The quiet whispers of the brittle, mid-autumn leaves in the cool, night air was the first sound he heard upon awakening. The eerie sound of a branch scratching against the window shutters had him sitting up in bed, an odd feeling of wrongness settling deep in his gut. He'd learned long ago to always trust in his instincts and made to step out onto the cold floor, wanting to take stock of the house, knowing sleep would evade him for the remainder of the night if he were to refuse to heed its warnings.
A faint glimmering light drew his attention towards the corner of the room where his first born laid, quietly slumbering. He took a few steps in his son's direction when he felt the ground begin to shake. With a cry of alarm, he rushed forward, ready to scoop the baby into his arms, calling out to his still sleeping wife to take cover, positive an earthquake had just begun. Instead, he was met with his only child glowing as brightly as the full moon outside, and steadily getting brighter.
He cursed, completely bewildered, and turned to ask his wife for help, stopping immediately, for his lovely wife, though still appearing to be fast asleep, was now floating above their bed, her night dress hanging around her still form. He took a hesitant step back towards her when her eyes opened, shining the same brilliant light as their son. Her gaze turned and fell upon the crib, her frail, limp arm coming up to point towards their child. Her mouth opened, and in a disconnected voice unlike her own, she spilled words he could not comprehend at the moment, though would haunt him for many years to come.
A quick look around told him he was alone, and everything was as he expected, no sounds or sights out of place for this time of night. His fingers brushed against the cool stone and he hooked them under the wood of the window shutter, popping open the latch with a smooth slide of his dagger. His weapon sheathed, he hauled himself onto the ledge and then quietly through the small window of the humble, stone hut.
"Incense," he silently mouthed the word, rolling his eyes as the aroma invaded his nostrils, making it impossible for him to smell anything else. The humans were smart.
It was no matter, he had other senses he could rely on. Twitching his ears, he listened for any movement in the home, anything that would indicate a challenge. He breathed a sigh of relief when all he heard was the slow, rhythmic beat of his slumbering target's heart.
He watched the young man's face for any signs of stirring, simultaneously reaching one hand out for the armor of blankets draped across him, another for his blade, in case the boy gave him any trouble.
"I wouldn't do that," came a calm voice, immediately followed by the cool, burning sting of metal and wolfsbane on his neck, directly beside the gold chain he wore.
He froze, listening for any clue to confirm who he thought was behind him, but could hear only the slight, gentle sizzle of his own skin. He winced at the pain, but remained unmoving, still sure he could get himself out of the vulnerable situation. He wiggled the fingers closest to his weapon, testing his challenger's awareness. He regretted the action as another point took a bite out of the palm of his hand, duplicating the burn. He clenched his teeth, refusing to give the satisfaction of pulling his hand away.
"If you think this hurts, why don't you try that again, and I'll show you what the blade feels like against your internal organs."
His eyes widened in surprise as he felt another knife poke between his ribs. His thin, cotton tunic, the only protection he had against the wolfsbane, did nothing against the hard metal. The idea that two people were able to slip past him unnoticed was unlikely, but less so than the idea that his opponent had three arms, so he accepted the facts. There were two of them.
"Perhaps you'll find it agreeable to join me in the other room, where we can talk."
"Do I have a choice?" A smile cracked through the frozen expression of the intruder as he waited for his captor's response.
"Not my shoes," the young man on the bed snorted and twitched, sleep distorting his words, barely more audible than a mumble. "They're not your snack...they're mine."
"No," The calm voice spoke again, pointedly ignoring the dream fueled ramblings that filled the air.
"Then lead the way."
The point on his hand was removed, joining the other at his neck, giving him matching burns on each side, limiting his movements. The original blade dug deeper into his skin, and he took the hint to turn in the opposite direction. He didn't catch a glimpse of the ones who ambushed him, moving slowly enough that they kept behind him as he turned. They walked as one unit until they were safely alone, with the door closed behind them.
"Turn around," one of the sword weilders commanded, not lifting the weapon from its resting place. The intruder did as he was told, hissing against the pain as the sharp metal sliced easily through the surface of his flesh. "Name and title, if you have one. No lies."
"Peter Hale," he had no reason to hide the truth of his identity. "Enforcer for the Alpha, Talia Hale." Peter looked between the men in front of him, recognizing the one who spoke as John Stilinski. He noticed the chest plates of armor they wore, still wondering why he couldn't hear their heart beats.
John dropped his swords, followed hesitantly by the other, quiet, unfamiliar man.
"Do you think this was the best way to accomplish your task? Kidnapping?"
Peter opened his mouth to speak, an excuse primed on the tip of his tongue.
"Save it. You're here for Stiles."
Crossing his arms, Peter eyed the angry papa bear.
"Then get out of my wa-"
Quick as a flash, John pointed the sword back at Peter, cutting off his words. It dug dangerously into the vulnerable area under his jaw and Peter pointed his chin to the ceiling in an attempt to get away from the burn.
"Interesting piece of weaponry, don't you think? The metal is infused with wolfsbane during the forging process, making it particularly useful against your kind. Want to see?"
Ah, the wolfsbane. Likely they had used the same technique on the armor, and that's what hid their heart beats. Despite his predicament, and what this meant for future battles against the humans, Peter was relieved he wasn't losing his touch.
"You can't stop this." Peter raised his hands, showing his submission. "If you kill me, they'll just send someone else. We need him."
"I know. But he's my son. How do I know you can keep him safe?" John spoke with an intensity that betrayed his emotions.
"Can you keep him safe?" Peter prodded, sensing weakness in the other man. "You know about the prophecy, how long before the Argents find out, if they don't already know? What happens if they figure out Stiles is the only thing that gives their enemies a way to defeat them? Do you think they'll stop at anything to get to him? Do you think they'll risk leaving him alive? I am not just his BEST chance, I am his ONLY chance."
John lowered his sword again. As much as he didn't want to admit Peter was right, he couldn't deny the danger that Stiles was in.
"So then what took you so long?"
"What?" Peter questioned, absently scratching at his chest as the amulet he wore around his neck started to irritate him.
"I've been packed for weeks, I didn't think wolves to be the procrastinating type."
"Sir," the unfamiliar man finally spoke, addressing John directly. "I apologize, but I don't understand."
"Jordan, I didn't tell you because I knew you'd try to talk me out of it, but Peter's here to take Stiles back over the border with him, and I'm going with them."
Peter chuckled, even as he noticed the amulet grow hot under his shirt. He ignored it.
"You're not coming," Peter stated dryly.
"Yes, I am," John insisted. "You know Stiles is the only way to stop the war and I'm not letting him go without me."
"But, sir, what about your work here?"
"What about it? It's not enough to make a difference. I'll be a bigger help with Stiles."
"No you won't. Once we cross the border, Stiles will start training, and there's nothing else for you to teach him."
"I can teach him to figh-"
"Not the way he needs to. Not as a team with the pack that he'll fight beside, not in sync with the other creatures, taking advantage of their abilities, not with magic so powerful, he'll have to travel all over the world to find people qualified to train him. Ugh!" He punctuated his rant with a pained grunt, hissing through his teeth. "I'm going to reach my hand in my shirt," he explained, wary of the weapons still gripped in the humans' hands. "There's no trick, it's just jewelry, but it's burning me."
He didn't wait for a response, plunging his hand down the neck hole and retrieving the gold amulet from under his shirt. It had a faint, red glow to it that quickly faded when it touched the open air.
"Peter, what's going on?" A woman's voice spoke from the amulet before the humans could even question its existence, or its ability to burn the wearer. "You know I can't see or hear when you muffle me like that. I'm sensing some curious emotional fluctuations from you, and why aren't you with the Spark?"
"I'm a little busy at the moment, Lydia, I'm with his father. Don't you think the interrogation can wait?"
"What the hell is that?" John questioned. "Is there a woman in that thing?"
