When Stiles woke up the next morning, the first thing he noticed was that Derek hadn’t returned to the room. The second thing that Stiles realized was that he felt hungrier than he ever had before. He sat up slowly and rubbed at his eyes. They hadn’t eaten since yesterday afternoon hours before they went to the playhouse. They hadn’t gotten dinner afterwards before returning to the inn. Stiles had fallen asleep only to be awoken by Derek. Stiles felt his face instantly heat as his brain wrapped around what had happened last night. He and Derek had—he shook his head quickly. Even now, his skin felt hot where Derek had touched him. Stiles lifted his hand and touched his lips gently. They were tender under his touch and he was pretty sure they might still be a little swollen.
But just what the heck had happened last night? Derek came in the middle of the night under the cover of the full moon and kissed Stiles—caused a heat to spread across his skin. He had coaxed pleasure out from deep inside of Stiles’ body with a steady hand. Then, as if waking from a dream, had turned and high-tailed it out of there without even so much as a second glance. What had that been all about? Sure, Stiles had been surprised—insanely so—but he wasn’t angry. In fact, what had happened last night pretty much cemented Stiles’ suspicions that his feelings for Derek were far beyond those of simple companionship. But Derek’s reaction to it all made Stiles think that it had just been a drunken tryst on the elder man’s part. Stiles frowned. Derek hadn’t tasted of alcohol and he was pretty sure he got a good taste when Derek had pushed his tongue—
Stiles decidedly did not want to think about Derek’s tongue. Not in his mouth, not across his skin, not swirling around his—
Stiles let out an aggravated huff and pushed a hand through his short hair. He heard the latch of the door click and looked up to see Derek enter the room. Derek shut the door and finally looked up. Stiles and Derek stared at each other for what seemed like eternity. Neither of them said anything and Stiles was pretty sure he had stopped breathing at some point. Eventually, Derek cleared his throat and placed a covered wicker basket on the table.
“Breakfast,” he said softly. He pulled at the collars of his tunic. Stiles noted that Derek was wearing his black clothing from when they had first left his cottage in the middle of the forest.
“Thanks,” Stiles replied just as quietly. He stood up, popping his back as he stood. He pushed his arms in to the air and felt his tunic ride up to expose a slim line of his stomach. When he looked back up, Stiles caught Derek staring at the hem of his tunic before looking quickly back at Stiles.
“I’ll have some water drawn,” Derek mumbled, “So when you finish eating take a bath and get ready. Your audience is in two hours,”
Derek moved to his bed and pulled his sack out from under it. He reached in and felt around for a moment before pulling the small and beaten book from the other day out. After tucking the leather bound tome under his arm, Derek walked out of the room and out the door.
Stiles sighed and uncovered the basket. He reached in for a blueberry filled tart and took a bite. He chewed slowly and stared at the wall. So they weren’t going to talk about it. He swallowed and popped the rest of the tart in to his mouth. He decided resolutely that they were going to talk about what had happened last night. Stiles couldn’t let something like this go unresolved. Because he just had so many questions and it was a wonder that Stiles wasn’t going mad with curiosity of it all. He ate his fill and grabbed his clothes for the day. He had an audience with the king and he would be dammed to screw it all up now.
Stiles knelt on one knee before King Khufu.
“Thank you for seeing me on such short notice, your majesty,” Stiles said with his head bowed.
Khufu made a gesture with his hand, “Please,” he said, “There is no need to be so formal. Rise, Prince Stilinski,”
With a gentle smile, Stiles stood back on his feet. He heard a shuffle as Derek stood as well from his position behind Stiles. Despite everything that had happened and all the questions that had yet to be answered, Stiles was immensely grateful that Derek was there with him.
“Now,” Khufu’s voice brought Stiles back to the task at hand, “What exactly is the nature for you visit, Little Red Prince?” There were gentle snickers through the throne room at the nickname.
Stiles schooled the frown from his face. He knew the King was testing him. Stiles was still a “Shadow Prince” that no one knew about. He had yet to prove—or humiliate—himself to any of the courts. Now was his chance to walk out of the shadows and claim his rightful place among the giants.
“Your majesty, “Stiles began, his voice demanding attention, “I have come to discuss with you about extending the market period,” with that, he launched in to his argument.
He supplemented his opinions with the facts and statements outlined in the papers that had been delivered that very morning. King Khufu nodded, following Stiles easily. He asked questions which Stiles promptly answered. Every now and then, Khufu would lean sideways and whisper to Jarduul who was also listening with rapt attention. After what seemed like days, Stiles had said everything he could. He stood there in the middle of the throne room, all eyes on him and the king. The king spoke quietly with Jarduul, gesturing to the papers and even Stiles every now and then. Stiles swallowed hard and stamped down his nervousness. He looked up when King Khufu cleared his throat.
