Stiles threw himself in to work. While he wouldn’t be able to be king until his father’s passing, he could still start to improve the Kingdom now. He passed laws against the use of magic on memories. He strengthened the political ties between Animas and Beacon. Stiles even began correspondence with the Southern and Eastern Continents.
Everyone was impressed with the young prince. He was really improving the Kingdom. Things were looking better in places that people hadn’t even realized needed improvement. Resources were being refined to create better instruments and tools. Buildings were stronger and the Kingdom prospered. Irrigation channels were built and the crops were growing healthier and in larger harvests. Beacon hadn’t ever seen better days. If the Crown Prince was already doing so much good as he was, the citizens couldn’t wait to see what good he would do as their king.
Stiles turned around to see who had addressed him. He felt a smile stretch his lips.
“If you would excuse me gentlemen,” he said. The men he had been speaking with bowed their heads politely and moved on to other conversations.
Stiles turned completely and faced the person who had called out to him. He knew the smile on his face was genuine. There were very few people who were able to address him so impersonally. The woman walking towards him was draped in a flowing dress of rich scarlet silk. It cinched in tight at her waist and dipped scandalously low. But she could care less about what the old-fashioned women of the court thought of her. She was her own person and no one would ever change her. Besides, she usually had bigger things on her mind to worry about.
Stiles swept the woman up in to his arms and spun her around. She laughed and smiled brightly at him when he returned her to the ground.
“This is quite the soiree you’ve put on tonight,” she commented, gesturing with her hand at the party.
Stiles shrugged, “Lydia planned it all,” he returned her smile, “She said since I’m twenty-one now and could take over the throne at any moment, it was a momentous occasion and it should be celebrated properly,”
“Properly as in with expensive imported brews, food provided by local farmers, and with well-dressed men?”
“But of course,” Stiles grinned, “Is there any other way?”
Stiles’ face softened slightly. He took her in his arms once more.
“I’m glad you’re doing well, Erica,” he whispered.
Erica let out a small breath and squeezed Stiles gently.
“You as well,” she responded softly, “You don’t visit enough. We worry about you Stiles,”
“I know,” he pulled back, “But you kind of lose track of time when you’re saving the world, you know?”
Erica nodded. She adjusted his collar and brushed something from his shoulder.
“He would have been proud of you,” she whispered. Stiles could hear her choking on her own emotions.
“He would have wanted to be here—by your side,”
Stiles felt his heart clench painfully. The smile on his face dimmed slightly. As if he needed to be reminded. Every time Stiles closed his eyes, Derek was there. He was in everything Stiles did. Even now Derek was in Stiles’ thoughts. He would have stood along the walls of the ballroom, keeping a constant vigil for any trouble. He would be wearing that same black outfit that he always insisted on wearing at formal events. They were every bit a part of him as his blood was and there was nothing about that for him to be ashamed of. Stiles would bother him for his hand. Derek would roll his eyes and reply with something along the lines of not having a dance card. So Stiles would pout and go find the cutest young lord or duke to dance with. Then, something in to the night, someone would tap on Stiles’ shoulder. He would turn to see Derek scowling as he gave him a sweeping bow. He would ask for this dance in a low, annoyed growl. Stiles would grin and accept only to be quickly swept off his feet on to the dance floor.
“Don’t do that again,” Derek would say lowly right in Stiles’ ear.
“Do what?” Would be Stiles’ coy reply.
Again Derek would roll his eyes, “Let others touch you as if they had any right,”
Stiles’ face would redden. But he would crowd closer to Derek and rest his face in the crook of the other man’s neck. Stiles’ life would be perfect in that moment—safe in Derek’s embrace.
Stiles took a deep, shuddering breath. He smiled weakly at Erica.
“I promise I’ll visit more often, all right?”
She stared at him for a moment, biting her lip. Could she see the ghosts that haunted him during his every waking moment? Did she see the effects of the phantom caresses that plagued him even at night? Eventually, she simply nodded at Stiles. He then excused himself politely and disappeared in to the crowd of party goers.
