AN: This is the sequel to my other story, New Night. If you haven't read it, I suggest you start with that one, otherwise you'll be pretty lost here. Also, in case you were unaware, this is SLASH, meaning boy loves boy (or werewolf, in this case). If you have a problem with that, you can kindly go elsewhere.
Birdsong is the first thing Eben hears when he wakes. The sun is streaming down on his face, and the smell of pine and wood fills his nostrils. He stretches languidly, hears something rustle under his legs, and frowns. When the sunlight cuts across his face, Eben rolls over onto his back and opens his eyes. Above him, tree branches sway in the light spring breeze.
Eben sits up and combs dirt and leaves from his hair with his fingers. It's a cool morning, and there's still dew on the ground, dampening his clothes. That means it's still early.
He stands and brushes the dirt from his clothes. With a sigh, he takes off at a light jog. He runs through the forest on light feet, and when he reaches his backyard, he falters at the sight of his dad sitting on the back deck with two mugs of coffee in hand. Eben tries not to wince and trudges across the yard to sit down beside the Chief.
"Again?" His dad asks as he hands over a mug.
Eben sighs. "I'm sorry, Dad. I know you must be worried."
"I'm less worried than I would've been three months ago."
Eben nods, takes a sip of his coffee.
"Do you do this every night?"
Eben shakes his head. "No. Just every couple of nights, when I start feeling restless. I don't mean to stay out there. I just need to go for a run, and I end up stopping for a break. And then I fall asleep." He grimaces.
"And you think this has something to do with the magic you took from Sebastian? Like your eyes?"
Eben looks away, remembering how unnerved his father had been the first time he'd seen his son's new reflective pupils. They'd agreed, then, that if any strangers noticed it, he was to tell them it was a fluke from eye surgery he'd recently had.
"Yeah, I think so."
"But you're not a werewolf."
Eben smiles. "No, definitely not. I haven't turned wolfy on any of the full moons since then."
"Right. Is there any way you could…stop sleeping in the forest?"
Eben self-consciously scratches the back of his neck.
"I don't mean to make things difficult for you, son. But there are still hunters in the area, and if they see you sleeping out in the woods, they might assume you're a werewolf and not give you a chance to explain yourself."
"You make a good point." It wouldn't be the first time hunters had mistaken him for a werewolf, after all.
His dad pats his knee. "When's Drystan coming back?"
Drystan had left town a few days after the November full moon, when Eben performed the ritual that sapped Sebastian's magic, making him an ordinary werewolf. He'd gone home to Oregon to pack up his family's things. He hadn't said when he planned to return, but he and Eben text and talk on the phone frequently. He knows about the insomnia Eben's been having, and the restlessness that hits him in the middle of the night and sends him running for hours on end to try and alleviate the worst of it. He's going to find an apartment in town when he gets back, since he's planning to stay until his pack of misfit teenagers graduates high school next year.
"I don't know," Eben admits. "Soon, I hope. He's doing the solitary grieving thing, I think. It's good for him."
"Mm," his dad hums in agreement. "He's been through a lot."
Eben nods. They fall into a comfortable silence for a few minutes, sipping their coffee and staring out at the trees beyond the edge of the yard. Eben wonders what Drystan is doing right now. He wonders if he's at the Lowell home, reliving childhood memories and packing up sentimental valuables until he can return again.
Eventually, his dad says, "How's your magic?" Eben makes a face, and his dad smiles softly and guesses, "Still nothing?"
Eben nods. "I don't understand. I felt so full with magic right after the ritual. But now, it's like it's gone into recession. It won't do anything I tell it to, but it has no problem malfunctioning when I least expect it. It's like six months ago all over again."
"Maybe it just takes a while to adjust to it."
Eben scrubs a hand through his dark brown hair, sending it into disarray. "I don't know. Maybe. I just wish there was someone…" He trails off, because he doesn't want to hear himself say that he's alone in this.
"You'll figure it out," his dad promises, throwing an arm around his shoulders. "Just give it time."
Eben lets his head fall to the Chief's shoulder. "Do you have to work today?"
"Of course. I should probably get going, actually. Don't be late for school."
Eben grins. "Okay, Dad. Have a good day, solve the case, wear your vest, and call for back-up."
His dad drops a kiss to the top of his head, takes his empty mug, and stands to go inside. Eben trails after him, intent on showering before school. The last thing he needs is for the whole town to know he's been sleeping in the woods. It's not like he means to. Sometimes he gets lost! He sits down to rest, or take in the surroundings, and then his exhaustion finally gets the better of him.
It doesn't matter, he realizes when he gets there. Madison and Caleb are waiting for him in the parking lot, and when he arrives, Madison wrinkles her nose in his direction and asks, "Did you sleep in the forest again?"
"Geez, say that a little louder, why don't you?" Eben says, flapping his hands at her.
She grimaces apologetically.
"Why do you keep doing that?" Caleb asks.
"I get restless, I go run, I get tired, I stop to rest, and then I fall asleep. So sue me."
"Why don't you just stay indoors?"
Eben glares, and Madison giggles.
"Why don't you try not turning on the full moon, wolf boy?" Eben retorts.
"At least I only get the urge to chase furry rodents around the forest one night a month," Caleb replies cheekily.
"I'm telling Drystan on you," Eben says, raising his nose in the air.
