Title: Ooh, Mr. Hale!
Warnings/Tags: Alternate Universe - Regency, Pride Prejudice and Werewolves, Ye Olde Insults, Much Ado About Scent-Sharing
Summary: Wherein Scott is taken ill, and an impatient Stiles arrives at Halewood in need of a change of clothes. Derek provides.
Notes: Originally posted as a gift to ash-bright. TITLE FROM KATE BEATON'S COMIC BECAUSE WHY NOT
"What do you mean, taken ill?" Stiles demands.
The Hales' gantry boy, currently dripping all over the stone floor inside the rear hall, takes a long, noisy sip of whatever crass brew Cook keeps behind the stove before answering. "I mean he has taken ill. Fainting and feverish, whatlike."
"Scott can't be ill," Stiles slowly and loudly explains to the obvious halfwit, "as he is a lycanthrope, Mr. Lahey. Did he tell you to tell me he was ill? Because that's an obvious lie, and stupid, and if he wanted to spend the evening with Miss Argent he might as well have said so! He isn't fooling anyone, much less me!"
The boy, infuriatingly, rolls his eyes and slouches further down in his chair. "He's not caught a sickness, Mr. Stilinski."
Stiles is doing his best to loom threateningly over their unexpected visitor, who looks entirely unimpressed with the effort. He looks unimpressed in general, eyes travelling with unsubtle derision over their receiving hall and modest kitchen like he's the sodding Lord Protectorate. And it's true enough that the Hale ancestral home is a sight grander than the house the Stilinskis have let for the past decade, but they're both in the same tiny village, far from any kind of society.
In the corner, Cook hiccups quietly to herself as she finishes off what she's not given their guest, and Lahey's eyebrow rises. Stiles' eyes narrow.
"What exactly has happened to him, then?" he asks, leaning in. "Why has he not returned from Halewood?"
"There was a bit of an accident with the Argents' carriage this evening," Lahey says, looking blithe as you please about it. "The Misses Argent were unharmed, thanks to your friend's quick actions, but he was less lucky in that regard."
"What?" Stiles yells in his face, grabbing his arms. "He's injured? Damn it, man—"
Lahey snarls with a viper-quick flash of fangs, eyes flashing a startled ice blue.
"Christ, is every maid and manservant afflicted in that cursed house?" Stiles exclaims, shoving away hurriedly.
Lahey looks distinctly unfriendly, lips peeling back as his eyes maintain that unholy hue. "I wouldn't have pegged you as a specist, Mr. Stilinski, considering the company you keep."
"Oh, I'm specist, am I?" Stiles says. "I go to country dances and lurk in dark corners, do I, and make snide comments about how quaint human customs are, though imagine dancing with such graceless creatures, how is one supposed to manage?"
"What on earth are you talking about?" Lahey says, teeth retreating in his confusion.
"Your master is an arrogant swine," Stiles shoots back, and stalks off across the kitchen. "Don't leave just yet, I'm returning to Halewood with you."
"Why bother? He's in no danger," Lahey calls after him. "Quite the opposite. Miss Argent has been most effusive in expressing her gratitude."
"Another kind of danger, I'm sure," Stiles grumbles, and starts up the stairs.
"Oh," the elder Miss Argent says. "Oh, my. Mr. Stilinski, your poor clothes."
Stiles stands a little straighter in his muddy, ruined boots and sets his jaw against the coy laughter in her tone. "Good evening, Miss Argent, Mr. Hale. Is Scott—?"
"Please, call me Kate," she says, badly disguising a small, mean smile behind her closed fan. "I couldn't bear to be so formal with such a good friend of my niece's."
"Scott is fine," Derek says in his usual brusque, blunt way. He's openly staring at Stiles' dishevelment, a familiar offense, and has managed once again to find and occupy the darkest spot in the room. Granted, it isn't difficult in the sepulchral dimness of Halewood's entry hall, but the man has a definite and ridiculous habit. "You didn't have to come."
"And at the expense of everything you're wearing," Kate tuts, tapping the fan to her chin. Her other hand lies possessively on Derek's bent forearm. "You look just dreadful. We just can't send you home like this, you'll catch your death."
