“Hey,” Liam calls, still halfway down the tunnel leading into the operating theater but perfectly audible, “You almost done?”
Theo ignores him for the moment, focused on checking the temperature of the wolfsbane slowly distilling down; two days ago he’d gotten distracted by an unexpected burst of laughter at some comment Liam had made, and had left the heat up high enough that the glass beaker had shattered and sent wolfsbane-infused liquid fountaining across the room. Inoculated against the effects of the wolfsbane or not, the liquid had still been fucking scalding.
The temperature is fine and the solution is merrily bubbling away, so Theo straightens out of his hunched position, rolls his shoulders as he looks up at Liam just entering the operating theater proper. He’s got a beanie on and is buried inside a BHHS Lacrosse hoodie, his face still red with cold; he’d been sitting outside the storm doors again. Theo considers giving him shit for it for about two seconds, and then he realizes that if he does it, he’ll probably wind up completing his unintentional and completely involuntary transformation into Argent, and so doesn’t.
“This needs twenty minutes. Why?” Theo ask, stripping off his gloves; Lydia had somehow found out—probably thanks to Liam —that Theo had been forgoing them now that he didn’t have to worry about wolfsbane poisoning, and had read him the riot act three days ago for an agonizing thirty minutes.
“Booo,” Liam says, making a face; he’s close enough now to hop up on the empty stretch of table next to Theo and so does, glancing interestedly at the pale blue flowers floating in the simmering solution, “It’s still crazy to me that I could touch those now if I wanted.”
“While they’re floating in boiling hot liquid?” Theo counters mildly; Liam makes another face, “Why’d you ask if I was almost done?”
“Because I’m hungry,” Liam says, shrugging and prodding Theo’s side with his foot, “I want empanadas.”
“You’ve been here for a week and a half,” Theo replies exasperatedly, “How do you already have this much of an addiction?”
“Blame Isabella,” Liam shoots back cheerfully, and attempts to prod Theo again; Theo catches his foot and squeezes his ankle in warning, then lets it fall. Liam just grins and leans back on his palms, kicks his legs as he asks, “Who’s this batch for again, Sacramento?”
“Bakersfield,” Theo corrects absently, scrolling through the data on his tablet as he does, “Sacramento’s is going to have to be double this size.”
The host at Isabella’s gives Theo and Liam what in any setting outside of the service industry would be a shit-eating grin when he sees them come through the doors an hour later, leads them to a table near the kitchen doors specifically because Liam has—somehow—already developed a reputation for obsessively watching the food coming out. Theo rolls his eyes but thanks the kid as he and Liam slide into their seats, Liam’s eyes already fixated on where he can see the cooks at work behind the kitchen counter. They order chips and guacamole while they wait for their entrees because Liam’s stomach is, to quote, about to eat itself, and end up inevitably rehashing the morning’s phone call with Scott, Malia, and Argent as they eat them.
“You don’t think it’s weird that, out of literally nowhere, a hunter family on the other side of the state suddenly spots Monroe from where we last knew her to be?” Liam demands, shoveling a guac-laden chip into his mouth.
“It’s not out of literally nowhere,” Theo counters, a little disgusted and a little fascinated by Liam’s complete disregard for anything approaching manners, “Monroe has been making her way south for weeks. Which makes sense, because—”
“Because Southern California is less crawling with werewolf packs, yeah, yeah,” Liam cuts him off dismissively, Theo glaring at him as he does, “But she was in Modesto three days ago. Why would she suddenly bolt for the border?”
“We think she was in Modesto three days ago,” Theo points out, but feels his brow furrow as he studies Liam’s face, “Why is this bothering you so much? You spent months with Scott running all over the map chasing rumors and potential sightings just like this.”
“Yeah, that’s what makes it weird,” Liam insists, “This wasn’t just a rumor . They were really sure. Like, Chemult pack catching Monroe on that rest stop surveillance footage sure, and Monroe hasn’t screwed up like that since that first time.”
“Everybody makes mistakes,” Theo replies, even as something uneasy briefly squirms in his gut; Liam had a point, “We’ve been hounding her for months, and her main weapon has dramatically decreased in effectiveness, given the number of packs we’ve managed to inoculate. Maybe the stress is getting to her.”
Liam just gives him a knowing look, points at him with a chip as he accuses, “You don’t believe that.”
Theo’s about to reply when Liam’s attention suddenly perks, his posture straightening like some kind of meerkat as he looks fixedly over Theo’s shoulder; their food must be ready. Laughing under his breath, Theo slides his glass and silverware out of the way so that the server—grinning at Liam’s obvious enthusiasm—can set his plate down.
Theo waits until she’s stepped away to tell Liam, “Look. We’ll call Scott and Malia and Argent after we eat, okay? You can test out your theory on Argent.”
Liam’s already shoveled a massive bite of empanada in his mouth, so he just freezes and looks up at Theo, then nods in agreement. Theo bites back another laugh and drops his attention to his own food, picks up his knife and fork because at least one of them should give the impression they were raised in polite society.
The fact that Liam is too busy inhaling his plateful of empanadas to talk is one of the reasons that Theo’s attention is caught the third time a group comes into the restaurant and politely asks the host for a specific table; the other reasons are long-ingrained habit and paranoia. Keeping his movements smooth and easy, Theo picks up his drink and flicks his eyes first to the trio who’d wanted to sit right by the door, even given the fact that they must be getting blasted with cold air every time it opens. The couple by the emergency exit he studies briefly in the reflection of the restaurant windows, and the second trio conveniently walks right by him and Liam along with the host on the way to their table.
Their table right in front of the hallway leading to the bathrooms.
“Liam,” Theo says, low but with a casual expression on his face as he sets his drink back down; he grins when Liam looks up quizzically like he’d just said something clever, “The trio by the bathrooms, the couple by the front door, and the trio by the emergency exit. I need you to tell me what you smell.”
Luckily Liam seems to catch on, and instead of whipping around to stare at any of the tables Theo had pointed out, he takes a break from shoveling food into his mouth to grab his drink, lean back with it in hand with a look on his face like he isn’t particularly impressed with whatever Theo had just said to him. He swirls it around and then takes a drink, but Theo can see from the way that his shoulders rise and fall that he’s inhaling deeply, his eyes drifting briefly closed.
“Mistletoe,” Liam breathes as he opens his eyes back up; if they’re a little wider than they had been, it’s not enough to set any watcher’s alarms to ringing, “Mistletoe and mountain ash.”
Theo bites back a swear, the hold he’d had on his adrenaline and panic slipping loose before he manages to regain his stranglehold around both. Monroe’s people had cut off the two main exits, and the trio by the hallway to the bathrooms were either there to grab Theo or Liam if and when they went to use them, to keep them from fleeing through the door to the salon next door, or both, but there was still the service entrance leading out from the kitchen to the alley behind the strip of shops. Thinking fast but making sure to keep outwardly unaffected, Theo pops another bite of empanada in his mouth, blankets the restaurant with his senses as he does.
He also kicks Liam in the ankle when Liam does nothing but stare at him. Liam jolts, but seems to get the message; he picks one of his empanadas back up and starts eating it, but from the way he seems to be struggling to chew and swallow, his mouth had gone dry.
