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A Convenient Marriage

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“How could you be so foolish, Stiles?” John asked, his voice heavy with disappointment.

Stiles stared down at his hands, twisting his fingers in the material of his trousers. He bit down on his lip, stilling the wavering. “Dad, I told you that I don’t remember,” he softly confessed again.

“Stiles, people saw you going to Lord Hale’s room,” John forcefully stated. “It’s bad enough that you didn’t exercise judgment, but then lying to me—”

“I’m not lying!” Stiles loudly snapped, finally looking up at his father. “I told you that I can’t remember what happened! All I know is that I wouldn’t go up to a stranger’s room!”

John tapped his knuckle against the window he was standing beside. He turned to look at Stiles. “You flirted with him all night,” he firmly uttered. “You know that is what everyone is saying.”

“Gossip doesn’t mean it’s true,” Stiles argued. He had flirted with Lord Hale for but a moment, briefly at the refreshments table. He had stopped, though, when he saw the betrayal in Isaac’s features. Isaac’s sadness was enough to stop Stiles cold from pursuing anything further. And he told Lord Hale as much, that his answer to any future flirtatious conversation would be unwelcoming.

Stiles couldn’t remember much after that.

John sighed, moving to take a seat at his desk. He ran his hand through his hair, trying to think of how they would proceed. Even an operation to solve the problem cost more than they could manage to spare at the moment—and even then, there wasn’t a guarantee that Stiles would survive. He knew there would be too much gossip surrounding Stiles to hope that someone would court him quickly enough to avoid scandal.

“I’m sorry,” Stiles softly mumbled to break the painful silence between them.

“So am I,” John answered as he leaned back in his chair.

~*~

“Do you think this costs too much?” Lydia asked as she turned her skirts, watching the material sway in the mirror. She paused her inspection of the fine silk to look at Stiles when he didn’t answer her. She released a fond sigh as she stepped down off the pedestal, drawing closer to Stiles. She looked over his shoulder, catching sight of the small newborn clothes laid out on display.

Stiles hesitated as he reached out to touch one, his fingertips gaging just how soft the material was. He wondered if his baby would have soft skin—most babies did, he was told. He worried about the lace causing a rash if the baby’s skin was too sensitive. He moved his hand to touch one of the soft rompers, finding it much more suitable for a newborn baby’s needs.

“You’re keeping it,” Lydia knowingly stated, startling Stiles. She stared at her friend, waiting for his response.

“It’s a risky operation,” Stiles offered, not wishing to tell Lydia that they didn’t have the money to even entertain the thought of concern for his health.

“You could die giving birth,” Lydia answered.

“At least it wouldn’t be money wasted then,” Stiles sharply countered, dropping the romper back onto the small display case.

“It will be a bastard,” Lydia softly argued as she followed him, wishing to make Stiles see reason.

“People already talk,” Stiles answered as he looked at her, knowing what she was going to say. Having a child out of wedlock was a death sentence to what little social standing Stiles had. He would never procure a marriage that could help him and his father now. “No one is going to just decide to court me that quickly. And even if they did, I’d start showing before they even asked to marry me.”

Lydia silently walked towards Stiles. “Your father is okay with this?” She softly questioned.

“No,” Stiles answered, releasing an aggravated sigh. “But he knows there is no reversing what happened.”

Lydia frowned as she watched Stiles sit on the bench by the mirrors. She sighed, turning to look if they had an audience before she lifted her skirts to make it easier to sit next to Stiles. She clumped the heavy material together, piling the skirts between her legs as she hoisted them out of her way. She gently bumped shoulders with Stiles. She smiled at him when he looked at her. “You’ll be a great parent.”

Stiles released a watery laugh, shaking his head. “I can’t do this on my own—no Omega can.”

“You’re not one to fall for Omega stereotypes,” Lydia reminded him.

Stiles wiped the tears from his eyes. “I don’t have the financial stability to take care of myself, let alone a baby.”

Lydia’s brows furrowed.

“When my father dies, probably of a heart attack, which may happen sooner rather than later thanks to me, I’ll have nothing,” Stiles stated as he sucked in a quick breath. “And then I’ll be left with a child, and no means of support. No one will take us in—my baby will end up in a poor house—”

“Stiles,” Lydia sharply interrupted his line of thought, grabbing his hand to hold tightly. “You are not going to be homeless.”

“Lydia—”

“I would never allow that,” Lydia firmly stated with a squeeze of her hand. “You will not be destitute. I will look after you if I must.”

Stiles was quiet as he calmed his breathing, knowing that Lydia would be good enough to take them in if they needed it. But he wasn’t sure if he could allow himself to be a burden—or if Lydia’s mother would even entertain the idea of having an Omega with a tarnished reputation under the same roof as her daughter.

“My father blames me for this,” Stiles softly confessed. “He hasn’t said it, but I know he does.” He pressed the palm of his hands into his eyes as he tried to stop the tears. “I wish I could remember what happened that night—but even then, I don’t think anyone would believe me.”

Lydia rubbed small circles in Stiles’ back, wrapping her other arm in front of Stiles as she held him in place.

~*~

A messenger brought a parcel to the house the next morning.

Stiles cried when he realized it was the romper he had been inspecting. He cried harder when he read Lydia’s handwriting on the greeting card:

For the baby who will have all the love in the world, I can only give fashion .

Stiles hid the romper from his father. He wanted to keep all reminders of his pregnancy from his father’s sight, knowing that it would only upset John more. He folded the romper up, hiding it in the memory box he had of his mother’s things.

~*~

Stiles tried to argue with his father that he shouldn’t go on showing his face at the festivities for the season. He could hide away until his child was born, to return with no one the wiser. But he knew his father was right when he said that no one would believe such a story—that Stiles, suspected of having a passionate love affair with Lord Hale, merely missed the remaining parties and disappeared from sight for no other reason than his own.

There was already talk that Stiles was looking rounder—which was absurd, because Stiles read that Omegas usually didn’t show until the end of their first trimester. It was no secret as to why John was forcing Stiles to attend—it was to save face. Stiles would be seen as a coward, and branded guilty because of his absence. But instead, he was also forced to face the ridicule of the gossip whispered behind gloved hands and silk fans.

There were three balls that Stiles had to attend before the season officially ended. He made it through the first one with little fuss, counting his blessings that it was an afternoon outing at one of the Argent’s local estates. He found himself luckily in Lydia’s company for most of it, which made many people abandon their intent to ridicule him.

It was the second event that broke Stiles’ resolve. It was when he suffered the most vocal ridicule for his apparent shame.

Stiles was remaining on the outskirt of the party, trying to keep his back to the wall in order to prevent someone sneaking up on him. He had grown weary since the night Peter Hale entered his life. He chewed his lip as he tried to piece through the events of that night, as he tried so many times before.

Stiles couldn’t remember what happened after he took that drink from the waiter. He had grown dizzy, his stomach churning as the champagne soured. He tried to find his father before the unthinkable happened—but everywhere he turned, an unfamiliar face stopped him from getting away. Everything was blurry and unrecognizable as a sure hand rested against his back, guiding him away from the crowd.

The next thing to happen that Stiles could remember clearly was waking up naked, in the bed of an unfamiliar room. His whole body hurt, his head pounding loudly in his ears. His legs were stiff, a sharp pain throbbing between his legs. He composed himself as best he could, trying to dress as quickly as possible. He was scared to know the truth, but even the little he knew about sex wasn’t enough to shield him from understanding that someone had taken him by force. He was only partly dressed when Peter had entered the room once more.

Stiles jerked away from Peter’s touch, terrified of the man. He tried to get away from him, pain rising through his body as he moved to the door. He tried not to act scared when Peter pressed him against the door, stopping his escape.

Heated words were exchanged, Peter’s mockery scaring Stiles more than humiliating him. Stiles knew the truth—there wasn’t anything he could do in the moment, just like there was nothing he could do last night to stop Peter from taking him to bed.

“You have some nerve showing your face here,” a masculine voice sharply uttered towards Stiles.

It caught Stiles’ attention, pulling him away from his memories. He looked up at the owner, recognizing the young Omega ward Lahey. He frowned at Isaac, knowing very little about what Isaac could be so upset about. “I’m sorry you feel that way,” he answered.

“You’re sorry ,” Isaac nearly hissed. “After what you did, you should be hiding your face in shame,” he forcefully uttered. “None of the others will say it to your face, so I will.”

Stiles was taken aback by such ferocity. “I don’t know what you’re so angry about—”

“You threw yourself all over poor Lord Hale,” Isaac cut Stiles off.

Stiles felt as if ice was being poured over him, a dead weight moving to settle in his stomach. He twisted his hands behind his back, unsure what to say. “Isaac, please, that’s not what happened—”

“You made such a disgusting scene about it,” Isaac continued, a deep scarlet flush of anger showing high on his cheeks. “We all saw. It was pathetic how you pushed yourself on him, feigning illness to trick him into taking you up to his room, too.”

Stiles bit his lip, knowing he was better off to not answer such allegations. He had wondered for a long time why no one had helped him—why no one had stopped Peter from taking an unchaperoned Omega towards the residential wings of the estate.

“And then seducing him,” Isaac uttered, shaking his head. “All because you knew he’d never be your beau.”

It suddenly clicked for Stiles.

Isaac had been a ward of the Laheys for some time now. He had been passed by for suitable matches numerous times—and there were whispers that he was incapable of carrying a child, like the few male Omegas who couldn’t. There were rumors that the Laheys were trying to get Isaac an arrangement with the Hales—hoping that such a prestigious match would garner their money back.

Stiles never thought that it would have been Peter Hale that the Laheys were trying to arrange a marriage with.

“Nothing is happening between Lord Hale and me,” Stiles stated in hopes of reassuring Isaac. “If Peter Hale wishes to court you—”

“My lord won’t hear of it,” Isaac sharply concluded. “And it’s all your fault. They’re saying that he isn’t gentlemanly enough since he warranted such behavior.”

Stiles looked away from Isaac, unsure what to say.

Peter was older than most bachelors, though he was still in his prime. He was charming and decadent, having a refined taste for the flare in dramatics. He liked to gamble and drink, as most men of his stature did. And he knew a beauty when he saw one—particularly when it came to Omegas. He had a history of philandering, finding himself in more than one bed of eligible Betas and Omegas. But he was never accustomed to the idea of rejection—and Stiles turned that on its head when they met.

Isaac, on the other hand, had been hopeful that Peter would look his way. It appeared to be an immediate dislike of Peter’s—as if it was too simple to already have another’s affections without trying.

“I don’t know what you want me to say, Isaac,” Stiles answered, finally looking at him. “But I can’t undo what Peter did.”

“You just couldn’t stand that someone else would be getting attention,” Isaac blamed him.

“That’s not true,” Stiles argued, wishing he could have this conversation elsewhere. He wished for many things that could be done differently these past months.

“You should leave,” Isaac nearly demanded. “It’s the least you could do.”

Stiles scoffed at the idea that he had the power to make such things happen. “I wish I could,” he simply answered.

“I thought we were friends,” Isaac countered, his voice wounded as he spoke such pains. “But it was just a cruel joke, wasn’t it?”

Stiles’ features softened some at that, his anger wilting away at Isaac’s confession. He felt pity for Isaac, unable to deny that the others did talk—gossip spread like wildfire in their circles, and it was never kind to Omegas in Isaac’s position.

Isaac had been living with his aunt and uncle for the past decade, living off their good graces as they made sure to remind him daily. He had been lucky to escape his father, but still unfortunate to have relatives just like Mr. Lahey. Isaac didn’t have to wear the high collars and long sleeves to cover the bruises anymore, but he did have to mend his own clothes and piece together outfits that were often times too ill-fitting for his shape.

Stiles had been the one to help Isaac with his needlework.

“I thought we were friends, Isaac,” Stiles corrected him. “But after what you just implied, I’m … I’m not sure I could call us that anymore.”

Isaac’s determination cracked some, his own features weakening to show distress. There was no doubt that Isaac had practiced many times in the mirror what he would say to Stiles should they interact. He allowed his anger to cloud his judgment, only knowing that thanks to Peter’s interactions with Stiles, he was now forced back into no hopes of a match.

“Even so,” Isaac started, pausing when he realized that he wasn’t sure he wanted to continue this course of action. “My lord and lady do not want me associating with the likes of you anymore.”

Stiles swallowed the lump in his throat, recalling how people had told him to not bother with the young Lahey. He had told them that he didn’t believe in such pettiness. He now understood how that point of view could be addicting—if only he could turn such critical attention away from himself and onto someone else.

“I hardly think Omega Stilinski has done anything to afford him such a venomous attitude, young Lord Lahey,” a male voice uttered in Stiles’ defense, the sound of a cane tapping down on the marble floor accompanied the footsteps drawing the voice closer.

Isaac looked startled when he realized who the voice belonged to. He took a step back, looking down out of embarrassment at being reprimanded. “Alpha Hale,” he uttered in greeting.

Stiles felt sick, his stomach twisting at the mention of a Hale. He turned his head to look at the man next to Isaac, laying eyes on the young Alpha Hale for the first time.

Derek Hale had been one to avoid social gatherings, his station and wealth permitting him to forgo such trivial things. He would very rarely show himself during the social season, perhaps appearing once or twice for that year before disappearing completely. He was a beautiful young man, by anyone’s standards. He was accomplished for his years, owning expensive estates in many of the places his work required he travel to. He spent his younger years in service to the military, with extinguished honors following him.

And the most important piece of information available to society—recently divorced. Many eligible people had tried and failed to gain Alpha Hale’s attention, but many still held out hope.

Stiles offered a small bow to Alpha Hale, hoping he would excuse himself from the conversation.

“Omega Stilinski,” Alpha Hale addressed Stiles. “I wish we were introduced on better circumstances.”

Isaac’s features visibly flinched at those words. He was upset that even now, Stiles was receiving the attention of a possible suitor. And he wasn’t the only person in the room to notice Alpha Hale engaging with Stiles. “I had grievances,” he softly argued, wishing to make the scene dissipate—part of him hoping that Alpha Hale might actually agree with him.

“Then you should have asked to speak with your fellow Omega in confidence, don’t you think?” Alpha Hale uttered, uncaring if his tone reprimanded Isaac for his behavior. His gaze was still on Stiles.

Stiles looked away from Alpha Hale, unable to think of an reply. He wished he could think up a way to defend Isaac, but at the same time, he believed this was karma, still pained by Isaac’s words of contempt for him.

“No,” Isaac defiantly uttered, turning and leaving them both behind in a haze.

Stiles looked after Isaac, wishing he could have offered words of solace to him. He wished he could explain that what happened with Peter Hale was not consensual, in the least. He had hoped maybe Isaac would see that such a match was less than desirable now that Peter’s ways were clear. But Stiles was the one painted with shame, not Peter, and he feared that people would not see the truth until another fell victim as publicly as Stiles had.

And even then, Stiles had doubts.

“I’m sorry, Alpha Hale,” Stiles started, taking a step away from the older man. He hoped the renewed buzzing sound of gossip was enough to convince his father that they should leave now. “But I believe I should depart.”

Alpha Hale grabbed Stiles’ arm to stop him from walking away. “I have a few questions to ask you, Omega Stilinski,” he explained when Stiles turned to look at him.

“Please take your hand off me,” Stiles sharply demanded.

Alpha Hale looked surprised by Stiles’ ferocity, but obliged his request. “Apologies,” he offered. “I’m not used to social etiquette the way most of my standing are.”

Stiles’ brows furrowed as he lingered longer than he wished to. “Perhaps you should pay more attention to those around us, then,” he replied. “It’s not polite nor warranted to touch another like that—especially an unmated Omega.”

Alpha Hale’s gaze narrowed into a critical look, observing Stiles for a few moments.

Stiles felt uneasy under Alpha Hale’s eyes, knowing when he was being sized up. He had wondered what the man was told about him, if gossip reached a recluse like him.

“I need to speak with you,” Alpha Hale finally admitted, turning his sight about the room. “About a pressing matter.” He looked at Stiles. “In private.”

Stiles flinched at the words, the implication hanging about them. He was certain someone told Alpha Hale about what happened—maybe the Hales thought that they could share an Omega. A quick thought flashed through his mind, fear that Peter told his nephew about what happened, and now Alpha Hale thought he was entitled to Stiles as well. He took a step back from Alpha Hale. “That wouldn’t be proper,” he uttered.

“Proper,” Alpha Hale stated the word, as if he was testing out the sound of it on his tongue. “Is that what you told my uncle when you escorted him to his rooms?”

A heaviness fell deep in Stiles’ stomach at those words. No one had mentioned it to him, keeping silent about what happened between him and Peter. Everyone would whisper it behind his back, but no one would say it to his face—except Alpha Hale, it appeared. He reacted on instinct alone, grabbing hold of a wine glass that had been forgotten on the table next to them. He tossed the wine into Alpha Hale’s face, tears burning his eyes as he slammed the glass down on the table once more.

Stiles ignored the sharp gasps that followed, turning and heading towards the foyer. He hoped he could escape into the afternoon air of the sidewalk, away from the eyes of others. He was surprised to see his father walking towards him, a small hope that he would tell him that they could leave. Reality was much crueler, his father grabbing a firm hold of his bicep, forcefully turning him back towards Alpha Hale.

Like a child would, Stiles tried to dig his feet into the ground, hoping his father would give up from the resistance. It was to no avail, his father easily forcing him back to Alpha Hale’s side. He refused to look at Alpha Hale, having caught the way the man dabbed at the excess wine with his handkerchief.

“Apologize, Stiles,” John forcefully demanded of his son.

“He insulted me,” Stiles replied, believing that before this social season, his father would have at least felt protective of Stiles’ honor. Only now, he had none to protect.

“Throwing wine in another’s face is not an acceptable reaction,” John chastised him, knowing that Stiles knew it wasn’t proper.

“I did insult him,” Alpha Hale easily admitted, much to Stiles’ shock. He folded his handkerchief, using the dried parts to wipe the remaining wine from his face. “It appears that I still don’t know how to word things gently.”

Stiles bit down on his tongue, wanting to tell Alpha Hale that was an understatement.

“Regardless of what was said, Alpha Hale,” John started. “My son doesn’t seem to understand what the appropriate way to respond is.”

Stiles hated how on display he was, knowing that the other socialites present were amused by his current predicament.

“All the same,” Alpha Hale began. “I apologize,” he stated to Stiles, a look of sincerity covered his features.

Stiles drew in a steady breath, taking a small bow of his head. “Thank you,” he softly answered. “I regret my immediate action,” he added, knowing his father wasn’t going to accept anything less than an admittance of wrongdoing.

“I appreciate that,” Alpha Hale replied. He appeared surprised when he found another random drop of the wine falling from his beard. He looked at John, offering a slight dismissal of his hand when he realized the older man was trying to compensate him. “I assure you, this isn’t the first time—and I doubt the last time—I’ve had something thrown in my face.”

Stiles flushed at the mention of his actions. He felt on the spot, embarrassed to be the subject of such scandal. He could feel all eyes in the room fixated on him, and he wondered if it would ever stop.

“I would like to call on you, tomorrow—to discuss a few things,” Alpha Hale addressed John, sneaking glances at Stiles. “You look unwell, Omega Stilinski,” he commented.

Stiles was surprised by the gentleness in Alpha Hale’s voice. “I’m tired,” he weakly offered.

“Perhaps retiring for the evening would be best,” John stated.

Stiles was too exhausted to care that he was the reason for such a departure.

~*~

“Stiles,” John firmly called his name as they exited the carriage.

“I want to go to bed,” Stiles countered as he rushed into the house, avoiding his father at all costs.

John grabbed Stiles’ arm before he could dash up the stairs. “What you did today was reckless—”

“He implied that I’m a whore, and I’m the reckless one?” Stiles demanded as he turned to look at his father.

“He is a well respected Alpha—”

“And I’m a filthy Omega,” Stiles answered, yanking his arm out of his father’s hold. “I know you see me as having no other value besides the marriages I could secure—”

“That is not true,” John argued, angered that Stiles would even dare to utter such a lie. “I am trying to protect you from struggling in this world without any means once I’m dead.”

Stiles turned away from his father. “Why don’t you confront Lord Hale, then?”

“One man cannot answer for another’s crimes,” John answered.

“No,” Stiles shook his head. “Why don’t you confront Peter?”

John appeared surprised by Stiles’ question.

“He violated me,” Stiles stated, tears blurring his vision as he remembered the queasiness he felt when Peter touched his cheek—how he remembered the hands that bruised his skin. “He hurt me— and you don’t even believe me.”

“I believe you,” John firmly countered. “But I cannot confront a man I cannot find, Stiles.”

Fear pulled at Stiles’ features. “What do you mean?”

John sighed, releasing a heavy breath. “He’s vanished.”

Stiles felt dizzy, his stomach uneasy.

“His nephew came here to find him, and hold him accountable for what’s happened. That was what Alpha Hale meant by talking to you.”

Stiles however didn’t hear a word his father said, quickly losing his balance as his knees buckled, a faint spell consuming him. He was filled with dread at the idea of Peter prowling the streets still, putting any and all unsuspecting Omegas at risk.

John managed to grab Stiles before his son crumpled to the ground in a heap.

“I’m fine,” Stiles weakly answered his father’s rushed questions of concern. “I just need to sleep.” He allowed his father to carry him up the stairs, unable to admit it made him think of when he was a child—when he was still too innocent to understand the cruelty of the world he had been born into.

Chapter Text

“I know you’re upset—”

“Your uncle raped my son,” John curtly uttered in a low tone. “Don’t presume that I am merely upset with that fact.”

Derek calmly drew in a heavy breath, nodding in agreement with John. “I can understand your anger towards me,” he offered in a turn of acceptance. "But I could not do anything to help Stiles."

“That man should have been removed from society long ago, if what you said was true,” John angrily concluded.

“I tried,” Derek firmly answered. “I have been tracking him down for the better part of five years—and I find nothing but the damage he leaves in his wake.” He looked up at John. “Do not assume that I am heartless in these matters. I am the one that finds these men and women, and tries to soothe the pains he brings them as best I can.”

John scowled at that knowledge, his mind wandering what place Stiles took amongst Peter’s victims. But he knew the ugly truth—Stiles was not the first, nor would he be the last it seemed.

“You can’t change what happened to him,” John finally stated.

“No, I can’t,” Derek truthfully answered. “But I can change what will happen to him.”

John appeared perplexed by what Derek was suggesting.

“You received my letter, did you not?” Derek pressed.

John drummed his fingers on the top of his desk. “Over a year ago, yes,” he finally answered.

“I had meant to inquire more, but—” Derek frowned, biting his tongue to keep back the words. “An important familial matter arose,” he explained. “By the time everything was settled, it seemed as if Jordan Parrish was at the forefront for intended grooms.”

John once again appeared utterly surprised by Derek’s confession. “I like the boy, that’s a given,” he began. “But he doesn’t hold up as an extinguished match as a Hale would—especially you.” He sat up in his chair, leaning forward as he observed Derek. “Logically, I’d have to be a moron to choose a meager constable over a lord from a proud noble family.”

Derek’s features did not change in relation to John’s reply. “Those who know you understand that you would choose Stiles’ feelings over a meager thing like social standing. And Stiles does not love me the way he thinks he loves Jordan.”

“You think my son doesn’t understand love,” John scoffed.

“I think his heart will break when he discovers that Jordan will not marry him,” Derek simply countered.

John looked from Derek, his eyes moving to inspect the letters on his desk. He had just received the ill-fated news that Jordan had been engaged to another. “How could you know that?” He dared to ask when he saw that there was no letter in sight for Derek to sneak a glance at.

“I understand people,” Derek offered. “I would be bad at investing if I didn’t.”

John shook his head.

“I’m not asking that Stiles love me,” Derek calmly stated. “I am giving him a means of stability—protection, if you will.”

“And what about his condition?” John choicely questioned. He was reluctant to admit Stiles’ pregnancy to anyone, wishing to give his son the privacy he deserved.

Derek’s features were impossible to read. “Doesn’t affect my offer,” he simply stated. “All pregnancies are dangerous, but the other means are far worse.”

John was surprised by Derek’s concern.

“The child will be a Hale, which is something I can live with,” Derek added. “They’ll both want for not.” He noticed John still appeared hesitant. “And I’ll never lay an angered hand on him or the baby.”

John looked at Derek, unsure if he should be impressed or concerned with how well the younger man could read the situation—could read John himself.

“My son isn’t for sale,” John stiffly uttered.

“You can’t keep him safe forever,” Derek calmly stated. “What I offer you and him is the reassured reality that he will be taken care of after you’re gone.” He didn’t hesitate to stand, moving with the intention of leaving. “You have my offer. If you don’t want it, I can live with that.” He started for the door.

John stared down at the papers that had scattered his desk. He had tried to pay his parents’ bills—Claudia’s too—but there was always another debt collector the moment he managed to pay them off. He refused to touch Stiles’ inheritance—the little it was after Claudia’s parents found it.

There was nothing to keep Stiles afloat should anything unexpected happen. There was nothing to help Stiles with the baby. No one would accept John’s proposals of marriage for Stiles’ hand, nor even for his own. He was at an impasse.

“Wait,” John’s voice cracked.

~*~

Stiles was exhausted, finding his spirits completely drained from the previous evening. He was late getting out of bed, hoping he could fake illness in order to avoid the party this weekend.

The Martins always held the largest and most grand party at the end of the season. Every socialite found themselves desperate to wear their best, finding more excuses to spend lavish amounts on outfits that would be used for the night, then forgotten.

Stiles wondered if he was still invited, knowing that Lydia would want him there but he couldn’t say her parents felt the same. He kept the thought to himself, knowing that Lydia would fight her mother on such a matter.

It was nearly noontime when Stiles finally got himself ready to go downstairs. He blamed his morning sickness for delaying him. He was hoping his absence would clue his father in on his current state of health. He had been startled into stopping his descent down the steps when he heard the soft tap of a cane against the floorboards as it accompanied a pair of footsteps.

“Thank you for coming to see me in person about this,” John stated as he escorted his guest towards the door.

Stiles pressed back into the corner of the staircase, hiding as he listened in on the conversation.

“I apologize that I couldn’t reach out sooner.”

Stiles recognized the voice—Alpha Hale.

“It’s not your fault to correct,” John answered.

Alpha Hale released a soft sound of contemplation. “My uncle is still part of my pack. Whether I like it or not, his indiscretions are my responsibility to fix.”

“Indiscretion,” John repeated the word. “That’s … kind of you to word it that way.”

Alpha Hale paused by the door, lingering for a moment longer. “Stiles is young,” he offered. “Young and spirited. And his beauty … well, it was enough to catch Peter’s eye.”

Stiles pressed a hand to his stomach, feeling as if he was going to be sick once more despite having nothing left to throw up. He took a step forward, careful to avoid the squeaking spot above the landing’s first step. He could see Alpha Hale standing by the door as he conversed with John. He wished his father’s back wasn’t to him, wanting to see his face to gage his reactions.

“And your son did not wind up in this situation through only his own means,” Alpha Hale continued. “Peter had a hand in it.”

John nodded. “What you’re offering—”

“With respect, Mr. Stilinski,” Alpha Hale cut John off. “I believe you should have this conversation with your son once I have left.” His gaze looked over John’s shoulder, staring right at Stiles.

Stiles startled moving back into the shadows of the staircase.

“Stiles should be up soon,” John answered Derek, unaware of Stiles’ presence. “He’s been having early bouts of sickness.”

Derek made a sound of understanding. “Ginger root helps—so I’m told.”

“I’ve heard that,” John replied. “My wife hated the taste of it when she was pregnant with Stiles.”

Stiles was sure he was about to dry heave. He felt horrified knowing that his father told Alpha Hale about his pregnancy. It was one thing for people to know about Peter defiling him, and it was another to know that he was carrying Peter’s bastard.

“My first wife,” Alpha Hale started, his words clipped and almost forced—as if he had forgotten himself in the moment before realizing he was displaying a secret. “She found that mint actually helped to ease the sickness.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” John replied.

Stiles’ ears were ringing by the time Alpha Hale left. He refused to hide away upstairs and stew in his anger. He charged down the stairs, determined to confront his father.

John seemed surprised by Stiles’ appearance. “Good afternoon,” he started as he took note of the time on his pocket watch.

“You told him !” Stiles accusing snapped at his father as he pointed at the front door where Alpha Hale had been moments ago.

John looked at the door where Stiles was pointing before looking back at his son. He sighed, “You were listening, weren’t you?”

“It doesn’t change that you told him I’m having Peter’s bastard!” Stiles yelled at his father.

“Stiles, calm down,” John stated in an even voice, knowing that arguing would only escalate the situation.

“Why was he even here?” Stiles demanded.

“To talk about what happened with Peter,” John answered, knowing Stiles wouldn’t relent.

Stiles took a step back from his father. “Why?” He weakly asked.

“Because Derek had just returned from one of his business trips over a week ago, only to be verbally assaulted by Lady Martin,” John explained, rubbing a hand over his features. “She demanded to know what he intended to do about Peter’s philandering—she said it had to stop before it infected more gentle Omegas.”

Stiles swallowed down the lump in his throat—of course Lady Natalie Martin would say something to Lord Derek Hale, acting as if she was doing things for the best instead of meddling like she always did.

“Derek approached you the other day because he wanted to know the truth about what happened,” John elaborated.

“He implied that I went with his uncle willingly,” Stiles sharply corrected his father. “He implied that it was my shame for what his uncle did.”

“Stiles, he didn’t mean it like that,” John countered. “He admitted his fault in wording things so. He wanted to apologize, but knew you were more or less upset with him.”

“Why even bother coming here in person at all?” Stiles demanded.

John huffed, knowing Stiles wouldn’t relent. “He’s made an offer for your hand,” he firmly stated.

Stiles turned to look at his father, surprised. “What?”

“He’s made an offer,” John repeated. “And I’ve accepted.”

Stiles stared at his father in horror. “I won’t.”

“You will,” John firmly replied. “This is the only offer you’ll have, Stiles. And it’s one well above our station, too.”

Stiles continued to stare at John, unable to accept that his father would do away with his future without asking him first.

“You’ll be made a Lord, and carry the Hale name,” John continued.

“I don’t want the Hale name,” Stiles snapped. “I don’t want this child!” He angrily spat. “I didn’t want any of this.”

“But here we are,” John loudly answered. “We must make the best of what we have.”

“Then let me get rid of the baby!” Stiles replied, hot tears burning his eyes. “Let me get the surgery—I’ll find someone else to marry then—”

“Your reputation is tarnished, Stiles,” John replied, regaining his voice after being blundered by Stiles’ outburst. “No one will have you.”

“So you’ll sell me to the nephew of the man that did this to me?” Stiles asked, a sharp sob almost breaking off his words.

“Stiles, that’s not ...” John shook his head. “I don’t know how to explain to you that this is the only way out of the mess you’re in.” He looked at his son. “Even if we had the money for … for that operation, I wouldn’t let you do it. You’re more likely to die than come out of it unscathed.”

Stiles refused to look at his father. “So he’ll have me keep his uncle’s bastard, and force me to play house with him.”

John’s brow furrowed. “Derek is a good man,” he finally answered. “He may be crass at times, and viewed by some as incapable of charm, but he is a better man than most who share his station.” He frowned. “Who knows, you could find a companion in him.”

Stiles released a pitiful, watery laugh.

“All I ask is that you try, Stiles,” John answered.

“How can I when he’s to be my jailer,” Stiles uttered as he turned from his father, running up the stairs to hide away.

Stiles wasn’t surprised that his father didn’t demand they attend the Martins’ party. He didn’t have to keep face anymore—he had his path laid out for him as the future Omega of the Hales. He hated it, wishing instead that Isaac had gotten his wish to be the subject of Peter Hale’s attentions. He’d feel bad about it tomorrow, but tonight he allowed himself to stew in that hatred as he wept into his pillow.

~*~

“I’ve seen the most bizarre thing in the paper, brother,” Laura began the conversation as she did most discussions that occurred over breakfast—with a slight air of amusement in her tone.

“I can’t possibly guess what,” Derek answered her in a bored tone as he continued to read the letters from his associates. He frowned as he read the last one, telling him the same thing as the others—no one knew of Peter’s whereabouts.

“Nuptials announcements,” Laura noted, a sly smile on her lips when her brother finally looked up at her.

“Ah,” Derek calmly noted, relaxing in his chair some. “I’m guessing they posted it, then.”

“Posted it,” Laura laughed at her brother’s wording. “They plastered it in the paper for all to see.”

“Good,” Derek replied. “Perhaps people will learn to leave him be now,” he added as he picked up the paper one of the servants had brought in.

“You know that’s the opposite of what’s to happen,” Laura frowned. “I trust your judgment in this, but really, Derek?”

Derek looked up from the paper, his eyebrow arched in quizzical intrigue.

Laura sighed. “There is nothing special about Omega Stilinski. He has no accomplishments; I’ve even heard he’s not a terribly handsome Omega, more plain and masculine than most.”

“I never thought you shallow enough to insult my future husband,” Derek commented as he reached for his tea.

“I’m not insulting him, merely stating facts,” Laura replied. She released a soft huff, nibbling her bottom lip as she looked out the window to the gardens. “Is it … is it true, though?”