She and Derek are the epitome of well-groomed country nobles, of course, dressed finer for a rainy evening at home than Stiles and Scott can manage for most parties. "I'm fine," Stiles says shortly, keenly aware of the water soaking through to his skin, the mud spattered up his legs, the flattened, awful mess his hair has become. "Thanks all the same. And I won't be leaving without Scott."
Kate purses her lips in amusement. Derek scowls. "We're not holding him captive," the man snaps, eyes gleaming briefly red. "He can leave at any time." And the sooner the better goes unspoken.
"Let me see him, then," Stiles challenges, and Derek's glare deepens. He's opening his mouth retort when someone calls Stiles' name from the top of the sweeping foyer staircase. He looks up.
"Stiles!" Allison calls again, and starts down the stairs at a trot, skirts hiked high for speed. "I'm so glad you're here, did Isaac tell you what happened?"
"Not in so many—"
"Never mind that," she says, launching herself off the bottom step at him and grabbing his arm. "Scott heard you come in, he's waiting for— good Lord, how did you get so dirty?"
"I walked," Stiles mutters, pretending he can't hear Kate's muffled giggle. Lahey had delighted in spurring his horse through thickets and swamp while Stiles stumbled blindly along behind him.
"Well, you're getting mud everywhere!" Allison says. "Take off your boots, at least, you'll destroy the carpet—"
Which is how Stiles ends up greeting his friend with shoes in hand, having walked the length of the house in his stockings. He endures arch looks and veiled mockery from everyone they encounter along the way, from the normally-taciturn Miss Hale to Lahey to the dressing maids. Stiles is feeling less than charitable towards the entire household by the time they make it to Scott's sickroom.
Of course, the first thing his best friend says to him is, "You look like you were set upon by dogs," while laughing, voice weaker than usual. No doubt due to the splints holding his arms and leg straight while his bones complete their accelerated healing.
Stiles gives a tired snort, coming to stand at the head of the bed. "Wolves, more like," he says. "This house is full of them."
Scott grins. "It's wonderful, isn't it? And Miss Argent has been so kind," he says, looking up at her with an adoring smile.
"Oh, it's the least I could do," Allison replies, blushing prettily. The two of them share a long gaze so saccharine Stiles feels like gagging, and when he pointedly looks away it's to see his nausea mirrored in Derek's expression.
They might have shared a moment of comradery, had Stiles not been made perfectly aware by their indiscreet comments at the dance that the Hales considered bitten werewolves inferior, and Scott all the more so because of his mixed parentage. Only the younger Miss Argent's fast friendship allows Stiles and Scott access to these hallowed halls, and Stiles at least is well aware of where he stands with Derek Hale, master of Halewood.
As it is, Derek's face goes blank as soon as he sees Stiles looking, and without another comment he turns and disappears into the hall. "A room will be prepared for you," comes floating back through the open door. "Dinner is at seven."
"Oh, is it?" Stiles asks. "And what am I to wear to dinner?"
"Someone will get you something," Allison says, fussing with the edge of Scott's blanket. "You and Mr. Hale are nearly of a height, you know."
"I know," Stiles mutters, taking a seat next to the bed. "I'm not sure he does."
Eventually, having assured himself of Scott's comfort and willingness to be kept in this dreadful place, Stiles allows himself to be ushered into dark, faintly musty guest chambers in the same wing. He wanders through the rooms until he finds a washbasin, and gingerly sets his ruined boots down before peeling out of his sopping shirt.
He's working on the stays to his breeches when there's a soft, almost hesitant knock at the door. Of the servants, he hopes it's Boyd, who at least can refrain from saying every condescending thing that crosses his mind. Stiles doesn't think he can handle any more disdain from the staff tonight.
"Come in," he says, and hears the door cre-e-eak open as sinisterly as any in a histrionic penny thriller. This house invites those kinds of wild imaginings, and the heavy footsteps that follow are in no way out of place. They cross the main room and come to the door to the bath chamber where Stiles is washing, pausing there.
Stiles is facing the mirror but concentrating on his breeches, and so a full thirty seconds and two buttons have elapsed before the owner of the footsteps clears his throat. It is decidedly not Boyd.
