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The Foul Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart

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The Foul Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart

 

Liam is not quite sure what to think about the fact that Theo is living in the same building as Peter Hale. He supposes it is a good thing that Theo has not been completely alone in the month that it took Isaac to handle his affairs on the east coast. Liam had helped Theo move in, carrying the one box that fit Theo’s belongings, as Theo told him about his arm.

“Kinda gross,” Liam said when Theo said that without the stitches Liam would be able to see his bones.

“I know, right?”

“And why’s it not healing?”

“Nobody knows,” Theo said and shrugged.

When Isaac moved in, Liam and Scott helped, and Argent was there, as well. As far as Liam understands, those two, Isaac and Argent, are pretty close, although he does not quite understand why. Nobody really wants to explain it to him, so Liam guesses he will have to ask Peter about that at some point, because Peter always knows everything and never has a problem talking about stuff that could easily hurt someone’s feelings. Which is also why he guesses Peter and Theo get along well. Kindred spirits.

“Thanks for helping,” Theo said when Liam set the box on the floor of the otherwise empty apartment.

“No problem,” Liam shrugged. And it was not a problem, really. Liam felt, and continues to feel, guilty for what he told Scott to do. He had thought it was the right thing to do. His feelings for Theo are dominated by ambivalence. On the one hand, Liam cannot forget all the terrible things Theo did, made Liam do. Rage and sorrow grip him tightly whenever he recalls how Theo had manipulated him. On the other hand, he remembers the terrified Theo that crawled out of hell, that was lacking the smugness and superiority of before. Whatever he experienced down there, it must have changed him. And Liam did not know if it really had, or if that was just wishful thinking, but then Theo decided to basically sacrifice himself, and then actually cried when he realized he was still alive, and not out of happiness. The depressed, hurt kid who was living out of his car is irreconcilable with the image of Theo Raeken, the power-hungry villain.

In short: Liam is hella confused.

So when he looked around the empty apartment and asked where the furniture was, and Theo shrugged and said that he did not have any, Liam took him to IKEA and used the money his mom had given him for new shoes and some of his own savings to buy Theo a bed. Because that is what pack does, and the way Liam sees it, Theo has told Scott that he will join the pack. That is also the reasoning Liam used when Theo tried to tell him he did not need his charity.

“Well, you need a bed,” Liam pointed out, because Theo does need a bed.

“Guess I do,” Theo said with a sigh. Liam had expected more arguing, but Theo looked tired and pale, and Liam was reminded that Theo was not at full strength yet, which was why Liam was helping with the move-in. So Liam bought, carried, and assembled the bed for Theo. When he was done, Liam looked over at Theo, who had been silent for a long time, and realized that Theo had fallen asleep on the floor, with Liam’s sweater as a pillow. Which reminded Liam that Theo also needed a pillow and a blanket for his newly assembled bed, so he drove home and picked up a blanket and a pillow from the spare bedroom. His parents would never notice these were missing. When he came back, Theo was still asleep, bandaged arm stretched out in front of him.

Liam looked at him then, realizing that Theo, for all his bad deeds, all his showmanship, all his deceits and murders and all the other things that made him the terrible person he was, was also just a kid, just slightly older than Liam himself. No parents, no possessions safe for a car and one box of clothes. Used and abused by the Dread Doctors from a very young age.

Liam has never been great with forgiveness. He is not very religious, which probably does not help with that. But in that instance, he swore to himself to do his best to forgive Theo, under the condition, of course, that Theo did not return to his murderous ways.

Now that Isaac has moved in, the apartment is not empty anymore. Peter has also bought more furniture, and even though he says it was necessary to make the place look less depressing, Liam is pretty sure he has done it because he likes Theo, for whatever reason. They seem to be connecting on another level that Liam cannot comprehend, probably because he has never had the desire to be an evil mastermind.

Apart from this possibly worrisome connection that is forming between Theo and Peter, however, life in Beacon Hills seems to progress uneventfully for a change. Theo has decided to return to school, because, as he points out to Liam, “what else do I have to do with my time? Might as well graduate from fucking high school,” and thus, after some begging on Scott’s part, the Sheriff makes the arrangements that Theo can enter senior year even though the semester is already halfway through. Liam takes AP biology with Theo and realizes that Theo is smart and that he, Liam, is not, at least not when it comes to biology. Or chemistry. Time passes.

Then one day, suddenly Isaac is missing. Again.

It starts like this:

At 3 am, Liam is woken up from a deep, dreamless sleep. At first, he is very confused, not knowing where or when or why he is, and it takes him almost a minute to realize his cell phone is ringing. Blinking rapidly, trying to wake up, he immediately assumes the worst: something has happened to Mason. Scott has been hurt. Stiles needs his help.

Somehow his worries are alleviated and heightened simultaneously when he sees that the caller is Theo.

“Theo?” Liam says, voice still rough from sleep. He clears his throat. “What’s wrong? What’s happening?”

“I don’t know,” Theo says, but he is whispering, and why would he be whispering again? “Something’s going on. Isaac’s gone.”

“Gone? What d’you mean, like, gone? Gone where?”

“Don’t know. He just disappeared, one minute he was there, then he wasn’t, I mean…”

“When did he disappear?”

“Like, five minutes ago? Maybe? I called Peter, but he didn’t pick up his phone, and I can’t hear his heartbeat, either. It’s like he’s disappeared, too.”

“How’d you even know that? Why weren’t you asleep,” Liam asks, yawning. He is still very confused.

“Well, I couldn’t sleep, it happens,” Theo says. “That’s not the point. The point is, Isaac and Peter just disappeared. One minute I could hear their heartbeats, and then suddenly I couldn’t, and it—that’s just not normal!”

Theo sounds anxious, scared, even, Liam thinks. It might just be Liam’s brain that is still half asleep. But if what Theo is saying is true, something is definitely up.

“So what do we do now?” Liam asks because he does not know, and he cannot think. It is 3 a-fucking-m, for God’s sake.

“I have no idea,” Theo says, “but something feels off here, I just… I can’t stay here. It feels like something’s been here.”

“Something supernatural?”

“Yeah.”

“Well,” Liam rubs at his eyes, desperately trying to get his mind to work. “It’s the middle of the night, so we can’t talk to Deaton yet, I guess he’ll get up in two or three hours, then we can call him, tell him what’s up. Argent, too. Maybe then we can call Scott.”

“Yeah,” Theo says, but he still sounds anxious, unsettled, nervous.

“Until then, you can stay here, I guess,” Liam says, because why not. What could possibly go wrong if he invites a homicidal, scheming mastermind into his home in the middle of the night? Bleh, is the only answer Liam can come up with.

“You sure?” Theo asks, but he sounds hopeful.

“Whatever. Just be quiet, don’t wake my parents up.”

Twenty minutes later there is a knock at his window, and when Liam opens it, Theo climbs in, looking like death warmed over. He cradles the scarred arm, as he has gotten used to doing. It still has not healed one bit.

“You okay?” Liam asks. “You look like shit.”

Theo shrugs uncomfortably. “Not sure. This is just messing with my mind. Something’s going on, I know it.”

“Did you sleep at all?”

“A little,” Theo says, and Liam hears his heart skip a beat and realizes belatedly that Theo has just lied to him. He is too tired to figure out why, however, so he just nods over to his bed.

“We could play Zelda or something till we can call Deaton. Or something.” This situation feels all too surreal. Theo agrees and they play Zelda for a while, until Liam notices that he has been killing it all on his own, and when he looks over at Theo, he is asleep on Liam’s bed, curled into himself slightly. It uncannily reminds Liam of the day he helped Theo move. Liam shrugs it off. He is wide awake now, so he decides to continue playing a little more, and then he does some of the math homework he has been desperately trying to understand. Mason and Theo have given him their notes, and that helps him a little, but not enough. At some point he realizes it is almost 6 am, and he goes over to his bed to shake Theo awake.

Theo blinks at him, confused. “Why are you here?”

“I live here?” Liam says.

“Oh.” Theo sits up and looks around, slowly coming to his senses. “Right. Didn’t know where I was for a second.”

“You fell asleep,” Liam points out superfluously. “Looked like you needed it.”

“Mmmh,” is all Theo has to say to that, so Liam calls Deaton and is very relieved when he picks up. The situation is explained fairly quickly, and Deaton tells them to call Argent and come to the clinic. Liam hangs up with a heavy sigh. It is a Wednesday, and they should be getting ready for school, but it looks like that is not happening today. He, and Theo, Corey, and Mason have already missed too many days. He wonders how the hell Scott and Stiles managed this, and he knows they only barely got by. Stiles had an advantage because he is really smart. The world is unfair.

Liam goes to the bathroom, and when he comes back to his room, Theo is doing his math homework for him.

“Hey! What are you doing?”

Theo shrugs. “Had nothing better to do.”

“Stop that. I need to do it myself.”

“And you were failing. Miserably.”

“Shut up.”

Theo grins at him and then stands up to go to the bathroom himself. The few hours of sleep he got on Liam’s bed seem to have helped him a lot, and Liam wonders briefly if maybe Theo is not getting enough sleep. He sometimes looks tired at school, but then again, who doesn’t?

On the drive to the clinic, Liam and Theo agree that they will not involve Mason and Corey unless it is absolutely necessary. Then Theo argues that maybe they should call Malia, since this is about Peter and she might want to know. Liam nods slowly. Theo is probably right. They should also contact Lydia, since she might know something.

Lydia does not know what is going on, as it turns out. Deaton has already spoken to her, as they find out on arrival. But, as Deaton points out, that is a good sign, because it means that nobody is in danger of dying so far. Liam sure hopes he is right about that. At some point, Argent and Malia arrive, Derek in tow. Liam has not seen him in a while, so he kind of assumed that Derek has left for South America again, but there he is, all tall and imposing, and angry that there is something wrong with his uncle again. And Isaac. Again.

Deaton, thank God, has already thought this through. He uses a drop of Malia’s blood for a locating spell that gives them a pretty exact location of Peter. Since Isaac has no living relatives, they cannot do the same for him, but knowing where Peter is gives them someplace to start. Deaton points them to the area on the map of Beacon Hills: it is an abandoned warehouse.

“But of course,” Theo says. “Where else could he possibly be.”

Naturally, they all leave for the warehouse, even Deaton, who usually stays behind. As of yet, none of them deem this a situation that necessitates calling Scott. Sure, he is the Alpha, but he has enough to do with UC Davis and the normal side of life. And since they have Derek with them, Liam is positive that whatever this may be, they can take on without Scott.

That is, until they get in close vicinity of the warehouse. Theo is driving ahead in his truck, Liam and Argent with him, and Malia, Derek, and Deaton following them, and suddenly, Theo slams on the brakes, so that Argent and Liam are thrown into their seatbelts harshly, and Derek behind them has to react quickly and hit the brakes just as hard to avoid hitting them.

“What the hell was that all about?” Argent shouts angrily from the back seat, rubbing his chest. But Liam knows why Theo did it. He can feel it, too.

“It’s fear,” Liam says, trying to calm his breathing. Next to him, Theo is gripping the steering wheel tightly.

“What d’you mean, it’s fear?” Argent asks, alarmed.

“It’s everywhere,” Theo says. “The smell. It’s just… I don’t even know how this is possible.”

“You smell fear?”

“Remember what the Anuk-Ite made you feel like?” Theo says. “This is what it smells like.”

Argent takes his gun out of the holster. “I’ll take that as a bad sign.” He gets out of the car while Liam is still trying to get a grip on himself. His hands are shaking from the intensity of the chemosignals in the air.

“You alright?” Theo asks quietly, and Liam takes a deep breath.

“Yeah. You?”

“Fine. Just surprised me, that’s all.”

Kind of hard to not be surprised by that, Liam thinks as he and Theo get out of the car to meet the others.

“Guess you felt it, too,” Derek says. Liam nods.

“That came completely out of nowhere,” Malia says. “Where the hell is it coming from, and what happened to make someone this afraid?”

“The warehouse is right over there,” Deaton says. “I would like to make an educated guess and say that this is not a coincidence.”

As they slowly and carefully make their way toward the warehouse, Argent gripping his gun tightly, the aroma of fear, anxiety, and terror in the air becomes thicker and thicker.

“What if this is some kind of fear thing again?” Malia asks. “Like the Anuk-Ite?”

“Could be,” Derek says.

“I mean, this amount of fear is just not normal,” Malia says.

“How bad is it?” Argent asks.

“Really bad,” Liam and Malia answer in unison.

“Focus your senses,” Deaton says. “Are there any heartbeats in the building? Do you smell anything besides fear?”

Liam tries to focus, but he cannot smell anything safe for fear, cannot hear anything but his own heartbeat. Derek is the only one who manages to channel his senses.

“Two heartbeats. One’s significantly weaker than the other, but they’re both not all that strong to begin with.”

“What do you smell?”

Derek shakes his head. “Only fear. It’s too strong, it’s overpowering anything else.”

“Are the two heartbeats Peter and Isaac?” Malia asks, but Derek shakes his head again. “I really don’t know.”

“I’m still trying to figure out why it was those two that were taken,” Argent says. “If whoever did this was after werewolves, they could’ve taken Theo, as well.”

“I was right next door,” Theo says, staring at the warehouse like he is still attempting to focus, to find out what is going on behind those walls.

“So this is the witch’s curse all over again,” Liam says. “We gotta figure out what they have in common? Or do we assume this was totally random?”

“Is it ever random?” Derek wonders, and Liam shrugs.

“I have no idea, dude.”

“I guess the most obvious parallel is that they both have phobias, if we’re considering the possibility that this is another ‘fear thing,’” Derek says, and Theo hums in agreement, but Liam is lost.

