, within which stood a grand double door.

Before it stood the lady McCall and the family Scott left behind, prince Stiles and the kings John and Derek. A small host including councilmen honoured knights who had endured close service with Scott and a few other nobles who had admired him greatly. The body had been completely covered in clean white cloth pure and unblemished. Every inch of his body was concealed. It lay on a slab of stone with carved edges bearing the seal of his house. Four men designated to carry each end of the slab lay it down on a stone table before the great door to the tomb of Angleadh.

Lady Marin, stood before the slab and spoke ancient Gaelic words of prayer and supplication. She had spoken blessings and entreated the guardians of the other world to guard Scott’s passage through the gates, that he may find his way safely to the next realm. When she was done, she turned to invite his mother to speak.

“My son, has always been a beacon of light and love. He has protected fiercely that which he loves and that which he has given his most sacred oaths to guard. He served our king with a true heart and his prince with everything he was. There is no more honourable a death than he could have wished for, than to die in service of one he loved so dearly.” She faltered only at the end. Though her eyes were reddened from crying and her face pale, she stood proud enough to say those words.

When she quieted, Stiles took her hand and kissed it, hugged her and then let her rejoin the others as he took his place before the pillar. “Scott was my friend. Scott was my brother. We sang many songs together. Now there will never be a voice that matches his, which has helped me bring many of our songs to life. May you find bright blessings and peace where you’re going old friend,” The last he whispered to the body of his friend before he began singing.

“The surface is crackin. The lines on my face. Show the courage that, I’m lacking here, and the beauty that awaits. Home is just a word, without a time or place. I’ve fallen in and out of love, with the loneliness I’ve traced and I can’t wait, to start again. No I can’t wait, to start, again. When the darkness and unknown become your friend. No I can’t wait, to start again.” His eyes began to softly glow their powerful emerald shine and everyone who watched and listened felt a peace weaving into their hearts and souls that made them all feel refreshed and consoled.

“The voice of a thousand whispers, with answers I can’t find. I made promises, to the wounded love, in the corner of my mind. When the night before has left you, and the smoke has filled your lungs. And you don’t know what, you’ve come here for, or the person you’ve become. No I can’t wait, to start again. No I can’t wait, to start again. When the darkness and unknown become your friend. No I can’t wait to start again.”

Stiles began vocalizing. A set of musical oh’s which rose in key and crescendo until they were soaring high and beautiful like doves in a sun-kissed sky. Derek felt the wetness stroking it’s way down his cheek before he realized his eyes had even filled and spilled with tears evoked by the song and the magic of his princely lover.

“And the agony’s turning into thought, oh, and nothing is what I thought it was, oh, and the agony’s turning into thought, oh, and nothing is what I thought it was.” a soft silence took over and it seemed as though everyone held their breath. Stiles glanced at Melissa and gave her a reassuring nod, his eyes wet and weeping just as hers was but between them passed a solidarity in grief and consolation that bolstered them both. “And I can’t wait, to start, again. No I can’t wait, to start, again. When the darkness and unknown become your friend. No I can’t wait, to start, again.”

At a gesture from the king, the four men responsible for carrying the body, lifted the slab and proceeded into the tomb behind Lady Marin who led them deep inside to where the body would be laid to rest, within stone of the earth, which bore all into being.

Stiles and Melissa embraced for a long while. She cooed her appreciation for his song and told him how beautiful it had been. He told her how Scott had helped him with it and that it would forever be his song. When they broke apart king John took her arm and led her away followed by the others in attendance.

Derek flanked by two men including Danny took Stiles in his arms and held him silently for a while. The comfort it bred was irreplaceable. “He would have been honoured. His mother was right. I did not know him well at all but what I did learn, is that if he could have fallen in any way, fighting for you, that would have been his choice.”

Stiles nodded his thanks and kissed his lover, chastely, and then again with more passion before pulling back to stare into his hazel green eyes. “All that needs doing here is now done.” Derek stared back, crinkling his brow in anticipation of what the prince was getting at. “Take me back to England, I am ready to start again. Let us be mated and begin our lives.” 

Chapter Text

Though blood and war brought grief to bear,

Blood and war bound fated pair,

To dance to love’s sweet melody,

Through the lifetimes given thee,

An alpha king’s fierce and steady hand,

And highland prince to steal hearts of man,

Now the kingdoms do delight,

O’er brightest day and darkest nights,

What joy this union doth create,

The alpha king and his king life-mate.”

Excerpt of ‘King’s Life Mate’

From ‘Songs of the alpha king and the highland prince.’

By Henry Brandon the London Bard

1637



The return to England had been a much more leisurely travel. Derek and Stiles had been seen off by King John, who had appointed a host of fifty Scottish men to accompany his son and his son’s, soon to be mate back on their journey. All, of course, had been weary of the danger of the road following Peter’s near triumphant attack. Though it seemed unlikely that they might encounter another battle as they made their way back, king John, would take no chances with his son and Derek was eager to agree.

Derek was pleasantly surprised to be informed that the men, while loyal to their prince and their kingdom, in light of the new alliance still to be detailed and defined between the two kingdoms, would obey his every command as if he were their liege lord. Stiles too, was both awed and proud of the step his father had taken toward trust and unification with the English king, his king now every bit as much as his father was, if not a little bit more.

Another addition to their retinue had been the lady Marin, who apparently had made the decision to take a short leave from her home, and the seat of her power, to join the couple in London at least for the ceremony that would bind their hearts and houses as one. Both Stiles, and John who had known her much longer, could see a veritable difference in her demeanour and sensed a great pleasure and anticipation about her, despite her efforts to conceal herself beneath her mask of mystery and passivity. It must have been something of great importance on her mind that affected her deeply, because John did not know her to ever be one easily read.

He had grudgingly agreed to live without her for a few months, having become very accustomed to her presence and irritating wisdom as well as the blunt delivery with which it was given. Stiles smiled secretly at his agreement because he might not have known very much about her, but what he did know of her included the knowledge that she would come and go as she pleased. And whether he would have ‘allowed’ it or not, if it were her desire, it would be done. This was true of many of the druid people of the old forests, and she was as close to a queen amongst them as one could get.

Derek’s soldiers combined with the additional fifty men made for a hefty host upon the road. Derek had offered to commission the use of a litter for the journey but Stiles declined it. Much as he loved his English alpha, he did not want to have the men smell their canoodling and intense prolonged arousal throughout the journey. They may be lovers and mates to be, but they were still royals, leaders and men and both of them loved riding far too much to spend the journey sitting upon cushions within a litter, hidden away from the rugged and wild world that fascinated them.

The slow paced march had taken them nearly a full fortnight to reach their destination. They had stopped abruptly many times on whims to explore wild places and camp in appealing destinations that brought the men a sense of relaxation they had not had on the previous journey. As eager as they all were to be home, taking it slow had been a good choice and it showed in the faces and actions of the men.

On the night before the final stretch of their travels, knowing that they would be marching into the city of London on the morrow, Stiles and Derek had done away with their king’s tent and slept on a soft grassy knoll near a stream under the stars. Danny had protested it for being an unsafe and unnecessary risk, however, both king and prince had told him to calm down and simply ensure that the perimeter about where they would lie for the night was well guarded, by the sentries for the evening. He had accepted his assignment though he was none to happy about it.

As campfires went out and men not appointed to watch shifts lay down to bed, Stiles lowered his back to the ground and stared at the stars and how they complimented the bright sliver of moon in the sky. Derek’s head lay in the crook under his arm, fine black locks tickling the flesh of his chest when he breathed in. His hand caressed at the flesh of the king’s shoulder until he felt the brush of fingertips against his own fingers and they tangled together.

“Are you ready for this?” Derek asked quietly. Stiles could feel the tension he leashed tightly as he waited for an answer.

“As I’ll ever be,” Stiles glanced down at the king lying against him. “Were you expecting another answer?”

“The closer we get, the more I fear something will destroy it all, or I will wake up in the castle without you and this would have all been but a dream.” Stiles lifted himself gently, hoisting up on an elbow so he could see Derek clearly. The king turned up his head and tilted himself so that his chin rested on Stiles’ abdomen.

“This is not a dream. Or if it is, it is a permanent one of this I can be sure, and you should be too.” Derek’s eyes fell and Stiles could sense in him something weighing him down still. “Talk to me Derek. Tell me what chain you have tied about your neck, binding you to such fears.”

“I’m not a good man, Stiles. The simple truth is that I do not deserve you. All that I have done...”

“All that you’ve done has brought you here, to me, with me. Would you regret the life we should have together?” Stiles frowned down at him, waiting to hear what he could say to that.

Shaking his head which caused the dark whiskers on his chin to grate against Stiles’ skin he replied, “No of course not I just...”

“Then put whatever more you would say out of your mind. If our lives did not occur the way they did, we may never have found each other. I don’t want to waste a moment thinking about a life without you and I don’t think you want to either.” He raised a brow and pinned Derek with a glare that brooked no challenge. Derek smiled to that and planted a kiss where his chin had just left the lightest most delicious burn of friction.

“No one has ever spoken to me like you do.”

“Well even a king must be commanded at times, and a wise king takes his instruction when it is called for.”

“I’m not complaining.”

“Good, now I will need you to desist with your machinations sir, if you keep that up I don’t know how well I can keep my personal vow to not bed you until our mating.” The prince squirmed under the kisses his abs and stomach were receiving. Feather light brushes of soft lips against his flesh which were soon traded for slick caresses of his skin by Derek’s moist and dexterous tongue. He felt the man tracing letters into his body and they seemed to burn whatever brand right into his soul.

Derek laughed at his reaction but did not relent. Stiles could feel the answering curl of heat coiling in the depth of his stomach before travelling along a winding line into his cock, giving it life. Stiles growled making Derek hum with satisfaction at the effect he was having on his lover. “How can I stop when you are so easy to...” He nipped at a spot along the side of Stiles’ midsection, under his arm and the prince jerked grabbing at the older man’s hair and tugging it back so that his face lifted. On Derek’s face was a look of pure dark seduction. A sorcerer at the height of his power and primed to strike, a beautiful devil with a glint of fire in his eye. Stiles succumbed in that instant, twisting them about so that he lay atop the king and taking his mouth aggressively.

Derek answered him with equal aggression, two wolves competing for dominance that neither could win as they were both equally and unequivocally ensnared by the other, submitted to the other. Eyes began to glow between them, scarlet flame and emerald pools. Stiles grabbed for his hair again and tugged pulling his head back just so. Derek gasped, and with his mouth open and lips parted wide, Stiles licked a slow, tantalizing line from his chin, lower lip, slick wetness of his tongue and then across the cavern of his open mouth to the bow peak of his upper lip.

“I would mate you right now if you’d let me...” the words escaped on a breathy moan of desire from Derek’s mouth. His arousal was digging into Stiles thigh, the scent of it was making it difficult for the young wolf to find a measure of control.

“I would let you were it not for the small army surrounding us.” It had taken him a while to get his breathing under control enough to speak the words without sounding winded. “I would not have your first time inside me,” he spoke slowly so that every word was an activation for Derek’s sex, every syllable designed to drive him near madness, “a spectator sport.”