“Okay,” Theo finally says, still low but not suspiciously so, “Isabella’s in the kitchen. You think you can…?”
Considering that Liam had spent nearly fifteen minutes of their dinner two nights ago waxing rhapsodic about the quality of her empanadas to a bemused but flattered Isabella, Theo is pretty sure Liam can. Liam must think so, too; he nods.
“Go talk to her through the serving window, okay? I’ll stay here like I’m waiting, then get impatient or bored or whatever and come to drag you back,” Theo continues. Liam nods to show he’s understood, takes another bite of his empanada without prompting, “When I tell you, we both go for the service door. Walk. Don’t run until we’re through or you hear them start after us.”
“You don’t think they’ve got people in the alley?” Liam asks quietly, tension around his eyes and the corners of his mouth.
“I’m sure they do, but we’ve got a better chance with the two or three out there, than with the eight in here, especially considering the potential collateral damage,” Theo tells him, “You remember the plan?”
He means, do you remember the plan that Argent and I developed in case something exactly like this happened. It’d originally been designed for Theo and Malia, but given their reshuffled teams, Argent and Theo had sat Liam down and made him tell them the plan over and over until Liam was practically gnawing off his own wrists in frustration, and they were satisfied he had it. Given the short, confident nod that Liam gives to Theo’s question, Theo doesn’t regret a second of Liam’s bitching.
“Alright,” Theo murmurs, and feels his adrenaline start to slip loose again, but he doesn’t clamp down on it as hard this time, instead letting it flow slowly into his veins, his muscles, “You ready?”
Liam sucks in a deep breath—over his shoulder Theo can see the trio of Monroe’s people by the main entrance doing a terrible job of not watching him do it—and then he nods, fakes a passably convincing smile. Theo makes a face as he gets up and Liam makes one right back, and if it’s a little over-acted, Theo’s probably the only one in the room who knows Liam well enough to realize. In a few short seconds, Liam is over by the serving counter, already joking with the waitstaff dodging around him and dryly flirting with the cooks as he leans against the counter with his forearms and calls Isabella’s name, starts talking with her when she laughs and comes forward to talk with him.
Theo doesn’t bother listening to what they say, his eyes on Monroe’s people in the reflection of the windows, out of the corner of his eye; in the shiny surface of the knife he tilts up to see the trio behind his and Liam’s table. All of them had gone momentarily tense when Liam had stood, the three by the bathrooms chairs creaking as they’d abruptly stiffened, and it takes them a few long, slow seconds to relax back down. They watch Liam carefully, barely even pretending not to anymore, but after nearly a minute of Liam casually chatting with Isabella, with the staff, their attention starts to wander.
Taking that as his cue, Theo makes sure to huff out a clearly visible sigh as he stands, sticks his hands in his pockets as he ambles his way over to Liam. Considering that Malia had been near as obsessed with Isabella’s empanadas as Liam has turned out to be, the staff all know him; they greet him warmly and don’t complain when he takes up another foot of counter space next to Liam, joins in his conversation with Isabella. In the reflection of the chrome counters, the overhead warming lights, Theo can see the spread of Monroe’s people briefly panic, unsure how to react to his and Liam’s behavior, and he forces back a grin, keeps talking with Isabella, needling Liam.
He and Liam have to briefly move out of the way as the serving window fills with dishes and several servers come forward to take them. Theo glances out into the restaurant and sees the table of eight—a birthday party, he guesses, based on the handful of wrapped packages tucked under people’s chairs—and starts quickly calculating trajectories, eyelines.
Talking low so that only Liam can hear him, Theo murmurs, “Use the servers as a screen. When they block your view of the three by the bathrooms, go.”
Liam gives a barely imperceptible nod, and ten seconds later, when the servers slip in between him and the row of tables nearest them, he moves—not too fast, not too slow—for the kitchen door. Theo gives it two more seconds, enough time for the servers to block his view, and then he goes, too.
“Wha—Liam, Theo what are you…?” Isabella asks as they appear in the doorway.
“We’re really sorr—” Liam starts to say, still on the move but his hands up and gesturing apologetically, except that Theo hears an alarmed shout from outside in the restaurant and the scrape of several chairs and he swears, shoves Liam forward hard as he yells go!, cutting him off.
Liam takes off with Theo on his heels, Isabella and the cooks gasping and yelling in surprise as the doors bang open behind them; Monroe’s hunters coming through. Swallowing a curse, Theo grabs a prep table, engages his supernatural strength as he drags it sideways, pulling it behind himself and Liam and blocking the hunters’ paths. He hears them slam into and swear viciously but doesn’t stop to look, just keeps his eyes on Liam as Liam shoulders open the service entrance door, practically flying through it.
The momentum ends up working in his favor: the hunter who’d had a crossbow fixed on the entrance mistimes the shot and ends up embedding a bolt in the metal of the door a foot to the right of Liam’s right kidney. That second is all Theo needs to dart through the door after Liam, claws already out and slicing through the unprotected stretch of the hunter’s extended arm, then the hunter’s throat when the woman shrieks in pain and drops the crossbow and her arms.
The second hunter does better with his shot but Liam’s prepared, dodges it easily and takes the hunter down, using the wall as a jump-point to gain more force; Theo can practically hear the hunter’s spine snapping under the weight. Blood is streaming from his mouth and nose when Theo runs past him down the alley after Liam; the tackle must have sent some of his ribs into his lungs.
There’s a third hunter at the mouth of the alley, which isn’t surprising but is unfortunate, especially because the door behind Liam and Theo slams back open as the hunters from the restaurant pour out after them. Gritting his teeth, Theo flicks his eyes over the alleyway, looking for something— anything —that could help them.
He sees it, and yells, “Liam!”
He means, take care of the third hunter, and Liam must get it because he doesn’t respond, but he does snarl, loud and meant to intimidate and successful, if the way the third hunter’s heartbeat goes wild. Ignoring that for the moment, Theo skids to a stop and pivots, turns back and dives for the second hunter’s body; for the hopefully-smoke-grenade strapped to the man’s waist. Grenade in hand, he comes up on his knees and immediately pulls the pin, throws it towards the quickly-approaching hunters.
They yell in alarm and Theo has just enough time to think oh, shit, not a smoke grenade, and squeeze his eyes shut before the flash-bang erupts. The sound instantly sets his ears to ringing, and if the wet trickle down the side of his neck is any indication, had ruptured his eardrums.
But the fact that he’d closed his eyes in time means he can see, so he blinks his eyes open and staggers to his feet, forcing his attention to the mass of hunters down the alley all moaning and covering their eyes, stumbling thanks to their probably-blown ears. Smirking in vicious satisfaction, Theo leans down and swipes one more thing from the dead hunter’s body, and then takes off down the alley, his balance getting better and better as his healing fixes his eardrums.
Liam is nowhere to be seen when he initially comes out onto the street, but he almost instantly barrels into Theo’s side—Theo barely pulling back his reflexive strike—and starts dragging him away from the alley. There’s blood on the side of face and the arm of his shirt is torn and stained red, but he seems relatively unhurt, his grip almost painfully strong on Theo’s arm as they run.
After a few blocks—sirens in the distance; Isabella or someone at the restaurant must have called the police—Theo turns the tables and grabs Liam instead, jerks him to a stop as he orders, “Stop. Stop running,” nearly panting it out.
