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I'd like it if you made it to mine by Christmas Eve, so you can hold me.

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Liam checks his watch for the 10th time in half the amount of minutes.

 

He looks up at his boss who is holding a toast to their year and their success.  The company has been growing rapidly enough that the owners have decided to give the original 11 employees complimentary paid vacation until January 2nd.

 

Liam nods politely as he is one of the ones named, fighting the urge to check his watch again, knowing it's been less than 30 seconds since he last looked.

 

The thing is, most of these 11 men are married with small kids at home.  The other couple men are young and single like Liam, except locally grown.  They're still at home with their parents, straight out of college and saving up for a future.  Liam is the only one of them who is on his own and far from home. And so as a result, is actually going home to see his family, most of whom he hasn't seen in exactly a year.  This year with the company had been hectic and a godsend, but the 5-figure bonus check he received after the third fiscal quarter was worth every minute.

 

But now that it's time to have a full two weeks off, Liam just wants to get on the road and beat the traffic.

 

“Alright, alright.  That's enough of that.  Thank you all for listening and I know that with an excellent team like we have in this building, including the 23 of you who have just joined in the last 10 months…”  Liam's boss, the Vice President of InstaTech looks around the room with an emotional smile. “This company is going to make me, and the rest of the owners who couldn't fly out for today, very proud.  Now go have a nice weekend, and I'll see most of you on Monday.”

 

Applause fills the large conference room, and Liam takes the opportunity to duck into his strategically chosen office, right next to the front desk.  Before anyone is able to corner him for small talk he’s walking out the front doors to his old Bronco, briefcase in hand, with a near-painful grin on his face.

 

He’s supposed to stop by his neighbor's to drop off a key to his place so that she and her boyfriend can take care of his fish and just in case of general emergencies.

 

Then, it's off to Beacon Hills.

 

*****

 

“This is such bullshit !”

 

Liam stalks away from his broken down car punches the concrete post at the rest stop.  His hand comes away bleeding but not broken so he shakes it off and let's it heal as he pulls his phone out of his pocket with the other hand.  He dials Scott and watches the slow-knitting skin cells of his hand close up til it looks like they never split apart.

 

“Hello?”

 

It's Malia's voice.  Liam calms a little at the comforting sound.

 

“Hey Mal.  Scott there?”

 

“He's baking.  He's been super into artisanal bread or whatever.” Liam hears Scott grumbling about just enjoying food before she sighs and continues. “All I know is that it stinks until it's ready.  So what's up?”

 

“I’m at a rest stop in Lost Hills, apparently.  I've got a small problem.”

 

“Okay.  You're on speaker because Melissa and Argent are here too.”

 

“I'm stranded,”  Liam sighs. “My car broke down and I am willing to bet it's the clutch.  I can't get it working, I'm gonna need to get it towed.”

 

“I can come get you.  How far are you?”

 

It's Argents voice.  Liam’s heart warms at the man's natural instinct to save the people he considers family.

 

“No, no.”  Liam looks around at the rest stop sign.  “I've gotta be like 400 miles still. I'm closer to home.  I'll see if I can get a flight after I figure out where to tow this piece of junk.”

 

“Wait, Lost Hills-”

 

Chris’ voice is cut off suddenly.

 

There's a lot of scrambling in the background.  Melissa yelps and Chris cackles with Scott and Malia growling to be quiet, before the phone is turned off speaker.

 

Scott's voice echoes in his ear, stern and clear.

 

“Stay where you are.  Do not call anyone. Someone will be there to help you in less than twenty minutes.”

 

The line goes quiet and Liam looks at the screen’s flashing call time.

 

“Good.  Good.”

 

Liam squints into the moon, brighter than he’s used to after all the time in the city, and he heaves a tired sigh.

 

Cars pass frequently, but he's far enough out of the road and into the rest stop pull-off that he doesn't move the car anymore.  He simply takes a seat at the mostly broken picnic bench and puts his head in his hands.

 

He groans and whines for a few minutes, letting himself cry out his frustrations in the middle of nowhere.

 

All Liam wanted was to get home to see his family.  His head perks up and he remembers that he told Dr. Geyer he was coming today.  He didn't tell his mom, hoping to surprise her, but it seems that plan isn't going to go through.

 

He dials the house, shaking his head at how his parents still have a landline.

 

“Liam!  What a surprise!  Where the hell are you?”

 

Liam rolls his eyes at his mother's voice.

 

“God, tell Dad he's the fucking worst at secrets.”  Liam laughs and his mother responds in kind. “I've got some bad news.  I'm not coming home right now, but I'm working on it. I promise.”

