Stiles tugged his backpack up on his shoulder as he walked with Lydia to their first session of Defense Against the Dark Arts of their senior year. Cicadas were screaming in the courtyard in the August heat. He tugged down his tie and unbuttoned the top of his shirt. When the wind blew, the massive old fountain in the center of the yard misted the walkway.
“Why the fuck do we still have to wear uniforms?” Stiles asked.
“Because the administration loathes us,” Lydia said.
“At least you get to wear a skirt.”
“Wear one too.”
“I don’t have the legs for it.”
“Liar,” she said, pulling open the large door to the DA room.
“It’d be nice if they’d let us wear shorts.”
“You’ve been saying that for seven years.”
“I know. About time.”
Lydia snorted as they took the same seats they had sat in last year as juniors. Second row back to the left. The scent of burning peppermint and wolfsbane smoldered from a set of scales on Professor Argent’s desk. He had missed that smell. He didn’t realize it until the second he smelled it.
Around them, their own house colors, navy, mixed with red in equal parts. They had shared the same class time for nearly a decade so it only made sense that they had become friendly.
“At least you get to see your man,” Lydia said, pulling out her text book.
“True,” Stiles said, glancing around the room as he pulled out his own books.
Professor Argent wasn't there yet. His coffee cup was on his desk though. The silhouette of a jackalope etched in silver on the navy enamel.
“Speaking of sexy professors,” she said, leaning back in her chair and twisting a piece of her red hair. “The potions professor showed up last night after the dinner. Glory be.”
Stiles rolled his eyes. “The werewolf?”
“He can use me as a squeak toy whenever he wants.”
“Jesus,” Stiles said, laughing.
“Just wait until you see him.”
“Not into bestiality.”
“Nope. Just fucking men old enough to be your daddy.”
“We shared a computer for a month last year. You have no room to talak.”
Lydia laughed. For a witch, she had a laugh like a fucking fairy. Her siren bloodline was so easy to see in her pale skin and big eyes. He had seen it get her out of more homework in the last seven years than he would’ve thought possible.
Then the door at the back of the room came open and Professor Argent came in. Stiles groaned low in his throat. Argent wasn’t even trying to be hot and he still was. He picked up something on his desk then took a drink of his coffee before looking at the class. When he made eye contact with Stiles, he smiled slightly. Stiles smiled back.
“Teacher’s pet,” Lydia said.
“If only that got me spanked.”
“Could both of you go rub one out? You’re fogging up the air,” Danny said behind them.
“Help me? I don’t do it as well as you do,” Stiles said, looking back at his roommate he hadn’t heard come in and giving him pleading eyes.
Danny laughed slightly and opened his own books.
“Settle down,” Professor Argent said. When the class kept rumbling, a loud boom rocked through the room hard enough to make Stiles’s ears ring. Argent didn’t even move his lips to cast the spell. “I guess your summers were good since you can’t keep your mouths closed.”
“Yes, Professor Argent,” they mumbled.
“Good,” he said. “We don’t have time to waste a day with only going over the syllabus,” he said and papers flew from his desk, landing on theirs. The syllabus for their final year. “Look it over. Let know if you have questions. My office hours are the same time they’ve always been. I’m also available by appointment or during detention. Now open your books to page seven-hundred and fifty-two.”
It had been a long summer. A long summer of dealing with his internship and spending the last few weeks with his dad and his deputies. None of them were remotely as hot as Argent. His dark wash jeans made his legs look like they went on for days. The dark gray shirt he wore was tucked in and it didn’t even look stupid.
Still, what got him more was Argent giving the background of the Southern Plain demon covies without ever glancing at the book. Within a few minutes, Stiles remembered that he didn’t get to gawk during lectures. His pen needed to be moving or he was going to miss shit that would be on the test and wasn’t in the book, because Argent knew things that it didn’t.
By the end of the lecture, Stiles had five pages of notes with some writing in the margins of his book.
“That’s it for today,” Argent said. “Finish the chapter. We have dueling next week, so brush up on your spells. No, do not put out anyone’s eye,” when he said that, he looked at Greenberg, who turned maroon. “And whoever started inflicting UTIs on their peers last year, stop it. Keep it to non-medical wing spells or I will back trace it and put you in detention until Christmas break.”
“Yes, Professor Argent.”
“You’re dismissed,” he said.
Stiles took his time gathering his things, letting others filter out of the classroom. When Lydia and Danny started talking about their yuppy vacations, he side-stepped them into the aisle.
“Stiles,” Argent said.
Stiles turned back to him still leaning against his desk.
“What’s up, sir?” he asked.
“How was your internship?”
“It was good,” he said, walking down the steps until he was in front of Argent. He had the bluest eyes. They only looked bluer against his stubble-covered cheeks. “We spent a few weeks in Michigan hunting a werewolf, but the local branch was able to take over before we got him. Then we went to Kansas for a possession case. I got to dress up as a priest, so I guess those Christian theology courses weren’t all bullshit.”
“You dressed up as a priest?”
“I had to.”
“Mhm,” Argent said, smiling slightly. “Make up your mind if that’s your field?”
“I’m going into investigation. I’m still on the fence about research or field work.”
“You’d be a good hunter, but you’ve got the brain for research. Not all hunters can say the same.”
“Yeah, but I’ve got a spine too and not all researchers can say that.”
Argent nodded, that small smile still pulling at his mouth. “I talked to Reed. She was impressed with you.”
“She said she’d take you back on whenever you wanted. She’s not an easy woman to impress.”
“No she isn’t.”
“I’m proud of you.”
Stiles laughed slightly, feeling himself turn red. “Thanks. And thanks for the letter of recommendation. Without you and Dad I wouldn’t have been able to swing that.”
“John could’ve gotten you in the door just fine, but I’m glad I could help.”
Stiles smiled again. “I need to get to Herbology.”
“Sure. See you Wednesday.”
“See ya,” he said, turning and jogging up the steps to where Lydia was lingering with Danny.
They walked out of class with him. When he stepped out of the room, he felt like he could breathe again.
“God you are so his puppy,” Lydia said.
“That he wants to train into an attack dog, but yeah. His puppy,” Danny said.
“Shut up,” he said, then laughing slightly, trying to shake off the giddy energy.
It felt like he was walking on a cloud as he traded out his books for herbology then went down to the greenhouses with Lydia as Danny parted ways for one of his many advanced courses in medicine.
Their normal herbology professor was on maternity leave, but her teaching assistant was a guy that graduated a few years ago. Werewolf. But all Stiles knew of him was that his peers had called him Toothless. The guy never seemed to resent it with his teeth that looked more like a rabbit’s than a wolf’s. He talked to them about some kind of mushroom that was coming into season. Then he sent them out onto the grounds to look for them.
Stiles walked with Lydia over the lawns that still smelled of cut grass. The hills of the Ozarks rose around them, cradling their valley like a green pearl. From a broomstick or winged-horseback, thousands of feet in the air, that’s exactly what it looked like.
“So what exactly did Argent have to say?” Lydia asked.
“He just asked about the internship.”
“Then why are you still smiling?”
“He said he was proud of me.”
“Aww,” she choursed. It sounded so much more melodic than it should. “You deserved it, though. You worked hard.”
“Fuck yeah I did.”
“There are some of those mushrooms,” she said, pointing out a ring.
Stiles followed her over and sketched them on their pads like the TA had told them. Before they left, Stiles ground one of the caps beneath the heel of his boot to break the ring.
The grounds had been so terrifying to him when he was thirteen and walking through the front doors the first time. Now he crossed over that path he’d followed as a kid and it was nothing. The woods stretched out around them and he knew permitted and tagged monsters lingered in them. There were dangerous things even within the school walls, but overall, it was just hundreds of acres of well-kept lawn. The ponds were nearly the size of lakes. As he looked down on them from the crown of the hill, the silver glittering body of one of the relocated river monsters rose from the dark water.
“It’s so strange that next year we won’t be here,” Lydia said, watching where he was.
“I know,” he said.
“I’ll miss it.”
He would miss it too. The nesting elm they had been warned away from as kids, because one of the founders had wound a piece of her soul into it. The grove of sycamores that stood apart from the woods. The first year Argent was there, he had led them down there to stand in its shadows. The leaves had made shapes on the ground, acting out scenes of cruelty and love in equal parts. They had all whispered. The year after he had met the withered sprite that called the grove home. Seven foot tall with skin of bark and the legs of a goat like a satyr.
When the bell tolled to signal the end of class, Stiles left the hill with Lydia and walked back to the greenhouses. Eventually they started to talk about the start of semester party the other seniors were having that weekend. By the time they handed their drawings and coordinates in to the TA, the melancholy feeling had mostly left him. He still had a year. He would make the best of it.
