Derek and Stiles returned to the inn after Derek had shifted back and put his clothes on. As they walked, Stiles stayed closed to Derek. He kept brushing his hand against Derek’s, as if to remind himself that the man was real and actually standing next to him. Just before they reached the wall of Animas, Derek took Stiles’ hand in his and gave it a reassuring squeeze. It was like he knew what Stiles was thinking. The touch, while small, left a blossoming heat in the pool of Stiles stomach that was comforting to him.
“I think we should probably be heading back,” Derek said after they entered their room. Stiles blinked and looked up at Derek. He hadn’t specified exactly where they were going to return to. Stiles hoped that he could stay with Derek for at least a little longer.
“Yeah,” Stiles nodded, “You’re right. We’ve been here long enough,” The two then began to pack in a silence that wasn’t at all stifling.
The forest was full of sounds that surrounded them as they travelled. Stiles had felt the stares of the Animas people more fully when they had been leaving. But whether or not they were looking at him or Derek, Stiles wasn’t entirely sure. People were bound to know who he was soon after his audience with King Khufu. If he was given the title of Prince of Beacon Kingdom or the Mate of the Shifter—well, Stiles wasn’t exactly sure which he was ready to take on.
“Stiles?” Derek asked from his mount to the right of Stiles. The sudden noise startled Stiles and he looked up at Derek with wide eyes.
“What?” He said, hoping his voice was steadier than he felt.
“You haven’t said a word since we left the inn,” Derek mumbled, “Are you all right?”
“Oh,” Stiles paused, “Yes. I’m fine. It’s just,” his voice trailed off.
“It’s just?” Derek prompted.
Stiles chewed on his lower lip for a moment, “I’ve been thinking about a few things,”
Derek was silent, which Stiles took as encouragement for him to continue.
“The coyote woman in the market told me to “Beware the Black Dog.” I thought that had to do with you, because you know, you wore all black and the insignia on your tunic looked like a dog’s head,” Stiles shrugged, “Then I had a dream that a black dog was chasing me and I was just so scared. But then you were the black dog and I think you were trying to save me from something else?”
Derek blinked at Stiles. Stiles sighed and pushed a hand up through his hair.
“I don’t know,” he muttered, “I don’t normally put that much in to dreams. So maybe I shouldn’t worry too much about this one either. Besides, your wolf is dark grey, not black,”
Derek nodded, “I wouldn’t worry about what the coyote woman said. Old superstition like that should usually be disregarded,”
“Oh, yeah,” Stiles replied.
After a moment, Derek spoke up, “That’s not all, is it?”
“The silence is more annoying than the questions,” Derek said with slight humor in his tone, “Just say whatever you’re thinking about,”
“Okay, um,” Stiles hesitated,”
“Stiles,” Derek’s voice was a low, warning growl.
“I’ve been thinking about what Khufu said about mates—how he said I’m your mate,” Stiles spat out like the words were fire.
The silence stretched between them and Stiles risked a glance at Derek. He inhaled sharply when he found Derek looking at him. His green eyes were gentle and looked almost a little hurt. But he cleared his throat and looked forward once more.
“Mates are those that have been chosen by the gods to be the perfect match. People search all over the Continents to find their mates,”
“Okay,” Stiles said slowly, “How do they do that?”
“Through scent mostly,” Derek said with a shrug, “But sometimes there are pre-bond markings that the mates share,”
Stiles blinked and searched his brain. The only markings on his body were his moles. He knew that Derek didn’t have moles all over him—or at least on the skin that he’d seen over the past few days.
“Right, so, scent,” Stiles coughed, “How does that work? Do they smell the same?”
Derek shook his head, “No. Mates don’t share the same scent, but their natural scents usually compliment the other. For instance, one mate can have the natural scent of warm caramel and the other would have the scent of green apples. Another example would be the smell of brown sugar and warm pastry bread with the mate having a scent of cherries,”
“Caramel covered apples and cherry pie,” Stiles mused quietly, “Do all natural scents remind me of baking with my mother or do you just have a hidden sweet tooth and are expressing it subconsciously through examples of mate scents?”
Derek cleared his throat, “Those were just the first to come to mind,”
“Then,” Stiles began to worry his lower lip again, “What is my natural scent?”
Derek glanced at Stiles once again, “The river and rain, with a hint of all-spice,”
“You smell like the earth just after it’s rained,” Stiles said slowly, the words feeling heavy in his chest. Derek stared openly at Stiles, “I’m not supposed to know that, am I?” Stiles asked.
