"Another rejection?" Cora asks, reading over Derek's shoulder.
He turns his head and scowls at her. "Stop doing that."
"Yes, Cora, reading over someone's shoulder is very rude. However, I think we should be more concerned about the problem at hand than unsightly manners," Peter says. He knows he looks relaxed, with his feet propped up on a table and his hands behind his head, but he's actually worried. This is the seventh rejection message Derek has received — that the pack has received — since they started looking for an emissary. Peter can feel how unsettled the territory is. No one has come to challenge Derek for rights yet, but they all know that's coming soon if this continues much longer.
"Okay, so we're running out of options here, right?" Cora asks.
"Correct," Peter answers when Derek doesn't.
"Is there anyone left to appeal to?" Derek asks after a few moments. He turns to Peter as he asks the question, and Peter wishes he had a good answer.
"Derek. Alpha." Peter sits up and runs a hand over his face. "You know what I think."
Derek scowls harder. "The school already turned us down."
Last month, when they finally realized no full-fledged emissary would come to serve them, Derek sent a plea to the magic training school in Zricaster. Peter wrote the request himself, but they may have been too honest about their situation.
The head of the school wrote back and said none of their graduates, old or new, were interested in such a small pack in the middle of nowhere. Of course, it was worded politely, but the answer was definitely a resounding “No.”
"I'm not suggesting we send more respectful requests," Peter says.
Derek sighs. "Spit it out, uncle."
Peter smiles and is about to reveal his plan when the tremors start. Cora grabs onto Derek's shoulder and the table he's sitting at. Peter grips the arms of his chair. Derek's eyes flash red as he fights the shift. They say nothing until the shaking subsides, though it takes longer this time than usual.
The instability is growing, both in the territory's land itself and in their alpha. Peter watches as Derek closes his eyes and shakes off the change, and thankfully his eyes are normal when he opens them again.
Cora says nothing, though she's visibly distressed.
Derek looks at Peter. "Do whatever it takes. Go get us an emissary."
No more questions, no more debates—just like that.
Peter agrees, though. They need someone to help them stabilize their pack's territory — and their pack's alpha — more than they need to hold onto their scruples.
He stands and gives Derek a short bow, a thank you and a sign of respect. "I'll be gone some time. The journey to Zricaster is long." And treacherous in this weather, he doesn't add, but they don't need to hear that. He shares a long look with his niece. It will be up to her to keep Derek together. She nods at him, understanding.
Two Weeks Later
"I'm bored," Stiles says. He lobs a ball toward Danny. "Catch!"
Danny doesn't look up from the thick tome he's reading. His floating witchlight bobs up out of the ball's way, and he raises one hand to catch the toy. Without looking. Stiles wishes he had that kind of spatial awareness; it's something he needs to work on.
Danny doesn't throw the ball back, though. He pockets it in his robe and says, "It's study time. You're supposed to be cramming for exams."
"But I know all this stuff," Stiles whines. His own books are currently closed, used to weigh down a few pieces of paper that wouldn't stop floating around the common room.
"You know how to do the 'stuff', but not the magical theory behind it. You're going to fail your exams," Danny says, finally looking up to frown at Stiles.
"Good," Stiles says slowly. "Maybe if I flunk out, they'll let me go home."
Danny shakes his head. "You're the most powerful spark they've seen in decades. They're not letting you go until they're forced to."
"Where did you hear that?"
"What part?" Danny asks.
"The most powerful spark, yada yada?" Stiles asks.
Danny sighs. "I heard Harris and Martin talking. Harris was bemoaning your work ethic and sounded like he hated you for being powerful. Martin was just like, oh hey, he doesn't really need all these classes, maybe we should let him work at his own pace?" Danny shrugs. "Harris didn't like that. Said you already get enough special treatment."
"Yeah, but... most powerful spark in decades? I know my magic's kinda strong, but that's ridiculous."
"You're ridiculous," Danny says. "If I didn't like you so much, I'd hate you. Everything is just so effortless for you."
"Except very basic magic that first years can do. But you do the same thing with those metal gear things. What did Finstock call them?"
"That's just clockwork," Danny mumbles. "Anybody can work with it if they learn how."
Stiles gives him an incredulous look. "You made that little ballerina dance on her own with one little push of magic. For me to do it, I'd have to keep constant contact." Not to mention the concentration. He's terrible at the small stuff.
"Nah," Danny says, but his cheeks are going ruddy.
He's cute when he blushes. Too bad Danny's already got a boyfriend. And Stiles has always liked older men anyway, so it would never work. Teenagers don't hold his attention for long.
"Anyway, I'm bored. As I said," Stiles whines again. "Nothing ever happens around here."
"Just think, you graduate next year, and then you'll have your pick of occupations."
Stiles frowns. "Sure, if there's something for me to do in Beacon."
"You could do anything, go anywhere. Beacon's weeks away from civilization. What would you even do there?" Danny wants to know.