That night in his dorm, Stiles took the tonic he brewed at home to help him sleep. It had the same base as the one his dad made himself, but it was about a quarter of the strength. As Danny and Isaac talked to him about their homework, he sipped it. It hit like a hammer, making his head fuzzy, but it was no worse than being tipsy. It felt nice. By the time he finished his glass, his fingers were tingling.
“Isn’t your birthday soon?” Danny asked, as he pulled his shirt down from showing he and Isaac his soulmate mark he got over the summer. It looked vaguely like a dolphin.
“Yeah. Day after next. What about you, Isaac?”
“Not ‘til next year.”
“Not like it matters. Most of us won’t know we’ve found them until we’re naked together the first time anyway,” he said, laying back on his bed.
“I’m thinking of getting one of those charms made that looks like it,” Danny said.
“Don’t do that,” Stiles said, slurring slightly as his eyes dragged. “You don’t want some fucking nutjob copying your mark and lying to you.”
“That only happens with famous people.”
“No it happened to that lady in New Jersey last year. She was like thirty and her coworker faked it,” Isaac said.
“Don’t underestimate how fucking creepy people can be,” Stiles said.
“I don’t. I also don’t underestimate how paranoid the would-be hunter is,” Danny said with a faint smile. Then he flipped off the overhead light. “Good night, Stiles.”
“Night,” he mumbled before he was dead to the world.
Lake Eerie glittered through the trees. He couldn’t tell where the sky started and the water ended in the glow of the full moon. Morgan Reed was beside him, her wand placed beneath her handgun as a light. He only had his pistol. Ten rounds of silver-leaded full metal jacket. It was hot and sticky, but his skin still broke out in gooseflesh when a wolf howled far from where any natural wolf should be.
It was so much closer to them than he thought it would be.
The underbrush rattled and Reed aimed at it only for birds to fly up through the brush. Then Stiles saw the shadow. It was eight foot tall at least. His mind rejected it at first. It was only a shadow of a tree, but it moved so fluidly. It dropped to four feet and charged.
Reed’s and his own gunfire was deafening, the scent of gunpowder overpowering, and the muzzle flashes blinding. There was a yelp, but in the dark, he couldn’t see the wolf. He thought he could hear it moving away, and then something knocked him to the ground.
He started to scream.
“Stiles. Stiles! Hey!”
Stiles jerked awake with Danny sitting on the edge of his bed, his hands on his shoulders. When he saw his eyes were open, the pinched look on his face eased.
“Are you okay?”
“Yeah,” Stiles said, panting. “Sorry.”
“What time is it?”
“Shit. Sorry,” he said again.
“It’s cool. Do you want me to spell you to sleep?.”
Stiles started to tell him no, but if he didn’t have him do it, he’d just end up laying there awake, afraid to go back to sleep and wake up his roommates again. He nodded and laid back, closing his eyes, exhaling slowly.
“Nightmare free I promise,” Danny said.
The last thing he heard was Danny casting the spell.
The next afternoon, Stiles sat in the basement with Lydia and Isaac. A few other people from their house were scattered around with one of the other houses they didn’t particularly care for. It wasn’t a rift that ran that deep, but the colors didn’t mix nearly as much as they did in other lectures. Navy was with navy and purple was with purple.
On the tables, cauldrons were on burners. He had already laid out his notebook and the textbook the new potions master had requested they buy. Of course it was about three-hundred dollars more than the previous one, but it was about two-hundred years newer. He probably wouldn’t hate it as much if he didn’t know exactly what was about to walk through that door.
The first werewolf professor at their school.
Sure Derek was a TA, but he was spineless and they all knew it. Stiles had seen him care for animals with the gameskeeper. He was a pushover. He had heard Derek and this guy were related, but no litter of pups was the same, as his dad had said when Stiles told him the same thing.
Then he’d given Stiles his mom’s old silver necklace and a silver-edged pocket knife.
As he stared at the door, it opened and a man younger than his father, but at least ten years older than Derek came in. He had a handsome face, but that was a given for a predator. He needed something to draw prey in.
“I told you he was hot,” Lydia said.
“He’s okay,” Stiles said, watching the professor lay out a few things on his desk.
Around them, others were rumbling and stirring.
Stiles wondered how tall he was when he was shifted. He probably moved like a shadow too.
“Hello, class,” the professor said, waiting for them to quiet. He had a rough scratchy sounding voice. “My name is Professor Hale and I’m taking over Ms. Everlast’s position. I’ll start by passing out your syllabus then taking roll.”
Chairs creaked, but no one spoke as the werewolf started passing out papers to the first table. He came to theirs next. Up close, his hair was graying at the temples and his stubble was barely graying. He wasn’t as old as Stiles’s dad, but he was older than he’d thought. When he saw Stiles staring, he gave him a syllabus.
“Do you have a question, Mr.-?”
“Stiles, do you have a question?”
“Wonderful,” he said as he moved to the next table.
Lydia kicked him under the table. Stiles stared at her, fighting the urge to do it back. She had a knack for getting him right on the shin.
“Stop with the murder face,” she said in a quiet hiss.
“Yeah you were,” Isaac said.
“Did anyone ask you?” Stiles asked.
Isaac shrugged him off. Stiles leaned back in his chair and made himself exhale through his nose. Professor Hale had finished passing out the syllabuses and was at the front of the room again. He held his role book and started to call names from the other house. Stiles stared at a fixed point on the wall until he heard names that were more familiar. He knew the exact moment that Hale saw his name, because he barely tilted his head to the side like the dog he was.
“I don’t want to pronounce this wrong-”
“It’s just Stiles,” he said. “Stiles Stilinski.”
“Easier,” Hale said with a tight-lipped smile as he continued down the list.
Stiles read over his syllabus as Hale finished the role before he put his book down.
“I don’t want to strain anyone on the first day, including myself,” Hale started, “But I do want to gauge where you all are in terms of potions. So I want you to brew any spell from last year that you can make within the class period. I’ll be grading them on prep, consistency, and potency. If you have any questions, just raise your hand.”
Stiles rolled his eyes as he flipped to the index and opened to the page with the sleep draught he’d learned last semester. It was slightly different from Ms. Everlast’s, but it would be easy enough.
“What will you be making, Ms. Martin?” Hale asked.
Stiles jumped slightly. He hadn’t heard him approach. If Hale noticed, he didn’t show it as Stiles took out his measuring spoons and mortar and pestle as Lydia talked.
“And you, Mr. Stilinski? What are you making?” Hale asked.
“Good choice. I like this book’s version of it.”
Stiles nodded before he got off his stool and went to the supply closet. He grabbed the things he needed after waiting his turn then flipped on his burner. Hale was on the other side of the room. He heard him laugh. When he turned back to his table, Lydia caught his eye.
“Are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” he said, adding the base of water to the cauldron.
Then he began to grind roots and flower petals, adding water in increments until he had a paste that was viscous enough to not run when he swiped his finger through it. Then he chopped a few dried blueberries with his lab knife, chopping it into fine pieces before dragging the blade over it until it smeared on the board.
Stiles barely kept from jumping again when Hale stood at his shoulder as he wiped the blueberry gum from the blade and into the paste he already had.
“Does it call for that?” Hale asked.
“No, but sleep tonics are bitter. It cuts that.”
“Interesting,” Hale said. “Something you make often?”
“For yourself?” Hale asked.
“Me and my dad.”
“Is that John Stilinski?”
“Yeah,” he said.
Hale nodded. “He’s a credit to his profession.”
“Yeah he is.”
“I look forward to sampling it,” Hale said as he moved on to the next table.
Stiles added the paste in bits before dropping in a large chunk of root to simmer in the liquid until it thickened. He took notes on what he had done. How he had altered it from the book by choice and by necessity from the limited stock in the cabinet. It was probably a tactic by Hale. He couldn’t fault him for it. They were almost finished with the backbone of their education. They should know what could be substituted in intermediate spells. Still, even as he thought it, he heard a small explosion somewhere behind him.
“Does it always have to be McCall?” Lydia asked, rolling her eyes.
“He’s still here?” Stiles asked.
“I guess so,” she said, glancing toward what must be McCall’s table. “He’s a fluke.”
“Yeah he is,” Stiles said, stirring his own tonic.
It didn’t take long for most people to be waiting for their brews to finish. The low rumble of talking grew in the dark basement room with only the sparse overhead lights. Hale didn’t seem to mind people talking. He went to his desk and read through his book, even pulled out his phone at one point and seemed to check things before he made the rounds again. This time he checked in with Isaac and left Stiles alone, only glancing into his pot.