Hard as it clearly is for him—his teeth gritting, and his body practically vibrating with adrenaline—Liam does. But he must have remembered what Theo and Argent had hammered into him, because he doesn’t stop, just starts walking instead, aiming for casual and getting maybe seventy percent there. Theo does the same, his eyes intently studying the streets, looking for any suspicious cars while his hands fiddle with his stolen walkie-talkie, searching for the frequency Monroe and her people are using.
He finds it just as he hears someone shout we’re turning onto State and Second now, giving him just enough time to get ahold of Liam’s shirt and yank him unceremoniously into a darkened shop doorway just as a black SUV goes barreling past them. Liam stares at him in the shadow of the alcove, wide-eyed and shoulders heaving with his unsteady breathing; Theo sees it as well as feels it, his fingers still twisted in Liam’s shirt and resting on his chest.
“Okay,” Theo breathes after a long fifteen seconds have passed and there’s no sound of screeching brakes or frantic chatter from the walkie-talkie, “Okay, let’s go.”
They experience a few more close calls as they hurry through the streets, but the walkie-talkie always gives them enough warning to dart into alleys or behind corners, and before long they’re at the currently vacant business park where Argent had stashed a beat-up old car; easy to overlook and almost worthless to steal. Theo fishes his keys out of his pocket and momentarily despairs for his truck still back at Isabella’s, but shoves it aside and gets the car unlocked, Liam already at the passenger-side door and impatiently waiting.
“Call Scott,” Theo orders, the second they’re both in the car and he’s gotten them on the road.
Liam pulls out his phone but then immediately grimaces, “No service. They must be jamming the signal, like they did in Beacon Hills.”
“Fucking fantastic,” Theo mutters viciously under his breath, his eyes carefully scanning the roads and his ears on the walkie-talkie he’d shoved in the car’s cracked and sun-faded cup-holders as he gets them headed towards the highway, “Keep trying. The second we get out of range, call him.”
Liam doesn’t argue or say something smart, clearly demonstrating how completely freaked-out he must be; Theo grits his teeth and resists the urge to drive faster, forces himself to keep their speed at a reasonable ten over the limit while still within the city limits. He and Malia had gotten the Dorris-Yreka drive down to a near-science, but they’d never had to do it with a small army’s worth of hunters on their tail; an hour and ten minutes suddenly feels like an eternity.
Liam spends the next thirty minutes alternately trying to call Scott and asking Theo increasingly demanding questions about how the fuck they found us . Theo starts out replying as patiently as he can, but ends up snarling I don’t fucking know! thirty miles out from Yreka, because he doesn’t. He and Argent may have anticipated that Monroe and her people would figure out that a dedicated duo was staying in place in Dorris, and they'd done everything they could to try and minimize that happening, but none of that answered Liam’s question.
What it did answer was why now . Theo has to shove aside the voice in his head furiously berating him for missing the signs, Liam saying you don’t think it’s weird : Monroe had somehow tricked Scott and the other packs into thinking she was on the other side of the state. She’d isolated Liam and Theo best she could, making the most troubling question what the hell does she want, and none of the answers Theo can imagine are pleasant.
It’s only after Liam subsides that Theo realizes what the feeling buzzing insistently away in the back of his brain is: alarm, because the walkie-talkie is suspiciously silent and had been for awhile. Dread curling fast and thick in his gut, Theo finds his gaze dragging away from the road to the device, and then he jerks and swears, his eyes flying back to the road.
He tries to crank the wheel to get them out of the way, but it’s too late: the SUV that had been steadily coming towards them in oncoming traffic jerks into their lane, driving them off the road.
Theo comes back to consciousness gasping and choking on thick, smoke-filled air, his eyes stinging and watering and his chest aching where the seatbelt had snapped taut across it.
Arching his head back and desperately trying to breathe, Theo tips his head sideways and immediately goes rigid, because Liam’s seat is empty, the passenger door hanging wide open. Theo’s still staring in mute panic at the place where Liam should be but isn’t, only to jerk when his door suddenly flies open and Liam appears in the doorway, the side of his face caked with blood and his eyes wild.
“We’ve got to go, Monroe’s people are coming,” He says, all in a frantic rush, already diving for Theo’s seatbelt. His weight across Theo’s chest is agonizing, but Theo can’t manage a protest, the pain too sharp, and anyway: Liam gets the seatbelt undone and leans back almost immediately, “C’mon, c’mon.”
He gets his arms under Theo’s and bodily hauls him out of the wreck, drags him a few feet away. Theo does his best to cooperate, but his legs are shaky—his left had clearly been broken and is still sluggishly healing, along with what feels like the entirety of the ribs on his right side—and his balance is shot. Liam barely seems to notice, just gets his shoulder braced under one of Theo’s arms and starts them hobbling as fast as possible for the nearby woods.
“Yreka,” Theo gasps, “Liam, we’ve got to head towards—”
“I know,” Liam snaps, “This is the way, I checked my phone compass and everything.”
Under any other circumstances Theo would mock him mercilessly for that, but now he just groans and then grits his teeth, forces his legs back into the game. Within another half-minute he’s healed if still aching, which is none too soon, because Theo can hear the sound of car doors slamming and shouting behind them. Try as he might to focus his hearing, try and pick out how many hunters, how far behind they are, his ears are still ringing from the crash, and he can’t.
Except then he doesn’t need to guess as to two of the hunters, because Rossler suddenly yells, “Where you going, Liam? C’mon, now! Me and Preston came all this way just to see you!”
Liam stumbles in surprise, his head immediately jerking to face back the way they’d come, his expression gone rigid. The sudden change in direction and momentum means Theo ends up all but colliding with him, one hand landing on Liam’s chest to steady himself and feeling Liam’s heart beating furiously underneath it.
“Liam,” Theo murmurs warningly, “Liam, don’t do this. Don’t let them get to you. If we don’t get to Yreka, we are dead.”
But right after he finishes speaking, Rossler calls, practically sing-songing, “Li—am. You want to know something interesting? That mutt and his bitch sister that me and Preston killed, they had a very touching moment right at the end, did you see?”
Liam goes even more rigid, his eyes flaring and his lips peeling back from his fangs in a fierce, if silent, snarl.
“The mutt was already dead, we’re pretty sure, but his sister crawled over to him so she could hold his hand at as we revved up for a second run. It was beautiful, wasn’t it, Preston?” Rossler continues; even without the full scope of his supernatural hearing, Theo can tell he’s closer.
“Liam!” He hisses, one hand coming up to grab the back of Liam’s head, force Liam to look at him, “Don’t.”
Liam stares at him fixedly for a few—too many —seconds, his chest under Theo’s other hand heaving, and then he makes a frustrated noise and loops Theo’s arm back around his shoulders, starts them moving quickly forward again; away from Rossler still cajolingly yelling behind them.
Another dozen or so yards and Theo can take his arm back, start running shoulder-to-shoulder with Liam instead. But almost instantly he realizes—his sister’s heart sinking in his chest—that it isn’t going to matter; with his hearing almost entirely back, he can hear the hunters. More importantly, he can hear them closing in, a whole formation of them spread out through the woods and slowly pinching in to surround him and Liam. Closing his eyes and cursing everything he can think of, Theo reaches out and grabs Liam’s arm, drags him to a stop.