"Only the annoying parts, unfortunately. This is Lydia, she's a…what are you again?"
"A banshee, with Oracular properties," Lydia answered.
"Right, that. She's how I found Stiles. She…senses him…or whatever."
John looked between the amulet and Peter, trying to make sense of what they had just told him.
"With all do respect, sir," Jordan started, a nervous but determined edge to his voice. "But disembodied ladies aside, your place is here. I'm not really sure what's going on, but it sounds like Peter and the other wolves have everything under control. I'm sure Stiles could use an ally close to the Argents, someone he can trust. You'll make the biggest difference here."
John's hard stare bore into Jordan. He had a good point, but John was reluctant to give in.
"Besides," Jordan continued when nobody stopped him. "No offense, but who is Stiles to the Argents right now? The son of one of their generals? He means nothing to them. He'll just be some kid who ran away, or started an apprenticeship or something, they won't care, they'll leave him alone. But if you go with him, they'll look for you, and if they find you, they'll kill everyone you're with, including Stiles. You're protecting him by staying away. "
"Wait here with Peter, I need to talk to my son."
"Hurry back," Peter called after him. "We're losing the dark."
"Stiles!" John shouted when his son began drifting back off to sleep.
"What? I'm up, I'm up." He half mumbled to his dad, brushing the back of his hand over tired eyes.
"Would you pay attention, this is important."
"I'm sorry, dad. It's just so hard to stay awake, you tell such good bed time stories. Real fairytale stuff, you should write a book or something."
"Listen to me, Stiles, this is not a story. It's not a fairytale, or make believe, or anything out of a book. I'm serious. You are the Spark."
"Of course I am, dad. I'm also the freaking golden goose and keeper of the holy grail, I store it right next to a diamond the size of my head in a treasure chest made of licorice." John closed his eyes in exasperation. "Is there any ale left in the village, or did you drink all of it?"
"You think I'm drunk?"
"Well it certainly makes more sense than 'you, my son, are a powerful being destined to save our world'. That's so ominous, and it doesn't make any sense."
John pinched the bridge of his nose, searching for a way to make the young man understand.
"Before your mother died, in her last moments, she told me that you-"
"Mom said I'm the Spark?"
"Yes. Well, no, not her specifically, she was just a messeng-"
"I don't know, Stiles. It was a prophecy, they come from…" John motioned vaguely around them. "You know, prophets."
"So mom was a prophet?"
"No. Uh, well, I guess so, kind of. She had a messag-"
John bit back his frustration with his inquisitive son, just happy he had managed to get Stiles on a somewhat serious train of thought.
"Well there was a lot of rhyming and…basically she said a wolf would find the boy in his nineteenth year and he would be trained to defend the world and prevent the extinction of all magical creatures."
"And you think the boy is me?"
"Did she specifically say it was me? Did she use my full name? Maybe it's some other boy in his nineteenth year? You know the stable master's and the baker's sons are both nineteen, it could be either of them."
"The baker's daughter."
"What?" Stiles was pulled out of his rant.
"The baker only has one child, and she is his daughter."
He stared at his father in confusion, before realization spread across his face.
"Casey always said I was an asshole. I guess now I know why." John rolled his eyes as Stiles pondered the fact. "But it still doesn't mean it's m-"
"You glowed," John repeated. "When your mother spoke, she pointed at you, and you glowed."
"Do you mean that you looked to your new infant son whose skin was so pale and smooth it seemed to be glowing?"
"No, I mean your skin, your hair and your eyes nearly blinded me because they were literally luminescent."
The two men stared at each other, desperation twisting John's face.
"You really gotta work on your endings, Dad."
John groaned, his arms coming up in exasperation, pacing aggressively across the room.
"Dad, relax, I believe you, I believe you." Stiles calmed his father with practiced ease, following it up with his traditional nerve poking. "All I'm saying is you didn't make it easy, glowing babies is sort of a tough pill to swallow."
"You're telling me," the older man sighed in relief, rubbing the stress from his face with his hands.
"So what now? Some wolf will come find me, and I'll have to decipher its directions through tail swishes and growls?"
They jumped as the door swung into the room.
"Not exactly," Peter interrupted, "Wolf means Werewolf, and I don't swish my tail for anyone I'm not trying to get into bed, and while you're quite cute, you're simply a little too young for me."
"Where's Jordan?" John demanded.
"Don't worry, he's still in the hallway."
"What did you do to him?"
"Nothing, I just tried to explain that we were running out of time, the sun will be up in less than two hours. But, he wouldn't listen to me."
"Did you hurt him?"
"Only a little. He'll be fine. You might want to put him through a touch more training though."
"Ummm, guys?" Stiles timidly interjected, looking to his father for an explanation. "Did that werewolf just call me cute?"
Both older men rolled their eyes, refocusing their attention on the other.
"You've made it obvious that this is my only choice, but I swear on my life if you let any harm come to Stile-"
"Yes, yes, I'll have to face your paternal wrath, I'm sure. Regardless, we don't have time for this. We have to go. Now."
"Now?" Stiles asked incredulously, now paying full attention to the conversation. "Like, now, now?"
"Can't you give him some time to come to grips with it? He's only just been told."
"That's your fault for not telling him. We'll lose the dark soon, and what do you think will happen if the Argents' goonies catch him sneaking over the border?"
"Right," despite his reservations, John relented. They didn't have time to waste, Stiles would have to get used to the idea on the road.
"Dad, you can't seriously agree that I need to leave right now," the younger man protested.
"Yes, Stiles, get ready. And Peter?" John waited for Peter to look at him. "Get the fuck out of my house, I'll send him out when he's ready."
"Right, because that's not likely to take all night," Peter mumbled, but left anyway.
"Dad! I don't want to leave yet, I can't leave yet."
"You don't have a choice. They're here for you now. Listen, Peter's right, I should have told you sooner, but we don't have time now. Every minute we waste here puts you in danger."
"I can't ju-"
"The Argents will kill you if they catch you, do you understand?"
Stiles saw the desperate plea on his father's face, and knew how hard it was for John to let him go. That John would be so insistent spoke to the importance of the situation.
"Alright. I'll go."
"Good," John sighed, rushing out the bedroom door. "I've already packed you a bag, it's been packed for weeks."
John winced as he stepped over Jordan's unconscious body laying on the floor in the hallway, but noted with relief the slow, deep breaths the other man took, and the distinct absence of blood. Stiles followed him, letting the shock he felt at the sight of Jordan pull his attention away from his father. He hurried to keep up with the older man, but craned his neck behind him, distractedly shuffling forward. His feet tangled together, and he reached for the wall in a panic, bracing himself just in time to avoid tumbling to the floor. Not one to be deterred by such an episode, he marched forward to find his dad.
"Dad, this is-, where did you get that?" Stiles interrupted himself when he nearly ran into the rucksack his father held up.
"It was on that hook."
"This hook? The one that's directly beside the door that I've walked through a million times? No it wasn't."
"What? Yes it was."
"No way, I would have seen it."
"Save your bickering," Peter called from the other side of the door. "Even I saw it. Apparently we'll have to train you in the complex art of 'basic observation' as well."
John ignored his son, and the petulant wolf outside, shoving the bag into Stiles' arms and dropping a pair of shoes at his feet. "This has some clothes and some medical supplies in case you need it. I also put some food in there when I noticed Peter slinking around."
Stiles slung the bag over his shoulder, absently donning the shoes as his father spoke.
"This is happening really fast, are you sure it has to be tonight? I'm free a week from next Tuesday, maybe we can reschedule?"
"You're free right now." He pulled his son into a hug. "I'm sorry, it has to be this way, and I'm sorry I didn't tell you sooner. I was hoping to come with you, but I'll only put you in danger."
John pulled away, breaking the hug to look the younger man in the face.