Scott paced back and forth across the lawn of the church. He was wringing his hands and his eyes moved restlessly across the ground. Stiles sighed dramatically and reached out to grab his friend.
“Scott, my brother, please calm down,” Stiles insisted.
Scott pushed a breath out from between his teeth, “I can’t help it Stiles. I’m just—what if I mess up?”
Stiles shook his head and rolled his eyes.
“You’re going to do fine. Just make sure not to drop the ring or miss when you go in for the kiss all right?”
Scott let out a long groan and dropped his head in to his hands. Stiles smirked mischievously.
It had taken some hard work to get to where they were today. After the incident with Kate, it had taken Sir Argent some time before he could accept the events of that night. He had long since suspected that Kate may have been going against the code. But she was his own sister—what could he do? He wanted to trust her, but kidnapping Stiles had been the last straw. He understood what Allison had done had been the correct course of action, but he couldn’t help think maybe he could have done something to prevent his sister from losing her way.
Allison herself was treated no differently. She still trained with the knights and guards. But she never picked up a crossbow again. She bore her own scars from having to kill her aunt. Her aunt had been like a bigger sister to her—a mentor. There was no way the choice to kill her had been an easy one. She tried not to show weakness, but Scott had let it slip how she cried for weeks after the funeral.
Scott stood at the right side of the church doors. He fiddled with his deep burgundy surcoat. Deaton, acting as minister and priest in the ceremony, stood before the open doors. Everyone had gathered around the front of the church. Stiles looked up as Lydia slid in to stand next to him.
“Took you long enough,” he whispered to her.
She gave him a triumphant smirk, “It was worth every second,” she replied. All eyes turned at that point to look at the approaching bride. Stiles couldn’t help but let a wide smile fall on his face. Sir Chris Argent was slowly leading his daughter up to the church doors. He was wearing a dark silver tabard over chainmail. In the middle of his chest was the Argent Family crest, a depiction of a wolf and arrows. But really, all of the attention was on the woman he was leading.
Allison walked next to her father, a gentle smile on her lips. Her brown hair had been pulled back away from her face and fell in subtle curls down her back. Sitting delicately on her crown was a crown made of small red roses, baby’s breath, and white dogwood flowers. Her dress was a very light blue that could almost be seen as white. It was a straight dress, with silver embroidery along the sweetheart neckline. Her shoulders were bare but her arms covered by the long, flowing sleeves. The cuffs of fabric on the upper arm of the sleeves matched the embroidered belt that sat right at her waist. With the light breeze of the day blowing on her, she looked like a true picture of beauty and young, innocent love.
Sir Argent led Allison up to the doors of the church. He stood between her and Scott, as was custom. Deaton looked at the three of them and then nodded.
“Dearly beloved,” he began, “We are gathered together here in the sight of God to join together this man and this woman by holy matrimony; which is an honourable estate, instituted of God in Paradise, and into which holy estate these two persons present come now to be joined. Therefore if any man can shew any just cause, why they may not lawfully be joined together, by God’s Law, or the Laws of the Realm; let him now speak, or else hereafter forever hold his peace,”
There was no response from the crowd. Deaton turned his gaze back to Scott and Allison.
“I require and charge you both, as ye will answer at the dreadful day of judgment when the secrets of all hearts shall be disclosed, that if either of you know any impediment, why ye may not be lawfully joined together in Matrimony, that ye confess it. For ye be well assured, that so many as be coupled together otherwise than God’s Word doth allow are not joined together by God; neither is their matrimony lawful,”
Allison and Scott both looked at each other for a moment, but neither said anything. Deaton smiled softly and continued once more.
Deaton looked directly at Scott, “Scott McCall, wilt thou have this woman to be thy wedded wife, to live together after God’s ordinance in the holy estate of matrimony? Wilt thou love her, comfort her, honour, and keep her, in sickness and in health; and forsaking all others, keep thee only unto her, so long as ye both shall live?”
“I will,” Scott said shakily. He blushed and cleared his throat, “I will,” he answered more steadily.
Deaton turned to look at Allison, “Allison Argent, wilt thou have this man to be thy wedded husband, to live together after God’s ordinance in the holy estate of matrimony? Wilt thou obey him, and serve him, love, honour, and keep him in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, keep thee only unto him, so long as ye both shall live?”