“Theo, what the hell?” Liam demands, and tries to yank his arm out of Theo’s grip, start running again.
Theo just grabs Liam’s arm again, keeps him in place, “Liam, you need to roar.”
Liam stops trying to fight him and just stares at him in confusion, “What? Theo, if I roar they’re going to know exactly where we are. They’ll catch—!”
“They’re going to catch us, Liam!” Theo cuts him off fiercely. Liam’s eyes go wide and he glances around frantically, like he’s expecting Monroe’s people to come pouring through the trees any second, “We’re not getting to Yreka but we should be close enough for one of her pack to hear you if you roar.”
Liam gets a look on his face like he’s clearly considering arguing more, but then all at once he switches tracks, says, “Then we should both do it, right?”
Theo just shakes his head, “I can’t, it won’t work.” At Liam’s furrowed brow he grits his teeth, forces the explanation past his teeth because it’ll take less time than trying to get Liam to let it go, “I’m not a werewolf, and I’m not part of Scott’s pack. Liam, it has to be you. Roar!”
Liam stares at him for an agonizing few additional seconds, and then he grimaces and takes half a step back, sucks in a deep breath before doing as Theo instructed and roaring.
The sound hits Theo like a goddamn pile driver, and even standing right next to Liam and staring fixedly at his tilted-back head, the instinct to go to him, to find him, is near overwhelming; Theo just prays it’s the same for any members of the Yreka pack who may hear it. Come find us, Theo begs them silently, please, please come find us.
Except that thought gets torn loose when Liam’s roar abruptly cuts off and he gives a choked cry instead, a crossbow bolt punching through his chest. Theo gasps his name and catches him as he staggers, both his hands instantly going around Liam’s back to find the bolt, break off the end so that he can reach back around and pull it out of Liam’s chest. Liam groans as he does it, his head on Theo’s shoulder and his face in Theo’s neck, his fingers spasming around Theo’s arms.
It’s rendered a wasted effort almost immediately; two more crossbow bolts come flying out of the trees to imbed themselves in Liam’s flesh, one in his lower left calf and the other his right shoulder. He hits his knees, and while Theo instantly moves to follow him, he—can’t, another two crossbow bolts cutting through the air to catch him one in the right thigh, one in the stomach. Oh, fuck, Theo thinks, staggering back; the goddamn things were coated in mistletoe. And worse, he realizes, his vision already starting to tunnel as another volley splits the air through the trees, another bolt slamming into his shoulder and Liam giving another pained cry: they were shafted in mountain ash.
Liam, he thinks desperately, his knees giving out, but it’s too late; he looks up as a shadow falls across his face, and catches Richmond’s vicious smirk seconds before Richmond raises the stock of the crossbow in his hands and then slams it down against the side of Theo’s face.
When he wakes up next, it’s because someone has thrown a bucket of freezing cold water on him.
Gasping and choking, Theo tries reflexively to jerk away and finds that he can’t, because his wrists and ankles are secured to the legs and arms of a metal chair. Worse yet, the damn thing is bolted to the floor; Theo can feel it in the way that the chair groans but doesn’t budge as he moves. The next thing he realizes, agony racing up his spine and settling at the base of skull like somebody has their hand around his spinal column, is that either the chair or his body itself or both are electrified, the current a constant, vicious burn preventing his healing from kicking in; keeping the shift locked under his skin.
Blinking open his eyes beneath his dripping wet brow and hair, Theo still has to fight to get them to focus, his vision swimming both from the water and from pain. The first thing he sees are the jumper cables connecting his chair to a car battery sitting a few feet away. Swearing, Theo forces his gaze up and out, looking for more clues as to where the hell he is, and then he instantly jerks against his bonds, his vision clearing and some of the haziness in his mind yanked away like someone had pulled a curtain back, because he sees Liam across from him, secured the same way.
Jesus, Liam, Theo thinks, studying Liam intently. He looks fucking awful, the bloodstains on his clothes obvious even though they’re now soaked, his shoulders and chest heaving as he apparently pants for air. His eyes look clear, though, and his mouth is open in half a snarl from where he’s staring at the group of hunters spread leisurely around a table off to the side. When he notices Theo’s attention, though, he immediately turns to stare at him, his expression spasming as their eyes lock.
“Oh, good, everyone’s awake,” A silky voice suddenly announces, and Theo feels his spine go rigid as both his and Liam’s attention snaps to the side—Theo’s mind absently cataloguing concrete, pillars, fluorescent lighting; a warehouse, maybe?—to look at Monroe as she comes strolling casually into view.
“Monroe,” Liam snarls, low and furious and dripping with threat even without the shift lengthening his teeth or turning his voice into a growl.
“Liam,” Monroe echoes sweetly, and comes to a stop in between their two chairs.
She smiles benevolently first at Liam, then at Theo; Theo peels back his own lips in a snarl. Monroe just smiles, like he’d pulled a particularly cute trick, and motions to one of the hunters standing off to the side. The man comes forward and hands her what Theo realizes, after a moment of confusion, is a pair of thick rubber gloves. Monroe takes them and thanks the man as he retreats back to his circle of rubbernecking hunters, but doesn’t pull the gloves on yet, just holds them absently in one hand as she puts her hands on her hips, flicks her attention between Liam on one side and Theo on the other.
“Well, this is quite the situation we’ve all landed in, here,” Monroe finally says, bending loosely at the waist to tap a toe against the dirty concrete beneath her feet; her whole posture easy and unconcerned and deliberately meant to get under Theo’s and Liam’s skin, which: from the way Liam jerks furiously in his bonds, it’s working. Monroe smiles patronizingly at him again, and then continues, “My intention was to have a nice, easy conversation with you two, but your dramatic little escape attempt at the restaurant, followed by your…” She hesitates, tipping her head back and forth like she’s struggling for the word, “cry for help in the woods, means we don’t have as much time as I’d hoped.”
“So sorry to fuck with your plan,” Liam jeers, his wrists still restlessly turning against his bonds.
Monroe just smiles and laughs a little, though the expression doesn’t touch her eyes; Theo stares at the side of her face, the adrenaline in his gut starting to curdle into dread.
“You know, I don’t think you are sorry,” She tells Liam thoughtfully, “But I think you will be.”
Theo feels his muscles go involuntarily rigid as he catches the confident note to her voice, his eyes flying to the side of her face. Monroe notices his attention and looks back, her mouth curving as she tips her head and studies him.
“You see,” She finally explains, her eyes still locked with Theo’s, “I need something from you. And if I’d had more time, we could maybe have done this differently.”
This time Liam doesn’t respond, his better sense maybe hearing the burr of threat in Monroe’s voice and locking his jaw shut, but that almost seems to amuse Monroe more. She looks at him over her shoulder, grinning widely.
“Oh, Liam,” She murmurs, “Always wisening up too late.”
“For someone bitching about lacking time, you sure seem to be wasting a lot of it,” Theo comments lowly; it’s idiotic and he has to fight past his own instincts to do it, but he’d had one thought start to dominate all others: get her attention away from Liam.