"I know you're scared, you don't have to say it. But you're going to do great. Now get going before you get yourself killed."
He turned the knob, nudging the last of his family out the open door. Stiles walked out obediently, sparing a last, forlorn look back at his father, before the door closed between them.
Thanks for reading! Comments are always appreciated, and keep us motivated! Motivated writers = faster updates, win/win! Thank you in advance to anyone who leaves their thoughts for us to ponder.
Stiles plodded down the steps of the wooden porch, resisting the temptation to turn around and go back inside. He had never been without his father before, and he wasn't quite sure what to do with himself.
"Are those pyjamas?" A familiar voice pulled him out of his dejected thoughts.
"Are those pyjamas?" Peter repeated himself, motioning to the long-limbed, cotton monstrosity the young boy was wearing. Stiles looked down at his clothes, but Peter didn't give him time to answer. "You did hear the man say 'get ready', didn't you?"
"Yes, I did," Stiles hurried to catch up to him as he stalked away. "But I was a little distracted with being the Sparkle to really even know what that meant. Speaking of, is there like a manual, or a scroll or something that can tell me what I'm supposed to be doing? Because I have no idea."
"Right now, you're just following me. Quietly," Peter stressed, leading them farther away from the stone hut Stiles called home, directing him behind a hay bale as he paused to survey their surroundings. "And it's 'Spark'. You're igniting revolution and the fight against indignation, not glimmering in the moonlight."
"You know, Peter, it wouldn't kill you to give the boy some guidance," Lydia spoke, her amulet now displayed prominently on Peter's chest.
"Who said that?" Stiles questioned, spinning around to look for the person obviously capable of sneaking up on them.
"I'm here as a bodyguard," Peter told her indifferently, ignoring Stiles' anxiety. "Not a babysitter."
"Present me to him."
"Show yourself," Stiles bellowed, oblivious to the casual conversation Peter was having with the strange voice.
"We don't have time for this," Peter sighed, but did as Lydia bade, turning towards the panicked young man and lifting the amulet by the chain.
"It will only take a moment,"
"Is this thing talking?" Stiles, now able to pinpoint the source of the voice, scrunched his eyes up in confusion, reaching to grab the amulet with a presumptuous hand. "Ahh!" He pulled his hand away with a yelp, sticking his burning fingers in his mouth to cool them off. Peter smirked.
"Mind your manners, I hardly know you."
"Ummm…I'm sorry?" Stiles chose his words carefully, speaking awkwardly around his fingers, still held against his tongue. "I didn't realize you were…well…I guess I don't know what I didn't realize, but I'm clearly missing something. Can someone explain what's going on? Please?"
"That's alright," Lydia started as Peter rolled his eyes impatiently. "You, Stiles, are the Spark-"
"Yeah, I got that par-"
"Shhhh, Lydia's talking now," she scolded him, her tone so authoritative he thought he could feel her harsh finger pressed against his lips. He wiped absently at the phantom touch, not daring to interrupt her again.
"Your destiny is to train with the wolves. They will serve as your mentors and guides through your transformation process. You will meet many creatures who will each contribute an ability or skill to your repertoire. You will need all of them to defeat the Argent armies and prevent our extinction. Right now, we're going back to the Hale castle to speak to the Alpha, Talia. Everything will be explained in detail when you arrive. Any questions?"
"So many," Stiles took a deep breath, preparing for his onslaught of queries.
"One," Peter's terse response interrupted him before he could open the floodgates.
Stiles looked from the amulet to Peter.
"What do you mean one? I have like a hundred questions."
"Right now we only have time for one. Everything else can wait until we get there. Hurry up, Sparkles."
"Alright, alright, I've got one." He redirected his gaze to the golden amulet, giving it all the attention his distracted mind could muster. "When you guys were planning who was going to come get me, did you have to pick someone so mean?"
Peter rolled his eyes, stomping away into the freshly scouted field in front of them before Lydia could respond. He hadn't noticed anybody following them, and could smell their target in the grove of trees just on the other side of the clearing.
"Hey! That wasn't rhetorical. Why are you so mean?" Stiles called after him, following him through the grass, clumsily trying to keep up with him.
"That's a different question."
"Well I didn't get an answer to the first one anyway."
"I'm not that mean," Peter told him indifferently, not slowing when he crossed the first of the sparsely placed trees. "I called you cute, that's got to count for something."
"That's my point. I'm not cute! I am ruggedly handsome."
Peter paused long enough to turn to Stiles, looking him up and down analytically.
"What?" Stiles asked, unnerved by the gleam in Peter's eye. "What are you doing?" He stuttered out, unsure if he should try to cover Peter's eyes, or his own body for the way the older man was looking at him.
"Well don't!" Stiles finally settled on crossing his arms in front of his chest defensively.
"Fine," Peter turned away from him with a shrug, starting up the small, grass covered incline. "I just thought it would make you feel better if I took another look. Maybe I would see something that earned you a better descriptor than 'cute'."
"I don't want you to take another look, I want you to realize that the look you took before was enough to see my dashing good looks."
"Whatever you say, Sparkles."
Stiles ran to get in front of Peter, succeeding at the top of the hill only because Peter allowed it. He faced the older man defiantly, finger raised in admonition, although he knew enough to refrain from actually poking him in the chest the way he wanted to.
"It's about damn time," an unfamiliar voice called out before he could speak. Stiles jumped in alarm, and Peter smirked at him as his foot caught on the root of a nearby tree, sending him tumbling down the hill, grunting with each impact.
He landed flat on his back at the bottom, eyes closed, groaning, even as the pain faded almost immediately. He heard footsteps around him and opened his eyes to see Peter and another man standing over him.
"This is the guy?" The unfamiliar man asked, making no attempt to hide his distaste.
"This is the guy." Peter confirmed.
"You're sure? Doesn't he seem a little…frail?"
"He's mouthy too. Never shuts up."
They both moved, neither offering to help the fallen man.
"This is mistake, a huge waste of time."
"Blah blah blah," Peter's hand mimicked a talking mouth as he flippantly dismissed the comment.
"Look at him," he protested. "Still laying in the dirt like he's finding shapes in the clouds or something. This is important; too important to leave to chance."
"You guys know I can hear you, right?" Stiles stood up, brushing the dust and twigs from his clothes. They both ignored him.
"Take it up with Talia. I was sent here to get him, and I got him." Peter looked around. "Speaking of things we were sent here to do, where are the horses?"
He grumbled, not wanting to drop his point, but answered Peter anyway.
"Right there," his hand waved in the direction he was referring to.
Stiles watched their interaction, sensing tension and not wanting to get involved.
"Why is there only two horses?"
"Because that's all I could find. All the horses in this podunk town are meant for working the fields, not long distance running."
"That's a nice excuse you got there, but I fail to see how that's my problem."
"It wasn't easy to get these two," the man replied through clenched teeth, gesturing to a patch of blood on his shirt, although the wound that had spilled it was long healed.
"Do you think he was easy to get?" Peter thrust a finger back at Stiles before pulling at the collar of his shirt, exposing the long slices around his neck, still blistering and burned.
"What the hell, why aren't you healing?"
"It's not good, but we'll talk about it with Talia, who we'd reach a lot faster if we had THREE horses," Peter jabbed.
"There was a donkey," the point was begrudgingly relented. "Would you like to go back for it?"
"No. While I'm normally one to enjoy an ass to ride, we don't have time. The horses will have to do." Peter strolled over to where the horses stood, unwrapping one of the reins from the sturdy branch that held them before swinging up onto the mount's back. "But, Derek," he started, smirking back at his nephew. "You ride with the kid."
Thanks for reading guys! As always, we appreciate your time, especially if you took the extra moment to comment!
Chapter 4: Chapter 4
Stiles squirmed awkwardly, the strong muscles of the horse working underneath him, and the heat of Derek's body enveloping him, the older man's arms wrapped casually around his sides to grip the reins.
