- Alternate Universe
The next day Tony went for a walk in the woods around the sanctuary. He did so most days. It was relaxing and a good way to clear his mind. He was about two miles from the house when he heard someone yelling for help. He opened up his empathy, and he could feel fear and anger coming from someone nearby. Tony ran toward the person in danger. The person had fallen silent, but their emotions were easy for Tony to follow.
He entered a large clearing with a large tree in the center and stopped for a moment to take in the situation. His gaze immediately fell on a young man in a red hoody sitting on the floor with a large German shepherd standing in front of him protectively and growling and a mountain lion of all things. The lion was standing before them silently watching them both intently.
Then he made a short strange sound that sounded like a cross between a roar and a growl. Before Tony could react, the mountain lion lunged for the boy, and the dog jumped in the way and lunged itself at the lion. The lion swatted the dog out of the way like it was a toy or something.
“Sarge, no!” the boy called out. The dog whimpered, but he managed to get back up, and he made his way over to the boy who hugged the dog tightly. “It’s okay boy,” he said.
Tony concentrated on the mountain lion. “That’s enough,” he called out and he reached out with his empathy touching the lion’s mind. “We are not a threat. Calm down.” Tony spoke quietly.
He pushed a deep sense of calm into the lion’s mind. Just like he’d seen Peter do. A lot of people didn’t know the technique could be used on animals as well as people. He’d only practiced this with Peter once so far, so he hoped he was doing it right. The lion stopped growling and stared at Tony. “That’s it,” Tony said softly. “Everything is fine.”
The lion let out a purr as he lay down in front of Tony, swishing his tail lazily. Tony pushing out a little calmer until he was sure the lion was asleep. He looked toward the boy to find already sitting next to his dog. Tony walked over and bend down to check both of them over.
The boy looked unhurt, although he was clearly shaken. “Are you alright?” Tony asked him.
“Yeah, but I think I twisted my ankle when I fell. It hurts.” Stiles winced.
Tony examined the ankle as gently as he could. “Well, I don’t think it’s broken, but it is swelling already. It looks like a sprain.”
“Otherwise, I’m okay. I think Sarge is okay too. I don’t see any blood, and nothing feels broken. But I’ll get his vet to check him out.”
“We’ll make sure he gets to the vet as soon as we get you checked out.”
Stiles nodded and tied to get up before Tony could stop him. He winced and sat down again.
“I don’t think you should try to walk on that ankle without help. I’m glad Sarge is okay. That’s a brave dog. By the way, my name is Tony. What’s yours?
“I’m Stiles. Thanks for helping us.”
Tony grinned. “Of course, I’m glad I could help. I’m still new at this how empathy thing.” Tony reached for his phone and realized he’d left it up at the house.
Stiles snorted, “Empathy thing?” he asked.
“Yeah, I only came online a couple of months ago, so I’m still learning to use my empathy Peter Hale is training me.”
“Yeah, I know Peter. I’m good friends with his niece Cora.
“I don’t have my phone on me. Do you have yours? We can call for help.”
Stiles stopped petting Sarge long enough to check his pocket and coming up empty. “I think I dropped it,” he said.
He stood and started looking around. Tony helped him, and in a few minutes, Tony found it and held it out to Stiles. Stile frowned at the cracked screen. He pressed a few of the buttons. “It’s dead. I must have dropped it.”
“Okay, I can walk back and get some help. If I call out, one of the sentinels on the property will hear me pretty quickly.”
Stiles grinned. “Can’t you just contact Peter mentally or something?”
“No, Tony said with a chuckle. “Though that would be pretty cool.”
“I’ve heard shamans can do stuff like that.”
“Yeah, but I’m no shaman. I just have higher than average empathy.
Stiles nodded. “That’s too bad. A shaman would come in handy right now. I’ve always thought sentinels get the better superpowers, but I guess your trick with the lion was pretty cool anyway.” Stiles grinned at him, and there was mischief in that smile.
“Thanks,” Tony said dryly. But he was still smiling. He knew he was being teased, and he really liked this kid. “Okay, I’m going to head back and get some help. I won’t have to go far before someone hears me, I’m sure.”
