Chris Argent did not come about his reputation in the supernatural world easily. The Argent name is well-known, and was once well-respected. That went to hell in a particularly old, decrepit handbasket when Chris was in his late twenties, and he spent the next decade and a half trying to make up for it. Just because Chris wasn’t involved in the crimes of his father and sister didn’t mean he was completely absolved of them.
He cooperated with the investigation fully, horrified when he learned of the schemes they’d used to target and destroy completely innocent packs. They were finally caught targeting the Hale pack of all people. The oldest, strongest pack in California. Kate and Gerard’s hubris had truly known no bounds.
Chris was very nearly sick when he learned that Kate had seduced the Hales’ teenage son in order to gain access to their home. His first instinct is to deny, deny, deny - Kate wouldn’t do that, would never stoop that low. But he can’t really deny it. He’s seen the manic gleam she gets in her eye preparing for a hunt. There’s always been a sadistic enjoyment in hunting for Kate that Chris could never understand.
It didn’t make watching his sister and their father stand trial, be imprisoned, and ultimately killed in an attempt to escape prison any easier. It didn’t make his divorce any easier, either. He’d always thought Victoria was a bit more fanatical than him, but still reasonable. He’d been quickly proven wrong. He thanked god - metaphorically, of course, Chris was not exactly a man of god - every single day that their daughter, Allison, took after him and had stayed by his side through it all. She was only a child. Losing her on top of everything would not have been a blow he could have withstood.
He’d taken responsibility for cleaning up the Argents - alongside other respected hunters - and had the other ‘bad apples’ investigated and other good hunters sent to work with other factions. Then the question came for him - what would he do next?
It was a petty revenge, but he took great pleasure in retiring from hunting and apprenticing with another in-the-know tattoo artist. They’d been reluctant to take him on at first, the Argent name freshly dragged through the mud, but Chris had been gently persistent in his assurances that he was moving on. Art had always been a passion of Chris’ - much to the disappointment and ridicule of his father. But Gerard was dead, Chris didn’t want to hunt any longer, not after realizing how many innocents he’d likely killed on his father’s orders, and Chris could actually, potentially, enjoy his life for a little while.
Learning to tattoo was not easy work. Chris was a skilled artist, though a bit out of practice, but tattooing was an entirely different skill. On top of that, learning different techniques and information required to make him useful to the supernatural community as a whole was even more intense.
Chris had to face the harsh reality that for as much as he thought he’d known about the supernatural world, a lot of it was wrong, and what wasn’t was focused on tracking, trapping, and killing. Gerard’s biases ran deep, and Chris felt a degree of shame at not having realized it sooner.
As much as he tried to move on from the past, the past wouldn’t let him go entirely. When he opened his own shop, outside of the Hale territory out of respect, but still close to home so as to not uproot Allison’s entire life, the left hand of the Hale pack followed him. Peter Hale was far from subtle - at least in his surveillance of Chris. Chris was sure that if Peter hadn’t wanted to be noticed, he wouldn’t have been. But being noticed was the point. It was a threat - a subtle threat, especially given the fact that Hale took over a floral shop of all things - but a threat nonetheless. A reminder of the crimes of his family, and an incentive to stay on the straight and narrow. It wasn’t an incentive he needed, but he wasn’t about to try to tell Peter Hale that. Talking to him was always a losing game, and Chris wanted to focus on the wins he could still have.
It was almost like - no, it really was starting an entirely new life. But by the time Chris was just shy of turning 40, it felt like he’d managed to truly turn things around. He would never be able to make it all right, his own crimes and the crimes of his family, but he’d made it better.
The quiet bell at the front door of his shop rings, and Chris calls out, “Be there in a minute!” He’s finalizing a custom focus sigil for a regular, and losing his own focus would be no good.
“Uhh…okay, whatever, man,” he hears an unfamiliar voice call out, and that is strange. It’s late, and Chris really doesn’t get many walk-ins. The voice is distant, and Chris figures that he’s passed the outer proximity wards, proving he means no harm, but can’t move further because he hasn’t been specifically invited or allowed in. So he finishes up the drawing and sends it off via email for her to review before he’ll print copies for stencils, sizing and placement, next week when she’s actually in the shop for the appointment.
He walks out front, and is greeted by the sight of an unfamiliar, attractive stranger holding boxes that look like they’re from his supplier, Deaton. Deaton himself is always the one to make the deliveries, though, so Chris is wary.
“Alan said you were kind of paranoid, but I promise I’m just here to make your delivery, dude.”
“And you are?”