“Well, no,” Derek answered, “But that just proves that you are my mate,” he said the last word after a moment of speculation, “Humans normally don’t have the strong enough sense of smell to be able to pick out a natural scent. That is unless they—“
“—are mates,” Stiles finished. Derek nodded.
“Could you tell? Right away I mean?”
“No,” Derek sighed, “But a few days after you arrived, my wolf figured it out,”
“Oh,” Stiles thought this over for a moment, “What if a mate dies? Do the gods pick out another one for the mate that was left behind?”
“No,” Derek said harshly, “There’s only one,” his voice softened on this.
Stiles could only manage a breathy “oh” before looking down at his saddle horn.
Night fell on the traveling duo faster than anticipated. The stopped near a river so the horses could be watered. They ate a meal of meat, cheese, and bread that Derek had packed before they had left Animas. Stiles let the sound of the fire cracking settle in to his bones. The night was turning cold and he pulled his cloak tighter around his shoulder. He leaned back against the log that created an edge to their campsite and pulled his knees to his chest. He wrapped his arms around his legs and locked them in place by grabbing his wrists. Stiles stared in to the flames and let his mind wander aimlessly.
After a while, Derek sat down beside Stiles. He was in his human form now, but had just done a perimeter check as his wolf. Stiles looked next to him at Derek’s lounging form. The fire cast light across his face in strange shadows. The panes of his face were painted in the orange light and sharp angles created his features. Derek really was quite handsome. Stiles felt his cheeks turn pink. Derek’s nostrils flared and he turned to look at Stiles. Derek’s eyebrows rose and his lips quirked up in a knowing smirk. If his face wasn’t hot before, Stiles was certain it was now. He looked away and back in to the fire.
“When I was a little boy,” Stiles began, “I was kidnapped from the market place. I don’t really remember what happened. But I know that there was a little boy in there with me who had also been kidnapped,” Stiles chuckled to himself, “At first I thought he was a mage because his eyes glowed blue in the night. He tended to the wounds that I had and took care of me before my father rescued us both. That boy,” Stiles whispered, “That was you, wasn’t it?” He asked as he flicked his eyes up to look at Derek.
Derek made no motion to answer him. But his eyes shone in the firelight with slight apprehension. After a moment, Derek nodded slightly.
Stiles smiled, “You saved me back then,”
“I didn’t do much,” Derek whispered, “I was a shitty brat back then,” his breath was hot against Stiles’ face. When had they drifted so close? Not that Stiles minded—he was fully aware that he had plenty of misplaced hormones. Stiles swallowed hard and looked up at Derek’s eyes. Derek’s stare was intense and caused a shiver to course through Stiles’ body.
Stiles moved first, gently pressing his lips to Derek’s. There were three or four light, chaste kisses shared between them before Stiles uncurled his body and turned towards Derek. Their lips met with more purpose this time. Heat spread across Stiles’ skin that was completely different than the heat of the fire. They continued to kiss for a few minutes. Derek’s hand had snaked its way behind Stiles’ head and in to the short brown hair. Stiles was in Derek’s lap, pressing his body as close to him as he could. Derek pulled away suddenly with a shaky inhale.
“Stiles,” he growled, “We need to stop,”
Stiles blinked open glazed over eyes, “Wha—why?”
“It’s still too close to the full moon. I can’t completely,” Derek looked Stiles straight in the eyes, “Not with my mate,”
Stiles felt the small pinpoints of claws on the back of his head.
“Oh,” he whispered, “Right,” he then climbed backwards off of Derek. Derek took another breath and grudgingly untangled himself from Stiles. Derek’s fingers lingered on Stiles’ swollen lips. But he pulled them away eventually and the extended claws glinted in the light from the fire.
Stiles frowned, “This is really fucked up, yeah? This whole Shifter-mated-to-human thing?”
“Yeah,” Derek mumbled, “Yeah it is,”
Derek and Stiles curled up on their bedrolls. They were lying next to each other and near the fire. Derek had just put fresh kindling on it and stoked it back to life. It was all right, but Stiles was still pretty cold. He ended up scooting closer to Derek, resting his head on the other male’s chest.
“Just so you know,” Stiles muttered, sleep quickly taking over his body, “I’m not 100% okay with this entire thing,”
“I don’t expect you to be,” Derek replied, the words sending vibrations through his chest and straight in to Stiles’ ear.