“You, my love, are the real monster.”

“Aye, then we are well matched, mo chridhe.”

“Indeed.” Derek’s brow furrowed and he asked, “Mo chridhe...” he tried at the words and only partly mispronounced them, “what does that mean?”

Stiles smiled in response, “Mo chridhe,” he repeated correctly. “It means, my heart.” They kissed again softer, sweeter and held each other until they fell into the depths of sleep.

Thanks to the outriders of their party the ride down the road into the city was filled with fanfare. Cheers and well wishes filled the air from the townsfolk, who had began to spread their own tales of the incoming couple, thanks to little tidbits of gossip that escaped the castle. After the unofficial leak, three soldiers had rode into the city with news that the king and his prince and mate to be, would arrive within a few days.

Stiles, having already won many hearts the last time he was in England by simply being himself, now understanding that to include his heart-hold powers, was all smiles, proud nods and happy waves as he rode in at the head of the host alongside Derek who grinned broadly at the reception. Cries of love and blessings were shouted at them and wreaths of flowers in bright colours were tossed before the horses they sat upon, so that the road was littered with flora like a welcoming carpet of beauty.

As they all pulled into the castles outer gates, and then dismounted, Deaton came forward. “Your grace,” he bowed an elegant courtly gesture expressing his respect while the others behind him as if choreographed, did the same. When he rose, he was smiling, a rare occurrence for him, “I am glad to see you returned, I trust your journey was pleasantly uneventful,” he quipped as Derek handed off his reigns to a squire and took Stiles’ hand.

“Thankfully so,” Derek replied happy to see his old mentor and friend.

“Prince Stiles,” Deaton turned and bowed just as deeply as he had done for Derek and then faced him giving the royal his full attention and with as genuine a smile as he had addressed his king continued. “It is truly an honour and a delight to receive you as our king’s future life mate.”

“Lord Deaton, the honour and the blessing is my own. The powers that be have seen fit to set our paths beside one another and I would have it no other way.”

“As you say my prince,” he nodded to the man and his eye seemed to wonder away just for a moment though it felt to him as if it had been drawn to the place where he had looked, when his face went first completely slack, then stony and then warmed and filled with a roiling mixture of emotion ranging from, happiness to confusion.

Derek and Stiles frowned in unison and then turned back to trace the man’s gaze. Both their eyes fell upon the dark skinned, emerald robe clad Marin whose own face was no longer an unreadable mask as it often were, but a glowing beacon of joy. The royals exchanged looks of confusion as Deaton and Marin closed the distance between them. Silently, they embraced, though all could see the powerful emotion burning between them, so bright, so strong, and threatening to spill out and over if Deaton’s suddenly hazy eyes were any indication.

When they finally pulled apart, holding each other at arms length they simply looked at each other for quite some time before Deaton pulled Marin to his chest again and crushed her there. Speaking the Gaelic tongue he gasped, his voice heavy with the weight of his emotion. “My sister, after all these years...”

“You have grown old brother.”

“And you have grown cheeky, for a mistress of the cave.” Marin inspected his face, tugging back from him. Her hands gently caressing his cheeks and tracing his hairline. They were twins but his travel back through time had set their growth apart as he had lived through more years now than she had setting their appearances just slightly different in age.

Stiles looked on baffled, though he understood every word they exchanged as Derek spoke, attempting to clear his confusion at their reaction or his old mentor’s ability to speak fluent Gaelic with a cadence and fluidity that was as perfect as in the answers he received from Marin. “You know each other?”

“Apparently they are related?” came the prince, his voice also expressing his lack for understanding. Derek looked sharply at him and then back at them as Marin let go of her brother and turned so they could both meet the gazes of the monarchs before them.

“Aye,” Marin breathed, her voice emanating peace and calm while her face returned to its composed mask of serenity. “This is my brother. My twin brother.”

“I don’t understand,” Derek confessed.

“Nor I,” agreed Stiles.

“This woman, is Irish, you are an English lord, this isn’t possible.”

“Sire,” Deaton called his tones English again, his voice calm once more and his face like his sister’s, returning to a well known carved appearance. “This will require a rather involved explanation. For the trust we have shared for many years, for the love you bear me, allow us the chance to adequately explain, privately.”

Derek regarded him for a while. He regarded them both, the confusion still plain on his face. Not even considering what to do just simply, shocked at the revelation and how on earth it could possibly be true. At the back of his mind questions like how an Irishman had become and English lord began to bloom. Stiles looked from Marin to Deaton, frowning. His eyes glowed ever so slightly, just the barest hint of green flashing before returning to their normal light brown hues. He slipped his hand back into Derek’s, having let go of each other when they turned to see what or who Deaton had been off put by, and squeezed.

Leaning close to the king and tilting his head upward so that his words would flow directly into Derek’s ear he said, “I think it is time we go inside, mo chridhe. Perhaps we should have this,” he glanced back at the stoic siblings, “conversation, privately.”

Derek blinked and nodded, composing himself quickly. “Yes. Lord... Deaton, Lady Marin I’d like you to attend the prince and I in my throne room at once. Daniel,” he called, turning back to find Danny stepping forward at his beckoning call. “See to prince Stiles’ things personally, have them brought up to the queen’s royal apartments for now, they should have been converted in my absence to a suitable apartment for a king-mate.” He glanced back at Deaton who nodded his indication that those wishes had been carried out. “Have my palace steward attend the men and ensure every comfort and kindness is shown to the soldiers of Scotland. They will be treated as my own.”

“Yes your grace,” Danny responded swiftly and bowed, adding the extra bit of formality as he sensed the tension bred by the king’s confusion and what may have been lies uncovered before so many in the courtyard.

“You had the queen’s apartment’s converted,” Stiles put to him in a hushed tone, “for me? But you didn’t know if I would come back with you when you set off.”

For a moment Derek softened and smiled sweetly at him. When he spoke it was with utmost honesty and sincerity. “I might not have known no, but I did not plan to return until you would give me another chance, no matter how long it would take. So I left a few things to be done for when we would eventual come back, both of us. Lord Deaton was the one who was meant to carry out my wishes. I can only hope they were done without any other... surprises.” Derek gave Deaton a hard stare for a brief moment and then guiding the prince by hand, headed for the castle, with a combination of his own royal guard as well as the prince’s swept up in their wake, followed by a calm faced Marin and Deaton.


Child of forest sing night song,

Dance unharmed through thistle and thorn,

Fairies beckon at your call,

Spin your magick weaves til the dawn.

Excerpt of ‘Druids of the Grove’

by the Baird of Ballyshannon

1626

In the presence chamber of the king, Derek sat in a lofty chair equipped with satin lined cushions and jewels in its arm rest and along the edges of it’s back, making it appear every bit as much the throne as the one sat in his throne room. Stiles stood at his left side, a hand resting atop his shoulder which squeezed gently, massaging his muscles lightly. The lady Marin and lord Deaton stood before them. The room besides was empty, as Derek, obliging Alan Deaton, yet again, for the love he did bear the man, sent his guards away.

Derek was emanating a tension that even those who couldn’t scent emotion and the effective changes they reeked on the chemical processes of the body could sense. His body was stiff and his chest rose and fell in brief elevations. His eyes were a dull sanguine like lightly oxygenated blood. One hand was curled into a tight fist on his lap while the other threatened to leave indentations of his fingers in the arm rest of his chair. His face was a dark mask of opposing emotion.

The king and his prince had spent the last hour listening to a detailed explanation of the origins of both Marin and Alan. How they were both druids born in Ireland and holding considerable magickal powers as well as responsibilities. How Marin was the seer of seers, the one with an extraordinary gift to discern past, present and future and her brother, was a commander of the ability to travel across vast spaces with a thought in the blink of an eye. How they had combined their powers to send Alan back through time where he might infiltrate the English kingdom and eventually the king’s council prompted by a vision of a dark future, which incidentally would have been ushered in by Derek’s traitorous uncle. How they had ultimately guided events and the ones under their influence to a new future brighter than the one Marin had seen.

The king needed to process and his extended silence, where he sat rigid with hazy dull red eyes which saw nothing and everything all at once, proved that he was trying. He had listened quietly, intently. The prince beside had done the same, though he could not hide his shock quite as well as the two before them hid their every emotion. The room became so silent that only the slight whisper of breathing could be heard. When Derek finally spoke it was barely more than a whisper and his voice had been laced with barely leashed wroth.

“Magick such as you suggest, has not been present in the lands for nearly a thousand years, if it ever did exist at all.” Derek had been raised to believe, as his father had, that magick was mostly tales created by wet nurses to lull babes in their beds. The teachings had clearly stated that even wolf kind were not so much creatures of magick as an evolutionary creation of the natural world. True some persons out there were gifted with specialized abilities, but that as well was some facet of evolution working itself out or a creation of the god’s for a set purpose.

“I am no longer a child under your tutelage. I must remind you. Because you take me for either a child or a fool to believe this fairy tale you spin before me. Or did you truly expect me to believe that you,” he pinned Marin with eyes that began to flicker with brighter flame than they had before, “see into the future,” and you,” he turned his gaze on Alan and his eyes ignited with scarlet fury, “transport yourself across distances like magick. Next you will be telling me you’re the reincarnation of Merlin.”

“The lands of the English have lost much of their magick over the centuries good king, that is true. However, the lands of my people have not.” Marin’s voice was clear and unaffected by his ire. “And despite the way in which the history’s of the supernatural world have been edited to suit the loss of the magick once wielded by great mages and other being’s imbued with powers in this part of the world, that does not mean that it has never existed, or that it is all gone. Is it truly so hard to believe? Are not all of wolf kind an expression of magick itself? Men, women who can take the form of wolves with but a thought. Who can use the senses and attributes of the predators of the wild as they will it. Do you not remember where the first of your kind came from, for it was druid magic which taught the ancient ancestor to which all of your race has been born, how to change back and forth by will when he was cursed to walk as a wolf by the god he had displeased.”

Derek balked. He had heard some variation of that tale long ago, though the details remained unclear in his mind but he had never given the stories any merit. Scholars had ascribed that wolf kind were as much a part of the natural world as humans. “Even if any of that is true, which I do not believe, the fact would remain that you have lied to me and my family for years,” Derek turned his full attention on Deaton. “You have acted in deceit as an agent of a foreign nation for your own purposes, that is treason. You have broken my trust and made me a fool before you.”

“Your grace, all that we have done has been to save you, to secure your future, you must believe that. I have never acted against you. When I took you for my king it was a true and honest decision. I made a vow and I have not broken it. We could have lied, never told you the truth but we did, I did, because you are my king and I have worked to save you to save us all as has my sister.”

“Save us all from what, my uncle? Who would bring about a darkness that would hang over the nations for hundreds of years. That is preposterous. He was one man.”