Derek set his tea back down, observing his sister.

Laura looked at Derek with a sorrow in her features. “Is he with child? With … Peter’s child?”

Derek folded his napkin, planting it on the table in dismissal. “You shouldn’t believe such rumors,” he answered her.

“Derek,” Laura pressed.

“I won’t breathe life into such gossip,” Derek sternly cut off her prodding.

Laura frowned. “I know you had … plans , for before the incident with Peter,” she carefully started. “But now, there is such scandal around his name, are you even sure he wants to marry you?”

Derek did not falter as he looked at his sister. There was a dark glint in his eyes, an anger that Laura knew to be directed at Peter—she had seen it there when Derek made the move to assume the family business, keeping it from Peter’s clutches.

Nothing about Derek was considered polite or caring by kind society. He was a great businessman, but not a charitable man. It was true, he allowed his family to fund the patronage of several hospitals and orphanages, but he did not give out his money to just any fool.

Laura’s husband had learned that the hard way—after the braggart had pissed away the small fortune Derek had given as Laura’s dowry.

“We are in a mutually beneficial arrangement,” was all Derek offered Laura as he rose from the table. “I hope you are here for tonight, as the Stilinskis will be joining us for dinner.”

Laura held her surprised back as she nodded. “I would be delighted to meet your future husband, brother.”

~*~

Stiles kept to himself, pretending that he was distracted by everything but his impending fate. He ignored the looks people gave him when he was out with Lydia, pretending to be unbothered by them. He was barely responsive to Lydia’s questions about what he wanted to wear for his wedding, unable to feel enthusiastic about marrying a man he knew nothing about.

Stiles looked down at the invitation in his hands.

The invitation was nicer than Stiles could have hoped to have had for his wedding announcement. The paper was a weighty stock of a pristine white shade. The lettering was inlaid gold stamped into the paper. The writing was beautiful loops of cursive, poetically scrawling a message for those lucky enough to receive such an invite.

His fingertips tracing the scrolled penmanship that announced to society that Lord Derek Sebastian Hale, Alpha of the Hale pack, would be marrying Omega Mieczysław Johnathan Stilinski. He startled when the housekeeper announced a visitor, moving quickly to hide the invitation from sight even with the knowledge that it had already been sent out.

The upcoming weeks had been planned meticulously, everyone working to hide the pregnancy to their advantage. An advantage that would play the child off as legitimately Derek’s.

“Jordan,” Stiles uttered his name in surprise when he saw that it was Sir Parrish. He couldn’t help the small smile that pulled at his lips as he stood to greet the Alpha. “It’s so good to see you,” he admitted as he took a step towards Jordan.

Jordan took a step back from Stiles, keeping a distance between them. “It’s nice to see that you’re in good health, Stiles,” he offered in an attempt to avoid awkwardness.

Stiles clasped his hands together in front of him, trying to keep from fidgeting as his nerves trembled. “I wrote to you,” he weakly attempted to broach the subject. “Did you get my letters?”

“I did,” Jordan answered, an unfamiliar dismissal in his tone. “I came to see your father today, actually,” he turned to changing the subject.

Stiles stared at Jordan. “He’s not here,” he softly answered.

“Then I shouldn’t be here,” Jordan replied, taking a step back. He avoided making eye contact with Stiles, a rigid shame laying flat across the span of his shoulders. He turned to leave, recoiling when Stiles suddenly grabbed ahold of him.

“That’s it?” Stiles quickly demanded. His grip was weak, making it easy for Jordan to escape his hold. He was surprised by such a dismissal.

“I shouldn’t be alone with you,” Jordan stated.

“You’ve been left alone with me before!” Stiles snapped, his thoughts racing with a panic. “You never answered my letters—my father tried to get ahold of you—”

“John did get ahold of me, Stiles,” Jordan forcefully stated, looking down at Stiles’ feet in avoidance. “He informed me of your … condition .”

Stiles flinched at the bite in Jordan’s words.

“He asked me if our courtship still stood,” Jordan bothered to explain.

Stiles knew he was foolish, the swish of hope stirring deep in his gut. “Does it?” He delicately asked. The hope only grew when Jordan didn’t answer. “If you accept our courtship still, I won’t have to marry Lord Hale,” he nearly pleaded.

How he wanted to be with someone like Jordan, knowing that it had been likely their courtship would have developed to climactic conclusion through the ending months of the season. And now instead, Stiles was on the verge of marrying a man he knew nothing about, save for rumors. He had grown fond of Jordan in the passing weeks they had been spending together before the night Peter Hale ruined everything—he dared say that he found himself dreaming about marriage before that night.

“I told him no,” Jordan admitted, unabashedly.

A chill ran through Stiles’ body, an embarrassment consuming him.

“I came here to apologize to him, in hopes of making an amends for having caused confusion,” Jordan continued.

“Get out,” Stiles softly uttered, taking a step back from Jordan.

Jordan finally looked at Stiles. Though he had nothing to say to fill the silence.

“Get out,” Stiles repeated with more force this time, his hands shaking as they clenched into fists.

“Stiles,” Jordan started with a sigh, daring to make a reach for Stiles’ hand.

Stiles snatched his arm out of Jordan’s reach. “I said get out, you coward!” He yelled, tears burning his eyes as his chest constricted. He wanted to be left alone to cry without an audience. He didn’t feel any better once Jordan left, his whole body collapsing back onto the sofa as his sobs shook through him.

Yes, he would marry a man he did not know, because no self-respecting Alpha would have him now that an unwanted bastard was growing in his belly.

Chapter Text

“This is a gorgeous townhouse,” John offered in conversation.

“Thank you,” Laura answered with a smile of her own. She finished pouring the cup of tea she intended to give to Stiles. She was surprised when Derek took the cup from her hands, preventing her from standing. “Derek purchased it a few years ago,” she began to explain to John, pretending to turn her attention away from her brother.

“A gorgeous gift,” John commented.

“A godsend, really,” Laura politely corrected him. “My husband managed to give away the house right from under me and my daughters, before he died,” she explained, a twinge of sadness in her tone. “Derek purchased this house to remedy that,” she uttered with a fond smile, thinking about the day Derek brought her and her girls here. It was such a happy day—a bright stream of sunlight shining through their dark cloud.

Stiles was staring out the window, watching the garden as the sun nearly set. He turned his head at the sound of Derek approaching him, curious to find his future husband offering him a cup of tea. He graciously accepted the tea, a little surprised at himself when he allowed their hands to brush over the exchanging of the cup.

“Are you feeling any better?” Derek inquired as he watched Stiles test the warmth of the tea against his lips.

“Much,” Stiles faintly replied. He set the cup back onto the saucer, his fingertips tracing the inlaid gold decorating the fine china. He had never been afforded such gorgeous fineware, only ever seeing such pleasantries in Lydia’s household—and even then, those trinkets were not its equal. He heard how much more wealth the Hales had procured once Derek assumed control of their affairs.

Stiles had been at Lydia’s when he heard Lady Martin speaking with one of her fellow ladies—gossiping old hens, Lydia had called them with disdain in her voice. He found himself hating Lady Martin more when he heard her true opinion of his match.

Lord Hale truly should have better taste in his choice of mate. A Hale marrying that Stilinski boy?

A waste, truly. He’s already been plucked, I heard.

He’s been plucked and stuffed.

It’s a good thing Lord Hale has his successful profits from overseas—cost him a fortune. Mark my words, that Omega will be more trouble than he’s worth, in the end.

How Stiles wanted to throw it in their face that he wanted nothing to do with Lord Hale.

“Do you like the china?” Derek asked, noting how Stiles kept turning the cup in the saucer.

Stiles looked up at Derek, having lost himself in thought. “I’m sorry, I was … I lost myself for a moment,” he blushingly admitted as he looked away from Derek, staring down at the tea cup. “It is quite exquisite craftsmanship,” he noted, hoping Derek wouldn’t ask what he was thinking about.

“I found them while overseas—on business,” Derek explained, turning his attentions towards the porcelain cups as well. “I must admit, I’m not the best at picking things out.”

Stiles delicately lifted the cup to his lips, taking a small sip of tea to stretch the silence between them. He ran his thumbs along the cup once he placed it back in the saucer. “I am pleased to hear that your ventures overseas have been profitable,” he decidedly stated, looking up at Derek. “Both business and leisurely,” he added, hearing how Laura was discussing the drapes with his father—another present from Derek while he was abroad.

Derek nodded. “It will make our journey there less boring.”

Stiles’ brow furrowed in confusion. “Boring?” He inquired.

“I’m afraid the countryside can be very quiet,” Derek explained. “The city is not that far of a ride from the estate, but it can feel quite isolated at times, if you have no work or hobbies to entertain you.”

Stiles frowned at the idea. He couldn’t help but feel as if he was destined to be hidden like a dirty secret. “I suppose I’ll have to take up a hobby,” he commented, looking down at the tea in his cup.

“Whatever you find interesting,” Derek offered.

Stiles silently took a drink of his tea.

Derek’s features scrunched, soundlessly reprimanding himself for sounding as if he was dismissing Stiles to find a suitable form of entertainment. “There aren’t many gentle Omegas in the countryside, but I’m confident many would love nothing more than to converse with you.”

Stiles looked up at Derek. “Act as a host?” He questioned, unsure if Derek meant it.

“You could, if you wanted,” Derek replied. “I’m sure you’re more than capable to do so.”

Stiles quietly nodded. “I’ve seen Lydia act as host for many parties. I’m sure quieter affairs are much simpler.”

“You can have louder affairs,” Derek corrected Stiles. “Whatever you find amicable.”

Stiles stared at Derek, unsure how to react to such a grand gesture. He had not seen Derek since the older man had spotted him on the staircase that early morning, when the plan for their engagement was hatched. He wondered what type of man he was fated to marry—if Derek truly wished to please Stiles, or just wanted him out of out of the way.

“Stiles, do you play?” Laura’s inquisitive voice asked from the other side of the parlor.

Stiles looked at Laura, unsure what she was discussing with his father. “Play?”

“The piano forte,” Laura explained with a smile. “Your father said that your mother used to play very well, and quite often.”

Stiles tried to hide his disappointment.

“Claudia grew ill quickly,” John suddenly stated, offering to explain Stiles’ hesitation to answer Laura’s question. “She was teaching Stiles before … well, before the worst of it.”

“I’m sorry,” Laura frowned, wishing she hadn’t brought up painful memories.

“Stiles enjoys riding though,” John began as he changed the subject. “He’s quite an accomplished rider, actually.”

“Really?” Laura asked with a genuine smile as she looked at Derek. “You’ll have someone to actually ride with now, dear brother.”

“Do you ride?” Stiles thoughtfully inquired.

“A little,” Derek offered in a kind tone.

“A little,” Laura laughed. “Derek is still a very talented rider, and horse whisperer I dare say.”

Stiles looked at Derek in pleasant surprise. “Perhaps we could go riding sometime,” he began, attempting to appear invested in expanding on their mutual time spent together.

“It’s been awhile since I’ve riden,” Derek solemnly explained. He regretted the frown pulling at Stiles’ features. “Though, I believe I should remember how to with little difficulty.”

“I wouldn’t want to force my lord,” Stiles softly uttered, looking back out the window.

Laura released an exasperated sigh, embarrassed by her brother’s ineptitude.

“He used to race before the war,” Laura admitted to the room. “I dare say my brother doesn’t take leisurely rides, though.”

John turned to look at Derek with intrigue. “I had heard you were a veteran,” he noted.

Stiles rolled his eyes as he drank more of his tea. Everyone knew Derek had been in the war, as most younger Alphas and Betas had been. Though no one knew why.

The war was a bloody, sore subject most had turned away from discussing, though John’s belief was that there could be no remedy for the outcome of a war, so why not talk about it. Too many wealthy and aristocratic men and women had avoided the war all together, allowing others too poor to avoid their military duty to suffer through it.

Derek could have avoided the war all together. He could have stood aside and profited from it. But to his parents’ dismay, he had served out his duty as a young man with no understanding of the horrors he would see and endure.

He understood it all too well before the end of the war.

“He was a Lieutenant Colonel,” Laura stated, a fond pride in her tone. It wasn’t a handed down title, like many had envied of Derek—some saying his rank reflected his family’s social standing. “The letters he sent home were so fraught with detail of the peculiarities over there—oh, and the drawings! So beautiful a picture painted by those alone.”

“I don’t believe they wish to hear about a boring military career,” Derek stated, his tone slightly different than before—something hidden in the way he dismissed his own past. It was more unsettling than anything.

“Boring,” Laura incredulously sneered at Derek’s wording. She never liked the way Derek tried to hide his heroics. “He saved the lives of hundreds,” she decidedly stated. “He walked, wounded, more than a day—”

“Sister,” Derek suddenly stated, catching the room’s attention. “I doubt this is such pleasant a subject to discuss on a first visit.”

Stiles stared at Derek, observing the man’s stiff appearance. He could tell Derek was uncomfortable with the topic at hand, curious if Laura understood that when the older woman made a dismissive sound. He had heard that Derek once hit a man with his cane when the silly lord inquired about Derek’s need for the support—he found himself wishing to have witnessed such an event.

“You draw?” Stiles decided to question before Laura could continue, attempting to steer the conversation elsewhere.

Derek looked at Stiles, the tension in his shoulders leaving him. “Yes, though it has been a while,” he admitted.

“Oh!” Laura excitedly exclaimed. “You should draw Stiles.”

A small flush grew high on Stiles’ neck, spreading to settle on his cheeks.

“That would hardly be appropriate,” Derek started, having seen Stiles’ quietness as a dislike of the idea.

“You’re to be married,” Laura huffed. “I hardly would call that scandalous.”

“He would have to sit still for too long,” Derek countered. “That’s hardly hospitable—making a guest remain as stiff as a statue.”

“I don’t mind,” Stiles found himself saying. He hoped it would mean they could change the conversation all together.

~*~

Stiles was comfortable in his chair, however he did find Derek to have been truthful about the stiffness in not moving. The pencil’s scratch against the paper was a constant reminder of the fact that he was the subject of a drawing—a drawing by Derek. He wondered how kind Derek would be in his artistic rendering, all too aware of the way Laura continually took a turn about the room to sneak glances over Derek’s shoulder.

Stiles couldn’t help but move when he heard soft, childish giggles coming from the cracked door leading into the hallway.

“I know that is not Joanna or Elizabeth,” Laura stated loudly as she turned towards the door in question. “Because my darling little ones should be asleep right now.”

John released a light chuckle when the two little girls squawked at their mother abruptly opening the door.

Stiles was looking at the two children as they started to plead with their mother.

“But we wanted to see him,” the one with little curls sneaking out from her nightcap reasoned. She was paler than her sister, her eyes sunken with dark circles beneath them. She clung to her sister’s arm, clearly the younger of the two if her height was concerned.

“We never get to meet anyone,” the other complained. “And Uncle Derek is drawing!” She quickly pointed a small, slender finger at Derek.

A small smile pulled at the corner of Derek’s lips, despite his attempt to hide it.

Uncle. Nieces.

Stiles had forgotten that Laura mentioned her daughters earlier in the evening, which consequently made Derek an uncle.

Which would make Stiles an uncle in a few days time.

“You know you should be in bed, Jo,” Laura scolded the child with the nightcap. “And you, Lizzie, know that she can’t sleep without you near.”

“Let them be,” Derek stated.

Both girls smiled pleasantly.

“You spoil them,” Laura sighed. She bent down to look at Joanna. “Any coughing?”

Joanna shook her head. “I’m okay,” she softly answered. “Please, mama,” she pressed, hugging onto Elizabeth’s arm tightly.

“For only a little while,” Laura reasoned, pressing small kisses to both girls’ heads.

Joanna tried to keep up with Elizabeth, letting go of her when she realized the older girl was going to get to their uncle much faster. Her steps started to slow when she looked at Stiles. She hesitated before turning to walk towards him instead of Derek.

Elizabeth peered over the side of Derek’s shoulder, pressing her lips together in dismay. “You said you’d draw us next,” she displeasingly noted.

“You were both asleep,” Derek answered, moving to have her stand in front of him. He gave her the pencil, making it easy for him to guide her hand as they had been doing in the recent weeks.

“Hi,” Joanna greeted Stiles once she was standing in front of him.

“Hello,” Stiles answered her with a kind smile.

Joanna hugged her doll to her chest, twisting back and forth some as she looked at Stiles. “You’re very pretty,” she stated.

Stiles released a light laugh. “Thank you. And you are too.”

Joanna smiled behind the curls of her doll. “Uncle Derek is lucky he gets to marry you,” she stated.

Stiles was surprised by the young girl’s knowledge of events to come. He returned her heartfelt smile, before shaking his head. “I am lucky for him,” he corrected her.

“Uncle Derek is okay, but he’s not pretty,” Joanna stated. “He isn’t very funny, and he works too much.”

“Well, I guess I’ve been sized up,” Derek dryly commented from his spot by the drawing easel. “By a six year old.”

Stiles couldn’t help his laugh when he saw Joanna pout. He felt a joyful wave of ease fall over him when he saw the way Derek hid his own smile.

Perhaps Stiles could find himself happy with a man who smiled at a child’s playful whimsy.

~*~

Joanna had fallen asleep, curled against Stiles’ side with her dolly limply hanging from her grip. She slept soundly, despite the deep, crackling wheezing coming from her lungs with every deep breath she took.

Stiles noticed Elizabeth started to sleepily blink her eyes, swaying as she leaned against Derek for support. He watched as Derek lifted Elizabeth into his arms, allowing her to place her head on his shoulder.

“I’ll take her,” Laura offered as she moved to lift Joanna properly into her arms. She gently patted Joanna’s back when she coughed some.

Stiles watched as Derek and Laura brought the children out of the parlor. “Do you know what ails her?” He softly asked his father.

John turned to look at Stiles. “A sickness in the lungs,” he answered. “She’s had it for a while now, Lady Hale had explained earlier.”

Stiles frowned at that. “Will she get better?”

“Hard to tell,” John honestly answered. “But Derek has been doing what he can to get her the best treatment.”

Stiles sorrowfully nodded.

The evening was late when they departed from the townhouse.

John bowed and took Laura’s hand with grace, shaking Derek’s hand firmly as they dutifully departed.

Stiles embraced Laura as a sister, hugging her closely. He dared to believe he would find having siblings agreeable. He was surprised by Derek’s move to escort him down to the carriage. He walked slowly beside Derek, his hand nestled in Derek’s hold. He bowed his head to Derek when they reached the carriage. “I appreciated tonight,” he sincerely offered. “I look forward to see how my drawing comes out,” he added, a friendly smile on his lips.

“I enjoyed drawing you,” Derek answered. “I look forward to the coming days.” He took a step closer, leaning in to press a kiss to Stiles’ temple.

Stiles closed his eyes, turning his head to accept Derek’s gesture.

~*~

Derek watched as Stiles stared at himself in the mirror. He wondered when he had been afforded such luxuries, to waltz back into society and make a claim on an Omega as desirable as Stiles. He knew the reality was simple: Peter fucked up, and Derek was fixing it.

Again.

The Hale name afforded Peter the luxury of crossing the lines of propriety without any repercussions. Only now, the rumors swirling around what happened with the young Stilinski Omega were less than reputable. Half the rumors claimed Stiles was a drunken mess, flinging himself onto Peter as he laughed up the stairs with him, and that Peter only accepted what Stiles offered. The other half of the rumors was darker—uglier—and held far more damning allegations against Peter if they were true.

Derek was finally in a spot to hold his uncle accountable. And he wasn’t going to let Peter get away with ruining someone else’s life.

After Lady Martin vocally accosted Derek the moment he set foot back in the city’s main street, things became clear that Peter was growing worse—feral, even. Derek knew Lady Martin had no idea of the man Peter was now; that she could not fathom the trauma Peter inflicted on many.

Derek saw the fear and jitteriness in Stiles the moment he learned his surname. He recognized the difference between someone regretting their own silly actions, and someone fearing something—or someone.

And Stiles feared Peter and the Hale name after that night, that much was obvious.

Derek had spoken to the witnesses of the morning after, knowing they had no reason to lie about Stiles’ frantic nature, or the tears in the young Omega’s clothes. He knew Stiles wasn’t putting on an act to cover up his own stupidity.

To make matters worse, Peter had disappeared once news of Derek’s arrival was announced. Now there was no way for Derek to confront Peter and keep him from harming anyone else. He wrote the necessary letters to warn people from allowing Peter into their homes. But it had done nothing in the past, every time Peter disappeared after an incident. It had been years since Derek last saw Peter, and now it seemed likely that he would never catch up to his uncle.

“What are you doing here?” Stiles’ voice broke through Derek’s thoughts, pulling him back into the moment.

Derek looked at Stiles, catching his gaze in the reflection of the mirror.

“You’re not supposed to see me,” Stiles explained. “It’s bad luck,” he nearly mumbled when Derek didn’t appear sorry for breaking tradition.

“Fabled superstition that the Alpha would leave their intended before they reached the altar because they were displeased with their looks,” Derek offered.

Stiles stared back at Derek. “You sure you don’t want to do that?” He asked.

“This isn’t a forced wedding, Stiles,” Derek offered, taking a few steps forward. He caught the way Stiles’ gaze drifted towards his cane, as most people’s did. “If you want to leave, leave. I promise you that I won’t lose anything over this wedding ending before it begins.”

Stiles turned his head away from the mirror. “But I have nothing to gain by walking away.”

“I will still give your father the intended dowry,” Derek replied. He couldn’t help the faint smirk that pulled at the corner of his lips when Stiles actually turned to look at him in surprise.

“It’s an absurd amount to just part with,” Stiles argued, wishing to call Derek’s bluff.

“Not for me,” Derek calmly countered.

Stiles bit his lip, knowing he couldn’t argue that. He knew how much the Hales had—he knew Isaac’s dreams of marrying a Hale were not misplaced, nor uncommon for those on the social ladder. “Will you force me to share your bed?” He dared to ask. He wanted to know the truth—he wanted to know if one Hale was like the other.

“Tonight we’ll have to sleep in the same bed,” Derek replied. He waited for Stiles to look at him again before adding, “I’ve been told I snore sometimes, so I apologize for that in advance.”

Stiles’ brows furrowed in anger. “You treat my actual concerns as a joke.”

“You’re asking to get a rouse out of me,” Derek corrected him. “So let me get to the point: I don’t care if you ever open your legs to me.”

Stiles stared at Derek, unable to find a lie or a smirk of amusement.

“This will be my third marriage, but first child,” Derek honestly stated, though something in his words sounded forced. “That’s more than enough for me to handle. Whether this child is an Alpha, Beta, or Omega, it will inherit all the Hale holdings.” He continued to explain his intentions. He needed an heir to call his own, someone to leave this wealth and legacy to. He would rather it be utilized for something than torn apart out of greed. “And should I die before you, you will be set for life, with a child that will no doubt adore you.”

“You’d give me all that,” Stiles ardently stated in disbelief. “Because your uncle fucked me.”

“No,” Derek sharply stated. “I would give you all that, because you don’t care for society’s petty games.” He took the last few steps he needed to reach Stiles, standing next to the small bench Stiles sat on before the vanity. “Because you have doubts about marrying me. You don’t want the Hale name or the Hale fortune— that makes you perfect for it.”

Stiles took a deep breath, his gaze dropping from Derek’s as he turned to look back in the mirror. He looked at Derek’s distorted image in the reflection, noting how he could only see part of Derek’s body—his hand, adorned in rings, wrapped around the handle of an ornate cane.

The image of a powerful man, who did not belittle himself for the sake of an uncle’s bastard.

Derek was much more than the rumors speculated, and Stiles was intrigued by that.

“Okay.”

~*~

Stiles stood next to Derek, his arm hooked around Derek’s, his hand holding onto Derek’s arm for support. He felt weightless since the moment he signed the marriage certificate. He hoped that Derek would be a kind husband, knowing he could do no better in his circumstances. He felt unkind in his assumptions about Derek, knowing he had no right to assume such things about a man. But he fell into society’s trap in believing rumors were the truth when they were centered around a man like Derek.

“Lord Hale,” a familiar voice addressed Derek.

Stiles grew rigid when he realized it was Jordan. His grip on Derek tightened.

Derek looked at Stiles out of the corner of his eye as he shook Jordan’s hand.

“Congratulations,” Jordan offered, his voice sounding hollow, as if he didn’t believe his own words. “You’ve found a remarkable companion in Stiles.”

“I know,” Derek simply answered. He released Jordan’s hand, reaching up to touch Stiles’ hand that rested on his arm.

Stiles appreciated the gesture, turning into Derek as he avoided acknowledging Jordan. He refused to look at Jordan, knowing he had a right not to now that he was married to an Alpha of higher standing.

“Well,” Jordan started before clearing his throat. “The best of health to you both.”

“Thank you,” Stiles uttered, hoping it was enough of an acknowledgement to get Jordan to leave them be. He pretended that his heart didn’t hurt when Jordan walked away.

“Congratulations!” A woman’s voice broke through Stiles’ solemn stated as a young lady embraced Derek with such enthusiasm, it surprised even Derek.

“I take it your journey was pleasant,” Derek calmly uttered as he lightly embraced the woman back.

Stiles stared quizzically at the woman as she pulled away from his husband. His mouth formed a small ‘o’ of surprise when he saw the woman’s features.

The young woman was a beauty, regardless of her clothes’ finery. She had dark chestnut curls hanging loosely from beneath her hat, a fan dangling from her laced covered wrist. She had green eyes with specs of gold similar to Derek’s.

The relation was obvious.

“It was lovely,” the woman answered Derek. “I was able to speak with many gentle ladies and lords, and tell them all about my new wardrobe,” she half curtsied to Derek, her smile partially smug.

“It wasn’t enough to be part of the family that owns the railroad, but you had to boast about other luxuries?” Derek dryly questioned.

Stiles turned his eyes on Derek at the mention of the railroad. He had forgotten that the Hales were more than just old wealth. He felt ashamed to not know the detailed intricacies of the properties his husband held.

“It’s not my fault we can afford such finery,” Cora countered.

“I feel sorry for the woman or man whose eye you catch,” Derek tiredly uttered. “You’ll rob them of their fortune.”

“What are big brothers for if not to spoil their sisters?” The woman dared to question.

“You’ll have to forgive our younger sister, Stiles,” Laura tiredly spoke as she walked up to them. “Cora makes horrible first impressions.”

Cora turned a glare on Laura, and Stiles couldn’t help the small laugh that bubbled up.

She was definitely a Hale, if he couldn’t tell by anything but the glare alone.

“So, this is your new Omega,” Cora dared to loudly state as she looked at Stiles.

Derek’s features twisted some.

“Cora,” Laura lowly uttered her name, a warning for her to act appropriately.

Stiles looked at Cora, unsure what her words were meant to imply. “It’s nice to meet you, Lady Hale,” he offered.

Cora appeared surprised. “He appears tamed—that is indeed new for you,” she commented as she looked at Derek.

“Don’t,” Derek’s voice lowly warned her.

Cora pursed her lips in displeasure. “Fine,” she answered. She took a step into Stiles’ personal space, uncaring that she surprised him with her embrace. She swiftly pressed a chaste kiss to each of his cheeks. “I look forward to calling on you while you are at Rosehill Park.”

Stiles stared at Cora in bewilderment. “That would be nice,” he offered in a hurry, as if he had forgotten himself.

“Rosehill has been empty for far too long,” Cora commented, twirling her fan back into her hold as she took a step away from Stiles. “It will no doubt flourish with a new master to watch over it.”

Stiles offered a small smile. “You’re too kind.”

“No, she’s not,” Laura mused as she took her sister’s arm. “We’ll leave you to one another,” she explained with a kind smile, pulling Cora away with her.

“I didn’t know you had a younger sister,” Stiles uttered, looking up at Derek. “She seems … kind.”

Derek snorted out a soft chuckle. “She’s a lot to handle,” he offered. “But she is not malicious,” he paused, as if thinking about his statement. “Mostly,” he corrected himself. “She’s been spoiled since before she can probably remember. But her heart is mostly in the right place—most of the time.”

Stiles smiled at that. “She sounds a great deal like you.”

Derek turned an arched eyebrow on Stiles.

“Your heart is in a good place,” Stiles elaborated.

Derek couldn’t help his faint smile. “Most of the time,” he echoed.

~*~

Stiles fiddled with the blanket, his fingernails picking at the threaded embroidery as he anxiously waited for Derek to join him. He wondered if Derek was truthful in his words when he said that they would only share the bed tonight. He knew it didn’t matter what happened—a baby would be the ending result no matter what.

Derek took his time getting into bed, his leg bothering him more today than it had in weeks. He partially wondered if it had anything to do with the culminating stress the marriage had brought about. He paused by the bed, looking at Stiles—his Omega. He wouldn’t lie if someone asked him, Stiles was beautiful; he knew why Peter went after him.

But Derek was not Peter, and he would never bed an unwilling partner, no matter how beautiful they were.

Stiles look at Derek, realizing that the older man was just standing next to the bed. He scooted himself down the bed until he was laying down, looking over at Derek as he kept the blankets up high—a challenge to Derek, daring him against even trying to pull the blankets away.

Derek shook his head some as he pulled the blankets back far enough to slip beneath them. He laid on his back, closing his eyes as he adjusted where his leg would settle. He felt Stiles turning in the bed, the mattress wiggling some to accommodate Stiles’ movements.

“Good night,” Derek uttered, knowing that Stiles was watching him—waiting on him to do something besides sleep.

“Good night,” Stiles’ voice quizzically mimicked Derek’s words.

Chapter Text

Despite their first night together being a quiet affair, Stiles was still surprised at himself for waking up with his arm outstretched towards Derek this morning. His hand was touching Derek’s arm, tucked safely around Derek’s bicep in a wanting manner. He had slowly slipped his hand away from his husband, grateful he had not latched onto Derek in the middle of the night like some clingy, desperate animal.

Stiles laid in silence, the early morning light trickling in through the curtained windows of their room. His eyes traveled the furnishings, taking in the grandeur of their room alone—it was bigger than his father’s main parlor room. There was a vanity, with his different creams for beauty regime, and the few trinkets of jewelry his mother had left him, delicately placed in the drawers. The fireplace was large, the mantle holding different tiny portraits and souvenirs from Derek’s travels. He had been grateful when Derek revealed that they had their own townhouse to retire to, unsure if he could manage keeping up pretenses while around Derek’s sisters and nieces. This townhouse was just as grand as Laura’s though it reflected that no one had lived in it for some time—it was clean and lively, though no grand personal touches were present.

Derek told Stiles he could change whatever he wanted, as they would be using the townhouse whenever they came back from overseas.

Lastly, Stiles’ eyes fell on Derek.

His husband. His Alpha.

Stiles was remarkably surprised with how pleasant Derek truly was. His husband was not only handsome, but wealthy and kind to him. There were moments, when being with Derek, that Stiles kept thinking that perhaps he could grow to fondly regard Derek—perhaps even love, one day. But he was skeptical of Derek returning such affections.

Stiles closed his eyes when Derek began to stir, hoping Derek did not see him staring. There was a pause in sound, as if Derek had stopped moving to sit up—as if his eyes had spotted something he was observing in great details.

Stiles remained still when he felt Derek’s fingertips gently brush his cheek, his heartbeat pounding loudly in his ears. Peter had done something much the same that frightful night—though this time, Stiles’ stomach didn’t churn with repulsion masked as queasiness. He lightly turned his cheek into Derek’s gesture, making sure to feign sleep still.

Derek’s touch lingered for a moment before it was withdrawn all too soon.

Stiles dared to open his eyes and watch Derek get out of the bed. His gaze lingered on Derek’s form, watching his husband nurse his leg as he started to walk about the room to begin getting dressed. He wondered how a man like Derek could possibly still be pained by such wounds—how the best of doctors could not heal his pains.

Stiles wished he could take such a pain away.

~*~

Stiles walked beside Derek, wondering if he should have offered to take the carriage instead of his usual stroll down Main Street. He knew Derek wouldn’t take the offer, but he felt as if someone should be looking out for Derek’s well-being. He noticed how Derek’s stride was not one of a man who was unaccustomed to walking with a limp—it made Stiles curious if Derek still traveled regularly on foot despite his injury.

“Do we need much?” Stiles asked, catching the way people looked at them. He appreciated having Derek with him, knowing that the strangers changed their judgmental glares into curious stares. He felt at ease, protected by Derek’s reputation—it was more than he could have hoped for from a patched up marriage like theirs.

“It’s colder across the sea,” Derek explained. “We’ll be there in the colder seasons, too. You’ll need more layers.” He tipped his head in acknowledgment to one passerby’s greeting.

Stiles nodded, glad that Derek didn’t insinuate that his clothes were beneath the Hale name. He was surprised that Derek held his hand, helping usher him into the salon first. He felt nervous when a woman inside spotted him, knowing she knew who he was when her expression soured. “Perhaps we should go elsewhere,” he softly said to Derek, turning to face him.

“Why?” Derek simply asked, not at all bothered by the impending iciness of their reception.

“I’m not welcome in most high scaled stores, anymore,” Stiles tried to explain without admitting his ostracization.

“You’re my spouse,” Derek firmly stated. “You’re a Hale now, and that means you deserve the finest possessions this world can offer.”

