One of Stiles’ earliest memories is peering around the doorway to the kitchen and watching his mother do the dishes without her hands. And because Stiles was clumsy from his very first step, the peering quickly turned into tripping over his own shoelace.
“What are you doing honey?” Warm hands picked him up and held him close, soothed his scraped knee with a murmur and a cool tingle. “All better?”
Stiles nodded into his mother’s neck.
“Want to help me do the dishes?” She waited for him to pull back a bit, then wriggled her fingers at his face. “It’s all in the hands, remember that. Now, point at the sink and repeat after me. Lavabit.”
“Laffabid,” Stiles said, and pointed intently, feeling the traces of a tingle wriggle its way out of his heart and down his arm where it jumped out of his fingertips. He giggled when the dishes began their dance again, dipping themselves into sudsy water to get scrubbed before spinning under the running tap.
“Good boy, very good.” She beamed at him. “I knew you’d take after my side of the family.”
Stiles enjoyed his first day of school for about an hour. Then he worked out that his mother wasn’t there, and she wasn’t coming back, and he was alone with all of these strange people who wouldn’t let him have the blocks to himself and a boy who kept pushing him and Stiles just wanted to go home so he shut his eyes very tight and thought of the kitchen where his mother would be, reading in a puddle of sunshine, and waggled his fingers in just the right way. “Domum,” he enunciated clearly.
The familiar tingles worked their way out of his heart, strong with his want, and then there was a sudden jerk to the right and he knew he was home from the smell of the herbs growing in pots along the windowsill.
“What on earth!” He opened his eyes and there was his mother, looking at him in astonishment. But then her eyes narrowed and Stiles shrank back against the kitchen counter he was perched on. “Did you magic yourself home?”
“You said to use that word if I ever got lost!” he protested.
“Oh honey.” She stood and crossed to him, wrapping him up in her arms. “You weren’t lost. You were at school.” She stroked his hair. “Did you get scared?”
“No!” She waited. Finally, Stiles broke and mumbled, “He kept pushing me.”
“Who kept pushing you?”
“Jackson. And he took all my blocks. He didn’t want to share at all!”
“If that happens again, just go to Ms Koch, okay? Look at me sweety.” Stiles pulled back and looked up at her. “This is very important. Did anyone see you? When you used magic?”
Stiles thought carefully, then shook his head. “I was in the pillow fort.”
She flashed him a small smile. “Do you want a juice box? I need to make a quick phone call.”
He leaned against her legs, slurping at his grape juice, while she made her call. He wasn’t going to let her out of his sight just yet.
“Yes, he made his way home. I think he got a lift from one of the deputies, they all know him pretty well. No of course I don’t blame you, he’s like a monkey sometimes. Mm, I think that’s best. I’ll bring him back tomorrow and we can try again. I might stay for a while, until he’s a bit more comfortable. Alright. I’m just about to have a talk with him, hopefully this won’t happen again. See you tomorrow morning.”
That night, after Stiles was tucked up in bed, they had The Discussion.
“You can’t do that again. I taught you that word for emergencies, and school is absolutely not an emergency. But more importantly, you can’t let anyone see you do magic. It’s a special thing, a you-and-me thing, do you understand?”
Stiles shook his head.
His mother sighed. “Not very many people can do this. And when something isn’t known, when it isn’t familiar, it’s frightening. Do you want people to be afraid of you?”
“No,” he said quietly.
“You can only do magic when no one can see you. It’s a secret that only you, me, and Daddy know about.”
“And your babaane,” she agreed with a soft smile. “Can you promise me? That you’ll be a big boy and do your best to keep this a secret?”
Stiles nodded earnestly.
“That’s my Genim,” she said, and kissed him goodnight.
In the second week of third grade Stiles decided he was in love with Lydia Martin. She smelled like flowers and her hair was the color of the sunrise and she drew butterflies in every art class and was the fastest at counting and always had delicious cookies for lunch that she would sometimes share and when she laughed Stiles couldn’t help but laugh as well.
But most of all, whenever he touched her his magic would bleed out of his heart and race down to his fingertips, sparking between them like static electricity.
“Sometimes you might not know what the word you need is,” his mother explained. “And you might not have time to find it, or even know where to look it up. But that’s okay. A lot of doing magic is about intent. It will only work properly if you’re clear on what you want. Using words just helps give shape to your desire. But if you want something strong enough you can just will it to happen.”
Stiles spent the practical part of that day’s lesson glaring at a candle and silently wishing it would catch flame.
“Visualise it,” his mom coached. “Focus your mind on what you want to happen.”
Which was all well and good for her to say, but Stiles was very very bad at focussing his mind on anything at all let alone something as silly as lighting a candle especially considering that there was sunshine streaming through the window and the room was perfectly bright enough. Still, he could do this. He had to do this. His mom was watching him with quiet expectation, and he wasn’t going to let her down.
He imagined lighting the candle with a match, and then taking the match away so that he was lighting the candle with empty fingers. Nothing. Okay, so fire. Red and warm and wavering in front of his eyes with every gust of nearby breath. He wanted that, that sound of wood crackling as fire ate through it, ate it up, leaving nothing but cooling ash behind. Except smaller, not a campfire, he reminded himself, just one single flame the size of his thumbnail, that was all he needed.
