#ACTUAL BESEECHING EYES FROM AN ACTUAL MEDIEVAL COURTSHIP
AND WHEN THEY GET MARRIED THERE WILL BE A CROWN OF FLOWERS AND THEY WILL PLEDGE THEIR TROTH TO ONE ANOTHER UNDER A WILLOW TREE
THEY CALLED HIM ‘THE WOLF’ ON THE BATTLEFIELD; Stiles had never seen him bend knee, even in the training ring, but he was surprisingly slight out of his armor, bending to press his lips to the heavy signet ring on Stiles’ hand.
"It is a long ride you have had," Stiles heard himself say, distantly.
"Yes, my lord," Derek said, still holding Stiles’ hand in his palm, thumb closed softly over Stiles’ knuckles, his breath warm on Stiles’ fingers. There was a hot flush starting up the back of Stiles’ neck, courtiers watching them, amused, waiting for the King’s son to refuse another marriage offer.
The Hale fiefdom was strategically useful, but small, little more than a vast forest of scrub pines crawling up a rocky mountainside, the land too steep and rocky to farm. Argent had been quietly suggesting for years that it was time to fold the Hale land into his fiefdom, a strong border for the long, rolling green pastureland, especially now that the Hale family found themselves without—well, he’d said, smiling, at the last council meeting, if Kate’s betrothal to Derek hadn’t been broken, they wouldn’t be having this discussion, he said. Derek’s face, in the gallery, had been expressionless; he had no speaking rights in the council.
There was a low snicker rolling along the edge of the room, Derek had been kneeling on the cold stone of the throne room for over long. Stiles had refused princes in their own right, turned down the queen of the neighboring kingdom who could have extended their land rights to the western ocean. Derek had little; one horse, one battered, well-kept set of armor. He slept in the barracks, only had a squire because he was the only one who’d agreed to take on the Lahey whelp when his father died.
Derek’s shoulders stiffened, but he didn’t move, waiting.
"You—" Stiles swallowed. "You have a token for me?"
Derek’s head jerked up, shocked pale eyes in a shadowed face. “I—what?” he said.
"I’ll compete in the tourney this afternoon," Stiles said. "It’s traditional to offer a token—"
Derek dropped his hand. “I had not believed you to be cruel,” he muttered, so quietly that no one else might hear. “If my offer so offends you then—”
"No matter," Stiles said. He was wearing a red undertunic, thin and old, and the hem gave easily under his fingers. He tied it around Derek’s arm, high up, a bright slash of color against black, Derek still under his hands. "There," he said. "For luck."
"I’ll, um, win," Derek said. The snickers had turned into a roaring mumbling chatter, but Derek was staring up at Stiles’ face as though he couldn’t look away.
"You always win," Stiles reminded him, and Derek’s tired face cracked into a ghost of a grin.
"For you," he said. "My victory today will belong to you."