When his tonic was the right color, Stiles took out the large root it had simmered with. It was shriveled. It crumbled to wet ash as he put it into a small jar and put that in his bag to use that night. It would be more stout than the tonic. He just needed to get back into the routine of school, then the dreams would stop. This would ease him along.
“Okay, class, I’m going to check in with each of you, then you may leave,” Hale said.
He started on the opposite side of the room this time. After he finished with each person, they left the room with their things. Stiles went ahead and packed up the rest of his things, ladling out a small portion of the tonic to take with him. He was about to put the jar into his bag when Hale came to their table.
“What are you doing, Mr. Stilinski?” he asked.
“I was going to use some tonight. I have a sleep tonic, but it isn’t dreamless.”
“I can’t let you use an untested potion,” Hale said, holding out his hand.
Stiles stared at his hand for a moment. “You’re serious?”
“It’s dreamless sleep. Not wake the fucking dead.”
“Stiles. My name is Stiles.”
“Stiles, then,” Hale said, any friendliness leaving his face. “You may brew this often, but not in my class, not as my responsibility. Anything brewed in this room will stay here. Also, refrain from profanity in my classroom.”
“Yeah?” Stiles asked. Lydia kicked the shit out of him under the table, hearing the tone of his voice. “How about this one? Go fuck yourself.”
Hale clenched his jaw. “This is how you want to start your year off?”
“It was your call.”
“Detention then. Tonight. Room 154. Seven. Bring your homework.”
“Call it a fuckin’ date,” Stiles said, shouldering his bag.
“Fine,” Stiles said, going toward the door.
As he left, he could faintly hear Lydia apologizing for him and gritted his teeth. His arms were still bumpy with pebbled flesh as he climbed the stairs to the main floor.
After potions class, Stiles went to the library. He grabbed a spot on the third floor by the windows overlooking the ponds. He tossed his potion’s syllabus on the table with his binder, then took out his DA syllabus.
The year before had been a rude awakening, going from fifth year, which had basically been the end of their general education, to sixth year for advanced classes. In fifth year, the syllabus had been a page, maybe two if the teacher had a tough curriculum. Sixth year, the syllabuses were a minimum of four pages.
It was broken down into divisions. There was a section expected of students going into medicine, like Danny. Those for students that needed a more generalized study, like Lydia, and finally there was the division for students like Stiles who were training to be guardians.
He flipped to that section and read it over. All divisions would be expected to pass the final duel with Argent, which Argent had been warning them about for three years. They would be expected to have held an internship, hunt a monster with Argent’s supervision, resist the demon locked in the circle on school grounds, and between all of this, they had exams at least once a month covering up to four chapters.
Stiles dragged his hand down his face. Last year Argent’s class had nearly killed him. It had paid off. He was one of three students to get a recommendation letter. He had earned a 98% overall and Lydia wasn’t wrong, he was without a doubt one of Argent’s favorite students. Not that it got him anything except being pushed harder.
He could only imagine the shit he was going to catch over the thing with Hale.
He tried to push that out of his head as he scanned the things he needed to be focusing on for the next two weeks for DA. A practice duel with peers, studying demons to make their first venture into the demon ring, and reading the three chapters accompanying on demon regulation, laws, culture, and how to combat them.
As he was filling in his study log, the bell signaling final classes for the underclassmen rang. He was almost done with his log when the bell rang a little while later to signal it was time for dinner.
He gathered his things and went to the common room for his house. Luckily, his friends ate early, so he avoided them as he changed out his potions books for his DA books. Then he took the silver-edged pocket knife his dad had given him before the semester started and slid it into the band of his jeans before he headed down to the dining hall.
His friends sat at their normal table. He took the empty place beside Lydia.
“Where have you been?” she asked.
“Library. Figuring out my schedule for the next few months,” Stiles said as a plate of mashed potatoes, gravy, and chicken fried steak materialized in front of him.
“Did you temporarily lose your mind in class or-?”
“What happened in class?” Danny asked, on the other side of Lydia.
“Oh, Stiles just decided to cuss out Professor Hale,” Lydia said.
“I did not cuss-”
“Yeah you did,” Isaac said across from them.
“Whatever. You’d think he’d be able to take it,” Stiles said, taking a bite of his food. “Just gives me more time to study.”
“In detention. With Hale. Who is a werewolf,” Lydia said, staring at him with any traces of humor gone. “I know you think you’re invincible, because-”
“No I fucking don’t,” Stiles said, his lip lifting. “I’ll be fine. I’ll do my work and keep my mouth shut.”
“Good,” Danny said, glancing past them to where most of the professors sat. “I’m glad they’ve given him a chance, but he’s still a werewolf. You should know that better than any of us.”
“I know,” Stiles said, but his tone must have been enough to get them to drop it, because Danny started to talk about the party happening that weekend soon after.
Stiles chimed in occasionally, but the detention was gnawing on him. When his steak bled slightly, he pushed it away. He could smell so much iron and see blood coating the kitchen of a cabin near Lake Eerie. There had been four deep claw marks in the granite of the island. The spread of the paw had been so inhumanely large. The woman and her kid slumped like rag dolls on the ground hadn’t had faces anymore.
“You should probably go,” Lydia said, looking at the time on her phone.
“Yeah,” he said.
“I’ll wait up for you,” she said.
“Cool. See you in a little bit,” he said, saying bye to the rest of his friends as he headed out of the dining hall.
The knife in his waist band had warmed, but it was still hard and uncomfortable. At least the holster for his pistol had curved to his hip perfectly. A shiver traced his spine before he pushed the door open.
It was a large room filled with student desks and at the head of it were two teacher’s desks. Professor Argent sat at one of them, looking down at a pile of papers. There were a few younger kids seated toward his side of the room. Most of them looked like fourth years.
“Hey, Stiles,” Argent said, when he glanced up.
“What’s up, sir?” he asked, going toward the front of the class.
“Detention duty,” he said. “Did you need something?”
“He’s here for my detention,” Hale said from behind him.
Stiles jumped slightly. He hadn’t heard the smarmy son of a bitch again, as he turned around and glanced Hale up and down before he looked at Argent.
“Well you made an impression,” Argent said, but he was staring at Hale when he said it.
“It’s nothing I haven’t seen from other children with far too much self-importance,” Hale said, sitting at the second desk. “Take a seat, Stiles.”
Stiles sat near the front of the room, toward Argent’s side. The gooseflesh on his arms started to die. For one, it was warm in the room, but mostly it was relief. If it had been another professor it still wouldn’t have been much of a comfort, but it wasn’t. It was the retired guardian of nineteen years. Stiles took out his homework for Argent’s class and started to read, taking notes in the mostly quiet room.
When he looked up occasionally, Argent was usually reading a paperback. Hale was on a tablet.
By the time the hour was up, he was on the last question of his DA homework.
“If you’re serving detention for me, you can leave now,” Argent said.
All the other kids stood up, grabbed their things, and left. Argent didn’t though. He readjusted in his seat with his book, but looked like he had nowhere to go. When Stiles looked away from him, Hale caught his eye.
“Same time tomorrow, Stiles.”
“Yes, sir,” Stiles said.
Then he went back to his book. Hale took his tablet and left the room. Argent’s chair creaked loudly as he stood up and leaned against the desk.
“Need any help?” he asked.
“No. I just wanted to finish it up before I left.”
“How many more questions do you have?”
“Just finishing the last one,” Stiles said, reading over his answer before adding a little more and closing his notebook.
When he looked up, Argent’s arms were crossed over his chest. His eyes were so intensely blue. Even after three years of dealing with Argent staring him down, his face started to heat.
“So you’re the kid that cussed Professor Hale in class.” Argent said. “You’re smarter than that.”
“He was being a prick.”
“He’s still the authority in his classroom.”
“I don’t care.”
“Look where that landed you.”
“With an hour to finish my homework?”
“Stiles,” he said, his voice harder. “Don’t bait him. Best case scenario, you have detention the rest of the year. Worst, he snaps.”
“Why is he here if there’s even a chance of that?” Stiles asked.
“Because Deaton gave him the job.”
“If he can’t take me running my mouth a little, he shouldn’t be here,” Stiles said.
“Then what are you? A fucking litmus test?” Argent asked.
Stiles must have made a face at the curse, because the tension in Argent’s face eased slightly. He’d had a lot of one-on-one time with Argent and he’d never heard him cuss. Argent looked away and cleared his throat before looking back.
“You have too much potential to screw it up now,” Argent said, holding his gaze. “You have less than a year. Graduate, become a guardian, then hunt the monsters that deserve it.”
Stiles exhaled, looking away from Argent. He stared at his fingers on the desktop before he looked back up.
“I can barely-,” he started before he closed his mouth. Then he shook his head and stood up, grabbing his bag. “Yes, sir. I understand.”
