Beacon Hills is celebrating. The Anuk-ite has been defeated, Kate and Gerard Argent are finally dead, Brett and Lori are both recovering well after the attempt on their lives, Monroe and her remaining lackeys are in FBI custody, and the townspeople of Beacon Hills are finally realising the supernatural community is here to help them, not to hurt them.
They've toasted the ones they lost in the process, talking through their grief and sharing funny stories. Argent left quite early, followed by Melissa. Liam can't blame him; regardless of what side they were on, Argent has lost his entire family to this war. It's no wonder he isn't in the mood for celebrating. Stiles and Derek dragged each other away not long after, Stiles whining about needing to be careful with his injured foot despite being in the lead. They got more than a few wolf whistles, Derek ducking his head in embarrassment while Stiles looked positively gleeful.
Liam pours himself another wolfsbane-laced rum and coke, barely managing not to spill any when Scott envelops him in a hug from behind and kisses his cheek, gushing about how glad he is it's finally over. Scott releases him, ambling back over to Malia and hug-tackling her down onto the couch. Liam looks back over just in time to see Mason and Corey turn invisible against a wall. He smiles to himself, quite frankly glad they're being courteous enough to at least hide if they aren't leaving.
There's just one thing missing. Theo is nowhere to be seen.
He asks around but nobody can remember seeing him recently, if at all. Come to think of it Liam's not sure if he's seen Theo either, or just kind of assumed he would be here.
Theo should be here, celebrating with his pack. They nearly died - some of them did die - but despite all odds, they defeated the biggest threats to Beacon Hills in recent history. They couldn't have done it without his help, he should be here.
Liam downs the contents of his glass, shuddering as the alcohol burns his throat - thank god for concentrated doses of wolfsbane - and pulls his jacket out from beneath Scott's thigh, earning him a glare from Malia when she wobbles precariously on top of him. He smiles apologetically and heads out the door. He's got a chimera to find.
Theo Raeken is many things but predictable is not one of them. Yet here he is, in the first place Liam thought to look for him. The preserve isn't the easiest of places to navigate at the best of times, let alone in the semi-dark, but Liam has familiarised himself enough with it now to easily locate the bridge and the river he once spied on Theo at, what seems like a lifetime ago.
He hasn't acknowledged Liam's presence in any way but it would be impossible for him not to know Liam is here, so Liam approaches him and sits down next to him on the bridge, dangling his legs over the edge and above the water.
"Hey," Liam smiles, a little breathless from the journey out here and from the way the moonlight is framing Theo's face. "We missed you at the party. It's not over yet, you wanna join us?"
Theo doesn't answer immediately but Liam is buzzed enough from the alcohol not to be annoyed by it. "No thanks. I'd rather be alone." He looks at Liam pointedly with the last word.
"Too bad," he beams, overly cheery. "You're stuck with me."
"Ugh, you're even more annoying when you're drunk."
"Not drunk, I just know how to celebrate. Which you should be doing with us."
"And what if I don't want to celebrate?" Theo bites back, a threatening edge to his voice. Liam bristles at his tone, ready to dispute the words until he tells himself that's exactly what Theo wants. He's a master manipulator, adept at deflecting the focus away from himself, at riling people up and turning them against each other. And right now, Theo doesn't want the focus to be on him.
"I remember," he says, gentle. "This is where Tara died."
He doesn't miss the way Theo flinches at the name.
"Go back to your party, Liam. Celebrate. Enjoy yourself."
"I'm good here," he shrugs, swinging his legs over the water, brushing his right foot against Theo's left.
"I swear to god, Liam, leave me alone or I'll-"
"You'll what, punch me?" he snorts. Theo narrows his eyes then looks away. Liam can feel him angrily stewing next to him.
Theo doesn't make any actual moves to punch him, so Liam figures he's fine to stay here. He's become just as used to sitting in silence with Theo as he has bickering with him, so it's not any trouble. At some point it stops becoming a competition of Theo trying to wait Liam out and Liam being too stubborn to leave, and it settles into something companionable. Theo hooked their ankles together when he got sick of Liam swinging his legs, but otherwise neither of them have spoken again yet.
He focuses on the sounds of wildlife in the preserve, thankfully returning now that the influence of the Anuk-ite is gone. It was spooky, the utter dead silence which had engulfed the preserve for a short period, the wildlife too afraid to make any sound.