“Stiles, Deaton’s apprentice.”
The name sounds vaguely familiar, but vague familiarity isn’t enough for Chris. “Well, Stiles , the wards won’t let you in without your real name.”
He gapes at Chris, who fights against the thoughts of other uses for that mouth for the time being. “Are you kidding me, dude? Names have power.”
‘Stiles’ gives a dramatic sigh, puts the boxes down, and pulls out his phone, calling his most recent dial.
“Doc? Yeah, everything’s okay. I’m making the last delivery - yeah, the tattoo shop - and he’s saying I can’t come in without giving my true name to his wards.”
Chris rolls his eyes - it’s either a fake call, which he’ll be able to tell easily, or Deaton will instruct him on how to prove himself to the wards, and they can conclude their business. Maybe Chris can even slip this guy his number - he does seem a bit young, but he has old eyes.
The guy hangs up after another moment with Deaton, then closes his eyes in concentration. Chris can almost feel the effect as he gives his true name to the wards, then picks up his delivery and crosses into the shop.
Normally, Chris would just have Deaton leave everything on the front desk and sign his invoice, but this time he moves forward and takes the delivery right from Stiles’ hands.
“I assume Deaton will have you running errands for a while, since he’s at the point where he trusts you with his customers. You might as well come back and I can show you where everything goes.”
Stiles shrugs and follows him, carrying only the clipboard with Chris’ invoice pinned to it. “Sure, lead the way.”
Chris takes him to the back of the shop, and unloads the inventory. It’s mostly enchanted ink and herbs, but he takes his time verifying everything that he’s expecting is there, then turns to the apprentice and arches an eyebrow.
The kid looks startled when he faces him, and Chris realizes with a smirk that he was staring while Chris looked through the inventory. He can work with that. “My invoice?” He asks, amused when Stiles just blinks at him before catching himself and handing Chris the clipboard.
He looks over the list one more time, just to be sure, then signs the invoice with a flourish. “Looks like it’s all in order. I’ll walk you out.”
Chris gestures for Stiles to go first, unashamedly admiring his ass as he walks in front of him. Why deny himself the little pleasures? To his word, he walks Stiles to the door, and gives him a wide smile. “Thanks. I look forward to seeing you next time I order.”
Stiles flushes pink, though he quickly tries to hide it. “Yeah, dude, same. Not so bad once I actually got in the door. Have a good night!”
Stiles has just made his third delivery to Argent’s tattoo shop when he stops into the florist that’s right next door. It’s not as late in the evening as it has been before, and Stiles is reminded that it’s been a while since he’s been out to visit his mom’s grave. No bell rings when he steps inside the shop, but a handsome man - a werewolf, by the way he moves and scents the air - is right at the counter, eyes locked on Stiles.
“Mr. Stilinski. To what do I owe the pleasure?”
“Uh, hi? I’m sorry, have we met?”
“Okay, then.” Stiles takes a moment to digest that, figures he probably shouldn’t ask, then asks anyway. “How do you know my name?”
The man - and what is it with the stores on this street, why are they so good looking - smiles at him in a distinctly disconcerting way. “I make it my business to know who’s around, especially next door. Now what can I do for you?”
That - that does not answer Stiles’ question. Like at all. In fact, it inspires a ton more. “I was looking for a small bouquet to leave at a grave. But I can - I can go somewhere else?”
Now the man looks confused. “Why?”
“I am getting the distinct impression that you don’t want me here, man, and that’s fine. I can take a hint.”
A sigh. “Clearly, you can’t. What flowers were you looking for?”
“Was that a question?”
“Do you always treat customers like this? Yes. Daisies. Jesus Christ.”
He gets another one of those smiles that’s not-really-a-smile and the man says. “Ten minutes,” and disappears into the back.
Stiles looks around the shops and tries to pretend that this isn’t the weirdest purchase of his entire life. And he literally deals in magical sales. Buying a bouquet of flowers shouldn’t even rank in the top 10. And yet, here he is.
“It’ll be $25,” he hears, and pulls his attention away from the displays as the man returns with a small, neatly wrapped bouquet of daisies for him.
“That’s perfect, thanks,” he says, and pulls out cash to pay. This part of the transaction, at least, is pretty painless.
As Stiles grabs his flowers and turns to leave, he looks back at the man. “Hey, so since you know my name, do I get to know yours?”
He gets a smirk. “Peter. Peter Hale.”
Stiles’ eyes go wide as he makes the connection, then he books it out of the store with Peter’s laughter following him.
