Stiles’ father teaches him how to shoot on a stagnant August afternoon when Stiles is ten. His mother is in the hospital and his dad has babysitting duty but no (good) idea how to occupy Stiles’ mind. Stiles gets an hour-long lecture on gun safety before he’s even allowed to hold one. Even at ten, he understands the gravitas behind dangerous weapons and the concept of guns killing people in a real way and not the way they do in video games. His excitement is barely contained and every second Stiles bounces as he’s taught basic handgun safety, his father looks more and more like he regrets this monumentally terrible decision.
Because really, in what world is it a good idea to give a ten year old a gun, let alone Stiles?
It takes three Saturdays of loading and unloading the weapon, his father guiding him into proper aiming stances with an unloaded gun that becomes heavier with each passing minute until his young muscles are shaking with the effort, before he’s allowed to aim with actual bullets. His father is actually sweating as he does this, talking Stiles through it in a soft voice, reminding him of how dangerous this all is. Reminding him not to aim at anything living, even if it is as innocuous as his own foot, because growing up without toes would suck.
Stiles knows all this. He’s not a baby and he isn’t stupid.
His excitement is palpable, almost shimmering in the air as he looks at the target and squeezes a tad too hard on the trigger. The gun discharges.
Recoil is a bitch. He spends the next week with a bruise on his chin and a smile on his face.
It turns out Stiles sucks at shooting, no matter how often his father corrects his stance or talks him through aiming and following through. He hits the target maybe once every twenty times. Stiles thinks his ADHD might be working against him, but when he tells his dad this theory he just laughs and tells Stiles he doesn’t have to be good at everything, so long as he’s safe with it.
Stiles lets it go because he thinks his dad is trying (and failing) to teach him some kind of life lesson, but the thing is that the one shot he makes in twenty? It’s almost always bullseye.
It takes him a year to convince his dad to allow him to try the long-range sniper rifle locked away with the rest of his dad’s guns. It’s another still summer morning, the sun in the sky behind him and the wind negligent. Stiles sprawls on the platform and thinks about how this is just one shot, so he has to make it count. He takes a deep breath, and his eyes narrow and focus in a way he can’t maintain for more than seconds at a time. This time, his focus remains on the target through the scope and his breathing calms.
In truth the target isn’t far enough away to break any records, even for his age group, but that hardly matters to Stiles because when he hits the target he feels like a superhero.
“Whoa, lucky shot, son,” his dad says, clapping him on the back and helping him up.
Stiles knows luck has nothing to do with it.
Over the years Stiles learns to compensate for wind velocity, altitude, and a number of other factors his eleven year old brain hadn’t understood.
He never gets better with a handgun, never learns the focus that comes naturally behind a rifle, so when Derek or Allison ask if he can use a gun, Stiles isn’t lying when he says no.
Neither of them specify, and geez, a guy has to keep some secrets. When he was eleven he promised his dad to never advertise the fact he was a weaponry savant with this one thing, his stomach clenching with the worry he put in his dad’s eyes, not because he was horrible but because he was too good.
At seventeen, Stiles still sometimes sees it as his superpower, but it’s a pretty lame superpower. Shooting sparks from his fingers would be more awesome, because then he could always access it. Being able to shoot competently from a long range weapon has a few conditions.
- He needs a long-range rifle, which he doesn’t own
- He needs a somewhere to set up the rifle he doesn’t own
- He needs the time to calibrate the weapon he doesn’t own, because making those shots is at least partially math that needs to be done on location
So yeah, not really conducive to doing much more than setting traps, and Stiles isn’t naive enough to think that once people know what he can do that they won’t use it. The world is a little scarier with the idea of a rifle scope focused on you, and Stiles doesn’t want to be on either side of that kill/killer equation.
Part of him is glad he didn’t share the secret because he’s never sure where loyalties lie, who talks to whom, and what relationships Scott makes or breaks in any given week. The knowledge that there might be one tiny advantage Stiles has over everyone else, one small thing he can use against anyone, helps him sleep at night.
The more time that passes, the more concerned Stiles gets, because he knows that someday he’s going to have to shoot a rifle to save someone, probably himself, and the longer he goes without having to, the more likely the situation is going to be truly terrible to get him to break his silence.