“What phobias?”

“Isaac’s claustrophobic, right?” Theo says. “Though I don’t know why.”

“His father used to lock him in a freezer in the basement,” Derek says, and Liam gapes at him.

“He did what?!”

Argent sighs. Malia, meanwhile, is mostly confused. “Why would anyone do that? I mean, what’s the point?”

“Because Isaac’s father was a piece of shit,” Derek says matter-of-factly.

“Right,” Liam says. “And what’s Peter afraid of?”

This time, everybody present rolls their eyes at him. “What? What did I say?”

“Fire,” Malia says, like it is the most obvious thing in the world. Which it kind of is.

“Oh. Right.”

“You may be on to something here,” Deaton says. “Of course, I don’t have my sources with me, but I remember that there is some spirit which needs fear to nourish itself. It is not unlike the Anuk-Ite, but it feeds on the isolated emotion of fear. And if it is weakened and in desperate need of feeding, phobias of physical objects are the easiest to replicate, they take the least amount of effort.”

“Sure,” Argent says. “Makes sense. Just lock Isaac in a broom closet, and the thing has itself a feast.”

“So if this is what we’re dealing with,” Theo says, “how deep is the shit we’re in?”

“I’m not sure,” Deaton says, frowning. “I have too little information. It may range from not at all deep to very, very deep shit.”

Liam has never heard Deaton curse before, and it lets the reality of the situation sink in a bit more. They are possibly, probably, in deep shit. This is Beacon Hills, after all; they do nothing halfway here.

“Whatever this is,” Derek says, “Isaac and Peter need our help.”

“You’re right,” Argent says, bracing himself. “We’re going in there. Stay behind me.”

Gun raised, Argent opens the door on the side and edges in, slowly. Derek follows him, claws extended, and Malia, Liam, and Theo mimic him. Deaton follows behind. Liam’s anxiety levels rise, and he feels his heart wildly beating in his chest. The fear in the air is tangible, so prominent Liam feels like he can grasp it, almost like plucking an apple from a tree. They are in a narrow hallway, and Derek comes to a halt for a moment and takes a deep breath.

“I think…” He closes his eyes.

“Yeah,” Malia says, who is actively sniffing the air. “I think I smell him, too.”

“Peter?” Liam asks, and they nod. Theo walks past them, looking around.

“Not sure I smell Peter,” he says, “but I’m pretty damn sure I smell fire.”

Argent looks at him. “You do?”

Theo nods.

“Lead the way,” Argent says, and they begin walking. Liam follows them, until suddenly, he hits an invisible wall. Next to him, Malia faces a similar problem.

“What’s wrong?” Derek asks behind them, and Liam looks down to the floor.

“Mountain ash,” he says.

Theo turns around. “What?”

“There’s mountain ash on the floor…” Liam points at the mountain ash barrier.

Argent returns and breaks the barrier with his foot. “That was to be expected, wasn’t it?”

“Yeah, but…” Liam is very confused, and he can see that Theo is, as well.

“What? What’s wrong?” Malia looks between them.

Theo looks at his wrist, where he knows Scott bit him. “I was able to cross it.”

“Yeah, cause you’re… oh.” Malia frowns deeply at him. “So you’re still a chimera, then? The bite didn’t take?”

“But it did,” Deaton says.

“It did,” Theo says, flashing his eyes at them. Liam sees that they are an electric blue now, just like Derek’s, Malia’s, Peter’s. This is the first time he has seen Theo’s ‘new’ eyes, and he is not quite sure what to make of them; but somehow, it seems to fit him.

“But that doesn’t make any sense,” Malia says, and Theo laughs incredulously.

“You’re telling me. What the fuck is going on?”

“This may very well be another side effect of the ritual,” Deaton says, “and I’m very curious to find out what it means, but at the moment we have slightly more pressing matters at hand.”

“Right,” Argent says, still looking at Theo suspiciously. “You said you smelled fire. So lead the way.”

“Right,” Theo murmurs, shaking his head. “More pressing matters.”

They follow Theo as he follows his nose and makes a sharp turn to the left when they get to a crossing. Then Liam can smell the fire, as well, and he is sure Derek and Malia smell it, too. Now Liam thinks he is also able to identify the bitter, earthy smell that is Peter. When they get to another crossing, Malia immediately runs left, yelling “he’s here!” and she is right.

In one of the rooms, the door open, there is a ring of fire, with a diameter of about 6 feet, the flames about three feet high, and in the center of it, a body is curled up into a ball. Liam cannot see his face, since it is buried beneath muscular arms, but he knows from the smell that it is Peter. The rotten, sour smell of fear is very strong, causing Liam’s hands to shake slightly again.

“Peter!” Malia yells. “Peter!”

“I don’t think he can hear you,” Argent says, lowering his gun.

“We need to get him out of the fucking fire,” Derek says, moving forward, but he stops before he reaches the flames: mountain ash forms a circle around the ring of fire. A spark of anger comes to life in Liam, replacing his fear, thankfully. Of course there needed to be mountain ash, he thinks, so that even if Peter had managed to overcome his fear of the fire and dared to breach it, he would not have been able to leave.

“I’ll break the barrier,” Theo says. “If I get burned, I’ll heal.”

“Alright,” Argent says, stepping back. Theo breaks the barrier with his foot carefully. The fire catches on to his pants leg, but he puts it out quickly with a few pats of his hand. Malia frowns.

“The flames are so high. Can’t we put them out with something?”

“I didn’t think to bring a fire extinguisher,” Argent says, “and I doubt that whoever did this left one lying around.”

“Alright,” Malia says, sighing. “I’ll do it oldschool, then.”

She takes off her shoes and socks and walks right through the flames. It must hurt a lot, but the burns on her legs heal almost immediately once she is inside the ring. Kneeling next to her father, she touches his shoulder, almost gently.

“Peter,” Malia says. “We’re here. Peter.”

When he still does not react, she says, quietly, “Dad.”

Peter flinches, then slowly lifts his head to look at her.

“Malia?”

“Yeah. Hey.”

“Malia.” Peter blinks, confused, like he does not know where he is, or why.

“We’re gonna get you out of here,” Malia says. “Come on.”

Peter sits up, arms shaking. “I… don’t really know…” He looks at the fire surrounding them and trembles.

“It’s just fire. We can walk through it. We’ll heal, it’ll be fine,” Malia says, and her voice is soft, gentle, as Liam has never heard it before. This is a Peter Hale that no one gets to see: weak, scared, disoriented. Liam thinks back to Malia’s tears at what they thought would be Peter’s burial. Somehow he thinks that those tears then and her gentleness now may be connected. Malia helps Peter stand up, and the next thing she knows he is hugging her, taking a deep breath.

“Okay,” Malia says and pats his back awkwardly. “Come on, now.”

“Malia,” Peter says, “I’m really very glad to see you.”

“Okay,” Malia repeats.

Peter hesitates when looking at the flames. Derek reaches out a hand. “I’ll help you,” he says. When Peter nods and extends a hand towards him, Derek grasps his wrist and pulls him through the flames so quickly Peter must barely notice the heat. Still, as soon as he is outside the ring of fire, Peter’s knees give out, and Derek and Theo have to catch him before he hits the ground.

“Derek,” Peter says, “I’m also very glad to see you.”

“Yes, sure. I’m glad to see you, too,” Derek says, wrapping one of Peter’s arms around his shoulders.

Peter looks at Theo. “Doctor Evil.”

“About that nickname,” Theo says. “Is that, like, set in stone?”

“You love it,” Peter says, voice as unsteady as his legs. Malia is putting her socks and shoes back on as Theo and Derek help Peter walk out of the room. In the hallway, away from the flames, they lower him to the floor. Deaton looks him over.

“How are you feeling?”

“What kind of a question is this?” Peter rolls his eyes tiredly. “I feel like absolute shit.”

“Do you know what happened?”

“Some kind of demon. Spirit, maybe, who knows. I felt it move toward me as I was about to go to bed, I couldn’t see anything. Next thing I know I’m here, surrounded by fucking fire, of all things. Lord knows what that thing did to Isaac, locked him in a freezer, probably—”

“Isaac’s here?” Argent speaks up. Peter nods.

“I heard him screaming for hours or something. This thing, I don’t know what it was, but it must have been something that feeds on fear. Can’t think of another explanation.”

“I came to a similar conclusion,” Deaton says, and Peter sighs heavily.

“Great. Just great. I tried to give it as little as possible, but Isaac probably gave it enough fear to last a lifetime.”

“Isaac’s also very young and not as capable of executing control over his powers and emotions,” Deaton reminds him, and Peter shrugs, eyelids drooping.

“M’tired.”

“I understand,” Deaton says. “Rest.” He looks at Malia and Derek, who have been hovering anxiously. “I suppose he’ll be alright. He’s exhausted, but that was to be expected, considering the strain he’s been put under.”

“So he just needs to rest?” Derek asks, and Deaton nods. Malia is relieved, Liam can smell it on her; it manages to overpower the lingering scent of Peter’s terror.

“We still need to find Isaac,” Argent says then, and Deaton rises from his kneeling position in front of Peter.

“Yes. Malia, I think it’s best if you stay with him.”

“Sure,” Malia says.

“Peter, d’you know where Isaac is? Which direction?” Theo asks. Peter lifts one arm and points.

“Somewhere in that direction,” he says, words slightly slurred. “S’where the screams came from.”

Malia stays with her father as Liam, Theo, Derek, and Deaton make their way in the direction that Peter has pointed to, led by Argent and his gun. Liam wonders if the gun is not just a defense mechanism for Argent to suppress his own fears, as he is pretty sure a bullet, even a silver one, would not really do much against an evil spirit. Not even the Ghost Riders had been impressed by normal bullets.

The stench of terror and fear lessens slightly as they leave Peter behind, but then they turn another corner, and it hits them like a freight train. The feeling is so intense and overwhelming it almost seems like Liam is trying to break through a mountain ash barrier. Derek next to him takes a few calming breaths and puts a hand on Liam’s arm.

“Calm down,” he says. “This is not your fear, remember that. It can’t hurt you if you don’t forget that.”

Liam nods and repeats it to himself over and over again. This is not my fear I’m feeling, it is Isaac’s fear. It is not mine, it is Isaac’s. Not mine. Not mine.

“Here?” Theo says, standing in front of a door that looks heavy, made from iron.

“Maybe,” Derek says, “although it’s kinda hard to place him right now.”

“I know. I can’t really locate the source of his scent, either. But there’s mountain ash in front of the door.”

Liam walks over to Theo, and he is right. “So break it,” Liam says. He does not know why Theo is a werewolf and still not affected by mountain ash. This should be impossible. But, well. Liam looks at Theo’s forearm, still in bandages, knowing there is a gaping wound underneath that might never heal, and that is impossible, too. So what the hell does Liam know about impossibilities, anyway?

Theo is chewing on his lower lip, staring at the mountain ash on the floor. “Yeah… yeah.” He breaks yet another barrier with his foot before stepping back.

“That door looks really heavy,” he says, looking at Derek. “How are we gonna get that open?”

“You leave that to me,” Derek says, eyes already flashing blue.

“I could help,” Liam says, knowing he is stronger than most others present. Derek nods at him, and together they grip the heavy iron handle and start pulling with all their might. It will not budge, and Liam can start to feel himself wolf out, eyes flashing, teeth growing. It makes him feel angry, which makes him feel stronger. Next to him Derek is growling in frustration, because nothing is happening—but then the handle gives, just the slightest bit, and Liam focuses all of his thoughts on things that make him angry. Being expelled from Devenford Prep. Being turned into a werewolf, and all the involuntary changes it brought about. Theo manipulating him. Theo forcing him to almost kill Scott. Theo conspiring with the Dread Doctors. Theo lying. Theo deceiving. Liam growls. Theo sacrificing himself. Theo crying because he wanted to die.

The door handle moves. The lock creaks and is broken as the handle clatters to the floor.

Liam is breathing heavily, trying to focus himself and his thoughts. He does not dare look at Theo in this moment, for fear of—well he does not know what would happen, but he still feels this burning anger pulsating through his veins.

Derek pulls open the door, and Liam is hit with a new wave of fear and terror, stronger than anything he has felt today, and he stumbles away from the door to lean against the far wall.

“Jesus Christ, kid,” Argent murmurs.

Isaac is unconscious, but the tips of his fingers are bloody and torn, and there are deep scratches on the inside of the heavy door. Isaac was so panicked he tried to claw his way out, not recognizing, or not wanting to recognize, the futility of this exercise.

“Is he still alive?” Theo asks.

Argent crouches next to him in the small room that may have once served as a storage room, four by maybe five feet.

“He’s breathing,” Argent says, “but barely.”

“His heartbeat’s weak,” Derek says, and Argent nods.

“We need to get him to BH Memorial,” Deaton says. “Right now.”

“Yeah.” Derek steps forward, and Argent makes room for him as Derek picks up the immobile form of Isaac, carefully lifting him into his arms and standing up.

“You think the thing’s still here?” Liam asks Deaton quietly. “The thing that did this?”

“Maybe,” Deaton says. “But Isaac must have been the more productive source of fear, since Peter has a very tight grip on his abilities, and it looks like the thing took everything from Isaac it could have. Also, nothing’s stopped us from our progress. So, my guess would be it has abandoned this building a short while ago.”

Liam nods, relieved. They follow Derek and Argent and reconnect with Malia and Peter. Peter looks like he has fallen asleep, and Malia has to shake his shoulder insistently to wake him up. The two of them end up driving with Theo and Liam. Liam watches as Theo helps Peter get into the backseat, listens to Peter calling Theo Doctor Evil again, and Theo snorting out a laugh. His thoughts return to his efforts to open the door. Sighing, Liam gets into the passenger seat. Malia buckles up behind him, and Theo gets into the driver’s seat.

