Stiles is always happy to go on trips with his mentor. Okay, that’s not completely true. Stiles is happy to go to events with his mentor. Trips out into the wilderness with Alan Deaton tend to end with him singed, stung, pricked, and (on two separate occasions) kidnapped. All is typically well that ends well, because Deaton always gets Stiles back out of these messes, but the end result is still fairly humiliating.
Events with Deaton, on the other hand, have never let him down. Ever since his eyes were opened to the supernatural around him, he’s had nothing but amazing experiences under his tutor’s watchful eye. He’s been to fairy raves and experienced euphoria, attended solstice celebrations culminating in frenetic naked dancing, and flown with migrating valkyrie while being regaled with tales of unimaginable bravery.
His job, Deaton tells him, is to ensure the safety of these magnificent people and their unique and fascinating heritages. Stiles considers it an honor, and remembers those words every time he feels himself grow frustrated with repetitive potion work or complex new rune research.
His own natural ability makes him more attuned to everything around him while drawing the same energy to himself. Various creatures enjoy visiting with him, learning about the young spark, and basking in the ‘Glow’ he apparently gives off.
Suffice it to say, while other humans may find Stiles irritating and awkward, supernatural beings tend to think he’s comforting and wise. There’s an entire secret population that will one day rely on his support, and the thought is both humbling and reassuring.
There’s a lot of responsibility already on his shoulders.
Which is exactly what he tells Deaton when he begs to be left to man the booth when it’s time for Deaton to begin his first panel of the weekend at Howl-Ground Conservation Con. The picture he makes doesn’t inspire that much confidence – a pouting twenty-something batting his eyelashes and making cow eyes at his mentor – but Deaton sighs and shakes his head with a smile.
“All right, Stiles. You can run it on your own, but you’ll need to wear this.”
The young spark blinks as his mentor places a chord around his neck. It rests comfortably above his HGCC badge, and upon closer inspection it very clearly reads ‘Property of Alan Deaton’. “Really?” He groans.
“I remember what happened at WISECon, Stiles. Pixies tattle.”
“Pixies are assholes.” Stiles grumbles. And he’s not wrong. Pixies were pretty much the entire reason the World International Supernatural Enterprises Convention had nearly ended in a series of colorful explosions. Stiles had just been trying to keep the little bastards from working their stupid pranks into a gigantic domino set of destruction. He helped. (After maybe sort of enabling them a little bit in the first place. Purely by accident. But he learned, okay?)
“I won’t argue with you, but I am going to insist that you stay put this time.”
“What if there’s a fire? Or a magical cataclysm? Or David Bowie?”
Deaton arches a brow. “David Bowie is a faerie regent. Why would he attend a werewolf convention?”
“In case of real trouble, the tether will release you from the booth.”
“Wait. Tether? You’re binding me to the booth? Come on!”
“It’s only an hour long panel, Stiles. And you were asking to run the booth, remember?”
“What if I need to go to the bathroom?”
Deaton gives him a flat look. “You’re twenty-two. Are you really trying to tell me you can’t hold it for an hour?”
Deaton fishes in their makeshift trash box and comes up with the Gatorade bottle Stiles finished off an hour or so ago. “How convenient. Lemon lime.”
Stiles’ jaw drops, clearly offended by the implication.
“Stiles, it’s a one hour panel. You have been asking for more independence. I’m giving it to you. Please watch the booth without causing an incident.”
“Remember to keep covered up.”
“And deny the world all of this?” Stiles flexes a bicep, a self-deprecating smile on his lips. “Yeah, all right. Whatever.”
“I mean it, Stiles. Hoodie stays on, butt stays in seat.”
“Sixty minutes, boss-man.”
Deaton finally leaves him with a two-fingered I’m watching you gesture. Stiles sits up straight, hands clasped on the table in front of him with a bright smile on his face until his mentor is out of sight. After that, he slumps back into the slouch of the eternal teenager. “Yaaaay,” he deadpans. “Freedom.”
For the first twenty minutes or so, all goes according to plan. He sells a few charms and chats with several curious betas and emissaries, all of whom seem impressed with the accomplishments of such a young practitioner. He’s optimistic about the rest of the convention. Until he gets a little warm and takes off his jacket.
And then the first alpha shows up.
“You want to see a real knot, boy?”
“As opposed to all the fake ones I’m hiding underneath my table? What the hell, man?”
The man is visibly offended and leaves quickly. If only they could all be that simple.
“You know, my teeth aren’t the only big things about me.”
“Nah. They’d have to outmatch your ego and your nerve. Not interested.”
“Is it a full moon tonight? Because your ass should be on full display.”
“That doesn’t even make sense.”
“You smell familiar. Have we met before?”
“We might have. I’ve been apprenticing with Deaton for a while, and –”
“Maybe it’ll help if you take off your clothes.”