“You have presented some very interesting information,” he stated, “I will talk to my council about this,”
Stiles nodded, trying not to let his face fall, “Of course your majesty,”
“However,” Khufu stopped him, “I am more than convinced that this is a good thing and we will indeed extend our market period,”
This time Stiles couldn’t stop the smile that came to his face, “Really?” He asked, “Do you really mean that?”
“Of course. This is a brilliant plan and I agree that it will greatly benefit both kingdoms,”
“That’s fantastic,” Stiles let out a breath he didn’t realize he had been holding. “My father will be very pleased to hear that,”
“Yes, I’m sure,” King Khufu murmured, “Now, we must talk about something other than business. I have been curious about it this entire time,”
Stiles felt his eyebrows furrowing, “What is it, your majesty?”
“How exactly is it that one of such royal blood as yourself came to be traveling with a Shifter?” Khufu asked, gesturing his pawhand at Derek. Stiles blinked and turned to look at Derek. Derek did not look at Stiles, his gaze fixed on a spot on the floor. His jaw was tense as if he were clenching it together tightly.
“I fled to his land when my carriage was attacked by bandits,” Stiles said as he faced the king once more, “He tended to my wounds, sheltered me while I healed, and was kind enough to see to me while I traveled here,” Stiles paused and frowned.
“Your majesty, if I may, why do you give him the title of Shifter? This is not the first time I have heard the term on my journey, but I do not understand it,” Stiles mumbled, gaze looking back at Derek.
King Khufu laughed, causing Stiles to look back at him.
“Are you telling me you do not know of his cursed blood? How is it that you survived the full moon, Little Red Prince?” He laughed again, a deep and full-bodied sound. When Stiles made no reply, Khufu’s laughter stopped.
“You really have no idea about the history of this man or his blood?” He asked in a hushed tone. Stiles simply frowned deeper.
“Your companion, Little Red,” Khufu began, “Come from a bloodline that is even older than that of the royal families. It is said that his family was borne of the earth itself—from rocks came the ancient wolves,”
“Wolves?” Stiles interrupted. He looked at Derek again, who was now looking up at Stiles. His green eyes sparkled with some emotion that Stiles couldn’t place.
“I understand your confusion,” Khufu sighed, “The man before you is neither man nor animal. His is not even so lucky as to be like one of us. He is not fully human or animal. He is a Shifter—one who walks the line of gods and abominations,”
Stiles flinched at the word and gritted his teeth, “I don’t understand,” he forced out.
“Look around you boy,” Khufu instructed with a grand sweep of his arms, “Do you see even an inkling of black here or anywhere for that matter?”
“No,” Stiles answered slowly.
“The reason for that is to mark those who wear the colour as different, misfits even. Little Red Prince, your companion will never be accepted no matter where he goes,”
“But why not?” Stiles felt his anger building. These people didn’t even know Derek—how could they condemn him so fully?
“You speak as if he’s done terrible things, like he deserves what has been forced upon him. He never asked for this fate yet you act as if his actions have warranted his treatment. As far as I can tell his only sin is existing,” Stiles breathed harshly out of his nose.
“That man is a mutation of nature. He should never have existed in the first place. His entire being is a monstrosity—“
“Derek isn’t a monster!” Stiles yelled, his body shaking with rage. A hand was placed on Stiles’ shoulder and the boy wheeled around to glare at who was touching him.
“Stiles,” Derek whispered, “That’s enough,”
Stiles felt the anger slip from him. He searched Derek’s green eyes and was finally able to place the emotion—sadness.
Derek shook his head, “It’s fine. This is my burden to bare, not yours,” He gave the boy a small squeeze on his shoulder. This calmed Stiles even more and he reveled in the comfort of the elder male’s touch.
“Now this is most intriguing,” Khufu stated, Stiles and Derek both starting slightly as if forgetting Khufu was in the room at all.
“I had been wondering just how our Little Red Prince had survived the night. But I think I understand it now,” Khufu’s lips rose in a smirk, a fang peeking out.
“He’s your mate, isn’t he?”
Derek’s jaw tightened once again and a low growl started in his throat. Khufu laughed again, doubling over in his throne.
“Oh how wonderfully awful! First your entire family is killed and now you’re mated with a human? The Crown Prince of Beacon at that even!” Khufu’s laughter increased and he wiped tears from his eyes.
