Author: Jilly James
Fandom: Teen Wolf
Genre: A little crack, some fantasy, a lot of super!Stiles.
Relationship(s): Noah/Claudia, pre Derek/Stiles
Content Rating: Teen
Warnings: Vague mentions of violence and murder. Deaton bashing (sorta). Deaton death.
Author Notes: I did everything in this fic that you shouldn’t do. It’s 95% tell and 5% show, but I’m handwaving that away under the banner of “crack.” Noah’s name was originally John in this story, but I finally adapted to “Noah,” and so it’s been changed.
Inspiration: All In by myredturtle. It’s an awesome story, and I was inspired by a bit of her world-building. My plot bunny had turtles and somehow crack was the result. Highlight the following if you want to know the inspiration element, but if you haven’t read All In, don’t do the spoiler!! It’s a great story and you should let yourself be surprised. Spoiler: Claudia is a tree. Headcanon accepted. I went a different direction in that Claudia is not an old tree.
Beta: Thank you to Naelany. (And she says, “Azure rule!” Azure is the crack purveyor in my life and a terrible influence…)
Word Count: ~6,200
Summary: Stiles is three when the forest starts to call him. Noah has to figure out how to deal.
– – – –
Noah Stilinski considered himself a patient man. A patient and adaptable man. Perhaps it hadn’t always been so but then he’d had a Stiles. Adapt or die. Or maybe just go crazy.
When Stiles was shy of his fourth birthday—back before he’d picked his own moniker and “Little Mischief” was both a nickname and an unfortunate occurrence—he’d wandered into the forest when Claudia’s back was turned because he’d said the trees had called to him.
With the judicious use of puppy dog eyes and crocodile tears, he’d somehow convinced the owner of The BBQ Smokehouse not to cut down any of a particular grove of oak trees. By the time Claudia caught up with their errant toddler, Mr. Barnes was long gone, chopping wood elsewhere, and a group of ancient dryads were cooing over the youngest Stilinski, who had already mastered the faux-innocent look in the face of his mother’s panic.
That was how Noah and Claudia had learned of the supernatural. Stiles and a grove of dryads.
The elder dryad had been pleased to tell them that the forest had adopted Mischief as its guardian. Three-year-old Stiles was responsible for a forest including all the beings of myth and legend within.
As any responsible parents would, they’d tried to figure out how to get Stiles out of the job, but no dice. It seemed that once the forest chose you, there was no unchoosing. They’d been worried enough that they’d considered moving out of Beacon County, but the dryad had said that Stiles would attract the supernatural to him no matter where he went, and they’d best learn to deal with it. But she hadn’t explained why. Noah had asked. Repeatedly. In response, she’d vanished into a tree.
Barely a few months later, Stiles had listened to the call of the forest again and found a couple of newborn puppies distressed and by themselves. By that point, they were used to their Mischief slipping away when the forest called—mostly to commune with the trees. They tried to never let him go alone, but he had an uncanny knack for sneaking off. Claudia had met up with Stiles on the path back to the house, and he had the two puppies in his arms. Two hellhound puppies as it turned out.
They would later learn that a warlock had summoned a hellhound for a sacrificial ritual and had inadvertently summoned a pregnant hellhound. Which turned out to be Gwyn ap Nudd’s personal pet. The summoning had sent the hound into labor and, in the post-birth chaos, two of her eight pups had rolled down an incline. The forest had summoned Stiles to their aid. Or perhaps to its own aid. It was hard to tell with those things.
While the Cŵn Annwn weren’t known for being unduly destructive, they could be. And a distressed pup could easily start a fire.
Noah and Claudia had been skeptical about the odd-looking puppies but had let Stiles tend to them for a couple of days. Then mama hellhound and Gwyn ap Nudd himself had shown up in their house. Noah nearly had an aneurysm. Claudia, in a show of remarkable sangfroid, had offered the King of Annwn a beer.
