Stiles may only be 19 years old, but it’s been a long 19 years, and in that time, he’s learned a few things. Brush his teeth twice a day, don’t let Jackson get under his skin, take Adderall once in the morning and once at night, and don’t let Dad get the old photo albums out unless they’re both ready for a long, sleepless night. More recently: Scott needs a military intervention to get him to stop talking about Allison when he gets started, wolfsbane of varying amounts and strains has different effects, and he can get Deaton to give a straight answer if he bribes him with gourmet roasted almonds.
But really, the most important lesson that Stiles has learned so far came with the Great Love Spell Debacle, as he calls it. That was when he learned that nothing good ever comes easy.
When all of this supernatural ridiculousness started, Stiles and Scott didn’t go out looking for trouble to get themselves into. Trouble found them. And yes, that’s an excuse that Stiles has been using his whole life, but Stiles can honestly say that for a long time, neither he nor Scott was going, “I know what we should do. We should tick off an Alpha werewolf! We should get paralyzed by kanimas!” They’d never originally intended to get so involved.
Now though, they’re both old enough hands at dealing with mythical creatures that when it seems like the old population of fairies in the preserve are acting up, Scott, Stiles and company lace up their hiking boots and go check it out.
But oddly enough, not before Derek of all people pulls Stiles to the side just before they’re all about to troop out of his loft, and hands him an iron poker.
Stiles balances the cool black weight in his hands. “Um, thanks. I thought we were just going for reconnaissance? Not that I mind, because this is actually kind of badass. Wait, dude, are there actually protection runes carved on the end of this? Because that’s pretty impressive, how did you even-oh, Deaton.”
Derek shrugs, emotionless as always. “You’re apparently part of the pack now, annoying as it is,” yeah yeah, suck it up, Derek, “so you should get your share of protection. Even if it’s only a reconnaissance mission.”
“Besides, it looks cool,” Erica chirps from the doorway as she zips up her black jacket. Are werewolves allergic to wearing a nice primary color every now and then?
Giving the poker an experimental swing, Stiles almost clips Derek’s shin, making the Alpha roll his eyes irritably and make for the door with everyone else, grumbling something under his breath about Stiles doing more harm than good. Whatever. Derek hasn’t actually, actively disliked Stiles since the McCall and Hale packs merged. Maybe Stiles isn’t buddy buddy with Derek, but he’s buddy buddy with everybody else in the pack, so Derek just has to put up with him.
Doing reconnaissance ends up being a lot of wandering around the woods aimlessly, trying to find traces of fairy dust. It’s almost painfully ineffective. Around two in the morning, Stiles starts thinking that maybe there aren’t any fairies around at all, and those hikers that had wandered out of the woods babbling about dancing people on fire really were just high on something, despite their clean toxicology reports.
Stiles is paired up with Scott, since they’ve been each other’s buddies since their first kindergarden fieldtrip, and Allison is off training with the Olympic archery team. It’s sort of a nice kickback to the old days, wandering around in the dark forest, looking for something exciting. Stiles points this out to Scott, who is not amused.
“Dude, that’s just making me more nervous. Don’t you remember that whole I got attacked by a werewolf thing the last time we were doing this?” Scott huffs.
Stiles waves a hand dismissively. It’s the one holding the flashlight, so Scott winces as he’s briefly blinded. “I don’t think we’re finding anything tonight. The fairies are supposed to stay mostly dormant, right? They run on a different timescale? We aren’t going to see Tinker Bell tonight, you just watch. Maybe in another fifty years somebody will see something, but dude, there’s probably a reason that Beacon Hills has apparently had a fairy court in its forest for forever and nobody noticed.”
Rolling his eyes, Scott bends down to investigate something that shines briefly in the beam of his flashlight. It turns out to be a thin line of snail slime across a tree root. Nice.