Stiles was surprised by such a statement, still not accustomed to being treated in such a manner.

“There isn’t a thing in this store you can’t have,” Derek explained. “All you have to do is say you want it, and it’s yours.”

Stiles stared at Derek, unknowing of a man who had such a fortune capable of spending it on a loose whim. He had told himself that Derek’s fortune was vast, but he had yet to experience it first hand. In truth, their wedding was a grand one for expenses, though private despite the people who came to call on them during the reception.

“Is there something I can help you find?” The sales clerk asked.

Stiles turned to look at the man, noticing that he was speaking to Derek and not him.

Derek gave the man a disinterested look, as if he was used to handling such behavior on a daily basis. “We’re traveling across the sea for the coming months,” he simply stated. “My husband will be needing plenty of layers to add to his wardrobe.”

Stiles looked away from the sales clerk, pretending he wasn’t aware of the look the man gave him. He knew all eyes fell on his stomach in scrutiny. There was no physical evidence of Stiles’ pregnancy, but everyone acted as if he was rounder than a globe.

“Well, I regret to inform your lordship that we do not carry sizes that would fit your spouse’s condition,” the sales clerk concluded, having sized up that Derek’s appearance was one of higher standing than the basic Alpha who was their clientele.

Stiles’ face flushed, his arm instinctively moving to take Derek’s. “Perhaps we should go,” he softly started.

“That’s an insulting remark to make,” Derek lowly stated, his expression dark and unamused. He refused to move from their spot, much to Stiles’ dismay.

“It’s an observation, sir,” the sales clerk replied.

“Derek, please,” Stiles pressed, tightening his hold on Derek’s arm. “It’s unimportant.”

“No, it is important,” Derek corrected Stiles, his gaze still focused on the sales clerk. “Perhaps I should buy out the block,” he concluded in a threatening tone. “I’m sure my sister could run this business more efficiently.”

“I will have to ask you to leave, sir,” the sales clerk suddenly stated, hearing the unhidden anger in Derek’s words.

“Harris!” A woman’s sharp voice uttered, heels clacking loudly as she rushed towards them. “What are you doing?” She demanded, her expression sharp but fearful when she looked at Derek. “I am so sorry, Lord Hale. This buffoon of a man in unfortunately my brother-in-law.”

Stiles saw the recognition Derek’s name brought when Harris paled at the mention of it.

“He has no right to be assisting anyone,” Derek stated, keeping a calm collect about him.

“Yes, I agree,” the woman quickly stated. “We’re down one sales clerk. A charming Omega—Isaac Lahey,” she explained. “I believe your lovely husband knows of him,” she added, gesturing towards Stiles.

Stiles clammed up. But he forced himself to kindly smile to the woman, nodding his head in acknowledgement. He receded that it wasn’t her fault Isaac was acting the way he was.

“I want him gone,” Derek stated, nodding his head towards Harris.

“Think of him as erased,” the woman answered, turning a sharp eye on Harris. “Get out of here, now.”

Stiles couldn’t imagine having the power to hold such persuasion over people. The others in the salon suddenly went from turning their nose up to gawking out of intrigue. He never knew money and status could turn everything on its head.

And Derek was good at it.

“I’ll be assisting you today, if that is mendable to you, Lord Hale,” the lady offered.

Derek looked at Stiles. “That would be up to Stiles.”

Stiles looked at Derek before daring to look at the woman. He faintly nodded, accepting the woman’s assistance as a gesture of good will.

The woman smiled at Stiles. “It’s wonderful to have you with us,” she greeted him. “Please, tell me what you are looking for.”

~*~

Stiles kept looking back at Derek every time something was offered to him to try on. He had been too used to checking price tags to care for browsing such finery. But every time he looked to Derek, he found his husband merely watching with a calm eye.

If Stiles smiled when trying on a garment, it was taken away to be wrapped. If he frowned at one, it was taken into the back, out of sight.

“You’re too kind,” Stiles concluded as they left the salon, numerous packages being wrapped for delivery to the Hale townhouse.

“How so?” Derek asked as he settled his checking book back into his jacket. He resumed holding his cane before offering his other arm to Stiles.

Stiles took Derek’s arm as they resumed walking down the sidewalk. “You spent too much today,” he answered as he stared at the ground.

“In the time it’s taken us to leave the salon, I’ve already made that money back,” Derek answered. He looked at Stiles when he realized he was staring at the side of his face. “I inherited only a portion of my current wealth, Stiles,” he explained. “The rest I earned from investments in bonds, companies, expeditions,” he drew in a soft breath. “Most of it was boringly calculated risks, most of which panned out better than others.”

“You set up an income,” Stiles commented.

“I wanted to make sure that my family’s wealth wasn’t squandered away on petty things,” Derek replied. “I wanted there to be some kind of legacy to live on for the Hale name.”

Stiles frowned some, his steps slowing. “But you’d give it to a bastard,” he nearly whispered, mostly to himself.

Derek stopped, pulling Stiles to the side of the walking path with him. “I’ll be blunt, as that is all I am truly capable of mustering as of late,” he truthfully started. “Any child you give me is not a bastard,” he firmly stated. “You are my spouse, which means that your child is our child.” He observed Stiles carefully to confirm that his words sunk in.

Stiles weakly nodded after a beat.

“I meant what I said in there,” Derek added. “You’re to want for nothing,” he firmly stated. “There isn’t a damn thing I cannot easily give you. If you want it, just say so.”

Something pulled in Stiles’ chest. He knew Derek meant well, that he was lucky to have a spouse as giving and generous as Derek was, even if he wasn’t in his current predicament. But he would always want something that Derek and his money couldn’t buy him.

Love.

~*~

Stiles paused as they started to pass one of the smaller boutiques. He was staring in the window at the various children toys. He faintly smiled when he saw one of the dolls that reminded him of Joanna.

“Something you fancy?” Derek asked, gaining Stiles’ attention.

Stiles pulled his gaze from the window, turning to look at Derek with a small smile on his lips. He gestured towards the doll. “Joanna said she wanted another doll,” he explained. “One that looked like Elizabeth—so the dolls could be sisters, like them.”

Derek looked at Stiles as though he was a remarkable anomaly he needed to figure out. “She told you all that?” He had been surprised when Joanna went over to Stiles that night, always finding the girl to be shy, and much quieter than her sister.

“She also said she wanted dolls like us,” Stiles amusingly stated. He shook his head in fondness at the memory. “She’s very sweet.”

Derek looked from Stiles to the window. “Then by all means,” he started, gesturing towards the door to the boutique.

Stiles’ surprise turned to a smile as he moved to enter the boutique.

Derek followed Stiles into the small shop, unsurprised when more than one of the sales clerks perked up when seeing them both.

“Good morning, sirs,” one of the clerks greeted them both before another had the chance to. “How may I be of service to you?”

Stiles smiled at the man, pleasantly surprised with being received warmly. “I wanted to ask about the dolls we saw in the window,” he started.

“Of course,” the clerk pleasantly answered.

It only took a matter of minutes for Stiles to describe the type of dolls they were looking for, and the clerk enthusiastically offering their services to custom make such a toy. Stiles turned to look at Derek, surprised to find him towards the back of the store. He looked after Derek, pardoning himself from the sales clerk, asking for just a moment with his husband. He calmly approached Derek, catching sight of what Derek was staring at.

It was a small, ornate toy theatre, one that was designed for ease of use by a child. Stiles watched as Derek inspected the toy with care, as if Derek was remembering something fond. “It’s beautiful,” he commented.

Derek turned his head to look at Stiles, as if he forgot that they were shopping together. He stiffly nodded, withdrawing his hand from the theatre.

“Perhaps Elizabeth would like it?” Stiles offered, unsure what the silence growing between them meant.

Derek tapped his cane a few times, as if shaking himself out of a small haze. “She would,” he answered. He reached a hand into his coat, retrieving his checkbook from within the pocket, he offered it to Stiles like it was nothing. “Get whatever you want,” he softly offered once Stiles hesitantly took the checkbook from Derek’s hold. “I fear I need a moment of fresh air,” he explained as he passed by Stiles to head for the door.

Stiles looked after Derek, clutching the checkbook in his hands as he watched his husband leave the boutique. He turned his attentions back to the small toy theatre, curious what memories the object could have conjured for Derek to cause such a void. He elected to purchase Elizabeth the hand carved box of art supplies he had seen towards the front of the store.

Stiles slowly walked down the steps of the small shop, moving to join Derek by his side. He offered a smile to Derek when he looked at him. He could see that Derek looked better now that they were outside the shop—away from the toy theatre and the memories it conjured up.

“Thank you,” Stiles stated as he gave Derek back his checkbook. “I’m excited to see how the girls like their gifts.”

“I think Laura will find us both spoiling them now,” Derek replied. He appeared to be back to himself, as if he had never seen the toy theatre.

“Hale?” A questioning voice asked in a curious tone.

Stiles looked at the man who called out, seeing the young man making his way towards them. He saw the annoyance in Derek’s face, as if he recognized the voice and dreaded speaking to its owner.

“By God, is that you, man?” The gentleman questioned as he drew closer to Derek and Stiles.

“Davenport,” Derek tiredly uttered, turning to face the man. He made the easy gesture of encircling his free arm around Stiles’ waist, electing to not give the man a handshake in welcoming.

Stiles willingly pressed into Derek’s side, finding himself feeling awkward and out of place otherwise.

“I didn’t know if it was you—until I saw the cane, actually,” Davenport laughed.

Stiles stiffened at the comment, his brow scrunching up. He hated this Davenport already.

“It is a remarkable thing, Davenport,” Derek sighed in annoyance. “How you have never seen someone else with a cane besides me,” he dryly finished.

Stiles slightly smiled at that.

“Not someone so young,” Davenport answered. “Well, we’re not that young anymore.” Another jibe at Derek’s appearance disguised as good humor. His eyes turned to Stiles. “God, I heard you’d gotten married, but I didn’t expect such a beauty for you.”

Stiles had to stifle his scoff as a cough, clearing his throat some. “You’re very kind, sir, but we do not know one another,” he elected to state in dismissal. He could see a hint of a smile on Derek’s lips out of the peripheral of his sight.

“Polite, too,” Davenport smirked, tapping Derek’s shoulder as if to jest. “Unlike Kate and Jennifer, I see—more like Paige.”

Stiles felt Derek’s hand tighten into a fist against his hip.

“I would appreciate it if you’d stop comparing my husband to others,” Derek growled out, his composure slipping some. “Stiles doesn’t share a comparison.”

Stiles wondered if he should accept Derek’s words as the compliment they felt like.

“Now, now, no need to get barking,” Davenport replied. “You always had preferences in tastes.”

Something in Stiles snapped. He wasn’t sure when he had hit the edge, but he was already tumbling over it when he uttered, “I don’t like you very much, Mr. Davenport.”

Derek turned to look at Stiles, slightly bewildered and unsure if he heard him correctly.

Davenport looked taken aback by Stiles’ words. He suddenly laughed. “He has a bite to him, Hale,” he claimed through his laughter.

Derek drew Stiles in closer to his side. “As I said, he cannot be compared.”

Stiles relaxed against Derek when he realized that he wasn’t being scolded for not holding his tongue.

“Always one for a decent laugh, Hale,” Davenport uttered. “Though I fear I have an appointment to get to, I do look forward to conversing with you again—you especially, Stiles,” he stated with a laugh as he tipped his hat in departure.

Stiles stared after Davenport. “What a peculiar man,” he curiously stated.

“Davenport is harmless,” Derek replied, withdrawing his arm from around Stiles’ waist before offering it up. “He’s insufferable, but harmless,” he elaborated once Stiles took his arm.

“He presses boundaries very easily,” Stiles noted.

“Being an Earl, he can do that,” Derek sighed.

Stiles stumbled to a stop. “He’s a—an Earl?” He stammered out his question.

“Remarkably, yes,” Derek replied, arching an eyebrow at Stiles.

“I insulted an earl?” Stiles dared to ask.

Derek released a soft chuckle. “Davenport finds that to be a compliment.”

~*~

There was one last stop Derek wanted to oversee—the hospital.

Derek had become a patron saint to most growing hospitals in the far reaching cities. He pioneered for programs to be revolutionized in terms of long-term healing. It was a process to heal the patient rather than just the medical condition.

It was something Stiles found himself admiring Derek for.

Stiles found himself clinging to Derek when they walked by the mental health ward. He tried to ignore the patients he saw roaming, more than one of them sporting a shaved head. His gaze fell on one woman playing with a doll.

All Stiles could see was his mother’s face in all their unrecognizable ones. He remembered how fast she faded when his father receded to the doctors wishes and had Claudia institutionalized. He knew they treated her like a caged animal, recalling how his father would break to tears whenever the doctor explained her failing health.

Stiles turned away from the woman, tears burning his eyes as he tried to forget the images of his mother. He had hated himself for being unable to recall happier times.

“Are you alright?” Derek asked, his voice soft with concern for Stiles’ tears.

“I don’t like hospitals,” Stiles answered, finally looking at Derek. “Will we be here long?”

“I just need to check in with the Dean,” Derek explained. “Would you rather wait at home?”

Stiles felt the weight in his chest move at the thought. “I think I would prefer that,” he answered. “I’m tired, but also ... ”

“You don’t have to explain,” Derek replied. “I hold an aversion for hospitals myself.”

Stiles was going to ask why before the obvious answer popped into his mind—Derek’s limp was likely the result of a scarred leg from wounds he suffered in the war.

War hospitals were always much worse than even the most poorly funded ones—doctors were more likely to hack a patient to pieces than take the costly route to full recovery.

Stiles started to recant his former acceptance. “I could stay—”

“No,” Derek answered, shaking his head. “I only regret to be sending you home without a companion.”

Stiles gave him a soft smile. “I will manage. But thank you for today—it was quite nice to spend it together.”

Derek stared at Stiles, his gaze focused on his smile. As if he was perplexed by its sincerity. “Of course,” he finally answered, taking a step towards Stiles. He saw the twitch in Stiles’ stance.

How timid Stiles looked, as if he was prepared to take flight, caused a dipping sensation to plummet through Derek’s stomach.

Derek pressed a faint kiss to Stiles’ forehead, taking a step back to give him space. “Rest easy. I’ll be home before supper.”

Stiles offered a small smile to Derek before turning to depart. He wished he had been brave enough to stay.

~*~

Stiles was exhausted when he reached the house, grateful to the servant taking his coat from him. It was nice to see welcoming faces.

“A letter came for you, my lord,” Marissa stated as she started to hang Stiles’ coat in an orderly manner. “Your father also stopped by to check on you—he said that he would be back tomorrow.”

Stiles nodded as he began to pull his gloves off his fingers. “Thank you, Marissa,” he answered her.

“Would you like a bath to be drawn for you before dinner?” Marissa questioned as she took Stiles’ gloves from him.

Stiles felt a little overwhelmed with how attentive Marissa was in her duties. He wasn’t used to someone fawning over him so vigorously. Not since his mother was alive, and their estate could afford a governess.

“That would be lovely, thank you,” Stiles answered. He was tired, and knew that a bath would only help to calm the aches and pains he felt.

Stiles took his letter to his room, setting it down on the nightstand. He undid the buttons of his vest, his eyes wandering the room. His movements slowed as his eyes lingered on the mirror. He stepped towards his reflection, turning his body to the side. His eyes lowered to his stomach, his hand moving to run along the normally taut span of skin. He could tell that he was showing, knowing what his posture and stomach normally looked like compared to the current expanded curve.

Images of Peter came rushing back, a sickness quickly uncoiling in Stiles’ stomach as he remembered the feeling of Peter pinning his legs open. It was the most he could remember, but it was enough to identify Peter and what he had done.

Tears stung his eyes as Stiles threw his shirt at the mirror stand to cover his reflection.

~*~

Stiles was relaxing in the tub when he heard Derek return. He made sure to scrub himself clean, his mind focused on the clothes that had been laid out for him to wear. They were finer clothes than any he ever had, the material made of silk and other fine fabric that he never had the heart—or wallet—to purchase for himself.

Derek had bought them as if they cost nothing.

Stiles slipped into his clothes with ease, grateful for their comfort. He easily played with the ties of his shirt, securing them before he moved on to his trousers. He got them into place with little difficulty, the small curve of his stomach hadn’t caused him to let the stitching out of his clothes just yet.

When he was presentable, Stiles descended the steps with ease, his muscles considerably lax compared to the strain he felt earlier. He paused on the stairs when he heard voices conversing.

“This is an uncalled for visit ,” Derek simply stated, as if he wasn’t insulting a guest with admitting such a statement.

“I just wanted to check on him,” John’s voice answered.

“And you bring a guest along with you,” Derek concluded. “Stiles isn’t up for entertaining guests.”

Stiles made the decision to take the rest of the steps down to the foyer. He gracefully moved into parlor room, prepared to face whoever it was that decided to accompany John on his visit. He halted when he saw that it was Parrish.

“Stiles,” John stated, cutting through the tension in the room. He moved towards his son, hugging him tightly.

Stiles felt hollowed out, as if he was a meaningless object in an otherwise meaningful embrace. He wrapped his arms around his father, loosely hugging him back as he looked over John’s shoulder. He saw that Parrish wouldn’t look at him.

“Marissa said you already called today,” Stiles offered as he pulled back from his father. “Is something wrong?”

“No,” John replied, taking in a look at Stiles. “Everything is fine.”

Stiles’ brow furrowed at that. “What brings you here, then?”

“Can I not visit you?” John asked.

“I’m happy you’re here, but … ” Stiles silently looked at Parrish. “Will you stay for dinner?” He asked instead, looking back at his father.

Derek’s gaze did not leave Stiles, watching the younger man expertly smile at their guests. He wondered if Stiles was putting on such a show for his father, or for Derek himself. He asked Marissa to show the men to the parlor before escorting Stiles off to his office. He made sure his touch was gentle and merely guiding opposed to commanding.

Stiles turned to look at his husband once they were alone in Derek’s office.

“Are you uncomfortable with him here?” Derek plainly asked.

Stiles looked at Derek. “If I said no, what would you do?”

“I’d make him leave,” Derek calmly answered.

Stiles stared at Derek, uncertain of his honesty. “You’d be an ungracious host because I’m awkward?”

“He wasn’t invited,” Derek replied. “I feel no remorse kicking him from our home.”

Stiles offered Derek a small smile at those words. “Thank you,” he answered. “But I’ll manage fine.”

Derek reluctantly complied with Stiles’ wishes.

~*~

Dinner was a stiff, calculating affair.

Derek did his part in making small talk with John about business endeavors and their upcoming departure to the main Hale estate across the sea—Rosehill Park.

Stiles refused to look at Parrish, keeping his gaze downcast. His stomach was twisted in coils as he waited for it to all be over.

When the night was over, Stiles stared blankly out the window as he watched his father and Parrish disappear into the carriage. He played with the pendant around his neck, opening and closing it as he ran it along the chain.

“You’re worried,” Derek commented as he moved to sit by the fireplace.

“Why did they come here?” Stiles plainly questioned, turning to face Derek.

Derek released a heavy sigh. “I honestly couldn’t tell you. Your father spoke about business, while Jordan stared at you for a majority of the meal.”

Stiles walked over to take the seat across from Derek, welcoming the warmth of the fire. “It feels like they are hiding something,” he reluctantly admitted his suspicions.

Derek made a slight noise of agreement as he drank some of his whiskey. He kneaded his thigh with the palm of his hand, a small grimace on his face at the pain there.

“Is your leg hurting more?” Stiles asked, noticing Derek’s movements.

Derek softly snorted at Stiles’ question. “It always hurts,” he offered as an explanation.

“What happened?” Stiles dared to tread the topic’s sensitivity.

Derek looked down at his whiskey once more. “The war,” was all he chose to say about it.

A silence grew between them, neither one of them daring to break it with guesses of what just transpired that evening.

“I had to act as a carrier,” Derek suddenly stated.

Stiles looked up at Derek, surprised that Derek was choosing to talk about the war.

Derek stared at the fire, unsure why he was bothering to even explain it all to Stiles. Perhaps Stiles deserved the truth instead of the rumors Derek knew swirled around his past. “Our carrier was a young lad—younger than you,” he noted. “He managed to find what was left of the garrison … but he bled out before he could even finish telling us the sensitivity of his report.”

Stiles frowned some.

Derek pressed his hand against the curve of his thigh, a sharp pressure against his wound as he recalled the memories. “We weren’t even a real garrison by that point,” he commented. “We had created a makeshift hospital in a hollowed out cathedral—civilians and soldiers.” He shook his head. “While I was delivering the carrier’s orders, my was ambushed. My horse … she took more arrows than she could handle—fell to the side and nearly crushed my leg. One of the lances that had gone clear through her belly went through my leg. I don’t think you wish to hear how I exactly got out.”

Stiles tried to hide his grimace at the thought. “I can only speculate the graphic nature of it,” he noted. He looked at Derek when he realized his husband wasn’t going to continue his story. “Laura said you got the orders to the general,” he suddenly stated, a perplex look on his face. “Why don’t you like people knowing that’s why you were given a medal?”

Derek closed his eyes, allowing his hand to fall away from his leg. “Because I discovered that my garrison had been wiped out in my absence.” He took in a deep breath. “As I laid in my hospital bed, I was told about my heroics for riding my horse, and walking a couple dozens on miles, all while soldiers and civilians were butchered.”

Stiles looked down at his hands, understanding a little better why Derek had grown so cold when Laura mentioned the war. He could hear Derek’s disdain for the past, knowing it was well founded. “You couldn’t have saved them,” Stiles replied, trying to answer Derek’s guilt with reason.

“I could have given them a better chance,” Derek replied, turning to look at Stiles. “But because I was the high lord who had superior riding skills, I was elected to take the commands.” He shook his head. “I have a bum leg, while they lost their lives. I don’t find anything heroic in that, Stiles.”

The silence seemed to be endless before Stiles forced himself to speak. “You’re a good man,” he softly countered.

Derek moved to stand, depositing his glass of whiskey onto the mantle above the fire. He shuffled his weight with ease as he retrieved his cane. “I believe I’ll leave you for the night,” he offered as explanation to Stiles. It was evident that Derek didn’t believe Stiles’ words. “I have a few errands to see to tomorrow before we leave.”

Stiles looked confused by Derek’s words. “What errands?”

Derek released a soft breath. “Finalizing a transfer of funds to your father.”

Stiles’ brow crinkled some as he turned his gaze towards the fire. He refused to frown, or to shed the tears growing. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“You knew,” Derek simply replied, completely unconcerned if Stiles disliked such an answer. “It’s part of your dowry—to pay off any and all lingering amounts of debt.”

Stiles scoffed out a bitter laugh. “And I was foolish enough to believe my father came to see me, not collect a profit,” he angrily stood up from his seat, stalking away from Derek.

“Could he not do both?” Derek inquired.

Stiles ignored his husband, choosing to loudly stomp up the stairs as the only reply he would give.

Stiles angrily paced, mindlessly turning as he moved about the bedroom. He shook his head whenever he thought about what he could possibly do. He wished he had the courage to go back downstairs and yell at Derek. But he knew the truth, he was scared their marriage could be made void if Derek chose to see it done. He wanted to believe Derek wouldn’t do something like that, but he had to admit the truth—he knew nothing of Derek’s character, only the passing moments they shared since the wedding.

Stiles decided to talk with Derek over breakfast, knowing he could rationalize his concerns once he calmed down. He turned back to his bed, seeing to turning down the sheets. His gaze fell on the letter he had yet to open resting on his nightstand, curious what it could contain.

Stiles picked up the letter he had forgotten, aimlessly turning it in his hands in order to inspect it. He recognized the handwriting, even though there was no return address—he had not expected to receive another letter from Isaac, after everything that happened. He carefully moved to sit on the bed, gently opening the envelope. He was a little surprised to find no actual letter, turning the opening of the envelope upside down to shake out whatever was inside.

A newspaper clipping fell into his lap.

Stiles picked up the clipping with ease, turning it to properly read.

It was an announcement of upcoming nuptials.

An announcement of the engagement of Alpha Jordan Parrish to Omega Isaac Lahey.

It was a smaller announcement than Stiles’ had been, the Hale name being one that deserved a headline on the newspapers’ front pages instead of a blurb in the designated section. The words only offered a mere announcement, nothing about the families nor the wedding date, only that their courtship had reached the next stage.

Stiles tightened his hold on the clipping, his fingers crumpling the fragile newspaper. He acted irrationally, tearing and crumpling the clipping and envelope as hot tears burned his eyes. He refused to let Isaac ever know he had succeeded in hurting him. He marched over to the fireplace, throwing the remnants of the announcement into the burning fire.

He refused to admit that he cried into his pillow that night. He blamed his pregnancy for his emotional state, not the uncaring nature of those who had been closest to him.

~*~

Stiles was exhausted by the time he came downstairs for breakfast. His stomach was bothering him, his feet swollen with ache, and he knew he wore his discomfort on his face.

Derek was already at the table, his gaze focused on the newspaper when Stiles entered the room. He peered up from the paper, observing Stiles for a brief moment before folding the paper to be set on the table.

Stiles looked at Derek after placing the napkin in his lap.

“I wanted to apologize for last night,” Derek simply offered when Stiles did not make a move to say anything.

Stiles turned to look at his plate. “I was out of line.”

“No, you weren’t,” Derek corrected him. “I had been the one that wanted to keep such transactions hidden, though I suppose there truly was no need to.”

Stiles dared to look at Derek. “Then why?”

“Because it bothers you,” Derek simply answered.

Stiles stared at Derek in silence.

“Why would I purposefully flaunt something in front of you that bothers you,” Derek elaborated. “That would be a cruel thing to do.”

Stiles nodded, looking away from Derek once more.

“Am I forgiven?” Derek asked.

Stiles softly laughed as he shook his head. “Nothing to be forgiven for,” he uttered.

“Would you like to join me today, then?” Derek inquired. “You are more than welcome to join me in discussing the finalization of the dowry.”

Stiles paused as he thought about Derek’s offer. He wondered if he could handle not being petty about things. In truth, part of him wanted to ask Derek to not give as much as he was going to. “May I ask a favor?”

Derek seemed surprised by Stiles’ words. “Anything.”

Stiles looked at Derek. “Pay off all my family’s loans and debt, with a small stipend to get my father by until his work improves from this association,” he paused, taking in a breath before continuing, “With the stipulation that there will be no more given after today.”

Derek appeared unfazed by Stiles’ request. “If that’s what you want.”

“It is,” Stiles firmly stated.

“You’re no one’s income,” Derek concluded when Stiles made no offer to explain.

Stiles nodded.

“I’ll see that it is done, then,” Derek replied.

They were both silent for a moment when Marissa entered the room with a trolley of food. Derek’s gaze lingered on Stiles, watching as the younger man thanked Marissa for her service. He was surprised at finding himself pleased with Stiles’ nature being close to that of the one projected to the public. He didn’t know if he could have handled more lies and deceit, especially in a new marriage.

Once Marissa had left, it seemed that they would remain in silence.

Stiles carefully unfolded the newspaper clipping he had tucked away in his trousers’ pocket. He had torn the clipping out of the copy of the newspaper Marissa had brought to him, wanting to bring it to Derek's attention. He slid it across the table, leaving it close to Derek’s plate. “Did you know?” He softly asked.

Derek looked at the clipping, picking the small piece of paper up in order to better inspect it. He frowned some when he realized what it was announcing. “No, I didn’t,” he answered, sounding displeased by what the paper conveyed. “But that doesn’t mean I’m not sorry about it.”

Stiles shook his head. “It was Isaac being jealous.”

“Jealous that you didn’t marry Parrish?” Derek quizzically asked.

“He thinks I stole your uncle from him,” Stiles bitterly stated, reaching for his tea, a small shake in his hands at the mention of Peter.

“He’s an idiot, then,” Derek replied.

Stiles frowned, knowing he didn’t believe Derek’s words as the truth.

“I’m sorry that he sent you this to gloat,” Derek offered, folding the clipping once more.

“He thought I would feel upset in knowing that Parrish chose to marry an Omega who wasn’t me,” Stiles honestly commented. “He was wrong to assume I still care for Jordan Parrish.”

“Are you sure?” Derek dared to ask. “He was close to courting you prior to the incident with Peter.”

Stiles looked at Derek, brow furrowed with a dull anger—an evidently painful subject still. “He made it abundantly clear what he thought about me after that.” He shook his head. “You saved my honor and reputation by proposing a marriage. You did so out of a sense of duty to fixing your uncle’s mistakes. Jordan was appalled at the idea of being with someone who had been … spoiled. There was nothing to gain from marrying me.”

“And there is something to gain from marrying Isaac?” Derek pressed. He wasn’t surprised when Stiles glared at him. “Isaac is a nobody Omega, with nothing to his name. Jordan is of a modest background—nothing the Laheys would hope for in a union.”

“You’re saying I made the more beneficial move by marrying you,” Stiles answered.

“Perhaps not for your heart, but for your livelihood, yes,” Derek calmly replied. “Jordan would give you nothing to handle your current predicament—you’d likely die with him.”

“And I won’t with you?” Stiles demanded.

“I don’t pretend to dress up our union as something it is not,” Derek replied. “I married for love once, and that brought me nothing but pain. I married a second time for building connections, which ended in a disastrous manner.”

“And now you married for nothing more than covering up another of your uncle’s crimes,” Stiles sharply added to Derek’s words. He gave pause when he saw the glower in Derek’s features, the darkness in Derek’s irises.

“My uncle is a horrid, despicable man who I intend on dealing with once I can get ahold of him,” Derek simply stated in a low tone. “I don’t care for covering up his crimes . If I wanted to do that, I would have twisted your father until he agreed for you to have an abortion. I would have paid Jordan Parrish enough money that the prospect of marrying you would be too foolish to ignore, all so you could have your silly little wedding, and your quaint marriage to an Alpha who will never move passed his working man’s background.”

Stiles looked away from Derek, refusing to cry. “You had no desire to marry or sire children again, and since I am having a Hale child, that made me the perfect solution to your problems.” He collected his napkin up from his lap, abruptly standing from his seat. “Thank you, husband , for clearing that all up. And rest assured, I will never mistake our marriage for a loving one.” He stalked away from the table, leaving to pack for their impending trip across the sea. He loathed the idea of sharing a ship’s quarters with Derek for weeks.

~*~

“My lord, I’m so sorry,” Marissa quickly uttered as she entered the drawing room.

“Marissa, what’s wrong?” Stiles asked in concern as he set the tea set he had been inspecting down. He was trying to make decisions in what to bring with him on the ship. He refused to bring everything, even knowing that Derek meant he could bring what he wanted.

Marissa shook her head. “I told him he wasn’t allowed in—with Lord Hale gone. He pushed his way in—”

“I had to speak with him,” Jordan’s voice defensively broke through Marissa’s frantic words as the man pushed through to the drawing room.

“My master will be furious with you,” Marissa dared to threaten Jordan. “The nerve you have to come into another’s home!”

“Marissa,” Stiles quietly spoke her name in a soft tone.

Marissa looked at Stiles in surprise at his calmness.

“Please fetch me some tea,” Stiles instructed. “And if Mr. Parrish is not gone by the time you are back, ask Willford to come in and remove him from the premises.”

Marissa understood what Stiles meant by giving Jordan a moment to speak his case. She respectfully bowed to Stiles. She turned back to Parrish before departing, uttering, “I’ll have you know, I make a very quick cup of tea.”

Parrish waited for the door to close behind him. He turned to look at Stiles, observing him carefully. “Thank you—”

“I didn’t do that for you,” Stiles simply answered. “Marissa is very protective, and would do anything for Derek, and I believe for me as well. I was saving her from possibly being sent to prison for dealing with you.” He turned back to his tea set, carefully wrapping it in linen before placing it in the hay filled crate. “You have mere minutes, Mr. Parrish, I suggest you say what you want before Willford is called.”

“Lord Hale is finalizing your dowry with your father,” Parrish started.

Stiles sighed. “Is that what you came to say?” He tiredly questioned, looking at Parrish finally. “He told me that.”

“You can still get out of this,” Parrish replied.

“Get out of what?” Stiles asked, shaking his head. He wondered if Parrish knew he was with child—if his father had told him. It was more than likely Parrish knew, if not assumed.

“I’ve learned things about Lord Hale these past weeks,” Parrish continued. “Things about his past, his character.”

“His character,” Stiles echoed, shaking his head. “My husband is not a kind man to behold, at first. He has no talent for words, nor a patience for excuses. But I find myself admiring him for his morals, and the way he regards me. I dare say he respects me, even, with the amount of things he trusts me with.”

“He’s not a saving grace, Stiles,” Parrish weakly argued.

“He cares,” was all Stiles answered.

Parrish tightened his hold on his hat, hands clasping the brim tightly as he looked down at it in his hands. “I worry for you.”

Stiles bitterly laughed. “That is hard to imagine.”

“He doesn’t care for propriety,” Parrish quickly stated.

“And you care too much for propriety,” Stiles countered just as fast. He stared at Parrish in utter confusion, unsure what he could have hoped to gain from this. “What do you want, Jordan?”

Parrish looked up at Stiles, a look of surprise at hearing Stiles use his first name as he once had. “I came to … warn you.”