Stiles had cried over losing the puppies, but the King of the Otherworld had promised they would visit. Noah had been stunned silent at the time and only later thought to wonder if it meant the puppies would visit Stiles or the Stilinskis would visit Annwn.
To Noah’s frequent dismay, there had indeed been visitors, but he’d relaxed about it because at least the family wasn’t being hauled off to the Otherworld. Sometimes, just the mama and the entire litter of eight puppies popped in unexpectedly but, other times, Gwyn ap Nudd came as well. He liked the IPA Claudia stocked.
Noah had figured something was going on because mythical kings didn’t visit mortals for beer, but he learned to go with the flow or risk needing blood pressure medication.
Stiles was always sad after the visits, as if he were losing his best friends, though the distress lessened over time. They’d considered getting him a dog but, realistically, no conventional pet was ever going to satisfy Stiles once he’d had eight hellhounds.
For a couple of years, there were a lot of minor instances with Stiles helping a wounded fairy or asking Claudia to help him get a mermaid back to her cove, but the next major incident was when Stiles was six. Something called the nemeton, a huge fucking tree, moved itself into their backyard. It had just strolled up and planted itself by the dahlias.
How were they supposed to explain a tree that big appearing in their backyard? It was bigger than any grand sequoia Noah had ever heard of. Noah spent an inordinate amount of time playing dumb.
“Has that tree always been there, Deputy?”
To which he’d look confused and say, “Yes, of course,” in a dry tone, like how could they have possibly missed it? People had doubted their own perceptions and memory rather than think a three-hundred-foot tree had moved itself out of the forest.
Stiles had been delighted by their new backyard visitor. After some hands-on-time, he’d relayed that the tree wanted Stiles to be its guardian. It had asked its mother—the tree’s mother—for permission, and she’d approved of Stiles. Six-year-old Stiles.
As if all that wasn’t alarming enough, the mama tree in question turned out to be Yggdrasil. And when Yggdrasil’s children took a guardian, the damn Norns came to meet them.
Noah had come home from work one day to find his family having lunch in the backyard under the shade of one of Yggdrasil’s children while listening to tales from the Norns. Stiles’ nemeton was apparently a rather young child as these things went, and people were overly invested in it for some reason. It was Yggdrasil’s youngest according to the Norns. And it was a boy. Something the nemeton conveyed to Stiles along with the fact that nemetons came in four genders. Noah hadn’t even attempted to understand any of their conversation about tree parentage and biology.
Aside from being epically confused over the confluence of Norse and Welsh mythology going on in his life, Noah had wanted to know what a tree guardian actually did. Because that had seemed like the important part, not tree procreation.
The Norns had been annoyingly vague when they said, “Nothing yet.”
Despite that assurance, the three-hundred-foot baby tree had sent an image of a man who’d been doing dark rituals in his space with the aim to poison and murder the tree in a bid for some sort of power. The tree had been scared and went to find the forest guardian. The giant magic tree had sought out Noah’s short, scrawny, six-year-old bundle of mischief for protection. If things hadn’t already been crazy, they’d lost all semblance of sense at that point.
Fortunately, Noah recognized the face the tree had sent to them mentally. It was the town vet, Dr. Deaton. He’d decided to try to handle the matter through legal channels.
His investigation hadn’t gotten far. As a deputy, he had little reason to be all up in Deaton’s business. And he hadn’t gotten anywhere pursuing the matter as a private citizen.
A couple of days after Noah had mentally thrown in the towel on pinning anything on Deaton, resolving to keep an eye on him, several druids came to Beacon Hills. Apparently, when Gwyn ap Nudd personally asked you to go somewhere, you went. Posthaste. All the way from England.
Deaton disappeared. The head of the conclave later told him that Deaton was over a thousand years old and had planned to sacrifice the baby nemeton to help him stay young and powerful. The druids had performed a cleansing, purging him of dark magic. His body had failed without the hundreds of years of dark ritual to sustain it. They’d scattered Deaton’s ashes outside of Beacon County.
It left the town without a vet, but that was a minor nuisance.