“It only takes one man my king. One alpha of wolf kind with the longevity of his people and the cruelty and blackened soul of a demon. One man who would sire and raise heirs in his image to rule over the people when he is eventually gone with as much wickedness and cold calculation as he.” Deaton dropped his mask and allowed Derek to see the sincerity in his face as well as the conviction. “Did not you yourself tell me sire, how he had planned to rule the kingdoms first through your grieving father, and then through you once he had engineered your father’s death.”

That stopped Derek and set him to wonder. The words rang true. Peter was a monster and those of wolf kind could live for many years. Much evil could have been created under his instruction and with a line of succession all tainted by his evil who would stop the empire from falling to that kind of darkness, who would break the cycle.

“It is not always clear what my sister sees your grace, but her interpretations are never wrong, and all she has seen concerning the future of all of us was made painfully clear to interpretation, as you have in your own experience learned.”

Derek scoffed, “Yes your sister with her visions...”

“Aye, with my visions. Can you not accept that. You have seen magick for yourself. You have seen the one you love command men with the power of his voice, his heart’s song. You’ve seen him stay the hand of the black duke with his cry. He possesses the very magick you refuse to see for truth. To deny us is to deny him.”

“Derek,” Stiles whispered, and when the king looked up at him, Stiles’ eyes were lightly glowing. He had been sensing the truth and conviction of their hearts as they spoke, as he listened with more than just his ears but his heart as well, his gift. “I believe them. I’ve experienced her canny knowledge for myself. She is a seer, of that I cannot doubt. The lady of the crystal cave. The knife I used to kill him, the one I put in Peter’s throat, it was she who put it in my hand.” Stiles turned back to stare at the woman though it wasn’t truly her he was looking at but the memory of what had transpired that day. Her words, her gift of the blade, how he had fastened it at his back like she suggested. He had not used it to fight because he did not remember it had been there. Everything had happened so fast, and then, in his desperation, when there was no weapon close enough... “I had forgotten it was there. And if it hadn’t been, you would have died. But it was right where I needed it to be when I needed it to be.”

Deaton felt a once lost but old and familiar brush against his mind and turned to look at his sister, his twin, once separated by time and now brought together once more. She had whispered to him the way they did once long ago when they walked along the same time and path, two as one. They stared into each other’s eyes for a brief moment as Stiles spoke and Deaton nodded. He breathed out lightly, and then closed his eyes. Neither royal noticed when his form winked out of existence where it had previously stood, but Derek who was staring at Stiles and taking in his words, saw when that form had materialized just behind his lover, far too fast to analyze, but also too fast to count as movement, even if the man had been wolf kind.

One moment there was nothing behind Stiles and suddenly a shadow had birthed and then quickly taken form, that shadow being Lord Deaton. Derek shot up to his feet in shock and a natural instinct to protect his mate which had him pulling Stiles to stand somewhat behind him. “How...” Derek whispered. Stiles looked from Deaton to where he once stood and back again and whispered something in Gaelic.

“I may not have told you all, my king. But I have never told you a lie and I have not started today. My sister foretold what might happen if the darkness she saw won the war of the future many years ago. And so we did what we must to ensure this world would not perish beneath the weight of such darkness. I gave up my life to do so. I gave up my family, the only family I had left to me.” Alan glanced at Marin and her mask faltered. A flick of Derek’s eyes noted the loss in her expression. “I believe in you my king, I believe in your destiny with your mate to do much good. If the means by which I have worked to ensure you two find your way to each other, cost my head, it is a price I will gladly pay. But know that all we have said is the truth.” Deaton travelled again, this time with both of them watching him, to back where he had stood beside his sister.

Derek’s head snapped to his new position, mouth ajar. “I...” he began but stopped, unsure of what he planned to say. “This is a lot of...” Derek sighed, and all the tension that had been gathered within him slowly began to dissipate. As he ordered his mind, and thought back over his experiences with Alan Deaton. While there were many little mysteries about the man, he had never truly told a lie. Furthermore, the man had always acted in Derek’s best interest. He had helped mould the boy he once was into a warrior fit for battle. He had helped him deal with the loss of his family, stood by his side when he took the throne. He had even helped bring Stiles and Derek together and it always seemed to be a matter of helping Derek to see what he truly wanted rather than telling him what he should want. Still, with the idea of magick taking on these many forms, the king was a little out of his league and had to ask.

“You always seemed to know what I was thinking, was that a part of it too, were any of my thoughts, my actions, my own..?”

Deaton smiled kindly, having fielded some version of this question many times over. “All of them sire. And I have told you many times before I have never been able to read your mind. It would be a violation to do so. The only thoughts I have ever shared have been with my sister, a gift of of the blood from which we are descended and our twin occupation of our mother’s womb. We came into this world together, and have shared much including our thoughts. But I do not read yours, neither of us do. We are adept though, at reading in your actions, that which occupies your mind. I have told you I believe in you. You are a good man, you always have been. Your impulses, your choices, they are good ones, oft times it was just a matter of getting you to trust in yourself.” Derek nodded at that and sat himself back in his chair. He remained silent for a while as he considered all that had been revealed and exchanged.

“Why did you not simply tell us of the future. Of what you had seen?”

“Considering your reaction even after witnessing the gifts of your bonnie prince,” Marin went on and placed upon him the full brunt of her powerful knowing gaze, “would you have believed it?” It was then that Derek truly discovered King John’s meaning when he had introduced the woman at the feast where he’d made her acquaintance. He recalled too how she had reminded him so of Alan and when he had said as much how she had responded. It was no wonder people accused them of reading minds.

After a moment, Derek smiled in answer realizing more of why things had played out the way they had. Marin continued. “I will tell you as I have told only one other king before you,” at that she glanced at Stiles and her eyes told him exactly who she had meant, “Knowing the future is less of a gift and more of a burden that must be well managed. Every action can change the course we are on. Should you have believed us, merely knowing as we did what might be, could have brought it forth much faster, and with greater ferocity, none can know. Free will must have it’s chance. A man must make his own decisions. In the battle between all that is good and all that is evil, the real triumph comes when the choices are clean and freely made. Just as well, one must go their own way to find who they are, that, can never be told.”

As much as he had understood before, it all made a great deal more sense just then to Stiles. He might not have discovered his powers had she simply told him what they were. He might not have discovered Derek or their love had it been arranged beforehand. The situations and circumstances which brought them to the present seemed to have had to be, in order for them to all be standing there just then. Like he had told Derek when they lay beneath the stars. A sentiment he echoed now with little modification, “All we have done has brought us here, you to me, me to you, all of us together.”

Derek looked to him again and truth lit his eyes and calmed his heart and mind. He nodded, and turned to the two before them and nodded again. A small smile bloomed where before was a stern serious expression. “Very well, all we have done has brought us here and there is much to be thankful for. I suppose you will be returning home with your sister then?” He posed the question to Deaton seriously but Stiles heard the faint tinge of disappointment in his voice.

“Much as that would bring me great joy, I made a vow to you sire and I intend to keep it. Though I am the lord of the stone circle and hold a sacred duty to my people to which I must fulfill, I am your man now and until the end of my days. And I will serve at your pleasure as long as you will have me.”

Derek brightened, “But what of the seat of your power...”

“Unlike my sister’s mantle, mine is not bound to the land of our birth. The stone circles are a magick that can be born anywhere and near everywhere. I have already built my own circle nearby as a part of my duty and can train the next holder of the position from England when that young one is found. Now that the long truth is told I thought perhaps your grace could benefit from having a representative of the magick callers of the nemeton groves amongst the council of the new British empire.”

“And I can speak with my brother, across the distance as it is necessary. My visions will never be beyond reach when they are required,” Lady Marin added.

“Then it is settled,” Derek said, exuberantly. After thinking for a moment, he got to his feet again and took Stiles’ hand in his. “Thank you, for all that you’ve done and sacrificed, for all of us. It shall never be forgotten.” The twins nodded toward the king and prince and offered graceful and stately bows. “Well then, my regent, in my absence I assume you received the corpse of the duke?”

“Indeed your grace, the body has been discreetly disposed of and the corpses of his men have all been put to the torch.”

“That is good, then there is but one thing left to do before we can turn the full of our attention to the mating ceremony. Where is the princess?”

***

Was I wrong, hardly. But perhaps my view should have been adjusted for unique situations. My daughter learned how to be a queen of this new world in her own right. As royalty we constantly prove that love and power do not coexist, at least in the beginning, that softness, compassion, it is all weakness but she has proven the very opposite by her endurance. Or was it perhaps, luck and compassion that raised her high. Either way she has what she deserves and I respect her for it.

Excerpt from the diary of Nathalie Martin, Queen of Denmark

1636

Lydia Martin sat nervously on the edge of her bed waiting to be summoned to the king’s throne room. She’d had word that he had returned to the city earlier in the day but that was all they would tell her. She had not even been allowed to go down to the courtyard to greet him. From the room she was now occupying there was no viewpoint by which she could see him and perhaps take his measure. When he had rescued her from the headsman she had assumed things had been put to rights, but after being secured to a single room, despite the luxury of it and the allotment of handmaids including Adalina, she felt as though he must bear some grudge against her.

She had even thought perhaps, the duke had told him of her involvement in the Scottish prince’s assassination attempt, and considering the way he had felt about the prince, he would certainly have her die painfully for such a crime. Then there was the matter of Jackson. She had had no word of Jackson and feared to ask lest she be thrown back in the tower for the crimes of adultery. Would that have even still applied? Lydia had no idea as to her standing with the king. Were they still betrothed or was she still to be executed, only at a later date? Perhaps she would now be held as hostage in order to control her parents.

Adalina came over to her and brought a measure of cloth to dab at her forehead. “My lady,” she said in her sweet calming voice, “Do not worry over much. I’m sure the king has seen sense. He stopped the...” she couldn’t bring herself to say the words execution, “unfortunate business and that could not have been for nothing. And he will see to you today. It must be to explain all that has happened I’m sure of it.”

“I’m not so certain as you Adalina.” She looked up at the woman and held the hand dabbing at her face, taking it off before clasping her hands tightly in her lap. “I’m quite tired and fear whatever comes next might be well deserved on my part.”

“You speak as though you will be punished. My lady, you cannot think that way.” The woman stared at her horrified.

“And if I were Adalina,” Lydia pinned her with a dark and serious gaze. “perhaps, I even should be. I have done horrible things. Unforgivable things.” She looked away then and went back to deep thought. Ever since she had been confined to this room, she had spent a lot of time thinking over her past actions and the situations and circumstances that had brought her here. By the time the day had arrived and she had received word to ready herself as the king would soon be sending for her, she had resigned herself to whatever fate lay before her. All she felt was regret. She had damaged her own honour by allowing her mother’s council and the duke’s poison to influence her into making fear fuelled decisions. Even if she could see Jackson now would he even recognize the woman she had become.

She didn’t know how long she had sat there thinking on the mistakes she had made, terrible, horrible mistakes, when the wrapping on the door had drawn her from the depth of her thoughts. Adalina was standing at the door and Lydia looked up just in time to nod at her before it opened and two large guards, the same who had been posted at her door came in. Her eyes slowly danced up the length of their burgundy coats then settled on their faces, as she rose to her feet and followed them, blue satin skirts swishing about her legs as she did so. When Adalina trailed after them, one of the men, Jonathon, rounded on her and bid her stay in the room as the king had commanded Lydia come to the throne room alone.