Of course it all comes down to Derek, because beneath all the horrible moments, all the truly heroic moments in his life is Derek Hale.
They’re up in one of the national forests that make up pretty much all of Northern California. Don’t ask Stiles which one because a tree looks like a tree to him, but then he’s not sure what the nearest town is either. It’s not exactly the way he likes to do things because not knowing things makes Stiles itchy, but Derek and Scott have been tracking a strange malevolent scent for miles and miles of backcountry logging roads and Allison is doing all she can to keep up in her father’s SUV.
Stiles is holding on to the dashboard, fingers curved over his armrest to stabilize himself as he watches Derek running ahead of Scott, obviously narrowing in on the scent if his burst of speed means anything. The SUV flies over a violent pothole, and Stiles ends up with one hand braced on the ceiling, glad they didn’t take his jeep because his baby would never survive this. Allison has her teeth clenched so hard that she will probably need dental work if they land like that again.
Stiles can see a clearing coming up through the trees and he hopes they’ve made it back to civilization.
“Jesus Christ!” Stiles exclaims as Scott, still trailing Derek, reaches the edge of the clearing and bounces backwards, cracking through a young tree with the force of his body ricocheting off thin air. “Stop! Stop!” he yells at Allison as Derek pauses and turns to look at Scott.
Allison slams on the breaks, the SUV still moving as it hits the barrier in front of them. The front fender crumples beneath the pressure, and Stiles prepares himself for more of an impact. When he realizes that Allison stopped in time, he gets the heady and foolish desire to reach over and kiss her because she is equally as badass as Buffy or River Song, and someone needs to appreciate that every once in a while.
Scott might not even kill him for it because it would be entirely platonic and if anyone should understand the urge to kiss Allison for her Allisonness, it’s Scott.
Stiles thinks he should be used to the way these things come out of nowhere, but it’s impossible to keep constant vigilance every moment of every day (no matter how much Derek tries). But, the thing is, there is a magical barrier separating them from Derek, so of course something is going to happen. Stiles thinks he’s prepared.
Then the figure appears out of thin air directly behind Derek, a sickening joker smile on its face. Derek turns, claws out, and it strikes, metal gleaming in the sunlight as blood sprays and drips from the blade.
Scott immediately moves forward, putting himself between Allison’s door and the clearing.
He scrambles to his feet, but Stiles recognises those sluggish movements. Derek has been dosed with a paralytic again because of course that’s Derek’s luck, closed off from people who would actually try to save him and unable to move.
“Stay in the car!” he shouts over his shoulder as Stiles’ finger scramble for the door handle.
Derek is not the boss of him, Stiles would like to make that clear, but part of him thinks Derek might know what he’s doing; there might be a really awesome plan in the works that Stiles could mess up.
But of course, Derek has no idea what’s going on.
Derek never knows what’s going on. That’s why he has Stiles. Stiles is eighty-five percent certain that Derek’s creeper routine is just so he can listen in when Stiles figures shit out, so he can seem omniscient or whatever when he claims he already knows.
“Think think think thinkthinkthinkTHINK,” he chants to himself, knowing if they can just figure this out, they can help Derek.
Derek finally collapses.
The creature grabs him and drags him towards what Stiles would bet is the center of the clearing.
“Gnome?” Allison asks in confusion. Stiles can feel her angst at staying in the car. He understands the energy simmering beneath her skin. He can feel it too.
“No,” Stiles answers, forcing his brain to think. “Oh my GOD,” he shrieks as the creature drops Derek and falls onto his gaping wound, but not in the ‘collapse from how heavy Derek’s awesome bod is’ way; more in the ‘supper om nom werewolf guts’ way. Its mouth is at the bottom of the wound and it is rubbing its face against Derek’s abs, thick blood coating the side of its face.
Allison grabs her bow and arrow from the back seat and is out of the vehicle before Stiles can really process the movement. The bonus of crashing into the barrier is that they’re already as close as possible, but they’re still a good fifty yards away and her first arrow doesn’t even reach.
Jesus Christ, Stiles thinks sickly. He understands the urge to lick Derek’s abs, but gross.
He’s not sure he’s going to be able to have that fantasy again any time soon.
“Redcap,” he mutters, clamoring out of the SUV.