The sheriff then announced his intention to retire and encouraged Noah to run for the post. Noah hadn’t been sure he could handle the supernatural insanity that was his home life and be the town sheriff. But, ultimately, he’d agreed. It wound up being easier to juggle the supernatural when he had some real autonomy on the job, not to mention the power to direct official inquiries away from the inexplicable crazy that followed his family around.
Shortly after he’d been elected sheriff, when Stiles was seven and now firmly Stiles, Noah stopped having a problem with the supernatural taking over their lives.
Two men had tried to take Stiles right off the street. Had planned to hurt and kill Noah’s baby boy. Scared, Stiles had called for his puppies, and all eight adolescent hellhounds and their mother had come to his aid.
When Noah had arrived on scene, it was to a bloodbath of scattered body parts. Stiles had been talking softly to a crying boy who Stiles had gotten out of the trunk. Noah had held both boys and tried not to cry himself.
To the public, it remained one of the odder mysteries in Beacon Hills’ history—the coroner ruled it a clear animal attack, but everyone wondered why the group of “cougars” hadn’t gone after Stiles. Noah eventually let the supposed mystery go cold, but he stopped having heart palpitations every time a tree acted weird or when he found the King of the Otherworld in his living room drinking beer. The supernatural had saved his son. He was fine with it.
Shortly after that, Noah had another reason to be grateful that Stiles had heeded the call of the forest the day the dryads’ grove had been in jeopardy. The nemeton started being weird about Claudia. Somehow, Stiles had known this meant his mother was very sick. Scared and worried, he had begun to cry. Deep, sad, mournful sobs.
It had started to rain just as members of the supernatural community had begun to pop into his yard and living room. If Noah hadn’t been so focused on something being wrong with his beloved wife, his adaptability would have been challenged by the appearance of Gwyn ap Nudd, Gwyn’s favored Cŵn Annwn and her eight children, a gaggle of dryads, some odd turtle-looking things, and several more trees that didn’t belong in his backyard.
The king had confirmed that Claudia had a rapidly advancing illness in her brain that would kill her within six months. The forest could cure her, but the price would be that she’d be as bound to the territory as Stiles was. In Noah’s mind, being bound to Beacon County was an incidental price.
But then things had changed, as they often did when the supernatural came knocking. The nemeton had produced a single, large, peach blossom. The king’s surprise had easily conveyed that this wasn’t the method of “curing” he’d been proposing. But he’d taken the blossom from the tree and made a liquid for Claudia to drink.
Claudia had fallen into a deep sleep and been lifted from the ground by the nemeton to rest high above their heads in his branches. He’d taken Stiles in his hold too. With his wife and son out of sight, and feeling more than a little overwhelmed, Noah had turned to Gwyn, asking what the hell had happened.
The blossom was provided directly by Yggdrasil. The nemeton had petitioned its mother to help Claudia. The blossom was how Yggdrasil procreated, though the seed it would eventually produce usually went in the ground. By consuming the essence of the flower, Claudia had been adopted by a mythical tree. At the end of her life, she’d need to be placed directly in the earth where she would take root and become another nemeton.
His wife was a tree. He hadn’t been sure what to do with that other than push it out of his mind. His on-going efforts to be chill about things had its limits!
Gwyn had indicated that Yggdrasil had offered to adopt Noah as well so he and Claudia would never be parted. As nice as the sentiment was, he’d asked how that wouldn’t make his wife his sister.
The king had seemed shocked that Noah had gone there. Noah wasn’t sure why it was shocking, but he’d endured an explanation about the shade of the flowers, which would make Noah from a different line. It had still sounded incestuous to him, but he’d put off answering definitively. He’d needed to talk to Claudia. He’d needed time to think. Maybe a lifetime of thinking.
The nemeton had let Gwyn know that he’d hold the seed for whenever Noah wanted it.
Which was such a surreal thought. The enormous tree in Noah’s backyard, to this day, held a seed that would eventually make Noah a tree. So that he could spend the ages with his wife, who would also be a tree.