 

“What happened, sweetie?”

 

Jenna’s voice is concerned and Liam goes to quell her panic hurriedly.

 

“No, mom, I just had car trouble.  I'm in Lost Hills. Scott apparently knows someone here, and he called them to help out.  They should be here soon ”

 

“Oh.”

 

His mother's voice is strange as it almost gasps out the response.

 

“That's okay sweetheart, get home when you can.”

 

The phone clicks this time, since it's a landline, and Liam gawks at his screen as he processes the abrupt end to their chat.

 

“What the f-”

 

The surprisingly soft sound of a heavy vehicle pulling onto the gravel turn-out pulls Liam from his thoughts.  His eyebrows arch at the swiftness with which Scott's promise has been fulfilled.

 

The large red tow truck says Blackwells Corner Automotive Repair and Liam marvels at how a antique old truck can sound as quiet as it does.

 

The driver doesn't get out of the cab for quite some time, but Liam can't see the person's face in the harsh glare of the headlights.  But then suddenly the door opens and a man hops out, anger seeping from him strong a pungent in the clean desert air.

 

Liam almost chokes on it as its familiarity reaches the depths of his lungs.

 

“Theo?”  Liam watches as the leather jacket clad figure stalks toward him, stopping just in front of the trucks headlights so that Liam can confirm that it is definitely the chimaera he hasn't seen in almost six years.

 

“Of course it's you.  Fucking Christ .  Fucking Scott .”  Theo turns away without waiting for an answer and toward the Bronco.  “Any idea whats wrong with it?”

 

“Uh…”  Liam still can't find words.  It's irrelevant, because Theo is grunting and shutting the hood within seconds of bending down to look at it.

 

“There's at least like ten things wrong with this piece of crap.  Why are you still driving it?”

 

Theo huffs and walks back to his tow truck.

 

Liam watches him back up the tow truck and hook the Bronco.  Liam observes the easy, practiced movements, his mouth still open wide in shock.

 

“Get in.”  Theo shouts impatiently and Liam flushes as he realizes how idiotic he must look, standing in the middle of the freezing cold highway with his jaw hanging like this.  “I've got coffee and a lounge that you can warm up in back at the shop.”

 

“Okay.”

 

Liam walks toward the truck, barely able to feel his limbs.  Once the werewolf buckles himself in, Theo is pulling back onto the highway without a word.

 

*****

 

“So, I can't find a flight out til tomorrow and definitely the day after that if I don't want to pay double price.”  Liam grumbles as Theo walks into the lounge after unloading and backing the Broncos into the workshop. Liam flicks through local lodging and huffs in disbelief at the prices, knowing the motels are subpar.  “So any idea how long this will take to fix?”

 

“I have a spare room in my house, so don't get a fucking hotel,” Theo grunts, sitting down behind the desk in the adjacent lobby.

 

“I don't want to-”

 

“I'm gonna call a guy in Wasco and Lancaster to see how fast I can get your part.  It's usually something you'd order, but that would cost us minimum an extra day, so worst case I get it from a friend down in Lancaster.  I can drive there in in less than a couple hours, and that is gonna save me hours on this repair time.  So, shut up while I make some calls, and maybe I can get you home this weekend without abandoning your car and paying $500 for a one hour flight.”

 

Liam sits still, shocked at the way Theo speaks to him.  It's short and hostile and nothing that Liam expected considering the fact that Theo was the one who left him .

 

But it's been years.

 

Liam thinks about Theo more than he'd like to admit and this…  This version of Theo looks better than Liam ever expected. Liam is overwhelmed with relief at the way the man looks comfortable in his light grey henley and dickies work pants.  He moves with ease and purpose, but no cockiness, like he's finally realized there's no one he has to impress but himself.

 

Liam is sublimely happy for him.

 

“Thanks,”  Liam says, sincerely.

 

It's enough to stop Theo as he’s punching a number into the office phone at the desk.  But the chimaera easily shakes it off and goes on calling someone he greets as “Gigs” and then hanging up after a negative response on the inventory check.

 

“I really appreciate you working on this so late in the afternoon,”  Liam says as Theo scrolls through something on his computer.

 

“It's quite literally my job,” Theo grunts in response.  It's not as mean this time, but its cold.  Liam takes it as a sign to keep quiet while Theo is working.

 

Theo is dialing the phone again, anyway.  This time leaving it on speaker.

 

“Turner Bros Body Shop, how can I help you?”

 

“Hey, Lawrence.”  Theo sighs into the phone.  “Your brother there?”