"Look, I appreciate it, but don't you think it's a little soon?" Stiles started, oblivious to the confused scowl of the man behind him. "I mean, we just met."
Derek ignored him, already too annoyed with his situation to put any effort into forming a response to Stiles' nonsense.
"I get it, I really do," Stiles empathized, taking the silence as a cue to continue. "The horse is moving so gently, we're sitting so close, and there's a little bit of friction, it feels nice-"
"What?" Derek's befuddled mind spewed the word in his shock. Stiles barely noticed, pausing only briefly in his verbal assault.
"I'm flattered, but I don't really know anything about you and I'm not exactly comfortable with-"
"What the fuck are you talking about?" Derek nearly shouted, tired of trying to make sense of the blather spouting from the younger man.
"Your...excitement…is poking me in the back," Stiles calmly and awkwardly explained.
Derek rolled his eyes and then closed them tightly. Sighing, he wished he could dump the other man off the horse for his stupidity.
Stiles, taking Derek's silence for humiliation, fumbled to ease the tension.
"You don't have to be embarrassed, it's a natural reaction, not many would be able to resist my rugged handsomeness."
"That's. My. Sword." Derek growled out through clenched teeth, annoyed that the waste of time and space actually thought he could be attracted to such a useless person.
"Yeah, I know. It's quite impressive, honestly, and considering the situation, I would have been more surprised if you hadn't gotten hard, I mean even I-"
"It's not a euphemism," Derek cut off Stiles' filter free rant, attempting to ignore pretty much anything that came out of his mouth. "It's my literal sword."
Derek wiggled the weapon, digging the pommel painfully into Stiles' back.
"Ow!" Stiles complained, reaching backwards to push the hard metal away. "AH!" He shrieked louder as Derek gripped his hand in an iron fist.
"You may have been wrong about the object, but you were right about the location. Keep your hands to yourself." He flung Stiles' hand out from between them, and went back to holding the reins.
"Fine." Stiles rubbed his hand indignantly. "But this is your fault for making me ride up front like a child."
"Yeah? We tried having you ride behind me, remember? How did that turn out?"
"That's your fault too."
"Is it? First you fell off, then you nearly killed me, you held on so fucking tight. How is that my fault?"
"You made the horse go way too fast."
"We were trotting. Barely."
"I could have died." Stiles told him, preferring his highly exaggerated version of events to the idea he had been completely inept at riding.
"Hey!" Peter called from in front of them. "Will you two lovebirds hurry up back there? The sun will be up any minute and the crossing's right up ahead. We don't have time for you to flirt."
Peter rode off, leaving Stiles and Derek behind to stubbornly deny his accusations. When they finally caught up to him he had already dismounted and tied up his horse and was creeping low across a clearing towards a large outcropping, offering a view of the guards at the border while keeping himself conceiled.
"Which one of them did you bribe?" Derek asked his uncle as they approached him, kneeling down beside him to stay out of sight.
"That one." Peter pointed to a man riding away casually on a horse, already quite far from his brethren.
"He's leaving. How much gold did you pay him to let us through?" Derek questioned.
"I told you, Peter." Lydia piped up from the amulet, only to be ignored by the man whose neck she hung around.
"I didn't give him any money."
"Isn't gold kind of a requirement for a bribe?" Stiles asked.
"That's what I said," Lydia confirmed, earning them each a growl from the older wolf.
"I offered him something much more valuable."
"You offered him a night in your bed-"
"Which is just as good as doubling the gold he has in his pocket," Peter interrupted Lydia with a snarl.
"He's an army guard stationed at a border. His yearly wage is less than the gold in my amulet, and he's not likely to have more than a handful of copper in his pocket."
Stiles laughed, clasping a hand over his mouth before he could make a noise.
"So a night with Peter is worth a handful of copper?"
"Well he does have higher than human stamina and strength, I suppose an argument could be made for one silver."
"One silver, really? But he's so old."
"Hmmm," Lydia considered the new point. "That's true. Taking into account his near geriatric age, and the fact that the human would literally be killed if the encounter were ever discovered, perhaps even a handful of copper is a little overpriced."
Peter growled again, annoyed by the mirth in Lydia's tone and the failure of his plan.
"That's enough," Derek abruptly drew their attention. Moving stealthily back to the horses, he didn't bother to check they were following as he heard their footsteps behind him. "We need a new plan. The border's no longer an option. Despite the fact the one who was supposed to get us through is leaving, we don't know what he told the other guards, if anything. They may have laid a trap for us."
"So we'll go around," Stiles offered.
"Easier said than done, Sparkles. The border was placed strategically at a small opening between a large mountain range, and a thick forest. Time is not on our side, and going through their gate was the most direct route. On horseback, it would have taken us less than a day to reach my sister."
"We'll have to go through the forest," Derek pitched. "We can't bring the horses, the trees and undergrowth are too thick for them to walk through safely. It'll take a few days to get there, but it's still much faster than going around the mountains."
"Maybe Peter can offer to fuck the trees, and they'll all just bend over for him. That'll make it easier to cross." Stiles smiled at the glare Peter gave him.
"Highly improbable," Lydia cheerfully declared. "But I suppose just as likely to succeed as his last plan."
The two laughed together until Peter tugged at the amulet, the force unsnapping the clasp from his neck.
"Ow!" Lydia complained.
He tossed the heated gold at Stiles, who fumbled it, just barely catching the chain before it hit the ground.
"You two," Peter motioned to Stiles and the amulet he was now holding. "Deserve each other."
Derek rolled his eyes at the immaturity in front of him.
"Peter, take the horses back to the valley we crossed a little ways back and set them free. We don't need them to be found here, showing exactly where we entered the forest."
"And why would I listen to you? I'm the Enforcer, I outrank you."
"Well, while you're doing that, Stiles and I will start into the forest, where for his safety, he'll have to stick very close to me. I'm happy to switch if you'd like."
Peter eyed the young human. Remembering their journey so far, he was suddenly desperate for a reprieve.
He swung himself back onto his horse, holding out his hands for Derek to hand him the reins. He gently kicked his horse into a slow trot, tugging the other horse behind him.
"Derek, what did you mean when you said 'for my safety'?"
"I meant that once we get to the magical side of the forest, there are things in there that are probably not going to like you very much."
"That's not so different from out here," Stiles mumbled to comfort himself, unwilling to acknowledge the large step he took towards Derek before they walked into the forest.
Derek strode forward confidently, effortlessly picking out the easiest path through the forest, deftly ducking under the low hanging vines, and stepping over the upturned roots. Stiles trailed behind him, rubbing his forehead to relieve the sting of the branch that had so thoughtlessly jumped in front of him, clumsily attempting to follow Derek's steps.
"Hurry up," Derek chastised him, looking back just in time to watch Stiles stumble over the fallen log at his feet.
"Oh, I'm sorry, I don't have supernatural agility," Stiles spat back, annoyed and out of breath. "Is my humanity inconvenient for you?"
"Very. I told you to stay close."
"Why? So the evil squirrels can't get me? You know, you act like you don't like me very much, but I think you do. I think you REALLY like me."
Derek turned to stare at him, daring him to elaborate with one toxicly irritated glance.
"First, you send Peter away," Stiles continued, ignoring his own sense of self preservation. "Then you use my, completely normal amount, of fear of being eaten alive to keep me close to you when the most dangerous thing in here is that tree." Stiles pointed off to the side without looking. "Which startled me because it kind of looks like a bear."
"Let's be clear about one thing," Derek began, crossing his arms and allowing a low growl to rumble through his chest. "I don't like you. I think this whole thing is-"
"Derek, stop it." Lydia interrupted. "This isn't the time or place to have this conversation. You need to focus on getting back to the castle, and I don't have time to monitor everything that goes on between you two."
"Fine. Let's go." Derek continued forward without another look behind him.