"My dad is in Beacon. My friends! My mom's buried there, and my house is there, and—" He cuts himself off before mentioning something he shouldn't.
Stiles shrugs. "Nothing important, just… memories, you know?"
"You haven't been back in six years. How do you know you even fit there anymore?"
Because the dreams keep calling me back, Stiles almost says. Because the song's in my head. But he doesn't say it aloud. Danny may be his best friend at the magic school, but if Stiles mentioned the Nemeton or the dreams, the other boy was sure to tell someone.
"It's late. I'm gonna go for a walk," Stiles says in lieu of answering.
"How do those two sentences fit together?" Stiles hears another roommate mutter. Oh, Greenberg must have been listening.
Danny starts to explain while Stiles leaves the room, heads down the dark corridor, and goes outside.
Fresh air, freedom to think, and all the moonlight he could want. He looks up once he reaches the walled garden. The clouds of the day have dispersed, and it's starting to get really cold, so the stars are bright in the sky. He closes his eyes and feels the moonlight shine down on him, giving him strength. He's definitely a night mage. He can get energy from the stars, too, but the moon is where he finds the most.
But because he forgot his cloak, he starts to shiver. He can see his breath. He really should go in, but he'd rather soak up a little more moonlight.
He twitches his hand to try a warming spell, but it's one of those little things he has trouble with. He's powerful. He can do big things that make his teachers' eyes go wide with wonder (and sometimes fright). But smaller magics, like conjuring a cloak, or warming himself, or even lighting a little fire, are still out of reach.
He sighs but then feels something heavy and warm settle on his shoulders. A furred cloak. He turns to see where it came from and comes face to face with a man he doesn't know.
"You looked cold. Is that better?" the man asks with a smile.
"Yes, but… Who are you?" Stiles asks. He knows all the teachers and students in the school. This man is somewhere he isn't supposed to be. And Stiles is sensing something different about him—an aura of the supernatural.
The man keeps smiling, and Stiles's knees go a little weak. He's so attractive. "My name is Peter. And you are?"
"Stiles," he says with a frown. He's not about to let the man's hotness distract him from the matter at hand. "What are you doing here?"
"Looking for you," the man says, and then the massive hood of the cloak comes up over Stiles's head, obscuring his eyes and muffling his startled shriek.
The cloak smells of something sweet, something that makes his head swim and causes his body to go boneless. He falls back, right into the strange man's arms.
Peter holds him close. "I'm not going to hurt you, I promise, not unless you fight it. Just relax. Let the lethe do its work."
Lethe. Forgetfulness, or oblivion. Stiles thinks he knows more about the word, but soft darkness is calling him and he only wants to sink down into it. So he does.
The thing about Stiles's magic is that it's unpredictable but extremely strong. There are lots of things he can't do, but sometimes his magic works in ways to protect him from harm without Stiles having to lift a single finger.
So when he wakes up and goes over the previous night's events in his head, he remembers the lethe first. And now that he's (somewhat) clear-headed, he can recall all its properties and supposed effects.
He shouldn't be able to remember, is the thing. He should be groggy, a bit listless, and have only vague memories of what he's doing and even who he is. Lethe works to produce temporary amnesia. If it isn't continuously taken (or given), the memories slowly return. Stiles is still wearing the lethe-laced hood, so it's more of a low, continuous dose.
But Stiles remembers everything. He's somewhat groggy, like he had a few too many pints the night before, but he hasn't forgotten anything. (Unless he's forgotten what he's forgotten?)
He figures his magic is working to protect him again. It sensed a danger to his mind and counteracted it. Now he just has to figure out what to do with this information.
He'll go along with it, for now, pretending the lethe worked. He can be sneaky like that. The only problem is that he's pretty sure his captor is a werewolf, so outright lies are out of the question. He ducks his head and smirks. He's always up for a challenge.
"Are you awake now?" Peter asks.
Stiles lifts his head and looks around, frowning at his surroundings. He's in a warm bedroll, by a fire that's slowly dying down. Something smells good and makes his stomach rumble with hunger.
Stiles blinks at Peter, looking as confused as he can.
"How's your head?" Peter asks.
"My head?" Stiles repeats, wondering where this is going.
"You seemed confused last night after you hit it," Peter says smoothly. He's a practiced liar. Luckily, Stiles has always been able to tell lies from truth, though he's not about to tell his captor. No reason to give him that.
"I don't remember hitting my head," Stiles says, putting the hood off his head and feeling the back of his skull as if looking for a bump. Surprisingly, he finds a sore spot, wincing when he does. "Ouch."
Peter must have hit him while Stiles was unconscious, but he doesn't look sorry for it.
"Where are we?" Stiles asks, squinting against the rising sun.
Peter pulls some meat off a stick and offers it to him. It's already making Stiles's mouth water. "Just outside of the city. We have a long journey ahead of us, though, so we should get moving soon."