 

“Oh, what up James Dean.”   The deep but definitely young voice answers in a much more mirthful tone than the initial greeting.   “You sure you don't wanna talk to me instead?  We could talk about that time in Palmda-”

 

“Lawrence, shut the fuck up.  I need to buy off something from your stock.”

 

The man on the other end of the phone laughs and puts Theo on hold.

 

Theo doesn't even spare a glance at Liam, eyes trained to the screen.  The unnatural white light reflects back onto Theo's face and Liam can see his deep frown.  Obviously, Lawrence, whoever he was to Theo, had annoyed him with what he was about to say.  Liam feels an irrational bout of hurt and jealousy at not knowing anything about Theo or whatever acquaintances he has made in the past six years.

 

The light staticky hold music stops before Liam can dwell on his ridiculous emotions.

 

“Hey Tee.  Whatchu need, bro?”

 

The second voice is a lot higher pitched, but sounds almost exactly the same otherwise.

 

“I need a favor.  I just sent you an email with a few things I need to buy off you.  It's important I have these tomorrow. I tried Gigs but he doesn't have anything for me, so I gotta come see you guys.”  Theo picks up his cell phone and scrolls through it. Liam can hear the sounds of a busy automotive shop in the background of the call.  “I can be there at like 7:50 in the morning. That work for you?”

 

“No prob, brother.  Anything you need man, we got you.”

 

Liam doesn't need to heat the man's heart to know how sincere the statement really is.

 

“Thanks, Mike.  See you in the morning.”  Theo presses a button on the phone and the call goes quiet, leaving the two of them in silence.

 

Theo is typing into his cell phone, And Liam wants to say something, but he feels so out of his element.  Clearly, Theo is confident he's going to fix his car without issue tomorrow.

 

So, what does Liam do now?

 

The tense silence stretches for another few minutes, Theo clearly working, or possibly just browsing the internet for nothing just to torture Liam a bit longer.

 

Liam shamelessly examines Theo's appearance.  He's even more handsome than Liam remembers.


Liam is about to give in and say something, but Theo finally moves to shut off his computer and walk around from the service desk.

 

Theo locks the front door and then smiles tightly at Liam.

 

“You wanna grab anything else you need from the car?”

 

Liam nods and follows into the shop portion of the building, scrubbing a tired hand through his hair, realizing a second too late that it's still crunchy with product from work.

 

Work.

 

Liam feels like the holiday lunch party was days ago at this point.

 

“You’re probably hungry, yeah?”

 

“What?”  Liam startles as Theo starts flicking through his phone again.

 

“The bar should still be open by the time we get to the house.  I live like 30 minutes up into the mountains, and then we can walk there if you dont mind.”

 

Liam stares at Theo blankly.

 

“You live up in the mountains?  Like Paul Bunyan?”

 

“Yes,” Theo sighs.  He rolls his eyes. “Grab your stuff. Let's go.”

 

Liam does grab his things, fighting a smile as he pictures Theo in red plaid and overalls.

 

They're in Theo's small Volkswagen GTI and Liam notices the car fits the chimaera a lot better than the large truck from all those years ago.

 

“Nice car.”  Liam directs his compliment more out the window than anything else as they turn onto a winding mountain road.

 

The small mountains are barely bigger than hills and they soon reach flatter land, not ever actually having to leave a major highway. Liam can make out cows on a hill nearby and a few cabin-like homes in the distance.  They reach their destination in exactly 30 minutes, and Theo is parking under a covered awning, attached to a one story home, no garage in sight.

 

Liam follows in out of the car to the front door.

 

The deep red door is a welcoming sight.  It sits in perfect contrast to the dark wood of the log cabin walls and roof.

 

The inside, however, is the surprise.  The walls and angled ceiling are clean and smooth wood paneling.  They match the hardwood floors, which are covered in gorgeous ornate red rugs.  The rest of the decor is simple but luxurious, and it looks more like a secluded romantic resort cabin than a home in which Theo would ever choose to live.

 

“The guest room is pretty much my office, so excuse the papers and stuff.  It's that first open door right there.” Theo's voice calls out from the kitchen, where Liam hadn't even seen the other man wander off to.

 

Liam walks toward the open door Theo is referring to.  There are full ornate black bookshelves lining one wall, most of the rest of the room is taken up by a large comfortable looking black sectional couch.  He flicks on the light and it shines simultaneously from white covered lamps in the three open corners. The rug is this small room is a plush faux fur in a bright offwhite and Liam has a strange urge to kick his shoes off and dig his feet into it. He hears Theo come up behind him and pass him to bend down in front of the couch.