“But...” the lady tried to protest but Lydia cut her off before the men had a chance.

“Do as you are bid Adi, I will be alright, truly.” Lydia touched her hand and Adalina placed her other hand over it and squeezed gently then nodded and released her.

The walk to the throne room felt egregiously long as though she were walking inside the pattern of a maze that would not let her out. At first she had held her head high and looked straight ahead but halfway along, she found herself tracing a path along the floor beneath her feet. She had barely noticed when they approached the throne room, only lifting her head briefly as they posed at the door to notify the king she had arrived.

When the door opened again, the men ushered her inside. She had thought the next time she encountered the king she would look proud and regal but just then, she found she could not face him quite that easily. The men halted her several long paces before the throne. Lydia lowered herself deeply into a long bow from which she did not intend to rise until he gave her leave.

“Rise princess.” The voice was soft but strong and had musical notes of the highlands in it. It brought Lydia’s head jerking almost disgracefully upward to see prince Germin Stilinski, prince Stiles, sitting upon the king’s throne in a beautiful coat of jewel studded gold cropped with green satin hemming, silk green britches and a crown of silver ornamented with large studs of amethyst and emerald about it’s circumference. At his side, with a ring adorned hand resting atop his shoulder in a reversed mirror image of how they had received the druid twins, was an equally, richly garbed Derek. He wore a red coat with gold trim over a gold tunic embroidered with wolves upon it’s face, silk black britches and a matching crown with rubies and diamonds about it’s circumference. Lydia swallowed and immediately felt smaller than she had ever felt in all her life.

“Please stand my lady,” Stiles reiterated.

“Your grace...” Lydia offered in a faltering voice, which made it sound questioning, as she got to her feet. As his gaze lay upon her she could not help a fresh rush of all the feelings that had been overwhelming her most recently and ever since she had called for the huntsman

“You do remember the prince Stiles do you not? He is to soon be my life-mate.” Derek offered the information with a soft smile and glanced lovingly down at Stiles who looked back at him with similar affection. Lydia only stared, completely taken off guard.

“I trust you are well, the king tells me much ill has befallen you since my departure from court.” Stiles spoke in a regal tone befitting of his station with no enmity in his voice, which made Lydia nervous for she could not tell what she had walked into. As if the fluctuating emotions of the princess were a trigger, Stiles’ eyes began to lightly glow their unique green hues. She suddenly felt as though she could hardly breathe, her heart tightened as did her lungs and the guilt she had been contemplating since she’d been spared the loss of her head came down to bear heavily upon her.

Lydia then threw herself to the ground, the wealth of skirts she wore softening her landing while she lowered her head and let everything come spilling out of her. Beginning to sob softly she confessed. “Your graces I throw myself at your mercy though I do not deserve it for the things I have done.” Both Derek and Stiles looked at each other again exchanging surprised glances.

“All I can say is that I was terribly afraid and unsure of how I could secure myself like my mother instructed. The duke, he convinced me there was no other way for me and I let him whisper his black lies in my head. He may have drawn my attention to the huntsman, but it was I who called him and set him to task. It was I who asked him to remove you from obstructing what I thought would be my happiness. Instead all I have managed to do is damn my own soul by my deeds and nearly bring irreparable harm to a noble I did not even know when all you had been to me was courteous.”

The tears were staining her face with tracks down the powder that had been brushed upon her cheeks. Her eyes were reddened from the crying and her breaths began to stutter on their way out of her lungs. When she looked up she froze in awe of the prince. His eyes that had only just a moment ago begun glowing with soft green light were now enormous saucers of glowing emerald glittering with sparks within them like starlight. There were no discernible whites about the emerald that seemed to shine so brightly it might have left behind trails of light if his head were to move like fairy flies in the darkest of night. But Stiles’ face was still and devoid of emotion as he looked to be inspecting her beneath his enthralling gaze

“You!” Derek’s growl of the word pulled her attention from the prince to the king who’s eyes also glowed, but in a more recognizable display of an alpha’s enraged scarlet. “It was you, this whole time. You. Tried. To. Hurt. My. Mate.” The predator’s protective instinct rose briskly in him and ignited a half change which left fangs bursting in his mouth so that as he spoke, between the too large teeth and his wroth, each word became a punctuated sentence. He began to move.

Quickly, Stiles turned to the king and spoke, “Peace mo chridhe,” and even before he were finished speaking the words Derek reverted to a complete human appearance. His face emulated that which Lydia’s had a moment ago, before his rage had yanked her attention from the prince. Stiles turned back to her and brought his gaze bearing down.

“I see your sins,” he began in a voice that sang like a chorus of harmonies. “I see the darkness painted by your own hand. But I also see your guilt, your remorse. How can I condemn you any more than you have condemned yourself. How can I sentence you to die any more than you have died a thousand times since you recognized the evil of your own deeds.”

Lydia shook her head, once again hypnotized by the magic of his eyes and possessed of more self inflicted suffering for the things she had done. “It’s what I deserve.”

“Nay, no more than you deserved to be sold to a man who could not give you his body nor his heart. No more than you deserve to die for loving another truly, no matter how far beneath your station he may be. No more than you deserve to pay for the crime of being manipulated by both good and ill intentioned council. Nay princess,” Stiles’ green eyes shrunk to a normal size, the whites reappearing giving a contrast to the shining emerald before they became light brown once more. “I forgive you. We forgive you do we not Derek.” The prince looked up at his lover. Derek pursed his lips as he stared into Stiles’ reverted eyes and held that gaze for a long time. It was almost an unspoken communication between the two of them. He knew all Stiles was saying to him with that look, and the younger man’s words had been more than correct. He was as much to blame for the dark path Lydia had trodden as Peter had been. She was but a girl placed in the intrigues of a court she did not desire. As well as in the den of a spider she did not suspect. Derek softened, relaxed and nodded.

Turning to Lydia he said, “we forgive you princess. My mate has seen your heart and I trust his judgment. Just as well I cannot claim to be absent of fault in the choices you have made. I brought you to this kingdom by promise of marriage, and I spurned you when I found the true mate of my life. A girl with the weight of her own kingdom on the back of her success to win the hand of a king who could destroy her entire family. I do not like the things you have done, but I can understand why you may have fallen into my uncle’s trap. I was unlucky enough to do the same on many an occasion as I have come to learn, as by his death my father’s spirit also has. We forgive you princess. In fact, we have plans for you.”

Lydia cocked her head aside and stared back and forth between them a stray hand wiping at her face. Stiles suddenly rose from the throne and walked toward her. Bending down to take her hands in his, the prince helped her stand but kept hold of her in his comforting grip. Derek stepped forward as well to stand behind his lover and smiled kindly, his previous ire dissipated like mist in the wind. “What do you mean your grace?”

“I commanded the truth from your lover, before we summoned you here,” Stiles confessed to which Lydia frowned. “Do not fear and do not hold his tongue against him. You once told me that my eyes were not rare, but unique. Well that is quite true, and I am finding that none are able to withstand them and deny my bidding. It takes selflessness and kindness to allow love beneath your station. It takes honesty to love freely despite where it falls. That is how I know you are not wicked and cruel.”

“Before I left my court I left behind a list of tasks for my regent including the job of looking into your man, Jackson.” Then more to himself he added, “before I realized the considerable powers at his disposal.” Deaton had done just as his master had asked. Except he had used more than natural means to do so. He’d questioned Jackson, travelled via the stones to Denmark to place some well made inquiries in Danish court and consulted his sister who had seen into the man’s past using her crystal cave.

“It was hardly the sort of thing we intended to find out,” Derek mused before continuing seriously, “did you know, that your Jackson, has noble blood in him, as well as a significant tie to my own family. He is a son descended of an uncle to my father the late king William who was wed to a danish princess many years ago. Apparently that uncle, a prince of the blood had a bastard son who had a bastard of his own, one who was placed in the castle of danish court to grow up working in the kitchens.”

Lydia’s brow creased again as she followed what Derek was revealing to her. “It is within my power to adopt the man into my family, and recognize the old nobility of his bloodline.”

“I don’t understand,” she said reluctantly, still piecing the words together, trying to see the picture being painted for her, still reeling, even from the weight of their forgiveness for her sins and how quickly it had all been dismissed.

“The king can acknowledge him, princess, give him a title, training and education,” Stiles chimed in.

“It had originally been my plan to bind you to my crown some other way, find a worthy husband of whom your parents could not disapprove, but Stiles informs me you already have one. And now we have the means to make it a very agreeable arrangement. I will adopt him and ensure he receives all he needs to suit the station within which I will place him. My late uncle’s title and lands are now without claimant. Jackson has in him the blood of a prince of my line. I will legitimize him and make him Duke. You will wed him, if it is your wish and rule Denmark as regent on my behalf.”

Her head snapped to Derek and fixed him with a disbelieving stare, which made him laugh lightheartedly. “Don’t look at me, it’s this one who seems to find the right answers when I am lacking.” He placed his hands on either side of Stiles shoulders and squeezed in gesture.

“What of my parents?” Lydia asked, “They are the king and queen. They sent me to you in the hopes of staying the hand of war and keeping their crowns.”

“That decision will be left to you my dear,” Stiles confessed giving her hand another gentle squeeze.

“You can leave them to rule and retire them at any time you wish Lydia. If it is your wish to remain here then you are free to do that as well. But officially Denmark is yours to command and the only authority to which you report will be Stiles and myself. How does all that sound to you?”

She sighed heavily and frowned at them both, “It sounds like far more mercy than anyone has ever received for crimes such as mine, and far more than I deserve.”

“Then be worthy of it, that is all you need do.” Stiles responded imploringly. “I thought when we had first met that perhaps we might be friends some day, let us go from there, yes?”

Finally she allowed a smile to take the place of the tight line that had been her lips and it lit her face up sending the shadows of her self recrimination skittering far away. “Yes.”

Chapter Text

***

You are the avalanche, one world away.

My make believing, while I’m wide awake.

You are the snow storm, I’m purified.

The darkest fairy tail, in the dead of night.

Just a trick of light, to bring me back around again.

Those wild eyes, a kaleidoscopic silhouette.

I never meant to fall for you but I

Was buried underneath and all that I could see was white.

My salvation, my my.


Salvation, a poem for a life mate written by Derek Hale

King of the New British Empire

The next several days were filled with hurried preparations. Hurried but detailed and precise as no expense or expertise was spared in providing everything that would be required for the mating ceremony, which quickly approached. In place of a normal wedding, the lady of the crystal cave had agreed to oversee the ancient rite of mate binding. It seemed a more fitting and more powerful statement and act as this joining, would not only be between previously warring kingdoms, but an alliance marriage that would solidify the creation of the British Empire which bound all kingdoms of Europe under one monarchy and one alpha mate pair, with governing monarchs under their rule in each kingdom that made up the empire.

