It was strange the way you always knew your pack leader's voice. Maia remembered her first time at the Hunter's Moon, the night after she'd joined the pack.
Bat stood before her. "Silver shots."
"Silver shots," he repeated. "It's tradition. It's like," he grinned, "an initiation ritual. Of sorts."
He shook the tiny, stoppered bottle. She could see the flakes of silver inside shake and bounce through the glass. She wondered where he'd even gotten it.
"We'll only make you do one. Maybe two," Bat continued. "Because you're small."
Maia lifted her eyes from the bottle in Bat's hand. Compared to her, he was huge. "How many did you do?"
"Thirteen." He looked proud of himself, and nudged the guy sitting next to him at the bar. Maia had forgotten his name. Steve, maybe. It still seemed weird to think that there could be werewolves with names like Steve. It wasn't nearly exotic enough. But then, she was hardly exotic and here she was.
"Thirteen? If you can do thirteen, I can definitely do more than two," Maia said, then wondered at her own stupidity. Why was she trying to impress these people anyway?
Well, she reminded herself wryly, not that they were people precisely.
"Oho, we've got a bold one here," Bat said, laughing. "I like that in a woman." He swung around the bar and plucked a bottle of Smirnoff off the shelf.
Maia looked around the bartender, the one they called Freaky Pete, but he was down at the other end of the bar, polishing glasses and carefully not looking in their direction. He'd probably seen this a hundred times before.
She jumped as a shot glass clinked against the bar. Bat had come back around to her side while she'd been watching Pete.
Bat unscrewed the lid. The vodka tumbled, clear and shimmering, through the empty air for a split second before hitting the bottom of the glass. A little slopped over the top and splashed into the grooves in the wood. Then Bat set the Smirnoff down and gently pulled the cork out of his tiny bottle of silver.
He lifted it up, much higher than he needed to, before lowering it again, tilting it so that a single flake of silver fell into the glass, turning over and over, flipping from side to side in the invisible vodka current until it drifted to rest on the bottom.
"Now drink," said Bat with a flourish.
Maia hesitated, felt Steve and a few others at the bar shuffling behind her, leaning in. She took a deep breath, grabbed the glass, and downed it in one swift gulp.
At first, she didn't feel anything, except the normal twist and shudder reaction she always had toward alcohol, no matter how many times she drank it. Then she felt a clawing at the base of her throat, then a burst of pain, blossoming out. It felt like there was a…thing, something inside her reaching down to tug her ribs uncomfortably and up to tickle the back of her nose with fiery breath.
Then it was over. She could still feel the menacing trace of silver lurking somewhere in her stomach, but dimmed now, enveloped in the layers of her lunch and dinner. She was sure it would come back to haunt her again later.
"Again!" Bat cried, pouring the vodka and tipping the silver in once again. Maia watched him the entire time, now in awe. Thirteen? How was that even possible?
Maia swallowed painfully.
"Go on. Do another," Bat urged. Everyone in the bar, it seemed, was crowded around now, watching her. "It's a test of bravery, honor—"
"Stupidity," cut in the harsh voice of Kito, and Maia felt air at her back as the crowd parted. "That's enough."
Bat hastily pocketed his silver.
That's what pack leaders, good or bad, were for: to maintain order in the pack and keep them out of unnecessary trouble.
But this Shadowhunter, the one with the golden hair and the death wish, was a different matter entirely, and Maia wasn't sure even Luke could keep them out of the trouble he was sure to bring.
A/N: Well, that was fun, although I'm not sure I like the ending. What did you think?