 

“To be honest, it's hella comfy as is, but this comes out and once it's pulled all the way out it pops up into a queen size bed.”  Theo turns and shrugs. “Up to you.”

 

“Thanks.”  Liam stares at Theo in awe.  “So… This is your place? Or do you rent?  Also, did you just… say ‘ hella’?

 

Theo laughs at Liam and it's the first time today the werewolf has seen anything resembling joy on the chimaera's face.

 

Liam wasn't aware how much he'd missed the sound of Theo's laughter.

 

It turns his stomach in knots.

 

“I own it, Liam.”  Theo knocks him with a shoulder on the way back out of the room.  Liam drops his bags and follows. Theo is still laughing as Liam follows him into the kitchen.  “I bought it from the lady next door. She saw how little I had to my name when I showed up in town, sleeping in that old truck.  She found me two jobs and let me crash here for free, refusing to take any rent money, until one day, three years later, I offered to buy it.  I'm gonna be paying off loans for ages, since I also bought that car, but it's worth it.”

 

Theo takes in a deep breath and turns around to face Liam.  He looks Liam up and down with a soft expression.

 

“I'm happy here.”  He shakes his head at Liam.  “I don't really remember why I even stopped here in the first place, but I'm glad I did.  Mrs. Doherty kind of reminds me of your grandma, actually. She always brings me so much fruit.  She has an orchard and a winery.”

 

Liam bites his lip to stop himself from asking the question he’s dying to ask.  Instead, he tilts his head back toward the front door.

 

“You mentioned food?”

 

Theo’s eyes crinkle at the corners as his smile grows.  He throws an arm around Liam's shoulders and leads him back out the front door.

 

*****

 

“Oh my God, so haven't been this full in ages.”

 

Liam drags his feet along the ground as they walk back from the roadhouse.  They're in the middle of a dirt road with nothing but hills and farm animals within sight.  Theo has a pair of felt antlers on his head and Liam

 

“Julio makes some mean fried chicken.”  Theo groans in agreement, scratching at the reindeer headband on his head, a fond expression falling across his face.  “And his kids are freaking hilarious.”

 

“God... And the cornbread.”  Liam hums happily. “I never knew cornbread could be so good.”

 

“Thank fuck for my leftover superhuman metabolism.  I would be so fat by now…”

 

Liam stops in his tracks.

 

“Leftover?”

 

Theo turns to face Liam with a partially confused, but mostly guilty look.

 

“I, uh… I guess no one told you.”

 

Liam has no idea what Theo is talking about, and it must show on his face, because Theo is

 

“I can't-” Theo huffs out a laugh in frustration and Liam notes it sounds almost hysterical.  “I'm sorry, Liam. I want you to know I was an idiot for not saying anything. I should have explained that I was kind of… deteriorating?  I should have included you, but then I knew you would have fixated, and I couldn’t take it. You would have made me stay. I didn't want to stay, Liam.”

 

Liam sucks in a painful breath, his chest constricting painfully.

 

“But I'm so sorry I just left without saying goodbye.”  Theo practically sobs out the words.

 

Liam doesn't get it.  He doesn't understand what this has to do with the way Theo left him out of the blue when they were each others rock.  They were each others anchor.

 

What didn't anyone tell me, Theo?”

 

“My… Powers?”  Theo whispers, looking down at his hands.  He flexes his fingers in front of himself. “They're… they've been fading slowly.  It started about a month before I left and it slowly gets worse and worse as time passes. I'm not sure how much longer I'll have any of them at all.”

 

Liam’s thoughts run wild with angry questions.  He wants to yell and scream and figure out what Theo had been going through those last few weeks before he left that led him to the decisions he made.  But the point is, its over. They aren't those people anymore and they can't do anything about the past.

 

Liam can't help but saying one angry, bitter thing though.  He glares at Theo, who keeps staring it his hands, as if it's their fault.

 

“I wouldn't have forced you to stay.”  Liam grunts, starting to walk back in the direction of the house again.  “I would’ve asked .  There's a difference.”

 

“There wasn't a difference, and you know it.  I would've done anything you asked. I was in love with you, Liam.”  Theo roars the words out.  Its loud and angry, and shocks Liam the the core.  Not the words themselves, but the lack of predatory rage in them.

 

Liam spins on his heel and faces the other man, expecting to see the Theo he knows.  The angry, animalistic, occasionally murderous chimaera.

 

What Liam is faced with instead is a tired, misty-eyed human in his mid-twenties who barely resembles the monstrous teen he'd met more than seven years ago.  Liam instinctually inhales, trying to see if he can smell a difference in Theo.