Allison nodded softly, “I will,”
Once more Deaton nodded and gestured towards the open doors of the church. Scott, Allison, and Sir Argent all followed after him inside. The guests gathered outside also went in to the church at this time. They sat down quickly in the pews and waited.
When the couple was at the altar, Sir Argent placed Allison’s right hand in Deaton’s hand before bowing and retiring himself. Deaton then had Scott take Allison’s right hand in his own right hand.
“Say after me,” Deaton instructed to Scott, “I Scott McCall take thee Allison Argent to my wedded wife,”
With a crooked grin, Scott repeated after Deaton, “I, Scott McCall, take thee Allison Argent to my wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, for fairer or fouler, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us depart, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereunto I plight thee my troth,”
Deaton then relayed Allison’s troth to her.
Allison smiled at Scott, “I, Allison Argent, take thee Scott McCall to my wedded husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to be bonny and buxom at bed and at board, to love and to cherish, till death us depart, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereunto I plight thee my troth,”
They loosened their hands and placed the rings on the Bible. Deaton looked down at the rings and continued to bless them.
“Bless these rings, O merciful Lord, that those who wear them, that give and receive them, may be ever faithful to one another, remain in your peace, and live and grow old together in your love, under their own vine and fig tree, and seeing their children’s children. Amen,”
Deaton then picked one of the rings up and gave it to Scott. Scott was shaking slightly, but didn’t drop the ring.
“With this ring I thee wed,” he began as he placed the ring on her thumb before removing it, “And with my body I thee honor,” he placed it on her index finger and removed it, “And with all my worldly goods I thee endow,” he slid it on to her ring finger, holding it in place, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”
Allison took her ring from Deaton and did the same to Scott, eventually resting the ring on his ring finger. They then knelt down together and Deaton placed their right hands together.
Deaton smiled as he spoke, “Those whom God hath joined together let no man put asunder,” He turned to address the people, “Forasmuch as Scott and Allison have consented together in holy wedlock, and have witnessed the same before Go and this company, and thereto have given and pledged their troth each to the other, and have declared the same by giving and receiving of a ring, and by joining of hands; I pronounce therefore that they be man and wife together, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen,”
Scott and Allison rose, holding hands as Deaton added his final blessing, “God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, bless, preserve, and keep you; the Lord mercifully with his favour look upon you; and so fill you with all spiritual benediction and grace, that ye may so live together in this life, that in the world to come ye may have life everlasting. Amen,”
Scott and Allison McCall then kissed and the congregation erupted in to cheers and clapping. The newlywed couple then descended from the altar in to the waiting arms and congratulations of their friends. There was some mingling before everyone began to move to the Great Dining Hall in the palace for the feast. Stiles was the last to leave the church. He stood on the steps of the church for a moment. He looked up at the clear, blue sky for a moment before looking back inside the church. He wondered briefly if maybe, one day, he too would find that eternal happiness to share with someone. He snorted derisively to himself and then turned his back on the church and walking away.
Stiles sighed and put down the book he was reading. He was trying to do some last minute reading before he traveled to the Eastern Continent in a few months. He was planning on expanding trade across the oceans. The gems and silks were exquisite and in high supply in the Eastern Continent. However, they didn’t have very many practical supplies. The terrain was arid and dry, making farming difficult. Stiles thought they could bring over irrigation techniques and teach the people of the Continent skills that would improve the Continent all together.
He looked up at a knock on the door.
“Come in,” he called. He blinked when he saw who entered, “Lydia. I wasn’t expecting you,”
She shrugged daintily as she came in, “Lunch with Allison ended early,” She sat down in a chair opposite Stiles, “What are you working on?”
“Just going over the etiquette of the tea ceremony again,” he shook his head, “It’s simple but really easy to offend someone if I don’t do something just right. Did you know that if I don’t drink the offered tea in exactly three drinks it’s considered rude?”
“Well then, let’s just hope that it isn’t too bitter,” Lydia joked.
