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The Methodology of Magic

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Stiles' new cat is weird. And Stiles knows weird, all right? Stiles has been a master of weird since he first learned to talk, and let's be honest, probably even before that. So really, weird is normal for him, but his new cat? Fucking weird.

Stiles found Basel the cat in the preserve when he was cutting through on his way home from work. He'd heard yowling and had ignored all self preservation instincts and left the path, venturing into the trees. He'd followed the cries until he'd seen the cat, brownish grey with vibrant green eyes, with his back legs stuck in the thick mud lining a stream. Stiles had pulled the hissing cat free, getting a swat of claws across his hand for his trouble.

"Fine, ungrateful little shit. That's what my good deed of the day gets me," Stiles had grumbled as the cat bounded away into the trees. He'd dabbed at his bleeding arm as he trudged back to the path that led to his house. It was a good ten minutes before Stiles felt the hair on the back of his neck stand up. He'd turned around to see the damn cat about twenty feet behind him, following him down the path. "Oh, so now you want to be friends?" Stiles asked.

The cat had just blinked at him. Stiles had rolled his eyes and kept on his way, but the cat followed him all the way home, then perched on his porch when he'd gone to unlock the front door.

"Okay, well, I'm going inside now," Stiles said. "Enjoy your mud-free life."

He'd expected the cat's unimpressed look be the end of it, but it wasn't. Every night for the next week, the damn cat had yowled under his bedroom window. Stiles had no idea how he knew which window was his, but he was exceedingly grateful he had his own house now, because his dad wouldn't have taken kindly to being kept up all night by a stray cat.

On the eighth night, Stiles had had a long day at work, he was exhausted, and he just wanted to fucking sleep, so when the damn cat started its yowling, Stiles stomped down the stairs and flung the back door open, shouting, "Fine! Come on if you want to be inside so badly!" A second later, the cat had run around the side of the house, bolting between Stiles' legs. He'd managed to catch it around the middle before setting it in the bathroom. "You are staying in there, okay?"

The cat had looked affronted, but Stiles had closed the door anyway. In the morning, he'd woken up with the cat on his chest, eyes closed, chin on its paws. Stiles had groaned, closing his eyes again. Well, it looked like he had a cat now.

Luckily, it had been Stiles' day off, so he was able to take the cat to the veterinary clinic where Scott works to get the cat checked over. Deaton, Scott's odd boss, had looked between Stiles and the cat with a considering look that Stiles couldn't decipher, before examining the cat. After finding out that the cat wasn't already microchipped, naming it Basel, and giving him his immunizations, Stiles walked out with Basel's registration information, a cat carrier, and a bag of food. Stiles had always wanted a dog growing up but, well, now he's a cat dad.

Basel does the normal cat stuff. He brings Stiles dead birds and mice, lounges in the sun, and digs his claws into whatever soft part of Stiles he's currently sitting on when he's trying to get comfy. He's finicky about food, only eating the obnoxiously expensive brand, even eating around the cheap food Stiles tries to mix with it to save money. He makes friends with the 10-year-old werewolf girl next door, which Stiles does think is a little weird because cats in general aren't always overly fond of werewolves, but eh, whatever. Normal cat behavior.

Basel also does things that aren't so normal, at least as far as Stiles is concerned. Three times in the last week, Basel has knocked all the books off of Stiles' desk except for the textbook on the history of magic in Europe that Stiles had been reading, which he then sits on, looking at Stiles expectantly. Basel knocks over a potted plant in the living room and the dirt falls in a perfect circle, almost exactly how a druid's mountain ash circle would fall. Basel, much to Stiles' confusion, will pounce on the remote control and change whatever channel Stiles is watching to one of Freeform's many Harry Potter marathons.

It really comes to a head about a month into Stiles having Basel. He has water boiling on the stove, getting ready to drop in the pasta, when his phone rings. He steps away from to stove to grab it, glancing over his shoulder to make sure the water isn't boiling over. His heart stops because Basel is eyeing the stove with intent. Before Stiles can do anything, Basel leaps forward, and his trajectory is going to take him right onto the hot burner and boiling water.