 

The action only makes Theo break into a watery laugh.

 

“God.”  Theo shakes his head, still laughing and walks past Liam.  “Its late. I have to get up early to fix your stupid car.”

 

Liam watches him for a good minute until he's practically over the hill ahead of them.  Liam inhales a deep breath, before speaking clearly in the dead quiet of the night, curiosity outweighing his fear of saying the words out loud.

 

“I was in love with you too.”

 

Theo's step doesn't falter in the least.

 

Liam follows him silently to the house.

 

*****

 

Mid-afternoon the next day finds Liam on the front porch of Theo's auto shop.

 

Theo and Liam hadn't spoken more than a couple words to one another before going to bed.  Liam had slept in, the events of the previous day wearing him out more than he'd been in years. Theo had left a note in the kitchen saying Liam was to help himself to food and coffee and take the dirt bike out back down to the shop to meet Theo if he got bored.

 

Liam can see Theo through the big glass storefront.  He's in the shop half the building, bent over the front of Liam's car. Liam steels himself and walks through the front door and into the lobby.

 

“You can come back here.”  Theo shouts. Habit, Liam supposes, since Theo is used to communicating with mostly just humans.

 

Scott, obviously, being a traitorous exception.

 

Theo stands and wipes his hands off on a towel that's hanging off the side of the hood.  He looks at Liam with an apologetic smile.

 

“Sorry for calling your car a piece of junk yesterday.  I know it was a gift from your dad, and that was really insensitive.”  Theo shrugs and walks a few feet to a workbench to rifle through a set of torque wrenches.  “I'm also sorry I got so pissy last night. Seeing you just kind of really threw me off yesterday.  I'm not usually such a crybaby about everything, I just wasn't expecting to have a problem that I've been ignoring for the better part of a decade come back and hit me in the face.”

 

“I didn't hit you!”  Liam jokes awkwardly, not really knowing how else to address the blunt and honest apology.

 

Theo laughs, so Liam relaxes a little.

 

“So, can I ask about the…”  Liam leans against the pillar closest to his car.  He gestures vaguely toward Theo. “Powers shit?”

 

“You can ask whatever you want.”  Theo heaves a sigh as he finds the tool he's looking for and returns to the car’s front.  “I just might get super pissy again. It's not my favorite subject.”

 

“Do you know why?”  Liam completely ignores the warning.

 

Theo owes him this.

 

“Magic,”  Theo grunts, and Liam's half sure it's from the manual labor.  “Deaton says I’m still draining the supernatural power from the bodies they were intended for.  The “science” of the chimaera formulas was simply really old magic corrupted into something new and incredibly temporary. He said by the time the bodies fully decompose, I'll have lost powers all together.  That's why the Wolf and Coyote were first to go. They died ago. Everything else is barely hanging on until everyone I ever killed and stole anything from is a skeleton.”

 

Theo stands and looks at Liam with a smirk.

 

“Poetic, isn't it?”

 

Liam doesn't dignify the question with a reaction.

 

“Why didn't you ask Scott to make you a real wolf?”

 

Liam steps forward, feeling the anger and hurt from having been left in the dark boil back up inside him.

 

“He tried.  When he visited me a year after I settled here and saw I couldn’t shift at all anymore.”  Theo frowns and opens the inside of his forearm to face Liam. There, Liam can make out the faint scars of a werewolf bite.  Theo turns away again. “Doesn't work like that, I guess.”

 

“You haven't shifted in-”

 

“Almost five years.”  Theo confirms. He’s pretending to work on the car, but Liam can tell he's not doing anything.  “I’m still kind of strong. I still heal abnormally quickly. And my… my sense of smell just doesn't want to fade for some reason.  But other than that…”

 

Liam senses Theo's shared as much as he's willing to.

 

“Do you want me to wait in the lobby?”

 

Theo looks up at him warily, as if it's a trick question.

 

Liam frowns back.

 

“You can chill out here if you want.”  Theo nods to a stool in the corner. “Tell me about what you've been doing the past six years.”

 

Liam hears Theo's heart speed up a little when he says it.  It's a familiar sound. Liam knows it well from all the times a stranger or acquaintance has asked him out on a date.

 

Theo's scared of Liam rejecting him.

 

Liam smiles and heads for the stool.

 

“What do you want to know?”

 

They talk for hours as Theo works.

 

It surprises Liam as much as Theo the first time they bring up dating and sex.