Stiles looked around as if searching for something. “Someone might be on their way already. It’s possible one of the sentinels at the retreat. heard me yelling for help.”
“Yeah, but we can’t be sure, Talia Hale is still away, and there are always white noise generators running. I don’t want to wait and see.”
“Okay, Sarge and I aren’t going anywhere,” Stiles agreed with a shrug.
“I’ll be back as soon as I can,” Tony promised.
Tony turned back toward the house, but before he could leave, two people came crashing through the woods. Tony recognized Laura and Derek. Tony grinned when he saw that Derek’s hair was indeed blond. The fact that his eyebrows and stubble where dark made his hair look even funnier.
“I told you I heard Stiles and Tony,” Laura told Derek. “Oh, ye of little faith.”
Then she saw the lion, and her eyes went wide. “What the hell? Is that lion sleeping?”
Stiles looked over at them and burst out laughing. “Derek, dude, what happened to your hair?”
Lion momentarily forgotten, Derek glared at his sister. “It’s her fault,” he said, pointing at Laura.
Laura grinned. “Oh, stop it Derek. It was just a prank. Get over it. Though it was a good one if I do say so myself.
Then she focused on Stiles, and her expression grew concerned. “Are you okay, Stiles?” She sniffed the air. “You smell like pain?”
He does?” Derek frowned fiercely. “Are you hurt?” he asked Stiles. He took a couple of steps forward and then seemed to think better of it because he stopped, but he was still looking at Stiles intently.
“The mountain lion tried to eat me,” Stiles said. He preceded to tell them the whole story animatedly. He moved his arms around as he talked. “I thought I was going to die!” he added.
Laura raised an eyebrow and looked at Tony. “I’m impressed. Okay, Stiles, we’re going to get you to the hospital so you can get your ankle looked at. Do you think if Derek helps you can walk? There’s side road about a quarter-mile from here. I can have someone meet us there with a car.”
Stiles nodded. “Yeah, I think so. I should have thought of that.”
Laura smiled at him. “Good, then let’s go.”
Tony nodded. “We’ll stop as often as you need, okay?”
“Yeah, let’s go.” Derek and Tony helped Stiles up, and Derek supported him as he limped along.
Half an hour later, Tony was sitting with Stiles in the E.R. waiting room. The nurses hadn’t let him back yet, but the nurse promised Stiles was next. Tony had been surprised when Stiles had asked me to stay, but he’d been happy to stay with him until his father arrived.
Stiles had sent Derek to the vet with Sarge. Derek hadn’t looked pleased to be asked, but Tony suspected there weren’t many people Stiles trusted with his dog. Once Stiles had turned his puppy dog eyes on him Derek had quickly agreed. Stiles had been idly flipping through a magazine, but now he was sitting still staring off into space. He looked a little pale.
“Stiles, you okay?” Tony asked him concerned.
Stiles nodded, but his breath hitched, and he wiped his palms on his jeans.
“What’s wrong, Stiles?” Tony put his hand on Stiles’s shoulder.
Stiles shook his head and took a shallow breath and then another.
Suddenly Stiles stood up and started pacing. “I almost died. Sarge could have died too.” Stiles said, speaking quickly. “I almost died,” he repeated. “If you hadn’t come along when you did.”
Tony stayed in his seat. Something told him not to crowd Stiles. “It must have been terrifying. I was scared when I saw the mountain lion too. But you’re okay now, and so is Sarge. It’s okay,” Tony said gently, trying to soothe Stiles. But Stiles didn’t seem to be listening.
His breath quickened even more as Tony watched him in growing concern. He seemed to be having trouble breathing. Was he hurt after all? And Tony reached out with his empathy and realized that Stiles was having a panic attack. Stiles’s eyes were closed now, and Tony noticed that his hands were closed into fists. He should have seen it sooner.
“Are you okay? I can feel that you’re having a panic attack. Do they happen a lot?”
Stiles nodded. “Not as often as they used to, but I’ve had them since I was a kid. Usually, I can control them, but my coping technique isn’t working. I can’t make it stop.” Stiles gasped again.
