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smoke & bone (mistletoe & fang)

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Dr. Deaton : Not all there is. Think of it like gunpowder. It's just powder until a spark ignites it. You need to be that spark, Stiles.
Stiles : You mean, like light myself on fire? I don't think I'm up for that.
- Raving (S02,E08), Teen Wolf

*

“There may be a great fire in our soul, yet no one ever comes to warm himself at it, and the passers-by see only a wisp of smoke.”
― Vincent van Gogh

*
*

Truly:

It doesn’t take much.

Just like a house of cards, one small nudge brought the entire structure tumbling down. With this, though: instead of being left with a plethora of playing cards scattered across the floor, Stiles’ entire life lay shattered in pieces. Who he was, what he was—core values may have stayed the same, may have lingered along the seams of the person suit that the teen had donned the first time his mother had lashed out at him, and yet despite it all, Stiles’ worldview shifted that small amount to the left.

“Hey, Creeper Wolf,” the whiskey-eyed teen called out around the cap of a pen clenched familiarly between his teeth.

“If you call me that again, Stiles, I’ll lock you out of the wards and deny you access to the Vault’s library,” the older man interrupted before Stiles had the chance to continue; instead of adequately cowing the teen, however, all Peter’s threat did was garner a massively unimpressed eyeroll.

Perhaps once upon a time Stiles would have taken the ‘wolf at his word. Unfortunately for Peter, Stiles had learned long ago that he tended to grow on others—not unlike a persistent species of fungus, hence his particularly inspired submission to the science fair in fourth grade—and the blue-eyed man’s posturing had ceased being effective nearly half of a year ago.

(And, perhaps, that lack of threat went hand in hand with the fact that the teen had learned to manipulate the ‘wolf’s wards around that time, as well—but what Peter didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him, and Stiles came out Aces every time. Odds were always so much better when you stacked the deck beforehand.)

Uncowed, Stiles blithely continued on, fingers brushing over the phrase that he had come across in one of the other’s many books. His Latin was shaky and his Gaelic even worse, but Google Translate was sufficient enough in helping Stiles plod his way through Peter’s library at a semi-decent clip. “So I came across this passage in the book, but the translation is throwing me off.” Not quite a lie, and the teen’s heartbeat remained steady. “Agus thug an sìol bhon diadhachd a-mach an Lasair draoidheachd air an fhearann. Wanna give it a go?”

Peter’s eyebrow lifted, speaking volumes in a language that every Hale seemed born with. “What your iPhone is trying to tell you and failing spectacularly at is this: And the seed from the divine brought forth the Flame of magic upon the land. It’s a reference to the mythology of how Sparks are descended from demi-gods. Typically the Celtic or Northern European gods, but that was always a point of contention amongst various scholarly professions.”

Translation given and answer handed over to the teen without the normal amount of fuss and banter, the ‘wolf glanced away and returned to his perusal of his own tome: the newest Biggest Bad had struck again, hence Peter and Stiles’ research extravaganza. And that was what Stiles was doing—truly—but then his attention had caught elsewhere and… well. There was a reason why the amber-eyed teen had lost entire nights to Wikipedia binges.

He rubbed the pad of his thumb along his fingertips, teeth biting down a little bit harder at the sensory memory of a too-light bag of mountain ash managing to cross a distance that should have been impossible to do so. Creating something out of nothing; physics stalled at the concept, and yet—

Mythology, huh? Stiles murmured silently to himself, lashes lowering to veil his gaze.

“Why’d you say mythology, though? Wouldn’t it make sense that a Spark be a pack’s Emissary, especially with the whole… magic thing the quote mentioned? A druid, right?”

The derisive eyebrow returned, and Peter glanced upwards to meet the boy’s eyes. “Except that there’s no such thing as a Spark, Stiles. They’re just stories; Emissaries were always druids because druids were trained in advisory and minimal-magic user roles. The story of the Spark was created to give more weight to the poultices, rituals, and herblore that druids use.”

