Everything about this case is fucked to hell by the time Stiles is assigned to it. He's good, but he's not a goddamned miracle worker but his bosses don't like to hear that so they keep pushing him into cases in their last stages to salvage someone else's mistakes. On bad days he thinks it's because they don't respect him. On good days he admits to himself that it might be due to the way he manages to pull a solution out of his ass at the last second just about every time. This case though. This case is fucked. And no amount of Stiles' mental gymnastics is going to be able to save it from the agent in charge's utter fuckery.
Their undercover agent – Gutiérrez – has obviously been compromised. Human trafficking can turn a tidy profit and Gutiérrez's psych profile is a textbook read in entitlement and a pathological self-interest. To be fair, most career agents evidence a pathological self-interest. The Bureau is a competitive place and compassion isn't high on the list of personality traits it looks for in its employees. But Gutiérrez is not the guy to send into a situation rife with all the money and sex he isn't getting working for the government. Which Agent Ward would have known if he'd take two fucking seconds to think before he'd put together his team.
Ward hates Stiles on sight, but that's just fine because Stiles has hated Ward since five minutes after this mess was dropped in his lap. And Stiles is absolutely going to pull this case out from under him and make him look like an idiot, which is what has Ward's panties in a twist anyway so there's no reason to play nice. Three hours later Ward is benched for wrecking the conference room their team is set up inwhile trying to break Stiles' face. Stiles has a black eye and free reign to do whatever he thinks is necessary. He might feel bad about baiting Agent Ward, but compassion isn't actually all that high on Stiles' list of personality traits either.
It's a hellish week. It ends with Stiles staring bemusedly at a piece of modern art hanging in the foyer of Alan Favereaux's – head of the largest human trafficking ring on the eastern seaboard – obnoxiously opulent mansion. Stiles thinks it might be a Kandinsky. Favereaux's in custody, Gutiérrez took a shot through the eye during the initial raid. All that's left is the mopping up.
Stiles stares at the possibly-a-Kandinsky on the wall while another agent he doesn't know the name of takes the initial statement of Favereaux's personal pet. The sub is all fine bones and pale, pale skin. Dark hair and large, liquid eyes. She looks fragile. She isn't. Stiles is explicitly aware of Favereaux's sexual preferences and anyone who can survive that on a regular basis – consensual or not, it isn't quite clear yet – has to have some sort of inner strength. Right now, though, she's in hysterics, dressed only in a shock blanket and the agent talking to her is becoming visibly agitated. Stiles turns more fully toward the pair, starting to frown. The agent's tensing. Her shoulders are pulling back, chin tucking down to cover her throat. In a moment her hands are going to fist and come to rest on her hips. Protecting her soft spots and making herself larger. Stiles can see it. She's going to force the sub under.
And no. Just. No.
"I'll take it from here." Stiles is standing in front of the domme before he's even registered his own movement.
She scowls, makes to loom over Stiles despite the couple of inches he has on her. Physical intimidation, a dominant's best friend. It's second nature now for Stiles to stand still. It's a fine line. If he gives way, allows her to push him out of the space he's claimed, she'll be tipped into treating him like another sub. If he escalates, pushes back and puffs himself up just the way she has, she'll react to him as a rival dom. All of that is subconscious on her part, of course. But Stiles can't risk establishing a pattern. So he forces his muscles to stay loose, his breath to come evenly. He raises his eyebrows because he is, after all, in charge here. "You're dismissed, Agent."
She grits her teeth and pushes out an explosive sigh. "You don't – ". Stiles lets his eyebrows crawl further up his forehead. She shuts her mouth with a clack of teeth. "Yes sir," she says through gritted teeth. Not the most respectful tone, but Stiles will take it. Especially since she's stalking in the opposite direction.
Stiles lets out a silent breath and turns to the other sub. She's staring at him through teary eyes, loud sobs quieting down into hiccups. Stiles tucks the shock blanket more securely around her, moving her pliant hands to hold it closed, gingerly avoiding the heavy leather cuffs fastened around each wrist. He tries not to look at them, but his gaze keeps getting caught there. At work he's surrounded entirely by dominants and people are generally more discrete in public. These are not a pair of symbolic bracelets. These are obviously meant for hard use. Stiles' mouth goes dry.
He makes his hands move, and brushes her hair back from where it's sticking to her tear stained face. Her collar is a safer view for Stiles. It's all ornate silver filigree, cleverly worked to act as a setting for gems and semi-precious stones. It covers the entirety of her long neck, forcing her head to be held unnaturally high. It screams ostentatious wealth, impersonal possession, and is nothing that Stiles would want for himself. If he ever allowed himself to think of that sort of thing. Which he doesn't.
The sub is shuddering underneath Stiles' hands, but doesn't seem to be working herself back up, so he assumes he isn't doing too terrible a job here and glances around the foyer. There's one of those fussy little benches up against a wall, the sort that are obviously not made with actual people sitting on them in mind. It will have to do. He tows her over and sits her down next to him while trying not to let her stare unnerve him.
"My name is Agent Stilinski, I work with the FBI. Do you understand what is happening here?"
She shakes her head, and it should be awkward with that ridiculous collar but she manages it. Her eyes widen, though, and Stiles lays a gentle hand on her shoulder trying to stave off another bout of panic. "That's alright. You're doing fine. No one's bothered to explain it to you, huh?" He quirks a grin at her. "All these government trained doms around, you'd think at least one of them would be better at communication." She gives him back a small, tremulous smile, but Stiles is pretty sure it's a basic mirror response to his grin and not a sign that his light teasing is making her feel any more at ease. He tries again. "What's your name?"