Stiles takes the meat — rabbit? — without eating it. He swallows hard. "Where are we going? I don't remember being on a trip?" He doesn't have to feign confusion now. He's curious — what does Peter want with him? He doesn't know Stiles is powerful or he'd have done more to keep him from running off. Restraints, at the very least, or perhaps trying to keep him unconscious.
Peter smiles. It's almost reassuring. "We're traveling back to Beacon. You must have hit your head harder than we thought."
Beacon. The land Stiles has been dreaming of since he left it six years ago. The place that calls to him like a siren. He was hoping to figure out a way to escape from Peter, to go back to Zricaster and the school there, but maybe he could just go along with this, at least until he's closer to home.
Stiles nods as if this all makes sense. Under the influence of lethe, he would be very biddable, almost eager to go along with what others told him. This makes it easy to fool Peter, but he does have questions.
Stiles makes his voice sound vague. "Why are we going to Beacon?"
Peter's eyes are sharp, and Stiles worries he wasn't vague enough. Shouldn't he ask questions if he has no memories?
"You're my pack's new emissary," Peter says after a long moment. Stiles almost bursts out laughing, but he can tell Peter is serious. The werewolf isn't lying. He motions Stiles to eat.
Stiles bites his lip, frowns. "I don't think I'm qualified for that." He really isn't. He hasn't even started an apprenticeship. Still, working for a pack in Beacon would be more convenient than he ever dreamed. He takes a bite of rabbit and its juices run over his tongue. He moans and chews more as he thinks.
He can't just go along with it. He's been kidnapped! He should refuse on principle. But then again, their pack must be desperate if they went and stole the first magic-user they came across.
"What's your specialty?" Peter asks.
Stiles shrugs and wipes his mouth. "Don't have one." It's not a lie, exactly.
"I thought the magic school made students focus on one or two particular aptitudes," Peter says. It's not a question, so Stiles doesn't answer. He hopes Peter's not violently angry when he figures out he kidnapped a somewhat defective spark.
When Peter doesn't get a reply, he starts packing up the bedrolls and putting out the campfire. Stiles finishes his rabbit and watches Peter.
Stiles wonders if the school has noticed he's missing. They're liable to scry for him if they want him back, and might be showing up any time. Then again, Stiles skips classes on a regular basis and often disappears when he wants to be alone. They may assume that's the case and not bother looking for him for days.
He hasn't been outside the walls of the school in years, so he may as well enjoy it while he can. And if they manage to evade the school and get to Beacon, all the better. Stiles has a nemeton to tend. Plus, he misses his dad.
Peter doesn't know what to think of the boy he's taken. This is the first time Peter's used lethe, but he's studied its effects and knows how it should work. But the boy — Stiles — doesn't act particularly docile. Yes, he's coming along with Peter on the long journey back to Beacon. It's what Peter wanted and expected by using the lethe.
It's not that Stiles is obstinate. He's not. But Peter sees too much personality peeking through for the lethe to be fully doing its job. Maybe he got the dose wrong? Or maybe it's wearing off. The effects should last as long as Peter keeps dosing Stiles every eight hours. The boy should remain confused and easily led. And yes, so far Stiles is manageable. But Peter wonders if he's gaining tolerance to the lethe.
"What's your pack like?" Stiles asks. They've been traveling for two days now and the boy is becoming more of an enigma. He shouldn't have the mental capacity for curiosity like this, and yet here he is, still asking questions.
Well, Peter has no reason to keep the truth from the boy. It's not like he's going to run back to Zricaster.
"We're a small pack," Peter says. "It's just the three of us: my nephew, my niece, and myself."
Stiles is quiet for a few more minutes as they walk. Peter would have preferred some sort of carriage, but this way they can hide easily in case of danger. Plus, horses and werewolves don't exactly mix.
"Why so small?" the boy asks.
Peter looks at him suspiciously, but Stiles only has that vague, somewhat dopey look on his face. Stiles blinks at him, looking innocent. Maybe too innocent?
"Hunters," Peter clips out. He doesn't want to talk about it. Not now, and certainly not with a boy he doesn't yet know.
Either the lethe is working better than Peter thought, or the boy knows when to drop a subject. He doesn't ask about the pack again that day, or the next day, or the next.
They travel much more slowly than Peter could have traveled alone, but Peter doesn't mind. He has an emissary for his pack. That's what's important. However, there's something off about Stiles that he can't put his finger on. Several somethings. But Peter is clever and patient. He'll figure it out.
It doesn't help that Stiles is attractive. Young, yes, but… gorgeous, in an unconventional way. Peter is fascinated by the turn of his nose, the plush fullness of his lips, the smoothness of his skin. Even the moles that dot the boy's face are interesting, and Peter finds himself wanting to trace the path of one to another.
He wonders if the rest of the boy's body is similarly marked.
And Stiles's eyes are intelligent, even with the lethe. They're brown, just brown, but Peter keeps comparing them to other things in his mind. Like amber, or strong liquor. What a fool he is.
At night, the boy looks at the sky, closes his eyes, and smiles. On the sixth night, Peter finally asks him what he's doing.