“But…”

Stiles said nothing more as the single word trailed off into silence between human and ‘wolf: he shifted on the smooth leather of the living room sofa and, finally, dropped his gaze to continue reading about the Skogsrå.

But. the teen’s mind whispered, and his quick fingers slipped the ancient book into his backpack to read later.

*

Three a.m. was considered the witching hour of the night and, though it should have been nothing more than an old wives’ tale, Stiles did have to admit—if only to himself—that the Preserve felt more… alive… the deeper into night the world drifted. Humanity quieted, lulled to a false sense of security by butterfly-bright dreams—and it was then that shadows creeped while the very air gained a certain flavor of mystery, lingering anise-sharp upon the teen’s tongue.

Stiles’ bare toes dug into the loam that surrounded the Nemeton’s base, gangly digits burrowing amongst the trees’ roots even as his head tilted back, throat a pale, vulnerable line, to stare up at the stars high above.

Shrubs rustled along the clearing’s outskirts, and Stiles shifted just enough to meet the Skogsrå‘s coy gaze. Perhaps a time ago, he would have smiled back—been coaxed towards the seductress—eyes blind and heart stolen away for another’s gain. But that was then and this was now, and the Nemeton was a slowly growing nexus of power beneath the calloused soles of his feet. Then, the teen had just been given a hint of a possible future (“It's just powder until a spark ignites it. You need to be that spark, Stiles.”); Now, coincidence or Fate had ensured that Stiles had come across a book that he normally wouldn’t have ever had access to (perhaps Deaton had even been banking on that fact), and now Pandora’s Box lay gutted and opened of all of its contents.

The child’s blood has awakened, and he is mine to claim, a voice whispered upon the nighttime breeze.

“Sorry,” Stiles told the Skogsrå, smile as sharp as a blade while will o’ the wisps danced at his fingertips, spirit fire and just as cold as the grave. “Gramps doesn’t like sharing.”

The woods-wife blanched in horror and stepped back.

Haunting, cackling laughter filled the Nemeton’s clearing as something Other became known.

*

“Scott—you need to listen to me. Please,” Stiles begged even as he reached out to clasp a hand over the strong curve of his best friend’s shoulder, moving in closer in an attempt to shake some sense into the stubborn Alpha. “The hunter group doesn’t follow the Code. They’ve left a trail of destruction across four states. You might want to negotiate and go in intending for a peaceful resolution, but you’re being naïve. Instead, you should—“

The True Alpha jerked away from Stiles’ touch, unhappy frown turning the corners of his mouth downwards even as Scott’s brows furrowed at the other teen’s words. “You don’t know that, though, Stiles. You’re just going on assumptions, and it’s not right planning this meeting thinking that it’s a trap. I just told you that I want to give them the benefit of the doubt.”

The edge of Stiles’ jawline ticked in irritation, but the whiskey-eyed boy swallowed any potentially disastrous replies to continue to appeal to Scott’s commonsense. “Scott, okay, I totally get that—I do—but the group slaughtered seven packs already. As your Emissary—“

“You’re not.”

The teen froze, and something vulnerable and hurt flickered in his amber gaze: there and gone in less than a heartbeat, a moment frozen in time before the heat of a second ticking away thawed it into less than a memory. “…what?”

“You’re not my Emissary, Stiles,” Scott corrected, and his voice was so soft, so quietly beseeching as his dark gaze met Stiles’ own. “You’re my brother, and I know that you’re just trying to look out for me, but Deaton’s got so much more experience—and I trust him. He’s my Emissary. This pack’s Emissary. And he agrees with me, Stiles.”

He’s going to giftwrap our death, Stiles thought but didn’t say, something too painful to acknowledge curling up and dying in the hidden, most secretive portion of his heart. He blinked and looked away from Scott’s earnest gaze, eyes caught by glacial blue.

Peter smirked—and took a step away from the pack.

*

It was instinctive, the way that Stiles’ hand snapped out to wrap long fingers around Peter’s wrist. He stopped the older man in mid-motion, right before the ‘wolf actually reached down to pick up the claws of an Alpha werewolf that one particular contact or another had managed to procure for him.