"Okay, but seriously though," Stiles started, narrowly dodging one branch Derek left swinging towards him before getting hit in the face with the next. "What did you mean by dangerous? Cause this doesn't really feel like the daredevil mission you said it would be."
"I mean, that as soon as we get to the other side of that barrier, there will be creatures in the forest who don't want us there." Derek motioned in front of him, stopping just short of a wall that seemed to be made of opaque fog, swirling and flowing, but never spilling out of its shape.
"That's so cool," Stiles shouted, his distracted mind noticing the shimmering blockade for the first time, and forgetting all warnings of danger. He ran to get in front of Derek, reaching a hand out to touch the mesmerizing smoke, pulling back at the last moment. "This is magic right," he asked, turning to speak to the annoyed wolf directly. "Do you have to do a magic spell to get us through or something?"
"Yes" Derek replied, watching Stiles' eyes widen in excitement. "Otherwise, any part of you that touches that wall will be vaporized instantly. You'll be in so much pain that the few minutes it'll take you to die will feel like weeks, and it'll spread through your body like a disease."
Stiles gulped, frozen in place as his enthusiasm was tempered by fear.
Derek nodded at him, confirming the truth of his statement, and then swiftly shoved the young man's shoulders, smirking at the panic he saw in Stiles' eyes as he fell backwards.
Stiles flailed, trying to catch himself to keep from touching the barrier, but Derek had pushed him hard, and he hit the ground with a terrified shriek. He laid in the dirt, patting his body with both hands to check for any signs of injury. Noticing that his feet were still planted on the other side, he couldn't see them for the fog at his knees. Reaching a shaking hand down, he expected to find only two stumps where his legs had been, and gave a sigh of relief when he was wrong.
Derek appeared through the smoke above him, staring down at him and snorting in derisive mirth before walking away.
Stiles twisted and craned his neck awkwardly to follow Derek with his eyes, shooting him as many death glares as he could manage in the time he waited for the panic to leave his thumping heart.
"You ASSHOLE!" Stiles thundered, finally dragging himself out of the dirt. He stomped over to where Derek had stopped, leaning against a tree impatiently. "Why would you do that? I could have had a heart attack!"
"For fun, mostly. But also, you were being annoying."
"Well, now I'm mad at you, and we've wasted time," Stiles complained, trying to make the older man feel bad. "Was it worth it?"
"I got thirty seconds of silence so, yeah, definitely worth it."
"ASSHOLE!" Stiles repeated, barging past him and trampling through the leaves on the ground in his anger.
"Wrong way," Derek called out casually, smiling as Stiles turned abruptly to change direction.
"What?" Stiles asked him as he started laughing, annoyed that Derek was in such good spirits while he was still fuming.
"I was just kidding. You were right the first time."
Stiles planted his feet, throwing his arms up in exasperation before crossing them over his chest.
"I'm SO glad you find me entertaining!" Stiles shouted sarcastically, his hands gesturing through the air as quickly as the words poured from his mouth. "Maybe, I should check my bag to see if my dad packed a jester's hat for me, since you think I'm so funny."
"It was a joke. You don't need to make it a big deal." Derek shrugged and sighed.
"Oh right, my bad. Just another thing I did wrong," Stiles chuckled humorlessly, not noticing how Derek's gaze shifted past him. "You think this is easy? You have your fancy werewolf endurance and senses, but I don't have that!"
"Stiles," Derek called sternly, but cautiously, trying to snap the younger man out of his rant.
"Yesterday," he continued, ignoring the warning tone in Derek's voice. "I was just a ruggedly handsome guy living a quiet life in our little stone hut, and today I'm this Spark thingy, on some grand adventure through a magical fore-"
"Stiles, you need to calm down."
"No! You guys are damn lucky that I trust my dad more than I trust the fact that I need to breathe to live, because he's the only reason I'm here!"
"Stiles, you idiot," Derek ground out through clenched teeth, taking a long stride toward Stiles and fixing his chin in a tight grip, forcing him to pay attention. "Shut the fuck up."
"Why? So you can tell me again how inconvenient I am-"
"No, because there is a forest nymph behind you, and we're in immediate danger."
"Sure," Stiles mumbled, wiggling his face in a futile attempt to break free of Derek's grasp. "You probably just want me to turn around so you can have a good laugh at how gullible I am. Nice try."
"This isn't a joke." Derek leaned in closer, hoping the proximity would allow his words to sink into Stiles' thick skull. "Nymphs are powerful, and dangerous, probably the most dangerous thing we could have run into. So stop whining, turn around, and shut up, or you might get us killed."
Derek released his chin, and Stiles rubbed at his sore jaw, swallowing thickly as he pondered Derek's demand. On the off chance that Derek was being serious, Stiles stole a glance behind him.
A small, humanoid creature sat casually on the branch of a tall tree, his pale olive skin standing out in contrast to the deep forest green of his long hair, and the dark browns of his tunic. Stiles blinked in disbelief when the creature raised a delicate hand to wave at him.
"That," Stiles began, turning back to Derek. "Is the tiniest, most adorable creature I've ever seen. How dare you insinuate that he is anything other than perfect."
"He's right, actually."
Stiles started as the nymph appeared beside him, tripping over a root on the ground in his fright. His eyes trained on the sight in frozen amazement and confusion, Stiles watched as the nymph sidled up to him before smiling sweetly and booping him on the nose.
A low growl came from Derek, a subtle warning for the nymph to stay away, and his wolf flashed in his eyes.
"I suggest you put the beast away before somebody gets hurt. You're in my territory, and you're outnumbered."
Derek moved to speak, stopping himself when a pair of eyes drew his attention from within the trees. They glowed brightly in the shadows of the branches and, as Derek watched, they were quickly joined by another pair, and another. Dozens of animals abandoned the cover of the forest, closing the trio in an intimidating circle of feather and fur.
"Uh, Derek?" Stiles started cautiously, slowly pulling himself off the ground to stand in Derek's protective personal bubble. "Tell me again how I'M going to get us killed," he accused sarcastically, recognizing Derek's growl for what it was, a threat.
"Shut up," he spat at the frightened young man before turning his attention to the nymph. "We're not here for a fight. But it's my job to protect him; that's all I was trying to do."
"What a fine job you've done so far," the nymph drawled sarcastically. "He's been on the ground twice since I've been watching."
"Yes, well, Stiles has a knack for making the task difficult," Derek defended himself sheepishly, ignoring Stiles when he called out in protest. "Besides, it's his life I'm worried about, not a few scrapes and bruises."
Derek tensed as Stiles shrieked beside him, startled by the nymph now sitting only inches from Derek's face, perched atop a boulder that had not been there the second before.
"Now why," the nymph spoke softly as he leaned in close to Derek, so much so that their noses touched. "Would a wolf care about the life of a human?" He pulled back, giving Stiles an analyzing look. "Well, mostly human." He flashed them a mischievous smile. "Could it be that the young man is your honey buns, the spring in your step, the point to your sword?"
"Yeah, Derek, am I any of those things?" Stiles leaned away from Derek, looking at him expectedly for an answer, smiling triumphantly that another had come to the same suspicions as he had.
"No way," Derek stressed, his entire body clenched in frustration.
"Then why," the nymph stood on the boulder, using what little height that gave him to tower over the wolf, his playful tone now filled with authority. "Do you protect the human?"
"Look, umm…" Derek stuttered, searching for a word he couldn't find. "I'm sorry, we never got your name," he left the statement open in expectation.
"My name is the least of your worries right now. You're in MY forest, and while some can be very entertaining," the nymph's eyes flashed to Stiles as he spoke, before returning threateningly to Derek. "I don't particularly like strangers."
"It's a long story," Derek told him slowly, aware of the increasing danger.
"Shorten it," the nymph answered him, the sharp edge of his words blunting as he began to giggle. "Or I find something else to shorten."