Stiles hesitates before answering, making Peter's suspicions grow. Is it possible the boy is faking being under the lethe's control?
"I like the stars," Stiles says and looks away. It's vague enough to be the truth, but Peter just knows there's more to it than that. The boy knows Peter is a werewolf and that he can't lie to him. More than that, he knows how to tell truths without telling the whole truth.
Stiles isn't affected by the lethe at all. There's no possible way to be that wily under the drug's effects.
They are camped for the night. Peter lies back in his bedroll and thinks. He wonders what Stiles hopes to gain from his deception. He supposes if he were in the boy's shoes, he would do the same. Stiles is human and can't fight back. He should be able to use magic against Peter to get away, but Peter hasn't seen any evidence of magic since he found the boy at the school. At the time, Peter thought Fate was smiling on him that he found a student unattended. Maybe the school didn't watch over Stiles closely because he wasn't a good student. Or maybe he's not a student at all, perhaps he's the groundskeeper's son.
That thought jolts Peter. He definitely needs a magic-user to be the pack's emissary. If Stiles isn't magical, the pack is fucked.
But then again, Stiles did fight off the effects of the lethe. There is an antidote to the drug, but it's rare, and he doubts Stiles would have some on hand for the off chance he was drugged. Another possibility is tolerance to it, but that would require taking small doses for over a year, possibly more, and it's a little-known drug. Stiles seems to know about it enough to fake its effects, though.
Stiles must have staved off the effects with magic. But if Peter is wrong, he has no other proof that the boy has even a drop of magic in him. And if that's the case, Peter's wasted days and needs to get back to Zricaster.
He's getting attached to Stiles, though. He hopes he doesn't have to go back and trade him for another student.
"I always wondered what a magic school was like," Peter says suddenly. "Tell me about it." He has to keep acting like he thinks Stiles is drugged, so direct questions would be expected.
Stiles doesn't look away from the sky. "It's tedious."
"You had classes, right? Nothing captured your interest?"
Stiles finally looks at Peter. He sits on his bedroll and scoots closer to the fire. The weather is getting even colder. "I liked the practical classes, but I'm failing history and theory. Too convoluted and boring."
That shows promise. "What did you like most about the 'practical' classes?"
Stiles smirks. "Actually working with magic? Seeing it come alive out of my hands to do its thing? Very satisfying."
"What's your favorite magic to do?" Peter asks curiously.
Stiles bites his lip. "Probably illusions."
Peter raises an eyebrow. "Sleight of hand? Vanishing rabbits?"
Stiles throws his head back to laugh, exposing his throat. It's pale and unmarked, and Peter wants nothing more than to suck a bruise into it. Stiles says, "No, I mean actual illusions. Like this." He puts his hands out toward the fire as if to warm them, but something moves. When Peter looks into the flickering light, he sees a wolf. It's intricately detailed, though it's made of flames.
The wolf turns toward him, tail wagging slowly. The ears are perked but its posture is slightly off, as if it knows it's a wolf but isn't sure how to act like one. But when he looks into the wolf's eyes, they glow red, and Peter has the urge to submit to this new alpha. It takes his breath.
"That's incredible," Peter breathes.
And just like that, the wolf disappears. Stiles is smiling. "I can do that, and a lot more. The more detailed, the better.” Then his smile drops. "I can't do smaller things. Not well, anyway. But if something takes a lot of magic, I seem to have plenty to spare."
Peter has a suspicion this means Stiles isn't just a magic-user. He's a spark. Peter's fingers itch for his books.
Stiles seems to remember he's supposed to be drugged. He yawns and looks vague again. Peter nearly gives up the game by laughing.
"Get some sleep," Peter says instead. "We cross some bad terrain tomorrow. Rest is essential."
Stiles appears to obey, snuggling into his bedroll, and Peter lies back and stares at the starry sky. He still doesn't know why Stiles wants to come with him to Beacon. But that isn't the foremost question on his mind.
When the fire came to life, it should have been a nightmare come true. But Peter stayed calm and even fascinated by what was in the flames. How did he manage that? Why wasn't he repelled? After the arson that killed most of their pack, Peter has only dealt with fire as a necessity, and always grudgingly. Stiles's magic changed that somehow. Or was it Stiles himself?
He drifts off with these thoughts on his mind, but he dreams of kissing a pale throat and plush, pink lips.
The closer they get to Beacon, the more Stiles feels the pull of the Nemeton. He hears her song. It's especially loud once they cross the river. But the weather is getting worse, colder, and Stiles worries about how prepared they are for a storm.
He mentions the possibility to Peter. Peter looks at the gray sky and says they need to travel faster, if possible. He doesn't say there's no way to make it in time. The storm is coming in, and they need to find a sturdy shelter as soon as possible.
Unfortunately, Stiles is a klutz, and hurrying along means more chance for an accident, especially on rocky and sometimes hilly terrain. He tries to keep up with Peter, but in his haste Stiles misses a thin crevasse, gets his foot stuck, and falls.