“What?” Scott asks.
“Redcap. Kind of fae that eats travellers. Their power is in their red caps, which are coated in the blood of their victims and can’t go dry or else they die.”
Allison snorts, nocking another arrow. “And to think Lydia was right when she claimed a girl’s greatest secret weapon was her hairdryer.”
And that right there? That’s why Stiles secretly hopes Scott and Allison will be together forever, because he needs to be friends with that level of snarky baddassery.
“What else?” Allison asks. “Iron against the fae, right?”
Stiles scrambles to remember what he’s learned from nights of following Wikipedia links and Supernatural marathons. And also the bestiary. The bestiary helps. “Iron makes them stronger, enrages them or something. Silver, though. I think silver.”
“Silver I can do,” Allison answers with a frighteningly humourless smile that is encroaching on Argent bloodthirsty psychosis (trademarked by dead Argents). She throws her bow and arrow aside, grabbing a handgun.
It’s still not enough to reach Derek.
Stiles can see the way the barrier affects the bullets, and he’s quickly calculating velocity from what he can see with his bare eyes.
And he knows what he has to do. Saving Derek is up to him because saving Derek is always up to him.
“I’m going to get you out of this, Derek,” Stiles promises, using the open passenger door and window frame to climb onto the top of the SUV. He’s not sure if Derek can even hear him, but oh Jesus if he can... if he’s aware... Stiles can’t even think about it. “Scott, pass me the long range rifle.”
“That’s not going to work, Stiles!” Allison shouts. “That thing is my dad’s baby and even he couldn’t make the shot.”
“Scott!” Stiles prompts, reminding his best friend of the urgency as he hesitates between Stiles and Allison.
“Fine, but if you break it, you face him.” Allison sounds like she’s already resigned to the fact that Derek is about to die in front of them as the main course in an all you can eat buffet. Later, Stiles will consider the irony, but for now he is completely unimpressed, mostly because Derek can’t die. He’s like immortal or something, all the times he’s cheated death. A redcap isn’t going to change that.
Not if Stiles can help it. He kind of needs Derek to live if he’s going to be able to make good on his resolution to climb him like a tree on his eighteenth birthday.
“Bless your goddamn family and their silver obsession,” Stiles crows taking out the bullets Chris Argent packed with the rifle. The rifle itself is gorgeous; Stiles had noticed it the first time he was in the back of the SUV and his fingers had itched to touch it. Now, he doesn’t have time to do more than run his hands over it as he sets up, keeping everything as level as possible. There are so many ways this could go wrong. It’s an unfamiliar gun with custom bullets, so even without the magical barrier or the supernatural beastie he has to hit, there is still a chance that he will miss.
Stiles ignores that, mind already calculating the slight breeze in the air, the weight of Argent’s bullets, the magical barrier. His breathing is calming, but his palms sweat with the possibility of hitting Derek. He’s never aimed for a living target before, especially not one with someone he cared about in such close proximity, and can’t say for sure that Argent hadn’t figured out a way to incorporate wolfsbane into these bullets too.
He can only deal with one thing at a time.
His heart rate slows as he concentrates on breathing.
Stiles squeezes the trigger between beats.
The bullet slams into the redcap’s chest, propelling him away from Derek by mere inches. Stiles already has the old shell ejected and is slamming the new bullet into place with an eerie calm. He can see Derek staring at him through the scope, eyes fluttering in confusion.
His aim is flawless.
“Holy shit,” Allison breathes.
Scott is too speechless to say anything.
Stiles jumps to his feet on top of the SUV, his feet creaking ominously against the thin metal sheet of the roof. “YES!” he crows, pumping his fist into the air. “Take that Hawkeye!”
(Derek is okay)
(Stiles draws a line at shooting anyone human, but he becomes really good at taking out engines in moving vehicles, tipping over witches’ cauldrons, and occasionally being the badass the group needs)
(Stiles kisses Allison five months later beneath some mistletoe. She slaps him. Scott laughs because he’s the best worst friend ever)
(Stiles doesn’t get to climb Derek like a tree on his eighteenth birthday because Derek wakes him up a few minutes after midnight to prove that birthday blowjobs are apparently a thing)
(And sometimes lines are crossed)