“Good. I really don’t get the whole mates thing just yet,” he yawned.
“Are you saying you only want me for my roguish good looks?”
“It’s definitely not because of your conversational or people skills,” Stiles grumbled.
A small chuckle shook Derek’s chest. He wrapped his arm around Stiles’ shoulders and pulled him closer in to his body heat.
“Just go to sleep Stiles,” he whispered. Stiles only answered with a grumble before settling in to sleep. Derek closed his eyes and swallowed hard. Stiles’ scent flowed over him like a ray of soft, morning sunlight. It warmed him and left a sense of calm in its wake. But even with the comfort of Stiles in his arm, Derek couldn’t help but feel like they were being watched.
Morning came as it always does. Derek and Stiles put away their bedrolls, put out the fire, and began to travel once more. They weren’t in as much of a rush as when they had been going to Animas, so their progress was much slower. Stiles was riding his gelding, which he had affectionately named Gonad, while Derek was leading his mount on foot.
“So,” Stiles said, chewing on a piece of jerky, “Let me get this straight. Humans can be turned in to Shifters by the bite of a beta,”
“Alpha,” Derek corrected him, “It has to be an alpha to actually turn a human,”
“So Isaac, Erica, and Boyd were all human?”
“And you turned them,”
“So they’re alphas?”
Derek pinched the bridge of his nose with his free hand, “No. Stiles I’m the alpha. Those three are my betas,”
“Okay okay okay,” Stiles flailed his arms. Gonad huffed and adjusted for the sudden movement. Stiles reached down and patted the thick neck of the mount to quiet him.
“Why did you give them the bite?”
“They each have their own reasons,” Derek answered.
Derek craned his neck to look behind him at Stiles, “You’ll just have to ask them yourself,”
“God dammit,” Stiles grumbled, looking none too pleased, “Mysterious, overly attractive, little shit,”
Derek’s lips stretched in to an impossibly adorable smile, showing brilliant white teeth. Stiles swallowed and gave him a closed lip smile in return. Maybe they didn’t have to deal with the whole mates thing just yet. Being friends seemed like a good starting point.
Derek’s face fell and he looked away from Stiles. The horses both stopped and their ears twitched, standing straight up and angling towards the left. Derek was looking in the same direction as the horses were listening.
“Shit,” he growled. His eyes flashed red for a second and his lips rose in a sneer. A warning growl sounded low in his throat, rumbling out from his chest.
Stiles frowned, “Derek what—“ he was cut off by an answering growl from the edge of the forest. Stiles turned his head slowly in the direction of the sound. His blood ran cold and he felt his heart beat pick up.
From between the trees emerged a large, black wolf. It was impossibly huge and Stiles realized that it was no natural wolf. Its eyes were a wild, blue colour. Drool dripped from its jowls as it snarled and growled at Derek.
“Derek is that a—“ But before Stiles could get the words out of his mouth, Derek was leaping forward. His form changed midair, leaving his clothes behind. The black wolf leapt as well, meeting Derek in the air where their bodies crashed together with a bone jarring crunch. The canines snarled and growled as they rolled on the ground. The both fought for the dominance in the fight. Derek had the other wolf pinned, his grey form smaller but more powerful than the black wolf. Even though it was outmatched, the black wolf still snapped at Derek’s throat in a crazed frenzy.
It had to be a rogue wolf. What had Derek called it? An omega? Derek said that when a werewolf lost its pack or decided to leave, it dropped to the rank of omega. But without a pack, an omega didn’t usually survive for too long. They were either hunted by humans, or they lost their humanity without the stability of a pack. Derek didn’t mention which outcome was more common.
With a burst of strength, the black wolf threw Derek from it. Derek landed on his feet, his hackles having risen. He barked angrily at the black wolf. But the wolf just stood and shook itself out. It then charged at Derek once more. They bit and clawed at each other, rolling and tackling. After breaking apart from one skirmish, they growled lowly at each other. There were a few spots of matted blood in Derek’s dark grey fur, but he seemed to be fine. The same could not be said for the black wolf. He was favoring his front right paw and one of his eyes was swollen shut. He had blood on his muzzle but more of it was in places that he had been hit by Derek’s attacks. But this wolf was crazed—he didn’t know when he was beat. So he lunged forward once more to which Derek responded in turn.