There's no way Stiles is going to be able to cross the kitchen in time, all he can do is scream," No!" and throw his hand out in front of him, as if that would do anything to help.

The thing is, Basel's fall stops in midair, barely a foot above the boiling pot of water. Stiles freezes, mouth open. Basel turns his head and meows, seemingly completely unconcerned that he's breaking all the laws of physics. Stiles has no idea what's happening except that apparently the only thing between Basel and serious burns is the power of Stiles' mind, so he carefully moves his hand to the side, hoping the Basel will move, too. Sure enough, Basel floats through the air three feet before dropping harmlessly onto the kitchen counter.

"Oh my god," Stiles says, staggering backwards. "Oh my god, oh my god."

Stiles collapses into the closest kitchen chair, his head in his hands. He's taking deep, gasping breaths, trying to avoid his first panic attack in almost five years. It's not going so well, if his racing pulse and rapid breathing are anything to go by. He's starting to seriously worry that he's going to pass out, then Basel is there, batting at his face with his paws. Stiles lifts his head and Basel bumps his chin with his head, purring and rubbing against him. It helps Stiles focus, helps him take in one deep breath after another. He runs his hand down Basel's back, making him purr louder.

"Okay," Stiles says. "Okay, I have a magic cat. Fuck, okay."

As soon as he gets his equilibrium back, Stiles turns off the stove because fuck cooking right now. Basel jumps off the kitchen table and runs to the back door, pawing at it like he wants to go out. Stiles is smart enough not to stand in the way of a magic cat, so he opens it for him, but instead of shooting out into the preserve at the edge of Stiles' backyard, like he usually does, Basel trots just a few feet before turning around and looking at Stiles expectantly.

"What?" Stiles asks.

Basel walks a few more feet, to the steps off Stiles' back porch, and turns around again.

"Are you trying to get me to follow you?" Stiles asks. Basel doesn't say anything (thank fuck, because if Stiles' cat had started talking to him, he may have cried), but keeps looking over his shoulder at Stiles. Stiles groans and grabs his jacket off the hook by the door, pulling it on as he walks out. "Looks like I'm following my magic cat. God, and talking to my cat. There's an Eichen House cell with my name on it."

Basel doesn't reply, thankfully, just continues walking through Stiles' backyard. Stiles' house is older and on the edge of the preserve. It's cheaper than living in the more expensive parts of town and it lets him avoid traffic. It also means he can take a quick twenty-minute walk down one of the well-worn paths in the preserve to get to his job at the library every day. That's the path Basel leads him down now, the same path Stiles had been on when he found him.

Instead of going straight at the fork Stiles would usually take, Basel takes him left, winding down a less used path. It's another fifteen minutes, all the time Stiles thinking he must be losing his mind to be playing follow the leader with his cat, before they emerge from the trees, right into someone's backyard. Basel weaves his way through the herb garden and up the grassy path, right to the backdoor, where he starts scratching and meowing.

"Basel!" Stiles hisses, darting up after his cat. He's careful to step on the grass only, not wanting to squish the homeowner's plants and have to deal with his obnoxious cat. Stiles picks up Basel around the middle, ignoring his squirming. "It's rude to claw up people's houses!"

Before he can turn and flee, the door swings open and Stiles suddenly knows whose backyard he's in. The Hales are a prominent werewolf family and even though Stiles hasn't met Peter Hale, he recognizes him immediately from pictures in the local newspaper. He's much handsomer in person, broad shoulders and thick neck, eyes bright blue that the pictures just can't seem to encapsulate. And he's looking at Stiles and Basel, who stopped struggling as soon as Peter opened the door, with an arched eyebrow.

"Uh," Stiles says, brain completely flying out the window.

"I wondered where you'd gone off to," Peter says, which confuses the shit out of Stiles until he reaches forward and scratches under Basel's chin.

"Uh, is this your cat? I found him in the preserve and kind of adopted him," Stiles says. "And let me tell you, he's a weird fucking cat."

"If he found you, he's your cat," Peter says.

"Okaaay, that's a weird thing to say, but all right," Stiles says.