Argent looked like he wanted to press the issue, but he only nodded slightly. Argent followed him out of the room. Stiles started to walk away, but Argent has stopped. For whatever reason, the floors were only lit by lanterns at night. It glowed orange and yellow on his face.
“I know the last year in school is hard. You’ve had a taste of guarding,” Argent said, “But you aren’t there yet. I still have things to teach you. Your other professors do. Hale has things to teach you. You aren’t prepared enough to make enemies yet. You still need all the allies you can get.”
Stiles nodded slightly. “Okay.”
Argent squeezed his shoulder. It wasn’t rare for him to do it, but Stiles would feel that for the next hour and he knew it.
“I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Yeah,” Stiles said, watching Argent go the opposite way that he was going.
He turned in the direction of the stairs.
When he stepped into his dorm, most of the younger kids had already gone off to their own areas. The only ones left in in the main lounge were juniors and seniors. Lydia looked up from where she was reading in a chair by the fireplace.
She clapped quietly when she spotted him. “You survived.”
“Yeah. Argent was holding his detention with him.”
“I don’t know. There was only one asshole in class today,” she said, smiling again, denting her cheek with her eraser like a dimple.
“I just needed some of that potion. That’s it.”
“He can’t have just anyone tossing back whatever potion they want from his class.”
“Ms. Everly let us.”
“She was like 145. I don’t think she ever realized we were doing it.”
“Yeah. Maybe not.”
Stiles said as he checked his phone. There was a text from his dad. Stiles smiled slightly as he replied. It was always hard getting adjusted to being away from him again, even though he’d done it for seven years. They both liked having the other around so much on breaks.
I’ll send you a pic of the mark as soon as I get it, Stiles texted back.
His dad’s response bubble popped up immediately. Can’t wait. Excited for you, buddy.
“Did you tell daddy dearest that you got detention?”
“You know what the best thing about boarding school is?” he asked. “I don’t have to tell him things that I don’t want to.”
“You’re such a brat.”
“Takes one to know one,” he said. “I’m going to get some sleep. Have fun with your reading.”
“Happy early birthday,” she sing-songed after him.
Stiles smiled slightly before he reached the door. “Thanks.”
When he reached his room, Danny was already on his bed, doing homework in lamp light. Stiles changed clothes then rooted through his bag until he found the small jar holding the steeped root he used for the potion in Hale’s class. He licked his finger then dipped it in the sticky crumbles.
“Is that some fancy new drug I should be trying?” Danny asked.
Stiles shook his head. “Root from dreamless sleep.”
“That’s going to give you a hangover from hell.”
“Yeah well at least I’ll sleep,” Stiles said. “Could you wake me up if I miss my alarm?”
“Yeah. No problem.”
“Night,” Danny said, covering his lamp with a thin scarf.
“Night,” he said, rolling over in bed and waiting for the root to swallow up his consciousness. He didn’t have to wait long. He could taste blueberry at the back of his throat.
When he woke up, the sun was streaming in the windows. The room was empty. It didn’t look like he had overslept too long though. He checked his phone and confirmed that. There was a text from Danny on the screen.
I’ll be back to make sure you’re up before class.
He wrote back a quick, I’m up. Thanks though, before he looked at the second waiting text from his dad.
Happy Birthday, bubba. Call me when you get around.
Stiles wiped the sleep from his eyes before he pushed himself out of bed, then he jerked. He was officially twenty as of 3 AM.
He went to the full length mirror hanging on the far wall. On his right shoulder, overlaying his collarbone and sweeping upward like a feather was a mark as dark as tattoo ink. He brushed his soulmate mark and went closer. Danny’s was brownish. It looked more like a birthmark. This was like a Rorschach test with an iridescent glow in the center of the black. It looked like the sky on a foggy full moon.
Stiles looked away from the mark and at his shoulder. The white spot caught the early morning light and barely glowed.
His empty stomach churned.
Beside his leg, his phone started to ring. His dad. He listened to it ring as he stared at the mark in the mirror. As his phone beeped with a voicemail, there was a knock on the door before Lydia peaked in to make sure no one else was in before leaving the door open.
“Happy birthday to you,” she started to sing.
Stiles tried to force a smile as he went back to sit on his bed. She sat beside him with a huge cinnamon roll from the dining hall. Steam was still rising from it.
“Thanks,” he said, waiting for her to see the mark. The second she did, her eyes widened.
She moved off the bed to crouch in front of him. She ran her hand over it and Stiles tried to ignore it.
“It’s really beautiful, Stiles.”
“It’s so fucked up.”
“It’s not… it’s not ideal.”
Stiles laughed taking a bite of the cinnamon roll. He didn’t want to, but he should eat something. It was like a rock sliding down his throat.
She stared at the mark for a moment longer before pulling away. “Hurry. We have to get down to DA. Argent would excuse any absence you have, but not me.”
“Whatever. He’d give me three detentions just to get his point across.”
“Because you’re his little prodigy,” she said, with as forced a smile as he’d ever seen. “Hurry.”
“I’ll be down in five minutes,” he said, cramming as much of his breakfast into his mouth as he could before he started to throw on clothes.
He cast some spells without looking in the mirror to clean his teeth and fix his hair as he pulled on some clothes that didn’t stink. His chest felt like a lead weight was in it. He wanted to go back to bed.
The root had done its job. He had slept hard, but drowsiness was lingering over his limbs like anchors. As he shoved his things into his bag and headed down the stairs, he grabbed a cup of coffee from the small kitchen area in their living quarters. He mumbled under his breath to add sugar then met Lydia at the door, heading down to class.
“Are we dueling today?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” she said. “He has it broken down by the week, but not the day.”
“Chug that coffee,” Lydia said.
Stiles did just that, spelling his cup back into the sink of their common room as they reached the DA doors. Their handful of classmates were already seated, including Danny, who had some kind of advanced anatomy class before this class.
“Hey,” Danny said, as they sat in front of him. “Happy birthday.”
“Thanks,” Stiles said.
“Did you get it somewhere I can see?” Danny asked.
Stiles glanced around the room, at the people who could see way too easily. “I’ll show you tonight.”
“It’s not on your ass is it?”
Stiles laughed slightly. “Nah.”
Then the door at the back of the classroom opened and Argent came in. Somehow his chest sank further. Not that he’d ever fucking thought that Argent would ever be his anything, let alone his mate. He didn’t even know if he wanted anything more from him than the relationship they had. But the fact that it wouldn’t be him, it wouldn’t be any normal witch or wizard. His soulmate was a werewolf and there wasn’t anything he could do to cure that.
At least the heaviness in his chest was dulled somewhat by the hangover. His head was so cloudy he could barely focus on what Argent was saying about demons. He’d be able to get notes from Lydia or Danny after class, so he gave up. He wrote bits and pieces in his notebook, but before long he was drifting.
A fucking werewolf.
Fate had the sickest sense of humor.
His dad was going to have a fucking fit. He couldn’t even blame him. Hero of the Red Moon Uprising and he was going to have to welcome a werewolf as his son-in-law if Stiles’s ever found him.
“Stiles,” Argent said.
Stiles looked up at him. He’d moved up the aisle and was standing near his table. He’d obviously said his name more than once.
“How do you exorcise a demon with no allegiance?” Argent asked with emphasis on every word.
“Sorry,” Stiles said, clenching his eyes shut and thinking. He knew the answer, but he felt so fucking foggy. “Um-”
“You consult the oldest religion in the region, that’s right,” Argent said, raising his voice to lecture volume again as he walked back to the front of the class. “By the way, if you don’t come to class to pay attention, don’t waste either of our time. You’re 7th years. If you don’t want to be here, don’t let me hold you back.”
Stiles’s face was getting hot as he stared at his textbook. It wasn’t the first time that Argent had caught him with his head up his ass in three years of classes, but it never felt any better.
He tried to focus the rest of the class period, but it was like thinking through mud. When the bell finally rang, he sighed and put his books in his bag. Danny patted his back from over the desk behind them.
“I have to run to my next class. See you guys later. Have a good day, birthday boy,” Danny said.
“Thanks,” Stiles said as Danny left with the flow of their other classmates.
Lydia lingered with him as his fingers fumbled with his bag. He would have to take less of the root tonight. He didn’t think he’d taken that much the night before. He was so fucking tired. When the door at the back of the classroom slammed, Stiles glanced up and exhaled again.
“Overreaction much?” Lydia asked.
“Right?” Stiles said, but he didn’t mean it. Argent was ticked off. That’s all he needed.
“He was in a bad mood since class started,” Lydia said as they left the classroom.
“Yeah,” Stiles said, even though he had no clue what Argent had been like at the beginning of class.