“Don’t,” the whiskey-eyed teen commanded.

Peter’s eyes flickered from the way that Stiles never once looked away from the book that he was paging absently through to the firm hold the boy’s fingers continued to maintain around his wrist: no tremble, no thought to let go—unrelenting and unyielding, and even when Peter used a touch of his werewolf strength to pull away, he still could not move.

“I’ve been looking for this particular set of claws for nearly five years before the fire, sweet boy. I’m going to need a better reason from you than just Don’t, Stiles.”

Reply oh-so reasonable, but something almost feral and hungry flickered to life within Peter’s neon gaze.

It was enough to finally get the teen to look away from his current literary attraction, and Stiles tightened his hold around the other’s limb even as he stared down at the seemingly innocuous package filled with ten claw fragments. Malignancy clung to the package, seeping through the cardboard material like cheesecloth: the claws that this particular Alpha had wielded were wrong in the same way the Alpha Pack had been wrong. Twisted up inside, perverting the flame that shifted a ‘wolf’s eyes to a crimson inferno—and Stiles’ upper lip lifted in a slight snarl that Peter was so very familiar with (knowing the slight twitch of muscle and tooth from the shift his own features followed through).

Suddenly, blue-tinged fire sprung into being and began working to merrily consume the package and the Alpha claws contained within. Peter jerked away from the dining room table with a low curse, fear sparking through him at the sudden appearance of a fire.

When all that was left was less than ash, Stiles once more returned his attention to the book before him. “Doesn’t really matter now, anyway,” he commented, tone blasé and cool enough that butter wouldn’t have been able to melt in his mouth.

The ‘wolf snarled in irritation and, for a breathless moment, his eyes flared red.

*

“Scott—please—just, please—listen to me—“

“Deaton thinks that you’re wrong, Stiles. I trust him.”

*

Stiles burrowed his feet under the solid weight of Peter’s thigh, shifting just enough to steal the bowl of popcorn away from the older man. The teen grinned at the baleful look that was immediately tossed his way but considered it his victory when Peter didn’t immediately try to take it back. Resting his prize over the flat plan of his belly, Stiles dug down to the bottom of the bowl to look for an unpopped kernel as Harry Potter and Severus Snape interacted on the ‘wolf’s massive TV screen.

“Do you remember me telling you we are practicing non-verbal spells, Potter?"
"Yes," said Harry stiffly.
"Yes, sir."
"There's no need to call me ‘sir,’ Professor."

The teen grinned sharp and bright as Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince continued to play out across the screen, crunching down on a found kernel. “You know, I decided a while ago that you’d be a Hat Stall, Creeper Wolf. Slytherclaw all the way for you: Slytherin or Ravenclaw for your House depending on what side of the bed you woke up on that morning and how likely you were inclined towards giving in to your Bond villainesque tendencies.”

Peter tossed an unimpressed look Stiles’ way and stole back the bowl of popcorn for his unnecessary commentary. “Says the one most likely to be joining me in the dungeons, Stiles.”

Stiles’ grin softened just the smallest bit at that, turning mischievous as the teen’s attention redirected back to the television and the movie playing on it.

“I’ve become rather fond of snakes lately, so I guess it works out.”

*

Stiles stopped trying during pack meetings, knowing that his recommendations, his protests, his input and advise and suggestions and commonsense would be ignored: overlooked and disregarded for Deaton’s sage words, and the teen found himself more and more disinclined to even try.

Scott should have known better by now (if only for the sole reason of how regularly the amber-eyed teen had been able to pinpoint the Big Bad of the Week for years), should have been at least willing to take Stiles words into consideration. But the amber-eyed teen learned that it was just better to save his breath—because anything and everything he said would fall on deaf ears.

He wasn’t the True Alpha’s Emissary.

So it didn’t matter, in the end.