“I’m not yours to care for,” Stiles sharply stated. “I almost was, but you didn’t want me, remember?”

Parrish looked pained by Stiles’ words.

Stiles sighed, looking down at the tea set. Allison Argent, Lydia’s friend from France, had sent him it when his nuptials were announced. He wondered if he would have received such gifts for a baby announcement instead. He was tired, more than usual—his heart ached. “Ask what you came here to ask, then be gone.”

“I have to ask … did you consummate the marriage?” Parrish asked in a sheepish tone.

Stiles looked at Parrish. “How dare you ask such a thing,” he seethed. “You afford me nothing but insults whenever we meet.”

“Derek can annul your marriage at any point,” Parrish concluded before Stiles could continue. “I came with your father to air that caution the other night. But I found myself unable to speak such things.”

“You mean you were too cowardly to utter those things in front of my husband, so you waited until he left our home to accost me,” Stiles incredulously demanded. He had wished he let Marissa throw Jordan out on the street. He calmly marched over to the drawing room’s door, ready to open it and demand Parrish leave. He startled when Parrish grabbed his arm, “Let me go.”

Parrish loosened his grip some, but did not release Stiles. “Your father fears that Derek will go back on his word.”

“And why would he?” Stiles demanded. “Derek is giving my father a dowry, plus a substantial stipend until he finds stable income. And to add to that, he has been nothing but caring for me—unlike so many others in recent months,” he angrily added.

“His last wife—Kate,” Parrish carefully explained. “She couldn’t give him a child, so he cut ties with her—left her destitute.”

Stiles shook his head, not believing it.

“Then there was his last courtship—Julia Baccari,” Parrish continued. “She gave him everything, her maidenhead included. And he just left her when he realized that her family had a lack of propriety when it came to him and his wealth.”

Stiles yanked his arm away from Parrish. “You expect me to believe rumors about him, when false rumors swirl around me every day?”

Parrish opened his mouth to argue before sighing in defeat. “I may not have wanted to continue our courtship, Stiles,” he started. “But that doesn’t mean I don’t care about you.”

Stiles released a watery laugh. “No. You just cared about my value .” He took a wide step back from Parrish. “Get out of my home before I have you removed.”

Parrish rigidly bowed to Stiles before following his order. He moved quickly to leave Stiles on his own.

Stiles took a deep taking a step back to sit on the couch. He released a shaky breath, his hands trembling as he ran them through his hair. Truthfully, he didn’t know what to make of Parrish’s statement, knowing that he knew next to nothing about Derek and his past. He hoped that he had been right to dismiss such selfish and trivial gossip.

Stiles had almost not heard the approaching footfalls. He turned his head to see that it was Derek standing near him. “How much did you hear?”

“Enough,” Derek lowly answered. “Do I need to have a word with Mr. Parrish?” He evenly questioned, his expression calm despite the tinge of darkness in his tone.

Stiles stared at Derek, wondering what the older man would do should he say yes. He ultimately shook his head no. “I dismissed him,” he offered. “It was my own fault for thinking I could maintain a calm facade.”

Derek turned to look at the window, catching sight of Parrish lingering on the street outside. “He crossed the line today,” he simply commented. “He had no right to come here, under false pretenses.” He looked back at Stiles. “I wish for you to warn me of these things prior to an outcome like this.”

Stiles’ brow furrowed. “I’m to blame for his deceit?” He forcefully asked.

“You are still in love with him,” Derek countered. He wasn’t surprised to see Stiles’ expression pale some. “I’m not a fool, Stiles. I never believed you would love me. I only ask that you don’t withhold the truth from me.”

Stiles looked at Derek. “You are a fool if you think I would lie on Jordan Parrish’s behalf.”

“You wouldn’t have let anyone else stay after barging in the way he had,” Derek easily countered.

Stiles angrily stood up. “I wanted vindication, alright?” He shouted at Derek. “I wanted the satisfaction of dismissing him—the way he had me.” He couldn’t stop the tears now, a sharp sob cracking from his chest. “Don’t you get it? I’m tired of standing on glass here—I want to leave!” He gestured around them. “I want a new beginning, one that you promised.”

Derek calmly withdrew his handkerchief from his breast pocket. He unfolded the lovely material as he stepped closer to Stiles. He offered the small square of fabric to Stiles, boldly moving to wipe a few of his tears away before allowing Stiles to take over. “We leave today, and won’t come back until you wish to.”

Stiles gasped in a sharp breath, an uncontrolled sob cracking through his chest as he reluctantly sat down. He hand a shaky hand through his hair. “I need to know the truth, Derek,” he finally uttered, looking up at his husband. “What happened with your other spouses? With your other courtships.”

The muscle in Derek’s jaw visibly twitched.

“I have to know,” Stiles softly spoke. “I feel like I’m going insane—that everyone is obsessed with comparing me to ghosts I know nothing about.”

“You are nothing like them,” Derek uttered.

“That doesn’t make me feel better—”

“It should,” Derek firmly countered whatever argument Stiles was about to give. “My first wife—” his voice cut off before he could continue. He had spent so long avoiding talking about what had happened with Paige, part of him wondered if he could even recall it all clearly. “Paige was my childhood sweetheart,” he offered. “We married young, and … it was over before we really had a chance.” He released a heavy breath. “She died in childbirth—her and the baby.”

Derek shook his head. “From there, I went to war,” he released a weak, deprecated laugh. “With everyone and everything—I signed up for a war I didn’t believe in, because I wanted something else to focus on.”

A cold chill ran through Stiles, swashling around in his stomach. “I’m sorry,” he softly stated.

“And then I met Kate,” Derek uttered, venom in his tone as he mentioned the woman’s name. “Katherine Argent, the only daughter of the weapons manufacturer, Gerard Argent.”

Stiles’ eyes looked over to the tea set that Allison had sent them both. He recalled the stiffness in Derek’s smile when he thanked Lydia. “A relation of Allison’s?”

Derek nodded. “Allison is Kate’s niece, though Chris would never allow the association to be public.”

Stiles stared at Derek when he realized the silence was growing. “What happened?”

An uncharacteristic laugh cut through the room before Derek could bite down on it. “She’s currently institutionalized—something her father never told me was a recurring theme with her.” His hand tightened into a fist. “She did … unspeakable things,” he uttered, unable to bring himself to confess it all. He looked at Stiles, his expression vulnerable—cut open and laid bare for the first time Stiles had seen. “Things that I cannot talk about yet, Stiles, but I promise you, I will tell you one day—when I can.” His voice was raw—weak but soft in tone, as if he was begging for Stiles to not press an already bleeding wound.

Stiles silently nodded, reaching his hand out to touch Derek’s.

Derek allowed Stiles’ hand to slip into his grip, thankful for the warm anchor to hold onto. “Lastly, there was Julia, who, despite my rebuttals, implemented herself in my life regardless,” he explained. “She had begun to make me believe I could be happy again. And then I cut her completely from my life when she revealed herself to be the snake she is.”

Stiles wondered how anyone could twist Derek’s life into something it wasn’t—how so many took Derek’s tragedies and made a mockery of them.

Derek was unsure Stiles believed him when all remained silent once more. “I can’t give you proof of them all,” he suddenly uttered. “But Paige and the baby are buried in a cemetery near Rosehill Park—I can show you the grave markers—”

“You don’t have to,” Stiles quickly stated as he stood up, refusing to release his hold on Derek’s hand. “I believe you,” he added, reaching a hand up to cup Derek’s cheek in the palm of his free hand. He hesitated for a moment before acting on the gesture, his fingertips tracing the curve of Derek’s cheekbone, running through the short hairs of Derek’s beard. “I believe you,” he restated, seeing the tension in Derek’s shoulders melt away at his touch and his words. “Just like you believe me, I believe you.”

Stiles let Derek pull him into a wordless hug, wrapping his arms around Derek’s neck as he threaded his fingers through Derek’s hair. He wasn’t sure how long they clung to one another, but it was the first time in months Stiles felt truly safe and welcomed.

Chapter Text

The voyage was long, and unforgiving at first.

Stiles had grown ill more than once on the ship, never having been on the open water before. He became acquainted with the ship’s railing, as well as the constrained walls of their room. He much preferred the train they took from the city, heading in to the country—once Derek managed to get him onto stable footing.

“Are you feeling better?” Derek asked, taking note of the lull in Stiles’ head.

Stiles faintly nodded, realizing that he was falling asleep from the steady rhythm of the train. “I believe I was so ill on the ship, I’m exhausted now.”

A small smile pulled at Derek’s lips. “That happens.”

“I do not recall you taking ill,” Stiles lightly countered.

“I’ve made the journey quite a few times,” Derek offered. “I’m used to it by now.”

Stiles looked out the train’s window, amazed at the scenery before him. He had been so used to the industrialized machinery of the city, and the grandeur of the shops he had access to, that he never guessed what beauty the country could hold. “When was the last time?”

Derek tried to school his features, knowing Stiles caught on to his silence as an indicator of the subject’s sensitivity. “Seven years,” he finally offered, unable to bring himself to admit more.

Stiles nodded, looking back out the window. “That’s a long time.”

“I’ve been to the city, just not the estate,” Derek replied. “It’s … secluded. But a welcomed calm compared to the bustle of a city.”

Stiles smiled at the thought. “Calm sounds nice.”

“You sure that you won’t miss your friends?” Derek asked, his attention focused on Stiles.

Stiles frowned some. “I never really had that many friends,” he truthfully answered. “I had acquaintances—people I could socialize with should the need arise.” A sadness pulled at his heart. “Though … I will miss Lydia. She’s always been a kindred spirit.”

“You should write to her, then,” Derek offered as a solution. “It will take a while for the news to reach her, but it will eventually.”

Stiles smiled at that thought. “I didn’t bring stationery,” he suddenly remembered.

“I think I can afford to spare some money for stationery,” Derek mused.

Stiles lightly laughed at that. “I’ll wait to rob you of your fortune when I ask Lydia to visit.”

“Ah, how kind of you for the warning,” Derek playfully replied.

Stiles smiled as he looked back out the window. He turned his body to the side, curling against the side of their private cart. He turned back when he realized his stomach wasn’t supported in that position.

“Here,” Derek uttered, offering the cushioned pillow from the other side of the cart.

Stiles wordlessly took the pillow, knowing that Derek wouldn’t stop until he was comfortable. He learned that on the ship, finding himself accommodated with every impending ache. He was grateful for it, especially now that his stomach was protruding at a noticeable amount. He placed the pillow between the wall and the curve of his stomach and hip.

Stiles was scared, in short. He didn’t know what to expect from pregnancy, much less one that he had been unprepared for. But now, he was in a foreign land, with a husband and expected child. He wondered what his life would have been if he had never been set upon by Peter.

It had been four months since that night.

And Stiles’ nightmares were only growing more vivid. He never told Derek what caused him to scream away some nights—though he knew Derek figured it out, just in how he would look at Stiles and waited to be permitted to touch him.

Stiles hid his sadness as best he could, knowing that Derek would take it upon himself. He wondered if there would ever come a day that his nightmares would vanish. He hoped, for his own sanity, that they would.

Stiles was glad that they didn’t have much more to travel once they reached the station, Derek explaining that it was a simple carriage ride to reach the estate.

Many people greeted Derek with polite smiles and gestures, their intrigue piqued by Stiles. It was a welcomed change.

~*~

Stiles was amazed at the estate. He leaned closer to the carriage’s window in order to get a better look.

A pair of ornate gates were left open, welcoming their arrival. That lead to beautiful gardens, a fountain before the estate’s opening. It was larger than any place Stiles had been privy to see. He wondered how he would not get lost in the large manor.

A beautiful, middle-aged woman emerged from inside the estate, her steps rushed and excited as she approached the carriage. A smile was brazened on her face as she reached them both. “I thought you’d never be back,” she exclaimed with joy as she hugged Derek.

Stiles was surprised by the woman’s forwardness, a fond smile on his lips as she turned to him.

“And this must be Stiles,” she happily stated, giving Derek a knowing look.

“Yes, guessing that the pregnant Omega accompanying me is my new husband is fine detective work, Anna,” Derek sarcastically answered her.

The woman—Anna, tut-tutted at Derek, hitting his arm playfully before she returned her attentions to Stiles. “You’ll have to forgive me, I just didn’t realize someone so beautiful would marry him,” she uttered.

Stiles softly laughed as he accepted Anna’s kind gesture of a hug.

“It’s wonderful to meet you,” Anna honestly stated. “It’s been too quiet here over the years, and we could use some brightness,” she explained, gently touching Stiles’ cheek in an adoring manner. “Come now, I’ve got the whole estate ready for you.”

Stiles started to follow after Anna, taking Derek’s offered arm as they kept a slow enough pace for him. His hips hurt with how bowed they felt, his feet swollen with ache, his limbs completely exhausted. He wanted nothing more than to rest for the evening.

Two monstrous barks suddenly cut through the estate, the echoing sound of clawed paws scurrying through the halls accompanying the loud noises.

A large brown dog dashed out of the house first, excitement in its movements as it headed directly for Derek.

“Slow down,” Derek loudly uttered in a commanding tone.

The brown dog slowed its movements as it came to an hurriedly stop beside Derek, its tail wagging wildly as it sniffed him before turning its attentions on Stiles. It sniffed and circled Stiles, releasing soft whines before barking happily. It pressed its nose against Stiles’ belly, its tongue licking out towards Stiles’ hand.

Suddenly a second dog appeared. This one’s fur was a pristine white coat. The dog itself was larger than the brown one, but calmer in its approach towards Derek.

“They’ve been waiting to see you,” Anna explained as she pulled the brown dog away from Stiles.

Derek reached a hand out towards the dogs, allowing them to sniff and press into his hand.

Stiles smiled down at the dogs, mimicking Derek’s gesture. He was pleasantly surprised when the brown dog happily whined and pressed its head into Stiles’ palm. “What are their names?”

“The white-furred gal here is Diana,” Anna explained as she ran her fingers through the white dog’s fur. “And the one drooling all over you is Pluto,” she added with a hint of a smile, watching as the brown dog closed his eyes and whined happily at Stiles’ attention.

“I didn’t know you had dogs,” Stiles commented as he looked at Derek.

Derek offer a small, forced smile to Stiles. “They were Kate’s,” he explained.

Jealousy dropped through Stiles’ stomach like a small ball cast down the stairs. He nodded, schooling his expression.

“They were meant to be hunting dogs, but they are too gentle for that,” Anna explained, a slight unhappiness in her tone as she thought about Kate.

“They’re very friendly,” Stiles replied, surprised when Diana merely stared at him before turning to head back inside.

“Come, let’s get you inside and settled,” Anna proposed, changing the subject with a welcoming smile on her face.

~*~

Stiles was never sure what being the head of a household was supposed to be for a lord. He had always been under the assumption that he would be running his own household instead of forcing another to do it for him. He felt like a worrisome bother to Anna whenever he needed anything, despite her insistence that he was a delight.

Derek had work to do most days, though he made time to spend with Stiles at least every other day if things became suddenly too busy. Though when they did go out, Stiles could see the looks people had for them, and it made him wonder if all society saw of Derek was his methodical and meticulous business side.

To keep from bothering Anna during her work, he elected to show himself around the estate as best he could. He made a game out of memorizing the rooms and halls that connected them. He found himself accompanied by the dogs whenever he went for a stroll.

Stiles pretended that he couldn’t see the animals following him out of curious intrigue. He would take a long walk before pausing to sit for a while, making sure he didn’t spook the dogs by looking right at them.

Diana was the first to walk beside Stiles, having quickly assessed him already.

Pluto was hesitant, choosing to fall into a hunched slinking pace when he started to get close to Stiles.

Stiles never forced Pluto to come closer, knowing that he was making his mind up. He would take his break by petting Diana, running his fingers through her fur as she obediently sat beside him.

“I figured I’d bring you tea out here,” Anna’s voice suddenly announced her approach.

Stiles turned to look at her. “Oh, that’s kind of you,” he quickly stated when he saw that she had a tray with a tea set. “Please tell me you brought a cup for yourself.”

Anna laughed. “Of course.”

Stiles was glad he had the company, knowing he would have grown bored to be left alone all day. He offered one of the biscuits Anna had brought to Diana, smiling when she gingerly took the food from his hands. He noticed Pluto’s head perking up in interest when he heard the first crunch of Diana biting into the biscuit.

Stiles offered his hand out to Pluto, placing another biscuit on display. “Come on, boy,” he used a gentle tone to call him forward. He was proud when Pluto actually rose from his spot, only to be disappointed when he stood frozen.

“Come on, Pluto,” Anna firmly commanded the dog to come forward.

Pluto barely raised from his hunched spot, slowly making his way over to Stiles through calculated steps.

Stiles allowed Pluto to steal the treat from his hand in a flash, watching the dog dart away to sit partially hidden from Stiles.

“He was so happy when he first saw me,” Stiles frowned.

“Derek was with us,” Anna explained. “But I reckon that Pluto has figured out you are the new master of the house, and he’s not sure what to expect yet.”

Stiles looked perplexed by Anna’s explanation. “Why?”

Anna frowned. “Well,” she side eyed Stiles, unsure if she should explain.

Stiles drew in a steady breath before asking, “Is it about Kate?”

Anna looked surprised by Stiles’s boldness. “Well, um, yes.”

Stiles’ gaze turned sadly to Pluto, barely seeing the dog’s hind legs. “She beat him.”

Anna sighed. “It’s normal, when training a hunting dog, to correct them--sometimes physically. But Kate was … she was cruel, my lord. She would hit him for no reason besides being angry at something she couldn’t change.”

Stiles frowned. “Did Derek know?”

“Gods no,” Anna nearly exclaimed. “He grew furious when I told him I caught her going at Pluto with a fire poker once.”

Stiles’ features twisted with appall.

“That was when Diana attacked her,” Anna answered, turning her own sights towards where Pluto was hiding. “Derek refused to put them down, despite Kate demanding it. He put them in the stables, out of her harmful reach.”

“I’m glad Derek didn’t let her hurt them anymore,” Stiles finally stated, reaching a hand down to pet Diana. “I’ll have to shower them in love until they can’t remember such a time,” he leaned down to press a fond kiss to Diana’s head, his lip touching just above her eye. He chuckled when her brows scrunched together, as if to question his affectionate gesture—it reminded him of Derek.

“I’ll say,” Anna sighed, releasing a heavy breath as she watched Stiles’ gentle actions. “You’re the kind soul we’ve been needing here, sir.”

~*~

Stiles wasn’t trying to lore the dogs into his room.

But at night, Diana would scratch at his door until he let her in. And Stiles didn’t have the heart to tell her no once he opened the door. That, and Diana was nice and warm as she curled up next to him in bed.

Stiles was surprised, however, when he rose one random morning to discover Pluto curled up on the carpet just outside his door. He wondered if Pluto had made noise to come in. But when it happened a few more nights, Stiles decided to try leaving his door cracked the following night.

Only a little time had passed since Diana climbed into bed with Stiles when the door creaked open wider, the sound of claws clicking against the floor in a slow approaching beat.

Stiles smiled to himself as he listened to Pluto take a spot by the side of the bed, knowing that it was a big step for the dog.

~*~

You were wetter than any practiced whore I’ve had don’t you remember how your legs fell open for me? You felt so good so tight.

Stiles startled awake from his nightmare, a scream caught in his throat. His whole body was aching as he turned to the side, his blankets wrapped around him like a tight cocoon as Peter’s taunting voice still rang in his ears. He pulled at the blankets, pushing them away when he realized he was too entangled. He looked down at his stomach, pulling on his nightshirt to cover his exposed skin—he didn’t want to be reminded of the bump there, the child growing inside him.

Stiles sat up, swinging his legs off the side of the bed. He closed his eyes as he drew in a steady breath, pressing a hand to where the baby had kicked. His hand clenched into a fist against his thigh, trembling as he tried to ignore the disgust he felt bubbling up in his stomach. He needed to clear his mind, to stop thinking about the baby—to stop feeling his own self-hatred for not wanting his own baby.

Stiles looked around the room to see if he could find the dogs. The presence of the dogs had done a wonderful job at keeping his nightmares at bay. He was surprised to discover that his bedroom door was now shut. He was curious if Derek had done so, knowing the dogs might follow after Derek if they saw his shadow walking down the hallway.

He climbed out of the bed, daring to leave his room behind in search of something to take his mind off the nausea of being alone.

Stiles made his way around the kitchen, knowing the servants would realize he was in there when everything wasn’t back in the correct place. He tried to touch as little as possible as he heated the tea kettle. The kitchen was much too big for Stiles to remember every designated location, despite having been settled a month already.

Stiles was curious if Derek had been pleased with them being here. He found his time being spent leisurely, reading books from the library or gardening. He couldn’t wait until the baby was born, and he could start riding once more.

Stiles was on autopilot, moving subconsciously through the kitchen as he prepared his tea. He poured himself a cup, spoon stirring to no end as he tried to rationalize his disconnect from wanting this baby. He was disgusted by his own lack of attachment.

Stiles walked the hall, his fingertips turning the tea cup around on its saucer, thoughts obsessing with focusing on something else. He hoped that he would find the strength in the coming days to prepare for his child’s arrival, hoping that decorating the rooms would help.

Stiles was surprised when he stumbled upon Derek. He offered a friendly smile as he moved into the parlor. “Can you not sleep?” He asked as he moved to place his teacup down on the side table, taking a seat in the armchair opposite Derek.

“I rarely sleep most nights,” Derek replied as he looked at Stiles. “Upset stomach?” He asked in reference to the smell of honey.

“Somewhat,” Stiles offered. “I had some bad dreams.” He settled into his seat, smiling when the dogs not so silently crept into the parlor to wait at Stiles’ feet. He sipped at the tea he poured himself, reaching a hand down to scratch at Diana’s ear. He smiled when Pluto made a noise before pushing his head into Stiles’ lap for attention.

“You’ve tamed those two,” Derek commented as he watched the dogs turn positively childish for Stiles’ attention.

“They’re sweethearts,” Stiles lightly laughed when Pluto slowly slipped down to settle against his feet, keeping them warm. “Did they follow you down here?”

Derek looked from Pluto to Stiles. “I had to call them—twice, actually.” He could see the exhaustion still on Stiles’ face, wondering if he had made a mistake in taking the dogs away. “You were talking in your sleep, and I thought Diana might frighten you.”

Stiles bit his bottom lip.

“They hate most people,” Derek uttered. “But they have grown to adore you. It was a mistake of mine to try and close your door to give you some peace,” he added as an apology.

Stiles looked up at Derek, catching the way the older man was looking at him. He turned back to his tea in the silence, unsure if he should continue speaking. “They’ve been out in the stables for a long time, I thought they’d like to share a bed.” He took a sip of his tea, trying to allow the conversation time to follow. “Have you given any thought to expanding the stables?” He chose to change the topic to a safer subject. “We could look for new horses—from the local stock.”

Derek released a soft snort. “You’ve been wanting to ride again, I take it,” he knowingly commented. “We have solid, purebred carriage horses—besides, I’m not in need of a racing horse,” he explained, gesturing towards his leg.

Stiles drank his tea as he looked at Derek’s leg. “Have you had a doctor take a look?”

Derek stared at Stiles in surprise. “That’s the first thing that happened.”

Stiles shook his head with a little amusement. “I meant now,” he explained. “I’m sure treatment has changed since your injury,” he added as an afterthought.

“Yes, I’m ancient, so medicine has changed since then,” Derek dryly replied.

Stiles frowned. “I meant that there are new doctors changing the field of medicine every day,” he explained. “I thought it might be worth your time to inquire,” he softly added, placing his cup down in favor of petting Pluto.

Derek sighed, nodding in agreement. “I’ve been looking,” he admitted. “I just am not holding out hope for the impossible.”

“I’m glad you’re giving it thought,” Stiles offered in support.

Derek allowed a small silence to settle before he announced his plans for the following day. “I have to go into town for business at the offices,” he explained. “I’ve asked for information from a great deal of people, and most of them are reporting back.”

Stiles looked disappointed by that. “I had wished we could have done something together.”

Derek appeared surprised by such an admittance. “I didn’t realize you enjoyed my company.”

Stiles’ features twisted some, unsure if Derek’s words were an insult or not.

Derek released a heavy sigh. “I meant, I didn’t believe someone would seek out my company,” he explained. “I’m not the best conversationalist.”

Stiles smiled at that. “I enjoy our conversations.” He reached for his tea once more. “Besides, I think I talk enough for the both of us.”

Derek softly chuckled at that. He fondly looked at Stiles before offering, “After I finish with my business affairs, we could spend some time in town together—perhaps a late show?”

Stiles tried to hide his disappointment at the prospect of being left home alone once more, even if it was for only part of the day. “Sounds lovely.”

~*~

Stiles knew he wasn’t supposed to be traveling alone, but Derek had been working too often. He didn’t want to bother his husband, but he knew Derek would make the time if need be. He wanted time to clear his head, and he knew Derek wouldn’t be back for hours, having an important meeting. He was intrigued by Derek’s promise to bring back a welcomed guest for dinner.

Stiles would confess that he should have told Anna he was going into town, though he felt like she would try to stop him. He enjoyed walking, and found that it was a shorter journey than he thought it would be, despite his current state. He admitted that he had a slight discomfort as he walked, taking minor breaks as he sat down to catch his breath.

That was why Stiles tried to keep discrete while wandering around the market, avoiding bringing attention to himself. He was quiet as he inspected the different trinkets, smiling to himself as he took his time to inspect the different items.

Stiles found the various people bustling around the market to be welcoming. He paused when the baby kicked, forcing him to lean against one of the various lamp posts lining the streets.

A feminine laugh caught Stiles’ attention, his gaze looking up to observe the couple. The woman was wearing a lovely dress, lace gloves covering her hands that twirled her parasol around. The man had his back turned towards Stiles.

But there was something too hauntingly familiar about the man.

Peter Hale.

An instant dread began to creep up through Stiles’ stomach, a terror crawling up his spine and settling in his throat. His breathing was rapid and uneven as he backed away from the couple across the street, fear gripping him once more as his nightmares played out all over again.

Stiles’ back collided with some unsuspected person, startling him as he nearly fell to the side.

“Careful!” A masculine voice called out.

Hands grabbed Stiles’ arms, holding him upright in order to keep him from falling to the dirt road.

Stiles looked up at the man, a calm relief hitting him when he recognized that the man who caught him was none other than Davenport.

“Da-Davenport?” Stiles turned his head to look at the couple—where he saw Peter Hale.

“Stiles, what’s wrong?” Davenport questioned, concern in his tone as he steadied them both. He looked to where Stiles was staring. He saw the young couple strolling along down the street, laughing with one another. He looked back at Stiles, realizing that the younger man was trembling. “Stiles, you’re shaking—are you alright?”

Stiles realized that the man wasn’t Peter, just an unfortunate resemblance. “I … I thought I saw someone.” He looked over Davenport’s shoulder to see Derek exiting the post office. He stared at Derek when their eyes connected.

“Stiles,” Derek uttered his name in concern.

Stiles took a step back from Davenport, feeling as if he was in trouble for his lack of discretion.

“Are you alright?” Derek asked as he took a few steps closer.

“I was restless at home,” Stiles admitted, feeling sheepish for not taking Anna’s concern seriously. “I needed to get out—take a walk.”

“You walked here?” Davenport incredulously asked, looking impressed by Stiles.

“Walking can be good for the baby,” Stiles answered, unsure if he was correct.

“In moderation,” Derek softly corrected Stiles.

“I thought I wasn’t going to be able to see Stiles until dinner,” Davenport commented, gesturing towards the cafe across the street. He looked at Derek. “Why don’t you get us a carriage, Hale? I’ll keep our lovely companion company.”

“You’ll spend time with my husband, and I’ll look for a way home?” Derek scoffed.

“You get to have him all the time,” Davenport countered, offering his arm to Stiles.

Stiles hesitantly took Davenport’s arm, still shaking from before.

Derek looked at Stiles, frowning some. “Are you well enough?”

Stiles turned his head up to look at Derek, offering a small smile. “Sitting would be nice,” he answered. “Even if it is with Davenport,” he jested.

Davenport heartily laughed in response. “I do say, you are such a delight, Stiles,” he fondly uttered.

~*~

Stiles sipped at his tea, his nerves finally calming once he took a seat next to Davenport in the small cafe.

“What did you see?” Davenport asked, his tone suggesting pleasant conversation.

Stiles tried not to look alarmed by Davenport’s question. “I’m sorry?” He softly questioned back.

“In the street, you seemed terrified,” Davenport explained as he reached for his coffee. “As if you saw death itself.”

Stiles clutched tight fingers against his tea cup, wishing he could find a lie suitable. He knew there was none. “Someone I have had an unfortunate past encounter with,” he elected to explain.

Davenport hummed, as if he understood Stiles’ evasive words. “Someone fancied you before Derek, and broke your heart, I’m guessing?”

Stiles shook his head. “I didn’t love him,” he admitted.

“Ah,” Davenport knowingly sighed. “A scoundrel then.”

“Yes,” Stiles hollowly agreed. “The worst kind.”

“Well, I suppose we’re lucky it wasn’t him then,” Davenport concluded, cheerfully offering the plate with sweet delicacies displayed on them. He waited, patiently, for Stiles to take his desired fill.

Stiles snagged two different treats, placing one on his tea saucer for later as he nibbled on the first. “And why is that?”

“Well, we would have witnessed Derek beating a man with his cane,” Davenport contemplated. “So I guess that would have been entertaining.”

Stiles paused, looking at Davenport in a perplexed manner. “Why would he do that?”

Davenport allowed a smile to grace his lips. “Because Derek values your happiness.”

“That’s kind of you to say,” Stiles softly replied.

“Not kindness, merely an observation,” Davenport corrected Stiles.

Stiles quietly turned towards his cup of tea, trying to calm his nerves as a small twist of turmoil swooped low in his stomach. He wasn’t sure what he felt from Davenport’s words.

“You’re good for him,” Davenport suddenly stated.

Stiles looked up at Davenport, unsure how to process his words.

“He’s a proud man, but also has a tender heart,” Davenport explained, shaking his head with a smile on his lips. “He was so different growing up.”

Stiles couldn’t imagine Derek as a young child, his thoughts conjuring the image of a well put-together noble, only slightly shorter than Derek was now. “I can’t imagine he was more than broody.”

Davenport laughed. “No, he had his moments of brooding, though. He was a happier lad than me—he had his sisters to thank for that.”

“Cora is so much younger than him, though I could imagine Laura teasing him,” Stiles replied. His own smile faltered when he saw the frown spreading across Davenport’s features. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to cross a line,” he began, unsure how he could have insulted anyone—playing along with Davenport’s jests.

Davenport forced a soft smile. “Nothing you did,” he explained. “Derek had another sister—a little younger than him. Probably would have been a little older than you now, actually.”

There was a soft twinge of sadness in Davenport’s voice, and Stiles could guess why, just by his usage of the past tense alone.

“I’m sorry,” Stiles offered in condolences. “I didn’t know Derek lost a sister.”

Davenport tried to play it off with a wave of his hand, as if it was nothing. Though the absence of his smile told the truth. “She was sick, though it happened suddenly.”

“And she was dear to you,” Stiles replied.

Davenport fondly smiled at Stiles. “The dearest.”

A moment passed as Davenport looked out the window, as if he was remembering a distant thing. “She’s buried near Rosehill Park—though I don’t visit as often as I should.”

“We could visit her together when you next visit,” Stiles offered, hoping it was a comfort to Davenport to know that the opportunity was still there.

“That is sweet of you, Stiles,” Davenport answered, turning a sad smile to the younger man. “One day, but for now, the weather is far too nice to be reminiscing about a lost past.”

Stiles wished he could have offered other words of comfort to Davenport.

Davenport made an excited gesture, tapping his knee in affirmation. “I have just the thing to cheer us up,” he explained. “Derek told me you have a passion for horses.”

Stiles nodded, acknowledging Davenport’s claim.

“That’s grand,” Davenport happily uttered. “There is an exhibition of sorts happening towards the end of the month, just outside the highlands. There will be horses of all breeds. And I have it on good authority that you could have any which one you wanted, all you’d have to do is mention it to a certain someone.” He gestured his head towards the cafe’s door when it made a chiming noise to signal someone’s entrance.

Stiles turned his head to see Derek approaching them. He offered Derek a welcoming smile.

“It’s a good day, Derek,” Davenport announced with a triumphant smile.

“What have you tricked Stiles in to?” Derek asked as he stood next to Stiles’ chair, resting his hand on the back of the piece of furniture.

“I had a brilliant idea, don’t ruin it,” Davenport countered in jest. “Stiles has expressed interest in the horse exhibition.”

Derek looked at Stiles, a curious arch in his brow as he observed his husband. “You’re sure that you’d be up for that?” He softly questioned, as if his concern was more for Stiles’ safety than propriety.

“I think it could be fun,” Stiles replied, offering a friendly smile as he placed a gentle hand on Derek’s. He needed something to keep his mind busy. He knew that he’d go insane if left in the house an evening longer. He was happy when Derek’s thumb gently brushed over his knuckles.

“It’s settled then,” Davenport smiled. “You’ll have to do good by me and partake in my little game, Hale.”