Monroe looks back at him, some of her amusement sliding off her face. Theo forces himself to straighten, tip his chin up in challenge; his claws and fangs instinctively try to lengthen, and the jolt of realization when he remembers that he can’t —the electricity still coursing through him—is almost worse than the burn of Monroe’s attention.
“You’re right, of course, Theo,” Monroe finally says, and smiles at him like she’s grateful for the constructive criticism.
But then she sighs, and brings her hands in front of her, briskly pulling on the rubber gloves, and Theo feels the tension between his shoulder-blades winch tight.
“So here’s the thing, boys,” Monroe tells them, looking between them, her mouth curling up in a satisfied smirk when Liam jerks uselessly at his bonds again, “Your little vaccine-making operation has disrupted me and my friends’ attempts to… cleanse this part of the country from its very stubborn supernatural infestation.”
Liam snarls at that but Monroe barely even pauses, though her lips flicker in a smirk.
“So you’re going to tell me where to find the Dread Doctors’ operating theater that you’ve been using as a lab,” Monroe concludes, “so that we can take care of it, and get back to our very important work.”
Off to the side her hunters ripple with laughter, one of them echoing very important work in a smug, insinuating tone of voice. Over Monroe’s shoulder Liam is glaring at Monroe’s back, his jaw clenched hard enough that Theo can see the muscles standing out in sharp relief, the skin around his wrists already rubbed raw from his constant pulling at his bindings. But Theo—he just forces himself to take a few deep breaths and then smirks lazily, leans back like he’d chosen his current chair; like the electricity and the traces of mistletoe still in his blood were creature comforts he was glad to have.
“Operating theater, huh?” Theo comments, meeting Monroe’s eyes when she looks over at him curiously, “Very imaginative, but we’ve got no idea what you’re talking about.”
“Oh, I’m sure,” Monroe replies sweetly, “You and Liam have just been hanging around a one-horse town for months for the culture. Oh, wait!” She suddenly exclaims, “It was you and Malia before, wasn’t it, Theo?” She spins easily on a heel to look at Liam as she says, “At least until Liam here screwed up and nearly got the Carson City alpha’s husband killed, got himself benched.”
Liam snarls at her, fangless but still vicious, and Theo grits his teeth, mind racing: get her attention away from Liam.
“If you know all that, then you’ve been watching us for awhile,” He points out, relief flowing hot down his throat like a jagged pill when Monroe glances at him, “Why do you need us to tell you where the lab is?”
Monroe leaves Liam alone for the moment, turning to face Theo head-on, “Where the operating theater is?” She corrects pointedly. Theo just sets his jaw and doesn’t take the bait, and Monroe sighs, shakes her head in mock despair before she says, “We tried. But McCall and his little band of do-gooders have been relentless, and no matter how often we tried to distract them, we’ve never had as much… breathing room as we needed.”
Theo stares at her, feels his own lips curl up in satisfied smirk as he reads between the lines, “And now without the ability to use your little poison, you’re getting desperate. Followers starting to get antsy, Monroe?”
Monroe’s pleasant expression spasms, though she almost immediately gets it back as she murmurs, “Something like that.”
“Well you can go fuck yourself,” Liam suddenly speaks up, and Monroe’s attention snaps back to him, “Because we’re not telling you shit.”
But alarmingly Monroe just smiles at him, “Oh, Liam—I think you might.”
Liam’s brow furrows; he clearly hadn’t been expecting that response. Monroe laughs quietly and then gestures to one of her men again. He comes forward with something in his hand, and the sight of it so unexpected that it takes Theo a second to convince himself that it really is what it looks like, because what it looks like is an IV bag, tubing and needle and all. Monroe accepts it carefully, her attention briefly leaving Theo and Liam to focus on the bag; Theo tries to use the time to test his bonds again, but it’s useless, just like he expected it to be.
“To answer your earlier question, Theo,” She says absently as she starts unwinding the tubing, the needle held between two fingers, “I know it’s an operating theater and not a lab, because I know where Gerard got the poison he stole originally. And I also know,” she adds, smiling at Theo as she glances up at him, “that creating both the poison and your irritating little vaccine require specialized equipment that only the Dread Doctors had access to.”
“The Hornbrook pack,” Theo realizes before he can stop himself, “That’s why you couldn’t kill the alpha. The poison didn’t get diluted . You’re running out.” Then something occurs to him, and the dread that’d curdled earlier in his gut solidifies in nausea, “You don’t just want to disrupt the vaccine creation, you want to make more poison.”
Monroe’s expression twists with irritation before she gets it back under control, “Always were too smart for your own good, huh, Theo?” She replies pleasantly, though her eyes retain some of their hardness, “We knew you’d found the operating theater and were looking for it even before you created your...vaccine.”
“How did you…?” Theo wonders, just as Liam snaps, “How the fuck would you…?”
But the answer is obvious.
“The hunter family who had the tip,” Theo breathes, staring at her, “They’ve been feeding you information.”
“Very good, Theo,” Monroe congratulates him, “Argent may have poisoned the minds of most of the hunters, but some of them still remember their true purpose.”
Whatever she’d been doing with the IV bag, she’s apparently done; she quits fiddling with it and instead loops the extended tubing around her neck, bag in one gloved hand and needle in the other.
“But like Theo correctly pointed out earlier, we’re running out of time. The Yreka pack is on the move and searching for you,” Over Monroe’s shoulder Liam looks triumphant, but Theo just feels the bottom drop out of his stomach. And worse, Monroe must see the realization cross his face, because she smiles at him, “That’s right, Theo. Our limited time means…limited options.”
Theo just glares at her, refusing to give her the satisfaction of seeing him squirm. Monroe laughs quietly but then sobers some, sighing heavily as she briefly looks away from both him and Liam. She tips her head back like she’s steeling herself to do something necessary but unpleasant, but she’s not that good of an actress; there’s a satisfied curl to her lips as she glances between them.
“One of you is going to tell me where the operating theater is,” She promises them, her fingers flexing around the IV bag and needle in her hands, “And I don’t care who, but I do care how quickly. And so will you.”
“And, what, you’re going to poison us until we tell you?” Liam spits out, and Theo wishes like hell he could tell him to stop.
But Monroe just looks at Liam and says, “Not you,” almost gently.
Theo jerks in his bonds, reflexively and without conscious thought, when Monroe takes the few steps necessary to put her in front of Liam, his lips twisting in a clenched-teeth grimace as he stares at Monroe’s back; his bonds don’t so much as give, though the voltage flowing through him momentarily increases when more of his wet shirt contacts the chair. Neither Monroe nor Liam look at him when he makes a choked noise, their attention fixed on each other, Liam’s with hate and Monroe’s with an easy smile as she kneels down in front of him.
“You see, Liam,” She tells him, low and soothing but perfectly audible, “I can’t touch you. You, I need to deal with Scott.”
Theo can see the instant Liam realizes what she means, and is already helplessly staring at him when Liam’s eyes leave Monroe and snap up to his, Liam’s fierce expression cracking and showing the panic underneath.
“That’s right, Liam,” Monroe murmurs, her gaze still on Liam’s face even though Liam isn’t looking at her anymore, “Theo’s not one of Scott’s betas, and he isn’t part of Scott’s pack. So while I’m sure Scott would be nobly distressed by his death, he just doesn’t have the same worth as a bargaining chip as you.”