"When's he coming back?" Caleb asks, dropping all pretenses. "We've had two full moons without him, and the third one is this week. It's not the same without him."
"Soon, I think. I talked to him last night."
"What was he wearing?" Madison asks, slanting her eyes at him.
Eben splutters. "How should I know?!"
"Oh, come on, you know the only reason you two talk on the phone is for sexy times."
They turn to go inside the school, and Eben says, "I'm not at liberty to divulge that information. Ever. Also, none of your business!"
In the hallway, they pass Camilla and Gunnar, who give them curt nods. Eben waves, but it's more of an acknowledgment than a greeting. It's their ritual. The pack has developed a very complicated dance with the hunters. As long as the pack doesn't step a toe out of line, the hunters leave them be. But since they're a young, inexperienced pack—for the most part—the hunters have decided to stick around and make sure no more humans are hurt. Eben thinks that's ridiculous, after all the trouble they went to three months ago to protect innocent people from being hurt.
"Well, tell him we all miss him and want him to come back," Caleb says as they file into their first class of the day.
"I'm not going to do that! He's taking some time for himself. There's nothing wrong with that."
"But he's got a pack waiting here for him," Caleb says, lowering his voice so others won't overhear.
"Yes, and we've been doing just fine without him, haven't we?"
"It's not the same," Madison says, and Caleb nods emphatically. "We need the alpha. Having him gone for so long…puts us on edge."
"Well—okay, I'll ask him how much longer he's planning on being away," Eben placates, arms flailing as he talks, "but I'm not—." He waves one hand through the air, toward the windows, and time slows down to milliseconds. He suddenly feels his magic leap out of him, and he has a fraction of a second to realize that that means something bad is about to happen—before it actually does.
The windows shatter outward from the force of the kinetic energy leaving his hand, in a deafening cacophony of sound. Eben gasps in shock, ignoring Caleb and Madison's hands reaching out to drag him away, as the other students scream and duck reflexively. He blinks at the breeze coming in through the broken windows, then down at his hand, which he had calmly gestured toward the windows.
His magic had done that.
Why had his magic done that?
"What was that?" Caleb hisses.
"It… It was…" Eben shakes his head, aware that they're the only people in the classroom now. All the other students are being ushered out by the teacher, granting them a few seconds to themselves. "It was me."
"How? You didn't do a spell, did you?" He asks.
"No! Of course not!"
The teacher strides over and shoos them toward the door. Caleb grabs his sleeve and tugs him quickly out into the hallway, far enough away from the rest of the class that they can talk in relative private.
"You just exploded our classroom, dude!" Caleb hisses.
"Why did you do that?" Madison whispers.
"I didn't!" Eben snaps. "It was an accident!"
"You don't have accidents anymore, Eben," Madison says.
"Apparently, I do, now that I have a little extra magic in me to deal with."
Caleb runs a hand over his face, glances around to make sure no one is close enough to eavesdrop. "Okay, text your dad and Drystan and let them know what happened."
"Why?" Eben asks, uncomfortable. "It was just a few windows."
"If your magic is malfunctioning," Madison explains, "the next incident could be a lot worse than a few windows."
Eben grumbles under his breath. "Okay, I'll text Dad. But I'm not telling Drystan. It can wait until he gets back."
"You don't even know when that is!" Caleb exclaims. A few of their classmates glance over curiously, so he lowers his voice again. "He needs to know."
"No, he doesn't!" Eben whispers fiercely. "What can he do? He doesn't know what's going with me anymore than I do! No one has ever gone through something like this, okay?"
"Okay, class," the teacher interrupts, "it looks like we're going to have class in the gym today until they can figure out what happened with the windows. Please, follow me."
Miserably, Eben follows, dragging his heels. Once they're seated on the bleachers, he discreetly pulls out his phone and sends his dad a hasty text.
Had an accident at school today. Broke some windows with magic. My bad.
He pockets it without waiting for a response. His dad can't grill him through texts, anyway. He'll probably wait until they both get home to talk to him in person about it. At least Eben has the rest of the day to figure out what's going on.
"Are you okay?" Madison asks, taking his hand.
"Yeah," Eben says. He even manages to smile a bit. Madison eyes him searchingly, then nods and releases his hand.
He has a feeling it'll take a lot of focus not to blow anything else up today.
When Eben gets home, the cruiser is already parked in the driveway. He slumps and goes inside to brave the interrogation.
His dad is nursing a glass of tea and looking at paperwork at the kitchen table. He doesn't look up when Eben walks in, but he does say, "You blew up what with what, now?"
"Windows. Magic. It's a whole big thing. Caleb and Madison are spooked." Eben plunks down in the chair across from his dad and resists the urge to lean forward and inspect the files he's brought home.
"Why did you blow up windows today, Eben?" His dad asks lightly.
"I didn't mean to! Honest. I was talking, and I just gestured—and then all the windows blew out. I don't know how I did it! You know the magic's been weird since I did the ritual."
His dad nods calmly, leans back in his seat to stare at his son. "Are you having trouble with it?"
"Obviously," Eben grumbles.
"But can you get a handle on it?"
"I guess I'll have to. It probably just takes practice, getting used to this new magic."
His dad "hm's" noncommittally.
"I'm sorry I damaged state property, Dad," Eben says.
"It's only worth a grounding if you did it on purpose." The Chief smiles.
Eben grins. "That's good news."