Maybe if they had thick curtains over the windows that they could pull closed this would be easier to do. He glanced up and out the window over the sink just in time to see a bird swoop low, and wouldn’t it be neat if he could use magic to fly one day, he wondered if there was a word for flight in one of the big books that he wasn’t allowed to touch on his own yet. Just because they were old and crumbly didn’t mean he was going to destroy them, his mother should have more trust in him. That thing with the cookie crumbs had totally been an accident and not on purpose so it shouldn’t count at all.
“I can’t do it.” He crossed his arms in self-disgust. “I’m not good enough.”
“Don’t be silly,” she admonished. “This takes practice. You’ll get it eventually. Juice box?”
“Juice can’t fix everything,” he said glumly, but took the box from her. Apple, yum.
She laughed and stuck a straw in her own drink, sitting across from him. “When did you get so jaded? I think that’s enough practice for today. Want to watch half an hour of TV? I think that spider show is on now.”
“Mooom, it’s Spiderman. You make it sound like some creepy spider movie.”
Two weeks later, Stiles managed to wordlessly light a candle at dinnertime. His mother cheered, and his father smiled uncertainly.
“Well done, son,” he said, and then in a low aside added, “This is good, right? He’s not going to start lighting things on fire just for the fun of it?”
“Dad!” Stiles protested. “I’m not a bad guy! I’m like a superhero!!”
His dad relaxed marginally. “That’s right buddy. And with great power?”
“Comes great responsibility,” Stiles said solemnly.
He hated it.
Scott blinked at the sheet hanging in midair over Stiles’ bed, waiting for directions.
“Hey dude,” Stiles said with forced casualness. He dropped his hands and around the room several things clattered to the floor. Maybe he could just act like nothing was going on and Scott would believe him. “What’s up?”
“I. You.” Scott shook his head and pinned Stiles with a glare. “That happened. Don’t try to act like it didn’t. Explain.”
Stiles shifted uncomfortably from side to side. “I don’t know what you’re talking about?” he tried. But this was Scott, who might not have been the sharpest kid in class but was like a dog with a bone sometimes. He wasn’t going to let this go. And because he was a bastard and knew Stiles, Scott just looked at him, waiting. It only took two and a half minutes of silence to break him, and he blurted, “Okay fine, so I’ve got magic. Can we not make a big deal out of this?”
“Magic. Right. Okay.” He sounded sort of faint, so Stiles helpfully waved a chair over to him with a flick of his fingers and a murmured motus. Scott’s eyes widened even further. It looked kind of painful, actually. “I thought you trusted me,” he whined, and sat. “I thought we were best friends. I told you about the thing with the magazines and the rabbit! Why wouldn’t you tell me about this?”
“I do trust you!” Stiles resisted the urge to wrap Scott up in a big hug - he’d gotten strange about hugs when they’d started sixth grade. “You’re my best friend, I wanted you to know, but Mom said I couldn’t tell anyone and that if I did people would be scared of us and I don’t want you to be scared of me.”
Scott frowned. “Why would I be scared of you? Magic is awesome. Are you like Harry Potter? Wait, why aren’t you at a special magic school?”
“That’s fiction, dumbass.” Stiles flopped down on his bed, not even trying to hide his wide grin. Scott knew. He didn’t have to try and keep this a secret anymore. Scott knew, and he wasn’t running away and leaving Stiles friendless and alone. “Mom teaches me how to do things, but there’s not a Hogwarts or whatever. There’s just us. Or, well, there might be others, but there’s nothing official. Mom says you have to stay quiet.”
“The government might try to experiment on you if they found out,” Scott agreed, very seriously. “Or use you for evil.”
“Exactly! So you can’t tell anyone, okay? Wait, we should make a blood oath.”
“Ew, gross,” Scott said, but he let Stiles prick his thumb with a needle and said all the right words when they pressed their hands together tightly.
Scott coughed, and flicked a note over the small gap between their desks. In crabby handwriting, he had written:
Did you forget to take your meds at lunch?
Glancing up to check that Mr Patman was suitably distracted by drawing a diagram of a cell on the board, Stiles jotted down his reply.
Didn’t forget. Just didn’t take them. Gonna need the power. Wait till after school. It’s gonna be awesome.
Instead of getting excited, Scott cast a dubious look over at Stiles after reading the response. Which was entirely unfair, in Stiles’ opinion. That thing with the action figures had been all Scott’s idea, and sure, Darth Vader had been a little aggressive and teamed up with Megatron, but the GI Joe’s had been really helpful and by the time the magic had worked itself out and everything was lifeless plastic again they’d managed to put out most of the fires. Besides, Ms McCall had totally bought the story about manufacturer defects and had even written a strongly worded letter to the toy company about checking the wiring on their battery operated toys.
Whatever, Scott would see. This was going to be amazing.
That afternoon Stiles lead Scott out into the woods that surrounded the North side of the school. Scott, because he was going through a boring phase, was super whiny about it.