Derek rolled his eyes. “Every time Davenport finds himself at the same expo as me, he places wagers that he’ll find the best horse first.”

“That’s if Stiles doesn’t find the horse this time,” Davenport interjected as he stood up, offering a friendly wink to Stiles. “I’ve a few matters to attend to this afternoon, but tomorrow I am all yours for dinner.” He took Stiles’ hand with ease, leaning in to kiss his cheek in parting. “As usual, a pleasure.”

Stiles watched as Davenport fondly clapped a hand on Derek’s shoulder before parting. “Of all the people I thought we’d see, Davenport was the last,” he uttered as Derek rounded the table to sit in Davenport’s vacated seat.

“I had a favor to ask of Davenport,” Derek explained. “He arrived before us, which was a surprise. But he was good enough to wait.”

Stiles nodded, turning his attention to the sweet he had placed on the tea saucer. He poked at the delicacy, his stomach wishing he could consume more without fear of growing ill.

“Do you want to talk about it?” Derek questioned, breaking the silence that fell between them.

Stiles looked at Derek in surprise. “About what?” He feigned ignorance to Derek’s question.

“What you saw,” Derek simply stated. “Or why you left the house—on foot, no less.”

Stiles frowned at that. “I can walk perfectly fine,” he countered.

“Perhaps when you weren’t pregnant,” Derek rationalized.

“And because I’m pregnant, I can’t walk now?” Stiles harshly questioned. He was unsure where his anger was coming from when he knew Derek was correct.

“You walked a few miles to town, Stiles,” Derek continued, his tone hushed and calm.

That made Stiles madder.

“Anna probably doesn’t know where you are—”

“—I don’t need someone’s permission to leave,” Stiles replied, his heart hammering in his chest as he started to grow hotter. He wished he wore less layers.

“You don’t,” Derek agreed. “But you didn’t tell Anna on purpose, Stiles,” he partially sighed, more tired than anything else.

Stiles’ ears started ringing, his uneasiness from earlier resurfacing quickly. The vividness of Peter’s face was haunting him.

“You knew exactly what your were doing—how dangerous it was to walk here, especially alone.”

You knew what you were doing.

You knew what you were doing.

I watched you all night, and you knew what you were doing, sweetheart. Down to every last moan.

Stiles’ chest tightened, Peter’s voice still as clear in his ears as it had been that morning. He felt sick when the baby moved.

“—I’m not a child, I don’t have to be watched!” Stiles snapped as he slammed his hand on the table, trying to get the memory to leave him. His actions upset the tea cup, spilling the tea and knocking the desert he had onto the floor with the saucer.

Derek barely reacted to the outburst, his eyes calmly tracking the jostled movements of the objects before turning back to Stiles.

People were looking now.

Stiles abruptly stood, shoving his chair back as he hurried out of the cafe, dodging away from several servants rushing to clean up after him. He wasn’t surprised when Derek joined him on the street.

Derek wordlessly offered up the coach he had acquired while Davenport kept Stiles company, knowing when his words could do more harm than good. He knew something in his words must have triggered trauma for Stiles—it was the only explanation for his outburst, and the look of shock on Stiles’ face when he fled the cafe.

Derek let them sit in silence, just as he let Stiles retreat to the seclusion of his room when they returned to Rosehill Park. He wrote a letter to his sister, hoping she could help him find the right way to help Stiles cope with the damage Peter inflicted. He knew when he lacked the capacity to help.

That night, as Derek made the walk to his own bedroom, he paused by Stiles’ door. He hesitated before knocking gently. He frowned when Stiles did not respond. He turned to go his way, hoping to try in the morning.

The door suddenly started to open, prompting Derek to turn a hopeful eye back.

Stiles propped open the door a tiny sliver, leaving only enough room to show his face. “Yes?” He barely croaked, his voice hoarser than normal.

Derek kept his distance, almost convinced Stiles would vanish in a second if he tried to close the gap between them. “I wanted to apologize.”

Stiles’ brow crinkled. “I’m not sure that’s necessary.”

“I don’t know what Peter did to you,” Derek bluntly stated, wishing to find a way to deal with their issues.

Stiles’ grip on the door tightened.

“I never expect you to tell me, unless you wish to,” Derek pressed on when Stiles didn’t slam the door in his face. “But I want you to understand that … I care about you,” he gently confessed, his stance more vulnerable than Stiles was accustomed. “Not as property, but as an individual. One whom I wish to care for as best as possible.”

Stiles was floored by such an admission.

“I just ask that you don’t cause yourself any harm, Stiles,” Derek continued. “Not when I can help prevent it.”

Stiles nodded his head in what he hoped was understanding, not resignment. “I didn’t mean to cause worry,” he admitted.

“Just as I had not intended to hurt you with my words,” Derek answered. He cleared his throat, searching for his next course of action. “It’s late, but I’m hoping that I will bring you happy news tomorrow.”

Stiles nodded in agreement, giving Derek a welcomed smile. “Goodnight,” he softly uttered. “And … thank you.”

Despite how hopeful Stiles felt, he couldn’t get Peter’s voice out of his head. And every move the baby made only worsened his memories of it.

He wanted it out. Gone.

But the longer he suffered, the more he began to worry it wasn’t just Peter’s voice he wanted gone.

~*~

Stiles woke earlier than usual, getting dressed before Anna could arrive to catch him still sleeping. He had hoped that Anna would accompany him into town, and they could plan a lovely dinner for Davenport’s visit. He was busy fixing the laces of his shirt when he heard Derek’s raised voice coming from the office.

“What do you mean, lost him?” Derek furiously demanded.

“Well, to lose something generally means to not know where it is,” Davenport replied.

“I’m not in a mood for callousness in this matter!” Derek barked.

Davenport was silent for a moment. “He knew you were asking about him, Derek,” he finally explained. “I’m sorry, but he knew.”

“How?” Derek asked in a low tone. “How the fuck is it that every well connected person I know has no knowledge of his whereabouts, but he knows a great deal about mine?”

Davenport heavily sighed. “Because you have Stiles here,” he flatly stated, his usual gusto and charm blunted as he spoke in plain terms. “You went across the seas, and then came back with a pregnant spouse—how did you think there wouldn’t be gossip spreading about Lord Hale’s new Omega?”

“Dammit!” Derek angrily snapped, hitting his hand on the desk to release some tension. “What am I supposed to tell him?”

Davenport was silent for a beat. “The truth.”

Derek scoffed in contempt of the idea.

“He deserves to know,” Davenport cautioned.

“And what do I tell him?” Derek cruelly questioned, anger in his voice. “The man that raped him has done it again to someone else? That this Omega didn’t have the fortune of finding a spouse and died on the street a beggar?”

Stiles felt as if he was about to vomit. A cold sweat fell over him, his limbs trembling as he turned to flee, heading back up to his room to hide away while his episode passed.

“I would suggest something a little gentler than that,” Davenport countered.

Derek sat down in his desk chair, his body deflating under the stress. “He thinks I married him to cover up Peter’s mistake .” The disdain in Derek’s voice suggested that he hated the way some had referred to Stiles’ traumatic experience.

Davenport looked down at his drink, wondering when he had nearly drained it. “Didn’t you?” He dared to ask.

Derek shook his head. “In truth, I wanted to marry him before Liza passed. But then … well, you know.”

Davenport’s features sunk at the mention of Elizabeth. “The baby didn’t die,” he suddenly stated. He looked at Derek, realizing his fault in not explaining. “This young girl’s,” he continued. “She died, but the baby was born at the hospital—a boy.”

Derek looked exhausted. “What will happen to him?”

“I’ve made arrangements,” was all Davenport elected to say.

Derek knew what his friend meant.

The orphanage had managed to prosper under Davenport’s patronage—there was no request too large for Davenport’s pockets to fill when it came to the children. Davenport established a proper care program for abandoned babies, in memory of Elizabeth.

“Fitzwilliam,” Derek gently uttered.

Davenport laughed, shaking his head. “I know you’ve drank more than me if you’re calling me by my first name,” he declared as he stood up, all a masked attempt to change the subject. “I am going to try and get in contact with Erica, see if she can find us any way to nail this bastard’s feet to the floor.”

Derek watched his friend abandon his whiskey glass on the side table.

“For what it is worth,” Davenport started. “Stiles is a brilliant young man, and he will figure out what you’re doing. Telling him wouldn’t hurt him.”

“I don’t want to disappoint him,” Derek sternly replied.

Davenport softly snorted. “Him or you?”

Derek was silent, knowing that Davenport had a point.

Davenport sighed. “Derek, he will be grateful that you tried to bring him the justice he deserves. That is what matters.”

Derek finally nodded, accepting Davenport’s words as the comfort they were meant to give.

Chapter Text

Derek was surprised to find Stiles sitting in one of the parlors. He gently rapped his knuckles against doorframe to announce himself.

Stiles turned to look at him, an unhappy downturn in his brow the only indication to his current mood. “You didn’t mention Davenport was stopping by,” he stated before Derek could even start to speak.

Derek noticed the coldness in Stiles’ tone. “He was planning on coming by tonight, but he had pressing news.”

Stiles looked away from Derek. “Is he still coming to dinner?”

“I believe so,” Derek replied, frowning some as he tried to figure out Stiles’ mood.

“I’ll go with Anna into town, then,” Stiles replied, moving to stand with little difficulty.

“That would be good,” Derek offered.

“May I have money for it?” Stiles simply requested, looking at Derek now that he stood.

Derek was unsure what was wrong with Stiles this morning, wondering if he had not apologized appropriately the other night. He opened the breastpocket of his overcoat in order to retrieve his wallet. He offered Stiles the entire wallet instead of opening it to retrieve a few bills. “Whatever you deem fit,” he stated.

Stiles took a step forward, reaching a hand out to take the wallet from Derek. He pulled on the wallet, surprised when Derek let it go without any hesitation. “I could buy up the whole market,” he jested some.

“If you think Davenport’s appetite warrants it,” Derek jested back.

Stiles faintly smiled, despite his current mood. “I may be gone a little while,” he stated, looking up at Derek.

Derek looked unsure of himself, finding it to be a pattern when it came to Stiles. “Would you like me to accompany you?”

It was Stiles’ turn to be surprised. “I … I should be alright with Anna,” he hesitantly replied.

Derek nodded in acceptance. “I’ll see to my work here then.”

Stiles made a move to walk by Derek, hesitating when he stood next to him. “Thank you,” he firmly uttered, his tone a little clipped in order to hide his emotions. “For trusting me with this.” He quickly left the room in a hurry before Derek could question him.

Derek looked after Stiles, unsure what he meant.

~*~

Stiles was half listening to Anna as she explained the different ingredients they would need to prepare the meal for that night. He was still thinking about Derek’s conversation with Davenport. Perhaps he didn’t have a right to blame Derek for keeping it secret, but he wouldn’t push away his pain at hearing that another fell victim to Peter. He wondered if this poor Omega had been set upon in the same manner—if Stiles was a follow-up act to Peter’s violent streak.

“Are you looking for something, sweety?” A cold voice questioned Stiles.

Stiles looked up to find a woman with ebony hair messily tied up in a bun staring at him from behind the table. He looked down to find that he had been touching a few of the items without truly paying attention. “Sorry, I was browsing,” he answered, removing his hand from the loose leaf teas bagged neatly on the table.

“That’s alright,” the woman answered, her gaze not leaving Stiles. “Are you looking for something to take care of your condition?” She decidedly asked.

Stiles looked up at the woman, his brow furrowed in confusion. “I don’t think I understand what you’re asking.”

The woman’s laugh was light, a sharp air to it, as if she held a contempt for Stiles. “The baby,” she gestured towards Stiles’ protruding stomach. “Here,” the woman picked up one of the bags, offering it to Stiles. “Steeped for a few minutes, it will take care of the pains you get in your back and hips,” she explained.

Stiles slowly reached a hand out, taking the bag from the woman as he inspected it. “How much?” He asked.

“You’re a first time customer, so I can help you out with that,” the woman replied.

Stiles looked at her skeptically.

“That tea has a double purpose,” the woman explained. “Steep it for over an hour, and it will take care of your little annoyance.”

Stiles wore a perplexed look.

The woman rolled her eyes. “You highborns,” she muttered in distaste. “It will get rid of it,” she pointed directly to Stiles’ stomach.

Stiles looked down at his stomach, moving a protective arm around it. “Are you—” Realization twisted his stomach in knots. He felt sick.

“You clearly don’t want it,” the woman countered.

Stiles’ jaw dropped in shock. “How dare you,” he forced himself to say.

“I am making an observation,” the woman replied, a smugness to the way she crossed her arms over her chest. “I was watching you. You’ve bumped your stomach into several of the tables without care.”

Stiles turned to look at the tables around him, trying to think about how he had been walking the past few minutes. He didn’t think he had hit his stomach—maybe he had forgotten, or been too lost in thought to notice. He shook his head.

“You’re far enough along that it would look like a natural loss, at least,” the woman commented.

Stiles stared at the woman.

“What’s your story?” The woman pressed. “I saw you with that Lord Hale,” she continued. “Everyone’s wondering why he grabbed himself an Omega overseas.” She pressed her lips together in a pursed manner. “Is it so he can treat you with a hard hand now that you have no family around?”

Stiles drew in a sharp breath. “Don’t speak about my husband like that,” he sharply demanded.

The woman laughed. “He’s got you riled right up,” she replied. “Did he convince you that you want the baby?”

Stiles knew his features wore his appall.

“He’s something, you know?” The woman stated. “He’s gone through spouses like poker chips,” she amusingly declared.

“Actually,” Anna’s sharp voice cut through the tension as she appeared by Stiles’ side. “My lord is a remarkable player when it comes to gambling,” she stated, wrapping her arm around Stiles’ own. Without another word, Anna steered Stiles away from the woman, bringing him back towards the other side of the marketplace.

“You’re welcome,” the woman called out to Stiles, a laughter in her voice.

Stiles didn’t even realize that he had held onto the tea until he was in the carriage with Anna.

~*~

Stiles stared at the tea pot. He couldn’t see the tea leaves steeping, but he knew they were hidden inside the beautifully decorated china. He turned his head to look at the clock.

The leaves had been steeping for just over an hour.

Stiles looked back at the tea pot, reaching his hand out to lift it from the table. He noticed that the water was still warm, but not as hot as when Anna poured it for him.

Stiles watched the amber liquid pour from the spout and into the cup. He gently placed the teapot down onto the table.

The leaves smelled funny, a strange spice in its aroma that made Stiles feel queasy.

Stiles leaned back in his seat, his gaze dropping from the teacup and to his stomach. This was his solution—it was the way to get rid of what he hadn’t wanted. To undo what Peter did to him. He could go back to riding, holding his head up high when he walked through a door and into the social season. He wouldn’t have this reminder of Peter anymore.

Stiles thought of the romper Lydia had given him. He thought of the baby’s room Anna had prepared for him. He thought about the soft look Derek had when they passed a stroller in the street. He thought about the joy he had felt when thinking about holding his baby for the first time.

That was all before Stiles thought he saw Peter again—before Peter’s voice haunted him. Before he thought of the baby as Peter’s.

All Stiles had to do was pick up the cup and drink the tea.

And then the baby—the one Stiles began to love, despite Peter—would be gone.

Gone.

A sharp sob echoed through the room, and it took Stiles a moment to realize it was his own. Uncontrollable sobs shook his body as he tried to cover his face in shame. He felt the tears streaming down his face as he furiously wiped at them. He had loved his baby, once. And he was ashamed for ever stopping.

Pluto whined, his head suddenly plopping down into Stiles’ lap in an attempt to comfort him.

Stiles cried a little harder when Pluto’s nose brushed against his stomach.

Pluto’s whines grew louder, a soft howl caught in his throat as he tried to understand what ailed Stiles.

Stiles reached out with shaking hands, recklessly trying to get the cover off the teapot in an attempt to pour the liquid back. He felt sicker the longer the tea’s aroma lingered. In his rush to get rid of the tea, he lost his grip on the teapot, accidentally dropping it.

Stiles watched as time seemed to slow, the teapot descending to the ground before smashing into dozens of pieces. The fine china was scattered across the rug, tea staining the ornate decoration as well as Stiles’ clothes.

Diana and Pluto both started barking, Diana rushing into the room to look for an intruder as Stiles tried to pull Pluto back and away from the sharp shards.

“My lord, are you alright?” Anna’s concerned voice questioned as her hurried footsteps brought her closer.

“Yes,” Stiles shakily answered, trying and failing to bend over and get the shards, his stomach proving to be too big.

“Oh, foolish dogs!” Anna scolded them when she came in to find that the animals were crowding Stiles. “Out, before you cut your paws!” She shooed them despite their attempts to get back over to Stiles.

“It wasn’t their fault,” Stiles tried to explain as he moved to kneel on the floor.

“Oh, Stiles, don’t touch those,” Anna hastened to help prevent Stiles from cutting his hands on the broken teapot’s shards.

“It’s fine, Anna,” Stiles hurriedly replied, trying to wrap the teapot and its contents in the napkin.

“I can take care of it—” Anna stopped, her gaze staring down at the tea leaves spread across the carpet.

Stiles looked at Anna as she moved one of the large shards, finding the largest clump of tea leaves hidden there. The tea’s aroma was still strong enough to suggest that is was a typical blend.

“Where did you get this?” Anna softly asked, her gaze still on the tea leaves.

Stiles could tell that Anna knew.

Anna forced herself to look at Stiles. “Where did you get this?” She demanded this time.

“In— in the market,” Stiles confessed as he dropped the shard he had been holding onto.

Anna shook her head, rushing to gather up the remains. “Lord Hale will be home soon,” was all she said as she plopped the remains of the teapot and its contents onto the parlor tablecloth. She hurriedly grabbed the ends, holding them together to bundle the contents up and make it easier to carry.

“Anna, wait,” Stiles called after her as he struggled to stand. He followed after her with hurried steps. “It’s not what you think—”

“How could you do this to poor Derek?” Anna almost snapped as she turned to face Stiles. There were tears in her eyes, her brows scrunched together. “Why marry him— why have a baby with him, only to take it all away?” She accused.

Stiles furiously shook his head. “I wasn’t going to—”

“After what happened with Lady Elizabeth, and little Benjamin—” Anna released a pained sob, shaking her head. “I thought you loved him—that you were different. But you’re exactly like the others who just wanted his fortune,” she sharply accused as she rushed off to the kitchen.

Stiles followed after Anna, ignoring the pain in his side as he tried to keep up with her. “Anna, that’s not what happened!” He pleaded with her through his own tears.

Anna threw the bundle down in the corner of the kitchen, determined to cast it out.

“Please, let me explain,” Stiles softly begged. “The baby isn’t Derek’s—”

Anna stumbled to a stop, turning to look at Stiles. “What?”

Stiles shook his head. “Derek married me because his uncle— he—” Another sob broke through his chest.

“You slept with Peter?” Anna questioned, suddenly feeling her anger rising up again.

“He raped me!” Stiles almost shouted the words he hadn’t spoken for months, except in hushed silence. He felt as if a weight dropped from his shoulders. “He … raped me. And then I was pregnant, and Derek … Derek offered a solution.”

Anna stared at Stiles in disbelief. “No,” she shook her head. “Derek— he’s been trying to court you for years.”

Stiles stared back at Anna through his tears. “What?”

“Derek asked your father—over two years ago, before Lady Elizabeth died,” Anna explained.

“What is the commotion?” Davenport’s voice traveled through the atrium as his footfalls brought him closer to the kitchen. He came to a dead stop when he stumbled upon the scene before him.

Derek appeared beside Davenport, his hat and cane loosely held in his hand. He looked at Stiles with concern in his features.

Davenport stared from Anna and back to Stiles. “I believe we’re early?” He looked back at Derek, wanting to know how to proceed.

Anna forcefully wiped her tears away with the sleeve of her dress. “I have to see to dinner being prepared.”

Davenport arched his eyebrows at Derek.

Derek looked at Stiles, reaching a free hand out to touch his arm.

Stiles tried to shrug away from him, feeling unworthy of his affection.

Derek only stepped closer as he uncaringly dropped his cane and hat to the floor, tilting Stiles’ chin up in order to look him in the eyes. “What’s wrong?” He softly asked.

Stiles shook his head, a broken sob cutting through his chest as he buried his face in his hands. “I can’t— I can’t—” he roughly wept out the words.

Derek gently pulled Stiles into a hug, placing Stiles’ head in the crook of his shoulder as he wrapped his arms around Stiles’ shaking body. He turned his head to look at Anna. “What happened?”

“I believe he should be the one to tell you, sir,” Anna sternly answered.

“Anna,” Derek sharply said her name. “I come home to my husband and trusted caretaker yelling at one another, both of them crying.”

Davenport turned around, trying to give them the privacy they deserved. He faintly hummed under his breath as he looked around the kitchen. His gaze fell on the discarded tablecloth. He wondered if Stiles was crying over the broken teaset inside. He reached down to undo the table cloth, curious if he could find the boy another to replace it, when he smelled the tea. His nose scrunched up in disgust at the unfortunately familiar smell that haunted him ever since that day. “What the hell is this?” He demanded as he stood up.

Stiles turned his head to see Davenport gesturing towards the bundled up cloth. He dug his nails into Derek’s vest, wanting to keep him from leaving.

Derek pulled away from Stiles to see what Davenport found.

“Don’t,” Stiles softly begged, pulling Derek back towards him. “Don’t— let me explain—”

Derek looked at Stiles in confusion.

“I wasn’t going to,” Stiles weakly confessed.

“You weren’t going to do what?” Derek asked, still in the dark about it all.

Stiles clung to Derek’s jacket, pressing his forehead against Derek’s chest as he tried to control his breathing. “Hurt the baby,”

Derek looked from Stiles to Davenport, desperate for someone to elaborate.

“It’s damn Widow’s Tears,” Davenport angrily shoved the bundle away with his boot, turning away from it. “Who sold you that?” He questioned Stiles.

“A woman— in the marketplace,” Stiles answered, a small sob caught in his throat.

Derek reached up to Stiles’ hands, making an effort to detangle them.

Stiles tried to tighten his hold on Derek. “Please, I wasn’t— I couldn’t— All I could hear was his voice— all I could remember was what he did to me, every time the baby moved,” he sobbed when Derek pried himself free.

Derek walked over to the bundle, inspecting the contents. He could smell the bittersweet spice of aroma still coming from the leaves. He looked back at Stiles. “Did you know what this is?”

Stiles forced himself to look at Derek, wishing he could go back to this morning and change everything. “No— yes,” he shook his head. “The woman said I wasn’t attached— and she was right, I didn’t care, for a long time. But— but I didn’t go looking for it. She said it helped with pains, that steeping it for over an hour would cause an abortion.”

Davenport looked at Stiles. “Stiles, that’s—” He cursed under his breath.

Stiles sobbed out, “I’m sorry.”

“It’s not you,” Davenport sighed as he moved to hug Stiles. “Stiles, any amount of steeping would cause you to cramp and miscarry,” he softly explained as he held Stiles’ head against his chest.

Stiles’ breathing was heavy and erratic, but he couldn’t take his eyes off of Derek. He wanted Derek to look at him—to be the one holding him right now.

“Anna,” Derek finally spoke in a soft tone, his voice clipped short of emotion. “Would you please see to dinner.” He turned to look at Davenport. “I have to talk with Stiles. Alone, Fitzwilliam.”

Davenport reluctantly relinquished his hold on Stiles, helping the younger man stand upright.

Derek walked passed Davenport, taking hold of Stiles’ hand as he lead him out of the kitchen and back towards the parlor.

Stiles silently followed after Derek, allowing his husband to pull on his hand and direct them down the hallway. He stared at Derek’s leg, noticing that he wasn’t limping as much as usual. He wondered if Derek was too angry to care about the pain.

Stiles was startled when they started out the door. He had a terrifying feeling that for a moment, Derek was going to cast him aside. His fear subsided when Derek steered them towards the ornate gates of the plot near the manor.

The Hale cemetery.

Stiles easily kept his pace with Derek as he looked at the different grave placards.

They didn’t stop walking until they reached the top of the hill, just under the shade of the large oak tree.

Stiles looked at the grave markers, catching sight of the death dates being more recent than the others he saw. He looked at the marker in front of Derek, reading the inscription.

Countess Elizabeth Leigh Hale Davenport

Beloved Daughter, Sister, Wife

“My sister, Elizabeth,” Derek explained as he stared down at the grave marker. “She was a little older than you are now,” he continued. “She found herself unexpectedly pregnant. She didn’t want Davenport to know, even though she knew he'd understand. So, she tried to find a quiet solution. Surgery is too risky in most cases, so she tried to use a tea.” He turned to look at Stiles. “She used less than the instructed amount, and she still died in agony after miscarrying her child.”

Stiles looked at Derek.

“I want the truth Stiles,” Derek softly started, turning to face Stiles. “Do you want this baby? Because if not, I will send for the cutwife myself. I will do everything I can to make sure you are safe and healthy in this.”

Stiles couldn’t stop his tears.

The cutwife was always the last option, particularly for noble houses. Once the cutwife was called, everyone knew about it. It was a shame to be worn by the whole house.

Stiles never believed it would have been an option.

“Perhaps it was my own stupidity, thinking you would have told me your feelings,” Derek explained, shaking his head. He hated himself for not seeing Stiles’ suffering sooner. “I never thought you’d think you had to resort to such a dangerous method.”

Stiles shook his head. “I haven’t felt love for this baby since I first found out about it,” he confessed. “I thought— no, I truly did want the baby at first, but then all I could think about was Peter. If he found out— if all I could see and think about was Peter whenever laying eyes on my own child.” He cried, pressing his face into his hands. “And then that woman in town—she said how careless I had been, that I let my stomach be hit. And I couldn’t think of if I had even been paying careful attention to avoiding hurting the baby.”

Derek reached a cautious hand up to cup Stiles’ face in the palm of his hand. His thumb brushed away the tears he could. “I’m sorry, Stiles,” he softly stated. “I’m sorry you thought you couldn’t share this with me— I’m sorry that I couldn’t stop him—”

Stiles pressed trembling fingertips to Derek’s lips, stopping his apology. “I don’t want apologies from you,” he explained. “You didn’t do this to me, he did. And I’ve been so lost and scared, that I—” he squeezed his eyes shut, his hands moving to grip Derek’s shoulders. “I didn’t want to burden anyone.”

“You’re not a burden,” Derek replied, allowing his hands to move to Stiles’ waist in a supportive manner. “I know burden—I’ve carried it for years, and you aren’t even close to it,” he elaborated when Stiles snorted at his words.

“I … ” Stiles bit his lip, knowing he’d have to say the words aloud. “I don’t know what to do.”

Derek reached a hand up to touch Stiles’ chin, drawing their together their gazes as they looked up at one another. “I’ll call for the cutwife,” he started in a soft tone. “She’s also the midwife,” he explained when he felt Stiles tense with what he believed to be uncertainty. “You can talk with her about your uncertainties.”

Stiles finally nodded, a sense of relief falling over him.

Derek pressed a gentle kiss to Stiles’ forehead, pulling him into a loving embrace. “There’s something I have to tell you,” he started, hesitation holding his words back. “It’s about Peter.”

Stiles closed his eyes as he clutched onto Derek. “I know,” he softly answered.

“You know,” Derek echoed.

“I heard you and Davenport this morning,” Stiles replied.

Derek released a heavy sigh. “Why didn’t you say something?”

Stiles pressed into Derek’s embrace more, wishing to never let go. “I thought you didn’t want me knowing.”

“I didn’t want you worrying,” Derek corrected Stiles. “I thought it would be too much, knowing what he’s done.”

“I feel sorrow for the others,” Stiles explained. “I am scared that there are more he’s done this to, but they’re too afraid to come forth.” He sighed. “Davenport knows then?”

Derek brushed his fingertips through the hair at the nape of Stiles’ neck. “He was at the party that night,” he answered. “He saw you talking with Peter—that you rejected his advances. He left before … ” He released a sharp breath. “Davenport wouldn’t have left if he knew.”

Stiles weakly nodded against Derek’s chest. “He made the deduction that you wouldn’t have married as fast as you did unless I was already pregnant.”

“He knew I wouldn’t do you the dishonor of sharing your bed out of wedlock,” Derek answered.

“I’m sorry,” Stiles weakly apologized. “It was … I’d never been with anyone before,” he confessed. “And I wish it had been with you,” he hid his face in Derek’s jacket, trying to smother the tears burning his eyes.

“You don’t have to apologize for that, Stiles,” Derek answered. He wished he could tear Peter limb from limb—he wasn’t entirely sure he wouldn’t if he ever got his hands on his uncle.

“Anna said you tried to court me,” Stiles suddenly stated. “Before Elizabeth died,” he elaborated.

Derek was silent for a beat, before reluctantly uttering, “I did.”

“And after all this,” Stiles pressed. “Are you still interested?”

Derek softly snorted out a low chuckle against Stiles’ temple. “Would I be holding you this way, right now, if I wasn’t?”

Stiles released a heavy breath of relief. “Then will you court me now?”

“It’s a bit out of order,” Derek replied.

Stiles couldn’t help his smile. “I would like to, though.”

Derek pulled them apart, looking down at Stiles with a fondness in his gaze. He brushed his thumb across Stiles’ cheek in a loving manner. “You know I would never deny such a request.”

Stiles’ stomach flipped and twisted with something he hadn’t felt in a long time.

Adoration. Complete and true adoration.

Stiles knew, without a doubt, he was falling in love with his husband.

Chapter Text

Stiles found Derek to be true to his word. Their courting was uncommon, that was a given, but it held a peculiar sweetness that Stiles was sure many did not find.

Stiles had been surprised one morning to find sunflowers in an elegant vase on the window bay’s sill, where he liked to look out the window as he took his afternoon tea indoors.

“Do you like them?”

Stiles turned to look at the door where he heard Derek’s voice travel from. He smiled at Derek. “They’re beautiful—my favorite, actually,” he replied. “But how did you know?”

“I asked Lydia—before the wedding,” Derek admitted. “She told me at the time that they were out of season.” He was ensnared by Stiles’ smile, wondering if he could make him feel that way more often. “I wanted to surprise you with them—were you surprised?”

Stiles couldn’t help the soft blush that swept across his cheeks. “I am pleasantly surprised.” He fondly looked at Derek. “They must have cost a great deal—they won’t be in bloom for a few more months.”

Derek shook his head. “A little cost compared to how brightly they made you smile.”

Stiles released a soft huff of giddy laughter, a flush sweeping over him as he dipped his chin. He couldn’t help his smile now. “Thank you.”

“I’m glad you like them,” Derek replied.

“Do you not have work today?” Stiles curiously asked, looking up at Derek.

“None that can’t wait for another day,” Derek answered.

“So,” Stiles started, his fingers playing with the edge of the table’s lace runner—a distraction. “We can spend the day together?” He hopefully asked.

“I would like to,” Derek replied.

Stiles smiled at that. “As would I.”

~*~

Stiles walked alongside Derek, holding onto his husband’s arm as they continued down the park’s recreational trail. He was glad there weren’t many people who could gawk at them, knowing that back home he would be under the observation of too many.

“She said she would come to the house,” Derek stated. He lifted his cane up, finding that he needed it less and less as of late. He didn’t want to say anything, afraid the pain would come crashing back unexpectedly.

“I know,” Stiles answered, turning to look at Derek despite the sun’s bright rays almost blinding his gaze. He softly smiled at Derek in a reassuring manner. “I wanted it to be elsewhere,” he admitted. “It feels better to be out of the house—to meet her on different footing.”

Derek nodded, accepting Stiles’ reasoning. He hoped the midwife would be kind, knowing that some were critical of those who took a long time to make such momentous decisions. “I’ll stay if you want me to,” he offered.

“I think you were right,” Stiles reasoned. “I need to do this.”

Derek nodded.

They were silent as they approached the cafe.

“I’ll be around, if you need me,” Derek offered.

“You’ll come rushing in if I call for you,” Stiles amusingly answered.

“With as much flare as I can manage,” Derek deadpanned.

Stiles smiled, leaning in close to press a kiss to Derek’s cheek in appreciation.

~*~

Stiles stared at the woman sitting across from him. He had never known a midwife, finding himself intrigued by her calm nature and appearance.

Melissa was a naturally beautiful, middle-aged woman. She had laughter lines around her eyes, and a small dusting of grey peppered throughout her brown curls. She had a warm smile, one that made her appearance all the more welcoming. She reminded Stiles of how his mother would look had she still been alive.

“I was surprised when your husband contacted me,” Melissa explained as she observed Stiles. She turned her teacup around on the saucer before lifting it to her lips.

“He’s a good man,” Stiles replied, a soft smile on his lips as he thought about Derek.

“Clearly,” Melissa added with a smile of her own. “He’s not trying to control this conversation in the slightest, even though he’s clearly worried about you.”

Stiles looked at the midwife. “He’s worried I’m not going to act on my own choices,” he explained. “But I think he knew I needed this.”

“That’s good,” Melissa confirmed with a smile. “So tell me, Stiles,” she started, placing a warm hand on Stiles’ folded ones. “As little, or as much, as you feel comfortable.”

Stiles took a deep breath, finding his words easily for the first time in a while. “I’m ashamed.”