A few months later, Chris is surprised to hear Stiles talking to someone as he approaches with the expected delivery. He’s found that beyond the good looks, he actually really likes Deaton’s trainee. Stiles is smart - and a smartass - but he keeps up with Chris and doesn’t push. A lot of people are still wary of Chris, or find him intimidating anyway. Stiles is - new, refreshing. He likes it a lot.
What he doesn’t like is getting to the front and realizing that it’s Peter Hale of all people that Stiles is talking to. They sound…familiar. He hadn’t realized that Stiles knew Peter at all.
“Well, this is where we part ways.” Peter says, and Stiles groans.
“Seriously? You won’t even cross the threshold? He’s not a bad guy, you know. Even with all your paranoia.”
“Leave it be, Stiles,” Peter says and the tone is pleasant, but there’s something underneath. An actual warning, which of course Stiles doesn’t heed.
“Literally just stand there next to me while I hand off the delivery. You don’t even have to say hi. It’s exposure therapy or something, it’ll be good for you.”
“Is something wrong, Stiles?” Chris finally makes his way toward the door, but stays inside the shop. He has no desire to push Peter Hale directly.
Stiles shakes his head, entering the shop, thankfully alone. It’s clear Peter is still right outside the door, perhaps even waiting for Stiles. Chris resolves to take his time with the order - he doesn’t want to push Hale directly, but fucking with him a bit after his years of constant surveillance feels good.
“Nothing’s wrong, just trying to convince Peter that the two of you would actually get along if he had a conversation with you instead of spying on you for once.”
Chris shrugs. He’s not so sure about that. “He has his reasons to distrust me.”
Stiles rolls his eyes. “God, it’s actually insane how similar you are. Anyway, here’s your delivery as usual.”
Chris takes his time to ensure everything is right before signing the invoice and handing Stiles his clipboard back with a smile. “Take care of yourself, okay, Stiles?”
It’s not the last time that Stiles tries to convince Peter to come in, or tries to convince Chris that they could be great friends. Chris is frustrated to find that Peter flirts with Stiles just as frequently and even more shamelessly than he does, and Stiles returns it to them both in equal measure. Eventually, Chris can’t quite remember when or even why, he figures out why Stiles thinks that he and Peter are so similar and that they’d get along well. Because they are, and they actually do, at least with Stiles there to mediate. He doesn’t think the two of them alone in a room would be a good idea, or that it will ever happen, but he no longer thinks of Peter as an enemy. A threat to be careful of? Sure - he’ll never mistake Peter as harmless. But the tension between them is more along the lines of bickering these days. Peter even comes inside the lobby sometimes.
Stiles is insufferable about it. But if Stiles is insufferable about it, Peter is worse. Stiles shouldn’t brag as much as he does about getting the two of them to get along. He definitely shouldn’t say that he thinks he could bring about world peace just because he can get a Hale and an Argent in the same room without them being at each other’s throats.
But Peter is - Chris doesn’t want to say cruel , but he is. Stiles is so, so young. So much younger than either of them. While he’s not inexperienced , he doesn’t have the history that Chris and Peter do. Chris is a lot gentler about pushing Stiles back from that edge than Peter is.
“You’re quite the naive, idealistic, little mage, aren’t you?” Peter says with a sneer, and Chris rolls his eyes. Here they go again.
If the taunt bothers Stiles at all, he doesn’t let it show. “Idealistic, maybe. But I’m far from naive, Hale. You know bad things happen to people who aren’t you and your family too, right?”
Peter rolls his eyes. “Yes, please enlighten us about all the terrible things that have happened to you in your, what, 16 years of life?”
“I don’t owe you my life story, and I’m 25, asshole. But do you see this? Do you know what it means?”
He turns, pulls down his shirt a bit to reveal his shoulder, and Chris sucks in a harsh breath. Peter sees it too, but seems rather unimpressed.
“Yes, you’ve got an anti-possession rune tattooed on you. Must’ve been brutal, getting inked as a human.”
“It’s not just anti-possession. It’s protection against repossession, isn’t it?”
“Good eye, though I suppose you’d have to know, with what you do. Got it in one.”
Peter sighs. “What minor demon possessed you? I figured someone with your training would’ve known better than to mess with a ouija board in the woods with his friends, but I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised.”
“It was a nogitsune.”
Chris drops the box of supplies that Stiles handed him in shock, and even Peter can’t stop himself from cursing. Nogitsune are, well, they’re not minor demons. Plus, they’re locals. The carnage from a nogitsune possession just under a decade ago was no secret. To find out it was Stiles - and god, he would’ve just been a kid - is shocking to say the least.