"Irina," she says, her voice lightly accented – most of Favereaux's 'stock' had been acquired in the Eastern Bloc – clear, melodic, and surprisingly even, "Sir."
Stiles freezes. He looks at Irina more closely. Fine tremors are still shivering through her, but she is completely focused on him. Her gaze never leaves his face and her hands are exactly where he positioned them. She hasn't moved in the past five minutes except as he's directed her. She hasn't so much as fidgeted even though she's bruised, surrounded by strange, armed doms, naked except for a thin blanket and sitting on the most uncomfortable bench known to man.
It's a defense mechanism, he knows it is. A distant part of his mind rattles off statistics, case studies about the submissive response to over-stimulation, confusion, pain; but here and now, she's half way under and Stiles put her there. She wants to submit to him. He feels sick.
God this is wrong, this is so wrong. His hand spasms on her shoulder with the effort it takes him not to rip it away from her. She won't understand if he does, and she's his responsibility right now because he is an idiot. He's trying not to panic and failing. He's not a dom, he's not even pretending to be one. He's a fucking sub and he has no idea how to bring her back up. His hand begins to shake.
He blinks at the polite voice and his panic rolls back. "Er, yes?"
There's another domme standing over the both of them. She's one of the team he inherited from Ward, but he can't, for the life of him, remember her name. She's a bit on the plump side, but her pant suit is impeccable as is her hair, both feminine yet authoritative. She smiles hesitantly at him and Stiles immediately likes her.
"I couldn't help but notice your, um, predicament," she says and he feels a bright flare of hysteria. "I don't mean to overstep, but you're Neutral, right Sir?"
Relief is sudden and staggering. Stiles chokes out a rough laugh. "That obvious, huh?"
The agent grins at him. "You're not doing too poorly, really. It's, well, some things are just instinct, you know?"
Far too well, Stiles thinks as he nods. The agent takes another small step forward. "There's nothing that I can do here that someone else couldn't do just as well, if you'd like some help."
"Thank you, Agent…."
Her smile turns the slightest bit wry around the edges. "Callaghan. Amelia Callaghan."
Stiles gives her an apologetic shrug before turning to Irina. She's still sitting placidly under his hand, clutching her blanket. He still feels out of his depth, but he only has to do this one thing right, and then she's no longer his responsibility. "Irina?" She blinks slowly at him. Stiles turns her slightly so she's facing Agent Callaghan. "This is my friend, Amelia. She's going to take care of you for the next little while and then, when you're feeling ready, she's going to ask you some questions. Is that alright?"
Irina turns from where he's had her face Agent Callaghan to look back at him. "Sir?" She's confused, heading back toward upset.
Stiles swears under his breath, and tries again. "Irina. You are going to go with Amelia. You are to do as she says. She's going to take care of you and then you are going to answer her questions." He has to snap his mouth closed to keep himself from asking if that's okay with her again.
"Yes, Sir," Irina says, calming again with the framework that the clear, precise, orders provide her.
"You're doing very well, Irina," says Agent Callaghan, pulling her up and moving away from Stiles. "Now, I want you to walk with me, keep your eyes down, that's right. You don't need to concentrate on anything else but me. We're going to find you some clothes…"
Stiles watches them walk away, Agent Callaghan keeping up her soothing litany and he feels jealous. A brief, intense jolt to his core that terrifies him. He's jealous of poor, bruised Irina who was undoubtedly stolen away from her family and her home, forced to live in some strange country and taken by some strange man who never once bothered about things like choice or consent. He's jealous of her clarity of purpose in that moment and that. That is enough. He's done here. There are plenty of other agents to handle the mop up.
Stiles gets back to Headquarters to find a thick file on his desk and a post-it note from his bureau chief to report once he's read through the pertinent details. Stiles sags into his chair and flips open the file. His first thought is that he's finally being rewarded for having to put up with other people's bullshit. Because faces like that just don't happen to normal people. Or, well, the people that Stiles gets sent after. But, no. His next assignment is not investigating a very naughty modeling agency. It is, in fact, a case following a series of gruesome murders that originated in his home town.
Stiles leans into hischair and flips back to the first page of the file where the unfair cheekbone and angry eyebrows of Derek Hale stare up at him. He vaguely remembers the fire, though it was twenty years ago now. His mother had just died, but he remembers his dad coming into his room late one night and clinging to him, reeking of smoke. The rest of the details are a blur, the way everything from the year after his mom died is, but he remembers the smell of smoke and his dad clinging and crying and crying and crying.
Stiles goes to lean in the doorway of the chief's office. "You know, I was like eight when all that went down. I don't think home town advantage is a thing here."
Chang rolls his eyes. "Get in here and sit down, Stilinski." Once Stiles settles in across the desk, Chang leans forward on his elbows. "You were eight when it started. There are twenty murders in the file, after the fire. Probably more we don't know about. No one else can make any sense of it. Hale's been quiet for a little too long and we're overdue for another body from him. You'd better find some sort of hometown advantage. This mess is officially your."
Chang dismisses him and Stiles wanders over to the vending machines, thinking. It might be nice to see Scott and Dad again.