“The one person in the world meant just for you, and you can never even think of having him. How terrible is that Derek? You couldn’t save your family and now you will always be alone,”
Derek snarled and bared his teeth at Khufu, but it held no real threat. He tore his gaze from Khufu’s and looked down at the floor. He removed his hand from its place on Stiles’ shoulder and he turned away from the boy.
“Derek?” Stiles tried softly. But there was no acknowledgement. Stiles tried to swallow down the nausea that was quickly rising.
“Derek,” Stiles tried again, “What does he mean? Mates?”
“I almost pity you, Little Red,” Khufu sighed, “A mate is someone chosen by the gods before birth. Your people call them “soul mates.” A mate for a Shifter is someone who has been chosen by both parts—the man and the wolf. However, wolves mate for life,”
Stiles tried to process it all. So much information had been thrown at him at once. How was he supposed to process it all?
“Prince Stilinski,” Khufu called as he rose, “You are dismissed. I will send word of the market period once I meet with my council. I thank you for bringing such entertainment to my throne room,” With that, Khufu left the room with the gentle sounds of his cape trailing behind him.
Stiles was frozen in place until the same tabby from the other day appeared in his line of sight.
“Your highness,” she whispered, “I’ll escort you out,” her eyes were apologetic. Stiles nodded mechanically and followed behind her. He was barely aware of the footsteps following quietly behind him.
Stiles walked in to their room at the inn and sat down on the edge of the bed. Derek entered not long after he did and closed the door softly. Stiles had his head in his hands.
“Are you going to explain any of what just happened to me?” Stiles hissed, looking up at Derek, “Are you going to tell me anything?”
Derek was looking anywhere but at Stiles.
Stiles let out an exasperated breath, “Derek, I just—would you—I’m so confused right now. Khufu said so many things and I can’t make heads or tails of any of it,” Stiles dropped his hands to rest on his thighs. His eyes searched Derek’s face.
“I need you to tell me everything,” Stiles whispered, “Derek please,”
Derek’s gaze turned to Stiles at that. Stiles inhaled sharply because Derek looked absolutely torn. His mouth was curled down at the edges and his eyebrows furrowed ever so slightly. It was a look of such confliction that Stiles had never seen before.
“I can’t,” Derek said after a moment. Stiles thought his heart would fall straight through his stomach. Derek shook his head and looked back up at Stiles, “I’d have to show you,”
Stiles stood up and moved to stand in front of Derek, “Then show me,”
Derek’s mouth tightened in to a little line. He turned away from Stiles and opened the door. He held it open, as if waiting for Stiles to follow. Stiles quickly picked up the hint and pattered after Derek.
They walked out of Animas and in to the forest. Stiles followed behind Derek quietly. It was hard for him to not ask questions. But he knew that Derek was going to tell him everything. Or at least a good portion of what the heck was going on. It wasn’t long before the trees thinned and the two entered in to a clearing. Stiles sucked in a breath as he took in the clearing. In the middle were three rocks that created a triangular formation. It was the same as from Stiles’ dream.
“Derek, why,” he began.
Derek placed his hand on one of the stones, “My father used to bring me out here, especially when I was still young. It was our special place where we could get away from my sister or my mother or anyone really. It would be just me and him,” Derek removed his hand from the stone and turned to face Stiles.
“What Khufu said is correct. My family can be traced back even further than the royal family itself. There are many stories about how my kind came to be. It’s even a little hazy in the family history as to our existence. What is certain, however, is that we are not human—not entirely at least,”
Derek sighed and looked up to the sky, “The story is that one of the first wolves, one of the ancient wolves, fell in love with a human farmer’s daughter. He loved her so dearly he asked to be human if only for one night a year in order to see her. The earth god, Relan, felt pity for the wolf having been torn from his love. So he granted the wolf’s wish and was even so generous as to let him be human for all of his days—except one. He had to return to his true form on the full moon,”
“So then,” Stiles tried but his brain was still trying to keep up. He shook his head and made a “continue” motion with his hands at Derek.
“The wolf was able to wed the human girl he loved. They had a life together—built their own home, had a successful crop, and even had a child,” Derek frowned, “The child is said to have been half wolf and half human. He was able to shift at will between forms. We are said to have descended from that one love.”
“But why would you be branded as outcasts?” Stiles asked.
“Generations after the mixed blood was discovered and people didn’t understand it. As all things not understood, the half-bloods were feared and seen as monsters. They were hunted and killed because people feared that they would be killed themselves,”
“What?” Stiles hissed, “That doesn’t make sense! They weren’t doing any harm!”
Derek shrugged, “Shifters are an unknown. Even the history of our blood is just a bedtime story. It has never been proven and probably never will be.”