“Hey, little wolf,” Peter says. He sounds beyond exhausted and looks even worse, so Liam rolls his eyes at the moronic nickname and decides to humor him.

“What?”

“You like Doctor Who, right?”

“Uh, yeah.”

“He’s really old, ain’t he?”

“Yeah, like, over a century.”

“And how does he like that? Being so old?”

Liam thinks. “I mean, he’s the last of his kind, all the other Timelords are dead. So… not all that much, I guess.”

“Yeah,” Peter says, closing his eyes. “Didn’t think so.”

Theo turns to look at Peter over his shoulder, and he looks like he wants to say something. Then he hesitates. Sighs, and turns the key in the ignition.

 

**************

 

Isaac wakes up in the hospital two days later. He does not know what has happened, or how much time has passed, or even where he is, until Melissa comes into his room and tells him so. Isaac is not even that surprised; after the incident with the Thunderbird, he does not really think he can be surprised anymore.

Every inch of his body hurts, especially his hands. No one needs to explain to Isaac why that is, he has attempted to claw his way out of tight spaces often enough to know. He is very glad when he can finally go home after twenty-four more hours at BH Memorial. Not that he does not enjoy Melissa’s company, but he knows the nightmares will come, and he does not want anyone around when they hit. And they will hit, worse than they have in a long time.

Scott drives him home. Home is an apartment in the building where Peter lives, and the apartment is shared with Theo, which in itself may seem like a strange combination, but to Isaac it is not. He has lived with Peter before, if only for a short while, and he gets along with him as well as anyone can get along with Peter, so this is not new territory for him. Theo, on the other hand, has been essentially a stranger, and getting to know him has been very interesting. See, nobody who has visited him in the hospital since he woke up has dared ask him how it was to be locked in that closet, to be confronted with his most painful memories, his worst fears. But when Theo came by, he flopped into the seat just vacated by Chris, folded his hands, and said bluntly, “That was fucked up, huh?”

“It was pretty bad,” Isaac answered honestly, because honestly? It was. No way around that.

“You looked pretty bad, too,” Theo said. “For a second, I thought you were dead.”

“Melissa said I wasn’t far from dying, either. Lost too much energy, and all that.”

“Derek told me your father used to lock you in a freezer.”

“He did?”

Theo nodded.

“Oh.”

“I guess it’s just the Hale family trait of not knowing when to shut up.”

“Oh, I think they know. They just don’t care,” Isaac said, and Theo laughed quietly.

“Yeah, maybe.” Theo looked at him then and squinted. “Just wanted to tell you that I think that’s fucked up, and, well, your fear makes a lot more sense now… yeah.” He shrugged.

Living with someone makes nightmares and deeply ingrained fears hard to hide. Isaac kind of likes living with Theo because that has never been necessary. The first night Isaac and Theo spent together in the apartment, Isaac woke up at around 2 am because of Theo screaming himself awake from a nightmare. They did not really talk about it the next morning, but then a few nights later it happened again, and then Isaac asked him over breakfast if he was okay, and Theo shrugged and said, “It’s fine.” And then, about a week later, Isaac had one of his nightmares, and they reached a kind of understanding. Occasionally, one of them will have a nightmare, and the other one will either wake up from that or be awake already/still, and then they will sit together and watch movies or play Mario Kart. They have already watched about half of the entire canon of Netflix originals together because of nights spent awake. Usually, the nightmare ratio is such that to every three nightmares Theo has, Isaac has one, but after the newest incident, they both know that things will probably change for a while.

“I’m gonna have a few rough nights ahead of me,” Isaac admitted at the hospital, and Theo nodded.

“Yeah, thought so. You up for a Stranger Things marathon?”

“Good idea,” Isaac said.

So when Scott drops him off at home and insists on coming upstairs with him to carry Isaac’s bag for him (which contains nothing but one pair of dirty underwear and socks), Theo is sitting on the couch, looking tired but genuinely happy to see him. His eyes land on Scott next, and he suddenly seems slightly weary, maybe a bit wary. Theo is uncomfortable around Scott, be it from a loaded conscience, or a lingering resentment. Isaac just wants them to get along.

“Hey,” Theo says.

“Hey,” Isaac says.

Scott nods at Theo. “Hi.”

“You okay?” Theo asks, and Isaac shrugs.

“Tired. I’ll be fine.”

Isaac drops on the couch and leans back. An awkward silence settles over them as Isaac realizes that Scott and Isaac are okay, but Scott and Isaac and Theo are not, because Scott does not know how he fits into this environment. This is, arguably, the home of Isaac and Theo, and while Scott and Theo have resolved their issues superficially, Scott does not feel like he belongs here. When Isaac has hung out with Scott since his return to Beacon Hills, they have hung out at Melissa’s, or at UC Davis, or at the animal clinic, or at Derek’s. Anywhere but here.

“Right,” Scott says and clears his throat. “I’ll be off then.”

Isaac kind of wants to ask him to stay a little, but Theo would not want that. So he says, “Okay. Thanks, y’know, you didn’t need to drive me home.”

“It’s okay, I’m just happy you’re okay.”

After Scott has left, a silence settles over Theo and Isaac that is not uncomfortable, but still somewhat tense. Isaac is starting to think he can read Theo a little, and the guy looks like he has something to say, but does not know where to start. So Isaac looks at the ceiling and just starts talking himself.

“I know what my dad did was really fucked up. I hated it. I hated him. But not always. He didn’t always do this, you know. He used to be normal. I just… my brother died, and I don’t think he ever got over that. My mother dying didn’t help either, but it was Camden dying that really pushed him to the breaking point. At least that’s what I think. I… I think the worst thing about being… locked in that thing was how completely helpless I felt. So fucking helpless, hopeless. I wanted him to let me out, y’know? Cause I was… cause he was my dad, and I thought that should mean something.

That’s also why I wanted the Bite, when Derek offered it to me. I was just done with feeling so damn helpless all the fucking time. I wanted to feel some power, some control over my life. And you know what the best part is? When I’d gotten the Bite, I was sitting with my dad, we were having dinner, and… he threw a plate at me, or a glass or something, and it shattered, and you know what I did?” Isaac laughs, shaking his head.

“What did you do?” Theo asks.

“I ran. I had the strength to finally fight back, that’s what I thought I wanted, and then I had it and instead of fighting back, I ran. I just grabbed my bike and raced away. The only thing being stronger than before did for me was that I dared run away instead of just taking it. So I guess this thing with wanting the bite wasn’t about my dad at all, it was just about me. If that makes any sense at all.”

“It does,” Theo says. “It does. It does.”

Isaac looks at him, and Theo is picking at a hangnail on his thumb. He assumes that the fact that Isaac has had to listen to so many of Theo’s nightmares has managed to breach at least some of the many, many walls Theo has built around himself. Isaac does not know what these nightmares are about, and due to their unspoken agreement, if there are no extraordinary circumstances, no question other than “you okay?” is ever to be asked on that subject. If Theo wants to talk about it, he will have to start, just as Isaac has just now.

“Did Scott or anyone else happen to mention that I can still cross mountain ash barriers?”

Isaac blinks at him. “Huh?”

“I was a chimera, before. You know. So I could cross mountain ash barriers, and that was normal, cause I wasn’t a werewolf. But now, well. I mean, I didn’t wanna be a werewolf, but now I am one, and I can’t even do that right.”

“But that’s cool, though, right? I mean, you can do something we can’t,” Isaac points out. “I’m sure that’s gonna come in handy at some point.”

“I just don’t know what I am anymore. Am I a chimera? A werewolf? Something else?”

“Is it that important? To be just one definite thing?”

“You wouldn’t know. You never had to worry about that.”

Isaac nods slowly. This thing is probably just the cloak covering an entirely different set of issues. Neither of them will be getting any sleep for the next few nights, he is sure.

“True. I guess I’m just saying, try seeing the upside. If any hunters ever trap you inside a circle of mountain ash and think they got you, they’re wrong.”

“Mh.” Theo keeps picking at the hangnail.

Isaac yawns. He is very tired. “Anyways. Did you make any progress with finding out what kinda thing this was?”

“Deaton says it all points to this fear demon thing. Doesn’t have a body, doesn’t have a name, or something. Apparently, it just feeds on fear, and then when it’s gotten enough it goes back to sleep.”

“So it’s just our luck that it’s awake now? Figures.”

“Well, and the fact that it’s Beacon Hills, you know. Could have picked anybody, but it chose you and Peter cause werewolves have more energy than humans.”

“Okay. It’s a good thing then, I guess. That this demon has chosen Beacon Hills.”

Theo looks at him like he is insane. “What? Why? We’re all in danger.”

“Not all of us. There are so many werewolves in this town, the humans will be left alone by that thing.”

“Oh, come on.”

“Melissa? Chris? Mason?” Isaac counts them on his fingers. “Deaton? And all these innocent people who have no clue what’s happening? At least we can take it. I was close to dying, but I didn’t, cause I’m stronger than a normal human. So are you. So we have to protect them.”

“You sound so much like Scott right now,” Theo says, rolling his eyes.

“Yeah, well, you wanna be a part of the pack, you gotta get used to that,” Isaac points out.

“I’m not really here because I wanna be.”

“I know,” Isaac says. “But now that you are…”

“I know, I know,” Theo says, rubbing his eyes. “Peter keeps telling me to stop with all the self-pity.”

“He’s something else,” Isaac says. “I wouldn’t exactly phrase it that way, but…”

“I don’t care. I’m sick of talking about my fucking feelings. Let’s start watching Stranger Things.” Theo stands up and stretches. “I’m hungry. You hungry? I gotta tell Peter to order pizza for us.”

“Right,” Isaac says. “You think he’d wanna hang out with us?”

“Maybe. I’ll ask.” Theo is already halfway out the door, on his way upstairs to Peter’s apartment. Since neither Theo nor Isaac have a job or a family, they are dependent on Peter’s charity, and for some outlandish reason, Peter keeps giving them money, and furniture. Shit, he bought them an entire apartment. They are also using his Netflix account, and he has never complained about it. Or rather, he complains about it every time they see him, but never seriously. Isaac keeps wondering why nobody, not even Peter himself, has acknowledged the fact that Peter is very clearly part of the pack.

People are complicated, Isaac thinks as he listens to Theo knock on Peter’s door. Maybe it is Peter’s pride. Or maybe he has never been able to relate to another pack the way he had been able to relate to his family, the one that had been ripped away from him so brutally. Either way, Peter has also been used by this demon, forced to face his worst fear, and Isaac presumes he may need some company. Not that Peter would ever admit to needing anything. Isaac is willing to offer it anyways.

He grabs the remote and begins sifting through his Netflix watch list, stumbling across several shows he has yet to watch, including Z Nation. Theo has talked about it before. Maybe they can binge Stranger Things another time.

“Peter’s coming downstairs later,” Theo says, reentering the apartment and waving a hundred-dollar bill. “He says he wants a veggie pizza and that we should order from that fancy place he likes.”

“Living here has its definite upsides,” Isaac says, smiling.

“Indeed. He also says he wants to teach us how to play chess, so there are downsides, too.”

“But you get to borrow his books.”

“I don’t really borrow them, he says I can keep them.” Theo looks up the fancy pizza place’s number on his phone and sighs. “Don’t know why.”

“I think he likes you,” Isaac says. “Everybody says so, even Malia.”

“Mmmh,” is the only response Theo has. Isaac kind of wants to tell Theo that he likes him, too, but he figures it may make things awkward. Theo is not Scott. He keeps people at arm’s length, and Isaac suspects he does not really understand emotions sometimes, other people’s as well as his own.

“Hey, I know you don’t wanna talk about feelings anymore,” Isaac says carefully, “but I just realized I never said thank you for saving me. At least not in person.”

“What? Oh.” Theo shrugs. “Whatever.”

“I mean I told Scott to tell you, but he may have forgotten when all this business with the curse came up.”

“You mean when everybody was dying and stuff? It happens.”

“It does. Well, anyways. Thank you.”

“Yeah,” Theo sighs. “Don’t sweat it. I mean, it’s not like I don’t regret it. Not the saving you part, but everything else. I probably wouldn’t do it again.”

“I get it,” Isaac says. And he does. “Lucky for me, we can’t turn back time.”

 

***********

 

The next person to go missing is Lydia.

It has been an unseasonably warm, humid day. Peter does not sleep much, not since he has come out of the coma, but he has not slept much at all since that rude awakening of immortality. Which does not make any sense, considering he now apparently has all the time in the world (literally) to do what he pleases, so why not sleep for twelve hours or more? Sleep eternity away? But sleeping means dreaming, and dreaming means revisiting that bridge. Call him a coward, but Peter is not keen on seeing that bridge again. Naturally, it cannot be avoided at all costs. As a born werewolf, Peter does not need much sleep, but when he does need it, some nights he refuses to acknowledge that need.

This night is one of those nights. Peter is leafing through his old, worn copy of 100 Years of Solitude, listening to rain drumming on the windows. It is past two o’clock in the morning, and the rain has not stopped since the afternoon. There is some sort of weird atmosphere in the air, he thinks, and it is not just the fact that California does not usually have this kind of weather at this time of the year. Peter cannot put his finger on it, but something may be going on. His instincts have brought him far.

He listens to the boys in the apartment two stories down. Isaac’s heartbeat is regular, and Peter can hear the TV running. Since their entrapment in that warehouse, he has not been sleeping much, either. Theo’s heartbeat, on the other hand, is very fast, and Peter can hear him murmuring something that sounds like “you don’t have to stop.” A nightmare it is, then.