The kingdoms that England had taken by fear and by war, an act that could not simply be undone, would learn peace and benevolence under the reformed rule of it’s King Derek Hale and the King Mate Stiles Hale. Bit by small bit, the bound rulers would bring peace and fairness to the entire empire and thus create a good future for all of Europe, born out of the same peace which governed them, rolling from the head all the way down to each limb and appendage that would make up the powerful new conglomeration of kingdoms

The ceremony was to be held in the forest, beneath an enormous pavilion, that had been erected per the king’s wishes, before he had set off to find his highland prince. The construct, was a masterful piece of architecture which represented, from it’s columns, colouring and carved images of symbols from the coats of arms of both Scotland and England, the joining of those two great kingdoms. At the very top, extending from a horizontal pillar atop the roof was the carved image of two wolves, nuzzling each other, so exquisitely detailed one could make out the strands of hair that made up their fury coats.

Scarlet carpeting cloth covered the floor of the white structure and white roses were propped about in large golden vases adorning the sides and corners between columns. Tapestries maintaining the scarlet crowned wolves of Scotland and the burning eyed crowned alpha of England hung from several banisters. The trees for miles and miles were all tied with ribbons of scarlet, white and gold.

Tailors had worked tirelessly to fit the nobles with the most elegant of fashions to suit the occasion. The finest of silks, satins and gleaming jewels of all kinds were brought in and worn out to the event of the millennia. Cooks had laboured for hours and hours to perfect pastries and pies, meats and vegetables to satisfy the large number of guests who would be present. Royal families and their guests of nobles had travelled from every member of the new British Empire near enough to arrive before the Scottish king. King John’s arrival would thus be used as a signal to the end point for the guest intake and beginning of the ceremony, as the royal couple would wait no longer than the time it took for Stiles father to be present. They took up lodgings in every great house and inn for miles and miles until the capital city and it’s surrounding towns were filled to capacity with those who had been invited and would come to bear witness, to the first life-mating of two males of wolf kind in three hundred and seventy two years.

“Nervous?” Isaac asked the king as he entered his chamber and regarded him with a playful smile. It was an undoubted pleasure to have his old friend constantly about him again and as well to have him accompany Derek on this, the most important day of his life thus far.

Derek turned to look at him. Arms outstretched so his attendants could adjust the sleeves of his doublet before adorning him with his cloak. “Possibly,” he called back after taking a deep breath.

“Why, having the first king mate in centuries and uniting the entirety of Europe is hardly a grand affair,” his friend returned sarcastically.

“We shall see how you fair when you are to be wed my friend. I shall remember your teasing for that glorious day. Be advised there is no limit to the mischief a king can cause.” Isaac grimaced at his words.

“I will have to talk to your mate then, if anyone can keep you in check, he is certain to be the one.”

“Be careful there, my mate has a wicked sense of humour.” And then he paused as he considered his very words. He had said them before but on this day the words meant so much more, they were given so much more definition. “My mate...” he echoed himself and Isaac smiled again, kinder and with a sense of pride.

“You are getting everything you want my friend, and all that you deserve. The rest of us can only wish to be so lucky as you one day.”

“I am lucky, aren’t I?” He lowered his arms as they finished adjusting, and cloaking him. Isaac moved to the crown seated atop a velvet cushion on the table before the king and picked it up. It was the most ornate of the crown jewels. The object was a pure gold with a satin cap filling in the spaces between the cross of gold which connected at its centre, to form a standing triquetra. The spaces within the gold frame of the symbol housed three enormous and gleaming rubies and one diamond which glittered and refracted octagons of light. Smaller gemstones filled in crevices of the crown’s circumference and dotted the crosses above the satin cap.

“Yes you are, most lucky, my king” came Alan Deaton’s voice as he entered the chamber, stealing the words from Isaac’s mouth as the man placed the crown on Derek’s lowered head. “Now shall we get you wed, I have it on good authority that what follows today’s ceremony has been eagerly anticipated for well over the fortnight it has taken to put this all in place.” Derek blushed but smiled at the man and nodded his agreement. He had been waiting for a long time. If he were being completely honest, it had felt as though he had been waiting for this his entire life. He wouldn’t waste any more time.

*

“If only your mother had lived long enough to see you today. She would be as proud of who you have become as I am.” King John spoke the words in Gaelic, softly and every bit of love and adoration he held for his son filled them. The two men walked side by side along a path to and through the tree line made specially for the prince’s procession. Four guards handpicked by his father escorted them. They were all dressed in traditional green and red tartans about their chests with long kilts that extended beyond the knees. Black tunics covered their chests and atop their heads were soft caps of green with black hems. The king wore an emerald doublet with buttons of emeralds adorning it’s edges and hems. His green and red tartan looped over his chest and under one arm while circling over the other shoulder. It was held in place by a diamond and emerald wolf brooch. He had forgone the kilt and wore britches in the plaid pattern of his tartan and a cloak of red with an ermine hem, dyed in green. His crown was a simple silver circlet with emeralds faceted around them.

John glanced at his son who looked upon him lovingly as they made their way to the pavilion. “Thank you da” Stiles replied in the old tongue of their people. He made a handsome picture in a green doublet studded with rubies and covered in a tartan of green and red, fastened with a wolf brooch like his father’s with rubies for eyes. His kilt was traditional green and red plaid and his cloak was a deep scarlet with green hemming of a similar fashion as his father’s. On his head was a broad golden circlet with emeralds and rubies studding it’s outer rim. He looked every bit the prince of royal blood he had been born.

As they neared the pavilion they passed many nobles and highborn guests who had been invited to witness the ceremony. They stood among the trees and the greenery like sentinels prepared to take watch. Each of them looked upon him with awe as he went by, some gasping and others smiling and whispering of his attractive garb and presence. Slowly but surely he got closer until he could see the stairs that elevated the pavilion up above the audience. On the raised platform stood the Lady Marin amidst the beauty and finery of the decoration. Then he saw him. Derek.

The king stood adjacent where his own path ended at the bottom of the stairs. He wore a gold and ivory doublet with intricate woven patterns in silver and twining gold. Badges of honour adorned the left side of his doublet hanging beneath a measure of silver chain which held his flowing gold cloak. His britches were ivory and his crown was exquisite and richly adorned. He stood waiting, Isaac, Deaton and Boyd at his back.

If there had been any doubt in Stiles’ mind whatsoever, it would have faded the moment he saw Derek notice him. The mixture of emotion that played along the king’s face told the story of his love and devotion in a way that words simply could not. First there was complete shock, as if he had not been expecting the man, as if he was seeing him for the first time. Then there was awe. An awe that contorted his entire face in a display that suggested he could hardly believe what he was looking at, and that it had simply taken his very breath away. Mingling with that awe came joy. His joy seemed greater than anything any one man could feel, like it were truly his greatest day of all his life. Finally a gratitude set about him that filled his eyes, with a shimmer that suggested he would spend his life thanking the gods for the gift that approached.

King John did not miss any of what Stiles had seen and his own face lit up with his approval. In that one moment, he knew he did not make the wrong choice blessing the union of his son to the man he had once loathed with his entire being. In Gaelic, he whispered to his son, “Go to your man. There is none I believe deserves you, my blessing, my boy. But I trust him to love you the way you deserve to be loved.” Stiles looked up at his father with shining eyes and thanked him before turning to his destiny.

He and Derek began walking simultaneously. Every step they both took felt completely right and like they were finally walking in the right direction. The direction their lives were meant to take. When they met in the middle, it was all they could do not to reach for each other. To take the other in a deep embrace and bind their lips as they were ready to bind their hearts and souls.

Derek’s smile was a spasm, as he tried to marshal his face into responding to conscious thought as opposed to the instinctual reaction of seeing his brightest future stand before him. “You are bright, and shining.” he said as his lips quivered and his eyes drank in Stiles like a flowing spring after a thousand miles of barren land. He lifted his palm and Stiles took it. Their hands buzzed with electricity as they touched and they both climbed the stairs to the waiting woman.

“A ceremony like this has not been held in quite some time.” Marin began, her voice carrying unusually well and powerfully for someone of her smaller stature who always spoke in such quiet tones. “I welcome the alpha king of England and the new British empire Derek Hale and the prince of Scotland Germin Stilinski. I welcome these honoured guests and witnesses to a binding of these two souls before your open hearts, and the eyes of the gods. The crucible that has brought these two together has been long and cruel. But out of the hottest and most terrifying fires, is forged the most beautiful and the strongest steel. So too will their bond be strong and unbreakable.”

She proceeded to call out blessings for some time in both English and Gaelic as they had agreed to bind the tradition of two great nations into the ceremony to make it equal and authentic for both English king and highland prince. Marin, in ancient traditional fashion blessed them both by the elements and called down the blessing of the gods upon them. She purified them before the audience by words, by spirit and by magick. When finally she called for them to raise their left hands, she took each in her own and spoke a few words in an old Gaelic so ancient not even Stiles could make out all the words.

When she was done she bid them leave their hands in the air and removed herself to bring forth a goblet and a dagger. Slicing a wound into the palm of both their hands, she held the goblet beneath each of their hands and allowed the blood to drip into the cup until the wound sealed in both of them. “As your blood twines so does your being until you are both one. Drink.” Marin handed the cup first to Derek, who took it quickly and put it to his lips. Staring into the eyes of his lover, he tipped his head back and swallowed a measure of the coppery mix, then handed it back. Marin then handed the cup to Stiles who did the same without hesitation.

After receiving the cup again, the lady set down the dagger behind her on the table from which she had taken it and the goblet. She reached into the cup and pulled out two rings. Both were made of silver but seemed to shimmer with gold when looked upon closely. Both seemed completely clean of the blood that had mingled in the goblet where they had been housed. “These rings are but a symbol of your binding as one, a representation of your commitment and sign of your devotion. They have been forged by the same magick that allows wolf kind’s transformation one way and then the other, so that they need never be removed as they will reshape to fit you even when the change comes upon you.”

She handed one ring to Derek and the other to Stiles. “Place your rings upon the hand of your mate and gift with it the bite of claiming.” Derek went first. Fingering the ring so that he held it with two fingers, the opening held over Stiles’ right ring finger, he slipped it down and it fit perfectly. His face began to transform as he took the humanoid wolf appearance, hair bursting along his jaw line and his teeth lengthening and widening, before he lowered his head to Stiles bared throat and sank his teeth in. He broke the skin and felt a grumble of satisfaction and a jolt of electricity arc between them as his tongue caressed at the skin around his teeth. When he let the man go his eyes were burning scarlet and Stiles’ was a glowing emerald.

Stiles too had changed as Derek bit into him once the man had drawn back he wasted no time slipping the ring onto Derek’s left ring finger and then leaned in to bite the alpha’s bared throat. Derek growled with satisfaction, an answer to Stiles’ rumble of pleasure. Again a tingle of electricity seemed to buzz between them. When he pulled back. Stiles stared at the light bleeding in the throat of his lover. It would not heal so quickly, mating marks never did, even though the ritual biting that bound them as mates was only half completed. They would need to have sex and bite each other again to finish the act. But this part, brought the public ceremony of life mating, the part that was witnessed by those of the realm, to a close.