"Why don't you come inside? I was just about to make tea," Peter says. It's more of a demand than a request, because he turns and walks back into the house, expecting Stiles to just follow him.

And Stiles absolutely follows. Peter is the most powerful werewolf in northern California other than his alpha, and definitely the hottest, and Stiles' weird magic cat must have brought him here for a reason, right? So Stiles follows Peter in through the mud room and into his kitchen. Basel squirms out of his arms and darts away deeper into the house.

"Basel!" Stiles calls.

"It's fine," Peter says. "He knows his way around."

"So he is your cat?" Stiles says. Damn, he doesn't want to give Basel back, even if he is a strange little fuck.

"No, he was from Lilith's last litter," Peter says, motioning to the black cat sunning herself on the windowsill. When she opens her eyes, they're the same vibrant green as Basel's. There's a white spot over her left eye and she has the same judgmental stare that Basel does. "He went off on his own a few weeks ago, presumably to find you."

"You named your cat after the first demon?" Stiles asks.

"I named my cat after the first woman," Peter corrects. "Who refused to be subservient to Adam. A perfect name for her."

"Right," Stiles says. "So, you know Basel's a magic cat?" Stiles immediately feels like an idiot. He expects Peter to laugh at him, but the man just shrugs.

"He has some, enough to be a familiar at any rate," Peter says.

Stiles frowns but before he can ask what Peter means, Peter picks up two mugs and gestures for Stiles to follow him. Stiles does, letting Peter lead him through the kitchen door into a comfortable living room. It's elegant but understated. It doesn't scream of money, but the deep wood and luxurious furniture make it obvious that this isn't a budget home.

Peter settles onto the soft gray sofa next to where Stiles sits in a dark wing-backed chair. Peter sets the two mugs on the coffee table in front of him and sits back to look at Stiles. Stiles tries not to fidget, but he has the disconcerting feeling like Peter's looking right through him. Stiles is usually great at breaking silences, it's something he excels at actually, but right now he has no idea what to say, not when Peter's studying him like he is. Thankfully, it's Peter who finally speaks.

"Basel is your familiar," Peter says. "That's why he found you in the preserve."

"My familiar?" Stiles says. "That's not possible, I'm not magic."

"Really," Peter says doubtfully. "Nothing unexplainable happened to you today? Nothing that made Basel bring you here?" Stiles' mouth shuts with a click. "That's what I thought."

"I...he levitated," Stiles says.

"On his own?" Peter asks.

"I don't - he was about to jump on the hot stove and I just - I yelled 'no' and he just hovered in mid-air," Stiles says.

Peter raises his eyebrows at that. "Walk me through what happened," Peter says.

Stiles tells him about the boiling water, about his horror at the thought of Basel being hurt. He tells him how he'd thrown out his hand and Basel had stopped falling. Peter hums at that, looking intrigued. He finishes by telling Peter about Basel pulling him out of his almost-panic attack and leading him here.

"I don't know why I followed him and this sounds ridiculous," Stiles says, "but I think he wanted to lead me here."

"I think he did, as well," Peter says.

"You do?" Stiles asks. Hope swells that Peter doesn't think he's crazy.

"He's your familiar," Peter says again and this time it's harder to scoff at. "He brought you to me because I can help you with your magic."

"Okay, so let's say that's true," Stiles says. "Why would a werewolf know how to help me?"

Peter raises an eyebrow. He leans forward and hands Stiles a mug of tea. Stiles frowns a bit because the water's cold. Before he can ask Peter what kind of weird tea he makes, Peter presses his finger against the side of the mug. The tea instantly heats, warmth spreading through Stiles' hands, steam coming off the tea's surface. Stiles is so startled he almost drops the mug, probably would have if it weren't for Peter curling his hands around Stiles' on the mug.

"You can't be a werewolf and a witch!" Stiles says.

"Why not?" Peter asks. He looks entirely too amused.

"They're conflicting magics!" Stiles says. "It's impossible!"

"And yet, here we are," Peter says.

And...well, yeah. In the face of overwhelming evidence, Stiles' worldview is going to have to shift a bit. Werewolves can do magic, okay. Stiles also can do magic. Slightly more mind-boggling, but okay, he did levitate a cat after all. Said cat then led him through the woods to a magic werewolf's house. God.