Stiles bit his lip, “Khufu said something about your family,” Stiles began softly.
Derek’s eyes flashed red and he closed them tightly, “They were hunted,” he ground out.
Derek turned his gaze back on to Stiles, “By the Argents,”
“The Argents—“ Stiles inhaled sharply, “Why? What reason—“
“It was believed that my people had gone feral and were attacking travelers in the woods. It had been bandits really, making it look like animal attacks to keep suspicion from them. But we weren’t able to defend ourselves. I had been out gathering herbs for my mother when the attack happened. When I returned home, the entire house was aflame,”
Derek’s voice wasn’t much more than a growl by that point.
“Then they—your family—they all—“
“I’m the only one that survived that night, Stiles,” Derek said softly.
Stiles mouth hung open uselessly and he was at a loss for words. He felt sickness pooling in his stomach.
“But the Argents have a code,” Stiles began, “They don’t kill unless there is no reasonable doubt. They should have—“
“They would have,” Derek interrupted, “It was just one Argent and a few accomplices. This one felt that the code was outdated and that all Shifters were monsters by nature. They deserved no mercy and were only good for pelts in the winters,”
Stiles shook his head, his fists clenching tightly at his side, “I hate them,” he hissed out between his teeth, “I hate the people who hurt you—who took everything away from you,” He felt the rage bubble out from inside him. It spilled over in the form of warm and salty tears.
Stiles felt rough fingers slide under his chin and tilt his face up.
“Stiles,” Derek murmured, “Look at me,”
The male obeyed and opened his eyes to look in to Derek’s. Derek’s green eyes were softened and steady as he looked at Stiles.
“Don’t let my darkness ruin you,” Derek whispered. His thumb brushed gently underneath Stiles’ eye and wiped at the tears on his cheeks. He leaned forward and pressed his lips against the skin of Stiles’ forehead. Stiles choked back a sob. The gesture was so protective and comforting it nearly broke him apart. He pulled his face from Derek’s grasp and wrapped his arms tight around the taller male. Even though he was shaking slightly, Stiles held Derek tight in his embrace. Stiles pressed his face in to Derek’s chest and inhaled deeply. The scent of the earth filled his senses and stilled his nerves.
“Will you show me?” Stiles breathed against Derek’s body.
“If you want,” Derek mumbled, the sound vibrating through his chest and straight in to Stiles.
Stiles knew he should be afraid—like something about this should set off his danger sensors—but he wanted to know everything about Derek. He wanted to be able to accept every part of Derek—be it man or wolf. So he nodded minutely.
Derek took a breath and pulled out of Stiles’ arms, “Okay,” he then began to undress. Stiles averted his eyes, feeling a blush creep up on his cheeks. But when he heard the shuffle of fabric being dropped to the ground, he looked back up. He gasped as he watched a ripple go across all of Derek’s body.
The sound of bones rearranging nearly had Stiles losing his breakfast. But it didn’t seem to be painful, at least not from what Stiles could tell. Derek’s tall form slowly crouched and bent over. Fur spread out across his skin like fire and soon covered every part of him. One moment Stiles was staring at Derek and the next he was staring at a full grown wolf. It had happened quickly enough that Stiles was unsure of his own eyes and yet he understood everything that had just happened in front of him.
The wolf shook itself out and shook its head a few extra times. It turned its head and looked right at Stiles with a cognition that was not that of an animal’s. Its eyes were the colour of red that Stiles had never seen before. But the wolf shook its head once more and the eyes looking at Stiles were without a doubt Derek’s brilliant green eyes.
Stiles dropped to his knees and held his hand out. He ignored the gentle tremors that shot down his arm and caused his hand to shake. The wolf moved towards Stiles, slowly as if it was afraid it would startle Stiles. The animal was afraid it would scare the human, which was a thought that—at any other time—would cause Stiles to laugh. The wolf bumped its muzzle against the palm of Stiles’ hand. It then pushed its face in to Stiles’ touch. Stiles pushed his hand to the top of the wolf’s head and scratched at the dark grey fur just behind its ears. The wolf tilted its head in to the touch and huffed appreciatively. The wolf sat back on its haunches, its tail wrapping around to cover its paws.
Stiles moved his other hand up and cupped the wolf’s face in his hands. Stiles stared hard at the wolf and the green eyes looked apprehensively back at him. Swallowing the hard lump in his throat, Stiles shifted forward. He wrapped his arms around the Derek’s neck and buried his face in his soft fur. He felt hot tears running down his face once again.
“You’re not a monster,” Stiles said between sobs, “You’re not a monster,” he repeated.