That day had marked the dryad grove moving into his yard. There were a ridiculous number of trees in his backyard, but they all assured him that they kept their roots away from the foundation and pipes. As if that were his biggest concern.
Claudia had recovered with no obvious problem, but Stiles had been clingy and worried for a few weeks, not wanting his mother out of his sight.
The next supernatural shit show had been when Stiles was ten, and it had been a dragon.
It had landed deep in the forest and let out a bellow, calling for Stiles.
It had been Noah’s day off, so he’d been home for the call. They’d all trooped into the forest to see what needed Stiles’ assistance that time. Noah had felt like an irresponsible parent taking Stiles into the unknown—it was Claudia who usually took him on his treks through the trees—but Gywn and the Norns had assured him that Stiles could never be harmed in the forest. And that if Stiles ever called, no matter where he was, the hellhounds would answer.
So, they’d all gone deep into the Preserve and found an actual dragon. Noah and Claudia had been terrified, but Stiles had marched right up to it and plopped his little butt down in front of the enormous black and green sorta-reptile.
That had been when Noah learned about werewolves. Later, he’d cursed every supernatural being he’d ever met for not mentioning that little fact. Not to mention letting him know that about thirty of them lived in Beacon Hills.
Ten Hales had come tearing through the trees partially shifted. Noah hadn’t been sure which terrified him more—the dragon or the ten clawed, fanged creatures he’d never seen before. The werewolves had come to a screeching halt, staring at Stiles as he nodded at whatever the dragon was telling him.
Peter Hale had tried to get to Stiles to get him away from the dragon, but Noah had intercepted him and told him that it was best not to interfere. Except that Noah had kind of wanted to interfere. He’d wanted to take Stiles out of there right that second. He’d wanted to know what the hell the Hales even were. But he was adaptable, so he trusted his wife and son to deal with the Dragon. Noah kept the Hales back while Stiles did his thing.
It turned out that the dragon had a petition for Claudia, but some mysterious protocol meant they had to make their petition to the forest guardian and not her. The dragons in its homeland had felt a new nemeton spark to life and asked that Claudia consider her planting to be in Australia when the time came. The dragons there were sustaining the magic in the lands, but there was no nemeton on that continent, which they desperately needed. They had humbly asked that Claudia root in the land down under.
It was so absurd and surreal Noah hadn’t wanted to take it seriously. But it was apparently very serious.
Stiles had relayed the request to his mother who had told the dragon she would consider it and, if she accepted, would make the arrangements to be enacted upon her death. The whole conversation had left Noah upset and unsettled.
The dragon had left, leaving them with a gaggle of Hales.
In the same day, he’d had to deal with a dragon in the forest, a request for his wife’s planting, and werewolves.
He’d felt like he didn’t get paid nearly enough.
From then on, it was all Hales, all the time. It was rare that he’d come home and not find a Hale or five at his house. Something about being around Stiles or the nemeton allowed them to more easily master something called a full shift, so having a yard full of actual wolves wasn’t uncommon.
Then the Asgardians came. Frigga, to be more precise, accompanied by an enormous man named Heimdall. Yggdrasil had only ever granted each realm five of her children. The Great Tree of Life producing two new seeds for Midgard had been noteworthy.
When Frigga met Stiles, she’d blinked a few times and then said, “Ah.” No additional explanation had been forthcoming.
A case of Gwyn’s IPA had been consumed before the duo left with Frigga’s parting comment being, “Heimdall will be watching.”
Noah hadn’t had any idea what that even meant but, considering the players, he hadn’t wanted to have sex ever again. But, like a typical man, he got over his aversion to peeping gods pretty quickly.
Noah and Claudia had to learn to be adaptable, but nothing ever seemed to faze their son. No matter how many times he got pulled to the forest or how many new types of creatures he met, Stiles never seemed perturbed by any of it. He never seemed thrown the way Noah was.