Peter is by his side almost immediately, but not in time to catch him. Stiles touches his forehead and his hand comes away bloody. His head hurts and he's disoriented.
Then it begins to snow.
"I don't believe this," Peter mutters lowly, but Stiles hears him.
"Could be worse," he points out. Are his words slurring or is that just his imagination?
"Shut up, you're concussed." Peter sounds worried.
"If I was co'cussed, could I do this?" Stiles asks, and waves his hand. A stream of magic lights up the darkening path.
Peter looks wary. "What's that?"
Stiles doesn't know. He's never quite sure what his magic has in store for him, but that's what makes it fun. "Follow it, I guess."
He's feeling woozy, and his head is swimming. He stumbles again but this time he falls into Peter's arms.
"Hold on," Peter says, and picks him up. He cradles Stiles against his chest. It's more comfortable than it has any right to be.
Stiles relaxes in his hold. "'kay." He closes his eyes. It's not like there's much to see anyway, with all the snow falling around them. At least his magic is showing Peter the way. To what, Stiles isn't sure, but he trusts in his magic's ability to keep him safe.
He barely notices when he passes out.
"Wake up," a voice urges.
Stiles doesn't want to. Waking means pain. He frowns when he feels his head throb anyway. "Ow," he whines.
A gentle hand settles on his head and the pain vanishes. "Better?"
Stiles opens his eyes to meet Peter's. "So blue," he mumbles.
Despite being inside what looks like a cozy cabin, Stiles shivers as cold wracks his body. He tries to ignore it and focus on what's important. "Your eyes're blue."
"Darling, your lips are going to turn blue soon if we don't figure out how to warm you up," Peter says.
"Hmm," Stiles says. He lets his gaze wander, but things are blurry. He thinks there might be a fireplace, but the fire must be newly made, as it hasn't yet warmed the cabin.
Peter blows hot breath on Stiles's numb fingers. He's frowning in worry.
"It's 'kay," Stiles says. "Let's jus' get naked."
"Now I know you're concussed," Peter says with a smile. It's a nice smile that makes slight wrinkles around his eyes. Stiles wants to kiss them.
Back to the matter at hand. "T'warm me up. Naked skin, lotsa blankets."
Peter licks his lips. "If you trust me not to take advantage."
"How d'ya know I won't be th'one takin 'vantage of you?" Stiles asks. The words are slurred but he thinks Peter understands.
Peter smiles again, though he's frowning a little with it. "Maybe I'd let you... when you aren't obviously injured."
"Hmm. Less talkin', more naked."
The bed in the cabin is big enough for two if they snuggle. Which is what is going to happen. Stiles finds it hilarious. He even laughs as Peter deftly removes their clothing.
There are two quilts and a large furred blanket. Stiles shivers again and Peter pulls him close. He's so hot Stiles feels like he might burn his skin. He simultaneously wants to push the heat away and burrow inside it forever.
The compromise seems to be naked cuddling.
Stiles is too cold and dizzy to worry about his nudity or Peter's. He supposes he'll mind it more once he's warm and clear-headed again. At the moment, he just wants to close his eyes.
"Hey, no," Peter says.
Peter jostles him. "Don't fall asleep yet."
"Not sleepin, just restin my eyes," Stiles assures him.
"You're still concussed and I'm worried if you fall asleep, you might fall into a coma," Peter explains.
"I can assure you, comas aren't anything to scoff at," Peter says.
"Speakin from s'perience?"
"I am, as a matter of fact," Peter says.
Stiles is starting to feel less like he's frozen solid. His skin is regaining its sensitivity, and he can feel the soft rasp of hair from Peter's legs, which are twined with his. He can feel the strength of Peter's muscles, and the various points of contact their bodies share.
To distract himself from the obvious, Stiles starts asking questions, beginning with the one at the forefront of his mind.
"What happ'nd to your pack?"
What happened to your pack, the boy wants to know.
Peter turns his head and breathes in the scent of Stiles's hair. He doesn't smell of deception, just confusion and curiosity. He doesn't want to hurt Peter or the Hales, not as some would. He doesn't want to cause pain with his question.
So Peter finally answers. "Someone from the local hunter clan broke the treaty we had. A woman took advantage of my nephew and gained information on how to get us at our weakest. During a Wolf Moon celebration, she and her associates trapped us in our den and set fire to it." He takes a shaky breath. "Many of our pack died that night, burned to death. I was hurt badly and was in a coma for a year. Only four of us survived."
"Not three?" Stiles mumbles.
"My oldest niece couldn't take the pain of the broken pack bonds, nor could she handle the alpha power she inherited. She took her own life," Peter answers slowly.
Stiles tightens his arms around Peter.
"My nephew inherited after Laura died," Peter says. "He took it badly at first, but I think he's made peace with it. But our territory is unstable without an emissary. Something about it is causing… problems."
"It's th' Nemeton," Stiles mumbles. He says the last word slowly, though, so that every syllable is clear.