Monroe gets smoothly to her feet after that, blithely ignoring Liam gasping out no, wait, behind her. Theo forces his gaze from Liam to Monroe as she walks calmly towards him, the IV bag and needle still cradled delicately in each of her hands. Closer Theo can better see the shimmering liquid in the IV bag, and feels his breath freeze in his throat as he realizes what it is.
“You recognize it,” Monroe breathes, smiling in slow satisfaction as she catches the look on his face. She kneels down in front of him, mirroring the posture she’d taken with Liam, and holds the IV bag a little closer to him; behind her Liam is shouting Monroe, don’t, I’ll fucking—, but Monroe doesn’t pay him any attention, her eyes fixed on Theo, “Between your chimeric immunity to mountain ash and your irritating new inoculation against wolfsbane, it was a bit of a puzzle figuring out what to use.”
She drops her eyes to look thoughtfully at the shimmering IV bag, tilting it this way and that.
“I thought about using mistletoe,” She explains, like they were having a friendly discussion and she was showing him a project she felt particularly proud of. Then she smiles and straightens back to her feet as she concludes, “But this felt more poetic.”
Theo tries to resist his urge to jerk away and fails, though his movements don’t do more than amuse Monroe as she loops the hook of the IV bag over the back of Theo’s chair; Theo can feel her wrapping the hook tight enough around the frame to make it near impossible to dislodge. That done, Monroe takes hold of his bound left arm with a gloved hand and forces it still, her other hovering the needle over the bend of his elbow.
“Struggle if you want,” She warns him, “But it’ll be worse flowing directly into your muscles.”
Biting back a frustrated snarl, Theo tilts his head back and sucks in a few harsh, short breaths, and then—stops fighting, closing his eyes and relaxing his arm under her hands. Monroe murmurs good boy and braces her hand, inserts the IV needle into the vein in his elbow and then—gesturing to one of her goons—secures it with the strip of medical tape the man hands her.
“Monroe, you bitch,” Liam shouts, the metal of his chair creaking and groaning as he fights his bonds, “What are you doing to him? What the hell is that?”
“It’s mercury, Liam,” Monroe tells him pleasantly, straightening from over Theo; behind her Liam sucks in horrified breath.
“No. No, Monroe, there’s no cure for that, you said—!” Liam yells, his voice breaking; Theo knows he should look at him, try and—do something, calm him down, but can’t; he squeezes his eyes shut instead, his arm already starting to burn icily as the IV drips mercury into his veins.
“I said I cared how quickly one of you told me where the operating theater is, and I said you would, too,” Monroe interrupts, turning to look fixedly at Liam over her shoulder, “At the current rate of infusion, Theo has a little under forty minutes before his system will no longer be able to heal from the mercury. So one of you has until then to tell me where to find what I need, or Theo here ends like he began,” Monroe concludes, her voice suddenly gone vicious, grabbing Theo’s chin and forcing him to look up at her, “as one of the Dread Doctors’ failed experiments.”
She releases his chin, but then she glances thoughtfully over her shoulder at where Liam has doubled his efforts—uselessly, but valiantly—against his bonds, all manner of abuse spilling from his mouth, and leans down to brace her hands atop Theo’s wrists, grinding them into the metal armrests below them.
“Can I tell you a secret, Theo?” She murmurs, and smiles serenely when Theo does nothing but glare at her, “I don’t think it’s going to be you that breaks.” Theo can feel his expression spasm with surprise, and given how closely Monroe is watching him, she must see it, too, “I think you’d die before you’d risk getting more blood on your hands, given your absurd little quest for redemption.” She stops, tilts her head, then comments: “Which is an unfortunate waste, but…”
She takes one gloved hand off the chair and brushes it across his cheek, Theo attempting to jerk away from it but unable to get very far.
“But here’s the thing, Theo,” Monroe continues, putting her hand back and bracing harder against both, Theo having to grit his teeth against the pain of his grinding wrist bones as she leans in close enough to whisper in his ear, “I don’t think Liam’s going to be able to take watching you die.”
Theo waits until she’s leaned back, a satisfied smirk on her face, and then he tells her, low and fierce, “I think you’re underestimating how much he hates you.”
Monroe just smiles at him, pats him on the cheek as she straightens, “Maybe. But I don’t think I’m the one underestimating how he feels about me.”
She gestures to her people, and they start trailing out of the—warehouse? Garage? Where the hell are they? —room towards wherever Monroe had initially appeared from.
Monroe keeps smiling down at Theo until they’re gone, and then she raises her voice so that Liam can hear her too as she says, “We’ll be back in thirty minutes to see what you’ve decided.”
Her eyes lock with Theo’s, and Liam’s probably yelling vitriol too loud to hear her murmur:
“Let’s hope Liam makes the right choice, huh, Theo?”
And then she turns on her heel, and is gone.
Useless as he knows it is, Theo spends the first fifteen of his and Liam’s allotted thirty minutes trying to force his way loose of his bonds.
Liam spends the whole time trying to help, his voice hoarse and occasionally cracking as he says what about the zip-ties, can you break them like you did when Monroe captured you last time? But Theo can’t, because these zip-ties are military-grade and the voltage flowing through them isn’t high enough to overheat them like before. What about the IV bag, can you dislodge it? But Theo can’t do that either, because Monroe had made sure it was secured tightly to his chair’s frame before she left. He can’t knock the chair over because it’s bolted to the floor. He can’t get the needle out of skin because it’s taped too securely down.
And then, Theo taking a break from struggling against the zip-ties, the chair—the IV needle—to catch his breath, the first drop of silver blood falls from his nose to land on the seat of the metal chair between his legs. Theo freezes, staring at it.
“Theo, what’s happening?” Liam demands, either seeing or sensing his sudden tension.
Another drop falls from his nose to splash next to the first, and Theo feels his breathing start to speed again, his pulse begin to race. His eyes locked on the growing puddle, Theo’s mind starts automatically calculating, too much time spent with Lydia and Dr. Geyer and Ms. McCall absorbing their knowledge about biology and chemistry like begrudging osmosis to stop himself, body mass and rates of infusion and speeds of cellular absorption all spooling themselves out. Monroe had said he had forty minutes before the amount of mercury in his system surpassed his body’s ability to heal itself, but Theo—Theo thinks she might be wrong.
“Theo,” Liam snaps, but Theo keeps his head tilted down, distance and the lack of Liam’s werewolf sight working in his favor, because the silver blood is starting to drip steadily from his nose now, and the second he looks up, Liam is going to see it.
Can I tell you a secret, Theo? Monroe had murmured, leaned over Theo with her bracing hands deliberately grinding his wrist bones together against the arms of the chair she’d tied to him to, I don’t think Liam is going to be able to take watching you die . Closing his eyes, feeling the air stutter in and out of his chest as he breathes, Theo concentrates on the too-quick thump-thump of his sister’s heart in his chest, and then he slowly opens his eyes back up.
“Liam,” He says quietly, head still tilted down and his gaze focused on the spreading puddle of silver blood pooling on the chair between his legs, “I need you to do something for me.”