“Annnnd there we go.”
“Are you a rope? ‘Cause I’d like to knot you.”
The hedgewitch in the booth next to theirs looks deeply concerned when Stiles stalks over to ask if pepper spray works on werewolves and if she perhaps carries an herbal equivalent.
“Does this taste like kanima venom to you?”
“Are you fucking serious?!”
But the final straw is the bastard that comes up to him and asks, “Is your father in jail? ‘Cause if I were your father, I’d be in jail.”
Stiles’ eyes and tattoos ignite with the force of his spark, and the taste of ozone is enriched by iron on his tongue. He spits a hex, and the man flies into the nearest wall, neatly avoiding the tops of several other booths on his way.
Stiles takes to the task of sorting and reorganizing the inventory in an effort to look unavailable. He’s tugged the hoodie back on and zipped it all the way to the top, even though he’s becoming rapidly uncomfortable in the presence of so many werewolves kicking off so much body heat.
He’s about ready to throw in the towel.
And then someone clears their throat behind him.
“In advance, no, I don’t want to see your knot. No, I don’t want to sit on it. No, you’re not doing anything to my ass and no, you cannot lick my tattoos. I am here to sell charms and give magical advice. If you have any other questions please hesitate to ask.”
“Well that’s a shame. I was going to ask how you were doing, but I suppose the answer isn’t ‘well.’”
“Alpha Hale!” Stiles turns so fast he nearly falls onto his face and finds Talia Hale standing with a handsome man with a slight smile on his face. “You have no idea how glad I am to see you.”
Talia smiles indulgently as he leans across the table to give her a hug. She smells like the chocolate chip cookies she brings in sometimes in exchange for information with an undercurrent of dog and whupass. It's surprisingly pleasant. She's one of his local Alphas, and one of a select few capable of performing a full shift. She's powerful, but also worldly and kind, so she says, "Please" when she needs things.
She always asks him how he’s doing, how his studies are going, how his father is feeling. She’s easily his favorite, and it’s only reinforced now that several nearby alphas are being put off by her mere presence.
Her companion flashes a fanged grin at a hovering snoop who quickly scuttles off. Stiles likes the man instantly.
"Stiles, I'd like you to meet my younger brother, Peter. Peter, this is Stiles Stilinski, the one I told you about."
Stiles extends his hand for a shake, and Peter actually shakes it instead of kissing his knuckles or trying to squeeze it like his manhood has been challenged or something. A wave of warmth floods him like warm cider and safety, and Stiles hums blearily. That’s nice.
He hears something at the periphery of his attention and blinks back into the present. “Sorry. What was that?”
Peter nudges at the bare spot on his forearm where his sleeve has begun to ride up, revealing some of his markings. He’s reluctant to let them show again, but Peter’s gaze is openly curious when he asks, “May I?”
Peter’s grip is gentle as he turns Stiles’ wrist over to examine the markings there.
"Stiles is accomplished at rune working, I hear." Talia says. "Deaton's been singing his praises lately."
Peter’s eyebrows wing upward, but he doesn’t look away from Stiles. "I didn't know Deaton could sing anything."
Stiles grins and leans in a bit, excited by something he can't really put a finger on. He feels giddy. "He sings Sinatra sometimes. Or, well, he sort of mumble hums. But only when he's concentrating."
“Interesting.” Peter smiles.
He runs the edge of a blunt nail over "Focus," and Stiles' attentions all tunnel in. There's a point of cool-bright energy in his gut. "But you needed something, right?"
“Unfortunately. I’ve recently formed a pack of my own.”
Peter gives him a blank look.
“You find me with a dilemma. I’ve bitten a few early 20-somethings. In theory, youth makes the bite more likely to take. In practice, kids are assholes.”
“It can’t be that bad.”
Talia grins. “It is that bad.”
“My nephew very recently joined me in an attempt to bridge the gap. He’s a bit closer to their age. Except he has no qualms with beating the living hell out of them and telling them that they’re assholes.”
“Surprisingly bad for morale.”
“Yeah. I can imagine.”
It’s around then that a resounding crash and a series of rumbling snarls echoes from the end of the alley, near the food court.
Peter glances into the middle distance, clearly concentrating before deflating a bit. “Ah, the song of my people. It would seem I have a few errant betas to collect.”
“I… hold on. I think this qualifies as an emergency.” He does a quick inner focusing ritual and perks up immediately, slamming the BACK IN FIVE sign onto the tabletop and leaping into the walkway. “Chaos, mayhem, my public awaits.”
Peter and Talia hurry to keep up with the bolting spark.
Big surprise; Peter’s betas are in the middle of this brilliant kerfuffle.