Derek’s smile, brought Stiles’ attention to his lips which he licked and in so doing, swiped away at the blood that stained them temporarily. Stiles did the same, feeling the wetness on his own lips and savoured the taste of his lover’s life fluid on his tongue.

“No more two separate lives but bound forever more now as one. Life mates from your present breaths to your very last. King mates until the end of your days. Kiss your mate and seal this contract, in love.” Stiles took a deep breath and the grin that bloomed on his face after hearing those words only broadened, and could only be matched by Derek’s who set on him, barely needing a prompt.

Taking him into broad muscular arms, the king Derek took his newly made king mate Stiles and brought their lips together in a possessive and passionate kiss. The electricity that arced between them became a fire that burned their skins from the inside out. Stiles felt the slick surge of his lover’s tongue pushing at his lips seeking entrance and he gave no resistance. His own tongue sought the other man’s and they danced together in a joyous waltz of ecstatic physical pleasure. Stiles could feel his heart fluttering as the new relationship between them seemed to make their kisses all that different or changed or evolved. He couldn’t find the right word in his head, so he let thought go and allowed his body to define for him what he felt now as he expressed it mashed up against Derek.

The two kings barely heard the eruption of cheers and calls of blessings around them as they held each other. Derek’s arm wound around Stiles waist and his hand fitted against the man’s back while Stiles’ arms twined around his neck drawing him close. “I give you the Hale Kings of the new British Empire,” Marin called out and without effort her voice seemed to be heard through all the noise.

Pulling back so that he could lay his forehead against Stiles’ Derek closed his eyes and whispered, “Finally you’re mine, my highland prince, my Scottish spitfire, mate of my life.”

“And you mine,” Stiles replied and switching to Gaelic he said, “mo rìgh a-muigh, mo chridhe Beurla, mo ghràdh, (my outlander king, my English heart, my only love).”

The grand banquet that followed the ceremony was a raucous affair of laughter and happiness. The guests of the wedding were put up on long tables and chairs that had been set up in a wide expanse of field, within the wood that had been cleared of a few extra trees so that it could accommodate the vast number of guests. The space had been beautifully decorated like the pavilion built for the affair, complete with ribbons, flowers and this time with the magnificent addition of large sculptures carved and moulded specifically for the special day.

The king mates first received the gifts brought by all their guests which was a long and sometimes amusing engagement. There was no lack for riches, ornate, jewel encrusted artifacts, tapestries and paintings and prized books often one of a kinds. Stiles’ treasured most of all the journals his mother had kept, which his father had presented to him, along with a set of empty paged books that were meant to be filled with his own experiences.

After all the gifts had been given and thanks had been said to all who had come forth, they sat to feast on many courses of delicious and appetizing creations. The kings as part of tradition were presented first with the dishes prepared after which they would direct choice portions to those that had earned their great favour. Despite the abundance of foods they had to go through, the event remained a pleasurable and joyous occasion, that with much conversation and laughter slipped away more quickly even than they had wished it to. And they had both wished it.

Derek was gravely aware of his terrible desire to bed his mate. Though he sometimes was distracted by a joke from Isaac or some well wisher who begged a moment to speak fortune upon his life and his union to his king mate the throbbing ache inside of him for Stiles, the stiff weight of his body in reaction to it’s lack of joining with Stiles, the very heart beat he constantly heard thrumming in the background of his entire day, which belonged to Stiles kept bringing him right back.

So when the sun had finally gone down, the last honeyed cake and other sticky confection had been served, he was more than eager to signal the end of the feast and the beginning of the run. All the nobles and highborns had been invited to follow the kings back to the pavilion with human attendants, who would be responsible for keeping the garb of their masters while they took to the vast forests.

Derek took Stiles by the hand and nearly ran with him back to where they had put rings upon each other. The full moon was just cresting the high trees when they all stood naked in the forest, humans holding their clothing. Stiles remembered the first time he ran with the king and how he’d been less than happy to be naked in front of the man. A man he ended up lying with when the sun had rose the next day, his body knowing then what his entire being did now.

This time there was no fear, no reluctance. He revelled in being naked before his mate. Watching the man’s eyes burn with desire as he regarded his younger lover’s beautiful naked form with adoration and lust. He licked his lips when he saw the rigid form of Derek’s manhood pointing straight ahead, too heavy to rise any higher. It was angry and reddened at the tip and throbbing for release. He could scent the salty pre-cum that beaded at the slit in his bulbous head, half covered by velvety flesh stretching to accommodate the hardened length. He knew he had incited such a reaction when he had maintained eye contact with Derek as he seductively shed his clothing, ensuring he bared his behind to the man’s full viewing pleasure when it came time to remove his britches.

Derek would have taken him then and there in front of all the nobles and reviving another ancient tradition if it weren’t for King John who stood nearby and glared at him and his excited physical presentation. Stiles had caught his father’s eyes and saw the wink and smile that was flashed to him. As they waited for the wolf kind before them to quiet, Stiles brushed his hand against his mate’s most powerful male flesh and received a fierce warning growl for his teasing. Derek regarded him with fiery red eyes and grabbed him firmly to plant a kiss on his lips with harsh passion. When he released his mouth, Derek licked at the healed mark on Stiles’ throat, let his teeth scrape which drew a jerk forth from Stiles’ cock before he whispered in a guttural tone against the man’s ear, “You best run little wolf.”

Turning back the king threw back his head already shifted and let out a howl which took on further depth and body in it’s tone as his body completed a full transformation. Black fur sprouted all over him. His head became smaller and his jaw jutted as it became a wolf’s muzzle. His hands and feet changed to paws and as promised his mating ring seemed to grow and shape to the digit of his paw, where it became secured nearly as part of his paw itself.

His call was joined by the others surrounding him as they all shifted to full wolf form. The alpha in him was pleased to receive the answer of his pack but that lay at the periphery of his mind as the instinct which dominated him most of all, was the need to claim his mate’s body and finish the ritual that bound them as one.

Stiles now a perfectly white furred wolf, scenting his mate’s desire and clearly sensing his intent, did not wait for the alpha to make the first move. For all intents and purposes, Derek was physically incapable of leading the pack, not when he was entirely focused on Stiles. Furthermore, now that Stiles was also king he had just as much right to lead as his mate. So, the white wolf shot off in a burst of speed that made it look like lightning had struck through the trees beyond the clearing of the pavilion. Derek wasted no time, bounding after the wolf, and following him all the other wolves darted out through the forest. At first, they general made one large pack heading in a singular direction but soon enough they all broke off in separate groupings. They all knew that they would probably not see the alpha and the alpha mate again for the evening and thus left them to their devices.

Stiles led Derek on a heated chase, running for miles and miles, keeping a good lead on him for some time until, the black wolf, tired of chasing, increased his own speed and began herding the prince, now king mate around. It wasn’t until the white wolf bounded into a clearing that he realized his mate had tricked him into going back to the pavilion. He had but a moment to realize where he was before the enormous black wolf hurtled into him, sending the two of them rolling to the foot of the stairs. The shock of the hit forced the transformation out of Stiles who barely had a chance to catch his breath as Derek changed on top of him and kept him pinned to the ground.

His eyes were glowing blazing red and his lips were curled back growling. The answering green glow of Stiles eyes were as dazzling. He snapped his jaws at the alpha atop him who howled. It was both a shout of triumph and a warning to the other wolves not to come this way. He wouldn’t be responsible for any throats he ripped out, of men or women who interrupted what he was about to do.

Stiles struggled underneath him, writhing and bucking, the actions only serving to inflame Derek more. He grabbed both of the man’s hands with one of his own and stretched them above his head to hold them down. With the other hand he first grasped at the man’s throat so he could hold him steady while he took possession of his mouth. The kiss was vicious and wet. In the moment far more animal than human. Derek almost licked the inside of Stiles mouth with his tongue before releasing his snarling jaw.

Letting go of his mate’s throat Derek thrust two of his fingers into Stiles’ mouth and growled as Stiles clamped his lips around them and suckled, his eyes still a burning emerald. The alpha worked his fingers in the man’s mouth reaching in deep and pulling back before going deep again, fucking his mouth and throat with fingers until they were nice and soaked with saliva.

Derek pulled his fingers free then and lowered them down the body of the man beneath him. He used a knee to separate the highlander’s legs and instantly worked his wet fingers beneath the curve of cheeks he found there. Stiles moaned as he felt wetness approaching his most sensitive place. Derek stroked him. Sliding his fingers up and down over the tight ring of muscles that puckered, expanded and contracted beneath him.

Cries of need and desperate desire came keening out of the younger wolf as he wiggled himself along the firm wetness that teased and taunted his hungry hole. Stiles had never had his body made so crazy by sexual desire. He had never even had his body touched by another in such a manner and now he found he never wanted it to stop, and needed it to be over all at once, if only so that he could replace the exquisite torture of fingers with Derek’s hardened cock.

“Gnnnn,” he groaned as Derek continued to tease him, a frenzied expression on his face.

“Mine,” he growled, over the bucking and grinding man. “Say it!”

Stiles continued to wiggle and fight enjoying it but not quite ready to lay down and submit. The wolf in him needing to be dominated as much as it needed to be sexually fulfilled. Derek released his hands and in a flash had his head between the man’s legs. He held his thighs firm and burrowed his face between the man’s cheeks before darting his tongue out in a swift experimental lick of his tight rosebud.

“Rrrraaaaa,” Stiles cried, his head tossing back while his hands grabbed for the king’s hair. The next time Derek’s tongue deployed, was no experiment. He laved the length of his tongue along the ring of tightly coiled muscles, swiping slowly up and then down and again before circling rhythmically. Stiles was thrashing under him. Barely able to control the contorting of his body. Only held to Derek’s head by the supernatural strength with which the alpha bound his ass where he could reach.

Derek’s tongue was a wicked precursor to the pleasures that awaited, warm slickness twirling and twirling, winding around his hole and then swiping across the entrance before brushing against it, as though it would dig its way inside and then darting to circle the outer rim again with wicked intent. Stiles screamed his pleasure. He had never felt anything so completely delicious and so completely excruciating at the same time.

Derek relinquished his torture just long enough to growl out the words, “Say it.” Still the king mate would not relent and Derek growled as he this time, darted his tongue into the hole, digging inside with swirling thrusts which forced Stiles’ eyes to roll so far back in his head in ecstasy, he feared he may never find his sight again. Bursts of frictional pleasure emanated from his hole which was being moistened both from without and within as that evil and beautiful tongue worked him over and worked him deep.

Derek plunged in and out each time doing some acrobatic dance with his tongue until his lover was arching his back and thrashing his head side to side violently while wild cries and grunts of mad pleasure escaped him, filling the night with sounds of foreplay. Suddenly Derek pulled his tongue free and rose between the man’s legs. Stiles shot forward in response, roaring his displeasure but the alpha only pushed him back down hard with a firm hand on his sweat glistened chest.