“Maybe we should be looking for mushrooms,” Stiles muses, “you know, fairy rings? Probably easier to spot. Especially if they’re spotty. You know, those red mushrooms that have the little white spots, like in the cartoons? Actually, those are really poisonous. Deaton might like them, I’ll bet that fairy ring mushrooms are really good for potion ingredients.”
“Except then it would make the potion poisonous, which, you know, like potion making isn’t dangerous enough, right?”
“Seriously, remember how terrible I was at micro-pipetting during that biotech unit freshman year? Now imagine me doing that, but with toxic magical ingredients. I don’t know why Deaton keeps me around, apart from as eye candy.”
“Stiles!” Scott exclaims.
“What? Oh, hey. Fairy dust.”
Stiles was sort of expecting pretty golden glitter like they use in Peter Pan, but it just figures that they’re dealing with Unseelies, whose dust looks more like molten blue glue sticking together in globs, glowing faintly. It’s glopped all over an oak tree that looks like it would be great to climb if it didn’t seem so radioactive.
Stiles texts the rest of the pack. Danny set them up with these cool gpa tracking apps in their phones, so they should be able to find him and Scott no problem.
Pocketing his phone, Stiles inches closer to the fairy dust. He should have brought a sample jar. And maybe a biohazard suit. The stuff smells strongly of ozone to him, so it’s no wonder that Scott is keeping his distance, nose scrunched up in disgust. Stiles pokes the goop with his poker. It’s not dangerous, he’s actually using it for its proscribed use, so there.
The goop glows vividly for a moment, hissing, then it dissolves into the bark of the tree, leaving behind a patch of blackened bark. Stiles yelps and jumps a step back, then pokes the goop again from a more cautious distance. It hisses and dissolves again, and Stiles chuckles.
“Scott, look at this. It’s really cool.”
Stiles pokes the goop a little more, swirls the pointed tip of the poker in it.
“Um, turn around.” Scott’s voice is doing that oh shit thing it does sometimes. It isn’t good that Stiles recognizes that tone so immediately now, but he does, so he spins on one heel and takes a look at what has Scott so tense sounding.
It’s a guy. He’s about six feet tall, has hair long enough that the top half is pulled into a ponytail, is wearing a blue T-shirt, a canvas jacket, and about 8 million pieces of jewelry. It’s incredibly obvious that he’s a fairy. The guy probably reeks of magic to Scott, but Stiles doesn’t need no smell to tell him that Jewelry Guy isn’t human. Stiles recognizes that aura that practically hums with energy. The guy is so wired he’s almost floating above the ground.
Jewelry Guy taps a ringed finger against his pointed chin. Each of his fingernails is painted a different color. “So,” he chirps excitedly, “you boys wanna dance?”
He has an accent, and Stiles wonders if maybe the fairy doesn’t know English very well, but then Jewelry guy skips closer, and hooks an arm around first Scott’s, then Stiles’ hips. His body is cold against Stiles’ side, like an old piece of quartz.
Jewelry Guy starts pulling them forward, and Scott starts struggling, but the fairy doesn’t budge in his march towards a patch of grass a few yards away. Scott starts yelling, and the fairy doesn’t listen, just chuckles and fondly kisses Scott’s neck.
Stiles would help, but he’s busy using his poker to scrape a line behind him into the dirt. He figures that they’re about to be taken to the court, and since the altered bubble of timespace that makes a fairy court isn’t exactly covered by Stiles’ cell phone plan, he’s going to Hansel and Gretel it up in this joint, and leave a trail for the rest of the pack to follow. Never let it be said that he isn’t the smart one in his and Scott’s dynamic duo.
He feels bad for Scott, who’s getting a bit of a badtouch from Jewelry Guy, but Stiles is in Panic Planning Mode, so he won’t really freak out about possible fairy kidnappings until they’re either actually kidnapped or it’s hours after they’re rescued.
Stiles is hoping for a rescue, himself.