He also focuses on Theo's heartbeat, pumping in tandem with his own. They both nearly died, more than once, but they're still here. They fought together and they survived together.
The night drags on and Theo shivers from the cold, clad in one of his thin t-shirts rather than something more appropriate. Liam shrugs his jacket off without thinking and places it over Theo's shoulders. The look Theo gives him is enough to make Liam's breath catch in his throat.
"Thanks," Theo mutters, pulling the jacket on properly. Liam smiles at him, forcing his heartbeat to remain steady. The single word is enough to break Theo's apparent vow of silence.
"I don't... that party isn't for me."
Liam wrinkles his eyebrows. "Why not? I want you there, the others want you there. You're pack."
"But I'm not!" Theo snaps. His voice echoes out and the wildlife falls silent once again. He averts his eyes, staring down into the water. Liam follows suit, watching their reflections, but Theo isn't looking at him. "I watched my own sister drown and did nothing to help her. I've killed people for reasons as simple as they got in my way. I'm not pack, I’m a monster."
Even now, when Theo is essentially baring his soul, he's keeping his chemosignals totally under wraps. The average supernatural creature wouldn't know anything was wrong if they hadn't heard what Theo just said. Liam knows him better than that now though.
"I dunno about that. Pretty sure an actual monster wouldn't feel so guilty about what they've done. Pretty sure an actual monster would have taken Kate Argent's side, or Monroe's side, or the Anuk-ite's side instead of taking our side. Pretty sure an actual monster wouldn’t have taken Gabe’s pain. Pretty sure an actual monster wouldn't have saved my ass more times than I can count."
"I think it was at least six."
"Oh come on!” Liam squawks, indignant. “It was like three max."
Theo's mouth quirks up into an almost-smile. "Sure, if you mean only at the hospital. There was also at the zoo, in the locker room with Gabe..."
"Okay, okay, you've made your point. And I've made mine."
Theo averts his eyes again. “I watched my sister die, Liam. I took her heart.”
They both glance down at his chest, his heart still beating in tandem with Liam's. It's uncharted territory between them but Liam knows he has to do it. At the risk of being punched again, he gently places his hand underneath Theo's chin and tilts his head up.
"You were a kid, Theo. You were manipulated, it wasn't your fault. You have to let Tara go. You have to live."
“I don’t know how to,” Theo confesses, barely more than a whisper.
"Then I'll help you. Your pack will help you. But you have to let us."
Liam can't deal with the guilt and pain in Theo's eyes any longer. If words aren't enough then he will need to display through his actions that Theo is worthy of love. They're already so close that Liam's heart starts pounding a little faster, breaking the synchronicity between them. Theo furrows his eyebrows and Liam shifts his hand up from Theo's chin, cupping his cheek instead.
"What are you doing?" Theo mumbles, glancing down at his lips.
"What I should have done in that elevator."
"Until you looked away." The bitterness in his tone surprises Liam.
"I was still trying to work things out, then. I wasn't sure if what I felt was just relief at not being dead yet. But I still feel that way. Honestly? I felt it before the elevator and I still feel it now." He brings his other hand up, framing Theo's face. "Can I?"
Theo nods, his eyes fluttering shut. That's all the confirmation Liam needs. He leans in and closes the distance, tenderly capturing Theo's mouth with his own. Theo pushes closer and grips his side but Liam forces them to keep it gentle - the exact opposite of how he thought this would go in all his fantasies - to show Theo this is so much more than an adrenaline-fuelled, heat of the moment thing. Theo seems to get the message, smiling against his lips as they kiss, and kiss, and kiss.
Theo eventually draws away, maybe five minutes or maybe five hours later. Even in the dark Liam can see the light dusting of pink spread across his cheeks.
"Wow." He starts raising a hand to his lips, as if to touch them but catches himself, settling his hand on Liam's thigh instead.
"Yeah," Liam smiles back. Their hearts are pounding and neither of them are attempting to regulate them. "That was worth living for, huh?"
Theo rolls his eyes. "Maybe."
"Asshole." Liam shoves Theo and the other boy laughs, brushing shoulders with Liam when he leans back in. "So, you want to come back to the party? There are probably some people still there."
"Nah. I've got all the company I need right here."