 

It's Liam who offers the fact that there's not much time to have a relationship when your mind on on work 24 hours a day, so Grindr and Tinder have been his been friends.  Before Liam could even begin to freak about about what an overshare it is, Theo laughs and shares a story about his first time on Grindr and how it resulted in a restraining order.  Liam laughs along and makes jokes about Theo having a “magic succubus dick.”

 

Theo throws a greasy rag at him in response and responds with, “not a top, jackass.”

 

Liam wonders if Theo's sense of smell is still strong enough to get a whiff of how affected Liam is by it.

 

Theo eventually asks Liam to go walk the dirt bike into the garage and close the doors up front since his regular business hours are over.

 

Liam finishes locking up just in time for Theo to come into the lobby and update him on the car situation.

 

“It's gonna be a bit until I can take it for a drive and make sure everything is alright.”  Theo scrubs the side of his face with a new, clean rag, but all it does is smear the grease and dirt into his skin.  He shoves his hands into to pockets of his ragged hoodie and looks at Liam timidly. “I can have it ready by like… midnight at the earliest.  Or… If you want, you can crash another night and I'll do a full tune up in the morning, no charge. You can get on the road as soon as it's light out.”

 

“Yeah, okay.”  Liam nods instantly, not even tempted to leave sooner than he has to.  Not after an afternoon of falling back into a gentle rhythm with Theo. “I'll treat you to some dinner if you want, since you won't charge me more for the service.”

 

Theo smirks and nods back, looking more sure of himself.

 

“How bout delivery?  The menu for Thai on the fridge?  They specialize in delivering far into the hills.”  Theo gestures toward the phone. “They deliver to the house if you call from here, I do it once in a while when I have a long day.  Just let them know we'll be home in about an hour.”

 

Liam smiles and heads for the main part of the shop, toward the break room, determinedly trying to ignore the way him stomach turns at the easy way Theo has let him into his life.  The words “we'll be home” echo in his mind as he picks the menu of the fridge.

 

He thinks of a time, years ago when Theo had sat in his living room after the rest of the family had gone to bed, and told him that Liam’s house was the first place Theo had ever considered “home.”  The night that Liam had started packing for college. The night that Liam confided in Theo that he didn't know what he wanted out of the future. The night that Liam had joked that Theo should go to college down south with him, because he'd need backup when evil eventually found him.

 

And Theo couldn't answer.

 

It makes sense in retrospect, Liam supposes, why that was the night Theo had disappeared forever.

 

But that night was years ago.

 

That night is just a day in their long long history.

 

Tonight they have Ba Mee Haeng.

 

*****

 

“I was calm and collected about the whole thing.”  Theo shrugs after Liam makes him tell the entire story of the restraining order dude.  “Look, I can't blame the guy. I'm a great lay. I event asked the cops not use cuffs or sirens or shit when they came to arrest him.  Told them I'm not someone who want to make a scene.”

 

“That's new.”  Liam scoffs loudly.

 

“Excuse me?”  Theo's eyebrows shoot up and he looks at Liam with an amused expression.

 

“You used to make scenes , dude.”

 

“I did not,” Theo gasps theatrically.

 

“Oh yeah.  Constantly.  I think you were the king of scene-making.”

 

“Oh.  Okay.”  Theo nods in disbelief.  “This coming from a guy who dove off a roof into a pool at his graduation party screaming about being a golden god.”

 

“It was a movie reference!” Liam cackles in response. “God, it's not my fault the rest of that party was so uncultured!”

 

Theo shakes his head and points at Liam accusingly.

 

“What about that time you leapt off a balcony directly onto a horse’s back?”

 

Liam snorts mid-sip and has to set down his hot chocolate to avoid spilling everywhere as his body shakes in laughter.  Once he and Theo both regain composure, Liam concedes.

 

“Yeah. Okay.  I was pretty scene-y as well.”

 

Theo hums into his mug and looks back at the fire.  Liam can't help but stare at the chimaera’s profile.  His face is less sharp and angular than it once was, possibly an illusion caused by the heavy scruff across his jaw.  There's a softness about his whole person that was never there before. Not a weak softness, like when Liam had seen him scared and cowering in fear, but a strong, gentle aura, much like Derek's after their time in Mexico.

 

He seems at peace.

 

“So.”  Theo's voice breaks Liam's thoughts.  “Excited to finally get on the road tomorrow?  I’m sure Jenna is dying to see you.”

 

Liam pauses.  He'd forgotten all about leaving.  He knew in the back of his mind that it had to happen, but he feels like he's been given something great and now it's being taken from him.

 

He looks into Theo’s eyes.