Thanks again to everyone who has taken the time to read!
Comments and kudos are always appreciated and are SUPER motivating.
What are your thoughts so far? Your favourite part? Your predictions on what might happen in the future?
Derek watched the nymph appraisingly, looking for a way he could avoid saying the words he knew would get them out of the situation. He weighed his options, but knowing that an unsatisfied nymph would shorten his body by the length of his head gave him no choice.
"He's the Spark," Derek grumbled begrudgingly, his teeth set in a clenching grind against his frustration.
"Interesting," the nymph mumbled, his eyes growing in excited realization, a smile forming on his face as he took in the statement. A new understanding formed between Derek and the nymph, one that could only be felt by those who felt the depth of Derek's words. Stiles, oblivious to the true extent of his title, ignored it completely.
"You said it was a long story," Stiles interrupted the tense silence.
"What?" Derek asked, his surprise forcing his gaze away from the nymph.
"You said it was a long story," Stiles repeated. "But you said the whole thing in like three words."
Derek rolled his eyes at the younger man.
"There's more to it than that."
"So I've been told. But considering I have yet to hear more, it looks like you nearly got us killed so you could take the scenic route in a three word story. You told me to be careful, but you're the one causing problems."
"Shut up, Stiles," Derek snapped, his exasperation getting the better of him.
"If he is the Spark," the nymph interjected. "You should treat him with more respect."
"Yeah, Derek, more respect," Stiles agreed, shooting him an smug look.
Derek sighed, but kept his lips sealed in a hard line against the temptation to retort.
"The long version," the nymph began, quickly bringing the topic back to important things. "Summarize it. What information might I learn?"
Derek shook his head lightly, focusing his thoughts.
"My opinion on the mission, how we found Stiles, our intended path once we did, how and why we're traveling through the forest, and where we're going."
"That information is either known to me, or is of little interest. The shortened version will suffice. You may travel through my forest. Harm nothing, and nothing shall harm you, be sure of that."
Without a sound the nymph and the boulder he was standing on disappeared.
Derek closed his eyes for a moment, clearly relieved as the tension released from his body.
"Let's go," he stated before returning them to their trudge through the forest.
Although Derek continued to ignore the young man behind him, allowing Stiles' tired grunts and complaints to confirm he was still following, he kept his pace slow, still wary of the dangers they might encounter, not trusting the Nymph's promise entirely.
Hours passed in this fashion, until the sun began to set once more.
Derek, noticing the silence, turned around to find Stiles sitting cross legged on the forest floor, digging through his bag.
"What the hell are you doing?" He questioned, stomping over to the seated man.
"I'm hungry. And I'm tired. We've been walking all day and I need a break."
"I won't. You might as well sit down, unless you're going to carry me through the forest."
"What makes you think I won't?"
"Just a hunch."
Derek took another step towards him.
"Wait!" Stiles shrieked, clinging to a root on the ground next to him. He gripped his bag tightly to him and prepared for a round of tug o' war, with himself as the rope. "If you carry me, you'll be much slower, and we'll lose more than the few hours of sleep I'm asking for."
Derek stopped in his tracks, considering what Stiles was saying carefully.
"Then, once you put me down, I'll STILL be tired and I'll STILL need a break."
Reluctantly, Derek turned away, taking a seat on what was left of a fallen tree. Satisfied with his success, Stiles went back to rummaging through his bag, taking out a couple of packages wrapped in cloth. Unwrapping the food, he shoved a wedge of hard cheese into his mouth, preparing to snap a bite of dried meat as soon as he swallowed.
Returning to his bag, he removed a small loaf of bread and threw it at Derek. It bounced off his head before landing softly in has lap.
"Eat," Stiles told him when enraged eyes found his. "You've gone just as long without food."
"I don't need your handout," Derek returned, throwing the bread back. "I'll hunt for my own food."
"Oh really?" Stiles questioned. "You'll hunt for your own food in the forest where we can't harm anything?" He smiled smugly, savoring the moment.
Derek glared at him, annoyed and unwilling to admit that Stiles was right.
"I don't have to harm anything," he spoke as if it had never been his intention. "I can hunt for berries." He reached for a bush beside him, stripping a handful of berries from the stems with one swipe.
"Alright," Stiles nearly sang. "But you might want to try ones that aren't poisonous."
Derek froze, his handful of sustenance a mere inch from his open mouth. He shot Stiles a dangerous look, silently accusing him of lying.
"I mean, unless those are magic berries, the ones back home will have you shitting water for weeks."
Derek eyed the fruit warily. Although he was certain that they had been effected by the magic around them, as everything steeped in magic was effected in one way or another, he knew it would only serve to make them more potent. Annoyed, he let the berries drop to the forest floor.
A few moments of loud chewing later the silence reconquered them, until Derek growled as the loaf of bread landed in his lap again. His pride drove him to his feet, ready to snap at the man so callously taunting him. But Stiles turned his back, settling uncomfortably on his side for the short nap he had demanded. He didn't care if Derek ate the bread, wouldn't even know for sure one way or the other. The fact allowed Derek to calm himself, and he sat back down on the fallen tree, pulling the bread apart with his fingers before shoving it into his ravenous mouth.
Stiles slept, softly mumbling, until Derek woke him with a gentle shake. He awoke with a start. It was still dark, and the unfamiliarity drove knives of fear into his chest before his memory came back to him. He sat on the ground panting.
"It's time to go," Derek told him.
He nodded, slowly lifting himself off the ground and pulling his bag over his shoulders.
It took a moment for his fatigue to let him look around, but when Stiles finally rubbed the sleep from his eyes, he was in awe of the view.
Small fireflies flitted around, seemingly no pattern to their flight. Their soft glow added to the light of the bioluminescent mushrooms that were growing at the base of every tree. Together they provided enough brightness that Stiles could see clearly, if not quite as well as he could during the day.
"Let's go," Derek urged, breaking the young man's trance.
Stiles frowned, rolling his eyes before following after the wolf.
They picked through the forest carefully, causing the least amount of damage as possible. As they walked birds started to sing, welcoming back the sun. The trees became farther apart, and the moss and dirt covered ground gave way to tall grass.
"We're almost out," Derek said, pointing to an opening in the trees. Bright light spilled through and a large meadow could be seen on the other side.
"Final-" Stiles started to exclaim when a growl interrupted him. "Why are you growling?" He asked Derek. "It's not a secret tha-" he was interrupted again. This time the growl was much louder, and clearly coming from behind him.
Both men slowly turned to face the source, and when Derek saw what it was he shouldered his way in front of Stiles.
"What the hell is that?" Stiles asked from the safety of Derek's back.
"It's a bear."
"That is not a bear," Stiles corrected, eyeing the monstrosity in front of them.
It was three times bigger than it should have been, its coarse fur replaced with sharp spikes and long knives extended from its paws, more akin to talons than claws.
"It's our kind of bear," Derek informed him, letting the fact that the creature was magical explain the differences.
"Oh great. And I suppose I have more surprises like this to look forward to now that we're surrounded by magic? I'm so glad," Stiles' fear turned his words to venom and he spat them at Derek before coming to a realization. "Wait, we're still in the forest right? The nymph said nothing would harm us here. We'll be fine," he rationalized, still tucked firmly behind the bulk of his protector.
Derek released a steadying breath and took a small step backwards, waiting for Stiles to do the same. The bear followed them, but didn't seem overly concerned with their retreat, so they took another step.
"We just have to make it to the meadow," Derek said quietly.
"What? You think it'll stop following us just because we're not in the forest?"
"Either that, or I can kill it without the nymph taking retribution."
A blur of motion came into view, moving so quickly it was difficult to track. Derek's eyes picked it up better and he shouted when he saw it.
