The first time an alpha approached Stiles with a courting gift was the day after his mom’s funeral. Apparently the alpha had wanted to wait until after the funeral as a sign of respect for their loss. Stiles’ dad, after having drunk perhaps a little too much whiskey, let the alpha know exactly how respectful he wasn’t and told the guy to get lost. When the alpha insisted on talking to Stiles, Stiles had yelled down from his room, using some of the new words and phrases he’d just learned because his dad had been yelling them.
Afterwards, he and his dad ate ice cream and had a conversation about how phrases like, “insensitive asshat” were not to be used in normal life but only under extreme circumstances.
After that, Stiles’ dad let it be known that Stiles was too young to be making such decisions. He met alphas occasionally in passing and they might make hints about bonding, but most of them were dissuaded by his dad from making any official approaches. The next courting gift came when he was fifteen, just a few weeks shy of his sixteenth birthday. Stiles suspected that most of the alphas were waiting until he was sixteen, so this guy had tried to get in there first and attract Stiles’ attention. Alpha Coley’s gift had been an expensive watch, one worth so much money that Stiles would have been terrified to put it on his wrist in case he bashed it on something while flailing his arms around.
Stiles had gone for coffee with the guy because he’d been immensely persuasive. He’d then spent the first fifteen minutes of their meeting talking about how rich his pack was and how Stiles could have everything he needed and how he could pay for the best resources for Stiles to develop his spark. It seemed like every other word out of the guy’s mouth was about money. He didn’t even bother trying to get to know Stiles at all, clearly seeing him as just another prestige symbol to be purchased.
Stiles politely declined the guy and went home to study for a chemistry test.
He got three courtship gifts on his sixteenth birthday. Alpha Miyani had sent Stiles a new games system and half a dozen games, Alpha Wright had sent him some books on magic, and Alpha Coley had turned up at school with a flashy sports car, despite the fact that Stiles had already rejected him.
“You know I only have my learner’s permit, right?” Stiles asked.
“And now you have something nice to learn in.”
“I already turned you down.”
Alpha Coley smiled, “I thought perhaps you didn’t appreciate the value of my first gift. I wanted to know you what belonging to my pack could mean. Consider the implications of what you could enjoy.”
Stiles smiled back, and saw the triumph on Coley’s face for a moment, then he said, “And you should consider the implications of hanging out at a school offering expensive gifts to underage teenagers who’ve already told you to get lost.”
Stiles didn’t want to bother his dad, but he called Deputy Parrish to give Coley a re-education in the meaning of the word, “No.”
Stiles met with the other two alphas in his home, so his dad could be in the next room ready to throw them out if necessary. Alpha Miyani was nice, but old enough to be Stiles’ mom. She’d baked him cookies and they talked a little about Stiles and about her pack. Stiles was polite and answered her questions, asking a few of his own about life inside her pack, but he couldn’t imagine selling the rest of his life to her.
“Look,” he said, once the meeting had continued for a polite length of time, “you seem really nice, and you make some awesome cookies, but...”
“But you’d prefer someone closer to your own age.”
“No offence,” Stiles said.
Miyani smiled, “None taken. You’re perfectly right. I thought that might be your reaction but available sparks are so few, I thought it was worth a shot.”
They parted on polite terms. He officially declined her courtship. She gave him a motherly hug and wished him luck finding a suitable alpha.
If he’d thought the meeting with Miyani was bad, the meeting with Wright was even worse. She was ancient, well into her nineties at least. Stiles suspected she might have a heart attack if they ever consummated the courtship. But she was polite and to the point, explaining that her pack’s spark had died about a year ago and now her grandson was insisting that the pack couldn’t possibly continue without a spark.
“I realise what this must look like to you,” she said, “but the situation does have its advantages. You would get all the benefits of being bound to a pack, including helping to fund the college of your choice.”
She phrased it like a business arrangement. Stiles could bond with her and join the pack. He would get college paid for and access to the former spark’s resources and references to help his training, and all the privileges that being a spark entitled him to. And the terrifying thought of binding himself to a pack for the rest of his or the alpha’s life was somewhat less terrifying in this case. Alpha Wright acknowledged that much herself.
“When I pass on,” she said, “you will be free to find a more suitable alpha closer to your own age.”