Not sleeping much in combination with great hearing has helped Peter figure out those kids’ nightly routines pretty quickly. Fast heartbeats always suggest a nightmare, but when it is Isaac’s turn, he usually says something like “let me out,” which makes sense. Theo says lots of things, but he also always says “you don’t have to stop,” at least once. Peter is suitably intrigued as to what that means. He has suspicions, of course. Theo died in hell a thousand times over, after all.

Theo’s murmurs get louder, his heartbeat faster, and Peter can hear Isaac stand up and move toward Theo’s room, probably to wake him up. Peter briefly entertains the idea that they might think it inappropriate that he is listening to them, but he disregards that thought; they live in his building, after all. Before Isaac reaches Theo, he wakes up with a scream and then starts yammering something about fish that walked around on dry land and screamed for silver. Peter hums to himself. That is new. Theo never talks about his dreams.

Peter does not think much of it. By the time morning crawls around, it has escaped his mind.

At some point during the day, while Peter is skyping with his accountant and a stock exchange analyst who has earned his trust, his cell phone rings. He ignores it. This conversation is about his money, and his money is important to him. A text message pops up, and Peter sighs and excuses himself for a minute. It is from Malia:

Lydia is missing we need your help

The conversation ends relatively fast after that, although Peter makes sure to stress the most important aspects and to threaten violence if things do not proceed to his liking. His accountant, Gary, is barely impressed, and Peter wonders briefly if he is using his threats too often nowadays.

When Peter arrives at the animal clinic, Argent is already there, talking about some rogue group of hunters (and are they not all rogue, nowadays?) who are trying to find supernatural creatures with psychic abilities. Banshees are top of the line psychics, so it makes sense why Lydia may be missing. Stiles, Peter gathers, has called Scott because he cannot reach Lydia, and neither can her mother, and apparently she has not been seen at MIT since yesterday around noon.

The hellhound is also present, and very anxious. It must be his connection to the banshee that agitates him this much.

“How do we find her?” Scott asks the obvious question.

“Do your sources know where those hunters keep their… captives?” Isaac is grasping for the right word, and Derek helps him.

“Their prey,” he says, a lifetime of disdain for hunters shining through his voice. The warehouse incident was a few days ago; Peter has no idea why he is still around.

“Hey,” he says, “dear nephew, why exactly are you still here? Shouldn’t you be on the move, giving the FBI a run for their money?”

“Something’s up,” Derek says. “Obviously. First the curse, then this fear demon thing, now this? Something’s going on, I can feel it. It’s like a storm is brewing.”

“A storm is brewing, literally,” Peter says, pointing at the window with his thumb. The rain still has not ceased. “It’s called rain, something California needs.”

“The weather also is something abnormal that we may or may not need to be worried about,” Deaton says.

“Don’t tell me you can’t feel something weird in the air,” Derek says. Peter shrugs.

“There’s always something going on, isn’t it?”

“My sources,” Argent says, returning to the original question, “have only told me what I’ve already told you: that there’s a group of hunters out there capturing all the psychics they can get their hands on. The how, why, and where is unclear, but they seem to be working independently from Monroe. Not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, yet.”

“Can’t you find out more?” Scott says.

“I can call in a few favors, tell people to ask around. But it’s gonna take a while for the intel to come in.”

“Slow progress is still progress,” Scott says.

“Alright,” Argent nods and walks out, cell already at his ear. Scott turns to Malia.

“Any word from Liam, Mason, and Corey?”

Malia shakes her head. “Nothing yet. Apparently, when you google ‘psychic,’ ninety percent of what you get is bogus, and they have a hard time finding anything.”

Peter sighs. “So use the hellhound.”

Everybody stops to look at him.

“What do you mean, use me?” Parrish asks.

“Hellhounds and banshees have a special connection. That connection includes, among other things, the ability to locate one another.” Peter looks at Parrish expectantly. “Tell me that isn’t true.”

Parrish shrugs. “I don’t…”

Deaton nods thoughtfully. “It is true, theoretically. If it really works out so simply in practice, however, I’m not certain.”

“So Lydia and Parrish have some kind of supernatural GPS?” Theo says. “That’s pretty convenient.”

“Usually, Lydia uses her GPS to find dead bodies,” Isaac says. “Don’t know if you’d call that convenient.”

“Well, what about your connection to Lydia?” Derek says, looking at Peter, who frowns.

“What connection, exactly?”

“You’ve been inside her head, Peter. Your bite activated her powers. That bite left a trace of your mind with her, you said so yourself.”

Peter rolls his eyes. “That was a long time ago. There’s no connection now. None. Trust me, I’d know if there was.”

“But you haven’t tried accessing that connection in a long time,” Scott says, “right?”

“Well, obviously.” Peter sighs. “I got everything out of it that I wanted, meaning I came back from the dead. That was the whole point. Apart from the fact that apparently I don’t even need anyone’s help with that anymore, I was trying to get on your good side back then, so messing with her pretty head wouldn’t have served me well at all.”

“So how would you know that connection is gone?” Scott asks. Peter shrugs.

“Why are we even talking about this?” he says, exasperated. “Why are you looking at me when there’s a hellhound in the room with us who has a connection with every banshee in the state? And a close connection to Lydia? A connection that we know exists? Stop losing yourself in hypotheticals, Scott, and focus on what we know for a fact.”

Scott chews his lower lip and looks at Parrish pleadingly, but the deputy can only shake his head. “I don’t know! I don’t know how to help.”

“Try focusing on Lydia,” Deaton says. “Picture her in your mind, as clearly as you can.”

Parrish closes his eyes. “Okay,” he says.

“Try to remember her scream. You know what it sounds like. You can follow it. You know what a banshee’s call sounds like, the pull you feel when you hear it. Focus on that feeling.”

Parrish is frowning, visibly struggling. After a few minutes, he shakes his head. “I’m sorry. It’s not… it’s like I can sense her, but it’s muddled. It’s unclear. Like my sense of direction is completely thrown off.”

“She may be too far away,” Deaton says.

“What about that locating spell?” Derek says. “The one you used to locate Peter?”

“Right.” Scott looks hopeful again. “Malia said all you needed was a drop of her blood. We could go get Lydia’s mom, it would work, right?”

But Deaton shakes his head. “Banshee, Scott. Immune to most supernatural venoms, bounds, and spells, including locating spells.”

“Fantastic,” Theo says, rubbing his eyes. “Just fantastic.” He looks very tired, as does Isaac, although they hide it well. Peter is sure he is the only one aware of it. Malia shoots Theo a dirty look.

“It’s not like you’ve got any better ideas,” she snaps. Theo nods.

“No, I really don’t. So let’s maybe wait for Argent before we entertain the idea of Peter accessing some weird kind of psychic connection that hasn’t been existent for like two years.”

“Thank you,” Peter says emphatically. Malia scoffs.

“You two,” she says. Peter grins at her. Sometimes, he likes to entertain the idea that she might be jealous of his attention to Doctor Evil. It is more likely that she does not want him to engage with Theo because she hates Theo. Not strictly because she worries about Peter, because as far as he can tell, nobody worries about him. Malia just does not want Theo to engage with anyone, period. But maybe, just maybe, sometimes Peter likes to play with the thought of Malia wanting to be the only person Peter cares about.

“No worries, dear, you’re still number one.”

“Urgh.” Malia looks like she has more to say on the subject, but her phone rings. It is Liam, and she puts him on speaker.

“So Mason found this chatroom, some strange thing where people were exchanging stories about supernatural experiences, and one person said something that sounded pretty promising…”

“The entry says, ‘last week, I was hanging with my fam and there was this dude on the street who made a taxi stop with his hand and then the police arrived and took him away but my dad said those ain’t the police!’” Mason reads. “And then another guy answers, ‘yeah, I heard the same thing yesterday’—the entry’s two days old—‘I heard the same thing yesterday, and some of my friends say someone’s picking people off the streets that can do stuff with their minds like telekitenics’—I guess he means telekinesis. It goes on like that for a while, and then one guy, last night, just commented, ‘they’re in Why, and they’re dangerous. Gotta keep ‘em contained.’ I mean, what the hell?”

“They’re in Why?” Scott repeats. “Who’s they? And what does that mean, they’re in Why? Why what?”

“Why, Arizona,” Deaton says, frowning. Peter looks at him.

“You think that could be it?”

“It’s possible,” Deaton says.

Derek rolls his eyes. “Care filling us in?”

“Why is a small community in the south of Arizona. Small population, basically in the middle of the desert. Rumors are that there used to be an institution, masquerading as a mental hospital, where experiments were conducted on supernatural beings. Without their consent, mind you.”

“Not rumors,” Peter says. “Fact. I know people who were detained there. Managed to escape. But that institution was shut down about twenty years ago.”

“How long did this institution exist until it was shut down?” Scott asks.

“Long. A hundred years, maybe more?” Peter rubs his chin. “It would be perfect for keeping captured supernaturals. It’s lined with mountain ash, much like Eichen House and this place.” He looks around the room.

“So you think that might be the place?” Scott looks from Peter to Deaton. “Lydia might be there?”

“She might,” Deaton says. “There’s no way of knowing for sure until we get there, though.”

“It’s worth a try. We don’t have any better leads right now,” Malia says. Derek looks at Peter.

“How many people do you know who escaped that place?”

“Two I know are still alive. A banshee, forgot her name. And a kid called Rufus. Well, I say kid. He’s probably older than all of us combined. Not sure what he was. Nice, though.”

“Did they tell you anything specific about that place? Like, how to get out of there? Or in there, for that matter?”

“You mean, apart from the mountain ash built into the walls?” Peter raises an eyebrow. “Getting in was very easy. Get yourself captured. Getting out is where the trouble begins. Banshees aren’t stopped by mountain ash, so theoretically Lydia should be able to just walk out of there, should she actually be there. But as far as I remember, back then during World War I, when Rufus was there, there were guards at every turn and he just ripped all of their throats out.”

Theo chuckles. “Yeah, he sounds very nice.”

“So what now?” Isaac asks. “Are we going to Arizona?”

“I think some more research would be in order,” Deaton says. “Let’s not plunge headfirst into a situation that as of yet remains completely unknown to us.”

“Yeah,” Scott says. “Let’s wait a little longer, just like, a couple hours maybe. See if Argent’s sources turn up anything else.”

“Sooo…” Liam’s voice comes out of Malia’s phone, and Peter is mildly surprised. He had completely forgotten about him. “Does that mean we can stop searching?”

“No,” Scott says. “Keep looking. Maybe you’ll find something else.”

They can all faintly hear Corey groaning in the background, but Mason just sighs and says, “sure thing,” before hanging up.

“Meanwhile, we,” and Scott looks at all of them, “will try to find any information we have on this place. Why.”

“Maybe we should also try to figure out why someone would do this,” Parrish says. “I mean, why would a group of hunters try catching only psychics? What would they want with psychics?”

“There is a long tradition of people with psychic abilities being hunted for what they can do. People were either very afraid of them, burning them at the stake, for example. Or they were drawn to them, in such a manner that they wanted to possess that power for themselves. Many psychics were and, as I understand it, still are sold into slavery,” Deaton explains.

“Everybody wants a psychic,” Peter adds. “Think about it. They know how to eliminate your enemies. They know the future. They know how to win the lottery, best case scenario.”

“Lydia doesn’t know any of that,” Isaac says, confused.

“No, she doesn’t. But people are stupid and when they hear ‘psychic,’ all they comprehend is a chance for profit.” Peter sighs. “Oh, humans. Always taking one step forward and two steps back.”

“So these hunters are in it for the money,” Theo says, “right? That would certainly fit with their independence from Monroe. They’re not idealists, just greedy.”

“Hopefully, they are,” Peter says and nods.

“Hopefully?” Malia asks. “Why’s that any better?”

“Cause it makes them less dangerous,” Theo says. “Idealists will do anything for their cause. We had to learn that the hard way a couple months ago. If your cause is just money, you can get that somewhere else.”

Peter grins because he knows that kid is smart, but he likes to be proved right sometimes. That is also why Stiles has always been one of his favorites: his impressive brains. Oh, if only Theo had not tried to kill Scott and turned Stiles and Scott against each other. Theo and Stiles could have gotten along so well. Both sarcastic, both smarter than most, and both so very confused as to their identities.

 

**************

 

Research and preparations take them until early in the morning, which is also the time when Stiles arrives, exhausted and exasperated and worried. Derek still has this ludicrous idea that Peter can somehow communicate with Lydia through sheer force of will, which Peter is absolutely certain he can NOT. But Scott starts to believe Derek around midnight, so by the time Stiles starts to warm to the idea, it has basically been decided for Peter that he will be part of the rescue mission.

The fragile humans are left behind, meaning Mason and Deaton. Stiles is decidedly fragile, but he refuses to stay in Beacon Hills, and Argent is anything but fragile if Peter does say so himself, but still human. Therefore the A-Team, consisting of Scott, Derek, Liam, Malia, Isaac, and Theo, will construct some kind of diversion, while Corey smuggles Stiles, Argent, Peter, and Parrish inside the building unnoticed so that Peter can work what everybody assumes is his magic in order to find and warn Lydia that they are coming. Once he has found Lydia, Parrish will get her out, because hardly anything can stop a determined hellhound.