“I’m sorry for that,” she honestly replied.

“I’m ashamed for being weak,” Stiles explained. “That I was his victim—that I still feel his victim.”

“You are not weak, Stiles,” she firmly stated. “You are much stronger than you give yourself credit for. You’ve made it very far, actually.”

Stiles shook his head. “I want to be finished with him—with what he did. But I ... ” He pressed his hand against the curve of his stomach, wondering if his baby was sleeping.

“You believe you need to have your baby to prove a point,” Melissa bluntly stated.

Stiles’ hand twitched out of her touch, taken aback by her words. “No,” he argued.

“Then what are you afraid of?” Melissa asked.

Stiles released a heavy breath. “I want my baby,” he firmly stated, his breathing a bit ragged. “But I’m afraid what others will think and say.”

“Why?” Melissa pressed.

“Because people know—they’ve been gossiping about what happened ever since Peter— and then the wedding—”

“Does an adopted child have a true parent when they are adopted?” Melissa questioned before Stiles could continue.

“Of course,” Stiles replied.

Melissa was calm as she continued to observe Stiles. “And as far as you are concerned, who is this child’s parents?” She gestured towards Stiles’ stomach as she posed her question.

Stiles took a moment to allow her question to digest. “Mine,” he finally stated. “And Derek’s,” he added despite his hesitation. They never discussed it, but Derek had originally stated that the child would be considered his.

“Okay,” Melissa replied. “What can I do to help you, then?”

~*~

Derek kept pace with Stiles as they walked down the main street, watching as the street lamps were lit.

Stiles marveled at the sight the street lamps made against the dark backdrop of the night. He smiled up at the lights.

His body felt lighter than it had in awhile, the moment he left his meeting with the midwife in the park’s cafe. He couldn’t describe what he felt at having his thoughts and feelings aired—he felt validated, and sane in his own confusion with how to handle his situation.

Stiles turned to look at Derek, ready to ask him.

“You look marvelous,” Derek suddenly commented.

Stiles couldn’t stop the blush that spread across his cheeks.

“Like a dream I had once,” Derek elaborated.

Stiles smiled at Derek. “But only better, since I’m real?” He softly questioned.

“Much better,” Derek agreed. He reached a hand up to run his fingers through Stiles’ hair.

Stiles took a step closer to Derek, leaning up on one foot as he balanced himself against Derek’s shoulders. He pressed a hesitant kiss to Derek’s lips. He flushed a bit when he heard a passing couple murmur something about young love, slowly pulling back from their kiss. His apology died on his tongue as Derek leaned back in to kiss him again.

A soft moan crept out of Stiles’ chest as Derek pulled them closer together.

Stiles pressed against Derek’s chest, his hands curling around the pristine lapels of Derek’s dinner jacket. He boldly opened his mouth into their kiss, his tongue timidly slipping into Derek’s mouth.

“You’re finally here!” Davenport’s voice loudly announced himself, cutting through the moment Derek and Stiles were sharing.

Stiles released a soft squeal of surprise as he break away from their kiss. He pressed a hand over his mouth as he avoided looking at Davenport.

“You truly have the most horrendous timing,” Derek dryly uttered, looking above Stiles’ head to glare at Davenport.

Davenport chuckled at Derek’s threatening glower. “We’ll miss the show if you stay out here on the sidewalk,” he stated. “Unless you want to keep putting on a show?”

“I will duel you,” Derek blankly countered.

A laugh bubbled up in Stiles’ chest as he turned to look at Davenport, though he didn’t move from his spot against Derek’s chest.

“I would die a noble death,” Davenport replied with a smile of his own.

Stiles happily took Derek’s arm as they moved to enter the theatre, looking at Davenport when he made a motion to slow them.

“I have some information,” Davenport started, his gaze flickering to Stiles before looking back at Derek.

Derek looked at Davenport, a frown taking over his features. “Whatever it is, Stiles can hear it—if he chooses to,” he added, looking at Stiles to gage his feelings.

Stiles softly smiled up at Derek, nodding his head. “I would like to hear about this.”

Davenport released a notable sigh of relief. “Good,” he stated. “I was worried we’d continue without your wit,” he added, gathering up Stiles’ free hand in order to press a fond kiss to it.

“I’m afraid we’re going to cause scandal,” Stiles answered. “I have the attention of the finest men in the room, I’m afraid that warrants people to grow jealous.”

Davenport laughed. “I have a feeling Derek would kill me for that.”

Derek scoffed in reply. “Not so publicly.”

Stiles smiled to himself. “Can we enjoy the show tonight, and discuss this matter at home?” He inquired.

“That would likely be ideal,” Davenport replied, gesturing for Stiles and Derek to enter the theatre’s open doors first.

~*~

Stiles had never seen a production quite like it before. The grandeur of the theatre was a marvel in its own right. He had always been close to the stage, he’d be the first to admit that it was at the grace of the Martins for the proximity. But he never had been in a private box before. He marveled at the height, looking over the edge only once before he lost his balance with a dizzying nausea.

Stiles smiled and reassured a fretful Derek that he was alright, if only a little embarrassed for his display. He found himself falling asleep towards the end of the opera, though, knowing that he would. He had never been fond of opera, finding it to be a too long and entangled of a narrative for him to follow without enthusiastic concentration.

Derek allowed Stiles to drowsily sleep against his shoulder, keeping him from falling out of his chair when his breathing became soft and shallow. He gave Davenport a stern glower when the man gestured towards Stiles—a silent motion to question whether they should wake him.

Derek didn’t care about the scandal it would cause—the new Lord of Rosehill Park sleeping through the new opera meant the production itself was poor, or he was too simple to enjoy it.

Derek would refuse to let the latter be gossiped about.

Stiles was embarrassed when Derek gently woke him, flushing a light pink as he accepted his jacket from Derek. “I’m sorry—”

“You don’t have to apologize,” Derek corrected Stiles, pulling his own coat on. “It wasn’t that well done of an opera, anyways,” he said loud enough for the eavesdropping socialites to hear from their own boxes. “I envied you for feeling comfortable enough in the seats—I’ll have to commend the theatre owners on that.”

“More cushions would have been nice,” Stiles added in comment as he took Derek’s arm. He smiled when Derek lightly laughed at his words. He turned to look back in the private box, perplexed for a moment. “Where’s Davenport?” He asked, wondering where the man could have gone. He winced slightly, taking in a deep breath as he pressed a hand to the side of his stomach, a pain running low in his hips. He steadied himself against Derek before he accepted his husbands stance to walk.

“He went to get a carriage,” Derek answered as he kept an eye on Stiles’ face for a sign of discomfort.

“It’s okay,” Stiles stated as they descended the steps to the lobby. “I’m okay,” he corrected himself. “The baby is just restless.”

“Perhaps we should have stayed home,” Derek replied as his steps slowed once they reached the atrium.

Stiles shook his head. “And deny these people a chance to gawk at me? Never.”

Derek smirked at Stiles, taking a step closer to him. “Allow us to give them something better to talk about, then,” he answered as he leaned in to kiss Stiles. He hesitated for a brief moment, allowing Stiles the chance to pull away.

Stiles leaned in to kiss Derek, pressing their lips together as he leaned into Derek’s embraced. He couldn’t help smirking into their kiss when he heard a someone make a loud harumph of disapproval.

“You think that made a point?” Derek asked with his own amused smile mirroring Stiles’.

“They’re going to get out their smelling salts in a moment,” Stiles spoke against Derek’s lips.

Derek kissed Stiles again, he cupped Stiles’ face in his hands as he deepened their kiss.

“I hate to interrupt,” Davenport began.

“The worst timing, Davenport,” Derek huffed as he turned to look at the man.

“We should go, now,” Davenport sternly stated. “Because there is an Alpha here, looking for you. And he does not sound happy.”

Derek turned to look behind them, not seeing anyone causing a disruption. “Is he a drunkard?” He simply questioned.

“No, I believe he’s the intended of a certain Omega who … ” Davenport looked at Stiles briefly before he released a heavy breath. “Who had an unfortunate run in with a different Hale.”

Stiles tightened his hold on Derek’s arm.

“The young woman’s?” Derek asked.

“No, a different one,” Davenport answered in a hushed tone. “One that I was going to tell you about in private.”

Stiles closed his eyes, ignoring the anger he felt twisting up inside him. “Does this Alpha know where Peter is?” He forcefully asked, daring to look at Davenport.

Davenport appeared surprised by Stiles’ question. “I haven’t been able to speak with him. But I could—”

“Where is he?” An angered voice demanded.

The crowd was already dispersing thanks to the opera being over, however some had lingered to partake in refreshments and gossip. Only now, the crowd appeared to swell, intrigued by the sudden outburst.

“Get Stiles into the carriage,” Derek instructed Davenport, his gaze never leaving the man who appeared to be on a determined path.

“Derek,” Stiles sternly said his name, pulling on his husband’s arm to try and gain his attention back.

“Go with Davenport, Stiles,” Derek firmly answered.

“Come with us, then,” Stiles stubbornly countered. “That man is drunk,” he harshly whispered, a small glare taking over his features when Derek didn’t reply. “Derek—”

“Hale!”

Stiles turned to look at the man who shouted in their direction. He dug his fingers into Derek’s arm, pulling him tighter against him.

Derek shifted his stance, moving to place himself a little in front of Stiles, though he was aware of the younger man’s hand holding onto his arm.

“You— you spineless coward,” the man slurred.

Stiles was right, he was drunk—though not impaired completely.

The man swayed only a little, his hands clenched into fists.

“Alright, lad, you’re drunk,” Davenport lightly announced, placing a friendly but firm hand on the man’s shoulder. “Let’s get you something to calm you down—”

The man angrily shoved Davenport off him, throwing a wild jab at him.

Davenport was quicker than the man thought he’d be, dodging just out of the man’s reach.

“You believe that you have a right to be angry with me,” Derek loudly announced before the man could take another go at Davenport. “And you just hit an earl, so I’m guessing you must find it rather pressing,” he concluded.

“You dishonored my fiance,” the man blatantly said.

“You mistake me for another,” Derek plainly answered.

“Lord Hale!” The man loudly yelled. “My fiance was in tears—hysterical—but he knew who it was. He said Lord Hale had done it.”

Stiles could see the sick amusement in those gathered. He knew now that it would be Derek to carry the shame for a false accusation.

“I don’t know you, or your fiance,” Derek replied, a sharpness in his words. He took a step away from Stiles, pulling his arm free from him. “But I think I know who did your fiance harm—and I can help you with that. Once you’ve calmed down.”

Stiles thought it would have worked, if the man’s anger and drunkenness weren’t swaying him to act foolishly.

He wasn’t sure who he was trying to protect—the man, or Derek himself. He hadn’t thought about being shoved off as if he weighed nothing.

Stiles stumbled to the side, nearly falling to the ground before Davenport caught him in his arms, preventing any tragedy from occurring.

“Are you alright?” Davenport hurriedly questioned.

“I’m fine— I’m fine,” Stiles answered with shaky breath.

There was the sound of a scuffle, and someone’s high-pitched scream.

Stiles looked up to see that Derek had the man immobilized—pinned against the wall with a blade pressed to his throat. He looked down to see Derek’s cane discarded on the floor. The accessory had been an ornate way to hide a dueling dagger attached to the cane’s intricately designed handle.

“Derek,” Stiles called his name, accepting Davenport’s help in standing. He moved forward, grabbing hold of Derek’s free arm. “Derek, stop— let him go, he didn’t mean to.”

Stiles pressed the faintest of kisses to Derek’s shoulder, trying to soothe Derek’s anger with the man. “My love,” he softly spoke. “Please.”

Derek partially turned his head to look at Stiles, his gaze flickering over Stiles’ form to check for injury.

“I’m okay,” Stiles gently whispered, knowing it scared Derek as much as it had scared him.

Derek turned back to look at the man. “You’re a drunken moron,” he angrily huffed out at the man. His hand was steady, his stance and form still recalling what it once was to be alert for a moment’s battle. “You attack me, and nearly harm my husband, and our unborn child. Because you can’t listen to reason? Any Alpha in their right minds would put an end to you for it.”

Derek released the man, shoving him to the side as he took a step back. He bent to pick up his cane, taking the moment necessary to slide the dagger’s blade back into the cane’s sheath. He turned to Stiles, drawing him into a comforting hug, pressing a kiss against Stiles’ temple.

“I knew you had that thing for other reasons besides walking,” Davenport huffed out.

Stiles tightened his hold on Derek, closing his eyes as he took a few breaths of relief.

Derek turned back to the man who was now sitting on the floor, looking more the mess than before. “If you want to do right by your fiance, and find the correct Hale responsible, you are welcomed to call on me at Rosehill Park. Once you’ve sobered up.”

Stiles winced, a sharp pain cutting through his stomach before nothing. He suddenly felt a wetness dampening his trousers. He looked down out of mortification, thinking something unimaginable was happening before he remembered what Melissa said.

“I’ll see to him getting to where he has to go,” Davenport offered Derek. “You should get Stiles’ home.”

“I’m not even sure I want that man coming to Rosehill Park after—”

“Derek,” Stiles weakly said his name.

“You can’t extend an invitation and then recant it,” Davenport countered.

“He shoved Stiles,” Derek almost barked.

“Derek!” Stiles snapped.

Derek and Davenport both looked at Stiles.

Derek’s eyes lowered to where Stiles’ hands were clutching at the pant legs of his trousers.

“I think I’m ...” Stiles’ voice softly faded as he stood impossibly still.

“Oh,” Davenport uttered as he stood still beside Derek. “Shit.”

Derek suddenly moved quickly, putting an arm around Stiles to support him as they headed towards the lobby’s exit. He looked back at Davenport. “Leave that idiot and send word to Melissa, now .”

Davenport shook out of his stupor. “Right,” he uttered, moving quickly after Derek and Stiles.

“I don’t feel any—” Stiles drew in a sharp breath. “Heavy pains,” he explained.

“Some don’t,” Davenport replied. “I’m surprised this is even happening. You know, I don’t think I’ve ever known a male Omega to give birth—”

“Shut up,” Derek snapped at Davenport. “You are an earl, not a midwife. Now go and get Melissa,” he ordered as he helped lift Stiles into the carriage, getting in after him.

Davenport stepped up onto the carriage’s step, taking Stiles’ tensed hand in his before pressing a quick kiss to his knuckles. “I look forward to seeing you and your baby very soon,” he offered a charming smile of comfort and reassurance.

Stiles weakly smiled back. “I can’t believe I disliked you when we met,” he confessed.

“It’s a common reaction,” Davenport answered as he stepped back down onto the street. “Don’t fret, I’ll get Melissa there shortly.”

“That or he’ll talk her to death,” Derek uttered as the carriage started off.

Stiles softly laughed, a pained gasp replacing it as he tightened his hold on Derek’s hand. He squeezed Derek’s hand when a sharper pain came this time. “I’m scared,” he admitted, knowing his whole body was trembling from fear and not pain. “Promise me it’s going to be okay,” he almost pleaded as he looked at Derek.

“It will be,” Derek replied, kissing the corner of Stiles’ mouth in a tender but fleeting kiss. “It will be,” he echoed himself, as he tried to silence both their fears.

~*~

A few weeks later ...

The room was hazy, his vision spinning. He pressed the pipe to his lips, inhaling the smoke as he watched the tar-like goop glow a reflective black.

It always felt better than the laudanum ever did.

He remembered the way his mother would shush him, ordering for the butler to bring him a bottle of laudanum to clear away his headaches. He would slip into a haze, unsure if the tarty mixture actually helped or delayed the inevitable pain he felt when the high dissipated.

Opium was his preferred choice. The smoke edged out his awareness, heightening only his most pleasurable senses.

He made his way through the fog of the room, pushing a silver piece into the den owner’s hand as he stumbled out into the night’s fresh air.

He loved the city’s night life, finding a freedom to do as he pleased—as long as he had enough money to spare. But now, thanks to Derek, he had no stipend to draw money from. He counted himself lucky for withdrawing as much as he had before the incident back across the sea. With the month drawing to a close, he had almost no change to spare on extravagant affairs.

He could barely afford his whiskey anymore.

A warm, curved body pressed against his side, an expert hand reaching for his cock as words of enticement reached his ears. How he would have relished a quick fuck, his senses lit up with euphoria. But he thought of how light his wallet was, and decided against it.

He pushed away the whore at his side, uninterested in being accosted by the pimp following close behind. He could find entertainment another way.

He staggered toward the saloon, hoping to find some costless entertainment. He made his way to the bar with little ease, the bartender offering up his usual. He spun the glass around on the bartop, his fingers tapping against the crystal as he turned to survey the room.

Wealthy Alphas played a heated hand of cards up high on the second floor of the saloon, their curses and foot stomping boisterous enough for all to hear. There were some waiters and waitresses moving about the main floor, ducting between tables and cozying up to the drunkest of patrons in hopes of getting a large tip.

Peter sighed, defeated, when he couldn’t pinpoint an Omega present.

It had been a while since he set his sights on an Omega, and he had a craving that boiled deep in his gut. The last was a beautiful boy, just reaching the end of his first social season.

Such a naive, foolish thing, completely ignorant of the shame he brought upon himself.

It had been easy, loring the Omega away from his chaperone and intended.

The pretty noises he made. Every thrust pushing another startled gasp passed the boy’s lips.

It still didn’t compare to Omega Stilinski, though.

Peter wanted him from the moment he read Derek’s drafted letters. It was pathetic, the poetic helplessness Derek’s words conjured up—he laughed at his nephew’s uncertain words and scattered thoughts.

He wanted to see the Omega who made Derek’s thoughts tremble like a newborn colt.

And what a sight the Omega had been—the only one in the room to rebuff Peter’s advances. It made Peter’s desire burn hotter—he needed to have him, to teach him life’s cruel lesson.

Omegas were objects. Fragile, beautiful objects, who truly reached their potential when brought to the precipice of shattering.

He never fucked an Omega like Stiles before.

And it was exquisite.

The way Stiles fought, despite his weakened state, added a heightened excitement for Peter.

For weeks afterwards, Peter had pressed against the wounded scrapes on his chest the Omega’s nails left behind—a blossom of painful pleasure lit up his core whenever the ache radiated through his chest, reliving the night.

Peter found himself annoyed with just how much Stiles had spoiled for him.

Stiles had been the best lay Peter had in years, and it seemed like it was going to be the last time he had such a good time.

Though, that didn’t stop Peter from trying to replicate it. This last one was likely the closest, but still held a pale candle to Stiles.

The Stilinski boy played the flirtatious whore beautifully, despite just how virginal he was. And Peter loved wrecking that perfected mask—just like he did for every Omega, after putting them in their place.

The last boy was more novice than actor.

Peter had been able to pin the Omega’s hands with ease, a laugh caught in his throat when the boy cried harder. He loved getting virgins, curious if the boy even knew what was happening to his body, the give and take as Peter fucked him at a steady and relentless pace.

He left the Omega, annoyed with the boy’s breathy sobs, knowing that he’d be blamed once again for merely taking what was offered to him. It wasn’t his fault the Omegas he bedded were stupid enough to follow him to a private room—were salacious in their seduction until they realized Peter intended to follow through with every flirtatious promise made.

Some were stupid enough to think Peter would stand by their side afterwards; others wore the mask of a victim.

Peter cared for none of them. Not when Derek was following close behind in dead pursuit of bringing Peter’s fun to an end.

Peter took the bottle from the bartender, pouring more whiskey into his glass in annoyance before he shoved it back at the man. He glared at the mirror in the bar’s backdrop, observing the patrons in the saloon. His gaze bobbed from waiter to waiter, trying to pick one of them out.

Peter turned towards the middle aged Omega who leaned against the bar, her top lowcut to allow the perfect angle in looking down her blouse to see her ample breasts. He leaned against the bartop as he took in an eyeful of her.

She was older than his normal tryst, but he found himself thinking an experienced partner might get him away from his obsession with a certain Omega. He had a thing for brunettes as of late, and her red hair would add to the change of pace.

Some of the men at the poker table close by chuckled about something together, a harumph of busy chatter.

“Looks like that new Lord of Rosehill Park is having a baby.”

Rosehill.

The one place Peter was no longer allowed to go, but longed to see once more.

The home Derek stole from him.

The name alone was enough to sober Peter some.

“What did you say?” Peter questioned, turning to look at the men conversing over the newspaper, unconcerned when the woman left.

One of the men huffed out as he hit the paper with his hand, “Ridiculous.” He ignored Peter’s earlier question as he continued to speak with his companions. “He left a bachelor, came back with a boy practically as round as a globe.”

“He was quite the looker,” one of the men commented.

“In Hale’s position, I don’t think I’d wait for the ship to reach dock, either.”

The other men laughed.

Peter made a graceless grab for the paper, snatching the news from the man’s hands. He ignored the man’s indignant protest at Peter’s actions. His eyes scanned the paper, searching for the words. He flipped to the next page when he didn’t see the headline—he knew his family always made the headline, anything less was just unheard of for the Hale name.

It wasn’t just a headline, though. An image accompanied the announcement.

Peter stared at the drawing on the next page of the newspaper as he folded the paper around it, consumed by the image.

It was a detailed profile of Omega Stilinski. From the style alone, Peter knew it must have been Derek’s handiwork in capturing Stiles’ likeness for the paper. No doubt it was one of his nephew’s new favorite hobbies—drawing the Omega he pined years over for.

Peter’s eyes dashed downwards, scanning the words as quick as possible. His brow scrunched together when he read the wedding date. He glowered at the date as if it had offended him with its existence alone. His eyes read the headline more than once, knowing there was nothing to undo the fact that the article announced to the world that a new Hale had been born.

A healthy baby boy.

“When was this printed?” Peter asked. He tore his gaze away from Stiles’ image when the men didn’t answer him. “I asked when,” he almost growled.

“Last week,” the man huffed out. “Why do you care—lost a bet?”

Peter’s lip curled unpleasantly as he looked back at the paper. “An inconvenience,” he gruffly answered the man.

Even when high on opium, Peter could do the math off the top of his head. The announcement detailed that the child had been expected in the summer, but he knew its true due date should have been spring.

If Stiles’ pregnancy was as visible as the men had commented, he would be further along than a summer expectancy. He would have been pregnant before even setting foot on the ship.

And now, Stiles had welcomed a premature but healthy baby into the world, giving the perfect image of dutiful spouse giving the great Lord Hale an heir to Rosehill Park and all the spoils that followed.

If Peter knew anything about his nephew, it was Derek’s ability to spin the truth to tell another tale entirely, especially if it benefited the family.

And if Derek knew the truth, it meant Peter was in more danger of being set upon than he originally thought.

Damn his luck.

Chapter Text

A baby’s wail loudly echoed through the estate, a soft sobbing the only constant noise in the silent manor.

Stiles reached down into the crib, softly cooing at his son. He pressed a chaste kiss to Booker’s forehead as he cradled his baby in his arms.

Booker had a swath of hair gathered on his head, more than Stiles thought a baby could have when first born. He was still considered small even with the weeks he had to grow after his birth—it worried Stiles most nights. His eyes were pale, though Derek admitted that he thought he saw gold in them. His nose was small and narrowly upturned like Stiles’ was.

Stiles wasn’t sure if Booker looked like Peter or not—he couldn’t tell, and Derek wouldn’t say otherwise.

“It’s okay, sweetheart,” Stiles softly uttered as he moved to sit in his rocking chair, his fingertips swirled through the soft wisps of hair on Booker’s head as he calmed his son.

Booker’s sobs started to cease, his breathing calming now that he was being held and comforted.

Stiles smiled down at him, rocking his chair back and forth in a soothing manner. He hummed a little, trying to think of the different songs his mother always sang to him whenever he was restless. He wasn’t sure of the tune, but tried his best to carry it.

“Do you need any help?”

Stiles turned his head to look at Derek, a small blush creeping across his cheeks at being caught humming off key. He refused to admit his blush was in part to seeing Derek in his nightshirt. “I’m not very good,” he announced. “At singing,” he elaborated. Though, he did feel lost and a little overwhelmed as a parent. He felt as if he didn’t know what he was doing most of the time.

Derek was standing in the doorway, leaning against the doorframe as he watched Stiles and Booker.”I don’t think I’d be much help there,” he mused. “I think he enjoys your singing, though,” he answered.

“He just likes the sound of a voice as company,” Stiles replied. He reached his hand down to hold Booker’s tiny hand. He sprawled Booker’s fingers out, marveling at the small appendages. “He’s so tiny,” he weakly stated. “You don’t think he’ll …”

Stiles didn’t want to think about losing his baby. “He’ll be okay, right?”

Derek moved into the room, taking his time to kneel next to Stiles. “He’s small, but strong,” he offered, reaching a hand out to cup the back of Booker’s head. “We’ll take care of him, and make sure he’s healthy.”

Stiles looked at Derek, a swell of tenderness blossoming in his chest when he saw how Derek was looking at Booker—with fond affection and devotion. He leaned close to Derek, pressing a kiss to Derek’s cheek. He smiled at Derek when his husband curiously looked at him. “Thank you,” he simply stated.

Derek pressed a chaste kiss to Stiles’ lips in return.

Stiles hesitated in uncertainty before he leaned into Derek, his rhythm with rocking the chair faltering and dying out as he focused on their kiss.

Booker started to fuss when he realized they weren’t rocking as before.

Stiles softly laughed when Booker’s fussing turned to weak little cries, small hands pawing at his chest for attention. “I’m sorry,” he uttered to Derek.

“I think I’d be the same way if someone else stole your attention from me,” Derek replied as he moved to stand. He wasn’t surprised when he turned to find Pluto laying behind the rocking chair, the dog’s nose close to the chair’s rungs despite the steady movement that started up again. “Well, it seems you have company for now,” he commented.

Stiles softly smiled. “Diana is out in the hallway,” he noted. “I think she is keeping a lookout.”

“Of course,” Derek replied, fighting back a small yawn.

“You should get some sleep,” Stiles replied. “I’m okay for now,” he added.

“You act as if I’m the one who should be exhausted,” Derek answered.

Stiles looked at Derek. “You stayed with me,” he countered, remembering that Derek didn’t leave his side for the entire labor. “I slept so much afterwards, that I can’t sleep now.” He looked down at Booker. “I just want to be with him for a little bit longer,” he admitted.

“Of course,” Derek agreed. He turned to leave, pausing when his gaze landed on the crib. He stared at the piece of furniture, recalling when he last saw it out of storage.

Stiles noticed Derek’s hesitation, curiously looking at the older man. He looked at the crib, brow furrowing as he tried to understand what would make Derek observe it so. “Is everything okay?” He finally asked.

Derek started, as if he forgot that Stiles was there with him. He shook his head as if to recall himself. “I’m sorry, no, it’s fine,” he finally answered Stiles. “I haven’t seen it since … well, not in a while,” he curtly explained.

Stiles looked from Derek to the crib. He wasn’t sure what Derek meant until he started to think about the house’s history—to the family buried in the plot. “Oh, Derek,” he suddenly sighed. “We can get rid of it,” he earnestly started. “I didn’t realize it was yours and Paige’s—” he stopped himself, shaking his head. “I’m so stupid,” he harshly uttered. “Anna never said anything, but she looked upset— I can’t even decorate a child’s nursery without hurting someone.”

“No, Stiles, don’t talk about yourself that way,” Derek replied, moving closer to Stiles.

“I should have asked,” Stiles criticized himself. “It was obvious, and yet I overlooked so much—”

“Stiles,” Derek firmly said his name, touching a hand to Stiles’ shoulder in a comforting manner. “I don’t fault you for not knowing,” he answered. “And it’s not … It’s not what you think. I just realized that it has been a while since a crib has been used here.”

Stiles frowned some, not completely believing Derek’s dismissal of his conclusion. “Derek, you look upset—”

“I’m not,” Derek countered. “I’m not upset,” he firmly denied Stiles’ observation.

Stiles didn’t believe Derek as he watched him leave the nursery without another word spoken about it. He rocked a little faster when Booker fussed in his arms.

~*~

“Oh, he’s precious,” Lydia cooed as she held Booker in her arms. She smiled down at him as he wiggled some. “I don’t know how you put him down.”

“He can be a handful sometimes,” Stiles softly smiled as he watched his son in Lydia’s arms.

“And he looks absolutely adorable in his romper,” Lydia commented as she looked up at Stiles with a smirk. “You are most welcome.”

Stiles lightly laughed at that.

Lydia had arrived with a trunk full of varying baby clothes, claiming she couldn't decide which would fit Booker best, so she bought all of them. She had been the first to excitedly inform Stiles that she would be making the journey to visit him and his new baby.

To be honest, Stiles was terrified his father would say he couldn’t come. He was surprised when his father asked if he was welcome. He kept himself from begging, writing his letter in a calm hand despite how twisted his stomach was. He wanted to see his father again, he just hoped the feeling was mutual and this reunion would not just be to preserve their reputation.

Stiles had never been so glad to see a familiar face. He felt isolated ever since the night in Booker's room when Derek saw the crib. He welcomed the distraction Lydia provided, knowing he'd fall under pressure when Laura and Cora arrived in the coming weeks.

“I appreciate your help with the clothes,” Stiles finally replied. “Though I think you’ve noticed that we have a lot now.”

“Babies can be messy,” Lydia reasoned. She gently poked at Booker’s feet, her thumb brushing over his tiny toes as he wiggled his legs back and forth. “I can’t believe how squishy he is,” she commented.

“He’s not squishy,” Stiles countered, his brow furrowed as he watched Lydia.

“He’s perfectly squishy,” Lydia replied, looking at Stiles. “As all babies are.”

Stiles pursed his lips, “You’re teasing me on purpose,” he concluded.

“What else could I do after you have such a beautiful baby,” Lydia replied.

Stiles sighed, shaking his head.

Lydia’s expression took a serious turn as she turned to look at Stiles. “Are you well?” She questioned, wishing to know that Stiles’ letters had spoken the truth—that he was enjoying his time here.

Stiles looked surprised by Lydia’s question. “Of course,” he replied. “Having a baby wasn’t as traumatic an experience as I thought it’d be.”

Lydia frowned at that. “That’s not what I meant,” she explained, a soft downturn on her lips. “Are you happy here with Derek?” She bluntly asked. “With your baby.”

Stiles drew in a steady breath. “Strangely, yes,” he answered, looking at Lydia. “I’m happy with Derek, and the family we’ve started.” He softly smiled as he thought of the past few weeks. “Derek has been more than kind—and I find myself loving my little boy more than I thought possible.”

Lydia smiled at that. “You’ve found a paradise, then.”

Stiles’ smile faltered some. “It’s been … nice,” he softly uttered.

Lydia’s brow scrunched together. “Just nice?” She inquired.

Stiles stood, taking a turn around the room in order to stand next to the window. He could see if others were approaching the house or not from this secluded spot, making it easy for him to tell when their privacy would end. “I’m scared he’s lying to me,” he finally confessed.

Lydia remained silent as she waited for Stiles to continue.

“I know he cares about me, and has shown affection for Booker more than just once,” Stiles began, his voice barely shaking with nerves. “But there is something wrong—and he won’t tell me,” he explained. He drew in a deep breath, closing his eyes as he exhaled. “I think he is changing his mind about calling Booker his son,” he finally confessed.

“Have you spoken to him about this?” Lydia asked, unsure of Stiles’ observations. She shifted her hold on Booker, trying to adjust to his fussing.

Stiles turned from the window, moving close to Lydia in order to take Booker from her. “I haven’t,” he admitted as he held Booker against his chest, rocking him gently as he had grown accustomed to in order to get his son to sleep. “But he won’t hold Booker for very long. And if Derek can avoid him all together, he will.”

Lydia frowned, reaching a gentle hand out to touch Booker’s foot. She didn’t understand how anyone could regard a baby in such a manner. “Have you asked that Davenport fellow?”

Stiles pursed his lips, unsure of Lydia’s suggestion. He spoke to Davenport in the past about his relationship with Derek, but he never spoke in great detail about everything. He knew that Davenport knew about Peter, that was a given. But he wasn’t completely sure Davenport would be privy to Derek’s feelings about Booker.

“I don’t want to start trouble,” Stiles finally answered. “I’ll try talking to Derek,” he offered when Lydia’s eyebrows raised. He knew she would push now—he respected her for that, knowing that he’d suffer in silence without her guidance.

“I’m sure it’s not what you think.”

~*~

“Is Laura going to join us?” Stiles asked at dinner. He was glad that he got to spend some alone time with Derek, but had been surprised when he discovered that Laura had arrived some days ago and

“She will, maybe in a few days,” Derek replied, his gaze focused on the letters he had been shuffling through earlier.

Stiles quietly observed Derek, his eyes flickering over to the letters before staring back at Derek’s face. “Does she not want to see us?” He hesitantly asked, his voice cracking some as his mind raced with thoughts of Laura not wanting anything to do with Booker.

Derek looked at Stiles, placing the letters on the table as he dedicated his attention to his husband. “Joanna had a hard time on the ship,” he finally explained.

Stiles’ breath caught. “Is she alright?”

“She will be,” Derek replied. “She got sea sick, and Laura wants to make sure she’ll be alright before coming over.”

Stiles released a heavy breath. “Thank goodness,” he stated.