Derek then slid a finger, excruciatingly slowly into Stiles’ rapidly winking hole. He worked it round and round on it’s way in and Stiles found himself slapping the man’s face in response. Derek threw his head back and laughed a manly cackling mixture of rumbles and growls as he pulled his finger out and shoved it in again. He picked up the rhythm of his swirling finger before pulling it out and then slipping in a second.

Stiles felt the burn of his most sensitive space opening up, before it was quickly accompanied and then replaced by a sweet sensation of beautiful friction as the fingers caressed a part of him, inside of him that made his every nerve feel like it was being licked with extraordinary tongues of electricity. His cock began leaking and throb with it’s own need for release.

Then with cruel slowness Derek lowered his body beneath the man’s legs and positioned his mouth over the leaking and bobbing tip of Stiles cock. “Say it!,” he growled loudly the heat brushing against Stiles cock and making it jerk violently. Stiles thrashed his head back and forth. He was being overtaken by a conflagration of delight, but even in the depth of his madness the wolf in him held out. Derek grunted in response and then swiped his tongue down the underside of his man’s cock in a slow and languorous exploratory lick. Stiles’ eyes widened in shock and adoration. He panted but could not speak.

Derek licked him again and the combination of fingers plunging mercilessly into his hot core and tongue swiping a throbbing dick that sent large and glossy beads of his male juice, dripping everywhere, leaving long thin strings dancing about as his stiff cock danced like a marionette in the air was too much. Those same thin strings, liquid evidence of his pleasure, painted Derek’s face. “Please,” Stiles gasped.

“Say it!” Derek replied and this time he swallowed the angry red head of his lover’s weeping man meat. Stiles felt fire swallow him whole. The alpha sucked on his head with ferocity while plunging his fingers deep into his lover before pulling them out completely and not replacing them like the young highlander had come to expect. Then he drew his head off the man’s member and quickly held him pinned to the ground by his neck.

As the younger man lashed out at him with his hands, he grabbed them and pinned them over his head as he did before with one hand and then held him down by his neck again. “Mine.” He growled and the word lingered as a guttural declaration and command. Stiles bucked and thrashed a little more but could not take it. Not that onslaught of such maddening delight only to be replaced by such offensive emptiness. He needed hands on him. He needed that mouth taking him into it’s warmth. He needed his tight hole filled to capacity and he had no more will left to fight the alpha bearing down on him, working to claim him with not just force but by showing him, he could be a fount of pleasure and just as easily he could take it all away.

“I. Am.” he gritted out through clenched teeth, “Yours!” he screamed wildly.

“Yes!” Derek agreed, smiling for an instant before he kissed his man again with brutish passion, their tongues duelling and dancing in their union. The alpha lowered himself, then positioned his body between the man’s legs. He felt wetness brushing his raging cock and could barely keep from grinding his body into that slick brush of flesh. He released the hands he held pinned and grabbed at the highlander’s thigh, elevating it. With the same hand he guided the head of his eager cock to the slick now dripping entrance. That tight ring of muscles that continued to twitch in anticipation, in instinctual need to take his man’s body deep and grip it with the firm tightness of his own. When Derek felt his throbbing tip slipping into the opening and closing flesh of his lover’s ass he plunged himself deep.

Both men threw their head’s back and howled. The sound bellowed through the night echoing through the trees, sending birds flying off into the distance. Wolves gallivanting through the dark paused and howled in joyous response to the sounds of mating.

Derek didn’t feel the tear that trickled down his cheek. He was too taken, overwhelmed by the pleasure of Stiles’ hot wet place tightening around the base of his cock as he seated himself deep in his mate. It gripped him like a vice and would not let him go for a while. He felt claws scraping at his back ripping furrows into his flesh that left the copper scented tang of his blood permeating the air.

He lifted himself so that he was propped on his knees and lowered his hand from the man’s throat to his hips where he could hold him down so he could thrust with reckless abandon. His cock plunged in and pulled out again and again as he fucked his lover hard and fast, with barbarity and such violent passion. The hot wet silk of Stiles’ body closing around him relentlessly was the most exquisite thing he had ever experienced.

He pulled back just enough that he could watch his domination. The alpha held the ankles of his lover and pinned them down arching back so that he could see the hole tugging on his rock hard cock as it stabbed that sensitive slick place. The inner flesh of the man’s body holding so tightly to the alpha that some of it drew out of him still firmly wrapped around the stiff member.

Derek found he began to shift the closer he rose to his climax. And how it came upon him with such anticipated urgency. Every movement, every thrust another rung ascended on the ladder to the stars and beyond. Stiles was wailing and groaning, throwing his body against Derek’s and then reaching for him so that the alpha had to leave off his ankles and pick him up off the ground. They manoeuvred themselves so that Derek slid his hands under Stiles’ back and flipped him up to straddle him as he sat on the ground, legs spread wide, dick lodged firmly inside the highlander. Derek tightened his hold on Stiles even as the man began to ride him. With feet planted firmly on the ground just behind the alphas butt he moved vigorously thrusting his hips forward and back, up and down so that every motion squeezed and jerked the alpha’s cock.

The air was filled with their pants and cries. Stiles felt a strange buzzing behind his navel and in the depth of his core, initiated by his now long strokes taking him up almost the whole length of Derek’s swollen manhood and then back down, until his cheeks slammed against the alpha’s thighs and his muscles choked the base of his cock. His dick rubbing between his and Derek’s stomachs pressed together by their tight embrace began to fill with a sweet and urgent sensation. He felt Derek’s hands grip at his waist again and force him down in quick hard thrusts and suddenly, he was exploding, erupting like a volcano. His body bursting in a shocking resonance of power and pleasure. There was slick wetness bursting between him and Derek just as he felt hot spasms inside his body where Derek was still stabbing his warm and stretched ass hole deep and fast. He felt himself filling and flooding as Derek cried out and then lunged forward to bury his fangs in Stiles’ neck. Stiles found himself screaming as a pleasure he thought could not be topped found a new peak, and then by instinct he buried his own fangs in Derek’s shoulder.

The two held each other so tight it was almost as though if either let go they might fall upward into the sky and out of the earth. Derek was still shooting streams of hot milk in Stiles’ depths. He felt it running down his cheeks, felt it sloshing inside him as the alpha continued to jerk his cock inside the twitching hole. Stiles couldn’t control his body. His tight muscles clenched in spasms and each spasm made the king grunt and cry.

Stiles was thoroughly filled and covered in cum and he had never been more contented. Or at least he thought he hadn’t until he felt Derek’s knot expanding inside of him binding them tightly where they sat entwined. As the heavy thickness grew within him, they released their teeth from the other and their foreheads met as if drawn like steel to a lodestone.

“Mine,” Derek moaned on a harsh expulsion of breath.

“Tha,” Yes, Stiles agreed in his mother tongue of Scots Gaelic his mind and body so rocked he reverted to the most familiar and natural language to him. “Is mise leatsa. Agus is tusa a tha ann.” I am yours. And you are mine, his words came out in tired pants.

“Always,” Derek finished for them as if instinctively he knew exactly what had been said, his wolf translating the love in the gaelic words through the mate bond threads that had been forged between them. He squeezed Stiles in his arms which caused the highlander’s hole to clamp down on his sensitive knot again making him jerk with terrifying delight.

“I have never... felt anything... like that.” Stiles admitted huffing, trying to find a steady rhythm of breathing. “Is it always like that? Sex I mean.”

Derek regarded him with utter adoration and a hunger that never dissipated. “I have never felt anything like that either Stiles. Sex has never been like this. Only with you... and I can’t wait to do it again and again and again...” Stiles silenced him with soft tender kisses. Now that the fury of their first mating had passed and the ferocious intent of their wolves’ desire had been sated tenderness could have its moment between them.

“I love you,” Stiles whispered against Derek’s lips, then he chastely kissed him again before Derek responded.

“I love you.”

It was a long time before Derek’s knot subsided and they happily passed it kissing each other softly, gently. Derek’s alpha wolf delighted in the scent of Stiles all over his skin and his own scent emanating from within the man. When they were able to separate, he led Stiles up the stairs of the pavilion and lay him on his back down onto the carpet. He intended to pleasure him some more, this time more tenderly more lovingly and less animalistic as could not be avoided with their first time, with their claiming, especially after avoiding it for so long.

Stiles surprised him by throwing him onto his back. When the alpha was about to ask what he was doing, Stiles silenced his lips with a delicate kiss.He raised off smiling sweetly, but his eyes were filled with incredible need and a powerful love. He kissed a trail down the man’s neck and onto his chest. His tongue swiping out to flick his nipple and then his lips closed around each of them while he sucked and swirled his tongue across the hardened buds. Stiles continued his journey down Derek’s hard body, licking through the grooves of his abs and swiping his tongue inside his navel making the alpha gasp beneath him for the exciting feelings that can be brought about by such restrained gentle love play. He kissed at Derek’s thighs and buried his nose in the dark curls that adorned the base of the alpha’s already hardening shaft.

By the time Stiles swiped an experimental lick along Derek’s dick it was firm and ready for his attention. Derek eyed him intensely and Stiles kept the gaze, as he slowly let the head pop into the moist cavern of his mouth. Derek groaned impatiently as his lover tested the depth of his mouth. Stiles watched him as he tasted the alpha, taking him deeper and deeper. He wanted to see what Derek would like most about how his mouth worked him, he wanted to train himself to pleasure his mate with every part of his body, to learn every action, every little skill he could teach himself that would bring the most delicious response out of the man beneath him.

He let his tongue rub against the underside of the alpha’s shaft as he loosely went up and down on his cock so that it became sloppy with his saliva. When he was finished he slid his tongue in lithe circles around the shaft, swirling his way up to the head. As he kept his eyes on Derek, watched the man’s eyelids flutter and heard his heart speed up, watched his head twist to one side and then another, a rumble of satisfaction emanated from his chest and throat and that made Derek buck and shake beneath him as vibrations shot through his sensitized shaft. Stiles licked at the slit at the tip of Derek’s head and loved the way it made the alpha groan, before he dived down again to take the length of him deep.

Derek jerked when Stiles tightened his lips around the base of his cock and made as though he were swallowing. Stiles found he loved the taste of Derek’s flesh in his mouth and lost himself in servicing his mate. The sound of the man’s moans and grunts of ecstasy was music in his ears. He could feel the thrum of the man’s heartbeat in his stiff shaft. Sucking on him was like eating your favourite food when it was a rare occurrence. You wanted to savour every little bit even while you wanted to consume it all in one gulp.

He found his fingers scraping at the flesh of Derek’s thighs and down his legs as he gorged himself on the man’s cock. Then he was lifting Derek’s thighs the way the alpha had done him so he could get a better access to the treasure that lay hidden between his cheeks. Not neglecting the man’s balls, he suckled on them, one then the other and then back again, before tracing his way down the short patch of flesh that led to the mans tight and tiny entrance. Stiles licked up and watched Derek’s entire body tighten above him, watched the shudder that broke out make his body vibrate. He smiled as he licked down and then up again. The uncontrolled jerks of his lover’s body sending such a thrill thrumming through his own.