Peter goes still. "What?"
"'s been callin' me for years. Can't wait t'get back."
"Beac'n. Home. 's where I b'long."
Peter's mind whirls with the implications. He's silent for several moments, but then he remembers he's supposed to be keeping Stiles awake. "Are we not pretending to be under the influence of lethe any longer, then?" he finally asks.
Stiles turns his head, and his big brown eyes stare at him in surprise. "You knew?"
"I figured it out, yes," Peter says with a smile.
The boy's voice sounds infinitely younger when he asks, "You mad?"
"Madly infatuated with you, perhaps," Peter says honestly.
Stiles blinks as he takes this in, but then he smiles. His eyes lighten and his cheeks turn pink. "Oh."
Ridiculously, Peter can't help but beam back at him. "Yes. I suppose I'm helpless to that sort of clever duplicity." Not to mention the power it took to fight off the lethe itself.
"You kidnapp'd me," Stiles reminds him.
"And I'm ever so glad I did, sweetheart," Peter tells him.
Stiles's face is a healthy pink, which is good news in some ways. Blood flow has returned in full force, and he's warm again. But blood is working in other areas as well, demonstrated when Stiles presses his hardening cock against Peter's hip. Stiles's eyes are alight with both promise and challenge. It's a shame Peter has to turn him down.
"You're concussed, darling," he points out.
"Only a ‘lil," Stiles tells him. And tries to kiss him. The fact that he misses Peter's lips and hits his chin is a good indication of what kind of condition the boy is actually in.
"No vigorous activity for the next day or two," Peter tells him, though it's almost painful to do so. Stiles's skin is warm now, smooth beneath Peter's hands. Stiles is eager and fearless, a combination that promises more than just an average fuck. But he's not well, and liable to hurt himself further if Peter allows it to continue.
Stiles pouts, and it's such a delicious sight that Peter swoops in and kisses him properly. Just that, though. No more. The kiss isn't deep, but it lingers, and it gives Peter a taste of Stiles's sweetness — a sweetness he is all too willing to wait for.
"Get some rest. I'll wake you in a bit," Peter tells him.
Stiles blinks stupidly at him. "But…"
Peter smiles and kisses his forehead, a sentimental action he's never felt the need for outside his family. "Sleep, darling. I'll be right here when you wake."
The promise seems to settle the boy, and he closes his eyes. Soon his breath goes even and deep as he slides into whatever dreams young sparks have.
Stiles is used to dreaming of the Nemeton. It's all he's dreamed of for five years, maybe longer. So when he opens his eyes in the Beacon Preserve, he knows right where he is and starts walking toward her, humming her song.
Maybe it's the concussion, or maybe it's sleeping in Peter's arms, or maybe it's because he's so close to Beacon again, but now there are other people in his dream. It's odd, because he's had this dream thousands of nights, and it's always just been him and the old tree.
He's not aware of them at first as he walks toward the Nemeton. She's singing in his mind a song without words but with many meanings. She's singing their song, something Stiles can hum during the day without realizing it, but never when he tries to do so. It's the song of his dreams, of the moon, but the Nemeton is changing it.
To his left, he hears leaves crunching under the delicate pad of a paw. He looks over, not scared at all, and sees his first wolf. She's not large but not entirely small, either. She's young and wary and when he tries to approach, she steps back. Her ears are pricked and she looks curious, but she's not about to interact with him. Not yet.
He hears a snuffling to his right and sees another wolf. This one is much larger. Black, too, with unusual hazel or blue eyes. Stiles is captivated for a moment, and then the eyes glow red. Stiles isn't afraid, but he does lower his head in respect.
The Nemeton's song urges him on. He looks up and sees he's close to the clearing.
He walks along the path and hears the wolves accompany him on either side. When he gets to the clearing, they follow him in, and there, Peter is waiting for him.
In Stiles's dreams, the Nemeton has been many things. In the beginning, when Stiles first went away to Zricaster, the Nemeton was just a stump. In those first dreams, Stiles sat there and soaked in the faint song, wondering what it meant. But the more time he spent in his dreams with her, she changed.
Sometimes, when he was most determined to get back to Beacon, the tree was a full-sized oak, with a wide trunk and many branches. Stiles could climb up and rest within them, and that's when he learned her song and the secrets she whispered through her leaves.
Sometimes she's been just a seedling, sometimes a sapling. But as the years went on and Stiles bonded with her, she showed him miraculous transformations. Some nights he found her sitting quietly as an entire grove. She was holy on those nights, and he found himself thanking the gods for her and asking for their patronage.
His magic became even stronger. He knows it's somehow tied to being born in Beacon, chosen by the Nemeton. To dreaming her dreams.
But tonight when he reaches the clearing, she looks large and strong and ancient, with Peter lying under the shelter of her branches. Stiles knows it's Peter, even though he's never seen him as a wolf. But this is unmistakably Peter. He's lighter than the other two, gray and brown, and his eyes are blue. He looks at Stiles , his expression saying 'what took you so long', and Stiles has to laugh.