“Oh damn,” Jewelry Guy comments gleefully, “your pretty friend has some iron. Drop that for me baby?” One of Jewelry Guy’s long, pale hand drifts down his arm like a snake about to bite, and squeezes the sides of Stiles’ fist, hard, until it drops the poker. “That’s more like it. You could have really hurt me, that would be awkward,” he coos into Stiles’ ear, his cold breath practically arctic. He interlaces his fingers with Stiles’ and walks a few more steps forward.
Stiles catches a glimpse of white spotted, red mushrooms before the forest winks out.
It isn’t music so much as it is a hypnotic beat that pulls at Stiles’ very soul, making him bob up and down, contort his body to the rhythm, throw his head back and laugh raucously as the bodies around him twist in movements similar to his.
He needs this like breathing, like a heartbeat, and he doesn’t know how long he’s been dancing. For all he knows, he could have been moving since the beginning of time, since before there was a sky.
In a past life, Stiles thought that fairy dances were like ring around the rosy, all the fae twirling in a circle, hands linked, flowers in their hair.
Fairies have clearly upgraded with the times, since this reminds him more of prom when the chaperones weren’t watching.
Jewelry Guy is grinding up behind him, his hips ardent and hands warm on Stiles’ upper thighs. Scott’s been commandeered by a green skinned woman without a nose, who keeps twisting his hair into tiny braids from her perch on Scott’s shoulders.
There’s a weight on his shoulder, and Jewelry Guy’s head is resting there, grinning earnestly. “It’s fun isn’t it?!” he hollers over the music and the ecstatic cries of the other dancers, “it’s a party that never ends, baby!”
“Fuck yeah!” Stiles hoots back, throwing his arms into the air and falling backwards. A few pairs of hands catch him before he falls and set him back on his feet. They grope him a bit before they withdraw, but so what? These people are awesome. This is awesome! He’s like, one with the music, with the dance, with the people around him and the starless, moonless, bubblegum turquoise sky and the indescribable ground beneath his feet that may or may not exist.
Somewhere in the sea of dancers, a burst of pink flame gushes up in a blazing column pointing towards the sky, eliciting a cry of delight from the dancers.
Jewelry Guy whirls Stiles around so that they’re fully pointed towards the flames. “It’s the queen! Oh man, she’s so cool, you don’t even know. She’s coming this way, too. She always wants to meet newcomers to the party.”
“Oh, are there new people around here?” Stiles giggles. It’s funny. Jewelry Guy is funny. Hilarious.
Patting Stiles’ hip, Jewelry Guy reminds Stiles, “you’re new, silly.”
Ah. Stiles had forgotten. He couldn’t be that new, could he? It’s like he’s been here forever.
A minute or maybe a few hours later, the pink flames part the crowd so that Stiles and Scott can get the full effect of the queen and her retinue of fire.
She’s gorgeous. She dances like a wildfire, skittering along the ground for a few beats, before flipping into some improbable formation of limbs and hopping from step to step with manic excitement. The Queen dances alone, since the fairies can’t seem to touch her aura of pink flame, but she’s enjoying herself anyway, pulling her hands through her short hair. It’s almost white, and one half of it is shaved down to a buzz. She reminds Stiles of an avant-garde art school student, minus the pretension and plus a few more doses of hallucinogens.
The Queen completes a three more revolutions, then swings around to stand stock still, feet pressed together, hands at her side. She claps once, and the music stops, echoing thunderously for a moment before it disappears. The flames around her disappear, and she moves a few bouncing steps forward, holding out her hand.
Jewelry Guy nudges Stiles towards her, and Stiles shakily takes her hand. She giggles, a trilling noise like bells, and pulls him in for a bear hug. Her skin is just as cold as Jewelry Guy’s is.
Best hug ever. Stiles feels like he’s been frozen, and he’s finally being drenched in water that might be hot, or might be cold, he doesn’t know. Maybe he’ll walk away with burns, but he doesn’t care.