“If that’s all, I’ll be going now,” Stiles says, then leaves the rest of Chris’ order on the desk and practically stalks out of the shop. He’s not proud of his hasty retreat, but talking about his possession is never a good time. He hates that he let Peter rile him up so badly that he just blurted it out, but the older wolf gets under his skin easily.
Chris turns to stare at Peter. He means to glare, but he’s still so caught off-guard by Stiles’ confession that he doesn’t quite manage it. “What the hell was that?”
“How on earth was I supposed to know he’d been possessed by a void demon, Christopher?”
“Not that - why’d you goad him like that in the first place? Of course you couldn’t have known exactly what his damage was, but it’s obvious he takes this shit more seriously than most people his age.”
Peter snarls at him, not an actual threat, but enough to put Chris on guard. The wolf looks taken aback at himself for the reaction, and tilts his chin in the closest thing to an apology that Chris thinks he’ll ever get from him. “I suppose it just - rankles me. To hear him go on about peace, with all our history.”
“It’s a bit much. Not worth biting his head off over, though.”
Peter grins, and it’s all teeth and no warmth. “Trust me, you’d know if I was biting his head off. Or yours.”
“Always with the dramatics, Hale.”
“That’s why we get along, Christopher. Don’t pretend you’re above it all.” Peter takes his leave, then, and Chris locks the shop and gets back to his cleaning. The entire interaction rubs him the wrong way. He decides he’ll call Deaton in the morning to check on Stiles to make sure he’s alright.
Chris calls in the morning, and Deaton assures him that Stiles seemed fine when he arrived, and is off training with his sister, and planning on gathering supplies later in the day when Alan and Marin take their leave for a family matter. Chris hangs up, reassured enough, and goes about his day, doing his best to avoid thinking about the apprentice or his werewolf neighbor.
Of course, that only makes it more of a surprise than usual when Stiles stumbles into his shop that evening, covered in blood and looking half-dead just as Chris is closing. He barely reacts in time to save Stiles from braining himself on the front desk, catching him and laying him down on the closest table (that he’ll have to re-sanitize now, of course).
“What the fuck happened to you,” he asks, because as far as he knows gathering supplies really isn’t all that dangerous of a job, but Stiles looks like he’s been through hell.
“Stumbled into a pixie nest,” is what Chris thinks that Stiles replies, though it’s hard to make out through his labored breathing. And fuck, that would make sense. Pixies aren’t harmful creatures in general, but trespass in their territory and they won’t take kindly to it. Case in point Stiles, who is squirming and bleeding and moaning in pain. It was set to be such a quiet night, too.
Chris’ training finally starts to kick in, and he gathers supplies and cleans and bandages the worst of the bite marks and scratches he can see. He feels Stiles’ head - and sure enough, the kid’s got at least one hell of a goose egg and at least another few bumps. It’s hardly been ten minutes since the kid showed up when Peter rushes through his door.
“What the hell is going on here?”
“He said it was pixies. Here, come take some of his pain.”
It’s telling how concerned Peter is for Stiles when he doesn’t protest taking the order from Chris, moving to Stiles’ side and pulling pain from with a gentle hand on the apprentice’s shoulder. “Why didn’t you go to the hospital? Or to Deaton and Morrell?”
“They’re out of town, family reunion.” Chris supplies, though he’s curious now too as to why Stiles came here and not to a doctor. He hadn’t thought much about it initially - just tried to help.
“Don’t like the hospital. Needed somewhere safe.” Stiles mumbles, out of it between exhaustion from the attack and wooziness from Peter draining his pain.
“So you came…here?”
“Trust you. Both of you.”
Peter and Chris exchange a look at that - both of them a bit bewildered. They aren’t exactly the type of people that people say that so freely to.
Peter, of course, tries to play it off, because god forbid he take a single human emotion seriously. “Well, of course you trust me, I have a very trustworthy face. Why you’d trust Christopher, however, is beyond me.”
Chris inhales sharply and goes to retort, but is cut off by Stiles sluggishly waving his hands and mumbling, “No, stop. No fighting. Not right now. Not fair when I can’t flirt back.”
“Fighting and flirting aren’t one and the same, Stiles,” Peter chides.
“Are too. At least for us.”
The confirmation that there’s - something - between Peter and Stiles shouldn’t sting as much as it does, but Chris feels the hurt anyway. It’s a bad move, showing weakness in front of a werewolf. Especially one that watches as closely as Peter does.
