Stiles is eleven years old when he meets Derek Hale for the first time.
Or, well, he doesn’t necessarily meet him, per say, in the traditional sense of introductions and such. He’s accidentally forced to spy on his dad’s meeting with the trespassing Summoner, hidden badly behind a broken worker machina and trying admirably hard not to make a sound. Dad’s workshop is not technically a place where Stiles is allowed, per se, but it should be a surprise to approximately no one that Stiles can regularly be found in places he shouldn’t be. It’s really Dad’s fault for not checking more thoroughly for any wayward Stileses, if you think about it.
The door slams loudly, drowning out the first few moments of quick agitated footsteps and urgently arguing voices. Stiles cringes, snatching his hand away from his loot – his earlier stolen and promptly confiscated cactus flower candies, still warm from the ovens – and dives for the nearest shelter. Of course he hits his knee against the machina’s worker-arm and has to bite his knuckles to keep from whimpering, but at least he’s out of sight.
Carefully, he peers around the tumbling mess of wires and metal just in time to see Dad rounding the corner. He’s followed by three strangers, a lady flanked by two warriors. Stiles’s eyes focus immediately on the jewel-encrusted symbol of Yevon engraved proudly on her headdress, the pearl serving as Yevon’s all-seeing eye sparkling on her forehead.
A Summoner, Stiles thinks instinctively, and holds his breath in a shocked mix of excitement and fear.
“…we only seek safe passage through your lands, Sheriff Stilinski. We would not ask for any other aid when you are so opposed, but you must grant us the right to pursue our cause,” she is saying, somehow authoritative and beseeching in equal measure. Stiles, used to the dull but practical browns of the Al Bhed uniforms, is properly enchanted by the Summoner’s bright blue robes and golden chains, if not more so by the fact that she might be prettier than even Erica. He winces guiltily at the thought and vows to build his friend a projectile weapon of some kind to make up for his blasphemy.
“You know I’m already under enough scrutiny. I really can’t afford to delay a Summoner any longer than necessary without inviting more suspicion from your precious High Court,” Dad says, a familiar strain to his words, “I’ll grant you your right to travel safely to your futile death, Summoner.”
“Every life saved by my sacrifice will be worth it, Sheriff,” she replies, calm and sure.
The Guardian on her right makes an aborted movement at this, a sharp jerk of his shoulders. Stiles looks at him in surprise, and promptly can’t look away. Where the Lady Summoner looks proud and bright like the reflection of the sun glittering on the ocean, her companion is dark and strung tight. From under his severe eyebrows he glares at nothing, stubbled jaw clenched with tension; he says not a word. His long black leather coat, his gigantic broadsword that’s taller than Stiles himself, and his confident, straight-shouldered elegance make him look like a mysterious champion from Erica’s naughty storybooks. To an imaginative child already quite prone to hero worship, the overall effect culminates neatly in an instant crush.
Dad and the Summoner are still arguing, but Stiles is no longer paying attention. Stiles can only stare and wonder whether the Guardian looks more angrily guilty, or guiltily angry.
That night, Stiles finds his way nimbly through the underground labyrinth that lurks quietly underneath Home’s gleaming towers, and sneaks into the Summoner’s Sanctum. In his fist he carefully clutches a clumsily wrapped package; his token is small, a hastily put together good luck charm – a bundle of yellow-and-green beads and glistening shards of diligently polished scrap metal. Stiles blushed the entire time it took him to make it.
The two Guardians are in heated conversation as Stiles reaches their chambers. When he peeks inside he can see their backs are turned, so he tiptoes as quietly as he can to the cot that has the gigantic sword resting against it. He’s so focused on being quiet that he doesn’t even realize they are both watching him until he’s already halfway there.
“Good evening,” the female Guardian says kindly, smiling, “Who are you, honey?”
Stiles trips over his own feet in shock and barely manages not to faceplant on the floor. He fumbles the beads and puts them hastily on the bed, right next to the pillow.
“What’s that?” the Guardian asks, not unkindly, though his face is still set in his earlier frown.
“Vun kuut milg.” Stiles mutters quickly, ears aflame. The man just stares at him, expression uncomprehending, and in that moment Stiles wishes furiously that he spoke the Common Tongue even half as well as he understood it. He tries it, though, carefully: ‘for good luck’, shamefully aware that it probably sounds like a jumbled mess of too-sharp consonants and crooked vowels.
There's a beat of silence, and then the female Guardian laughs, delighted.
"That's so sweet!", she exclaims, nudging her counterpart teasingly, affectionately, "What do we say when someone gives us a present, Derek?"
“Thank you,” the Guardian - Derek - says, quiet and serious. Stiles bows, mostly to hide the terrible burning in his cheeks, and promptly turns to flee.
As he’s leaving he can hear the female Guardian saying wistfully, ‘…you know, back in Zanarkand my Scott should be about his age by now-’
The next day, Stiles stands by Dad’s side on the great balcony overlooking Home and the vast expanse of the desert beyond, his hand dwarfed in Dad’s worried tight grip. The atmosphere in the city is downcast and simmering with resentment, every Al Bhed quietly mourning. Together, they watch the Summoner and her two companions headed for the main gate. Their bags are laden with fresh supplies, Al Bhed potions and copious amounts of Gil.
Three months later, Summoner Laura Hale beats Sin and gifts Beacon with a Calm that is predicted to last for a decade. Her grave is designated a holy site by Yevon’s disciples. Guardians Derek Hale and Melissa McCall are awarded Medals of Excellent Valor posthumously.
Three months later, Stiles can’t wait for Sin to resurrect again, so that he can defeat that murderous monster himself once and for all.