She even promised that aside from the consummation of the bond, nothing would be expected of Stiles sexually. Stiles didn’t think he’d ever been less turned on in his life. He cleared his throat and drank some lemonade just to give himself a moment to collect himself.
“Look,” Stiles said, “I appreciate the offer, and I think it says something that your courtship is by far the most tempting I’ve experienced, but it wouldn’t be right. I’d be taking your pack’s resources and money and then just leaving in a couple of years. I’d be using you.”
Given that his usual fear was of binding himself to an alpha who would use him, this was better, but it still wasn’t great. Plus he really didn’t want to sleep with a woman who was practically a fossil, even if it was only to complete a ritual.
She accepted his refusal, but left her phone number in case he wanted advice. She’d been paired with her spark for five decades, so she had a lot of experience to draw on.
After that, the alphas started coming from further afield. Some were polite. Some were self-entitled asshats who felt they deserved a spark and that Stiles should be on his knees begging to be accepted into their pack. One, when Stiles refused him, ranted for a full ten minutes about how ungrateful Stiles was and how he was stupid to think he’d get a better offer considering that he was a scrawny, ugly runt.
“And you wonder why I don’t want to spent the rest of my life with you,” Stiles said. They were standing on the porch of his house and he took great satisfaction in slamming the door in that guy’s face.
He knew it was only going to get worse. The longer he waited, the more nutjobs would come crawling out of the woodwork. Every alpha who didn’t have a spark would approach him. It would only end when he found one he could stand to bind himself to for the rest of his life, giving himself up to their authority.
When he saw the black Camaro parked outside of school, he knew he was dealing with another one. The guy leaning against the hood was younger than most of the alphas, probably only a few years older than Stiles, and he was smoking hot, but that wasn’t going to get him any points. Stiles had generally found that the hotter alphas were the most full of themselves.
“You Stiles?” the guy asked.
“Yep.” Stiles slowed to a halt at the bottom of the school steps, waiting. The guy threw something at Stiles. He flailed, tried to catch it, fumbled, and scrambled to stop the thing falling to the ground. When he looked up, the guy was smirking.
Stiles looked at the thing in his hand. It was a keychain with a little plastic Yoda on it.
“What’s this?” Stiles asked.
The guy rolled his eyes, “It’s a courtship gift.”
“Your idea of a courtship gift is a two dollar keychain?”
“It was one dollar. Well, let’s get this over with.”
“Tell me to get lost already so we can both get on with our day,” the alpha said. Stiles didn’t know whether to be amused or offended.
“I don’t think you’ve got how this courtship thing is supposed to work,” Stiles said. “You’re supposed to be wooing me with flashy gifts and explaining how your pack is the awesomest pack ever.”
The alpha rolled his eyes again, “You turned down the guy that bought you a car; I’m not going to waste my money on getting rejected. Though I’m thinking I should have bought you a dictionary.”
“Awesomest?” the guy quoted.
“I have a unique and progressive grasp of the English language.”
The alpha snorted. Then he said, “Well, get on and reject me already so we can get this courtship bullshit over with, at least for now.”
Stiles wasn’t sure why he did what he did next. This guy clearly wasn’t interested in having him as his spark, or he would have actually tried with his courtship approach. Maybe it was just because this was so different from all the other alphas that had come sniffing around him trying to buy him. Or maybe it was because the alpha had referred to the courtship process as bullshit, the only person Stiles had heard to say it out loud other than himself.
Stiles pulled his car keys out of his pocket and made a point of attaching the Yoda to them. This didn’t mean anything officially. He wasn’t accepting the courtship by keeping the gift, but there was a big difference between just keeping a gift and choosing to keep the gift close to him. The alpha lowered his eyebrows into a frown as he watched.
“I like Star Wars,” Stiles said. He turned and walked towards his jeep.
“Wait,” the alpha said, “you haven’t rejected me yet. You need to actually say you reject me.”
“You think I don’t know how this works? I’ve been telling asshole alphas to get lost since I was ten.”
“Ten?” The alpha looked suitably disgusted by that.
“It was the day after we buried my mom,” Stiles elaborated.
The disgust turned to anger, “Holy crap.”
“So, yeah, you may think this process is bullshit, but you have no idea what it’s like to be on the receiving end.”
Stiles climbed into his jeep, and put the keys, with the little Yoda and all, into the ignition.
“You still haven’t rejected me!” the alpha complained, as Stiles started the engine.