So, it was noteworthy that when Stiles was eleven, he shook them awake in the middle of the night and demanded that he be driven to the Hale home. Questions weren’t even asked until they were in his cruiser, speeding toward the heart of the Preserve. To those questions, Stiles had just replied that something was wrong with Derek.
Of course it was the middle Hale. Despite being four years older than Stiles, Derek was the one who got along best with him. While Stiles and Cora were nearly the same age, they tended to squabble even if it the squabbling was fairly friendly. Laura and Mark were older and barely tolerated any of the kids. Logan had still been a toddler when the Hales had come into their life.
Noah had been pretty certain that Stiles would go running off to help any of the Hales, but it being Derek explained his kid’s urgency.
When they’d arrived, Stiles had skipped the Hale house entirely and run off into the woods. Noah and Claudia had followed immediately and were shortly joined by Peter and Steven Hale, the alpha’s brother and mate respectively.
The werewolves had caught the scent within five minutes and confirmed they were on Derek’s trail. Steven had grabbed Stiles and taken off at speed, leaving Peter to guide Claudia and Noah as he assured them that the only scents were of Derek and his girlfriend, Paige. That didn’t mean Noah didn’t worry about whatever danger had summoned Stiles. It helped that there were hellhounds on standby.
They’d found Derek and Paige by a tree. Derek had been holding Paige, sobbing into her shoulder even as her body spasmed and twisted. Black gunk had oozed from her mouth and nose. Peter had quietly explained that an alpha from another pack had to have bitten Paige. She was rejecting the bite and would die in terrible agony.
Steven had been trying to talk to Derek as he did his best to hold both teenagers, but nothing was getting through to either kid.
Noah had thought to pull Stiles back, but then his son had knelt down by Paige and put a hand on her bloody shoulder, earning a bit of a low growl from Derek. Stiles had ignored him and closed his eyes even as he pressed his other hand to the ground. A few seconds later, deep black lines had pulsed up Stiles arm. If the moon hadn’t been so bright, Noah wouldn’t have been able to see the inky black lines appear on the other arm and travel down until they seemed to vanish into the earth. A black flower had formed that Stiles had pulled from the Earth, careful of the roots.
Everything had become confusing from that point. All Noah had known was that Paige seemed to be sleeping and Stiles had collapsed after passing the flower to Claudia. The werewolves hadn’t answered any of his urgent demands for off answers. After a few seconds, it was clear that they weren’t answering because they didn’t know.
Everyone had bunked down at the Hale house, and Claudia had softly explained to him that Stiles had saved Paige with his magic.
His kid was magic. Magic.
When had Noah missed a meeting?
Claudia had just patted his arm and told him to get some sleep. He’d reminded himself that he was adaptable.
There had been a lot of conversations the next morning, and everyone who knew about Stiles’ involvement in saving Paige was sworn to secrecy. Stiles had sadly told Derek and Paige that the price of his magic was that even with night-blooming wolfsbane, Paige would never be able to be a werewolf. Derek had just been thrilled she was alive, but Paige had seemed sad.
The flower had come up and Stiles had presented it to Talia. He’d explained that he hadn’t wanted to leave the poison in the Earth, so he’d asked for the flower. It was poisonous to just about any creature, and Stiles had suggested the Hales plant it and tend to it. Just in case.
As they’d been driving home, Stiles had been lost in thought for a long time then finally whispered, “Derek loves Paige, but she won’t stay with him. She’s too sad that they’re different.” Then he’d met Noah’s gaze in the rearview mirror. “It’s okay to be different, right, Dad?”
“Of course, Mischief. Look at your mom and me. I’m a sheriff and she’s a tree.”
Stiles’ giggles had tempered Claudia’s indignant huff.
True to Stiles’ prediction, Paige had broken up with Derek within the month. Noah had to endure about three months of Stiles’ increasingly insane ways of trying to make Derek laugh. Derek was a fixture at their house, and Stiles’ shenanigans resulted in more than one call to a handyman.