He walked with Lydia through the halls and struggled to focus. His fingers and legs were tingling as they climbed the stairs back to their dorm to switch out books. His bones felt like weights as he sat in a chair in the common room, letting his bag drop to the floor.
Lydia frowned as she put her books into her own bag. “Are you sure?”
“I feel like shit.”
“I can skip too? We can go do something?”
“No, it’s cool. I just need to sleep. I took too much dream root last night.”
“Ah. That’s why it looks like you have two black eyes.”
She pulled on her own backpack. “See you at dinner?”
“Yeah,” he said.
“Get some rest,” she said.
As she left, he had second doubts. If Argent was pissed off that he wasn’t paying attention in his class, he’d be livid if he found out that he didn’t go to his other classes. Or maybe he’d think Stiles was sick. Either way, he barely cared. He rubbed his eyes before his phone started to vibrate again. He pulled it out of his pocket.
He exhaled through his nose. He could only dodge his calls for so long. He slid it to answer as he dropped his forehead into his palm.
“Hey,” he said.
“Hey, kid,” his dad said. “Happy birthday.”
There was a slight pause and he hated that his dad could read him over a phone almost as well as he could in person.
“Are you alright?”
“Not really,” he said.
“Are you, like,” Stiles cleared his throat sitting back in the chair. “Are you where you can talk for a minute?”
“Yeah I’m just in the hotel,” his dad said. “Is everything okay?”
“I’m fine. Just really tired, but um,” he said, taking another deep breath. “Um, I got my soulmate mark and it looks like a werewolf mark.”
The line was quiet for a seconds and Stiles felt them like a drum behind his chest. As the pause dragged, his pulse thumped in his ears.
“Are you sure?”
“I don’t know-,” he started before he shook his head. Then he bit the inside of his cheek. “Yeah. I don’t want it to be, but it is.”
“Fuck,” his dad said and Stiles heard him moving. He always paced when he was pissed.
“It isn’t your fault,” his dad said roughly. “Fate thinks it’s so goddamn funny, doesn’t it?”
“Goddammit,” his dad said quieter. “I’m sorry.”
“Not all of them are bad.”
“That ratio’s not great,” Stiles said.
The line was quiet again and his heart was pounding. He just wanted to see his dad. Getting readjusted to being away from each other was hard enough, but this was so much worse. He dad wasn’t great to be around when he was pissed, but he was still his dad. He was still there and he was still a grounding rod.
“I guess you’re on a hunt?” Stiles asked.
“Yeah,” his dad said distractedly.
“How long do you think?”
“I don’t know. We’ve got six men up here scattered across three counties and we still can’t corner what we’re after,” he said.
“That sucks,” he said.
“It is what it is.”
“Think you’ll be around the beginning of next month?”
“I should be. Why?”
“Meetings with the profs for parents.”
“Oh,” his dad said. “Yeah. I’ll try to make it.”
It was one of the only times that parents were allowed on the grounds during the school year. His dad popped in and out a few times a year, but that was a special allowance and only his friends really knew about it aside from administration. No one was going to tell John Stilinski he couldn’t see his kid after he just risked his neck on a hunt once again. Especially when he could so rarely make it to the days that parents were allowed to visit.
“Thanks,” he said.
“You don’t have to say thanks. I wish I could come up there now.”
“It’s not the end of the world. We’ve just got to get our heads wrapped around it.”
“Yeah I guess.”
“You’re mate’s not going to have a bit of bad in them. Werewolf or not.”
“You say that,” he said, huffing a laugh.
“I know it,” his dad said. Then a knock came through the speaker. His dad said something away from the speaker, then his phone rattled. “I need to go. I’ll talk to you soon.”
“Okay. Be careful.”
“Always am,” his dad said. “I love you, kid.”
“Love you too,” Stiles said.
Then he ended the call before his dad did. His name flashed a few times on the screen before it went black. Stiles grabbed his bag and dragged himself into his room. He closed the curtains and laid down. He had a moment to think he wouldn’t wake anyone up if he had a nightmare before the fragments of dreamless sleep root grabbed him like a mermaid and tore him down through the waves of unconsciousness.
Stiles didn’t make it to dinner. When he woke up, the sun was bleeding red into his room. He checked his phone and forced himself out of bed. He had ten minutes to get to detention halfway across the school. He did the same spells as that morning as he shoved his potions homework into his bag and took off for the door. None of his friends were in the great room, but that didn’t mean much. They were probably holed up in the library or eating dinner.
He accidentally ran into a younger kid as he hurried down the stairs.
“Sorry,” he said, steadying the kid as he kept going.
His perception of space was fucked. He reached for the stair railing and his fingertips barely brushed it. By the time he reached the bottom he had given up. It was a magical school. If he fell, someone could fix him.
As he pushed open the door to detention, the bell began to toll signaling the hour. He took his seat as Hale glanced up at him then back to his tablet. Argent was at the second desk again. He watched Stiles until he sat at his desk, accidentally letting his books hit the desktop with a bang.
“Sorry,” he said.
No one said anything as he situated his things. He had questions to do for a chapter according to Hale’s syllabus. It couldn’t hurt to do them in front of him, not after what Argent had said last night.
At least there were a few more kids on Hale’s side this time. They looked like 5th or 6th years, but he didn’t recognize them. They’d obviously been sat a desk apart. Argent had seven kids on his side. He couldn’t have looked pissier as he read the same paperback from the night before. There was a ditch between his eyebrows and his mouth was twisted down.
“Get to your homework, Stiles,” Hale said.
Stiles looked away from Argent to Hale. “Yes, sir,” he said, opening his potions book and finding the questions section.
Even writing them out wasn’t the easiest. More sleep had helped, but he still felt like he’d been hit by a train. Maybe that’s just what good sleep made him feel like after months of sleeping like shit. Or maybe Hale had a point with not sneaking things out of his classroom. He barely gave that thought life as he made himself focus.
The hour dragged. It felt like coming down off pills, but still after a while he was able to focus on his homework enough to get most of it done before the bell began to toll outside again.
“Fifth years, you can leave,” Hale said.
The kids shot up and were out the door, talking before they ever reached the hall. Stiles watched them go.
“If you’re serving detention for me, you can leave,” Argent said finally looking up from his book and staring at the kids. “If you do anything that stupid again, I’ll have you in here until Christmas,” he said.
“Yes, sir,” they mumbled as they walked much slower from the room than Hale’s group.
When they were gone, Hale stood and came over to his desk. He held out his hand and Stiles gave him his notebook. Hale’s dark blue eyes scanned over the page and Stiles shivered slightly. His soulmate was going to be just like him. A werewolf.
“Staring is what got us here in the first place, Stiles,” Hale said without looking up from his notebook.
“I’m sorry. I have a migraine,” he lied. “Makes me hazy.”
Hale hummed before putting his notebook back on his desk. “If that’s the quality of work you do with a migraine then good job.”
“Thanks,” Stiles said.
“Have a good night,” Hale said, as he started to leave the room.
“You too,” he forced himself to say as he gathered his things.
As he did, Argent got up and paused in front of his desk. He felt the slightest brush of Argent’s magic that had become nearly familiar over the last three years. It barely probbed before some of the dullness lifted.
“That doesn’t feel like a migraine,” Argent said.
Stiles glanced up at him and Argent was staring. He still looked pissed, but now he looked stressed too. Maybe he looked stressed the whole time and his pissed face was just so similar Stiles didn’t notice. He’d been with the guy three years for classes, but it wasn’t like they were best friends.
“Do you think you won’t have to be on your game with a migraine in the field?” he asked.
“Of course not,” Stiles said.
“If you’re sick, you go to the medical wing before skipping classes, do you understand?”
“Yes, sir,” he said.
“You’re off your game, Stilinski,” Argent said, as he went to the door.
Stiles couldn’t think of anything to say, so he didn’t say anything as Argent left. He zipped up his bag before heading up to the great room again. What a fucking birthday. Not that it mattered. His birthday had always just been a day in his life. Without his mom around and his dad working all the time, they celebrated when they could. The next time he saw his dad, he’d drag him out for dinner, but that wasn’t really rare either.
As he pushed open the great room door, the younger kids were still crowded around. He threaded his way through them until he reached the 6th and 7th year lounge. Since he, Lydia, Danny, and Isaac made up most of the 6th and 7th years, he wasn’t shocked that they were the only ones in there, spread out with books, but they were laughing when he walked in.
As soon as they saw him, Lydia started to sing happy birthday. Danny and Isaac joined in and Stiles laughed slightly as he dropped his bag by chair and sat in front of it on the ground with them. There was a tray of cupcakes. One of them had a candle in it. He smiled slightly as they finished then blew out his candle not wishing for anything.