Argent’s sources have confirmed that Why is the place they are looking for, and according to an old building plan Mason’s internet research has managed to produce and what Peter remembers from old tales, there is a tunnel through which they will get close to the building. Provided they get through the tunnel, the so-called A-Team will wait while the invisible B-Team enters the building undisturbed. Provided Derek is right, Peter will be able to find Lydia with his mind. Provided Peter does find her, Parrish will break her out. Provided the A-Team’s distraction is impressive enough to cover up a raging hellhound, the B-Team will leave with Lydia, and then the A-Team will run like hell.

The plan has so many holes it could be made into the next Ocean’s Something movie, but nobody is willing to listen to Peter. Thus, he has no choice but to resign himself to his fate. He is about seventy percent sure someone is going to die, and his only hope is that it will not be Malia, who has adapted Scott’s moronic self-sacrificial ways. He briefly thinks about Theo, but the kid is way too smart to throw himself in the line of fire.

The puppy parade, as Theo has taken to calling them, starts on their way to Why in the early evening hours. Nearing the building covered in the blanket of darkness will hopefully give them an advantage, and Peter knows they need all the advantages they can get. The drive is long and boring, but Theo lets him choose the music, so Peter gets to listen to 80s classics the entire time.

“Little things I should have said and done, I never took the time,” Peter sings along quietly, “you were always on my mind, you were always on my miiind.”

“Please,” Malia says from the backseat. “Please stop singing.”

Theo chuckles. “Doesn’t bother me.”

“Can’t we listen to something else?” Liam asks, squished between Malia and Isaac.

“Hey, I’m the one who’s supposed to use Jedi mind tricks to save Lydia. I think I should be allowed to choose the music.”

“The driver picks the music,” Liam says hopefully. Theo shrugs.

“I really don’t care, to be honest.”

“So change the channel.”

“No, we’re not doing that,” Peter says. ‘Blue Monday’ by New Order starts to play, and he smiles. “I love that song.”

Malia groans, and Liam leans his head back, resigned.

“Isaac doesn’t care, either,” Peter points out. “So you’re outnumbered.”

“Isaac’s asleep,” Theo points out, but he is obviously amused.

“Yeah. What about you?”

“I’m awake.”

“Good.” Peter looks out the window, where dusk is overtaking the sky. “Let me know if that changes.”

“I’m good.” Theo shoots him a look. Doctor Evil is exceptional at hiding his emotions most of the time, but right at this moment he is radiating gratitude, and Peter has to admit the soft spot he has for this kid has grown a little. Pathetic little me, Peter thinks and sighs in pleasure as the song progresses.

I thought I told you to leave me when I walked down to the beach
Tell me how does it feel, when your heart grows cold, grows cold, grows cold…

When they arrive, it is pitch black outside. The institute is in the middle of the desert, there is nothing all around, it seems. No sources of light or warmth. They find the entrance to the tunnel, and Corey walks ahead next to Scott, in case they all need to disappear really quickly. Silence embraces them as they navigate through the narrow pathway. Isaac is anxious, they can all tell, even Stiles and Argent, who follow directly behind Scott and Corey, and Derek whispers reassurances to him. The warehouse incident has not been that long ago, it is the middle of the night, and suddenly Peter feels weary and tired to the bone.

“I’m getting too old for this shit,” he grumbles, mostly to himself, but they all hear him anyway.

“Tough luck,” Stiles says. “Just couldn’t stay dead, could you?”

“In my defense,” Peter says, “that is not as easy as it sounds.”

“How long is this tunnel?” Malia asks from the back. “I feel like we’ve been walking forever.”

“Yeah,” Isaac says.

“It shouldn’t be much longer,” Argent says, looking at the building plan.

“No,” Peter says, thinking. “We’ve been walking for what, ten minutes? Fifteen? There should be—”

A wave of anxiety washes over him from his left, and a split second later Theo is yelling, “STOP!”

Everybody immediately comes to a halt, and Peter frowns at Theo, whose heart is racing, who looks like he has seen a ghost.

“What, dude?” Stiles asks him, exasperated. “Why should we stop?”

“Also, don’t yell?” Argent says. “The last thing we need is drawing attention to ourselves.”

“I don’t…” Theo shakes his head. He reeks of anxiety and also confusion. “I don’t know.”

“What’s wrong, kiddo?” Peter says.

“I don’t know, I just… I just suddenly had this feeling that… I just had this bad feeling.”

“Just out of nowhere?” Derek has crossed his arms. “Why?”

“I don’t know.” Theo wipes sweat off his brow. Scott looks at him closely before looking ahead at the empty, dark hallway, only illuminated by the flashlights Corey and Argent are holding.

“Did you see something?” Scott asks. “Hear something?”

“No,” Theo shakes his head again.

“Smell something, maybe?”

“No, I don’t think so. I just… had a bad feeling.”

“A bad feeling?” Stiles stares at him, suspicion evident on his face. “That doesn’t sound ominous at all.”

“I don’t know. I can’t explain it any better.” Theo swallows thickly.

“Guys.”

They all look to Scott, who has crouched down.

“Do you see that?” Scott whispers, and Argent gently steers Corey to the side to crouch down next to him and directs his flashlight toward the ground.

“A trip wire,” Argent says.

“Trip wire,” Derek repeats.

“You mean, a trap?” Malia says.

“Yeah.” Scott stands up. “Someone obviously didn’t want people to pass through here.”

“How’d you know?” Stiles pushes Peter to stand in front of Theo and pokes him in the chest with his index finger. “You knew it was there! How?”

“Stiles.” Theo looks beyond shocked. “I didn’t know it was there.”

“Bullshit! Did you have something to do with this?”

“Stiles, how would he have known?” Scott puts a hand on his shoulder, tries to calm him down.

“I don’t know, but you know him, Scott. You know. Who he is. What he’s done. What he’s capable of,” Stiles says. “I know we’d all like to pretend you’re not all that, because you sacrificed yourself and stuff, and because everybody feels sorry for you cause you have issues or whatnot. But I don’t TRUST you.” And he pokes Theo again, who is now crestfallen on top of his anxiety.

“Look, I get that, okay? But Stiles, I had no idea.”

“Then how’d you know we needed to stop?!”

“I don’t know!”

“Stiles, he’s telling the truth,” Derek says. “Think about it. He couldn’t have known. He’s got nothing to do with this. He wouldn’t have anything to gain from this situation. People like us… we can’t bargain with hunters, especially not the kind of hunters we’re here for.”

“Malia, what do you think?” Stiles asks without looking away from Theo.

“I don’t know,” Malia says. “His fear smells pretty real from where I’m standing, though I know that doesn’t have to mean anything.”

“Stiles, calm down, okay?” Liam says. “Maybe it was luck. Either way, it’s a good thing he made us stop.”

“Yeah.” Scott looks ahead at the dark hallway. “Now we know there are traps here. Keep your eyes and ears open.”

“We need to keep walking,” Argent says. He shoots Theo an investigative glance before turning away. Peter is intrigued.

“You alright there, Doctor Evil?” he asks quietly as they start walking, now all hyperaware of where they put their feet.

“Not really,” Theo answers.

“Where’d that come from?”

“I honestly have no idea, but I know I didn’t like that.” Theo wipes sweat off his face. “At all.”

“We should have a chat when this is all over.”

“Sure. Whatever.”

Peter can tell that Theo’s hands are shaking. He would have loved to discuss whatever has just happened. But there are more important things at stake here. Parrish is getting antsier by the second and reeks of burning hair, the smell of which turns Peter’s stomach to this day. They find another trip wire soon after, before Scott stops them. Peter hears voices ahead.

“Okay, we’re close to the entrance,” Scott whispers.

“This is where we split up,” Argent says, shutting off his flashlight and replacing it with a desert eagle.

“Alright.” Scott looks at all of them. “You guys ready?”

“Everybody knows what they have to do?” Parrish asks.

“Yes,” Derek says confidently.

Argent nods. “If you encounter mountain ash, Theo can break it for you. Keep your heads down until we give you the go.” He holds up a walkie-talkie, and Scott shows him the other walkie-talkie before letting it disappear into the pocket of his hoodie.

Peter rubs his eyes before looking at Malia. “Watch yourself,” he says, and Malia rolls her eyes but nods.

“I will.”

Peter nods at Derek, who nods back. Then he pats Theo’s shoulder. “I’m not too worried about you.”

“Thanks, I guess?” Theo says.

“Ready?” Corey holds out his hands and Peter, Argent, and Parrish grasp onto him. Disappearing is a fascinating sensation, as everything seems just the same and yet entirely different. Stiles and Scott hug quickly before Stiles holds onto Corey, as well.

As quietly as possible, while still keeping an eye out for traps, the little group tries to move forward without constantly bumping into each other. The way Parrish smells of smoke makes Peter nauseous, and Stiles’ pungent apprehension is of no help, either. Argent, on the other hand, provides a cool point of focus. He has done this kind of maneuver a thousand times. Treading almost as silently as Peter, he indicates where they should move with a wave of the hand holding the gun, and thus they move deeper into the belly of the building.

Peter starts hearing voices. Yammering, moaning, crying. The captives. A scream here and there has Stiles flinching. At one point, they finally encounter one of the hunters. A stout, middle-aged man of average height with a blank face is lounging against a wall, smoking a cigarette, listening to a cassette player’s tinny rendition of “When You Say Nothing at All,” and they have to utilize some creativity to navigate past him in the narrow hallway. Still, they succeed.

After quite a while of their invisible invasion, Argent stops them.

“Peter,” he whispers. “Can you hear any of the hunters? Are they close?”

“I can’t hear any hunters,” Peter says. Even the cassette player is far away enough to be silenced. “Captives, I hear a lot.”

“Well, I don’t think we have to worry about them too much,” Argent says. “Considering most of them are psychic, they may already know we’re here.”

“So we can let go now?” Stiles asks. Argent nods.

“I guess it’s safe.”

They all let go of Corey’s wrists, who appears briefly afterwards and looks around. They are in yet another hallway, definitely in the basement still. The ground is sandy, the walls grimy. “So what now?”

“Now you’ll find Lydia,” Stiles says, looking at Peter expectantly.

“And I already told you I have no idea how that’s supposed to work. I tried telling you again and again, but you wouldn’t listen.”

“You can do it,” Argent says evenly.

“What about you?” Peter looks at Parrish, who shakes his head.

“The closer we got to this place, the more confused I got. There must be other banshees here.”

“Alright, well.” Peter spreads his arms theatrically. “What should I do now?”

“You could start with what Deaton said,” Parrish suggests. “You know, when he told me to focus on Lydia.”

“So, what, I should focus on her? Great idea. Your sort of connection only works for a hellhound and a banshee, and I may have been called a lot of names, but hellhound isn’t one of them.”

“Peter,” Stiles interrupts him. “I know this is a shitty plan, but it’s the only one we’ve got. Look, we need to find her. Please.”

Stiles’ gaze is so full of desperation at this point that Peter has to roll his eyes before the emotions get to him.

“Alright, fine, I’ll fucking focus on her.”

“Right,” Stiles says. “I mean, you’ve been inside her head. You may not have been for a while. Hopefully. But you remember what that was like. So maybe focus on that.”

“Just sit down and relax,” Argent says while carefully supervising their surroundings. “And remember.”

“Yeah, okay. I’ll do it, just shut up.” Peter sits down begrudgingly. His jeans cost four hundred dollars. A trip to the dry cleaners will be necessary to get the dust out, and all of that for this ridiculous operation. Even though Peter is completely convinced of the futility of this exercise, he closes his eyes and sits in silence. The cries and moans of dozens of captives immediately assault his ears, but his first attempt is sifting through them to find a voice that may equal Lydia’s. None of the voices sound familiar, so the next thing he recalls is Lydia’s delicious scent. Beautiful human girls have this heavenly scent of roses so ripe they are at the edge of decay in the late fall, early winter. Lydia’s scent changed after he had come back from the dead. It had turned colder, more dusty. Of course that was due to the activation of her banshee powers, but back then he had not known. Now he very clearly recalls her scent, the delicious before and the cool after.

Of course he remembers what it felt like to exist without existing, to be dead without being gone. The complete detachment from all physicality had been quite painful, but torturing young Lydia, scaring her, seducing her, had been so. Much. Fun. Even back then Peter had gotten a glimpse of the complexity of her mind, and over time it must have only gained in complexity as she has grown into her powers, accepted them. If this idea had not been so absolutely ridiculous, he would not have minded a quick detour into that magnificent mind.

As it is, he feels nothing. No connection, no draw, no Lydia. He can neither hear her voice, nor catch her—

Scent.

Something tickles his mind, like a street dog hesitantly scratching at a door. A nag. An annoyance in the back of his head that eludes his grasp, but just. Every time Peter reaches for it, it skitters further away from him. Peter lets out a frustrated growl.

“Peter, are you okay?” “What’s wrong?” He can hear distant voices, but they are outside his head, so they do not matter now. With all the strength Peter can find within himself, he reaches out and in a violent lunge he grabs onto what attempts to elude him. The moment he reaches it, doors are kicked down, borders collapse. Lydia’s scent is cold and clear as day and it leads him directly back into his own memory of what it was like to live inside her like a leech, a parasite. Wonderful feeling, that is.

Peter? Is that you?

Lydia? (Peter is confused.) Did this actually work?

Did what work?

I was supposed to find you.

You did. Oh God. You did find me. Please tell me that Scott’s here to save me!

Not just Scott. He brought the whole posse along, including your knight in clumsy armor.

Stiles? But this is dangerous. I don’t want him to get hurt.

Sweetheart, you’re the one who’s being held captive by hunters. Maybe you should worry about your own situation right now.

But…

Argent’s with him. Stiles’ll be fine.

Good. That’s good. Peter. I really, seriously never thought I’d say this, but I’m very happy to hear your voice in my head.