"Is this my 'yer a wizard, Harry' moment?" Stiles asks.

Peter laughs and sits back, taking his hands back. Stiles instantly misses the contact.

"If that helps you," he says.

"I...honestly don't know what to say," Stiles says. "When I was a kid, Scott and I would pretend to be werewolves because I just thought that was the coolest shit ever, you know? Magic was never even a blip on my radar. I don't even know anyone who's magical."

"You probably do," Peter says. "Most magic users are secretive, and for very good reason. The supernatural might be more accepted now than it was years ago, but magic is still generally mistrusted by mundanes."

"You told me," Stiles says. "And you hadn't even known me for ten minutes."

"I could tell you aren't a mundane," Peter says. He leans forward, clasping his hands in front of him, suddenly looking very serious, his earlier amusement gone. "I could feel your power, Stiles. And if I can, other magic users can, too. It's very, very important to learn how to protect yourself."

"From what?" Stiles asks, unease trickling through him.

"Other magic users, for starters. Druids, darachs, witches. Plenty of them are corruptible if they see power they want and try to take it," Peter says. "Some hunters are legitimate, but plenty still operate outside the bounds of the law, and they're the most prejudiced. They'll go after magic users for no reason other than they can use magic. Especially the powerful ones."

"I don't think they'll come for me. I mean, I don't feel especially powerful," Stiles says.

"Give me your hand," Peter says.

Stiles holds out his hand warily, palm up. Peter reaches out, hovering his own hand over Stiles', their palms an inch from touching. Stiles doesn't know what's going to happen, but there's tension, anticipation in his gut. Before he can ask, it's like an electric current shoots through him and it's all Peter. Stiles doesn't know how he knows, but he knows this is Peter's power licking over his skin. It's like Peter had been shielding him before but that shield's dropped. It doesn't hurt, but it is overwhelming and forceful, like he's being consumed by it. As quickly as it started, it stops, leaving Stiles clinging to Peter's hand. He doesn't even remember grabbing it.

"What the fuck was that?" Stiles asks, his voice slightly breathless.

"That was my magic, more or less," Peter says. "My 'essence' I suppose, if you want to go all new agey about it. That's what I would feel like to nearly any magic user I came across if I weren't hiding it, like I am now."

"That's...fuck, you feel strong," Stiles says.

Peter tightens his grip on Stiles' hand and grins sharply, flashing fang. It makes Stiles' heart beat a bit faster, but not from fear.

"I am," Peter says. Apparently modesty isn't his strong suit. "But you, Stiles. You feel like a hurricane. I'm powerful, but if you wanted to, you could blow me out of the water."

And that's...that's a lot. Stiles has never been particularly great at anything. Yeah, he's smart, but that's it. He wasn't a lacrosse star in high school, he doesn't have some ridiculous prodigious musical skills, he's never been an engineering genius. He's been good at many things, but never great. The idea of him being some supremely magical being is would be laughable, if Peter weren't so sure. If it weren't for Basel the levitating cat.

"So I'm, what, a witch?" Stiles asks.

"I think you're something else entirely," Peter says. He lets go of Stiles' hand, and Stiles immediately misses the supernatural warmth. "I think you're a spark. A slightly different flavor of magic than mine, a little more in touch with the natural world and stronger, but similar enough that I can teach you."

"You'll teach me?" Stiles says excitedly. The idea of going home and trying to Google witches had been giving him a headache. "Don't take this the wrong way, but why would you, the most secretive and elusive of the Hales, notoriously distrustful, be okay with teaching me about magic? Unless you're actually one of those darach druid things intent of sucking magic out of me, in which case I should probably think about running."

Luckily, Peter seems amused rather than offended, and really that's a unique reaction to Stiles.

"It's smart of you to be wary, but luckily, I'm not a darach. I'll teach you because I find you interesting, and I like you. A rare feat," Peter says. "And your familiar is desperate enough that he's willing to risk falling into boiling water to get you trained, and I'd like Basel to remain in one piece."

And, okay. Stiles has a magic mentor.