She beckons towards Scott with a single, tiny finger that has a tattoo of a snake running down its length. Scott whoops and flings himself onto the Queen, who wraps an arm around Scott and holds both boys against her chest.
The Queen ruffles the hair on both of their heads. She looks their age, but Stiles feels cared for, loved, like she’s his mom when her iris-less eyes fall on him. “Look at you two. Are you liking the party? It’s sweet, no?” Her voice has the same accent as Jewelry Guy, it’s just higher. If a hummingbird were to speak, it would sound like the Fairy Queen.
Scott and Stiles nod eagerly. It’s an awesome party. Forget Lyd-whatever’s post graduation party, nothing beats a fairy bash.
“Awesome!” She crows. “Lemme tell you, human-land or wherever you come from? So lame. I mean, it used to be way worse, I remember back before you had internet and yikes! But yeah, it’s totally awesome here.” Jerking her head at them, wordlessly asking them to lean in closer to hear her words, she asks conspiratorially, “you guys wanna stay? You can totally hang forever if you want. Put your troubles behind you, babies, and dance!” She says the last sentence in a shout, and the fairies around them cheer, rallying to a familiar battle cry.
That does sound awesome. No more worrying about his endless slew of online classes, or the latest supernatural menace, or his place in the pack, (seriously, what did that poker mean?) just dancing, and the joyously feral alternate world of the fairies.
Stiles is about to open his mouth to say yes, and the black circles of the Queen’s eyes are expanding in eagerness when Derek bursts through the crowd of revelers and swings Stiles’ iron poker at the Queen’s head.
“What are you doing?!” Scott explodes, “you ruin everything, we were going to dance!”
Isaac appears out of nowhere and slaps Scott across the face, which wow, Stiles did not think was something he’d ever see. “Scott, you dumbass! Don’t you remember all those stories about fairies?”
Scott looks blank, but then it dawns on Stiles, and he suddenly feels very unpleasant. They were totally hypnotizing him into dancing forever, or at least until he dies of hunger or thirst or his feet falling off. Rude. He feels dirty, not unlike how he did when the kanima paralyzed him. Stiles is not a fan of when people or things take his power of choice away from him.
Meanwhile, the Queen’s eyes are almost entirely black, and she looks raging mad, little tendrils of pink fire flickering around her hands. Looks like the iron poker missed her. She must have crazy good reflexes if she can match Derek’s speed.
The other fairies are drunkenly swaying in a circle around them, and Stiles wonders why they aren’t rushing to their Queen’s aid.
She screeches and the pink fire explodes outwards from her, missing Derek by a few bare inches. Boyd and Erica materialize from somewhere and try to distract her, but the Queen just turns her skin to stone, so their slashes have no effect.
Oh. They don’t bother helping her because she’s fully capable of helping herself.
The pack circles around the Queen, and Scott, mostly out of his trance, sticks close to Stiles. Maneuver 48B: Protect the human. Stiles doesn’t like it, but he has to admit it’s practical.
Derek growls when the Queen pitches another fireball at him, and he shifts into Alpha form, all black fur and bristling teeth. He crouches, ready to pounce, never mind that it’s obviously a stupid idea, when the queen pauses in her offensive, quirks her head, and rubs her hands together appraisingly.
“Werewolves,” she muses, and her voice isn’t a hummingbird anymore, it’s more like a crow’s cackle coming out of a bubbley looking art student. “You know what? Go.”
Her flames flicker out, and she smiles broadly, drawing a circle on her palm with her other index finger. A matching fairy ring appears on the floor below her.
“Please,” she gestures at the ring, “feel free to leave.”
Stiles wonders if the Fairy Queen is one of those people whose sarcasm is so dry that no one can tell if they’re using it or not. He personally thinks that’s just bad sarcasm etiquette. It doesn’t count if people think you’re sincere.
Then again, she could really be sincere. It looks like the werewolf thing is a deal breaker for her. Stiles kind of feels like she’s being racist, even if it’s working to their advantage.