You’re welcome. Now tell me where you are so Parrish can come get you.

Parrish’s here, too?

Like I said, the whole gang. But he can’t find you, there are too many banshees here.

I’m not sure where exactly I am, to be honest. It’s… I have a window, but it’s painted over. If I can scratch off some of the paint, maybe I can get an estimate as to which floor I’m on. I know this place has several floors, I could hear them screaming… deep down.

Lydia, hurry, we don’t have time. (Peter can feel pain building in his head, and it is dragging him back toward his own body. He is relatively certain he will not be able to hold this connection much longer.)

It is… maybe the fourth floor? The ceilings are low, but…

Try finding me. You can do it, Lydia. How far away am I? (The pain is getting more intense, a keen throbbing in his forehead. He holds on tightly.)

You’re… in the basement…

Yes?

I’m… it’s the fourth floor. It must be.

Okay, great. Parrish’ll come get you, you need to be ready to leave.

Okay, but—

“Peter!” Argent’s hand collides with his cheek in a hard slap, which rattles his head hard enough to bring him back into his own body. Now the pain is so intense he can barely see, let alone think.

“Did it work? Come on, it must have!” Stiles. Has his voice always been this loud?

“Peter, are you with me?” Argent is talking, too, but his voice is quiet and low and infinitely more comfortable than Stiles and his intolerable screeching.

“Fourth… floor.” The effort it costs Peter to press out those two syllables leaves him utterly exhausted. All he wants to do is curl up and cry like a baby now.

“She’s on the fourth floor,” Argent repeats his words to Stiles.

“So it worked? Holy shit! Thank you, Peter, seriously, thank you.”

“He doesn’t look too good,” that is Corey.

“He’s not,” Argent grumbles. Something is wiped across his face, and Peter gradually realizes blood is persistently dribbling from his nose. “Good, that is. I think he held the connection too long. Even experienced werewolves aren’t supposed to be able to hold a psychic connection over such a huge distance.”

“No, usually it’s just the claws in the neck,” Corey murmurs. A flare of heat engulfs Peter briefly, and he almost panics before his slow, tortured mind offers the memory of Parrish being present.

“Fourth floor,” the hellhound says, or growls. “I’m getting to her.”

“Better tell the others to provide one hell of a distraction, then,” Argent says and grabs the walkie-talkie from his jacket.

“Scott, can you hear me?”

“…yes.”

“Do it now.”

Peter loses consciousness.

 

He can hear shouting. Guns. Shooting. Fire. He smells fire.

 

Peter comes to when he feels someone half-carrying, half-dragging him somewhere in a hurry. The pain in his head is still very intense, but it has lessened slightly, he thinks. Completely unaware of where he is and with whom and why, the first thing he recognizes is the warm, slightly kelp-y scent of the person dragging him along.

“Peter, now would be a great time to wake up,” Derek growls. “We need to get the hell out of here.”

“Where…?” Peter cannot articulate more than that. He still has no idea what is happening.

“The tunnel. Corey and Stiles were carrying you, they didn’t count on you passing out from the strain. Should have thought about that. I didn’t. Doesn’t matter. The hunters are right behind us and we need to get going.”

“Hunters…”

“Yeah. Scott, Malia, Liam, and Theo are holding them off best they can, but Isaac got shot so we know their bullets are laced with wolfsbane.”

It all comes rushing back to Peter then. Tunnel. The institution. Why. Lydia. He found her. The hellhound.

“D’it work?”

“What?”

“Lydia… hellhound…”

“Oh. Yes, it did. Parrish went ahead, Argent’s waiting with Isaac by the cars. Come on, you need to walk faster, the hunters are—”

Peter does not hear what the hunters are. He hears multiple furious howls bounce off the walls of the narrow underground tunnel in the same instant he feels a bullet enter the back of his head. It happens in slow motion. No pain. He manages to open his eyes for a split second before the impact perforates his brain stem to see a blurry rendition of the few feet of the tunnel in front of him. All colors bleed from his vision. Yellow is the last one to go.

He dies.

 

**************

 

The sun dances on the tulips that bend slightly in the soft breeze. Together, they create a flickering play of light and shadow that becomes a synechdoche for all life and shadow play in the world. The sky is blue and the light is golden. Peter knows he is back on the bridge.

For a brief instant, Peter is very sad. He has died. He looks in the direction of the people whose faces disappear. He cannot walk in their direction. That must mean that he will never lose his face. He will always be Peter Hale—always.

The sadness does not last long, since whenever Peter is on the bridge, he is filled with a profound sense of peace. He is alone here, as he is the only one who stays, but maybe he does not need anyone else. He sure does not miss anyone. Loneliness is just a vague concept here, an idea of another world.

Serene, Peter breathes in the clean, soothing air, and hums to himself a little melody.

You were always on my mind
You were always on my miiiind…

 

**************

 

It takes Peter seven hours on the dot to come back to life again. Scott and Derek have nothing to do but sit with the cooling body of Derek’s uncle, which is a weird situation to be in because Scott can smell Derek’s anxiety. What if he does not wake up this time? If it was a one-time thing? Deaton is very grateful for the opportunity to monitor the process of un-dying, so they all sit around a dead body at the animal clinic and wait for it to not be dead anymore.

They talk about this and that, and Deaton gets up once in a while to look something up when he has an idea, but Derek mostly sits in silence. A thought enters Scott’s mind.

“Hey.”

“What.”

“Isaac said something when he came back. I’d been meaning to tell you, but…”

“So tell me now.”

Scott hesitates briefly. How high is the probability of Peter staying dead this time? He cannot know, so he just says it.

“He said that Peter’s part of the pack.”

“He did?”

“Yeah. I mean, Peter himself says he’s not, but… I guess that’s kinda the confusing part. Can you be part of a pack when you say you don’t want to be?”

Derek shrugs. “Not really. But Peter’s an expert at deceiving people, so maybe he’s lying to himself. We all want to be part of a pack, it’s in our nature. And he’s pack by blood.”

“Yeah. He’s Malia’s father.”

“And he bit you,” Derek points out. “By extension that also gives him a connection to your betas. Liam, and Theo.”

“Mmmh.” Theo is Scott’s beta now. Scott has not thought about that too hard until now, but it is true. That gives Scott a responsibility to look after Theo, does it not? If only things were not so damn weird between them.

“Theo almost killed the hunter who shot him,” Scott says, looking at Peter’s still face.

“I know. Malia, too,” Derek says.

Scott nods. “I’ve never seen those two work as a team like that.” Both Theo and Malia had roared in rage when Peter was shot, and both had unanimously attacked the hunter responsible for it, completely disregarding the other hunters still present. It had been a tough fight, and Scott had to actively stop Malia from tearing the guy to pieces, but Theo had smashed his head into the floor twice before Liam could pull him away. Scott is relatively sure the hunter survived.

“Peter will be pleased to hear that story, I’m sure,” Deaton muses as he enters the room to check the screen monitoring Peter’s life signs, which are, as of yet, not existent.

“Yeah, probably.” Scott sighs. “Weird, though, isn’t it. That Peter and Theo get along so well?”

“Maybe not,” Derek says. “From what you’ve told me, they’re pretty similar.”

“They both wanted to kill me.”

Derek smiles for a second, his eyes never leaving Peter. “Among other things, yeah.”

“I’m more interested in the fact that Theo can cross mountain ash even though he’s an actual werewolf now,” Deaton says as he takes a seat.

“Right,” Scott says. “And what about when he knew the tripwire was there without seeing it?”

“That was strange,” Derek says. “But he was definitely telling the truth. He was scared.”

“Should we be worried about that?” Scott asks Deaton, who rubs his chin in thought.

“I can’t say. But these two things together paint a picture that points us in a peculiar direction. We have no way of knowing what side effects the ritual may have had. I just can’t make sense of it. I have my suspicions, of course, but as of now, that is all they are.”

“Messing with ancient rituals is dangerous,” Derek says, “as Peter would tell you.”

“Yes, it is, but there are other possibilities.” Deaton frowns. “Theo’s condition may also have something to do with what the Dread Doctors did to him.”

“You think?” Scott asks.

The monitor starts beeping, then, slowly at first, before the beeping grows more and more rapid. Peter’s eyelids twitch. Color comes back to his face.

“It’s happening,” Derek says, sounding relieved. He and Scott stand up as Deaton’s gaze switches between Peter’s face and the monitor with rapt attention.

“Fascinating,” he breathes.

Peter’s eyes snap open, glowing an electric blue, as he opens his mouth and lets out a deafening roar of pain. He makes to get up, so Derek and Scott hold him down, which turns out to be quite the challenge—revived Peter is very strong, and he keeps trying to bite and claw at them.

“Peter!” Derek yells at him. “Peter, stop it!”

“He’s confused,” Deaton says. “He doesn’t understand what’s happening.”

“So what do we do?” Scott asks, heavily leaning on Peter’s torso. At the rate they are going, he will not be able to hold onto Peter much longer. Peter has always been strong, but right now he seems to be at a peak.

“You need to make him understand,” Deaton says.

“Wha—how?”

“If he’s part of the pack,” Derek says, avoiding Peter’s fangs, “you’re his Alpha.”

“Oh, he’s gonna be so pissed at that,” Scott says.

“Be the fucking Alpha, Scott!” Derek says.

Scott looks into Peter’s eyes, still glowing blue, skittering around the room in panicked incomprehension. For a brief moment, he allows himself the indulgence of doubt. Can Scott ever be the Alpha of Peter Hale? Is that why Peter does not see himself as part of the pack? Because he would never accept Scott as the Alpha? Scott was Peter’s beta first. And Peter knows a lot more than Scott does about basically anything. But Scott knows one thing: Peter would do almost anything to save Malia from harm. They have that in common.

So Scott thinks of Malia when he lets his fangs grow and his eyes flash red.

“PETER!” he roars as loudly as he can.

And it seems to work. For a moment, nothing happens, Peter just freezes, but does not stop growling. Slowly, he starts to relax. The blue glow in his eyes recedes gradually, until all Scott is looking at is a normal, confused, tired-looking Peter who blinks at him.

“Alright, Scott,” Peter says, “there’s no need to shout.”

Derek heaves a big sigh as he and Scott let go and step back. “Hey Peter.”

Peter just lies there, staring at the ceiling, taking deep, even breaths. “I died again, didn’t I.”

“Yes, you did,” Deaton says. He looks into Peter’s eyes before checking the monitor, whose readings show a normalized heart rate. “Now you’re alive again. How are you feeling?”

“I feel like shit. This coming back to life business hurts like hell.”

Deaton helps Peter sit up to examine the back of his head, where there used to be a gunshot wound. It is gone, leaving nothing but perfectly healed skin and hair in its place. “Where you on the bridge again?”

“Yes.”

“Did something happen while you were there?”

“Nothing happens there. I think that’s kinda the point.”

“I guess what he means is, did you see anyone there,” Scott says, and Peter shakes his head.

“I just enjoyed the sun. And the solitude.”

“I think you should lie down again,” Deaton says. Peter listens without protest and closes his eyes.

“Did any of you read 100 Years of Solitude?” Peter asks suddenly, sounding exhausted. Derek and Scott exchange confused looks while Deaton says, “Yes, of course.”

“Y’know there’s this one quote from the book I always liked. The secret of a good old age…”

“I remember,” Deaton says, nodding slowly.

“What do you think, Doc? Am I like a modern day, werewolf version of Colonel Aureliano Buendía?”

“I think solitude is overrated.” Deaton looks almost sorry as he says this.

“Yeah, me too,” Peter murmurs sleepily. “But what if I don’t even have a choice?”

“Rest now,” Deaton says. “Think about that later.”

“Sure.” Peter yawns. “Dying really takes it out of you.”

Deaton leads Derek and Scott out of the treatment room, talking to them in a hushed voice. “I’d like to keep him here a couple more hours, just to keep an eye on him.”

“Yeah, sure,” Derek says.

“What was that all about?” Scott asks.

“Oh, the talk about solitude?” Deaton smiles slightly. “Well, you know that when something happens once, it’s a coincidence, but if it happens twice, it’s not coincidence anymore? I think the fact of his immortality is settling in for Peter. It’s something he needs to work through. Unfortunately, I don’t see how anyone can help him with that.”

“Yeah, no, you’re right,” Derek says. “I think we should tell the others that Peter woke up.”

“Yeah,” Scott says. The rest of the pack is waiting on news at Derek’s place. Deaton had thrown all of them out of the clinic after patching up Isaac because they were agitated, especially Malia. Theo was quite anxious, as well, everyone could smell it, but on the outside he hid his emotions rather efficiently.

“Oh, and before I forget,” Deaton says, “tell Theo to come by soon. I’d like to see if I can’t rule out some of my suspicions.”

The drive over is quiet. Derek may be ruminating about the consequences of Peter’s immortality, or maybe just the fact that Peter is part of a pack again. Maybe he is simply relieved his uncle did not die, Scott does not know. He is currently occupied with his own thoughts. Is Peter part of the pack? He listened to Scott, after all. He cares about Malia, and apparently he also cares about Theo. Theo is part of the pack, too. Peter cares about him, but so does Liam. Liam, who brought him back from hell, who told Scott to save Theo, who bought and assembled Theo’s bed for him. Those two, Scott wonders. They have fought together, and they did it well. He wonders where their friendship is going.

When they arrive, the pack is scattered around Derek’s sparsely furnished loft. Lydia and Stiles are sitting on the couch, Lydia obviously exhausted. Isaac, still mending from the bullet to his stomach, is half-sitting, half-lying next to her. Everybody looks up when Scott and Derek enter, and Malia, who has been sitting on the floor in front of Stiles and Lydia, gets up and charges toward them.