“Where are we going Stiles? There’s all sorts of gross bugs out here. Can’t we just go home?”
“No. We need the privacy. Mom doesn’t know I found the word and if she finds out then she’s going to say that I can’t use it but if she doesn’t know then I’m not breaking any rules so it’s fine!”
Scott frowned. “I don’t think it works like that.”
With a roll of his eyes, Stiles rounded on Scott impatiently. “Look, do you want to fly or not?”
That got Scott’s attention. “You finally found it?”
“It was in of the really really old books,” Stiles said, and pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket and handed it over. “I photocopied it, but it’s kind of hard to read.”
“To float, to lift, to free from the Earth,” Scott read aloud, then cleared his throat and said with a deep voice, “Orior fugere.” He looked disappointed when nothing happened, just like always.
“Sorry dude,” Stiles said sympathetically, and grabbed the paper back. “Gotta have the magic fingers.”
“Sure sure.” And that was another reason why Scott made such a good best friend, Stiles reflected while reading the very short description one last time. Scott treated the magic like he treated the fact that Stiles was double jointed. He’d try the moves out, but didn’t mind that he couldn’t do them too.
“Okay, let’s do this. You wanna go first? Silly question, of course you don’t.” Stiles folded the paper up and tucked it away before concentrating on the warm tingling in his heart. He spread his fingers out and braced himself as if he was using his arms to push away from the ground. Careful with his enunciation, he said “Orior fugere.”
Almost immediately the magic boiled out of his heart and out through his fingers, running along his skin like a net until it covered his whole body. And then, Stiles began to rise, drifting upwards like a balloon.
“Dude, that’s awesome! Quick, do me!”
“Orior fugere,” Stiles said, pointing at Scott, who whooped as he began to rise as well.
“How do we steer?” Scott flapped his arms, but nothing happened.
Stiles bumped into a tree branch and grabbed on. “Maybe try bouncing off things?” he suggested, before pushing himself away from the tree towards Scott, gently spinning through the air.
“It’s like bumper cars with people.” Scott grinned and reached out to snag Stiles when he got close. “Push off on the count of three.”
“This must be what astronauts feel like.” Stiles let himself flip over so he was upside down, the forest floor slowly receding above him. Scott flipped over too but kept on going, spinning head over heels again and again. “Do astronauts get vertigo? Because I think I’m starting to get airsick. Not from flying, from watching you. How many somersaults have you done in a row?”
“Oh god I’ve lost count. I can’t get it to stop.” Scott reached out wildly and snatched at Stiles’ arm.
“Hey!” Stiles pulled away and suddenly they were ricocheting through the trees, chasing each other like they were trapped in some sort of demented pinball game.
They finally stopped when Scott was dangerously close to having an asthma attack from laughing too hard, hanging on to the top of a tree like they were in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and had magical tree-walking fighting abilities. Which, thanks to Stiles, they sort of did.
Then Scott, who could never just be happy, had to ruin everything by asking, “So, what are the words to get down?”
Burping didn’t work, because, as Scott kept pointing out every time Stiles tried it, “This isn’t Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, god, I can’t believe you didn’t think to look up how to get down!”
“You didn’t think of it either!” Next he tried crawling down the tree, but it was like his body knew exactly how far away from the ground it wanted to be and wouldn’t let him get any closer.
“Yes but I’m not the one with superpowers here! I don’t get special lessons about how to tap into the mystical energy of the Earth.” Scott was getting better at the whole sarcasm thing.
“You make it sound like we dance around naked in the woods on full moons,” Stiles muttered, eyeing the roof of the school that was just visible over the tops of the trees. “You know, this never would have happened if our parents would just give us cell phones already.”
“I really don’t think they’re going to see it that way.”
“Okay, I’ve got an idea. Why just need to get a message to my Mom, right? And then she can come find us and get us down. Or maybe she can tell me what to do, I don’t know, it depends on what sort of energy it was. Sometimes only the person who cast a spell can end it but I think because this --”
“How are we going to do that?” Scott interrupted. “Throw a message in a bottle onto the lacrosse field and hope someone finds it?”
Stiles perked up. “Do you have a bottle? Because I’m gonna have to pee soon and --”
“No! Stiles! Focus! Can’t you just like, think us down? You’re getting better at the whole silent magic thing, right?”
“Well, yeah. But there’s kind of a difference between wanting the floors to mop themselves and convincing our bodies to obey gravity again. Plus if I get it wrong we might splat onto the ground and I really think there’s got to be a better way of getting down than that. Look, we just need to fly over to the school and get onto the roof. I think it’s about the right height so that it’ll look like we’re standing instead of floating. Then we’ll get whoever sees us to call the Sheriff’s department, Dad will come find us, he’ll get Mom and bam! We’re back walking on ground again!”
“You are going to get into so much trouble,” Scott muttered, but pushed off of his tree towards the school.
“I was taking initiative! Applying myself to independent studies! It’ll be fine.”
After that, Stiles’ mom started locking up the books when it wasn’t lesson time, and Stiles began teaching himself how to pick locks.