“I help you calm down. Would that be okay?”
“Yes, Stiles said. “Thank you.” His breathing was still way too shallow.
“Okay, I’m going to open up my empathy and help you relax, okay?”
Tony stood and put his hand on both sides of Stiles’s head. He opened up the barrier in his shield. Then he carefully erected a barrier around Stiles’s emotions and began blunting them a bit so the panic would be easier for Stiles to process. The goal here wasn’t to force Stiles to calm down like he had with the lion; instead, he wanted to help Stiles deal with the panic himself. After a few seconds could feel Stiles calming down.
Stiles took a deep breath, and his shoulders relaxed. “That’s a lot better.”
“Good. Tony let his barrier drop. He scanned Stiles and was pleased to find that while Stiles was still feeling a bit of panic, he was much calmer.
“Okay, I’m good. I can handle this.”
“Yes, you can, Tony agreed. “It’s understandable that you had this reaction.”
“Thanks,” Stiles said, and he smiled at Tony.
They sat in companionable silence for a few more minutes when suddenly the automatic doors opened, and a man in a sheriff’s uniform came walking swiftly into the waiting room. Tony felt a shock of instant recognition. It was the man he’d seen on the sidewalk outside the bakery. The one that had been on Tony’s mind ever since. He walked right over to Stiles and bend down and hugged him.
“Stiles, are you okay? Peter called me and told me what happened, and I came as soon as I could.” The man looked Stiles over carefully and sniffed the air. “You’re in pain, and I smell fear.”
“I’m okay, dad. I promise. I sprained my ankle, and I had a teeny tiny panic attack.” Stiles held two of his fingers close together to indicate how tiny the attack had been, but Tony helped, and I’m okay now.” Stiles nodded toward Tony, and Stiles’s dad nodded and looked over at Tony.
“Thank you for helping.” He cut himself off, and he stared at Tony.
“It’s you,” he said. His gaze raked over Tony.
“It’s me,” Tony agreed, amused though he found he couldn’t stop staring either. Their gazes locked, and Tony felt that same awareness as before. “It’s nice to meet you, stiles, dad or should I call you, Sheriff.”
Noah smiled. “I’m sorry I haven’t introduced myself. I’m Noah Stilinski. Thank you so much for helping my son. I heard you saved him from a mountain lion.” He held out his hand for a shake, and Tony took it. As their palms touched, Tony felt a spark between them. They stared at each other for a long moment, still holding hands.
Stiles was watching them both avidly. His gaze looked on their clasped hands.
Tony’s face felt warm. He shrugged and forced himself to let go of Noah’s hand. “Your welcome, but I’d like to think anyone would have done the same.”
Noah smiled, but before he could say anything, a nurse called out Stiles’s name and brought over a wheelchair for him.
Noah turned his attention back to his son. He helped Stiles into the wheelchair. “You’re technically an adult now. Do you want me to wait out here for you?”
Stiles shrugged. “You can come in if you want. I know if you sit out here, you’ll fret.”
Tony chuckled as Noah smiled and raised an eyebrow. “Fret, huh? I appreciate your concern for my delicate feelings.”
“Of course. I’ve always got your back, pops.”
“Of course,” Noah said. He and Tony shared a smile.
The nurse cleared his throat. “We need to get going.”
“Of course,” Noah said. He turned back to Tony. “I hope we’ll get to see you again. I’d like to take you out for a thank-you dinner.”
“I’d like that,” Tony said, and his heart skipped a beat when Noah smiled at him, the corner of his eyes crinkling.
“Thanks, Tony. See you later. I’m sure.” Then he winked at Tony. Stiles turned his gaze on the nurse. “Lead on MacDuff,” Stiles said.
Noah turned to look at Tony. “Thanks again,” he said. They smiled at one another, and then Tony watched as they disappeared into the back where an exam room was waiting for Stiles. A part of him wanted to follow them. He felt reluctant to let Noah out of his sight, and he felt an urge to make sure Stiles was alright too. What the hell was going on with him lately? Instead, Tony made himself walk away. But he smiled the whole way back to the sanctuary. He couldn’t wait to see Noah again.