“So? Is he alive?”

“Yes,” Scott says, smiling encouragingly. “He is.”

Malia heaves a big sigh of relief. Across the room, Theo is rubbing a hand through his hair, trying to hide his reaction. Liam walks over to him and pats him on the shoulder. “Told you so.”

“He’ll be fine,” Derek says, “I guess. But Deaton wants to keep him under observation at the clinic a little longer.”

“But why? If he’s fine?” Malia asks.

“Probably to satisfy his morbid curiosity,” Theo says. Most of the pack shoots him an exasperated look, and he shrugs. “M’not saying that’s a bad thing. Just a fact. How many times have you seen someone come back from the dead?”

“More times than I’d like to admit,” Derek says, shaking his head. Stiles yawns and stretches.

“But that’s great. Lydia’s saved, Peter’s fine, everything’s great.”

“I got shot,” Isaac says. Stiles waves a hand in front of his face.

“Yeah, but you’re a werewolf, so you’re healing. Couple hours, you’ll be good as new. That counts as great in my book.”

Isaac cannot really argue with that. “It still hurt.”

“So we can all go home now, right?” Stiles says. People start moving, Mason taking Corey’s hand, Liam helping Theo off the floor where he was sitting, Malia giving Isaac a hand who is still moving gingerly. Lydia, however, is not moving.

“Hey! We can’t just go about our day and forget about this,” she says. “There are dozens of people still locked in this… this prison. We can’t just let them rot there.”

“Parrish probably burned through all mountain ash barriers that Theo hadn’t destroyed,” Derek says. “So those who were held back by that should have been able to escape.”

“I wasn’t held back by that,” Lydia says. “I was held back by, well, let’s see, maybe the steel cage I was locked in? Or the armed guard in the hallway? Getting out of there is not that simple! It took all of you to get me out, and still things went wrong! Isaac got shot. Peter died. What if someone had died who can’t just come back a few hours later?”

“Lydia…” Scott says.

“This isn’t over,” Lydia says. “These pieces of shit hunters are still there, right? You didn’t kill them.”

“I wanted to,” Theo says, “but you wouldn’t let me.”

“Yeah,” Malia says, crossing her arms. “I could have killed at least one of them.”

“But that means,” Lydia interrupts, “that they are still there, still taking people. We can’t just let that go on!”

“Lydia,” Scott says. “I know what you mean. Argent’s already at the Sheriff’s station talking to Noah. We’re doing something. I couldn’t just let that slide. But right now we need to recover,” and he looks at Isaac.

“How are you holding up?”

“I’ll be alright,” Isaac says, “although I could do with some rest right now.”

“Don’t we all,” Theo murmurs, and on closer inspection Scott realizes how tired he looks.

“Well,” Lydia says reluctantly, “okay, I guess.”

“Come on,” Stiles says. “I know you’re exhausted. You were kidnapped. You deserve some sleep, don’t you think?”

“Maybe,” Lydia says.

Thus the pack slowly leaves Derek’s loft, and Scott hugs Derek good-bye when Derek tells him, “don’t forget to tell Theo what Deaton said.”

Theo, who had been dawdling behind the rest of the group on their way to the stairs, stops and turns around. “What did Deaton say?”

“Here, I’ll tell you in the elevator,” Scott says, nodding toward where Stiles and Lydia are waiting. Lydia is too exhausted to use the stairs, and admittedly, Scott understands why Stiles cannot leave her side right now, not even for the duration of an elevator ride. Had Malia been taken, he would probably be the same.

“Okay,” Theo says slowly. “Why?”

“It’s not necessarily something everybody needs to hear.”

“Oh, whatever.” Theo slumps next to the elevator doors and leans against the wall. “Too tired for the fucking stairs anyway.”

“Why would you be tired, anyway,” Stiles says. “You didn’t do anything.”

Rather than rising to the bait, Theo just shrugs and keeps his eyes closed. “Who cares.”

“Not sleeping well?” Scott guesses. “I lived with Isaac for a while, you know. I know about his—well.” He shoots a look at Stiles and Lydia as they all enter the elevator.

“His nightmares?” Theo asks. “Don’t sweat it, those are hardly a secret. At least he doesn’t treat them like one.”

“So what—” Scott starts, but Theo beats him to it.

“What did Deaton say?”

“He said that he’s got some suspicions as to your, well, situation. With the mountain ash and how you knew about that tripwire without knowing it.”

“The verdict on that’s still out, by the way,” Stiles snaps, and Theo chuckles tiredly.

“Yes, Stiles, you got me. I put that tripwire there because… just because. I’m so evil. I wanted the two people in this back who actually give a rat’s ass about me to get shot, that’s why I did it.”

“Deaton wants you to come by the clinic sometime soon,” Scott continues, cringing internally. This thing between Theo and Stiles is not going anywhere. Not that Scott cannot understand Stiles’ doubts, because he can, they all can. But in this situation they are bordering on the irrational. “He says he’s got some suspicions as to what might have happened to make you this way.”

“It’s that fucking ritual that made me this way,” Theo frowns. “I thought that’s the problem. Why I’m a werewolf without being a werewolf, and why I have a gash in my arm that won’t heal.”

“It’s not healing?” Lydia asks, intrigued.

“No.” Theo crosses his arms and leans back against the wall. “It doesn’t. I go to the hospital every Wednesday so that Scott’s mom can replace the stitches. If I didn’t, you’d see my bones.”

“Okay, gross,” Stiles says.

“Inconvenient,” Theo says.

“Well, he didn’t say anything about your arm, but he did say that he thinks what the Dread Doctors did may have something to do with it.”

At that, Theo’s eyes snap open. “What?”

“Yeah, so you should really go see Deaton.”

“What did he say? What did they do?”

“He didn’t say anything. He just said that it might be a possibility.”

Theo opens his mouth to respond, but—

WHAM!

The elevator shutters, then comes to a sudden, screeching halt, throwing all of them off balance.

“What happened?” Lydia asks, voice shaking.

“Uhm,” Stiles begins. The lights flicker, then go out.

“Oh, fantastic,” Stiles mutters as Scott scrambles for his phone. Stiles and Lydia have the same idea, and soon the impenetrable darkness is broken by three flashlights.

“So we’re stuck?” Stiles says.

“Looks like it.” Scott lights up the panel, tries the buttons. It is dead.

“Power outage, maybe?”

“But the emergency light should be on,” Lydia says.

“Yeah,” Scott says. “That’s weird.”

“You okay?” Stiles gently touches Lydia’s shoulder, and she nods and takes his hand.

“Scott, you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine.” Scott turns around.

“Theo?”

No answer. Scott uses his flashlight to see Theo, and he immediately knows something is decidedly not okay.

“Theo? What’s wrong?”

Theo is sitting on the floor, knees tucked in, hands above his head. He looks like he wants to make himself as small as possible, and now that Scott focuses on him, he can hear his heart is racing.

“Whoa, what’s happening?” Stiles says to his left, and Scott crouches down in front of Theo.

“I don’t know…”

Scott carefully reaches out a hand to touch Theo’s arm, but Theo flinches at the touch like Scott burned him and gives a choked sound, almost like a sob.

“Theo? It’s Scott. Are you okay?”

“No,” Theo presses out. “No, no, no, no, no. No. Go away. Please, go away.”

“Theo, it’s Scott. Scott McCall. I’m NOT going to hurt you,” Scott insists, smelling the fear as it rolls off Theo in thick, pungent waves.

“She’s coming,” Theo whispers. “She’s COMING.”

“Who is?”

“She’s COMING,” Theo whispers. “She’s taking her heart back.”

“Oh fuck,” Stiles murmurs as Theo starts rocking back and forth and whimpering.

“Who, Tara?” Scott asks, realization dawning on him. A memory flashes before his eyes, seeing his heart ripped out of his chest, mixed with the feeling of coldness. At the mention of the name, Theo whimpers again and attempts to make himself even smaller.

“Why am I back here, I don’t understand… Liam destroyed the sword, I SAW it… no, no, no, no, no, no, please, don’t. Please. Don’t.”

“What is happening?” Stiles says in alarm.

“I think he’s remembering his time in hell,” Scott says slowly. “But why.”

“Cause we’re stuck in the elevator?” Stiles swallows. “Maybe it reminded him of… hell. I know I’m not exactly comfortable right now, either.”

Lydia gasps. They both turn to her as she grips the wall, eyes wide. “I feel something,” she whispers.

“What? What is it?” Stiles asks. She shakes her head.

“Not sure, but… I’m scared…”

Scott’s stomach drops as he realizes.

“It’s the fear demon! It’s in the building!”

“Wait, what? Are you sure?” Stiles says in alarm. Scott shakes his head.

“It’s the only thing I can think of. It stopped the elevator and now it’s feeding on Theo.”

“But… Malia’s here. Liam. Derek. They’re all in the building!”

“I know!”

“So now what? When it’s done feeding on him, it’s gonna start feeding on all of them?”

“I don’t know, Stiles! We need to get out of here!”

“No, please, don’t, please don’t, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, please, don’t do it, PLEASE,” Theo whimpers on the ground, and Scott looks at him.

“It’s gaining strength through him,” he surmises. “That’s how it’s holding the elevator still, it must be.”

“So we need to stop it, right?” Stiles says. “If we can get Theo out of this state, then maybe we can get the elevator moving again.”

“Then it’s gonna move on to the others.”

“But we can help them, then! We can’t help them if we’re in here. And from the sounds he’s making,” Stiles jerks a thumb at Theo, whose pleas get louder and louder, “he’s giving the thing ample fodder.”

“Mmmmmh,” Lydia groans. “It’s not right, this is not right.”

“What do you mean?” Scott says, and Lydia clamps her eyes shut.

“Something’s wrong, I can feel it—”

“Please! Please, don’t, just don’t,” Theo yells, his voice rough. “Please, don’t—”

“Stiles,” Lydia breathes. “I don’t know what this is, but—”

“Yeah, I know, we need to get out of here,” Stiles says. Scott crouches down in front of Theo again.

“Theo, you have to listen to me,” he says. “This is the fear demon, okay? Whatever it’s making you see, it’s not real.”

“Please, don’t, no, no, no, no, no, please, Tara—"

“Theo, listen to me!”

“Tara, I’m sorry, please, TARA, I’m SORRY—”

“Theo, listen to me!” Scott growls in his Alpha voice. His eyes glow red. Theo is his beta, and it worked on Peter, so—

Scott grabs Theo’s forearms to get his attention, and Theo screams. The sound echoes in the small space of the elevator and presses heavily on Scott’s ears, disorienting him until he hears a crunching sound, like breaking glass.

“Jesus,” Stiles says, and when Scott looks up, he sees the mirrors on the walls, all of whom are cracked, fractured.

Theo is wheezing now, then whimpering, whispering pleas again. Scott calls out to him again, but his efforts are in vain.

“Scott, now would be a good time to get him to listen to you,” Stiles says, sounding anxious. Lydia has her hands clamped on her ears, hearing something neither of them can perceive.

“I don’t know what to do,” Scott says. “He won’t listen to me, or he can’t hear me, I just… I don’t know what to do!”

“Okay, let’s maybe call out to the others then?” Stiles starts tapping on his phone. “I’ll call Liam, warn him, see if I can get service… they need to know that this fear demon’s in the building…”

“If they don’t already know,” Scott says. “That roar he gave just now was pretty loud.”

“Liam!” Stiles is beyond relieved when Liam picks up his phone. “Listen, we’re in the elevator, we’re stuck, we can’t get out… I don’t know where exactly, it’s completely dark in here—listen, no, no, Scott says it’s the fear demon, it’s back, and it’s feeding on Theo right now, he’s completely lost it, okay. Oh. Oh. Okay, that’s bad…”

Scott is focusing everything on Theo, but he hears Liam mention Malia’s name, and his head turns on its own accord. “Malia? What’s wrong with Malia?”

“We know the fear demon’s here,” Liam’s voice floats over to Scott, “Malia’s completely freaking out right now, she’s just sitting on the floor and crying about someone called Kiley? And no one can get through to her—”

“Yeah, we’ve got similar problems going on right now,” Stiles says. Theo roars again, further damaging the mirrors.

“Is that Theo?” Liam asks.

“Yeah, Scott can’t get him to calm down, and we can’t get out of the elevator because the demon’s probably controlling it, so it’s not helping that Theo’s fear is providing it with so much energy, but, well—”

“He’s not doing it on purpose,” Scott can hear Isaac arguing in the background.

“Liam,” he says, “can you find us? I don’t know which floor we’re on, but I’m gonna try to open the doors. I might need help. I think I can calm Malia down, but I need to get out of here first.”

“Okay, sure, I think I can catch your scent,” Liam says.

“Good, that’s good,” Stiles says. “And you may wanna hurry.”

“Why, what’s wrong?”

“You mean, apart from the obvious?” Stiles says over Theo’s cries of “please, no, please.” “Lydia’s hearing something, and when a banshee hears something no one else can hear, that is a bad sign.”

The elevator suddenly starts shaking before dropping a few feet. Lydia shouts in fright as she stumbles into Stiles, who barely catches her before falling over. Scott is thrown on top of Theo, who barely reacts to the commotion, completely caught up in his nightmare.

“What was that?” Liam asks, alarmed.

“The elevator moved,” Scott says. “Are you guys okay?”

“We’re as fine as we can be under the circumstances,” Stiles says, “right, Lyds?”

Lydia clamps her hands over her ears and screams. And if Scott thought Theo’s roar had been loud, Lydia’s banshee scream in the tiny elevator is like an explosion. The pain in his ears blinds all his other senses. Everything comes into sharp focus again when he hears a scratching sound at the door through the fog. The door opens slightly, just a fraction of an inch, but Scott drowsily climbs to his feet and forces his claws into the small gap between the doors.