“Your highness!” Yelled a voice. Before Stiles could react, the twang of a released bowstring filled the air. There was the high pitched squeal of an injured animal shortly after. Stiles looked up and felt his blood run cold. An arrow was lodged deeply in to Derek’s front left shoulder. He lay on the forest ground, whimpers coming from him.
“Derek!” Stiles yelled, dismounting quickly. The commotion had caused the black wolf to flee. Before Stiles could make it to Derek’s side, a horse thundered in his path. Stiles looked up and squinted in to the sun to see who it was.
“Sir Argent?” He whispered. The next thing he knew he was being lifted from the ground and thrown roughly on the rear of the horse.
“Hah!” Sir Chris Argent yelled as he kicked his horse in to action. The horse sprang in to action, running swiftly from the area.
“No! Wait! We have to go back!” Stiles pleaded, “Sir Argent!”
“It’s too dangerous out here, Prince!” Sir Argent said over the sound of horse hooves.
“No! Derek! Derek!” Stiles yelled to the quickly passing forest, his voice being swallowed by the many trees.
“You called for me, your majesty?” Sir Argent asked, bowing his head respectfully towards the king.
The king smiled tiredly at the man, “Please, Chris, we’ve been friends since we were in swaddling clothes. I can’t stand it when you’re so formal,”
“I suppose,” Chris chuckled, “What is it that you wished to speak with me about, John?”
“It’s Stiles,” John sighed, “Ever since his return, he’s not quite the same.”
“Well, traveling to neighboring kingdoms can take its toll on anyone,”
John shook his head, “That’s not it. He doesn’t sleep much and when he does he awakes in the middle of the night screaming. I can hear him all the way in my chambers. The maids are beginning to talk of bewitchments,”
“John,” Chris said, placing his hand on the man’s shoulder, “I can assure you that witches haven’t been around since the Sunless Day,”
“Right, you’re right. It’s just,”
“You’re worried about him,” Chris said, “As you have every right to be, you are the boy’s father,”
“Do you think something happened while he was away? Other than the bandits?”
Chris shrugged, “It’s hard to say. But I wouldn’t be surprised if the nightmares he’s having have something to do with his trip,”
“Do you think,” John paused, “Do you think it would be for the best if he didn’t,” he shook his head.
“If he didn’t remember?” Chris supplied.
John looked pale as he nodded.
“Perhaps,” Chris whispered, his tone gentle yet firm.
After a moment, John sucked in a deep breath. He nodded once, then once more.
“Call for the mage,” he said, his voice not nearly as steady as he hoped it would be.
Stiles sighed as he closed his eyes. The day had been long and draining. Sir Argent had really taken it out of his hide in practice today. Stiles couldn’t help it—he wasn’t sleeping well. The past few months he had been having a reoccurring dream. In this dream he was on great adventures in different places with someone. But he could never remember who the person was or what they looked like when he woke up. It was so frustrating because the dreams felt so real. Stiles shook his head once to clear it and willed himself to sleep.
He felt the bed sink as someone climbed on it.
“Hn?” Stiles grumbled, “Who’s there?” He felt hands travel up the sides of his body. They massaged at his sore muscles and left paths of heat across his skin. Stiles groaned slightly as he felt the hands dip under his sleeping tunic. They traveled feather light up his chest, taking the shirt up and off of Stiles’ body. Soon, hot and rough lips were pressing to Stiles’ stomach and traveling up his chest. They mouthed at Stiles’ collarbone.
Stiles moaned and tilted his head back to allow more of his skin to show. The lips continued upward, biting and sucking and licking at the skin of Stiles’ throat and jaw. The lips pressed kisses and bites along Stiles’ jaw before finally landing on Stiles’ lips. Stiles gasped in to the lips which quickly—greedily—ate up all of Stiles’ sounds. They kissed Stiles’ breathless, leaving him panting and hot all over. Stiles pushed his hands up and in to the person’s hair. Their stubble left burns on Stiles’ more delicate skin. Their hair was soft and Stiles twisted his fingers in it to get a good purchase. The lips pulled away and Stiles whined at the sudden loss.
“Come back,” he murmured, his lips wet and swollen. Stiles opened his eyes and saw green eyes staring back at him. He opened his mouth to call out when the person vanished as if blown away by the wind.