One day, as Derek’s post-breakup blues neared their end, Stiles had shown up at the station, practically dragging a reluctant Derek behind him. Derek had seemed to have regressed to quiet and mulish when he’d just been coming out of his shell.
Noah had ushered the kids into his office and waited patiently while they communicated with eyebrows and headshakes.
Stiles had finally ordered Derek to, “Spill it!”
Derek had just crossed his arms and stared at his lap.
With an annoyed growl that was way too werewolfy for Noah’s comfort, Stiles had said, “One of his teachers is perving on him! And she’s old, Dad! Like twenty-six or something. I Googled her, and I don’t think she even exists! Not under that name.”
For once there was a Stiles situation that was actually something Noah could help with. He’d shooed his kid off to harass his deputies while Noah had gotten the story out of Derek.
By Derek’s account, Ms. Aconodes had passed questionable behavior and gone straight to criminal. Derek hadn’t wanted his mom to find out as he felt ashamed of his physical reactions to her advances. Noah had reassured Derek about him being normal and not at fault as he’d carefully drawn out more details of what she’d said and done. The woman was a master at gaslighting and subtle manipulation. She was so good at it, and considering her focus on Derek, Noah didn’t think this was her first time.
He’d informed Derek of how he planned to proceed. Derek only needed to get through one more day of school with her before the weekend, and Derek had felt confident he could avoid her. Noah had been hesitant about him being exposed to her for even one more day, but if this teacher was a serial sex offender, Noah needed information before she got spooked and tried to vanish.
He’d worked the whole weekend. Claudia had come in and helped. Stiles and Derek had haunted the station, and there was some masterful trolling of Noah’s deputies in Stiles’ ongoing efforts to keep Derek distracted.
Noah had found five other identities this woman had used in the last five years. In every town she worked in, a family had died by “accidental” fire.
Horrified, Derek had explained about hunter families. To Noah, it all sounded like Klan and neo-Nazis. Except the hunters’ victim pool couldn’t say anything and couldn’t count on the police because of fear of discovery.
Derek called them hunters. Noah called them serial killers.
He’d arrested the woman, who he’d found to be Katherine Argent, on Monday morning on her way into the school. The FBI had taken over the case after Noah linked her to the murders of hundreds.
The unfortunate consequence of Kate Argent’s arrest was that more Argents took it as an invitation to come to Noah’s town. Including Kate’s fucked up father, Gerard.
Gerard had tried to strong-arm Noah into losing evidence against his daughter. He’d threatened Stiles and Claudia. He’d implied that hunters were watching his family at that very moment.
It was hard to say who was more surprised, him or Gerard, when Ffion, the mama hellhound herself, had shown up, tackled Gerard, and then disappeared with him. Noah would have to live with the mystery about which of them was more surprised because Gerard was never seen again.
Noah was adaptable. People disappearing via hellhound to mythical realms didn’t faze him at all. The hunters watching his house, however, did. He’d never enjoyed arresting people quite so much.
Things were calm for a few years. Or as calm as they ever were since Stiles met the dryads. Mythical creatures showed up on the regular to talk to Stiles, and it had become routine.
In purely human matters, when Stiles was thirteen, Claudia gave birth to their daughter, Gwyneth Johanna. Proof that Noah had gotten over his sex hang-up about Heimdall watching. Gwyn ap Nudd had been inordinately touched by his namesake and goddaughter and had gifted her with the vengeance of her choice once she was of age.
Noah thought deities were strange, but he didn’t envy any dickhead who tried to hurt his baby girl. He’d asked what effect Claudia being a someday-tree would have on Gwyneth, but no one had seemed certain, though speculation was rife. Turned out that Gwyneth might not be purely human.
He may have had a meltdown or two when he’d discovered that Claudia was letting Gwyn babysit on occasion while she worked to schedule mediations Stiles had to preside over. Because that had become a thing. Stiles turned thirteen and had to start mediating supernatural disputes. Claudia and Peter kept the calendar, the Hales acted as an honor guard of some sort—with Derek being a particularly growly guard—and Noah tried to keep peace in his county and still have plenty of time with his family.