“Mine,” he said with a grin and Derek’s brows arched as he noted with amusement how the roles had been thoroughly reversed. Stiles then discovered the depths of his love’s hole with his tongue, exploring the inside of him first shallowly then going deeper and deeper, mimicking the moves the alpha had used on him prior. Derek cried in high pitched keens that Stiles didn’t realize he was capable of.

“Yours,” Derek breathed before adding, “Fingers...”

Stiles jerked his tongue out and climbed his lover kissing him before replacing his mouth with his fingers so Derek could suck on them with wide delighted eyes. He ensure they were sopping wet and Stiles made his way right back down where he inserted one finger tentatively. This drew a wince from Derek and a tightening of his rosebud. Stiles thrilled at the feel of it and wondered what that would feel like around his cock, which dripped with an eagerness to find out.

He began to work the alpha who did a slightly better job of containing his delectation than Stiles had. Once two fingers had replaced one though, when his hole stretched more open Derek lost that control. His head thrashed and shook as his body shuddered. His muscles clenched and Stiles found himself thrusting his fingers faster and faster until it wasn’t enough. He leaned down as he finger fucked his mate and swallowed the man’s cock to it’s base. Derek cried out at that and lost a fresh build up of his man’s cream in Stiles’ throat. The highlander giggled at such a loss of control and the vibration made Derek shoot more furiously, once twice, again. Stiles worked his head up and down until the thick dick in his mouth seemed to have been emptied. And he had swallowed every last drop. He eased off it with a pop and lowered himself to lick Derek’s passage as he pulled his fingers out.

Thinking himself free, Derek relaxed only to be jolted back to attention when Stiles slipped his cock head inside the man’s loosened entrance. He slid himself in slowly and Derek moaned loudly, almost a cry of protest at his slowness. Stiles began to thrust himself into his lover. Stroking his hole slow at first and then deeper. Stiles felt like velvet over iron to Derek who relished the fullness he had never allowed any man to inflict upon him. But with this man it was perfection. “Stiles,” he moaned and the sound of his name on his lover’s lips while his tightness groped and gripped him spurred the highlander on.

He moved faster. He lowered himself to kiss the king, his mate while his pelvis thrust forward faster and faster. The tug of Derek’s tightness made him crazy and he found he wasn’t long for his orgasm. Feeling that familiar tugging sensation from within he kissed Derek more frantically and fucked him more wildly until on a final pump of his tightly gripped cock he spilled his seed inside his alpha. His cry was lost in Derek’s mouth.

Derek wound his ass in circles so that aftershocks of powerful pleasure rippled throughout Stiles. When the man had finished emptying himself Derek wiggled his lover’s dick free and repositioned himself behind Stiles’ temporarily weakened body. He lay atop him and slid his still engorged cock between the highlander’s cheeks. Stiles made a gasping oh sound which made his hole twitch and Derek’s cock thrummed in response.

He was slow this time. He lowered himself with maddening patience filling Stiles out an inch at a time and took him that way to temper the fury with which he had had him at first. Their bodies ground together as he bottomed out, fitting perfect within and against each other. Derek tilted them to a side so that they were spooning, and he threw an arm over his highland lover as he rocked back and forth. The rhythm was an intimate dance between the two of them. They moved like that , kissing and moaning into each other’s mouths until Derek, dizzy and unable to hold himself back any longer squirted another filling of his seed deep into his highland prince, now his king mate. He came so much that it began to flood the man’s hole yet again and spill out around the place where the base of his cock was being held hostage by Stiles’ tight rosebud. Again his wolf seemed to thrill with merriment at the scent of himself filling his mate inside and out.

As Derek’s knot grew again he turned them both on their side and held his lover tightly as the cool night winds washed over them and the sounds of night creatures lulled them to sleep. The last thing Stiles heard as he drifted off comfortably in the arms of his only love, was Derek’s umpteenth confession, “I love you.”

***

I’m a droplet in a sea of nothing,

Looking for another to combine,

Maybe we can be the start of something,

Be together at the start of time.

There’s a ghost upon the more tonight,

Now it’s in our house,

When you walked into the room just then,

It’s like the sun came out


Excerpt from the song ‘Start of Time’

written by Germin Stiles Stilinski

King of the New British Empire

1635


~1643~

The litter that bore the royal Hale family was a simple carriage with the crest of their family carved into it’s doors. This crest had changed over the years prompted by both the union of Scotland and the rest of the new british empire, as well as the life mating of Stiles and Derek Hale. The new crest was a snow white wolf crowned with a gold circlet with green emeralds dotting it’s outer rim and a black wolf crowned with a silver circlet with ruby studs, raised on their hind legs and touching their forward paws together as they stared into each other’s gleaming emerald and scarlet eyes.

It was pulled along by four large horses two black and two white, the colour choice something of a theme with the family. Stiles stared out the window of his door as they pulled into the gates of the palace. A smile blossomed on his face in anticipation of being reunited with his mate who he could just about make out standing with a small group of men and women awaiting their arrival in the courtyard.

“It’s alright Jamie,” came the soft musical tones of Stiles’ five year old daughter princess Claudia Marie. Stiles turned to see why she needed to reassure her younger brother of four, prince James William. Jamie was pouting and looking very sullenly out the window of the other door.

Are you still upset mo ghràdh?” Stiles cued with a questioning smile on his face. He leaned in closer and grabbed the boy right up off his seat, and into his arms tickling him relentlessly. He did not stop until his youngest son began to giggle with such fervour that he lost his breath. His sister and brother, twin siblings joined the laughter and assisted their da in tickling Jamie.

Claudia, Trystan, I think he’s had enough wouldn’t you say?” Stiles said, speaking to his other children. Jamie was still laughing on his lap and was so amused he could no longer find the frown he had lost when his da had started.

Aye da, his definitely had enough.” Trystan said rather articulately. It made Stiles grin with pride. Trystan Peter and his twin sister Claudia looked so much like himself and his mother the late Queen Claudia of Scotland. Claudia had her beautiful glossy hair and dainty nose. She carried her bright and beautiful brown eyes that looked golden when the light hit them and her lips were the same plump cupid’s bow. Trystan carried similar features to his sister but his eyes were shaped much more like Stiles and were darker brown like his as well. Jamie was an almost perfect blend of Stiles and Derek’s features. He had Derek’s hazel green eyes and Stiles’ prominent nose and a mouth that looked like he’d taken Derek’s lower lip and Stiles’ upper and placed them together in his cherubic face.

How’s about I get Lord Boyd to take you on the ponies when your father is through hugging and kissing you until you’re red.” Stiles propositioned with gleaming eyes, love shining in them.

Oh please da,” he squeaked with a high pitched voice that would not break for years to come. He rocked in his father’s lap in his excitement.

We have a bargain then, now be a good lad and put all that pouting to bed hmm.” Jamie already too happy from the giggles brought on by the tickles and now the prospect of riding, the denial of which is why he had been sad in the first place, nodded excitedly as Stiles put him back on his seat. The thought of his four year old boy riding a horse from Scotland to England was absolutely out of the question.

We’re here!” Trystan announced as the litter came to a halt.

Stiles’ door opened and he took the familiar proffered hand that appeared to help him get out. Normally he would not require such aid but nearing the end of his sixth month of pregnancy with another child of his mate’s had made him tired all the time and weary of tumbling from high places, even if those places were a few feet off the ground.

Welcome home my Scottish spitfire,” Derek said emphatically in Gaelic. He picked Stiles up under his arms then and set him on his feet before embracing him tightly, drawing back only to kiss him with all the passion that had built up in their few days apart. “I’m sorry I had to leave ahead of you and the children.”

Stiles only smiled up at him, impressed with the cadence of his tone and the perfection of his pronunciation. In English he responded, “Your Gaelic gets better with every day mo chridhe. You make me proud.”

Welcome home da,” a voice from behind his mate garnered his attention and Stiles looked to see his eldest son standing there, looking as regal as his father in a matching doublet and britches of green and a half cape of burgundy billowing lightly behind him in the breeze. His jet black hair was expertly coiffed and his little face was nearly a picture of Derek’s as Stiles would imagine him at that age. Prince Charles Brandon looked so much like his father.

And what is this, come here and hug your da boy or are you not happy to see me home,” Stiles teased.

Of course I am da,” The boy smiled and then rushed forward to wrap his arms around his da. Stiles leaned down to kiss him just as the other three children came gracefully down out of the litter aided by Deaton and Boyd. They rushed to their father, who had left Scotland with Charles over a week before they had departed, as there was urgent business in London that at least one of the kings needed attend. And with Stiles being pregnant, naturally Derek had to pick up the slack. He had taken Charles because the boy had insisted he be allowed to accompany his father and continue to learn all there was to learn about ruling the empire . He had made such a marvellous argument in his favour, that neither of his fathers could say no.

Claudia, Jamie and Trystan, all greeted their father, before Jamie ran over to Lord Boyd who picked him up and listened intently as the boy informed him of how they were to go riding on ponies. Stiles glanced at the man, smiled and nodded approvingly so the man knew it was actually his wish.

How fares our youngest lad?” Derek said resting a hand atop Stiles protruding stomach.

Lad?” Stiles raised a brow. “This bairn is definitely to be a lassie I can promise you that.”

How do you know?” Derek prodded.

After the other four mo chridhe I know. Trust me.”

Derek laughed and took Stiles by the hand to lead him into the castle, his other hand holding onto his daughter’s while Trystan and his older brother Charles walked alongside each other and caught up. “Anything interesting happen after we took leave?”

Oh nothing out of the ordinary. Father insist that Charles grow up a little faster so he can come rule Scotland. He thinks he’s too old and tired.” Stiles relayed the information with good humour. His father often teased he was getting too old to rule the country.

What, John is as spry as he has ever been.”

That’s what I tell him but you know da. Oh and Danny and Koda came to visit. Being an Irish prince truly suits our Daniel.”

I’m sorry I missed that,” Derek pouted. Over the years, he had developed a grudging respect for Koda which turned into a genuine friendship that extended to his brother. When Danny had asked leave to be mated to the prince, Derek could not find a single reason to deny either of his friends their happiness.

Has Lydia returned?”

Yes she and Jackson rode in four days ago...”

Thank the Gods. She is not allowed to leave again until this one comes,” Stiles pat his stomach gingerly. He and Lydia had become very close over the last seven years. The woman had been present through all of his pregnancies and he had returned the favour for hers. He had taken to calling her a good luck charm and she was only too happy to be available when he needed. She loved his kids as though they were her own and he felt quite the same toward her two girls and one boy.

Luckily she has reported that her parents keep Denmark well in hand and so she should not be required to make another visit for some time. I suggested she bring the children to the castle and remain at court until the end of the year. I thought that might please you.”

Aye mo chridhe, it does. You please me, very much.” Derek gave him a swift kiss on the lips as they entered through the doors of their castle with their children while Deaton followed with their guards in toe.

Well I did promise to spend the rest of our lives being worthy of your love, mo croí a shealbhú.”