Stiles gasped and opened his eyes. Cold sweat was all over his skin, a sharp contrast to the heat that filled his entire body. He still felt the phantom touches of the person from his dream. But who had that been? Why were they so familiar? Stiles wanted to yell—wanted to scream. He felt tears prickle at his eyes. They spilled over as a physical manifestation of all his frustration. A name sat on the edge of his tongue, but he couldn’t remember it. His face scrunched up in agony and he let it all out. Tears streamed down his face as he yelled in to the empty darkness of his room. He yelled until his throat was hoarse and his eyes burned from having no more tears to produce. Yet still, he couldn’t get the name out of his throat or the naggingly familiar smell of damp earth out of his nose.
A few months passed and the leaves were beginning to change colours as a prelude to the oncoming fall. Lady Lydia and her parents had come to stay for the winter months. It was a trip they made yearly. Lydia’s mother had been friends with Stiles’ mother when she was still alive. So it was a tradition that stayed, even after the passing of the Queen.
Stiles and Lydia were sitting in the library. Stiles was looking over a book on etiquette when dealing with people from the Eastern Continent. Lydia was reading something that was much more complicated than Stiles could ever comprehend. Lydia was scary intelligent. When they had been kids, Stiles had been convinced that Lydia would rule the world someday. He wasn’t entirely convinced otherwise even now.
Lydia sighed dramatically and closed her book to look pointedly at Stiles, “All right, who is it?”
Stiles blinked and looked up at her, “Who is who?”
“Who’s the girl you like?” She asked.
Stiles merely blinked at her again, “What are you talking about?”
“Don’t play pauper with me, Stiles,” she rolled her eyes, “You haven’t tried to court me even once since we arrived. So obviously you’ve moved on. I want to know who can replace me in your heart,”
“Oh,” Stiles whispered. That was true now that he thought about it. Normally he would be on Lydia’s heels trying to please her in any way that he could. But he hadn’t felt that overwhelming need to please her this time.
He shrugged, “I don’t know. I guess maybe I just got tired of being ignored by someone who is obviously way too pretty for me,”
Lydia flicked her perfect strawberry blonde hair over her shoulder, “Flattering—but also evasion. There has to be someone,”
“Well,” Stiles frowned and chewed on his bottom lip, “No, never mind.”
“Stiles!” Lydia hissed in exasperation.
“No, it’s nothing,” He paused, “I mean, I’ve been having these dreams lately. But I can’t ever remember who is in them once I wake up. But I think I might—“
“—love them?” Lydia supplied with a triumphant smirk.
Again he shrugged, “I don’t know. They’re just dreams,”
“Hmph,” Lydia’s lips tightened in to a pursed line, “Fine then. Don’t tell me, I’ll find out sooner or later,”
“Lydia,” Stiles groaned, “I’m too hungry for this right now,”
“Fine,” Lydia sighed, “Let’s go get something to eat,” She rose from her position with the perfect grace of a lady.
They were chatting idly on their way to the kitchen when a commotion erupted around them.
“It’s Sir Argent!” whispered one of the maids.
“He’s returned!” said another.
“There was someone with him,” the maids continued their gossip as the disappeared. Stiles and Lydia looked at each other before changing their course towards the throne room. Something interesting was happening and neither of them was going to miss it.
When they arrived in the throne room, Stiles moved to stand beside his father at the front of the room. Lydia went to stand next to her parents on the right side of the room. Chris Argent came entered not but moments later. He strode in, his traveling cloak swishing behind him as he moved. He knelt before the prince and king.
“You highnesses, we have apprehended a suspect in the recent murders in the forest between our kingdom and Animas,” Chris reported in an authoritative voice.
King Stilinski nodded, “Very good. Bring him forward,”
Sir Argent rose from his place and motioned for the guards at the door. One of them nodded and hurried out. A few seconds passed before two men from the Royal Guard began to drag someone inside. They hauled him all the way up the middle of the throne room. They then pushed him to his knees in front of the king.
The suspect was in ragged clothing. His clothes were torn and blood and dirt were all over. Stiles frowned. If this person really had been responsible for all the deaths in the forest, he was a bad person. But Stiles didn’t think that it was necessary to be so rough with the man. He more than likely had a reason for his deeds—hopefully. Their hair was a dark brown, nearly black. But it looked surprisingly soft for how dirty the man was. Even with his head bowed, Stiles could make out the makings of a beard.
One of the guards prodded him harshly, meaning for him to raise his head to address the king. Slowly, the man looked up. Stiles felt his stomach clench painfully and his blood run cold.
“Derek,” he whispered before he felt his world tilt and his vision went black.