The furry form of Peter's wolf appeared from their side. Sliding on his knees in front of the bear, he extended one clawed hand above him to slice through the thick flesh of the bear's neck. He used the same momentum to get back to his feet, flicking blood off his dripping red hand.
Stiles watched the older wolf carefully, both impressed and disturbed, as the bear fell to the ground.
Peter, ignoring Derek's growls, wiped his hand on a tree, trying to clean away the evidence, but it stuck to his fur.
"You idiot!" Derek scolded his uncle.
"I'm the idiot?" Peter questioned. "You let that thing get this close to you and Sparkles when you could have killed it as quickly as I did?"
"I didn't have a choice. You have no idea what you just did."
"Uh, guys?" Stiles interrupted, getting their attention.
"WHAT?" They snapped in unison whirling on Stiles. He pointed past them, and all three men turned to face the nymph standing atop the body of the dead bear.
Thanks for reading! Comments and kudos are always appreciated!
"Who the hell is this guy?" Peter asked, thrusting a thumb in the nymph's direction.
"He's a forest nymph, and you, you absolute idiot, just made him angry," Derek told him in a harsh whisper.
"A nymph, huh?" Peter turned away from his nephew, watching as the tiny form of the magical creature clenched his teeth and flared his nostrils in his silent rage. He was seething, like a pot that was about to boil over.
A malicious gleam to Peter's eye told Derek exactly what was about to happen. He shouted.
But he was too late. Peter launched himself towards the nymph, fangs exposed in a threatening snarl and claws, still covered in blood, extended for flesh. Before he made it two steps, he was slammed backwards and landed hard against a large tree. A vine wrapped around him from behind, circling his neck. He kicked his legs to get free, desperately trying to draw in a breath as the vine tightened with each second. He clawed at it, hoping to cut through it and restore his access to air, but it was strong and resilient. For every cut he made, two tendrils filled the gap, growing quickly and adding their strength to the force suffocating him.
Stiles started in surprise as beside him, thick fur burst through Derek's smooth skin. He stood, claws and teeth poised for attack, ready to protect his uncle, the enforcer of the pack, or die trying.
"What the hell are you doing?" Stiles asked, standing in front of him to block his path to the nymph.
"I'm not just going to let him attack a werewolf and do nothing to defend him."
"Look at Peter." Stiles pointed, ignoring the fact that Derek didn't look. "You think the nymph will hesitate to string you up the same way? Then what? I'll be left to figure out where this castle of yours is on my own, and that's if he doesn't kill me too."
Derek growled in frustration, but slowly pulled his wolf back.
"Umm, hello, Mr….sir….nymph," Stiles stuttered approaching the nymph cautiously. "Is it okay if you let Peter down from that tree?"
His anger still shaped his features, but they softened slightly as he watched Stiles step forward.
"Why should I? I gave you rules and you broke them carelessly."
"Actually, umm, it was only Peter who did that."
"And then he attacked me, which is why he's in the tree."
"Of course, yeah, that was pretty stupid of him. It's just that he didn't know about the rule. You may have noticed that he wasn't with us when you told us about it."
"Ignorance is no excuse."
"The thing is, he's only here because of me, to come get me and guide me on my destiny, or something," he muttered, the words still feeling strange to him. "I don't want him to die because of me. So if you could let him down, we'll all just get out of your forest, and you won't have to worry about Peter anymore."
"And what about my bear? She is still dead. Does she get no justice?"
"Uh, right, the bear. I'm…sorry…about the uh…misunderstanding."
"That doesn't bring her back."
"Of course not," Stiles agreed, trying to think of something that would get them all out of there alive. "I'm the Spark, right?" The nymph cocked his head in answer, interested in where this new train of thought was going. "Well, whenever I learn how to…Spark…things…I'll make it up to you. I'll-, I'll owe you one."
"Stiles!" Derek scolded him. The young man had no idea what he was promising, or who he was promising it to.
There was a thud and Stiles and Derek both looked to find Peter on the ground, gasping loudly as he pulled in lungfuls of air.
They turned back to the nymph, but he was gone.
"Let's go," Derek commanded, not wanting to spend an extra second in the forest. Peter followed them, his fangs and claws sinking back to human teeth and nails, his skin a smooth purple as the oxygen rushed back to him.
The meadow was a short distance away, but just as they reached the end of the forest, the wind picked up considerably, rustling the branches ominously.
"Stiles." The young man picked up his name as a whisper in the wind. He looked from Derek to Peter, but neither gave any indication that they were calling him.
"Stiles," it called again, and continued as soon as it had his attention. "Arazane. Remember that word, and tell no one that you know it."
He looked around again for the source. Not finding anything, he jogged to catch up with Derek and Peter as they stepped into the meadow.
"Aren't you going to thank me?" He asked them smugly, quickly forgetting about the strange voice in favour of bragging about his success.
"Thank you?" Derek growled, whirling on the younger man.
"You're welcome," replied Stiles, completely oblivious to the questioning inflection as he pretended to polish his finger nails on his shirt.
"I don't think I've ever met someone as stupid as you."
"What? I just saved your life, and Peter's!"
"But how many more did you risk in the future? You don't know anything about this world. You don't know anything about nymphs."
"And you're an expert?"
"No. All I know about nymphs is that they're powerful. Which is why it was stupid to offer a potentially dangerous creature a favour from someone who is supposed to exceed them in magical strength, however unlikely that is." Derek spit the words.
"Potentially dangerous? He looked like a good guy to me."
"A good guy? He ambushed us twice, threatened us with mauling from his forest animals, nearly suffocated Peter, and extorted a favour from the Spark."
Stiles clenched his teeth, his hands making fists at his side.
"That's all because of you two! You and Peter would have died if I didn't step in!"
"Although from this point on, I'll deny it with every fiber of my being," Peter started, not bothering to even look at the quarrelling men. "The kid has a point."
"Not to mention," Derek turned his attention to Peter, who casually looked back at him with an expression that can only be described as boredom. "This never would have happened if you had caught up to us when you should have. You should have been back long before we ever made it to the magical barrier. Where the hell were you?"
"Around. Proving a point."
"That you can't back out of a deal with Peter Hale."
Exasperation flooded Derek's face.
"You killed the guard, didn't you?"
"You tortured him?"
"Something like that," Peter answered, a devilish grin lifting his features.
"Seriously, Peter?" Derek sighed, knowing exactly the kind of person his uncle was. "You fucked him?"
"Yes. Relentlessly, for many hours, until he couldn't stand it anymore. He loved it." Derek rubbed his eyes with one hand while Peter spoke, his frustration turning into physical exhaustion. "In fact, he may have missed the point of the punishment. I might have to go back." Peter smirked.
"You shirked your duty for an entire day so you could get laid?"
Stiles stared as the two men yelled back and forth, no longer able to make out what they were saying through the volume of the chaos. He watched until his chest burned, and it took him a moment to realize it was the amulet before fishing it out of his shirt.
"What is all this yelling?" Lydia asked, shrill enough to grab the attention of both wolves.
"And you!" Derek stomped over to the amulet. Stiles held it as far out as he could, putting as much space between himself and an angry Derek as possible. "Isn't it your job to SENSE things that are nearby? Where the hell have you been?"
"I told you I didn't have time to babysit you. I have other responsibilities," she told him calmly.
"Other responsibilities? We nearly died because you didn't warn us about the nymph, or the bear. How is it that I'm the only one taking this seriously, when I was the one who said it was a waste of time to begin with?"
"Oh I'm sorry, I thought that the Alpha's son and brother would be capable of handling themselves without my help. My mistake."
Derek was silent, his rage pouring off him in nearly tangible waves.
"Let's go," he demanded again, stalking off through the meadow without waiting for the others to follow. Peter shrugged and started after him, Stiles trailing some distance behind as he quietly explained to Lydia what had happened.