 

There's an ache clawing inside his chest, trust to break its way out and that's why he says the last thing either of them could imagine.

 

“You could come with me.”

 

The crickets outside chirp an audible and ironic soundtrack for the moment.  Liam doesn't quite regret the words and much as he’s simply unprepared for them.

 

The last few years had flown by in a lonely, but amazing, manic ambition-driven blur.  He'd swallowed up any chance to be better, to be smarter, to be something that would have impressed anyone around him.

 

To be something that would have impressed his pack he left behind.

 

To be something that would impress Theo.

 

Theo who left him.

 

Theo who vanished without a word.

 

Liam can't believe he spent all that time thinking Theo left because he wanted more.

 

Liam can't help but still be pissed that Theo left because he wanted more for Liam .

 

“You would want that?”

 

It gives Liam pause.

 

Theo’s voice is small.  Distant. Timid. Nothing like the Theo he'd seen the past day.  Even when Theo had his break down about being sorry, he'd been firm in his words, practiced even.  Like he'd been waiting for the opportunity to apologize for years and he was doing it with no expectations if forgiveness.

 

But Liam forgave him the second he confessed.  No explanation needed.

 

Liam nods finally.

 

“You'd let me back into your…”  Theo chokes on the words and looks down into his mug.  Liam can smell the tears. “You'd want me?”

 

Liam doesn't have to think very hard about it this time around.

 

“Always.”  Liam rubs an awkward hand through his hair.  “I'm not the one who left, Theo. I wanted you in my life.  I'm always gonna want you in my life.”

 

Theo doesn't respond.

 

The silence stretches comfortably and they fall asleep in front of the fire.

 

*****

 

Liam wakes up the next day to an empty house and a note saying his car is parked out front.  It ends wih a postscript, asking that Liam send his well wishes to the pack.

 

Liam waits a couple more hours, just in case.

 

He tries not to acknowledge the way his heart shatters more and more each mile away the Bronco drives on the four and a half hour drive home.

 

*****

 

Liam couldn’t be happier to see his parents, really.

 

But after the joy wears off, he just goes through the motions, visits with everyone who's in town.

 

He is interested in their lives, really.  But hearing stories of Scott's honeymoon, and Nolan's big romantic gesture to win over Isaac, moving to Paris... It stings a bit.  Everyone in the pack has someone.

 

And it makes Liam think of Theo.

 

It's stupid.

 

He oesn't bring up Theo at all, despite the newfound information that some of the pack, even his own mother, had tried to keep in touch with the other man.

 

After a few days, Liam finds himself in the McCall home for the big Christmas Eve pack gift exchange.

 

“Sweetie, oh my gosh.”  Jenna gasps suddenly. Liam looks at his mother in alarm.  She looks up from her phone and frowns. “I completely spaced and I forgot the presents for Stiles to bring home to his twins.  Can you go get them honey?”

 

Liam stares at her.  He's tired. He can't help but snap at her.

 

“Seriously?”

 

He looks at Dr. Geyer for confirmation that she's not joking.  The tall, foreboding wall of a man looks away with a whistle. Jenna’s eyes harden and he knows it's no use to argue.  He doesn't want to ruin this week with his parents. He's been looking forward to this for weeks. It's not really their fault he's in a snit.

 

“Fine, mom.  Fine,” Liam groans like an old man as he eases himself off the couch he had just settled into.

 

“Sweetheart, you'll be back before the rest of the pack gets here, I'm sure.”  Jenna walks up to Liam with a huff and drops the keys into his waiting hands. “Now hurry, Liam.”

 

“Fuck.”  Liam whispers under his breath.

 

He hears Malia short and shoots her an unhappy frown before stalking out the front door.

 

The drive to his house is quiet.

 

Liam doesn't feel quite up to the task of syncing his Bluetooth to his mom's Tesla.  Nor does he feel like listening to the cheery sound of Paul McCartney and Wings or whatever the radio can come up with to offer.

 

He sees Theo’s zippy little car from all the way down the street and almost slams on the brakes.  The car is empty. Liam sees it's owner sitting on the front steps of the porch. Liam steps out of his mom's car calmly, despite his heart pounding erratically in his ribcage.

 

He can hear Theo's too and feels like he's at such an unfair advantage.

 

Theo stands when Liam gets closer.  They stare at eachother for a few tense seconds until Liam puts Theo out of his misery.

 

“You came.”

 

“You said I could.”

 

“I meant it.”  Liam nods. “You're always welcome at this house.”

 

“So your mom tells me in her monthly Beacon Hills update text.”  Theo shrugs.