He asks the Nemeton, "What does this mean?"
In reply, she sings a song of family, of pack and territory and magic. Stiles nods in understanding and runs a hand through the thick fur at the back of Peter's neck.
"Time to wake up," Peter says, though he shouldn't be able to speak in this form. But the dream is dissolving, and Stiles is waking with new insight.
"I need to go out and find food," Peter says on the second day. They've been snowed in since the blizzard hit, and while they found the cabin with a fire going, there was, puzzlingly, no food to be found anywhere in the cupboards.
Stiles blinks sleepily at him and rolls over. Then he grunts and sits up to get out of bed. Peter's already up, has been looking for something to eat anywhere in the cabin, but his search was fruitless.
But Stiles goes over to the fireplace and holds out his hands. At first, Peter thinks he's just warming them. But then he notices something that wasn't there before: a large pot hanging over the fire. Stiles mumbles some words Peter doesn't understand, and something in the pot begins to bubble.
"You can't go out in all this snow," Stiles tells him.
Peter looks out one of the windows, but the snow comes up so high he can only peek through about two inches to see sunlight.
"What are you doing?" Peter asks, looking back at Stiles, who's now stirring the pot. The scent wafts Peter's way and his stomach rumbles. "What- how?"
Stiles turns and smiles. He gestures to an empty cupboard. Peter knows it's empty because he's already checked every inch of their shelter. But Stiles looks expectant. "Get some bowls. And there are spoons in the drawer." He points.
Peter's chest feels funny. He doesn't know if he wants to find the things or not. If they aren't there, then perhaps Stiles hit his head too hard. It would be a shame if the boy was permanently injured. For a moment, Peter even feels guilt. But if he does find the bowls and spoons…
He does. They're right where Stiles said they would be. "How did you know to look there? How did you do that?"
"I'm a spark. I didn't realize it at the time, but I conjured this whole cabin when we needed it. Normally I can't do small things like conjure spoons, but if I think of it as part of the overall structure, then my magic is like 'oh, okay then'.
"You speak so strangely, did anyone ever tell you?" Peter teases, and brings the bowls to the pot. The stew — or whatever it is — smells heavenly.
Stiles grins and ladles out their portions, humming a short tune. It sounds familiar, but Peter doesn't think he knows it. Maybe he'll ask about it later. Right now he's preoccupied with eating ambrosia. It's boiling hot, he can see that, but when it hits his tongue it's just the right temperature. And it tastes like it was made by the most celebrated chefs in the land—or by a spark's magic.
"Good, isn't it?" Stiles asks.
"It's food fit for gods," Peter answers.
Stiles beams. "It tastes just like my mom's. Well, almost. There aren't any tiny bones to choke on." He says it wistfully.
"Does your mother live in Beacon?" Peter asks carefully, though he fears he already knows the answer.
Stiles shakes his head. "She died when I was just a kid."
"I'm sorry, sweetheart. I lost my mother at a young age as well." Seeing Stiles's eyes go sad makes Peter change the subject. "When did your magic manifest?" he asks curiously.
"After Mom died. My father went on a hunt with some of the town guards and accidentally caught an arrow to the chest. It missed his heart, but he… he was going to die. I wasn't there; I was home. But I felt it happen. I knew my dad was in trouble. Somehow I got to his side and healed him without thinking."
"How old were you?" Peter asks.
Stiles finishes his bowl of stew before answering. "Twelve. Right after that, I was sent to Zricaster."
"To do that, and to conjure this cabin and everything in it, you must be very powerful, darling."
Stiles shrugs. "I can do some big stuff when I need to, but nothing small and practical. My magic isn't very refined."
"Do you know why?" Peter asks.
"My teachers say it's because I don't concentrate enough, or practice enough, or study enough. Personally, I think it will get better once I'm back in Beacon."
Peter frowns. "Why do you think that?"
Stiles gives him a mysterious smile. "I guess you'll see once we get there."
Peter hates not knowing things, especially secrets. But he does know how to be patient.
The snow around the cabin has melted away as if by magic, and the trail to the main road (which has become narrower and less smooth as they've gone on) is easily visible. Stiles and Peter have no more excuses to stay in the cabin, and Peter can't help but think of the instability back home.
"I wish we could stay longer," Stiles murmurs as he looks out the door.
They are Peter's thoughts, exactly. "But we do need to get moving."
They don't know what they'll find once they get there. Peter's expecting the worst. Well, maybe not the worst. That would be a crater and a feral pack. His bond to Derek is giving him an unsettled feeling but he doesn't know why. Has Derek lost control of himself entirely? Has his connection to the territory been severed?
Is the Hale alpha feral?
Stiles is looking at him. He takes his hand. "You're worried about something."
"My pack. The territory. Derek, to be honest."
Stiles nods but doesn't look concerned. "It's going to be fine. You'll see."