It took them the rest of the day to reach the castle without horses, the tall peaks of the towers just visible as the sun began to set. The guards let them in without questioning, sliding open the heavy gate with the protesting squeak of metal hinges.
Stiles stared in awe; he had never seen a building so big.
"Keep up, Sparkles," Peter ushered from behind him, urging him to follow Derek.
They entered into a large foyer, heading straight for a huge door at the other side of the room. The guards allowed them passage again, opening the door just enough for each of them to go through.
The new room was long and thin. Tapestries depicting vicious battles lined the walls, made clear by the light of the metal sconces on every pillar.
Derek and Stiles waited by the door, but Peter strode towards his sister, walking casually through the circle of wolves surrounding her and settling easily onto the armrest of her throne. She didn't acknowledge him, instead continuing with her original task.
"The Argents have intercepted a number of our attacks and supply missions," she stated. She wasn't talking to him, but the authority in her voice made Stiles shrink back, even from the other side of the room. "It's obvious that we have a traitor in our midst."
"Please, Alpha. I would never betray you," the voice came from a man perched on his knees in front of the Alpha as though he were begging.
"You were present at every incident. Yet somehow you've managed to be the only one not seriously injured or killed."
"A coincidence, I assure you, Alpha. You must believe me."
"He's telling the truth," Peter stated. "He's terrified; it's obvious."
"Don't be so sure." Another man approached Talia on the opposite side of Peter. "There are ways to fake that reaction. The nordis root, for example, increases the heart rate, stimulates the sweat glands. It emulates fear quite effectively."
"What? No! I don't even know what that is!" The accused cried from the floor.
Talia's face pinched in indecision.
"I need time with this," she finally stated. "Take him away."
Two guards picked up the prisoner and dragged the sobbing man, unable to walk on his own, out a small door at the back of the room.
Derek moved forward, motioning for Stiles to follow. Talia waved away the rest of the guards as they approached, leaving only Talia, Peter, Derek, Stiles and her other advisor in the room.
"Alpha," Derek started the introductions. "This is Stiles. Stiles, this is the Alpha Talia, and our emissary, Deaton."
Thanks for reading! Let us know your thoughts!
Stiles laid on his bed, the thick, down blanket a comforting contrast to the ground he had slept on during their journey. Although refreshed from the bath and nap he was able to have, he was anxious, and his fingers tapped a rhythmic beat on his chest as he stared straight up at the ceiling.
Finding the movement not enough to calm his nerves, he stood abruptly, pacing the room, and rubbing the back of his head with his fidgeting hands. He inspected the room again.
Although luxurious in quality, it was relatively small, the bed in the corner taking up most of the space. A desk against the wall offered him a place to write, and he looked at the parchment and quill longingly, wishing he could write to his father, but knowing the thought was futile.
He sighed, directing his attention instead to a metal sconce by the door, the demonic face set into the iron frame calling for examination. The moment his fingers touched it, the pieces came apart, the lantern that had once been supported falling to the ground with a loud metallic clang. The candle bounced to the ground harmlessly, and Stiles counted himself lucky that it hadn't been lit, the large window bringing in enough light during the day to make the candle unnecessary. The last thing he needed was to burn down his host's castle.
Stiles started as the door beside him swung open.
"Let's go," Derek called from the door, skipping the customary knock and subsequent greeting.
Stiles was grateful for the few hours of rest that Talia had afforded him, but waiting for someone to retrieve him had been as near to torture as Stiles could imagine. However, now that Derek was there to get him, and he knew he was about to have supper with the most powerful werewolf family in the magical kingdoms, he wished for a few more minutes alone.
'Why would they send you?' He thought, realizing only when Derek responded that he asked the question out loud.
"Because, for some reason, my mother thought you would be more comfortable with me." He sounded as unhappy about the fact as Stiles was.
"Literally, anyone else would have been better."
"Agreed. Let's go," Derek repeated, not waiting for Stiles as he turned and left.
Derek walked quickly, the path already familiar to him, and Stiles struggled to follow him, each corridor looking the same as the last to his untrained eye.
They entered a hallway that was wider than the others, and Stiles, about to follow Derek around a corner, stopped to stare at a tapestry that hung on the wall. The other corridors had offered nothing but stone bricks to look at, so his distracted mind had latched onto the bright colours of the tapestry like a lifeline.
Finally pulling himself away and rounding the corner, he froze as he realized he was alone, no Derek in sight. Afraid he had wandered somewhere he wasn't supposed to be, he tiptoed forward, avoiding his footsteps echoing off the walls. He peered down the first turn, and found no one.
"Derek?" He called quietly, hoping the man was still close enough to hear him.
Ahead of him, Derek stepped back into the hall, a scowl on his face.
"Keep up," he told Stiles, disappearing once again through a stone archway.
Stiles jogged to get to him.
"Well, maybe I could if you weren't going so fas-, uh…hi," Stiles stuttered, passing under the arch to find, not another hallway, but a room filled with the entire Hale family. They surrounded a large dining table, stacked with food so delicious looking, Stiles' stomach growled loudly in response.
Talia shot Derek a disappointed look, and he shrugged, the family dining table a considerably less formal setting than the throne room.
Talia motioned to the empty chair in front of Stiles, and he sat obediently.
"I hope you enjoyed your time to relax, Stiles" she said politely.
"Oh, yes, it was very…relaxing," Stiles cringed as his nervous mind could think of no other word.
Talia smiled at him as everyone started loading their plates, and Stiles took the first opportunity to stuff his mouth with potatoes, his hunger and his need to render his mouth useless for speech, equal motivators.
"I know you must have many questions," Talia said, waiting for Stiles to nod before continuing. "But now is a time for rest and recovery. We will discuss business in the morning."
Stiles swallowed, both annoyed and grateful that this was not the moment for him to learn about his destiny.
The dinner continued with light conversation, and Stiles watched from his chair, the sound of the cutlery on his plate his only contribution. He kept his mouth full, finding it helpful against the temptation to fill the silence with whatever ramblings his brain could muster.
"Laura?" Derek called for his sister's attention, waiting for her to look at him. "Why weren't you in the throne room when we arrived?"
"I was busy," she deflected.
"Busy?" Derek scoffed. "Doing what?"
"Something important," she sneered at him.
"You're the next Alpha, and we brought home the Spark, something you guys seem to think will save us from extinction. What could you have been doing that's more important?"
"If you must know," Talia interrupted the budding argument. "Laura and Cora have each been training a regiment of elite soldiers, warriors who will help us win the battle against the Argents."
Derek breathed an exasperated sigh, his frustration barely concealed.
"That was my idea," he told his mother, the words forced out between clenched teeth.
"Yes, and it was a good idea. Which is why I assigned the task to your sisters."
"I'm wasting my time as a glorified babysitter," Derek snarled, ignoring Stiles' muffled complaints, distorted through a heaping bite of peas and corn. "I'm the best hand to hand fighter the pack has, I could be training those soldiers. I could be doing something useful to protect us for when the Argents attack."
"Escorting the Spark IS useful, Derek," Talia chided. "He needs to learn to fight as much as any soldier, and as you've said, you're the best."
"Plus, you were always my favourite babysitter," Cora piped up, smiling as Derek growled at her.
"He has no balance, no skills, no potential for fighting, and almost zero ability to take anything seriously."
"Derek, you're being disrespectful to our guest." Everyone stole a quick glance at Stiles, and he offered them a small smile through bulging cheeks. "Laura is the next alpha, I can't have her away from the pack. As the next eldest, the responsibility of our guest's safety falls to you, whether you like it or not."
Derek watched his mother for a long moment.
"Yes, Alpha. May I be excused?" Talia nodded, and he rose from the table to disappear through the stone arch.
"Well this is fun," Peter exclaimed, earning an eye roll from nearly everyone present.
Sorry for the late update guys! Hope you enjoy this (admittedly short) chapter. Thanks for reading! Comments and kudos are appreciated.