"God!" Stiles jerks around, wet shirt clutched to his chest, to find Derek standing in the doorway. He has what looks like several shirts and pants thrown over an arm and an awkward frown on his face.
"These should fit," he says curtly, and thrusts them at Stiles.
"Go— lay them on the bed or something, what the devil are you doing," Stiles says helplessly, pressing himself back against the washstand and hearing the water slosh. "You can't just, just waltz in here and— I thought you were Boyd!"
Derek looks as perplexed as Stiles has ever seen him. "Boyd has been at our London house for weeks, and I can go anywhere I like. This is my home."
"Fine, just— for the love of God," Stiles says, realizing his smallclothes are on display through the gap in his breeches. "Leave. Now."
Derek's eyes narrow, but after a pause, he abruptly turns on his heel and goes.
Stiles waits until the sound of his footsteps has faded completely before he drops his head and mutters, "That is not worth ten thousand a year, no matter what Mrs. Martin thinks."
Derek is waiting in the hall when Stiles exits his rooms, and Stiles briefly entertains the idea of slamming the door in his face. Instead of what in the hell is wrong with you, him limits himself to a coolly-voiced, "Thank you for the loan of your clothes, Mr. Hale. It was most… kind."
"It's as I thought," Derek says darkly, and reaches for Stiles' throat.
Stiles jerks back, not-quite yelping, "What the—"
Derek flicks him an annoyed glare before following. This time he manages to grab the knot of Stiles' cravat. "Stop that, I'm trying to help. You've butchered it as it is."
"Perhaps I don't want your help," Stiles starts, and stills as Derek tugs the silk cloth free from his lapels and sets to reworking the entire thing.
Outwardly, he can see why the marriageable youths of Beacon Hills swooned in droves at the thought of the Hales and their fortune returning to Hertfordshire. Derek is young for his title and income, with a certain… symmetry to his features that might make the more susceptible gentlemen and ladies sigh in appreciation. Stiles is not one of those gentlemen.
Derek glances up, fingers sliding under Stiles' collar to guide the cravat into place. "Are you paying attention? This is Japanese silk, you can't abuse it like coarse linen."
Stiles is trying not to be one of those gentlemen. "Yes," he says, unnerved by the feeling of Derek's knuckles bumping his clavicle and his frank, direct stare.
"This end feeds into the first knot, see? Otherwise it's too short for the next knot." Warmth bleeds through Stiles' borrowed shirt from Derek's palm as he smoothes the silk down.
"Mmhm," Stiles says, because Derek is leaning in even closer, eyes focused on his work. They really are of a height, and it's especially noticeable when bare inches separate their faces.
"There." Derek examines his handiwork, then gives a sharp nod. "Now you don't look so…"
He pauses. Stiles waits.
After the length of the pause has dragged from awkward to horrendously awkward to weird, Stiles ventures, "So… what?"
Derek doesn't answer, just takes another breath like he's about to speak and lets it out slowly instead. His eyelids are drooping, mouth opening minutely wider as he breathes in, and Stiles suddenly remembers where he's seen this behavior before.
"Are you scenting me?" he asks, and Derek's head jerks up guiltily.
"No!" he says immediately, "I— no."
"Because that would be inexcusably rude of you," Stiles says, watching him take a step back like he's about to flee for the hallway. "From what I understand of your vaunted werewolf customs."
"What would you know about our customs," Derek blusters, and stops as Stiles takes a step forward.
"Enough to hope these clothes have been thoroughly laundered," Stiles says, testing his hypothesis, and Derek's eyes slide away from his.
"Perhaps not as well as they should have been," the man says, low and tense, muscle jumping in his jaw. "Perhaps I could—"
"Show me to the dining room," Stiles finishes for him, annoyed and famished and slightly, ever so slightly, smug. "And do try to keep your nose to yourself, Mr. Hale. If you're capable."
And with that, he walks past him and out of the chamber. Stiles isn't above some petty revenge for the treatment he's received since the Hales resettled here, and the clothes are soft and well-made besides. Derek will just have to suffer with whatever adverse reaction he's having to the smell of them together.
Personally, Stiles hopes he chokes on it.