The next three years were relatively calm save for way too many stories from Stiles starting with, “There was this thing. With a tree…?”
If Noah hadn’t been so happy, he’d have probably been drinking. Because trees did things. So many things. Not all trees, of course, but from some there was touching and moving and even hugging. Even after years of weird, Noah would still get flustered over being hugged by a tree. Trees approaching him in that way wasn’t usually an issue, but there had been this one willow… Claudia may have yelled at the tree and made threats about an ax and kindling. She’d then forbade him from ever sitting in the shade of that “shameless hussy.”
Noah tried really hard not to think about it.
His Zen was tested briefly when Stiles turned sixteen. He’d been informed that his son and Derek were now dating. Noah had been unimpressed. Even though there was only four years’ difference in their ages, Derek was still an adult, and Stiles was a…Stiles.
Stiles had rolled his eyes at Noah’s indignation. “It’ll be platonic until I’m eighteen, Pops! I have to be chaste to bond to the Earth when my magic is fully settled.”
Who knew he’d one day be grateful for Stiles’ brand of crazy? He wouldn’t have to worry about anyone trying to get into his kid’s pants before he was an adult. Not that Noah didn’t feel Derek was trustworthy, he just wasn’t so sure about Stiles! Though he’d eventually had to throw a dictionary at his son and tell him to look up the definition of platonic. Beard burn was too frequently a thing for platonic to be an actual factor in their relationship. Still, the unicorns kept showing up in the backyard, so Noah didn’t worry too much.
Aliens invading Earth should have upset him more than it did, but he was so used to crazy by that point that he shrugged it off. It wasn’t that he hadn’t been upset by the death and devastation, but the whole thing had been over fairly quickly, and it had never gotten out of New York. He’d thanked whatever mythical beings existed for the Avengers and went on about the business of life. He had a Stiles to manage, after all, and the clock was ticking on Stiles’ magical maturation and future sexual shenanigans that would no doubt drive Noah out of his own house.
But Noah should have known things wouldn’t go exactly to plan. Stiles had always been impatient, so it was no great surprise that his magic settled fully before anyone expected. Claudia and Talia had estimated that his maturation would be closer to age nineteen, but Stiles took off for the forest one day nearly six months shy of his eighteenth birthday. Claudia later speculated that something about the invasion by the Chitauri had accelerated the whole process.
They’d all been alarmed when they’d realized the nemeton was missing. Claudia and he had arrived around the same time as the Hales to find all five of Earth’s nemetons in a clearing with Stiles. Stiles had later informed them that his magic had settled when all the nemetons were in the same place and they’d summoned him.
Another thing Noah didn’t dwell on was how four giant trees moved around the world without anyone noticing. He just wanted their nemeton to get back in the yard before the neighbors all needed to be committed.
Stiles had ultimately spent a week in the forest. Claudia had felt compelled to stay with him—probably something to do with being a once and future tree—so Noah had taken Gwyneth back to the house and put in for some emergency leave. Derek took a week off school and sat in the forest, waiting. The other Hales rotated in and out, helping manage the flood of magical creatures dropping by to pay their respects and witness the gathering of the nemetons.
Noah hadn’t been sure what they’d been paying their respects for but, as with many things, he tried not to dwell on it. He’d been happy when his family made it back home without anyone being excessively treelike. He didn’t even bother to ask how the other nemetons were getting home, he was just glad a coven had been willing to cast a glamor on the house to make it look like their nemeton had never left.
There had been a lot of crazy over the years, and Noah Stilinski was a calm, patient, adaptable man who could deal. No matter what his wife thought. He could handle hugging trees and wandering nemetons and visiting goddesses and gods.
But he was surprisingly not okay with this caped dude who called himself the Sorcerer Supreme standing on his doorstep asking for the Earth Guardian.
“There’s nothing here that you might be looking for,” Noah insisted, refusing to open the door all the way, cutting off Dr. Strange yet again. The guy was determined.