“Thanks, guys,” he said.
“No problem,” Danny said, laying on the rug. His long limbs took up so much of the space.
“How was detention?” Lydia asked.
“Alright. Got homework done,” he said. “How was herbology?” he asked as he picked up his cupcake, tossing away the candle on the plate. His friends grabbed their own, peeling back the wrappers.
Lydia told him about what he had missed and Isaac asked him a few questions about potions homework. Stiles handed over his homework and let Isaac look it over.
“So let’s see it,” Danny said.
Stiles huffed slightly. “I don’t know if you’re ready for it.”
“Pretty sure I can handle it,” Danny said.
Stiles rolled his eyes. They had all heard about the defects on some of the cadavers Danny and his few other pre-med classmates had examined.
He tugged his collar to the side. He looked down at it too. The fire danced on little specks in it like flecks of opal shoved beneath his skin.
“Oh wow,” Danny said, sitting up and leaning closer.
Stiles couldn’t think of anything to say as Danny barely touched it. His fingers were always nice and warm. Then he sat back and looked at him.
“Did you tell your dad?”
“Yeah. He’s not jazzed, but what’s he going to do?” he said.
Danny shrugged, looking at it until Stiles let his shirt slip back into place.
“You know Argent has one too,” Danny said. “I don’t remember what it looked like, but I know he has a luminescent mark.”
“Oh my God, he does,” Lydia said, looking at Danny where her head was propped on her hand where she laid on the floor. “I completely forgot about that.”
“Well we didn’t know what they meant back then,” Danny said.
“Wait, what?” Stiles asked.
“That day your dad came to visit 5th year,” Danny said. “When Argent’s shirt got soaked at the lake.”
“The day you whined about for weeks about missing,” Lydia said.
“You never said it was a werewolf mark,” Stiles said.
“I forgot it was. When we learned about it, I remember putting it together, but unlike you, Lydia and I aren’t obsessed with getting Argent’s dick.”
“Fuck you,” Stiles said without heat. The shitty looks he’d gotten from Argent that day came back. He’d get over it, both of them would, but it still sucked. But it wasn’t like Argent could give him a break. They both knew that.
“You should show him,” Lydia said. “Maybe he can tell you something about them.”
“Maybe,” Stiles said, frowning down at this mark.
He wasn’t going to tell Argent shit about his mark. He was going to tell as few people as he had to. But Argent having a luminescent mark did make him feel weirdly better. Maybe he could go as long as him without finding his mate and it would never matter.
The next afternoon, Stiles sat in the potions lab with Lydia and Isaac. He turned to the page written on the blackboard and looked it over.
A Reversal of Minor Death.
Their old textbook had the tonic in the back, in the section they had been working toward for six years.
It looked so harmless on the clean white pages of his new book with small neatly typed footnotes to the side to help study. It was in the chapter for severe injury, not a chapter for dark magic. But the textbook didn’t have a dark magic section.
“This should be interesting,” Lydia said.
Other people were whispering too as the door came open in the back of the room. Hale was wearing a dark lab coat. He looked more like a doctor than a warlock with his slacks and nice shoes. Compared to Ms. Everlast, he looked like a model for mortals daily.
“Hello, class,” he said.
“Good afternoon, professor,” most of them answered.
“I can see most of you have your books open. The rest of you open to page 419. Reversal of Minor Death,” Hale said, opening his own book. “As you can see by the ingredient list, this wouldn’t be cost effective to brew individually. Instead I will be brewing a sample today. It will steep over the rest of the week and next week we will have a mandatory session at midnight to bottle it.”
There were some groans around the room, but all it took was glancing at the time table on the pages in front of them to see that coming.
“This is your final year. Most weekends will require additional sessions. Accept it or drop,” Hale said, with a divot between his eyebrows.
“Yes, sir,” the class mumbled.
“Today you all will take notes during my preparation and by Tuesday I will need an essay covering the ingredients, how they interact with each other, and a basic background. Tedious and time consuming, but I need to know that you know what you’re doing before I allow you to use such precious ingredients.”
Lydia was nodding. Stiles barely kept from rolling her eyes. She was such an ass kisser. The joke was on him, though, because even the eye roll made him slightly dizzy. He’d used less dreamless root last night, but it was still strong.
“Next week, I’ll meet with each of you to go over the potions you made Tuesday. I still have a few left to grade,” Hale said. “Now take out your notebooks and we’ll get started.”
Stiles already had out his notebook, but he took out a second pen as Hale went to the prep station at the front of the class. Jars sat on the black table top with scales, knives, scissors, and a tempered glass cauldron.
“As the book says, I’ve added 3 cups of rancid spring water to a ratio of 6 cups fresh fallen rain water. I’ve boiled it for 30 minutes every evening for the last 4 days. Before you ask, yes, I will expect you to come here and do the same. As you can see, the sediment from the rancid water has sunk to the bottom. Most of you will have a tint to your water, even at the end of 4 days. As long as the mixture is a gradient with clear water at the top, you’ll have the base for a powerful tonic.”
Stiles wrote as Hale spoke. Lydia’s tablet was propped at the edge of their table recording him.
“When your base is prepped, you’ll need 4 grinders. You’re working in groups, so take advantage of that. No, you cannot just clean blades with soap and water. You will use separate, sanitized, and individually charmed grinders. I won’t go over the charms for each. They are listed in the book. If you have questions after class, let me know and we can talk.”
Stiles caught himself nodding as he wrote. He hated going over charming prep materials. They’d been doing it since they were thirteen. He noted how much of the devil weed to new growth wild grass Hale either cut or ground depending on if it was dried or fresh. He finished preparing the fairly mundane ingredients before he took out a tray of thin sliced organ.
“And this is why we can’t make this individually and why it is essential that each example we make is usable in the medical ward. The book specifies the use of werewolf heart. However, you can use the heart of any creature that heals without the aid of cast magic. Fae are a common substitution, as well as merfolk. However, werewolf is undeniably the most potent and stable mixture. A demon’s heart will give you a stronger potion, but much less reliable outcomes.
“Any of these options are very costly and dangerous to obtain. The school’s supply was harvested by guardians under the employ of the DoW. Humanely sourced, verified, and expertly charmed to ensure freshness. These are not ingredients you want to buy on the Devil’s Back Porch.”
Stiles listened to the spiel before Hale took a thin section of the heart and dissected it crossways. It was partially thawed, losing hardly any blood on the sealed stone cutting board. Then Hale scraped it into the cauldron, adding the other ingredients between choreographed sets of stirs. Hale never glanced at the book, but everything he did was written on the pages.
After everything was added, he alternated stirring patterns, telling them why he used each one, before he washed his hands and turned down the heat on the burner.
“That will be left until Wednesday night,” he said. “So to recap, I need essays submitted to me by Monday. I’ll try to go over all of them by Tuesday and then we’ll begin brewing your own potions. Anyone with questions, please stay behind.”
Stiles put away his things with his friends. Hale hadn’t written anything on the board. He really didn’t know what he even wanted the essay to be about, but between himself, Isaac, and Lydia, they’d figure it out. He was about to ask Lydia about meeting in the library before she barely fluffed her hair and went toward the front of the class, talking to Hale.
“Groupie,” Isaac said.
“Isn’t she always to the okay looking ones?” Stiles asked.
Isaac snorted before he and Stiles went out into the hall to wait for Lydia. She wasn’t the only person with questions. Most of them were fidgeting in the short cluster too. When she finally came out, she at least had her notebook open with more notes.
“Did you ask him what he wants in the essay?” Isaac asked.
“Of course I did,” Lydia said, walking with them up the stairs to the upper floors.
Stiles was still groggy enough to not give her too much shit as they went to the library to start writing their essays.
The next morning, Stiles woke up to Danny shaking his shoulder. Stiles jerked up, his heart hammering. The sun was so much higher than it should be.
“I tried to call you like five times,” Danny said. “We need to get to DA-,” he paused. “Maybe you don’t need to go anywhere. Are you feeling okay?”
“I’m fine,” Stiles said, even though as consciousness settled it, it felt like it was wrapped in cotton. “Still working on this root ratio.”
“We might be dueling today.”
Stiles shrugged as he cast his spells to clean up. “I can’t miss. He’s already on my ass about something.”
“Whatever. Come on then.”
Stiles grabbed his things and followed Danny out of the great room. He had no idea where Lydia was. Probably using every spare minute to pour over the essay Hale wanted. She hadn’t shut up the night before about what a great potion master he was. Even Danny had talked about him from an advanced tonic brewing class he was having to take for his pre-recs.