 

“Did you keep in touch with fucking everyone? ”  Liam rolls his eyes.

 

“No.”  Theo frowns.  “Not Mason and Corey.  They can't keep a secret for shit.”

 

“Fair.”

 

“I'm sorry.”  Theo rushes the words out.  “I did the same fucking thing as I did all those years ago and it took me driving to the Bay and jumping in the fucking ocean to get out of my own head and realize that-”

 

“Theo, it's fine.”

 

“No, it's not fine.”  Theo groans and Liam can see the man start to tear up.  “I just… I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around everything.  I don't know why you would want me here, especially after all this time.”

 

“I always wanted you with me.”

 

“Not like I wanted you.”  Theo sobs. He shoves his face in his hoodie sleeve and hiccups uncontrollably for a few seconds.  “God, Liam. I respected that. It made sense. It was the right way to feel. I wasn't ever going to be good for you, and I couldn't do shit anymore to help the pack.  So, I did what was best for everyone. And it was. You're doing so good. And Scott says everyone here is doing so good. And I was doing good, too.  And then you come back into my life, looking at me like you love me.  Like... like I'm the one that got away or something. And now you're saying that you’ve always wanted me there with you... this whole time.”

 

Theo shakes his head and sits back down on the front steps.

 

“I don't know what to do with that, Liam.  God. What am I supposed to do now?”

 

Liam wants to reach out.  He wants to hug the older man into his chest.

 

Theo just keeps crying.  It's weird, but at the same time it's not.  Liam wants to cry too. He has since that first night his car broke down.  He’s wanted to cry every morning since he got back to Beacon Hills. But everytime he feels like crying, he thinks about how happy Theo looked in his tiny cabin in the hills.  He thinks about how much he'd worried that first year that Theo was off in danger somewhere, homeless, friendless, alone. And Liam can't help but feel content with the knowledge that Theo had been okay.  Great, even.

 

And while his heart had always hurt a little when his thoughts drifted to the chimaera who had briefly been the center of his world, Liam had been pretty great, too.  He had to admit, that might not have been this successful and happy if he'd known about Theo and fixated on finding a way to fix it. He might've taken time off school or something immature that would have been understandable, but would have held him back.

 

He's not about to thank Theo for anything, but he's man enough to admit it might have been for the best.  For both of them.

 

“What do you want to do?”  Liam croaks out, voice tight with emotion.  Theo looks up, eyes still red and wet. Liam steps forward and crouched down.  He wipes away the moisture from one Theo's cheeks. “I loved you. I really did.  I didn't know what I wanted, yeah. You're right. I mean... You were a fucking pain, but I loved you.”

 

Theo hiccups quietly again and looks down.

 

“Theo, you're definitely not the one that got away,”  Liam whispers. Theo laughs humorlessly and goes to pull away from Liam's touch, but Liam reaches his other hand up to hold Theo there.  “You didn't get away... Because by some weird creepy act of destiny or some shit, I found you again. And it took me less than 24 hours to figure out that I love you.  Not still, but again .”

 

Theo’s eyes widen in shock.

 

“Theo, if you don't want to be in touch with me, for whatever reason…”  Liam takes a deep breath and pointedly continues staring into Theo's bright, shining eyes.  “That's fine, Theo. I'll respect that. And I'll be okay. But if you stay in my life, Theo… I'm going to love you.  It's never really been an option not to.”

 

Theo nods and he starts to tear up again.

 

“Yeah.”  Theo inhales, sniffling in an unfamiliar, human way.  “Yeah, same.”

 

“So you want that?”  Liam let's himself start to smile a little.

 

Theo returns it with a shy one of his own, still sniffling.  Instead of answering, he goes to stand, pulling Liam up with him and pressing a hard, cold, slightly damp kiss to the corner of Liam's mouth.  Liam laughs and captures Theo's mouth in a deeper kiss.

 

They pull away breathless and lean their foreheads together.

 

“God, you were right.”  Theo giggles out.

 

It's another new sound that Liam has never heard, and his heart thuds at the thought of getting to know Theo all over again.

 

“Bout what?”  Liam asks, unable to resist kissing Theo’s laughing mouth quickly.

 

“I really do make scenes.”  Theo sighs.

 

Liam laughs into his mouth until Theo kisses him quiet.

 

They don't make it back to the Christmas gathering till an hour later.  The pack couldn’t be happier when they do arrive, hand in hand.

 

Liam finally gives Scott and the rest of the pack shit about keeping Theo's secret, but it's with such a blinding smile, no one takes him seriously.