Peter doesn’t say anything, at least, about Chris’ reaction. Chris watches him intently, though, sure that the mockery is coming. He’s so focused on Peter that he almost misses the next words out of Stiles’ mouth.
“All of us. Flirting. Fighting. It’s all the same. It’s all good , too. Wish I didn’t have to - didn’t have to choose.”
“Choose?” Chris prompts.
“Between you.” And with the world’s most unhelpful timing, Stiles seems to succumb to pain and exhaustion and promptly passes out.
The air is charged in Chris’ shop. Peter’s hand still rests on Stiles’ now-unconscious body, though he’s no longer pulling pain. Still, he’s resolutely not looking at Chris, and Chris doesn’t blame him because he’s in the same boat.
Peter seems to recover a bit faster than Chris does. He clears his throat and suggests, “So, pistols at dawn?”
Chris can’t help himself - he barks out a laugh, and once he starts, he can’t stop. He does eventually start to calm, one hand across his chest as if it’s hard to breathe from all his laughter.
“I’m glad you find this so amusing, Christopher,” Peter remarks, though he’s got a small smile of his own.
“You don’t? Sure, I’ve been flirting with the kid since he first showed up here. But this? I wasn’t expecting this. And you’re a damn liar if you say you were, Peter.”
Peter taps his nose and shrugs. “Expecting it? Perhaps not. But I had a bit more insight into the situation. He is genuinely conflicted over this.”
“Now that I can believe. Neither one of us is good for him. He’s too damn young.”
“Believe it or not, I agree. However, I don’t plan on robbing him of his choices. He’s young, but as he’s made abundantly clear, he is an adult. If - when he’s awake and not in pain and as coherent as he gets - he can still say he wants this, I’ll take him up on that.”
The thing is, it’s not a threat. Chris knows what a threat from Peter looks and sounds like. He doesn’t need to be a werewolf to know that Peter’s telling the truth. So - he says nothing. He just looks away. And for once - just this once - Peter doesn’t push him.
They watch Stiles rest in silence, but it’s clear that both of their minds are elsewhere, focused on their earlier conversations. Stiles stirs after maybe an hour, but he’s still out of it, and falls back asleep after drinking water as prompted by Chris. Chris wants to suggest loading him up in his truck and taking him home - back to his place - but he knows that Peter, territorial as he is, won’t go for it. So they stay in the shop, and eventually, Peter and Chris both succumb to an uncomfortable night of sleep as well.
Chris wakes to the sound of a ‘whispered’ argument that’s quickly getting out of hand.
“And as ‘idealistic’ as I may be, Peter, I’m not a complete fucking idiot. I know you’re both too stubborn to accept that there’s anything there between you, and - “
“But what if we weren’t?” Peter challenges him.
Stiles blinks at him, unsure what to do with his tirade interrupted.
“What if we weren’t too stubborn? What if we tried - the operative word here being tried - to make this work?” Peter prompts.
“Well, that, I, uh, hadn’t really thought about that.”
“Now would be a good time to do so,” Peter snarks, then looks over at Chris, who’s sitting there dumbfounded.
“We aren’t too stubborn to try to make this work?”
It almost looks like it pains Peter to say it, but he looks Chris in the eye and replies, “We don’t have to be. Stiles isn’t entirely wrong, you know, about us getting along. We could be civil. We could - share.”
Peter hesitates on the last word as if it isn’t exactly what he wants to say, and Chris notices. “We could probably share, sure. But we could also do just as you said - try to make this work. You’re not so bad, Hale.”
“Thank you for your grand declaration of love, Christopher,” Peter replies with an eyeroll.
“Woah, woah, woah, nobody said anything about love,” Stiles interjects, waving his arms far too wildly for someone who looked like he was on death’s door a matter of hours ago. “But - seriously? You guys, and me? The three of us? You actually want to try?”
“It won’t be easy,” Chris warns. “It’s not easy without all the history we have. And before you say it doesn’t matter, we are quite a bit older than you, and that can always toss a wrench in things.”
“But,” Peter cuts him off, “before Christopher tries to talk all of us out of this, yes. We actually want to try, Stiles.”
Chris sighs. “We do. If Peter can help himself from interrupting me, we might even make it to a date or two.”
“I won’t hold my breath,” Stiles says with a laugh. “Will you kiss me now? I feel like we should be kissing right now.”
It’s a bit awkward to maneuver around Stiles’ injuries, and it’s not as if Chris’ tattoo tables are built for three grown men, but they make it work - Stiles kissing Chris, then Peter, then demanding the two of them kiss, then trying to kiss all at once. Maybe there’s a chance for them after all.