Stiles tried to rub the sleep from his eyes as they hurried down the flights of steps then through the corridors. The DA classroom doors were standing wide open to the courtyard, but everyone was seated inside. Still, it didn’t bode well. They were going to be dueling. Stiles could feel it and his body felt like it weighed seven hundred pounds.
He sat beside Lydia, and like he thought, she had her potions notebook open.
He didn’t have time to open his mouth before the door at the back of the classroom, the one that led to Argent’s chambers opened. His clothes were already dirty and he wasn’t wearing an overcoat like the professors normally did. Stiles barely contained a groan.
“Put your books away. Follow me out to the courtyard,” Argent’s voice cut in as the door at the back of the classroom fell closed.
“Fuck it is duelling,” Stiles said under his breath as he fixed his shirt.
“Good guess,” Argent said, as he walked up the risers passed them to the door they had come through.
A few people in the class laughed.
“Eavesdropping isn’t very nice,” Stiles called after him.
“Up,” Argent said, walking out into the courtyard.
The twelve people in their class filed passed him. Stiles was the last out of the doors. Argent passed him as they crossed into the courtyard. As he walked off the pathway onto the grass, the covered walkways began to shimmer like they were covered in plastic wrap. Argent didn’t speak, he just waved his hand in the most dismissive way, like he wasn’t throwing up defense spells that all of them were still struggling with.
“Same procedure as last year,” Argent said. “Sit on the fountain unless you’re dueling. No wands. No spells that I can’t correct before the end of the class period. That means no spells that can cause psychological or permanent bodily harm. Do we understand?”
“Yes, sir,” they all said.
“Good,” Argent said, rolling up the sleeves of his shirt. “With that being said, don’t hold back. Remember, starting in December, you’ll be dueling me individually. If you can’t make me surrender by May, you won’t be getting a recommendation into any field that requires Defensive Magic.”
“Yes, sir,” they repeated.
“Danny and Greenberg, start us off,” Argent said, “Everyone else, cast your own guard spells. Focus on keeping them up.”
Stiles summoned up the image of a clear wall, like bullet proof glass. He mumbled the incantation under his breath until the air in front of him shimmered slightly. Through the drowsiness it felt like holding a bar of soap.
Danny and Greenberg stood a handful of yards from each other in the dueling stance. Chris stood to the side with his arms crossed. The way he stared at them was so analytical. When Greenberg fell back with a slight yelp, Argent watched him. Then Danny fell back a few steps, wincing as Greenberg started to straighten and hit him with an underhanded kick-back spell. The first step back Danny threw out his hand and Greenberg barely put up his arm in time. Stiles had time to see the sparks off Greenberg’s invisible block before the burning ball Danny had launched slammed into his neck.
“Fuck,” Stiles said through gritted teeth as the burning consumed his nerve endings.
“Keep your blocks up,” Argent said, looking at him before looking back to Danny and Greenberg’s duel.
“Fuck,” Stiles said under his breath, touching the raw and puffy skin of his neck.
Less than twenty seconds later, Greenberg gave his surrender and Danny sat beside Stiles.
“I’m sorry. Let me see,” Danny said.
“Leave it, Danny,” Argent said, his focus already on the next pair of duellers.
The corners of Danny’s lips dipped. Stiles shrugged.
“It’s not that bad,” he lied.
With the searing in his neck, Stiles focused more on keeping his shield up than he did the people dueling. Everyone around them went before Argent called he and Lydia up. They bumped fists before walked to their respective marks. Argent was closer to him than Lydia, standing slightly behind him.
“Go,” Argent said.
Stiles put up a block immediately and felt the impact of a hex Lydia threw at him bounce off.
He started to counter and his mind was empty.
He could think of nothing that wasn’t lethal. He scrambled for something, his mind racing, but all he could see were the curses on the lips of his partners over the summer, hear his dad’s booming voice the few times he had ever heard him throw a lethality curse.
It was only a half second, but it was all Lydia needed. He had let his guard drop and he caught the full brunt of her spell in the chest. He slammed into the ground and his vision went dark as he tried to breathe.
He didn’t realize he had blacked out until he felt someone covering his eyes.
“That’s it,” he heard faintly through the ringing in his ears. “Shake it off.”
He opened his eyes and sucked in a deep breath as he saw Argent on one knee beside him. His eyes were the same color as the sky. Then the splitting headache drowned out anything else.
“That was sloppy,” Argent said. “Get up.”
Stiles rolled onto his side and pushed himself up. His eyesight swam. The bell began to toll.
“Class dismissed. Anyone who sustained injuries, come see me after dinner. Everyone, study for a quiz on Monday,” Argent said.
Stiles choked down a cough as he got to his feet.
“Stiles,” Argent called as he went toward Lydia and Danny. “Go to all of your classes. I’ll know if you don’t.”
“Yes, sir,” Stiles said, his voice still hoarse.
Argent didn’t follow them into the classroom as they got their things. He walked down the open corridor, but Stiles hardly noticed as the burning in his lungs continued and the pounding in his head throbbed more sharply.
“I’m so sorry,” Lydia said as they grabbed their things. “I thought you would block it.”
“It’s not your fault. I had my head up my ass,” Stiles said.
“Do you feel okay?” Danny asked, as he put Stiles’s books in his bag for him.
“Yeah. It’s just a headache and my ribs hurt a little.”
“You should go wash off the back of your head. There’s a gash,” Danny said.
“I will,” Stiles said, taking his bag from Danny and walking with them out of the room, feeling every step in his skull.
As soon as they were outside again, Danny glanced around the empty open-air corridors.
“I’ll heal it for you-,” Danny said.
“No. It’s alright. I’ll be okay,” he said.
Danny frowned but put his hand to Stiles’s head. He felt trickles of Danny’s magic inside his blood, and almost pulled away, but then Danny dropped his hand.
“Three broken ribs, but no internal bleeding,” Danny said, but he didn’t look any less upset. Like it physically hurt him to see someone in pain.
Stiles smiled slightly. “You’re going to make a good doctor.”
Even that didn’t get a smile.
“I have to get to class, but I’ll fix everything when we get back to the dorms tonight,” Danny said.
“Thanks,” Stiles said before Danny hurried off in the opposite direction of the greenhouses.
Lydia ended up leaving him on a bench on the second floor when climbing the stairs made his eyesight pulse. He tried to argue, but when he could get the breath to do it, she was already gone. He sat as straight and still as he could, breathing in shallow lungfuls of air. If Danny hadn’t told him his lung wasn’t punctured, he wouldn’t believe it himself.
At least it had gotten rid of the head fog from the dream root. At least that was one thing blinding pain could do, make him think clearly. Stiles focused on his breathing and trying to stay aware. It wouldn’t be a fun day, but it was a day he brought on himself and he couldn’t blame anyone else.
After dinner, when he walked to Argent’s office, he was in so much pain it had fallen into the background. If he moved his neck, the burns Danny had given him broke open and seeped into the collar of his shirt. Even Hale had given him a funny look when he saw him at the dinner table, but he didn’t say anything, he just stared at his neck before he went to the professors’ table.
A few kids in his class were already in the hallway. He could hear Argent’s gruff voice inside, telling them to pay more attention, and other shit. None of them were fucked up as badly as he was. He’d stopped trying to pull in a full breath during herbology. Climbing stairs while shallow breathing was an experience.
But his dad would get through it. Any guardian he knew had undoubtedly worked with broken bones at some point or another.
Stiles was so disconnected from himself that when he was the last student, he almost didn’t notice. It would only last a few blissful moments before the pain swam back in a wave. He tapped slightly on Argent’s door and he looked up from his desk.
“Yeah,” Stiles said.
“Come in and close the door. We need to have a talk,” Argent said, standing up and coming around the desk.
When Stiles came closer, Argent stepped into his space and put his hand on the back of his neck. Stiles jumped slightly, jarring his skull. He felt a brief powerful pulse before all of his pain was gone. Then Argent leaned against the front of his desk. Stiles stood behind the chair in front of it.
“Thanks,” he said.
Argent stared at him with his arms over his chest. “What happened today?”
“I didn’t feel great. It broke my concentration.”
“Why didn’t you go to the medical wing?”
“Aside from knowing you’d rip my head off? I figured getting banged up in a duel was preferable to that.”
Argent stared at him and for the first time, Stiles realized he was getting one of the looks that made so many people afraid of Argent.
“You’re far past the point that being a smart ass is going to get recklessness excused, Stiles.”
“I’m not trying to-,” Stiles said.
“Why was Lydia Martin was able to put you on your back with a spell you learned when you were thirteen?” Argent demanded. Stiles opened his mouth and Argent shook his head. “If you lie to me, you can kiss becoming a guardian under my supervision goodbye.”
“I’ve lost one fucking duel the entire time I’ve been in your classes,” he said, his voice sounding stupid and confused, but he couldn’t help it.