“What?” Liam breathes, clearly confused as to why Theo’s stopped struggling, and when he speaks next suspicion has kicked his voice up an octave, “Theo, I don’t know what you’re thinking, but don’t—”
“Liam,” Theo interrupts him calmly, steadily; gently. Still, he has to briefly squeeze his eyes shut as the poorly-hidden panic in Liam’s voice scratches at his resolve. But: “I need you to promise me something.”
“No,” Liam immediately spits out, and from the barrage of sounds that Theo can hear, he’s renewed his struggles against his bonds, “No. You are not pulling some kind of bullshit, self-sacrifice…You’re the one always accusing Scott of having a martyr-complex!”
“It’s not that,” Theo disagrees quietly, “It’s—”
“Wait. Theo, wait,” Liam cuts him off, and Theo’s whole expression twists with pain—the movement causing the flow of silver blood from his nose to briefly increase—because Liam’s begging now, “Please, just listen to me. What if we tell her? Theo, just listen,” Liam says loudly and more insistently, even though Theo hadn’t yet managed to say anything, “There has to be another operating theater somewhere, right? So even if—even if,” He falters, but then soldiers on, “Even if we tell her where to find this one, we can just—we can find another one to start making the vaccine again.”
But Theo just shakes his head, though he winces and stops immediately when it sends pain shooting up his spine; he coughs and then gags, because the movement coats the inside of his mouth with mercury-infused blood. It takes him almost half a minute to recover, Liam saying Theo, what’s wrong?, over and over, higher and more desperate each time.
“Finding this operating theater was a fluke, Liam, remember?” Theo finally says, speaking past his mouthful of silver blood, though he can feel it start to stain his lips as he does, “There are so many things I still don’t remember, and we have no guarantee that I ever would be able to recall the location of another one.”
“You will,” Liam insists, “Between you and Argent and Scott and the others, we can find one. We’ll find one.”
“And just let Monroe go back to poisoning packs with the equipment she steals from this operating theater while we stumble around?” Theo counters gently, “She’ll be even more deadly, Liam. She’ll be able to make as much of the poison as she wants.”
But Liam just shouts, “I don’t care! ”
It’s enough to snap Theo’s head reflexively up, though he instantly regrets it when Liam makes a choked noise, his eyes fixed on the lower half of Theo’s face; on the silver blood now flowing steadily from Theo’s nose and covering his lips and chin. His eyes fly up to Theo’s and Theo can’t help the way that his own expression cracks open, gone twisted and pinched with pain.
But Liam’s horrified speechlessness gives him enough time to respond to Liam’s confession; he holds Liam’s eyes and tells him, “I do. I care.”
Liam just stares at him, breathes, “What?”
Theo swallows, then jerks and winces when the action coats his throat with the sharp taste of his mercury-infused blood. Fighting past it, Theo forces his eyes back open and refocuses on Liam, reminds him quietly, “I’ve killed a lot of people, Liam, either directly or because I helped—helped others to kill.”
Liam flinches bodily, his eyes briefly jerking away from Theo. His shoulders start to heave even faster; Theo can see them even with his steadily-blurring sight. So Theo just says Liam gently, waits until Liam looks reluctantly up at him, pain and grief all over his face.
“I don’t want to be the reason that anyone else dies,” He tells Liam, and Liam rips his gaze away from Theo’s again, starts jerking frantically and uselessly at his bonds; he gives a wounded cry that Theo thinks he might not even realize he’s made. The sight twists the core of Theo up enough that it hurts almost more than the harsh burn of the mercury in his veins, and he says desperately, “Liam. Liam, please.”
“You can’t ask me to do this,” Liam tells him fiercely, still struggling. A second later he gives another rough cry and then stops thrashing around, meets Theo’s eyes as he pleads, “Please don’t ask me to do this.”
“Liam,” Theo just says gently, “Promise me you won’t tell her where to find the operating theater.”
“No! ” Liam yells, looking away and yanking at his bonds again; even with the shift still locked under his skin Theo can smell blood as the bindings on Liam’s wrists apparently cut through his skin, “No! You can’t ask me to—”
“Please,” Theo interrupts, and now he’s the one begging, “ Please, Liam—I can’t be the reason anyone else dies.”
A metal clang cuts through the air just as Liam opens his mouth to respond, and they both freeze, realizing what it means: their thirty minutes are up. Liam jerks his gaze back to Theo’s from where he’d been staring to the side, towards the noise, and Theo holds it intently, desperately.
“Promise me,” He whispers, just loud enough for Liam to hear him.
Liam stares at him for one long, stretched second, then two, then three, footsteps getting closer to them all the while. But then his expression crumples, agony raw on his face, and he squeezes his eyes shut, drops his head helplessly down.
“I promise,” He whispers brokenly, just as Monroe steps back into view.
“So, boys. What have we decided?” Monroe asks, her hands holding her rubber gloves and perched on her hips, her lips curling up in a smirk.
She’s flanked on either side by Richmond and one other hunter, both of whom’s eyes flick to the silver blood coating the bottom half of Theo’s face and grin. Theo bites back a snarl and forces himself to ignore them, drags his gaze over to Monroe.
“Go to hell,” He snarls from between clenched teeth, tasting mercury on his lips as he does.
Monroe just huffs a single, short laugh as she looks over at him and shakes her head in mock-disappointment, “How predictable.”
Then she pivots on a graceful heel and—Theo jerking uselessly against his zip-tied bindings—steps slowly and deliberately over to Liam.
“What about you, Liam?” She wonders as she does, “What do you say?”
“I say go fuck yourself,” Liam snarls, or attempts to; his voice trembles and he can’t look her in the eye, his gaze heavy-lidded and fixed shakily somewhere in the middle distance.
And Monroe—she catches his uncertainty.
“Oh, Liam,” she murmurs, crouching down in front of him.
She’s too smart to touch him—the car battery hooked up to his chair still pumping electricity into him—but she huddles close, peers up at him sympathetically. Liam glances at her helplessly and then instantly yanks his gaze elsewhere, though Theo realizes—his chest cramping painfully—that Liam’s looking everywhere but at him.
“What’d Theo say to you?” Monroe asks softly, and ducks her head to follow his when Liam’s eyes flick to hers and then immediately away, “Did he tell you he couldn’t live with himself if he became responsible for anymore death?”
Both Theo and Liam freeze, Theo staring, stunned, at Monroe’s back, Liam’s attention snapping to her, his expression pinched and raw. Monroe hums gently and nods understandingly, her fingers playing absently over the gloves in her hands as she seemingly considers Liam’s unintentional confirmation of her suspicions.
“Admirable. But, Liam,” She murmurs, and holds his gaze intently, “What about you?”
“Wh—what?” Liam stammers, clearly thrown. His fingers flex against the arms of his chair, but Theo doesn’t think it’s thwarted violence; he looks wrecked.
Monroe just smiles gently at him, “Are you going to be able to live with yourself if he dies?”
Liam instantly pales, his breathing stuttering loose of his chest and his eyes going wide and horrified. Theo snarls and jerks against his own bindings, and then immediately regrets it; the strain causes him to choke on a mouthful of blood and he coughs heavily, ends up gasping for air as his abused system shrieks in protest. When he finally recovers, Liam’s eyes are no longer fixed on Monroe’s, but staring straight at him.
“Liam, don’t list—” Theo tries desperately, but Monroe cuts him off.