“They’ll visit when they can,” Derek offered in hopes to put Stiles at ease.

Stiles nodded, offering Derek a faint smile. “I’m happy to hear that,” he replied.

Derek was quiet for a moment, observing Stiles. His hand brushed over the tabletop, his fingertips caressing Stiles’ in a gentle attempt to gain his attention.

Stiles looked at Derek in surprise, his hand pressing into Derek’s as he accepted his husband’s kind gesture.

“Are you well?” Derek softly asked.

Stiles simply folded his hand into Derek’s, trying to offer a cheerful smile. “I am,” he replied. “I’ve healed well, and have grown accustomed to Booker’s schedule—”

“Stiles,” Derek softly spoke his name as he moved to sit on the edge of his seat, drawing himself closer to Stiles and the edge of the table. “That wasn’t what I meant.”

Stiles looked perplexed by Derek’s words. “I think I’m lost,” he offered.

“Are you happy?” Derek asked.

Stiles looked down at their hands, barely nodding his head. “I’m just worried about Booker,” he finally admitted.

Derek’s brow furrowed. “Is he sick?”

Stiles closed his eyes, pulling his hand out of Derek’s. “Would you care?” He honestly asked, forcing himself to look at Derek.

Derek leaned back in his chair, his hands falling away from the table as he simply stared at Stiles. “What is that supposed to mean?”

“You barely spend time with him,” Stiles explained.

Derek sighed, placing his head in his hand. “Stiles—”

“You won’t go near him if he cries. I know it can be a lot—”

“That’s not it,” Derek replied, finally looking at Stiles.

“Then what?” Stiles pressed. He clutched and twisted his hands in worry. “I just want to know.”

“Stiles,” Derek began, releasing a breathy sigh as he turned his head to look at Stiles.

A child’s scream loudly wailed through the hallways, echoing throughout the manor.

Stiles sighed, moving to stand as he pushed back his chair. “I’ll handle it,” he tiredly stated, leaving the room as he passed Derek.

Derek reached for Stiles’ arm, his hand barely touching Stiles’ forearm in an attempt to pause his departure.

Stiles snatched his arm away from Derek’s grasp as he rushed by.

Derek picked up Stiles’ discarded napkin from the floor, his hand crumpling the cloth in his grasp. He tossed the napkin to be forgotten on the table, leaning back in his chair as he sighed in defeat. He was surprised when Anna came into the room to announce a guest.

“At this time,” Derek started, perplexed by such a visit.

“He said he was calling on Stiles,” Anna explained. “He said very little else.”

“I’ve come to visit my son,” John’s voice loudly announced his presence before he entered the room behind Anna.

“John,” Derek barely uttered. “I’d have to say, this is a surprise,” he explained as he rose from his chair.

“I came to see Stiles,” John stated again. “And my grandson.”

Derek hesitated as he evaluated John. “I didn’t realize Stiles wrote to you,” he replied.

“I wrote him,” John answered. “After I heard the news.”

Derek nodded in understanding. “Stiles just went to see to Booker,” he offered.

John nodded.

“Anna, please let Stiles know that his father is here,” Derek instructed her. “We’ll wait in the parlor.”

~*~

“Do I need to ask if you’re treating him well?” John questioned, turning his gaze from the fire and towards Derek.

“Do you believe you have to?” Derek questioned back.

John narrowed his gaze some. “He sounded sad, in his letter—cold, even.”

Derek remained silent.

“Does he not want me here?”

Derek sighed, shaking his head as he leaned forward to retrieve his glass of brandy. “He’d rather I not be here at the moment if I was honest with you.”

John frowned at that.

“He’ll be glad that you’re here to see Booker,” Derek added.

“Father?” Stiles’ voice sounded hopeful as he hurried down the stairs and practically floated into the parlor. He smiled when he saw his father sitting by Derek. He rushed forward, moving to embrace John.

John rose from his seat to meet Stiles’ embrace.

“I missed you,” Stiles confessed as he rested his head against John’s shoulder, hugging his father tightly. He closed his eyes, thankful for the peaceful moment.

“And I’ve missed you,” John replied, pressing a fond kiss just beside Stiles’ temple.

“Will you stay with us?” Stiles quickly asked as he fell away from their embrace.

“I have a room in town,” John explained, his hand moving up to cup Stiles’ shoulder.

Stiles’ smile faltered some.

“There are more than enough rooms here, John,” Derek stated before Stiles could.

Stiles thoughtfully looked at Derek.

“I wouldn’t want to impose,” John replied.

“It wouldn’t be imposing,” Stiles pressed, turning back to his father. “Derek’s sisters aren’t due here for a while—”

“And when they arrive, they should find an old man ruining their stay,” John countered.

“I think you could tell from outside that Rosehill Park is big enough,” Derek plainly stated, taking a decent sip of his brandy.

“If you don’t want to see us,” Stiles started.

“I came as soon as I arrive because I wanted to see you,” John corrected whatever assumptions Stiles had.

Booker’s cries suddenly echoed loudly.

Stiles sighed, turning to look at the parlor door.

“You just left him,” John noted.

“He’s not feeling well, I think,” Stiles offered.

Derek turned to look at Stiles. “Should Melissa be called?”

Stiles looked genuinely surprised by Derek’s concern. He faintly shook his head. “I think he’s just tired. If he’s still unwell, I’d like to call on her tomorrow.”

Derek nodded.

John watched in silence, observing the two. He looked to his son, offering a faint smile as he asked, “Would it be too much if I asked to see him?”

Stiles slowly smiled at John’s question. “It wouldn’t be. He may be a bit fussy, though.”

“I recall you being similar,” John replied.

~*~

Stiles hugged his father goodnight after they had managed to get Booker to fall asleep.

John rocked Booker in his arms, faintly smiling when his grandson started to lull. He managed to get Booker down into the crib without waking him, recalling all the tired night he had when getting Stiles to fall asleep.

Stiles waited for his father to follow him out, the door closed behind them. “He likes you,” he softly stated.

“It’s pretty easy to like someone when they are agreeable,” John answered.

Stiles frowned, looking down at their feet. “I’m glad you’re here.”

John reached a hand out, his finger touching Stiles’ chin in order to make him look up. “Are you?”

Stiles nodded. “Of course I am.”

John placed a gentle kiss on Stiles’ forehead, embracing him.

Stiles hugged his father tightly.

“He looks like you did when you were a baby,” John stated.

“Are you just saying that to make me feel better?” Stiles weakly asked.

“No,” John answered. “I mean it, son.”

Stiles tightened his hold on his father, desperate for this moment to last just a little longer.

~*~

Stiles saw his father to the guest room before heading back down the stairs. He thought about what Lydia said, and the attempt at conversation he tried to have with Derek over dinner. But how could he make it work—make Derek see how much it hurt to not be trusted. He slowed to a stop in the parlor, watching Derek sit by the fire and drink. He knew he could leave it alone, but he wanted to patch their marriage together—back to the way they were.

“My father will stay the night,” Stiles finally announced himself to Derek.

Derek nodded his head, remaining silent as he stared at the fire.

Stiles’ brow furrowed in annoyance. “Booker is asleep, so he should be fine by tomorrow,” he continued.

Derek didn’t reply.

“Speak, would you?” Stiles snapped at his husband.

“What do you want me to say?” Derek finally spoke, turning to look at Stiles for the first time.

“Something,” Stiles replied. “I would like you to say something .”

“All we do is fight when I talk,” Derek replied.

“You could show compassion,” Stiles criticized.

“You mean how you show me compassion,” Derek sharply answered.

“I can’t show you something if you won’t talk to me,” Stiles angrily stated.

“You twist everything I say and do,” Derek stated as he stood up from his chair, approaching Stiles. “Tell me, what can I do to finally satisfy you? Would you have me cut my heart out for you and lay it bare while you hide behind a wall of ice?”

Stiles’ hands shook.

“Now you’re the one too silent to talk,” Derek commented.

“I want you to trust me,” Stiles finally stated.

“I can’t trust someone I barely know,” Derek answered.

Stiles glared at Derek. “How is that my fault?” He demanded. “You will barely look at me now, let alone touch me.”

“And how am I supposed to speak to you—comfort you, when all you do is turn a cold shoulder towards me?” Derek countered as he stood before Stiles.

“You know how,” Stiles vehemently stated.

“I don’t know what you expect of me, Stiles,” Derek harshly uttered. “How much more can I do to prove to you that I have accepted Booker as mine.”

“Hold him!” Stiles snapped. “Act like he is your son. Then maybe I would believe you to be genuine,” he adamantly stated. He released a pained sigh as he turned and hurried from the parlor, furious with Derek for being so dense.

~*~

Stiles was inspecting the different horses on display. He smiled when Booker made a soft coo before grabbing at the pony’s mane. He grabbed hold of Booker’s hand, gently holding his son’s hand in his own, pressing gentle kisses to Booker’s tiny fingers.

Booker laughed, leaning his head down and into Stiles’ shoulder.

Stiles couldn’t help his smile as he shifted his hold on Booker. He caught sight of Derek, his smile faltering some when he noticed his husband staring at him and their son. He tried to be agreeable this morning when Derek came downstairs to the breakfast table to ask Stiles about going to the horse expo that marked the approach of the social season. He had nodded his head curtly, trying to hide his own embarrassment of having to mingle and play nicely with Derek’s family while they remained barely cordial with one another. He had hoped his father would have joined them, begrudgingly accepting that his father had other plans.

Stiles turned to look down at Joanna when she pulled at his jacket, forcing himself to focus on the now.

“Uncle Stiles, look,” Joanna gestured towards the larger horses being placed on display for the auction. “Those ponies are big!”

“Those horses are for grown ups,” Stiles explained to her. He smiled when Elizabeth came running up to Joanna and him.

“Mama said we need to have tea,” Elizabeth explained to Stiles. “Auntie Cora is finally here.”

Stiles looked at the refreshments tent, allowing Joanna to grab his hand and pull him along. “Don’t forget to tell your uncle,” he softly instructed Elizabeth. “Be careful of the horses,” he added as he watched Elizabeth rush through the small crowds before finding Derek. He watched as Elizabeth pulled Derek along with her. He was curious when he saw Davenport joining up with Derek, unable to stop his smile when Davenport lifted Elizabeth into his arms in order to make her laugh.

“Stiles!” Laura’s voice pulled his attention away from that scene.

Stiles looked at Laura, smiling at her as she made a gesture to hold Booker.

Booker stared in awe at Laura’s hair, reaching his fingers out to latch onto one of her curls.

“Booker, no,” Stiles softly reprimanded, trying to free Laura’s hair from Booker’s grasp.

“It’s alright,” Laura replied as she expertly managed to get her hair out of Booker’s hands. “Elizabeth loved to pull my hair.”

Stiles relaxed some, easing himself into the chair next to Laura.

“What about me, mama?” Joanna asked as she excitedly jumped between Stiles’ and Laura’s chairs, making small faces at Booker as she caught his attention.

Booker laughed, reaching a hand out to Joanna, his fingers just missing her bonnet.

“You managed to be fascinated with my jewelry,” Laura replied to Joanna. “She tore my earring out before she was one,” she added in explanation to Stiles.

Stiles slightly grimaced at the thought.

“Oh, it’s too dreary a day for this,” Cora announced as she reached the table. She deflated into the empty chair next to Laura, bunching her skirts up with little care to how they would crease.

“Auntie Cora, it’s fun!” Joanna countered as she danced and pulled on Stiles’ arm. “We have Uncle Stiles and Uncle Derek here, too. And Booker!” She excitedly noted, moving back to look at her tiny cousin.

Stiles smiled at that.

“He’s so tiny and squishy,” Joanna commented as she poked Booker’s cheeks. “I love him!” She announced.

Stiles softly laughed when Joanna moved to hug him.

“Please give Uncle Derek more,” Joanna begged.

Stiles hugged Joanna back. “That’s a hard promise to make,” he offered.

“Uncle Derek would love a big family!” Joanna announced. “The bigger the better!”

Stiles tried to school his expression, hiding behind a friendly smile.

Cora’s features twisted when she looked at Booker, a frown crossing her face. She shook her head when Laura silently gestured to see if she wanted to hold Booker.

Laura tried to subtly kick Cora’s leg beneath the table.

“Ow,” Cora harshly snapped as she shuffled her weight in the chair. She glared at Laura, about to argue when Laura gave her a stern look.

Stiles couldn’t help but notice the interaction.

“Ah, here they are,” Davenport announced his arrival, accompanied by Elizabeth’s laughter.

Joanna bounced some, a smile on her lips as she moved over to Davenport. “You knew we were here!”

“I did not,” Davenport playfully replied. He looked at those gathered before looking at Booker. “And how is my future business partner today,” he playfully questioned as he reached a hand out to tickle Booker’s sock covered foot.

Booker giggled, kicking his foot against Davenport’s hand.

“He’s too tiny to run a business,” Elizabeth stated as she pulled on Davenport’s hand.

“I think he’s old enough—smarter than Uncle Derek, no doubt,” Davenport loudly stated for Derek to overhear.

“Surely not, if he’s your business partner,” Derek answered.

Stiles turned to look at Derek, noticing that he joined them now. He looked away when Derek moved to stand beside him, allowing Derek room to lean against the back of his chair.

Davenport smiled down at Booker, looking up at Derek for a moment before taking his turn to change the subject. “May I ask to hold him, or have you ladies not had your fills yet?”

“I’m all set,” Cora simply stated.

“I just got to hold him,” Laura countered, trying to cover up Cora’s answer.

Stiles looked from Davenport to Cora, watching as she observed Booker with a critical eye. His gaze turned to Laura, seeing the way she held Booker with such care and ease. He wasn’t sure Cora would hold Booker in a similar manner. Something twisted and broke in his stomach. “I didn’t realize you held him,” he sharply stated.

Everyone turned to look at Stiles.

Laura looked from Stiles to Cora, then back again. “Cora’s not very good with holding babies,” she started when she realized Stiles and Cora were intensely staring at one another. “Elizabeth and Joanna threw up on her the first time she held them.”

“Maybe I don’t want to hold him,” Cora countered.

“Cora,” Derek sharply spoke her name.

Cora looked at Derek, releasing a harsh breath. “I think you know why.”

Stiles bristled at Cora’s words. So Derek’s family had expressed a dislike in their arrangement.

“You selfish, ignorant child,” Derek angrily snapped.

“This isn’t the place for this,” Laura quickly stated as she watched Davenport circle his arms around Elizabeth and Joanna.

“Especially in front of the girls,” Davenport added.

Cora stood up, shoving her skirts out from around her chair as she turned to leave. “It’s not my fault you can’t talk to your husband about his child.”

Derek took a step forward, ready to drag Cora out of the tent and sternly reprimand her.

Laura leaned forward as far as she could while holding Booker. “Derek, don’t—”

Stiles reacted first, moving to stand up. He reached down and took Booker from Laura’s hold.

Laura looked surprised, almost reluctant to let her nephew go when he started to fuss. “Stiles, please—”

“I’ll make it simpler for you, Cora,” Stiles angrily stated as he got a better hold on his son, shuffling him into his arms to accommodate Booker’s unhappy tears. “You stay, I’ll leave—with my son.” He left in a rush, passing by Derek in a flurry.

“Uncle Stiles!” Joanna and Elizabeth called out in near unison, a cry for Stiles not to leave.

Stiles barely made it across the first field before Booker’s wailing became too much to address while walking. He tried to soothe his son’s tears as he slowed to a stop. “I’m sorry,” he apologized, hushing Booker’s cries as he rubbed small circles into his back.

“Stiles,” Derek’s voice called from behind him.

Stiles turned to see Derek slowing to a stop by him. “I’m going home—I’ll take care of him there—”

“He’s not something to be hidden,” Derek uttered.

A sharp sob cracked out of Stiles’ chest. He shook his head as tears stung his eyes. He closed his eyes, hugging Booker tighter as his hand cradled the back of Booker’s head.

Derek reached his hands out to take Booker from Stiles’ hold. He cradled Booker against his chest, gently shushing his tears as he rocked Booker in his arms.

Stiles shook his head as Derek reached his free arm out for him. He reluctantly allowed Derek to pull him into a hug.

“She’s a brat,” Derek explained as he held gently shifted and rocked Booker in his arm.

“She’s right,” Stiles breathed out against Derek’s chest before he shoved back from Derek, angrily wiping at his eyes. “You said we were going to start a family—that you would be his father—” He looked at Derek through blurry eyes. “I believed you. But this is the first time I’ve seen you actively hold him.”

Derek looked at Booker briefly before turning back to Stiles. “Stiles, it's not what you think. Please, come back and we'll talk about this at home.”

Stiles shook his head, moving to take hold of Booker. He pulled his son into his arms, holding Booker against his chest. “I can't—won't go back to have Cora make more snide remarks.”

“I'll speak to her—”

“I believe the races are starting,” Stiles coldly uttered, changing the subject completely. “You go back, make some bids with Davenport.”

“Stiles,” Derek sternly spoke. “I’m not leaving you.”

Stiles shook his head. “I want to be alone with Booker. I’ll take the carriage home.”

Derek’s brow crumpled, a displeased expression strewed across his face. “Nothing I say or do will satisfy you, will it?”

“I don’t want or need your pity,” stiles answered.

Derek scoffed. “Again, you twist everything I say and do to negatively impact us. But I’ve done nothing but try to accommodate you.”

“I’m sorry to disappoint,” Stiles forcefully uttered.

Derek turned his gaze away from Stiles, taking a calming breath before looking back at his husband. “I told you I wanted this to work—I meant it then, as I do now. If you wish to leave, I won’t stop you. But I would like for our son to stay.”

Stiles tightened his hold on Booker. He drew in a sharp breath. “Fine,” he roughly replied. “We'll stay.”

~*~

Stiles refused to let anyone else hold Booker for the remainder of the day. He had seen Derek speaking with Cora in hushed argument. He noticed how upset Cora was with whatever Derek said before parting from her. He wondered if Derek threatened to take her allowance away should she continue her petty jibes—he wondered if that would even work.

Stiles walked through the different stalls, looking at the horses as he kept Booker secured in his arms. He paused by one horse, observing its pristine coat and mane. He wondered how much such a fine Thoroughbred would cost.

“He’s caught your eye, hasn't he?”

Stiles looked at the man who spoke.

The owner of the voice was a gentleman walking around the expo’s ground. He was older than Stiles, by some generations—if Stiles was not mistaken. He was dressed in a fine, expensive outfit that noted he came from a wealthy background.

Stiles didn’t like the way the man observed him, feeling objectified with every passing second. He shuffled Booker in his arm, not at all liking the look the older man was giving him—as if he was picturing Stiles is much less clothing. “He’s quite an animal,” he offered.

“Do you ride?” The man asked.

Stiles was surprised by the man’s question. “I used to,” he replied. “Before having my son,” he added, trying to hint that he was taken for.

“I thought so,” the man stated with a smirk. “You look like you’d be a decent rider, straddled atop a stallion.”

Stiles looked at the man with distaste, having caught the other meaning the man was implying. He narrowed his gaze at him. “Well, my husband likes that I can ride with him,” he pointedly stated, as if it was an announcement in it of itself.

The man laughed with contempt. “Shame,” he stated. “Omegas are gorgeous to see riding—I’ve had my share of them accompany me on a ride or two.”

Stiles’ features scrunched in angered annoyance.

“How much for the stallion?” Derek’s tired voice questioned from behind Stiles.

Stiles turned to stare at his husband. “Derek,” he softly stated.

Derek looked at Stiles, a soft arch of his eyebrow asking if Stiles was upset by his interruption.

“He’s a purebred,” the man stated with annoyance in his tone, as if his implication that Derek was too poor should have been enough to deter him.

Stiles turned his gaze from Derek to observed the man again. “My husband didn’t ask if it was a purebred. He asked the cost.”

Derek didn’t hide the smile that tugged at the corner of his lips.

The man looked Derek up and down, as if he was sizing him up. His gaze fell on the cane, a smirk dancing across his lips. “Too high of a price for a leisurely horse.”

Stiles glared at the man.

“No offense, lad,” the man stated in a mocking tone. “But I’ve seen a few try to ride him, and he’s a tough spirit to tame—requires a lot of stamina.”

“My husband’s stamina is superb, I can attest to that,” Stiles quickly countered. “The only thing to out match it is the size of his purse.”

Derek faintly chuckled under his breath, clearly amused by Stiles’ words as he wrapped his free arm around Stiles’ waist. He leaned in to place a kiss on Booker’s head when the child reached up to paw at his jacket. “Like I asked,” he started, looking at the merchant. “How much?”

~*~

Stiles wasn’t very surprised that Derek purchased the horse at well above what he believed was the correct price. He was amused by the other lord’s gruffly annoyance at being outdone by Derek.

The day had been spent, and Stiles couldn’t deny his joy to finally be leaving. He sighed in relief when he sighted the carriage. He situated Booker in his arms correctly, making sure they would both be comfortable on the ride home. He was surprised when Derek settled in the carriage across from him instead of next to.

Stiles managed to not move too much with the unsteady rhythm of the carriage, keeping Booker sound asleep.

Derek was staring at Stiles, watching him from the moment the carriage started off. He had thought about Stiles’ words, wondering how he managed to twist them up in knots. He knew the only thing he could do was tell the truth—he always believed Stiles deserved that, but never allowed himself to hope that Stiles wouldn’t blame him.

“I had a son,” Derek suddenly stated, getting his confession out before he could hide it away again. He turned his gaze away from Stiles before they could connect eyes. He felt ashamed for hiding it for so long.

Stiles looked at Derek in surprise. He shifted his weight a little, making sure that Booker was accommodated correctly.

“With Kate,” Derek elaborated.

Stiles’ stomach twisted and turned. “That’s why you divorced her instead of an annulment,” he reasoned.

“I could have had an annulment, but that would have opened up a collection of horrors I couldn’t bare at the time,” Derek softly replied. He gripped his cane handle tightly as he stared out the window at the parting sun behind them. He shook his head. “I should have told you before we married.”

Stiles drew a deep breath. “We should have told each other a lot of things I suppose,” he reasoned.

Derek could see Stiles’ uneasiness growing, knowing that he wanted to ask at least a dozen questions. “Go ahead,” he prompted. “Ask me whatever you want, and I’ll tell you the truth.”

Stiles frowned, looking down at Booker. “What happened?”

Derek leaned back in his seat, running a roughened hand over his beard. “What didn’t happen,” he scoffed in contempt.

“You said she was prone to outbursts,” Stiles started, hoping that would give Derek a place to begin.

“She was diagnosed as clinically insane about a year after …” Derek drew in a pained breath. “After Benjamin was born,” he explained.

“Benjamin was your son,” Stiles simply uttered, realizing who Anna had been talking about when they had fought. “I didn’t realize that was who … I heard the name, but didn’t know.”

“He was named after my great grandfather,” Derek hollowly explained.

Stiles stared at Derek, still confused. “What happened to him?”

Derek squeezed his eyes shut, bowing his head some as he tried to not recall what happened that day. The queasiness he felt when he heard the wailing and screams from within the estate.

Everyone was crying inconsolable tears—everyone but Kate.

“She drowned him,” Derek flatly confessed. “In the bath. She drowned him and called it an accident.”

The handle of Derek’s cane yawned under the pressure of Derek’s grip.

Stiles tightened his hold on Booker. His voice croaked, a lump forming in his throat as he started, “Derek—”

“I didn’t tell you because I didn’t want you to think I was replacing something I lost,” Derek confessed, still not looking at Stiles. “My marriage to Kate may have been a political one, but I loved our son. And she … I hated her for a long time—I even wanted to kill her for it.”

Derek remembered the gun he had held as he furiously paced back and forth in his study, his thoughts delirious with grief and exhaustion. He had listened to Anna’s wailing. He had listened to Kate’s monotone excuses—no remorse in her words. He had drunken himself into a dark corner, one where all he could think about were the bullets in his desk drawer. It had been Davenport that took the gun away and tried to repair his broken heart.

Benjamin was gone—there was nothing to be done. Derek mourned alone, forcing himself to work and avoid all contact with everyone that tried to give him condolences. He spent many nights in the family plot, sitting next to his child’s grave, contemplating what could have happened if he had been home.

Derek felt pathetic. “But in the end, I pitied her more than anything. I saw to it she was evaluated and institutionalized in a hospital instead of an asylum.” He shook his head. “I don’t know if what I did was right or wrong, Stiles, but I lost my son—”

“You didn’t lose him,” Stiles firmly objected. He leaned forward in his seat, careful to mind Booker’s place in his arms. He reached his free hand out as he braced Booker’s back against his legs. He touched Derek’s arm gently, his hand a firm comfort. “She stole him away, Derek. And no parent should live through that.”

Derek suppressed a sharp sob, shaking his head. “Having Booker in the house makes me think … ”

“Reminds you of Benjamin,” Stiles softly concluded.

“It reminds me how scared I am to lose what I love,” Derek replied, forcing himself to look up at Stiles finally. “I’m a very broken man, Stiles,” he barely whispered.

“We both were,” Stiles answered. “But I think we’ve started to repair each other.”

Derek wordlessly placed his hand over Stiles’ fingers that gripped his sleeve, welcoming his husband’s touch.

“I misunderstood,” Stiles softly explained. “I should have spoken to you, but I convinced myself it would be the worst.” He shook his head, breathing out a heavy breath. “I do this too often.”

“We both do,” Derek replied. He released his hold on his cane, leaving it to be discarded against the carriage door. He reached his hand out to touch the back of Booker’s head, delicately cradling his head in his palm. He brushed his thumb across the top of Booker’s head. “And yet I find myself falling in love with you more and more, with every passing day.”

“I … I love you,” Stiles softly stated. “And I think I have for some time.”

Derek wordlessly pressed a gentle kiss to Stiles’ lips, a confirmation of his mutual admission. “I’m sorry,” he spoke into their kiss. “I should have told you—I shouldn’t have hid what happened.”

“It’s okay,” Stiles answered. “It’s going to be okay, Derek,” he reassuringly stated. “We’re going to be okay,” he corrected him.

Derek kissed Stiles once more, a lingering hope shared between them.

Chapter Text

Stiles’ dreams were plagued by nightmares. He would often dream of Derek, sometimes embracing him in the most intimate of ways, finding himself wrapping his arms around Derek as they lounged together in bed. It was a pleasant dream, one that spoke volumes of his own desires to finally have Derek that way—to know what it meant to be tenderly embraced by his husband.

Those dreams would suddenly warp, melting into a savage nightmare that replayed the vile things Peter did to him. Derek would suddenly grow rough in his actions, his hands tightening around Stiles’ wrists in order to pin him to the bed. He would ignore Stiles’ soft pleas for him to stop. He would suddenly be unrecognizable before ultimately changing into Peter.

Stiles would wake up with a scream stuck in his throat, sweat soaking the mattress. He would sob and try to catch his breath, terrified that he was reliving what happened. He was always comforted by the familiarity of his room in Rosehill, Pluto’s soft nose pressing against his arms as he tried to comfort him.

“You’re scared Derek won’t be gentle with you?” Lydia questioned when Stiles finally told her about the dreams—what he could manage to tell her, anyways.

“No,” Stiles shook his head. “I know he will be. I’m scared that I’ll think about ...”

Lydia’s expression softened in sympathy. “You don’t want to remember Peter while you have your first time with Derek,” she finally concluded.

Stiles drew in a shaky breath before nodding his head, afraid of shedding the tears burning his eyes.

“Try it in a different position,” Lydia finally concluded.

Stiles turned to look at Lydia, his brow furrowed. “Are you mocking me?”

Lydia scoffed. “There are more ways to have sex than one, Stiles,” she finally explained. “You never told me what happened, and I don’t expect you to,” she gently began. “But from what you told me here, it sounds like you’re afraid of being caged in—unable to get away if you want to stop.”

“I know Derek would stop,” Stiles began to vehemently argue.

“I know,” Lydia replied. “But sometimes something can be too traumatic, that the barest reminder is enough to hurt us.”

Stiles frowned.

Lydia sighed. “I’m telling you to ride your husband.”

“Lydia!” Stiles nearly shouted at her, his cheeks turning a bright shade of red.

Lydia laughed, shaking her head in amusement. “Stiles, there is nothing wrong with being intimate with your husband.”

Stiles felt flabbergasted. “Well, I know that,” he mumbled.

Lydia arched her eyebrows in a suggestive manner.

“You’re incorrigible,” Stiles sighed with a faint laugh.

~*~

Part of me wonders if I should ever tell you these words. Would they scare you? To know that you’ve affected someone who met you only once? Another Alpha, in desperate need for your attention—it’s why I never send these letters, for fear of repulsing you.

Your infectious laughter gains the attention of anyone in the room. But your kindness and sweet smile—it’s enough to capture the most hardened of hearts.

I found myself enamored by you.

I apologize for being unable to be honest with you in person. I couldn’t even speak to you in front of the others—it’s amusing, how people assume I am incapable of being shy.

I look forward to being able to converse with you one day, outside the constraints of social propriety, where we can both be ourselves. I however would not do you the disservice of assuming I had a right to that privacy—with your father’s permission, I may one day ask you for such a moment.

Until fate gifts us that opportunity, I will respectfully remain in silent admiration.

Stiles ran his fingers over the edges of the letter, his eyes roaming over the words written in Derek’s penmanship. He drew in a soft breath, his stomach tumbling some as he read the words of utter care and devotion.

Derek’s eyes roamed Stiles’ face for a sign of uneasiness, nervous about revealing the letters he had intended to remain hidden.

“Why did you never show me these,” Stiles softly asked, turning to look at Derek.

Derek looked at Stiles, shrugging his shoulders in uncertainty. “I never thought you would want to hear these confessions.”

Stiles placed a gentle hand onto Derek’s knee, leaning his body closer as he looked back at the letter. “I enjoy them,” he replied.

“Truly?” Derek sounded skeptical.

Stiles offered Derek a small smile, leaning forward to press a kiss to Derek’s lips. “Very much so,” he whispered against Derek’s lips.

Derek kissed Stiles again, pulling them closer together as their kiss deepened.

Stiles moaned into the kiss, his fingers releasing their hold on the letter as it fluttered to the ground to be forgotten. He titled his body towards Derek, his hips twisting to turn into Derek’s body, his foot pressing between Derek’s legs as he slotted his thigh between Derek’s.

Derek encircled his arm around Stiles’ waist, hauling him forward until Stiles could better straddle his leg.

Stiles shifted, trying to get a better balance as he fell against Derek’s chest, his free hand pressed against the back of the couch as he tried to stay upright.

Derek pressed kisses across Stiles’ cheek, moving his lips down to mouth at the curve of Stiles’ neck. His fingers pulled loose the cravat tied neatly around Stiles’ throat.

Stiles closed his eyes, lightly moaning when Derek’s teeth grazed his throat. He buried his fingers in Derek’s hair, clinging to Derek as he peppered his skin in lover’s bites.

Emboldened, he leaned his face closer to Derek, teeth gently nipping at Derek’s ear. A moan gasped past his lips when Derek’s hands hooked beneath his ass, hoisting him up into a better spot.

Their bodies fit together perfectly, a delicious pleasure erupting between them.

“Derek,” Stiles softly moaned, their lips pressing together once more.

~*~

Stiles unlaced the sides of his trousers, pulling the laces through the eyelets. He slipped the loosened material off his hips, allowing the trousers to fall down his legs and to the ground. He stepped out of his pant legs, leaving the material to be forgotten on the floor.

He reached for Derek, arms outstretched as he closed the gap between them.

Derek hooked his arms beneath Stiles’ knees, pulling his husband close as he helped Stiles move to straddle his hips. He reached a hand up to touch Stiles’ face, cupping his cheek in the palm of his hand. He placed a kiss to Stiles’ lips, drawing them together.

Stiles pulled on Derek’s shirt, fingers dancing across Derek’s stomach as he pushed the material up Derek’s torso. He helped Derek remove his shirt, a soft smile on his lips as he tossed the garment behind him to be forgotten. He kissed Derek again, determined to show Derek that he was ever present in the moment.

Derek’s hands settled on Stiles’ hips, the most reassuring of weight against Stiles’ skin. He gently kissed Stiles, a near timid question of if his affections were welcomed.

Stiles pressed back into their kiss, his hands traveling Derek’s body. His fingers lingered over the scars marring Derek's skin. He pressed a kiss to the scar just under Derek's clavicle. Another kiss against the scar along Derek's jaw. He wondered if Derek could ever tell him about these scars—if he would ever feel compelled to share that part of his life.

Derek tilted Stiles' head to press their lips together again.

~*~

Stiles gasped at the pain, fingers digging into Derek’s shoulders as he settled. His soft moans came in quick breaths as he pressed a hand against Derek’s chest as he steadied himself.

“Stiles,” Derek breathed his name in concern.

“I’m okay,” Stiles answered, quickly kissing Derek to push away any doubts. “Very okay,” he added with a soft chuckle before kissing Derek again, more earnestly this time.

Derek ran his hands up and down Stiles’ back, fingertips caressing Stiles’ shoulder blades in adoration. “You’re gorgeous,” he whispered into their fleeting kiss.