*

Irony at its finest:

The mistletoe that was just as dangerous to werewolves as mountain ash was yet another thing that Stiles was partial to. At least this preference could be claimed as a legacy that was encoded into the teen’s DNA.

It was easier than breathing to pinpoint the poisonous dust that filled Peter’s lungs, stopping the herb before it had the chance to spread to the rest of the ‘wolf’s body. The older man lay wheezing beneath the protective curve of Stiles’ huddled body as the fight against the hunters continued to rage on: each breath was a battle just barely won, and it was so easy to see the terror that filled Peter’s eyes at the thought that this, this was what would finally kill him.

(But Peter was no Baldr despite the fact that Stiles’ blood apparently bred true.)

“You’re going to be okay, Peter,” Stiles whispered, fingers curled tight around the older man’s:

And Peter held faith.

(Stiles Sparked and caught fire.)

*

Mulish confusion was truly an unfortunate expression on Scott’s face, Stiles thought snidely to himself as he glanced away from the jut of the other teen’s jaw. Things had been circling ‘round, ultimately leading up to this conversation over the course of the past several weeks—and, through all of the silences that had lingered between the two teens, he had known that this was inevitable and what particular conclusion would close out this meeting.

“You didn’t want to listen to me, Scott. I don’t know what else to tell you,” Stiles eventually said with a Gallic shrug to accompany his words. “You said that Deaton’s your Emissary, and I tried talking to you about it, anyway. I always got shut down, so I eventually stopped. No point in talking to a blank wall, right?”

“Kira and Isaac got hurt, though,” Scott rebutted as his brows furrowed deeper. “You should have—“

Done nothing. Because you refused to listen, even at the very first discussion. Stop trying to scapegoat me, Scott, and put the blame where it’s due: on you and Deaton.”

Stiles shook his head in disgust despite the fact that he had known that this was coming. His best friend clung so desperately to a black and white perspective of the world that he was unwilling—maybe even unable—to see past it, compounded with the fact that Deaton had made his first appearance in Scott’s life after Raphael had left, and with the other teen so desperate for a paternal figure… Stiles could see, could even understand, how this all laid out—could acknowledge the why, though that didn’t necessarily mean he was willing to play along.

Scott was built in unyielding lines, and Deaton paralleled that.

Stiles…

Stiles wasn’t like that and, because of it, he hadn’t been Scott’s choice.

“I’m done for tonight,” the whiskey-eyed teen interrupted when he saw the True Alpha gearing up for another argument. And, just like that, exhaustion swamped over the teen in a encompassing wave: a tsunami of Done that Stiles knew he was still just temporarily putting off. But Stiles was only willing to talk to empty air to a certain point, and if the other boy, his brother, closed his ears… Stiles lessened the damage with his own plans, but an Advisor was an Advisor only so long as he could advise.

Stiles gathered his things up, carelessly shoving it all into his backpack before making what he’d consider a tactical retreat away from the McCall household.

Perhaps it was his imagination in hearing the telling twang of a string—a bond—snapping.

Perhaps.

*

Peter’s eyes glowed crimson in the low light of Stiles’ bedroom as the teen finally stepped through the door to his room. He stilled, coming to a complete stop as he watched the ‘wolf watch him in turn. Silence stretched between them both and went taut, though it was Peter that finally broke the tentative neutrality when he reached into a pocket to pull out a thin cord of leather; a pendant dangled from the very middle of the necklace, and it was easy enough for Stiles to make out the symbol etched onto the metal from where he stood.

“Knowledge, light into the darkness: a torch, symbolizing the domesticated fire. Interesting pick for a rune, Peter.”

The ‘wolf’s gaze flared hotter, eyes going heart’s blood-red as the leather cord dangled from his fingers like a puppet on a string. “Some say that kenaz is Loki’s symbolic rune, as well. You forgot that particular tidbit of information in your recital of facts, Stiles. I’m almost disappointed in that.”

Stiles’ answering smile was the razor blade curve of a trickster’s knowing grin.

“I did tell you that I’ve grown fond of snakes… Alpha Hale.”

 

::end::