Stiles rolled his eyes, but smiled nonetheless, “What brings you here Lydia?”
Her smile fell slightly and she looked away, “Well,”
“Lydia,” Stiles said lowly, “I know what you’re going to say and I don’t want to hear any of it,”
She frowned and looked back up at him, “Stiles. You need to seriously start thinking about producing an heir,”
He let out an aggravated breath and scrubbed his face with his hands, “Lydia. I’ve told you so many times already. I’m not ready to marry and I don’t have any desire to take concubines,”
“That’s not the point Stiles,” Lydia hissed, “You need to grow up and move on,”
Stiles sucked in a harsh breath and looked sharply at her, “What?”
She seemed uncertain for a moment, but plowed forward anyway, “It’s been three years—it’s time to stop waiting. He isn’t coming back,”
Stiles looked down at the top of the desk, “Leave,” he whispered.
A snarl curled his lip and he stood quickly. He slammed his hands down against the wooden desk.
“I said leave! Get out!” he yelled, his eyes snapping with fury and his voice shaking the previously quiet study.
Lydia started but she looked down. Her lips flattened in to a tight line as she stood. Her skirts swished against the carpeted floors. She paused at the opened door and looked back slightly at Stiles.
“I just want you to find your happiness in this world,” she whispered, “You deserve at least that much, Stiles,” Then she left and closed the door behind her.
Stiles was still for a moment. But then he let out a frustrated yell and pushed the books violently from the desk. He thrashed, pushing the chair over to crash against the ground. His chest heaved with heavy breaths as his anger and frustration drained out of him, leaving him feeling tired and empty. He squatted down, pressing his hands to his ears. Curled up, he allowed his feelings of anguish to wash over him and drown him in darkness.
The Preserve was quiet as Stiles rode the fading paths. He had sectioned off the land around the Shifter’s Land and turned it in to a preserve. No hunters were allowed on the site or else risk severe punishment. He had said that it was to help keep the wildlife healthy and diverse, but really it was just to give Erica, Isaac, and Boyd a safe place to live. They were appointed as Rangers of sorts—people to help protect the land. It was a good enough cover to allow them to enter the Preserve without any suspicions towards them.
Stiles took the familiar paths deep to the middle of the preserve. He dismounted after a while and tied his horse to a tree. The horse whinnied softly and began to graze on the grasses there. Stiles patted the horse’s flank lightly before turning to walk between the trees. He would come out to the Preserve just to be left to himself from time to time. He just needed to get away from the palace sometimes. The sounds of nature around him soothed Stiles and calmed his nerves.
Eventually he came upon the fence that he had found those years ago. He pressed his palm against the surface as he walked along it. Vines had begun to creep up along the wall. Stiles found the opening and stood there for a moment. The size of the land really was immense. He let out a small breath and walked inside. He pulled his cloak tighter around him. He walked to the right instead of the left today. To the left was where the cottage sat, slowly rotting and being consumed by time. Stiles never went inside—he couldn’t.
He came upon the clearing faster than he thought. The trees thinned and opened to the circular clearing. The grass had grown tall and came about to Stiles’ knees. He walked to the center of the clearing, towards the three boulders that sat untouched by time. He stood before the stones, staring in to their center. His hand reached out and rested against the smooth, cool surface of the stone. It reminded Stiles of someone paying condolences to a grave. He swallowed hard and closed his eyes tightly. A twig snapped behind him.
“This is still private property, you know,”
Stiles’ eyes flung open. He turned quickly and looked towards the origin of the voice. He felt his throat tighten and heat build in his eyes. He willed his voice to work and after a few hoarse croaks, it did.
The words that he has chosen to say so long ago. He had thought he had forgotten them. But they bubbled up to the surface immediately. Tears dripped onto his cheeks as a smile stretched his lips.
“I missed you too,” he whispered.
Derek's lips twitched slightly but his eyes shone with light. He held his arms out invitingly. Stiles didn't wait longer than he had to. He rushed into the open arms and buried his face in Derek's neck. The familiar scent filled his body and made him feel whole again. Stiles continued to murmur against Derek's skin. Derek held him close and vowed to never let him go ever again.
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