“Scott, can you hear us?”

“Are you guys okay in there?”

Liam and Isaac.

“Yes, I can hear you!”

“What was that?” Isaac asks.

“Lydia,” Scott says, and suddenly the doors are open. Scott sees mostly stone in front of him, but there is a gap of about one and a half feet at the top that leads to freedom. Isaac and Liam are currently looking in. Liam’s face goes white in shock when he looks at Theo.

“Oh God, he looks really bad.”

“I know, and I can’t get through to him. I don’t know, maybe we need to call Peter or—”

“Let me try,” Liam says and climbs into the small space. It is getting cramped in there, and Isaac is anxious just looking in from the outside, so Scott tells Stiles to get Lydia out. Stiles lifts Lydia up as best he can, and Isaac grabs her hands and pulls her out, so at least Lydia is freed. Meanwhile, Liam crouches down in front of Theo. Scott does not know why exactly Liam thinks he will do a better job at this than Scott, since Scott is the Alpha and all that, but… well, at this point, Scott is willing to try anything, even knocking Theo unconscious if that helps them stop the demon from getting stronger.

“Theo?” Liam says gently. Theo keeps rocking back and forth.

“No, please, don’t do it again, please, no—”

“Theo, hey, listen, you don’t have to be afraid, okay.”

“Please don’t, no, no, no—”

“What’s he seeing?” Isaac asks quietly, and Scott is reminded that he went through the same thing just a week ago.

“His time in hell,” Scott says. Liam turns to look at him.

“With his sister?”

“She ripped his heart out. Her heart.”

“He said he died over and over again…” Liam looks at the shaking mess in front of him.

“I guess so.” Scott exchanges a look with Stiles. Neither of them knows how to feel about this, but they may have to postpone any processing of this newly obtained knowledge to a point in time when lives are not at stake.

Liam edges closer to Theo. “Hey, can you hear me? Theo. Theo. Come on, look at me.”

“Please, it’s okay, I understand, Tara, please, TARA—”

Liam grabs onto his forearms as Scott has tried before, but this time Theo does not roar, just tries tugging his arms out of Liam’s grip. By now he must be significantly weakened, so his attempts to struggle away do not have much of an effect.

“Theo, look at me!” Liam raises his voice. “Theo! Look at me!”

“Tara—”

“She’s not real. She’s not here with you. Just me. It’s just us. I brought you back, remember?”

Theo has stopped struggling. His eyes are still clenched shut, but he seems to be listening, so Liam keeps talking.

“I brought you back, and then I destroyed the sword. You saw me destroy it. You’re here in the real world, with me, and she’s not real.”

Liam keeps talking, and Scott sees as slowly but surely, the fight leaves Theo’s body. It seems to do the trick. At some point, Theo blinks his eyes open.

“Liam?”

“Yes! Hi. Yes, it’s me,” Liam says. “You’re okay. You’re okay.”

Theo just sits there and stares at Liam, breathing heavily. Then suddenly, without a warning, he lunges at Liam, and for a split second, Scott thinks Theo is still out of it and he has to intervene to keep Liam from being killed. But all Theo does is sling his arms around Liam and let out a series of sobs so violent they shake his entire body, and Liam with him.

“I killed my sister,” Theo gasps. “I… killed… my sister.”

“Oh,” Liam says and looks shocked. He exchanges a panicked glance with Scott, who can only shrug.

“I killed my sister,” Theo says, barely comprehensible through his sobs. “I killed her…”

“Yeah, I know, but… but… well…”

Liam sighs and hugs Theo, who leaves words behind and just wails into Liam’s shoulder.

“He already knew what he’d done, right?” Scott quietly asks Stiles, who has a look on his face that may, possibly, approach something like compassion while watching Theo’s breakdown.

“Yeah, but,” Stiles says, “maybe now he’s starting to understand it, too.”

Isaac helps Scott and Stiles climb out of the elevator and they look in, where Liam is still hugging Theo, who shows no inclination of calming down.

“How are we gonna get him out of here?” Liam asks the obvious question. Scott shakes his head.

“I don’t know, but,” he looks up as he hears Malia cry out in fright, “we’ll figure it out. I need to help Malia right now.”

A booming roar from upstairs has all of them who are not currently mourning lost family members freeze.

“And Derek, apparently,” Stiles says. “You should definitely help Derek.”

 

*****************

 

Theo’s encounter with the fear demon, as Peter tells him from his position on Theo and Isaac’s sofa, ended with Deaton shooting him up with a dose of tranquilizers high enough to kill a normal human because Theo had still not been able to calm down after one hour of crying. And because that had not been embarrassing enough, he had clung to Liam the entire time like a fucking toddler. To top it all off, safe for Malia and Derek, who had themselves been affected, the entire fucking pack had been witness to it.

“That is the most humiliating thing that ever happened to me,” Theo says, “and I was homeless for months, so that’s saying something.”

“Oh, come on, it’s not that bad,” Peter says, grinning from ear to ear. “I’ve been through the same thing. I’m sure the way I clung to Malia was less than manly, as well, but that was an extreme situation, and that demon thoroughly messed with your mind.”

“Yeah, but you still think it’s funny.”

“And I’m entitled to that. I died, after all.”

“Are you gonna play the ‘I died’ card in every discussion now?”

“If that’s the one good thing to come out of it, then yes, I sure will.”

Theo sighs heavily and trudges over to the sofa, dropping on the soft cushions like a bag of stones. Even after being knocked out by the tranquilizers for more than twelve hours, he is dead tired. No pun intended. His limbs feel heavy, his head filled with hot air.

“I feel like shit.”

“I believe you. Like I said, I know what it feels like.”

“How are you doing, though?” Theo asks around a yawn. “What with dying and stuff.”

“Fine. Got a good night’s sleep, now I’m having a nice breakfast, I’m good as new.” Peter sips his coffee in satisfaction. “You should eat more if you want your strength back.”

He points at the box of cereal and his abandoned bowl on the floor, but Theo shakes his head.

“Not hungry. Thanks, though. For offering me my cereal.”

“I paid for it, so it’s really my cereal,” Peter says.

“Oh, I don’t care,” Theo says. “Tomato, tomah-toe. How are Malia and Derek doing?”

“Barely better than yourself,” Peter answers. It took Scott quite a bit of coaxing to get Malia to come back to herself, but no amount of talking got through to Derek so that Scott had no choice but to knock him out. That, however, seemed to do the trick. Theo thinks that, had Peter been there, he would have been able to at least get through to Malia a lot quicker than Scott, seeing as she had been the one to free Peter from his state of fear. Alas, with the way things are now, the only ones yet to be affected by the fear demon are Scott and Liam. Theo distantly wonders what Liam would be most afraid of.

“But they’ll be fine, I guess,” Peter says and stretches as he sets his empty cup on the floor. “Y’know what, this place needs a coffee table.”

“Cool,” Theo says. “Pretty sure Isaac would be down with that.”

“We could go to IKEA together later,” Peter offers. “No one expects you to be ready for school today, not after what happened yesterday. You must be exhausted. You look terrible.”

“Gee, thanks for the support, asshole,” Theo says, letting his eyes slip closed, just for a minute. Yeah, sure, he is beyond exhausted, and he would rather stay in bed a few more hours, get some much-needed sleep, and then go to IKEA with Peter and listen to him criticize every piece of furniture they come across according to color, shape, and size, before buying the most expensive thing possible. But being alone in his room is the very last thing Theo wants right now. Being alone allows for reflection. And there are thoughts in his head whose existence he has denied for so long that he had started to believe that they were not there. And then this stupid-ass fucking fear demon came along and reminded him, forced him in the cruelest way possible to deal with a part f himself he had shut away, as he had thought, for good. So, no. No sleep, no rest, no idle time for Theo. Not if he can avoid it.

“Oh, you know what I mean.”

“I wanna go to school,” Theo says. “We could go to IKEA after, though. Maybe Liam’ll tag along. He’s never seen you go crazy at IKEA before.”

“Sure, why not. Gives me time to think about what else this place needs. When’s he coming to pick you up?”

“Mason texted me five minutes ago or something. They’ll be here any time now.” Theo starts looking through his bag to check if he has forgotten anything. “Liam’s definitely gonna ask me if he can copy my essay, though… he’s shit with poetry.”

“Oh, which poem? I used to be quite good in school, y’know. English was my best subject.”

“What’s it called… something with circus animals. By T.S. Eliot,” Theo says, absentmindedly double-checking that he has packed his essay. Liam needs to pass English, his grades have been slipping.

“Oh, The Circus Animals’ Desertion? Love that poem,” Peter says. “It’s Yeats, not T.S. Eliot. I hope you had that right in your essay, because if you didn’t, you might not wanna let Liam copy it.”

“Shit,” Theo says and pulls the essay out of his binder. It says Yeats.

“I got it right in the essay.”

“Well then,” Peter says. “It’s a great poem, you should remember who wrote it.”

“I did. I’m just tired.”

“Now that my ladder’s gone,” Peter recites with a vague smile on his face, “I must lie down where all the ladders start, in the foul rag and bone shop of the heart. Now that’s poetry.”

Theo looks at him in fascination. “You’re kind of a nerd, aren’t you.”

“I’ll take that as the compliment it was clearly meant to be. Also, you’re one to talk, Mr. I just got bled out by a fear demon but I’m never too tired to go to school.”

Theo shrugs. “Eh.”

“Oh, by the way, did you read that book I gave you?”

“Yeah, the one about solitude, by that Cuban guy? Almost finished.”

“Colombian, kiddo, he’s Colombian. You’re clearly not on your A game today.” Peter scratches his chin. “What do you think?”

“I don’t know. Not sure I understand it, to be honest.”

“Well, you’re young. Give it time. If I was any character in the book, who do you think I’d be?”

“Jeez, Peter,” Theo says and yawns again. “Why are you quizzing me on literature right now?”

“Because it’s important. Now, which character?”

Theo rolls his eyes. “What the hell do I know? They all have the same names, anyway. You’d think after one hundred years they’d come up with some new names.”

“History repeats itself, kiddo,” Peter says with an eye roll of his own. “Would you say I’m anything like Colonel Aureliano Buendía?”

Theo frowns. “Why? Do you want to be like that guy? So you could die like he did, pissing under a tree like a dog?”

Peter lets out a surprised burst of laughter. “Hah, that would be kind of funny, though, wouldn’t it. I bet Argent would LOVE that.”

Peter is still chuckling about that when Theo’s phone buzzes with a text from Liam, telling him they are downstairs and waiting for him.

“I gotta go,” Theo says and shoulders his backpack. “See you later?”

“IKEA,” Peter says and points at him.

When Theo leaves the building, he immediately sees Mason’s car and walks over, opening the door to the backseat and slipping in.

“Morning,” he says, trying to sound normal and awake, and utterly failing. Corey turns around in the passenger seat and gives him a slightly concerned smile.

“Hey,” he says. “Are you sure you should go—”

“Already had that discussion with Peter. I wanna go to school. I can’t sleep anyway.”

Theo knows Isaac never talked about his nightmares to the others. Most of them already knew about Isaac’s unhealthy sleeping habits, but Theo’s had been a secret. But now that the jig is up and everybody knows what he had been through in hell, he figures he might as well get it out in the open. No use in pretending now.

“Okay then,” Mason says and starts the motor.

“Hey,” Liam says and Theo looks at him, almost ashamed of what happened yesterday. But, well. Peter is right. It was the fear demon, it was not his fault. And according to what Peter said, Liam held him the entire time, without complaining.

“Hey,” he says.

“Sure you’re okay?”

“As okay as I’ll ever be,” Theo says and yawns.

“Did you do the essay, by any chance? The one on that poem by, uh…”

“Yeats.”

“Right. Did you?” Liam asks hopefully.

“Yes.”

“Great. Can I copy it?”

“Liam,” Mason berates him.

“Mason won’t let me copy his, so…”

“Yes, you can have it,” Theo says and pulls the essay out of his backpack.

“Theo, don’t support this!” Mason says, making Corey laugh.

“Oh, chill, Mason. You want him to graduate, don’t you?” He hands the papers to Liam. “Just change it up a little. They can’t be exactly the same.”

“No, yeah, sure,” Liam says.

Theo leans back against the cozy leather seat and looks out the window. He is so tired, and he has no idea how to survive this day. Somehow or other, he guesses he will need to just go through with it. His eyes slip closed on their own accord, and he listens to the hum of the motor, to Mason and Corey talking and flirting, and to the scribble of Liam’s pen as he copies Theo’s thoughts on the rag and bone shop of the heart. The pen stills suddenly, and Theo feels Liam’s eyes on him. He looks at Liam, who has a weird look on his face.

“What?”

“Oh, nothing,” Liam says and goes back to writing. Theo rolls his eyes and goes back to staring out the window. The sky is of a leaden gray. It will rain soon.

 

**************

 

Liam tries focusing on the words he is supposed to be copying. He reigns in his heartbeat as well as he can, desperately hoping nobody notices what is going on. He had been reading Theo’s thoughts on the poem and then looked up at him, sitting there with his eyes closed, and suddenly Liam had felt this… thing, some outlandish feeling in his chest that he cannot assign words to, but which he knows and which he had associated for the longest time with one specific person. And that person, for the longest time, had been Hayden.

But just now, he was not looking at Hayden.

Oh Lord, Liam thinks as he sneaks another look at Theo, who is staring out the window, tired and completely oblivious.

Liam is in a lot of trouble.