"You didn't see what was happening before I left," Peter says evenly, annoyed with the boy's naive positivity.
"Don't give me that look," Stiles says. "I can feel it calling me. It's probably settled, knowing I'm coming."
"The territory?" Peter asks.
Stiles hums a familiar-sounding tune and doesn't answer.
In fact, as they journey that day, he continues to hum. It gets louder. Peter's patience is wearing thin, and he would snap if not for the fact that the humming actually settles him in his skin. The tune is so familiar, but he still can't place it.
"Does this song of yours have words?" Peter finally asks that afternoon.
Stiles looks at him with big eyes. Confused.
Peter sighs. "You've been humming for hours. Does the song have verses?"
"We're almost there," Stiles says.
"That's not an answer."
Stiles grins, his eyes slightly manic with excitement. "No, you don't understand. I can feel the edge of the territory. Come on!"
He runs toward the edge of the forest, which Peter hadn't been planning on traveling through. "Don't you want to stay on the road?" he calls after Stiles, but Stiles either doesn't hear or doesn't care.
The only thing left to do is follow. It's easy to catch up — Stiles is only a human, of sorts.
Stiles stops suddenly. The hair at Peter's nape stands up.
"Feel that?" Stiles asks with a grin.
"What is it?" Peter whispers. Are they in danger? But it doesn't feel like a threat, more like a welcoming.
"We're home," Stiles explains. He holds out his arms and closes his eyes.
"Not quite," Peter says, but Stiles is right about one thing. They're within the Hale territory. They aren't in Beacon proper yet, but this land is theirs.
Peter spends a moment to congratulate himself on a job well done. He's gotten an emissary and brought him back to the territory. Now they can go about the process of settling things down the way they need to be.
"Let's head to the den," Peter says, but Stiles apparently has other priorities. He's leading Peter in a different direction, deeper into the forest.
"It's going to get dark in here," Peter reminds him.
"It's a full moon," Stiles reminds him, as if Peter, the werewolf, would forget that fact. "We'll be able to see just fine."
"Really we should go to the den," Peter mutters, but follows.
Stiles seems to know exactly where he's going, or else just learned how to walk confidently. Since he's usually tripping over his own feet, Peter's going to assume he has a destination in mind.
And then Stiles begins to sing. The tune he's been humming all day gets louder and becomes… well, not words, not exactly, or at least not in any language Peter's ever heard. But it's clear and bright in Peter's ears. If moonlight had a sound, this is what it would be.
The sun goes down almost suddenly, but Stiles keeps singing and walking toward whatever is calling him. Peter feels like he's being wrapped up in nature's magic as the darkness descends.
The forest is alive. Peter's always knew the territory was a semi-sentient thing, had learned that at his grandmother's knee. But she never told him about anything like this. At least, not that he can remember. But the song is something she might have hummed once. Yes. The more he hears it, the more he remembers her.
She was human. Born to a wolf pack without the ability to shift, she became the pack's lorekeeper much like Peter is now. How did she learn this song, though? And how does Stiles know it?
Maybe Peter's about to find out, because Stiles is leading him to a clearing. The moon has risen. How long have they been walking through the forest? Time has become fluid and irrelevant. Stiles is singingly out loudly now, as bright as the moon is full, and Peter is entranced. At this point, he can't help but follow.
And when he gets there, Cora and Derek are already waiting. Stiles greets them with song and lays his hands on the tree in the center of the clearing. It's an oak, large and sprawling, hundreds of years old. And Stiles is smiling at it like it's an old friend.
Derek is looking on with wide eyes. Peter walks to stand beside him and Cora.
"I see you found us an emissary," Cora says quietly, almost sarcastically. But Peter can see she's in a state of awe and wonder just like he is.
"This is Stiles," Peter says, not even bothering to keep the affection out of his voice.
Derek is watching Stiles closely. They all are. His song invites them to participate, so Peter steps up to the tree and begins to hum. Stiles beams at him. He's so beautiful Peter could kiss him right now, but that would probably be inappropriate given the circumstances.
And just like that, the song ends. It doesn't taper off, or wind down like a song usually does, but just comes to an abrupt stop.
Except it doesn't, not really. Stiles stops singing but Peter can still hear it going in his head. He hears a clear female voice in his mind, and he sees visions of tending the tree — the Nemeton. Of holding their pack rituals here. Of a lush, successful future for their pack. And Stiles, he sees Stiles always at his side. In his mind, he and Stiles link hands and Peter helps in whatever ways he can.
The song takes on a questioning note in his mind. Peter can't help but nod. Yes, he agrees. He'll help their emissary, he'll be at his side when it's needed. Out of the corner of his eye he sees Derek and Cora nodding similarly, perhaps to their own questions.
The Nemeton has bound them to Stiles, he feels, and now without another word he's the Hale pack's emissary.
Peter's sure he couldn't have picked a better one.
This time the song winds down slowly until it's just a whisper at the back of his mind. Stiles is beaming at them.
Now is the perfect time for that kiss.