Tony Stark, of all damn people, stepped into view. “Look, if Stranger Danger here says the person he seeks is within, I kind of believe him. He knows all about this mystical shit.”
Steve Rogers stepped up next to Stark. “We apologize for the intrusion, sir, but the matter is quite urgent. If you could let us know if there’s anyone, uh, magical inside…” he trailed off, looking uncomfortable.
“There is,” Strange insisted. “I can feel them.”
Iron Man and Captain America were on his porch. His life had taken one too many left turns. “I’d like to thank you both for your actions in New York. You saved a lot of people. I know we’re all very grateful.” Both superheroes shifted a bit, looking uncomfortable. “That said, the only guardian we have is a forest guardian. You’ll have to go elsewhere for something with broader scope.”
“Actually, dear,” Claudia said, sticking her head over his shoulder, “that’s not really true.”
“Oh, what now?” he asked with a note of dismay. It seemed like he was always the last to know.
“The forest was like training wheels. That’s what the magic settling was about. Stiles bonded with the Earth.”
“I hope by ‘earth’ you mean dirt!”
“No, dearest. The planet.”
When Noah finally managed to pick his jaw off the floor, he exploded. “How come no one tells me these things?!”
“Honey, you overreact a bit.”
“I do not. I’m completely mellow and accepting of all the crazy.”
“And adaptable,” she said dryly.
“Yes! Very adaptable.” Before she could say anything else, he looked back to the visitors on the porch. “What is it that you want?”
“Your— is it your son?” Strange asked carefully.
“Yes,” Noah snapped.
“My job is to protect the Earth from threats from other dimensions, but the Earth itself, physically, is under the dominion of its guardian. That gives him certain powers over what happens.”
“What Stranger Danger is trying to say is that we need him to deny some intergalactic warlord the right to come to Earth. It won’t actually stop him from coming but these old books in Danger’s Den of Dust indicate that if the planet’s guardian denies them the right to set foot on her surface, it’ll diminish his personal power and negate some of the energy in this mega weapon he’s been collecting. And we really need the edge. We have the whole petition thing ready because the book said there were protocols involved.”
The door slipping out of his grasp was pretty symbolic about how Noah felt about his control over the situation.
Stiles stepped up next to him with four-year-old Gwyneth in his arms. “Sure, I’ll grant your petition. Come in and sit. It’ll be a few minutes.”
“You’re the guardian?” Strange asked, expression blank.
“Son, we’re rather pressed for time,” Rogers began.
Stiles snorted. “Yeah, well, so am I. Gwynnie just grew a corpse flower in the backyard and it’s starting to bloom. Damn thing is at least ten feet tall and it’s already making a powerful stink. Be right back.” He passed Gwyneth to Claudia then jogged up the stairs.
“Oh, Gwynnie.” Claudia sighed and ruffled Gwyn’s hair then plopped her in Noah’s arms. “You, young lady, have way too much of your godfather in you.”
Gwyneth just laughed and it sounded kind of evil to Noah’s ear. Then his little girl launched herself out of his arms and straight at Tony Stark, who caught her with an alarmed expression on his face.
“Might as well come on in,” Noah said wearily, stepping aside.
Claudia set out a bunch of beers for everyone. “We shouldn’t be too long. It can take me a while to persuade plants to move, but they do it pretty quickly for Stiles.”
“He persuades plants to move?” Rogers asked, sounding incredulous.
“The Earth Guardian has very broad powers,” Strange replied vaguely.
“Hon,” Noah said lowly as he caught Claudia’s arm. “Really, I need to know when someone gives our kid the entire planet.”
She patted his chest. “Next time, dear, I promise. Now, go keep the gentlemen company while we persuade that flower to move into the forest.” She glanced at the Avengers. “Dr. Strange, can I take your cape?”
“No, that’s all—”
Stiles made a noisy reappearance when he jumped the last four steps. “Dude. It’s like you’ve never watched a movie. No capes!”
– – – –
“No capes!” is from The Incredibles.