Stiles moaned when Derek’s arm encircled his waist, hoisting him up some as their chests pressed together. “Derek,” he softly spoke. “Make love to me,” he sweetly commanded, wanting nothing but for Derek to erase everything else—until he couldn’t remember being touched by anyone else.

Derek used his strength to lift and guide Stiles into a rhythm that suited them both. He worked his hips in a slow pace, letting Stiles take control of the situation. He moved his hands to support Stiles’ movements, lifting and lowering Stiles in a steady rhythm.

Stiles closed his eyes, pressing his forehead against Derek’s. He was panting now, open mouthed and wanton in his desire as he set his own pace, despite the burning in his thighs with every move he managed. “Derek,” he moaned as he tried to keep going. "I love you," he barely whispered.

"And I love you," Derek answered, capturing Stiles' lips in a kiss.

~*~

Stiles laid his head low on Derek’s chest, his hand resting on Derek’s stomach as he drew senseless shapes into Derek’s skin. He released a faint moan when Derek’s fingers ran through his hair, pressing his head into Derek’s hold.

“Are you alright?” Derek asked, his voice faint—as if he didn’t want to disturb Stiles.

“Better than alright,” Stiles answered, turning his head to look up at Derek. He smiled as he rested his chin on Derek’s chest. “I’m very happy,” he corrected himself.

“So, I wasn’t that bad for an old man,” Derek commented as he looked at Stiles with an arched eyebrow.

Stiles couldn’t help his laugh. “You lived up to my boasting,” he replied with a smirk, leaning up to kiss Derek once more. “Is your leg alright?”

Derek partially snorted. “It’s been fine for a while now,” he uttered with little reluctance. “This didn’t strain me, if that’s what you’re wondering.”

“So you’ll be fine in the morning for another bout,” Stiles concluded, resting his head down on Derek’s chest, wrapping his arm around Derek’s waist as they settled into bed.

“At your mercy,” Derek softly answered.

~*~

Stiles twisted the lace of the tablecloth in his fingers, picking at the intricate design. He looked up at Cora, watching the younger woman sipping her tea.

Cora placed her teacup down with a sharp clip, releasing a sigh as she looked around the room opposed to looking at Stiles. “Should I address the fact that my brother and sister will not be back until we speak?”

Stiles fixed Cora with a bemused look. “You think I don’t know that?”

Cora scoffed. “Push me into a corner and expect what? An apology?”

“From you?” Stiles posed the question with an arch of his eyebrow. “I would never dream you’d humble yourself to that.”

Cora’s features tightened into a displeased expression. “I’m not the child my brother thinks I am—”

“Your allowance would speak otherwise,” Stiles answered.

“How dare you,” Cora curtly replied. “What my brother does with our family’s fortune has nothing to do with you.”

“Derek and I have a son,” Stiles stated, folding his hands in his lap as he sat back in his chair “Our child will inherit that fortune, but you believe that isn’t a concern of mine.”

Your child,” Cora pressed.

“Is that what bothers you?” Stiles asked, feigning concern for Cora’s anger.

“You’re just like the others,” Cora stated. “Looking at Derek for the wealth he has.”

“I could say the same about you,” Stiles answered.

“You know nothing about what my brother’s been through—what this family has been through.”

“I know better than most what this family has been through,” Stiles stated, tears burning his eyes. “You judged me before even knowing me—like so many. But I love your brother, and the family we’ve made. He has told me many things about his past, but he has accepted me into his future. And I’m not going away.”

Cora looked away from Stiles, displeased with how truthful his words were.

“I don’t need your apology, Cora,” Stiles continued. “But I do deserve it, that much Derek has taught me. And it means nothing for either of us to sit here and listen to empty words.”

Cora’s lips pursed. “I took my anger out on you,” she admitted. “And it could be misplaced.”

Stiles clenched his hands together. “I wish you had realized that before you attacked me.”

Cora released a heavy breath. “I won’t apologize for believing that you were just like the other ones, especially since you barely showed my brother affections before this past few days.”

“If you had spoken those concerns to your brother, you would know that there was nothing to worry about,” Stiles sharply snapped back at her, turning to look at Cora.

Cora turned away from Stiles. “Be angry if you want, but I won’t apologize for being concerned about my brother.”

“I love your brother,” Stiles sharply stated. “That is the most truthful thing I can tell you. But the pains Derek and I have suffered are things we have shared and healed together.”

“Then that is Derek’s decision,” Cora stubbornly replied.

Stiles swallowed the lump in his throat. “Booker is our son,” he firmly stated. “He is a Hale.” He stood abruptly, dropping his napkin on the parlor table. “And if you have an issue with a baby, then that is your decision.”

Stiles turned on his heel, leaving Cora alone.

~*~

“Did I overstep?” Stiles asked, looking up at Derek.

Derek ran his hand along the curve of Stiles’ spine, opening his eyes to look down at Stiles. He took a moment to observe Stiles, his fingertips trailing over Stiles’ naked hip as an afterthought. “Overstep what?”

“Confronting Cora,” Stiles sighed, shifting his body to lean over Derek a little easier. “She reacted … as if I was wrong.”

“To Cora, everyone is wrong,” Derek replied.

Stiles lightly chuckled at that. “She said that she loves you, that’s why she didn’t like me.” He sniffled some to stop his tears from spilling over. “She thinks I’m after your money—that Booker was just a ploy.”

“Cora’s an idiot,” Derek replied.

“Derek—”

“No, she is,” Derek softly corrected Stiles’ counter. “She sees things as one-dimensional, especially when she doesn’t get her way.” He sighed, reaching his free arm up to prop beneath his head. “I love my sisters … but sometimes I feel as if I have done them the disservice of protecting them from the smallest of inconveniences. Of … pampering them.”

“You provide for your family,” Stiles argued. “It’s not shocking that they would see me as a threat to your happiness.”

Derek shifted his body, sitting up some as he turned Stiles to do the same. “My happiness,” he started, reaching his hand out to touch Stiles’ chin, forcing the younger man to look at him. “Comes from you. And Booker.” His thumb and forefinger caressed the angle of Stiles’ chin and jaw, drawing their lips together in a chaste kiss. “My happiness is this life you’ve graced me with building.”

Stiles was speechless for words, thinking he couldn’t have found a brighter happiness than before. He pulled Derek into a silent kiss, hoping it would confess his feelings for him.

~*~

Stiles unfolded the letter Anna had handed him, unsure if he should bother reading the words Isaac had to say. He had seen the marriage announcement, much smaller than his own, giving him a rush of selfish pride. He knew Isaac would be treated well by Parrish, though he disliked to remember the petty glee Isaac must have felt in sending him such news.

But Stiles didn’t care about that anymore. He had Booker—he had Derek. He had his family, and he was content for it to stay that way.

Stiles paced and turned with Booker in his arms as he used his free hand to hold the letter out of Booker's reach while reading it.

Dear Stiles,

I will be surprised if you even view this letter as worth your time. But the words I have to say are more important than any ill will between us—ill will that I know I created.

Stiles’ hand tightened on the letter, his fingers almost crinkling the parchment. Booker made a slight noise of discontent as he pawed for the letter. He pressed a kiss to Booker's forehead as he forced himself to read Isaac’s words.

Since Parrish and I married, we have had enough time and spare money to afford a trip to relax and celebrate. We went upstate, across the line, to travel far away from expectations. It’s been freeing, to say the least.

We stayed up all night, visiting various places and kind people. It was glorious, to be unknown—to start with a different, and new story that no one else could judge. It made me think of you in your new world Derek has made for you.

But not all was well.

I am writing you to warn you.

I saw Lord Hale. Not your husband, but his uncle.

Stiles reached an unsteady hand backwards, searching out the chair he knew was behind him. He lowered himself down into the chair on uneasy legs.

Booker fussed some, discontented with Stiles being stationary. He made a happy gurgling noise when Stiles placed him on the ground, allowing him to crawl around.

Stiles blinked back tears as he steadied his nerves to read more, his gaze moving from watching Booker playfully moving around the parlor.

He had his arms around some slim, gorgeous Omega—one that reminded me of you. He laughed, his hands salaciously placed upon the foolish creature. And I realize now how foolish I had been for wishing to be that Omega.

When the Omega resisted his more intense ‘affections’, he grew angry—as I’ve known him to act. He was furious, creating a near scene.

I don’t believe he saw me—he never truly saw me. I had been naive to wish for his attentions, I see that now. What I said to you when we last spoke was cruel, and unjust. I should not have judged you as I had.

You were never to blame for what happened.

I was a stupid boy, with stupid dreams of being loved by a monster.

I don’t believe he ever loved me, despite how much I thought he had said it—showed it. I had given him many things—things I am not proud of. But the longer I focus on the words we shared, the more I find myself discovering that you had willingly given him nothing.

I was cruel for not believing you. I was so foolish, Stiles.

I am writing you to warn you. I know Peter’s nature to be cruel, violently so, as I know you know. But I do not know what he will do if he knew the truth.

I wish you and your child to be safe.

I wish to try and correct the wrong I did by shunning you, though I know that can never truly be erased.

Please be safe.

Stiles ran his finger over Isaac’s last words, wondering how he could have changed so much. Perhaps Parrish was a grand influence for Isaac.

“Anna said you looked unwell,” Derek’s voice announced his presence.

Stiles turned his head to find Derek standing in the parlor’s doorway. He offered his husband a faint smile. “Shocked would be more accurate,” he offered. He lifted the letter in his hand, displaying it for Derek. “Isaac wrote to me.”

Derek remained silent, giving Stiles the time he needed.

“He apologizes for his behavior,” Stiles concluded.

Derek nodded. “Do you accept that apology?”

Stiles gently laughed. “I suppose I should. Though I don’t feel inclined to,” he sighed, leaning forward in his seat in order to drop the letter onto the table.

Derek calmly walked forward, smiling down at Booker when his son reached for him. He picked Booker up in his arms, pressing a kiss to Booker's forehead. He touched his hand to Stiles’ shoulder as he sat against the couch’s armrest. “You don’t have to forgive or forget anything,” he answered.

Stiles looked up at Derek, his gaze soft and questioning. He placed his hand over Derek’s, resting his cheek down on their joined hands. “You’re too good to me,” he softly spoke.

“You deserve more,” Derek responded.

Stiles closed his eyes, uttering, “I believe you’re the only person who ever saw me for me.”

“I was lucky you saw me,” Derek replied.

~*~

Stiles hummed to himself as he walked down the hallway. He looked out one of the windows, watching as Pluto and Diana barked and pranced around Anna as she tried to hang out the laundry. He lightly chuckled when Anna made a shooing gesture towards Pluto after he tipped over one of the baskets. He would go help Anna once he finished getting Booker ready for the day, making plans for spending time in the garden.

Stiles continued down the hall to Booker’s nursery, his thoughts lingering on this morning. He trailed his fingertips across his lips, recalling the way Derek had kissed him when he climbed out of bed to start the day late. He could have stayed in bed with Derek longer, wishing he had asked Derek to stay with him—he selfishly knew Derek would bend to his request. He made Derek promise to have a late breakfast with him and Booker, and to be home early. It was tempting to keep Derek staying away from the offices longer and longer.

Stiles quietly made his way into Booker’s nursery, opening the door with care as he slipped inside. He planned on dressing Booker in one of his rompers from Laura, deciding on a lighter linen for the summer day. He pulled the curtains back, allowing the sun to bask the room in light. He moved with care to the armoire, knowing Booker would begin the fuss in a few moments—once he realized it was brighter. He pulled out Booker’s intended outfit for the day, smiling to himself as he imagined how adorable his son would look.

Stiles turned towards Booker’s cradle, stopping suddenly when he looked up to find an empty cradle. His heart leapt into his throat, his fingers losing hold of the romper as he dropped it to the ground. His hands started to shake as he took a stumbling step forward, believing he was foolishly mistaken.

His baby was missing.

“Derek,” Stiles’ voice barely broke above a whisper, his whole body trembling with panic.

“Sh," a voice hushed Stiles. "You'll wake the baby."

Stiles stumbled as he turned to look at the voice’s owner. He tried to convince his brain that he had been hearing things—that it was an impossible voice to hear. He gazed at the cloudy eyes staring back at him from the rocking chair.

The panic twisted Stiles’ stomach into knots, fear trembling through his body. 

“Peter,” Stiles barely spoke his name before his eyes fell to the older man’s arms—where Booker soundly slept, completely unaware of the threat holding him.

“Hello … Omega Hale ,” Peter lowly stated, disgust lacing his words.

Chapter Text

Stiles’ eyes were transfixed on Booker, his arms shaking as he fought against throwing himself at Peter in an attempt to get his son back. “Please,” he softly begged.

Peter gingerly shushed him, his own gaze looking down at Booker sleeping in his arms. “I’ve heard the funniest story in the papers,” he stated as he rocked the chair back and forth. “One about a short pregnancy and early arrival of a perfectly healthy Hale baby.” He looked up at Stiles with bloodshot eyes. “I thought I wasn’t going to find where Derek stoyed you away, but serendipity was kind enough to give me Isaac.”

Stiles felt sick, his thoughts turning to Isaac’s letter.

“The boy’s an idiot to think no one can open a letter once sealed,” Peter commented, scoffing at Isaac’s supposed idiocy.

“You read his letter to me,” Stiles softly stated, suddenly feeling relieved, but also guilty for thinking Isaac would try to set him up to be Peter’s victim again.

“It was pathetic,” Peter replied. “I was going to burn it, but thought that would be childish—afterall, I got to know you were at Rosehill Park still. So I let his little letter go.”

Stiles tightened his hands into fists.

“You’ve ruined a lot for me, you know?” Peter lowly uttered.

“You nearly ruined my life,” Stiles spat back.

Peter glared at Stiles. “You cost me my stipend. You cost me my anonymity. You cost me the basic pleasure of an Omega’s company.” He suddenly stood up, his hold on Booker careless as he held the boy in one arm.

Stiles startled forward, prepared to catch Booker if Peter dropped him.

Peter used his free hand to grab Stiles by the throat, turning his body away from the struggling Omega when he reached for Booker. “Because of you, I haven’t had a single pleasing fuck in the past year. I’ve had Omegas crying that I hurt them—Omegas telling me what to do with them!”

Stiles grabbed Peter’s wrist, attempting to pry his hand away from him.

“And now you’re in my home , playing family with my nephew ?”

“You knew Derek had feelings for me,” Stiles spat at Peter.

“Knew?” Peter laughed. “He was pathetic about you. So oblivious and weak with love for an Omega he met once!” He roughly shoved Stiles backwards, uncaring when Stiles fell over the chair.

Stiles twisted and fell over the chair, landing on his side as he avoided hitting his head on the fireplace’s ornate brick. He winced some, trying to sit up.

“I wanted to know what you did to him to make him want you that badly,” Peter continued. “I was so sure you let him fuck you with how he spoke about you in those pathetic letters he never sent.”

Stiles’ eyes looked to Booker, noticing that his son was starting to squirm now that Peter was speaking louder.

“I was so glad I got to you first, though,” Peter finished.

“You didn’t get to me ,” Stiles snapped. “You raped me .”

“You can’t rape an Omega whore,” Peter firmly replied.

“You’re pathetic,” Stiles answered. “You say how you loved getting to me first because I was a virgin, then call me a whore. I’ve been with one man willingly, and that is my husband.”

“And what will he do when he figures out he’s a bastard, huh?” Peter questioned, lifting Booker some for emphasis. “Throw you and the foul thing in the streets—it’s what he’s known for, didn’t someone tell you? A frozen heart. He killed his first wife in childbed, left his second in an asylum, and put the third out on the street for daring to use his fortune.”

“I never married Jennifer,” Derek’s voice answered Peter.

Stiles looked to the doorway behind Peter, finally able to see Derek’s shadow.

“But you knew that, uncle ,” Derek softly spoke, his voice low and on edge with every word. “Her name was Julia, wasn’t it? You had such a lovely plan to take the fortune and run.”

“That fortune is rightfully mine,” Peter answered. He took a stumbling step towards the fireplace. He stood dangerously close to the flames. “And you’ll give me it right now.”

“Derek,” Stiles cautiously started to say his name as he rose from the ground. His gaze was glued to Booker.

Peter reached his arm out to hold Booker away from his body and closer to the fireplace.

“Peter, no!” Stiles screamed at him, taking a rushed step towards him.

“One more step and I’ll drop him!” Peter shouted at Stiles, pleased that the threat stop Stiles in his tracks.

Booker started to fuss some, soft sobs turning into tearful screams as he squirmed in Peter’s hold, dangled instead of held tightly.

“Back up, Stiles,” Peter growled at him.

Stiles didn’t move—he couldn’t move.

“Tell your bitch to move, Derek,” Peter snapped. “Or you’ll be picking your bastard out of the hot embers.”

“Stiles,” Derek softly started.

Stiles looked at Derek, ready to yell at him—that Derek was crazy if he thought he would move away while their child was in danger. He silenced his argument when he saw the red glow of Derek’s eyes.

Derek’s features were obscured by the shadow of Booker’s room, the morning light still fighting to illuminate the entire nursery. But the red glow of Derek’s Alpha spark was unmistakable.

Stiles wasn’t even sure Derek knew he was doing it.

Derek took a step closer to Peter, finally coming out of the shadows. He looked furious, his normal stoic appearance giving way to the rage hidden by his calm facade. His brow was downbeaten, his mouth set in a stern line as he glared at his uncle. “Stiles, take a step back,” he simply stated.

Stiles reluctantly stepped back from Peter, tears running down his cheeks as he was forced to listen to Booker cry. He dug his hand down into the armrest of the chair, trying to anchor himself from rushing Peter.

Peter laughed, turning to look at Derek. “You really are sold on this pathetic little fantasy,” he mocked. “You wanted a family for so long, you went and got an already pregnant mate to play house with.”

Derek’s expression seemed to only darken with Peter’s words.

“The brat’s mine, you moron,” Peter snidely remarked. “I fucked him a good few times before that night was through.”

Stiles bit the inside of his cheek, hating Peter even more for throwing it in Derek’s face.

“You raped him,” Derek corrected Peter.

“And I’ll rape him again before this day is through if you don’t give me what I want, Derek,” Peter threatened.

“I’m giving you nothing Peter,” Derek replied. “You’ll put my son back in his crib. You won’t look at my husband. And you’ll leave this house—” his lip curled a bit at the thought of Peter walking away from this. “Perhaps with your life.”

“You’ll give me back my money, Derek,” Peter pressed, moving to dangle Booker even closer to the fireplace. “Or I’ll drop the little bastard into the fire right now.”

Derek was silent for a moment. “Do you remember what happened after Benjamin?”

Peter narrowed his gaze, trying to figure out why Derek was changing the subject.

“I planned more than a hundred different ways to kill Kate for what she did,” Derek confessed in a low tone. “Until I accepted that she was clinically insane,” he dropped his shoulders back as he spoke, his hands clenching into fists. “What do you think I’d do to you, Peter, if you knowingly and willingly hurt my child?”

"It wouldn't matter," Peter laughed. "I'd still win, in the end. You'd still be missing a child."

"And you wouldn't have your money—or your life," Derek lowly threatened.

Stiles used Peter's distraction to his advantage, rushing him. He wrapped his arms around Booker, clinging his child tightly against his chest. He prevented Peter from dropping Booker, uncaring when the older man grabbed him roughly by the neck. He ignored the sharp nails digging into his neck, struggling to get Booker away from Peter.

Booker's screams grew louder, audible sobs against Stiles' chest being the loudest noises in the room.

Peter yanked Stiles back against his chest, using the younger man as a shield between him and Derek. He smirked when Derek halted a few feet from them when he saw the grip Peter had on Stiles.

"This is a bit familiar," Peter laughed, his breath tickling Stiles' ear.

Stiles winced in pain when Peter yanked on his hair. He refused to let go of Booker, though.

"I think you made a little more noise," Peter commented. "You made some nice noises last night," he added, looking up at Derek. "Finally got him to spread his legs for you, and you couldn't even fuck him the way he likes it."

Derek took a step forward, anger in his movements.

Peter pulled on Stiles' hair with a hard yank, smiling when Stiles yelped in pain. It did exactly what Peter had planned on it doing: immediately disarming Derek.

Stiles turned his gaze to look down at the fire poker standing in its pedestal just beside the fireplace, within arm's reach. He could reach for it while holding Booker with one arm, but he'd have to be quick in his actions.

"I'll change my demands, Derek," Peter started.

Stiles looked at Derek, gesturing his eyes quickly towards the poker. He could only hope that Derek's eyes following his meant that the Alpha understood.

Derek faintly nodded his head before looking at Peter.

"I'll leave you the bastard, and I'll take Stiles with me," Peter stated.

Derek's expression darkened. "You can't have everything you want, Peter."

"But I can," Peter simply replied, a dark laughter in his smile. "And I have. And I will," he concluded. "Just like I had Isaac, and your precious little Stiles."

Stiles reacted quickly, grabbing ahold of the fire poker before swinging it up over his head to hit Peter. He felt the twang of the metal hitting Peter hard enough that a surprised yelp answered. He hit Peter again when he didn't release Booker. 

"Stupid Omega bitch," Peter seethed as he shoved Stiles down to the ground, releasing his hold on Booker.

Stiles dropped the fire poker before he hit the ground, angling himself to protect Booker. He half crawled away, his hand cradling Booker against his chest. He ignored the sounds of a scuffle breaking out as he reached the door. He pulled Booker away from his chest for a moment to inspect his son for injuries. He pressed chaste kisses to Booker's forehead as he tried to calm his son's tears.

Stiles didn't look back as he ran outside, almost colliding with the hall's railing. "Anna!" He shouted as he hurried to the steps. He was in such a rush, he barely registered that the dogs were barking. He wasn't surprised when the dogs flew up the stairs, passing him as they growled and barked.

"Stiles!" Anna's frightened voice shouted back as she ran over to the steps. She was surprised to find Stiles sitting on the steps, cradling Booker. She ran to Stiles, looking to Booker when Stiles pressed the child into her arms.

"Take him outside—please, get him out of here," Stiles pleaded.

"What's happening?" Anna questioned as she held Booker's squirming body in her arms.

One of the dogs yelped in pain.

Stiles forced himself to stand. "It's Peter," he breathlessly stated, turning to head back up the steps.

"I'll call for the police," Anna answered as she rushed down the steps with Booker in her arms.

Stiles headed back into Booker's room. He was startled by what he found.

Peter Hale was laying dead in the middle of the room. His body was discarded to the side, as if Derek shoved him off. There were bite marks from the dogs around his hands and wrists.

The fire poker was pierced through Peter's chest, blood pooling beneath his corpse.

Derek was sitting on the floor, his back pressed against Booker's cradle. Pluto whined as he pressed against Derek's side. Diana limped over to Stiles, nosing at his hand with a soft touch.

Stiles ran his hand over Diana's head, gently petting her. He looked from Peter to Derek. He started forward, going to comfort Derek, briefly pausing as he looked down at Peter's lifeless body at his feet. He had once dreamed of killing Peter. But he hadn't realized how calm he would suddenly feel—how unafraid he was now.

Stiles took a step over Peter, going to Derek. He knelt in front of Derek, reaching his hands out to hold Derek's face. He lift Derek's head, looking him in the eyes as his thumbs brushed along Derek's cheeks in a soothing manner.

"He wasn't going to stop," Derek forcefully uttered. "He— he wouldn't stop."

Stiles pressed a kiss to Derek's forehead. "It's okay," he answered, his fingers running through Derek's hair.

"He was here last night. He watched us— he could have hurt Booker then, and we'd never know," Derek shook his head. "I couldn't … I couldn't let him get away—he'd just come back."

"You were protecting your family," Stiles firmly stated.

Stiles felt no pity for Peter, and he refused to allow more guilt to hang over Derek's head.

Derek's expression suddenly widened with concern. "Where's Booker— is he okay?" He quickly asked.

Stiles nodded. "Anna took him outside—he's okay."

Derek pulled Stiles into his arms, pressing his face along the crook of Stiles’ neck.

Stiles wrapped his arms around Derek’s shoulders, his hands cradling the back of Derek’s head as he pressed into his husband’s embrace.

~*~

Stiles held Booker in his arms, smiling when his son pawed at his face. He pressed a kiss to Booker’s fingertips, pretending to nibble at his fingers.

Booker released a high squeal, giggling loudly.

Pluto happily barked in response, pressing up against Stiles’ chair in an attempt to nose at Booker.

“Stiles,” Anna’s voice called to him as she entered the room. “My lord, your guests are here, as well as Derek.”

Stiles turned to look at Anna, smiling as he spoke, “Thank you, Anna. Please let them know I’m in here.”

Anna nodded as she returned back to the estate’s atrium.

“Are you excited for papa to come home?” Stiles softly inquired of Booker.

“Papa,” Booker mimicked. “Dada,” he spoke, pressing a kiss to Stiles’ cheek.

“I’m excited for him to be home, too,” Stiles admitted to Booker.

“Are you?” Derek asked as he entered the room.

Booker excitedly waved his arms when he saw Derek, smiling as he uttered, “Papa! Papa!”

Derek was smiling as he came closer to pick Booker up in his arms. He pressed a kiss to his son’s cheek. He leaned closer to Stiles, pressing a kiss to his husband’s lips. “I’ve missed you,” he spoke against Stiles’ lips.

Stiles reached a hand up to tighten around Derek’s cravat, pulling him even closer as he kissed him again. “Don’t leave me alone for so long again,” he replied, kissing Derek again.

Booker smacked his hand against Derek’s shoulder, his arms excitedly flailing once more when he saw Joanna and Elizabeth entering the parlor.

“Stiles!” Joanna excitedly stated, running towards him, Elizabeth right behind her. She ducked below Derek, wrapping her arms around Stiles.

Derek moved to stand upright, allowing his nieces to hug Stiles.

“You’ve both grown!” Stiles excitedly said, wrapping his arms around them.

“I’ve started school,” Elizabeth stated. “And Jo is sleeping on her own now.”

Joanna nodded excitedly.

“That’s wonderful,” Stiles answered. He looked up at Derek, his gaze catching sight of Laura entering the parlor and Cora standing by the door. His eyes flickered over to look at Derek, nodding his head slightly.

“Girls, why don’t we take Booker outside to see the garden?” Derek asked Elizabeth and Joanna.

Both girls excitedly accepted their uncle’s offer, rushing off with Pluto and Diana leading the way. Derek followed after them, gesturing for his sisters to remain in the parlor with Stiles.

Stiles sat upright in his chair, trying to stop himself from fidgeting. “I’m glad you’ve come back,” he started.

Laura moved to take a seat on the coach, moving to sit closest to Stiles. She waited for Cora to follow her before speaking, “We were surprised to get Derek’s letter. We didn’t think ...” She turned to look at Cora. “We’re glad you’re all alright.”

Cora was silent, her expression blank.

Stiles looked at Cora, observing her for a moment. “I’m sorry for your loss,” he finally stated.

Laura looked surprised by Stiles’ words. “Peter was far from someone to mourn.”

Stiles shook his head. “I think you and I both remember him that way, but others may not.” He was looking at Cora when she looked at him.

Cora twisted her hands together, looking away from Stiles. “If what Derek said he’s done is true then … Maybe he was never the person I remember him being.”

Laura frowned. “He changed, after mother and father died,” she stated. She shook her head. “I remember mother always saying that Peter couldn’t be expected to be like normal people.” She sighed. “I never understood that.”

“Derek said he suffered from … pains of the mind,” Cora softly offered. “But it doesn’t excuse what he’s done.”

Stiles continued to look at Cora.

“He hurt so many,” Cora stated.

“And he’ll never hurt someone else again,” Laura replied.

“I think, in the end, some part of him may have wanted that,” Stiles uttered. “He could have hurt Booker before I even walked into the nursery,” he explained when both sisters looked at him. “He could have killed Derek and myself in our sleep.” He shook his head. “It’s no good to guess what could have happened, or what someone could have been thinking.”

“Regardless,” Cora began. “I … I am sorry, Stiles.”

Stiles felt the sincerity in Cora’s words.

~*~

Stiles listened to Derek’s breathing, Derek’s heart beating beneath his ear. His hand ran along Derek’s side, fingers caressing his ribcage before settling on his heart.

“Thank you,” Stiles softly spoke aloud.

Derek hummed as he looked down at Stiles.

Stiles looked up at Derek, faintly smiling at him. “Thank you for marrying me.”

Derek faintly huffed out a small breath of laughter. “I should be thanking you for saying yes.”

“No one would have done what you did,” Stiles countered.

Derek carefully observed Stiles. “I didn’t marry you because of what Peter did,” he firmly stated.

Stiles frowned at the mention of Peter.

“I loved you before that,” Derek explained. “Just as I loved you afterwards—and still love you now.”

Stiles drew his body closer to lean over Derek as he pressed their lips together in a kiss. “And I love you,” he spoke against Derek’s lips.

Derek’s arm around Stiles tightened, his hand buried in Stiles’ hair as he turned them. He shifted their bodies until Stiles was pressed into the bed, his hips settled between Stiles’ opened thighs.

Stiles wrapped his legs around Derek, drawing Derek’s body closer as they pressed together. He released a breathy moan when Derek pressed his knee up, spreading him open. His mouth opened in a silent cry of pleasure when Derek pressed into him again. He was still loose from earlier, but the burn of being breached distracted him from their kisses.

Derek paused when he felt Stiles tense.

Stiles shook his head, silencing Derek’s concern with a kiss. He gently nipped at Derek’s bottom lip as his hands grabbed at Derek’s ass to encourage him to not withdraw. He moaned when Derek flexed his hips, a small test for pain. He squeezed Derek’s hips between his thighs, his hands and legs encouraging Derek to be close—to drive into him faster.

“I love you,” Stiles stated again as he looked up at Derek. He tried to match Derek’s pace, coming together and parting in a practiced rhythm.

For being so frightened by intimacy at the start of their marriage, Stiles found himself craving Derek’s touch—his devoted adoration melting away Stiles’ fears.

“I love you, Stiles,” Derek echoed his words. “I love you,” he stated again, kissing Stiles as their pace quickened.

~*~

When Stiles asked about his scars, Derek had been quiet for a moment before asking which one Stiles wanted to know about.

“All of them,” Stiles softly stated.

Derek looked at Stiles, lightly nodding his head once. “I don’t know where to start.”

Stiles pressed a kiss to the scar over Derek’s clavicle, prompting Derek with a starting point.

“I was nine,” Derek began.

~*~

Stiles made sure he kissed all of Derek’s scars.

~*~

“You look well,” Davenport noted as he entered the parlor, leaning forward to press a welcoming kiss to Stiles’ cheek.

Stiles smiled up at Davenport, lightly laughing as he took the small handful of flowers from him. “I am doing very well,” he replied.

Davenport leaned against the chair across from Stiles, a faint smile on his lips. “I’m glad to hear it.”

Stiles stood with minor difficulty. “You’re going to come with us, correct?” He lightly questioned.

Davenport nodded, standing upright to offer his arm to Stiles. “Those flowers were for you, and I have more for her.”

Stiles took Davenport’s arm, placing his flowers down on the table’s edge. He picked up the small toy soldier, one of the many he had found in the attic while cleaning with Anna.

Davenport walked at a slow pace, taking the small beaten path through the large iron gates. He slowed the closer they came to the tree in the graveyard, his gaze focused on the stone in the distance.

Stiles looked up at Davenport, frowning some. “You don’t have to if you’re not ready,” he offered.

Davenport shook his head. “I’ve been away longer than I should have,” he softly admitted. He pushed them forward, helping Stiles up the small incline.

Stiles knelt beside the small stone, the one with Benjamin’s name carved into it. He brushed the grass and leaves away from the stone, his fingertips tracing along the letters. He placed the small toy soldier next to the child’s name. He turned his head over to look at Davenport, watching the older man staring down at Elizabeth’s headstone.

Davenport knelt, placing the flowers against the base of the headstone. His hand trembled as he touched her name. His bottom lip wavered some as he released a shaky breath. He leaned forward, pressing a chaste kiss on her name as he softly whispered, “I miss you, darling.”

Stiles waited for Davenport, giving him the time to process his emotions. He smiled when the older man offered to help him stand. He wrapped his arm around Davenport’s back as they started to descend the path, back to the estate.

“You are quite remarkable, Stiles,” Davenport stated as they exited the family plot.

Stiles snorted. “Remarkable, or stubborn?”

Davenport laughed in response. “I think Derek is stubborn enough for the both of you.”

~*~

Stiles was laying in bed on his side, barely awake from his nap. He smiled to himself when he felt the bed dip and a hand touch his hip. He turned his head to look at Derek, smiling up at his husband. “I only just shut my eyes.”

Derek smiled into their kiss. “Liar.”

“Be a convenient husband, and lay down with me so I can nap some more,” Stiles reasoned. He was glad that Derek settled next to him. He moved to accommodate Derek’s arm slipping beneath his pillow.

Derek wrapped his other arm around Stiles’ waist. He placed his hand over the now visible bump of Stiles’ stomach. He pressed a kiss behind Stiles’ ear before burying his nose in Stiles’ hair. He couldn’t help his smile when he felt their child kick against his hand.

Derek remembered how happy Stiles had been when he came home, a rush of kisses greeting him. He had asked what happened when Stiles looked at him with joyful tears.

Their family was growing.