When no one moves, the Fairy Queen screeches, “move!” and springs forward, faster than any werewolf, grabbing Isaac and Erica’s shirts, then flinging them through the fairy ring. They disappear, and the ring chokes up some of the goopy fairy dust, which congeals on a few of the mushrooms.
Derek roars and tries to pounce, but she flaps a hand at him, and he’s surrounded by a ring of flames. Even Stiles knows that’s a cold move to pull on a Hale, and he would try to do something, he really would, but the Queen is terrifying and Derek’s emotional health isn’t his responsibility, thank god.
Then Boyd walks calmly into the circle and disappears. Stiles has to admire that level of dedication in anyone. Even in the heyday of his obsession with Lydia, he probably never would have walked into a mysterious fairy ring that could lead anywhere, just to be with her, wherever she is.
The Queen gestures towards Scott and Stiles, and they hesitantly step forward. It’s amazing how horrifying a simple little ring of mushrooms can be. The Queen grabs Scott, who’s in front of Stiles, and flings him into the ring. How many muscles is she hiding behind those tie-dye sleeves?
Stiles waits for her to make him go through the fairy ring. Mostly because he doesn’t have the nerve to jump through himself, but also because he doesn’t want to fuel more comments about his habit of literally walking right into danger.
But the Queen doesn’t make him go anywhere. Instead, she smiles wickedly, her dark eyes widening as an idea strikes her. Stiles does not like that look. He’s come across too many mythical creatures that crack that exact same smile before unleashing something horrific upon them all.
She giggles, then sighs, “oh, I crack myself up sometimes,” before pointing two fingers towards her own eyes, then at Derek’s, like a bully in an old kid’s cartoon trying to be intimidating. Derek shifts back into human form and rubs at his eyes uncomfortably, but that seems to be the only affect.
“What did you do?” Stiles asks her. He’s not expecting a straight answer, but sometimes these villain types drop an obscure little comment that will help them later.
The Queen just shakes her head, and pushes them both through the circle, even kicking a dazed Derek straight between the shoulder blades with her combat boots to prompt him over the line of mushrooms.
Stiles catches one last glimpse of the neon turquoise fairy sky before he finds himself in the same clearing he left who knows how long ago. If anything, this makes him more suspicious. If they’re home safe, then what was the Queen after?
Converging on them, the pack runs anxious hands over them both, ensuring that they, too are in one piece. They are. Derek seems fine, answering their questions in his usual gruff way, and cuffing Scott over the head when he gets a bit too snarky.
Feeling a little high off of their recent close call, the wolves stumble off to grab the backpacks of supplies they left behind earlier in the clearing.
Before Stiles can go try to make himself useful, Derek lightly takes his elbow and pulls him in close.
“Stiles,” he asks quietly, looking deeply into Stiles’ eyes, “are you okay?”
“Um, yeah? What’s up with you dude? You don’t even ask if I’m okay when you’re the one doing the injuring. I mean sure, I’m never actually injured, but didn’t anybody ever tell you it’s the thought that counts?”
Derek blinks and looks a little nonplussed for a second before continuing on, “I’m just concerned about you, alright?”
Weird. But nice. Stiles will take it, it’s not like he minds Derek caring a bit about his wellbeing. “Er, thanks Derek.” He claps Derek’s shoulder and Derek looks a little stunned. “But I’m good. I guess it’s a pity I didn’t get that badass poker back though.”
Perking up, Derek asks, “so you liked it?”
He looks like a puppy, and that isn’t a description often applied to Derek. Naturally, the asshole wears it well.
Stiles shrugs. “It was pretty cool.”
Derek smiles softly, nodding to himself, then wanders off to grab his own bag, which holds a water bottle, a flashlight and nothing else, since Derek thinks that sensible jackets on cold nights are for losers.
It isn’t until later that Stiles realizes that Derek’s eyes, when they stared into his, were slightly off color. Specifically, they were neon turquoise.