Stiles insinuates himself directly in the middle, pulling them apart with surges of power and mumbled incantations. Once he displays sufficient power, the wolves separate quickly enough. The opposing betas are old enough to know better, but by now Stiles knows enough not to expect too much from the fuzzy balls of anger and ego.
His patience is notably thinner than usual after an hour spent turning down their sexual advances. No one wants to deal with a pissed off magic user. Once they’ve left, Stiles turns back to find the dark-skinned beta holding onto a struggling dirty blonde.
“Isaac,” he grunts. “Come on, man.”
Isaac is having none of it. His claws are sinking into the thick meat of the other man’s arm, blood spattering on the floor of the convention hall.
Stiles moves carefully, moving into the other boy’s space slowly. When Stiles takes Isaac's shoulder, the beta lunges. He manages to free one arm to lash out, raking his claws in a shallow wound across Stiles’ chest.
Stiles can hear a low and vicious growling from the nearby Alphas, but he pays it no mind. Isaac is shaking, but his teeth are still bared and gnashing.
Something is wrong.
Stiles grips the man’s free arm and focuses on calm. It doesn’t seem to help much at first, but the burn in the beta’s eyes eventually fades a bit. "What's your anchor?"
"Anger. Fear." Isaac’s voice is low and grating, forced through a mouth full of heavy teeth.
“Derek told us to tap into strong emotion,” the female beta adds.
"Cool. Great. Hostile emotion. Not like that could backfire or anything."
"Okay, listen. I want you to forget that. Toss it away. Now, when did you last feel safe?"
Isaac thinks long and hard, and slowly but surely Stiles sees his eyes return to their natural blue. He whispers, "Daddy" in a tone that implies a lot more than he probably wants to share.
Stiles nods at the man holding onto him, and he and the female beta draw Isaac into an embrace.
"Okay, who was in charge of the anchor talk?" Stiles sighs.
The only one who’d been trying to stop the fight steps forward. "I know it wasn't perfect, but I tried to tell them what I learned when I was younger."
“Are you Derek?”
“So you’re a born wolf?”
"That's the problem. Strong emotion is fine for born werewolves, but these kids were all bitten, right?" He looks back at Peter, who nods. "You know the difference between what you feel as a wolf and what you feel as a human. Experts will tell you there's no separation, but for someone who was born human, there's a lot less give. Anger is a fear response, and fear leads to panic. So when you tell a kid that feels threatened by their body to get mad, what they're going to get is scared and violent. Does that make sense?"
Derek nods, thank goodness, and asks, “So what would you suggest for turned wolves?”
Stiles is all too eager to impart what information he learned the hard way. Derek, bless him, listens with the world’s most expressive eyebrows as Stiles recounts the infamous Lacrosse Ball Experiments of sophomore year.
Before long, Peter places a gentle hand on Stiles’ elbow. “I’m sorry to interrupt, truly, but I believe your sign said ‘Back in Five’?”
Peter is kind enough to walk Stiles back to the booth while Talia checks on Derek and the other betas. He leads with a gentle hand at Stiles’ back, quietly siphoning off his pain. Stiles can feel the pleasant lulling sensation, but he can’t bring himself to break contact.
Deaton hasn’t returned yet, thank goodness. Stiles isn’t precisely certain how he’s going to hide the nasty gash he’s sporting. He rummages around for some of his herbal remedies and some gauze, which Peter quickly takes from him. Stiles lifts his shirt obediently while Peter tends the gashes.
“So you were hoping for, what, a pack therapist?”
Peter grins, “I’ve been looking for an emissary. My sister said that you might be willing to lend a hand.”
“Me?” Stiles blinks. “I’m still in training! I’m not even a druidic specialist.”
“You’ve already proven yourself more than qualified to handle the pack, and that’s what we need. Someone to keep us human.”
Peter laughs. “We’re based in Beacon Hills. Maybe you’ve heard of it?”
“Talia’s okay with that?”
“It was Talia’s idea. I’ve had some difficulties of late with a group of alphas in Los Angeles.”
“You’re the guy who beat the hell out of Ennis Declan?”
“He threatened my nephew. I took exception.”
“Some exception.” Stiles whistles, then hisses sharply as Peter secures a section of gauze.
“I protect what’s mine.” Peter mumbles, thumbing at the edge where bandage meets skin. Their eyes catch, and Stiles is unable to look away.
“That the best pickup line you’ve got?”
“You want a line? All right. How’s this one? ‘Is it a full moon tonight, because have sex with me.’”
Stiles dissolves into teary-eyed laughter, collapsing against the alpha’s shoulder. He’ll definitely think about the offer. And Peter Hale’s naked ass. But mostly the offer. Honest.
“Stiles,” Deaton sighs, “What happened to your shirt?”
“Okay, can I just start by saying that this time it really wasn’t my fault.”