Argent continued to stare at him with his arms crossed over his chest. Heat flooded into Stiles’s face. Embarrassment. Pure humiliation and on the heels of that, hurt.
Stiles bit the inside of his cheek. If he didn’t respect the fuck out of Argent, he would leave. He wanted to leave right then. That’s how much the internship had gotten his back up and he knew it was fucking stupid. He was still a student, but being talked to like an idiot made every cell in his body want to react.
“Are you going to get me expelled if I tell you the truth?” he finally asked.
“Fine. I took root from making dreamless sleep last night. It hit me too hard. I couldn’t shake it this morning. When she hit me the first time, I couldn’t think of one spell that wouldn’t kill her, so I didn’t say anything.”
Argent’s shoulders dropped slightly as Stiles saw his chest rise and fall in a deep breath.
“Just dream root?”
“Yes,” Stiles said.
“If I find out that you’re on anything else again, Stiles, I will have you expelled and make sure that no one takes you back on. Do you understand me?”
Stiles swallowed as he finally realized what Argent had thought he’d done. It was in this office that Chris had showed him the bag of pills he and his friends had dabbled in at the beginning of their sixth year.
“Yes, sir,” he said.
“Stop taking the dream root.”
“I need to be able to sleep without waking up my roommates. Hale wouldn’t let me keep any of the tonic I made.”
Argent went around his desk, digging in drawers until he picked up his leather bag. He lifted the flap and went through it before coming up with a brown glass jar. He held it out to Stiles.
“Half a teaspoon.”
Stiles took it slowly. “Is this all you have?”
“I can make more.”
“What about tonight?”
“I don’t have roommates,” Argent said, fastening his straps again. “The first hunts are hard. The blood is blood. You have to think of them as animals. At the root of it, that’s all we are.”
Stiles nodded slightly as he put the bottle into his bag. “I’m sorry about today.”
When he was silent, Stiles looked up. Argent was staring at him, but it wasn’t in the aggressive way. He looked almost sad.
“I can’t take mistakes lightly anymore. If I pass you through this class, give you my recommendation, only to find out that you’ve wound up in a body bag, your blood is on my hands. There are no excuses, Stiles. Not for you. Not for me.”
Stiles nodded slightly.
“Get back to your room,” Argent said.
“Yes, sir,” he said without looking up again.
He left Argent’s office, going back down the hall to the stairs. It was past curfew for the undergrads, so the halls were quiet. He passed the ghosts of a confederate and union soldier in torn uniforms. One of them nodded to him, he gave a little salute before they disappeared into a wall leaving a small cold spot as he continued to his common room.
Like the evening before, all the underclassmen were gone, but friends were still up. As he guessed, Lydia and Isaac both had their potions book out with their notebooks, writing up a storm. He at least had a few pages of his own from their study session the night before.
“You look better,” Danny said.
“Argent healed it,” he said.
“I can’t believe he made you keep it all day,” Danny said. “It’s abuse.”
“It’s just training.”
Danny looked at him, like he was on the verge of telling Stiles just how stupid his chosen career path was again before he just nodded slightly. They’d fought way too often about it. Every time Argent stepped up the training for him, it happened again. Stiles squeezed Danny’s upper arm before he spelled his own books into the great room.
“Did you find any more sources for substitutions to the werewolf heart?” Stiles asked Lydia.
“Yeah, here are a few. The sections are marked,” she said, pushing over a small stack of books.
Otherwise she ignored them all as she wrote her essay that would probably end up setting the grading curve for everyone else. At least Stiles was getting access to her source material as he began to add to the pages he already had.
At one in the morning, Chris was still staring at the ceiling in his bedroom. Without dreamless sleep, he wasn’t just not having nightmares. He wasn’t sleeping. A night without sleep wouldn’t kill him. He’d had more than his fair share of them, but his mind raced with the ingredients he didn’t have to brew with. He could always go to the potion’s classroom and take what he needed, but he didn’t like doing it.
Finally, he shoved back the blankets and slid his jeans back on with a t-shirt before leaving his quarters. The medical wing wasn’t that far of a walk and someone would still be working it. The hallways were dark with only the mostly full moon coming in through the high windows.
He didn’t see anyone on his way to the infirmary. Inside, there weren’t any kids on the many beds. Luckily, that was the normal state of the place. The bed sheets glowed white with the row of windows overlooking the lake.
As he walked down the rows of beds, he expected one of the nurses to appear, but none did as he reached the back of the room where the supply cabinets were kept. Two of them were open with a man kneeling in front of them. The man glanced up, but without much light Chris couldn’t make out his face.
“You’re out past curfew, Professor Argent.”
“Same to you,” Chris said flicking on the lamp on the registration desk.
Peter Hale barely flinched as he kept his eyes on the vials he was taking out of a kit.
“What are you doing?” Chris asked.
“Restocking the tonics. I won’t be able to do it for the next few days,” he said.
“Mhm,” Chris said, leaning against the desk. “Should you be out now?” he asked with as non judgemental a tone as he could make.
“At 1 AM with all the children in bed? What would I bite? One of the ghosts?”
“I feel like we’d both come out of that wishing I’d gone for a ghost.”
Chris laughed slightly. “Well, while you’re rifling, I don’t suppose you could give me some dreamless sleep? I let myself run out.”
“Tsk tsk,” Peter said before he picked through the cabinet he had already stocked. Chris saw Dreamless Sleep written in slanted script on a few of the bottles Hale picked up before he held one closer. “That’s the best of the samples my class brewed a few days ago.”
“Great,” Chris said, taking the bottle.
“It’s your little protege’s.”
“It would’ve been so much more satisfying if he was talent less,” Peter said.
Chris laughed slightly, crossing his arms over his stomach and looking down at the label. Stilinski was written as small as possible at the top of the label. That wasn’t Stiles’s handwriting.
“I know he isn’t your favorite student right now, but he’s a good kid.”
“Just because he worships the ground you walk on doesn’t mean he’ll be a good guardian.”
“I don’t care which of my students like me. He could hate me and it wouldn’t change the fact that he has the ability to be the best guard in the last century.”
Peter laughed slightly before he looked up when Chris was silent. His smile faltered slightly, but stayed around his lips.
“You really believe that.”
“I do,” he said. “The things that make him hard to teach are the things that are going to make him a good guard. He’s passionate and unfortunately for him and his professors, he doesn’t have his badge yet. He still has things to learn. And you’re one of the people he needs to learn from most.”
“And who exactly is going to remind him of that?” Peter asked, standing so that he was the same height of Chris. “I have unshakable control, but I won’t be taunted like a dog by an upstart boy with an inflated sense of self-worth because you’ve filled his head with glory and because of who his father is. He’s never been known to be the most tolerant guard either.”
Even as he said it, Peter looked away toward the end. Chris made his fingers loosen around the vial he’d gripped too tightly.
“Excuse me. The moon is fat,” Peter said, clearing his throat slightly. “I’ve dealt with John. My sister has with our pack. He’s a good man, better than he should be given what happened with the Red Moon Uprising,” he said. “But I wasn’t part of it and I loathe being lumped in with curs, who had no desire to change their nature.”
“You don’t, but that’s fine.”
“I’m Gerard Argent’s son. You think I don’t know how hard it is to shake off a bad lineage?”
“And yet look at you,” Peter said. “A professor, at one of the most prestigious magical schools in the country, in the world?”
“Same as you.”
“I fought for this position. You put in your application and were accepted as a celebrity. Even I heard of it. Christopher Argent turned guard to professor.”
“After twenty years of service,” Chris said, his voice hardening. “I got out of my father’s shadow by clawing.”
Peter’s sighed through his nose before nodding slightly.
“That doesn’t mean that I’m not sorry that you have to do the same thing.”
Peter nodded slightly, looking at the vials in his hands. “Thank you.”
“But please don’t let your first impression of Stiles let you write him off.”
“Can he learn to watch his mouth?”
“Then he has another chance on your reputation.”
“Thank you,” Chris said.
“Make sure he doesn’t waste it,” Peter said, looking at Chris. His eyes had the slight glow of his kind in the faint moonlight. “I don’t give second chances lightly.”
“Then good luck being a professor,” Chris said. “They’re kids.”
“He’s an adult.”
“How wise were you at that age?”
Peter’s lip barely twitched downward.
“Your time here will go a lot easier if you realize that they’re young. You want to show them that lacamprothy isn’t something to be feared? You’ve got the perfect platform.”
“That isn’t my job.”
“It’s your job to teach them.”
Peter stared at him for a moment longer before he went back to the cabinet. “Goodnight, Chris.”
Chris exhaled through his nose as he started to walk away. “Goodnight.”