“Liam,” Monroe calls quietly, smiles when Liam’s attention jerks back to her, “You can save Theo.” She assures him, voice low and smooth and almost hypnotically pitched as she murmurs, “Tell me where to find the operating theater, and I promise I’ll take the IV out. He’ll be in bad shape but he’ll still be alive when the Yreka pack finds him.”
“Monroe, shut up, stop—” Theo yells, uncaring of the way his body hurts when he fights uselessly against his bindings.
“He’ll live, Liam,” Monroe tempts, ignoring Theo snarling yeah, so you can kill me later as part of your genocidal plan, you crazy —, “He’ll live, and you can find another operating theater—” Liam jerks and his eyes flick instantly to Theo’s, hope briefly flaring in them before he sees Theo shaking his head desperately, “—and restart Scott’s doomed little effort to stop me.”
No, Liam, Theo mouths, Liam’s eyes fixed on his face, don’t listen to her.
“Liam, listen to me,” She suddenly orders, her hand darting up to turn Liam’s chin to force him to look at her rather than at Theo; Theo sees the thick black rubber of her gloves between their skin. Liam stares at her, his shoulders heaving with his unsteady breathing, “I know what Theo said, but you have to understand what’s actually at stake, here.”
“What do you—?” Liam breathes, his expression cracking further.
“Don’t, Monroe, whatever you’re doing—” Theo demands, but Monroe—and Liam—just ignore him.
“It’ll be your fault, Liam,” She tells him, soothing and hypnotic tone gone and replaced with steel, with stone, “It’s your call, not his. Which means if you say no, if you refuse to tell me what I need to know, his death will be all your fault.”
What, Theo thinks, his brow furrowing even as he watches Liam’s expression go from cracked open and raw to agonized, a wounded, animal cry leaving his mouth: What the hell . And then his eyes widen, fury burning hot and fast through his chest, because Monroe had been a guidance counselor at the high school; she’d had access to Liam’s file, the picture of Liam’s old coach’s destroyed car, this is all your fault carved into the side of it.
“Monroe, you manipulative bitch! ” Theo shouts, and not even the sight of Monroe’s goons shifting menacingly can temper his rage, “Shut up! Shut up.”
“I don’t…” Liam stammers, his eyes still fixed with hers and every terrified thought there and obvious on his face, “I—I…”
Theo’s chest twists painfully at the sight and he bites back a desperate swear, leans forward best he can in his bindings.
“Liam, look at me,” He begs, “Liam, please.”
And Liam does, his defenses apparently too blown to stop himself. Theo knows he must look half-dead—knows he is half-dead—but he holds Liam’s eyes best he can, lets Liam see the grief and regret and all the rest of the tangled mass of feelings tearing up Theo’s own chest.
“Liam, please,” He pleads, forces himself not to flinch even when Liam does, “Please.”
Liam stares at him, his expression twisting more and more with pain and helpless fury and grief, and then he jerks his head away, down, his eyes squeezing shut. For a moment Theo’s terrified, don’t, please don’t, repeating on a loop inside his head, but then he sees the frantic rise and fall of Liam’s chest start to slow, his fingers start to straighten from where he’d clenched them white-knuckled around the chair’s arms, the electric current be damned.
Thank you, Theo thinks, even before Liam murmurs, “No,” shakily.
Monroe freezes, her voice going low and deadly as she asks, “What was that?”
“No,” Liam repeats more strongly, opening his eyes and raising his head to glare at her, “No, I’m not telling you shit.”
Monroe stares at him, and even with her back turned to him, Theo can tell she’s furious from the way the line of her spine goes rigid, her posture losing all its casualness. From the way that her shoulders rise and fall a few times, she takes several deep, slow breaths, and then she abruptly stands.
“Tell me now, or I increase the dosage, Liam,” She threatens, “Theo will be dead long before the Yreka pack manages to find his corpse.”
Liam’s expression spasms with a new round of pain, but he just shakes his head fiercely before lifting his head to glower at her as he snarls, “No.”
Monroe glares down at him for a moment longer, and then she abruptly concludes, “Fine.” Throwing a hand back behind herself, she orders Richmond, and says, “Liam’s made his decision, there’s no point in dragging this out. Open the valve, let’s put Theo out of his misery.”
Richmond grins and starts moving towards Theo, who even knowing he has nowhere to go, still tries to jerk away. Then his eyes fly back to Monroe as she suddenly rounds Liam’s chair, her rubber gloves back on her hands as she leans over Liam and grabs his chin in one hand, forces him to look straight at Theo from where he’d turned away, his eyes squeezed shut.
“Watch, Liam,” She hisses as Richmond crouches down by Theo’s chair to grab hold of the IV line, fumbles with the valve that controls how fast the mercury flows from the IV bag into his arm, “Are you watching?” She asks cruelly, all but pressing her mouth up against Liam’s ear as she holds his chin steady, doesn’t let him jerk away, “I want you to remember this. I want you to remember that I gave you the chance to save him, and you refused.”
She flicks her eyes away from Liam to meet Theo’s instead, fury and vindictiveness and rage all over her face as she snarls:
“I want you to remember that this is all your fault.”
Liam’s expression crumples out of the neutral mask he’d been trying to wear, and Theo feels his own expression twist with mirroring pain as he holds his eyes. He holds them even as Richmond steps away from him, as Theo feels the increased flow of mercury like acid flowing straight into his veins; as his muscles start to cramp and his breathing starts to stutter.
I’m sorry, he thinks, and keeps holding Liam’s gaze, right up until the point that Monroe jams a needle full of something —mistletoe, probably—in Liam’s neck, and Liam’s eyes flutter closed. I’m so sorry, Theo thinks, his eyes still on Liam’s limp body even as the second hunter disconnects the car battery from Liam’s chair, cuts through Liam’s zip-ties and hauls him up, slings his unconscious body over his shoulder. He keeps his eyes on Liam right up until the hunter disappears out of view with him, and then he drags his tunneling, blurring gaze to Monroe, who’s standing in the middle of the two chairs and watching him.
“You lost,” Theo manages to rasp, though the effort is nearly unbearable; he can’t get his lungs to work right. Monroe just smiles after a moment.
“This round,” She agrees, and then tips her head as she studies him, “But it doesn’t look like you’re going to be around to see how it ends.”
And then she motions to Richmond, follows after him when he heads after the hunter who’d carried Liam out. Theo tries to watch their progress, but he can’t get enough air, and his heart feels like it’s stumbling in his chest; he blinks, and somehow they’re already five feet further away than they’d been.
He blinks again, and he’s alone.
Art by ArtZeppo
The silence, Theo decides after some unidentifiable amount of time has passed, is going to be the worst part of dying alone.
The silence of the warehouse or garage or abandoned building or wherever Monroe had left him means that he can hear his heart—his sister’s heart, and god, what a waste —beating sluggishly and unevenly in his chest. It means that he can hear every agonized breath he manages to draw, his inhales getting slower and thinner as the minutes pass, his exhales getting harsher and shakier.
At first he lets his head tip back against the back of the chair in despair, because why the hell not, but almost immediately he starts to choke on his own mercury-infused blood, and he has to jerk his head forward, cough harshly and heavily for an excruciating minute before he can stop. When he does, his pants and even his arms are splattered with silver blood, his hands clenching helplessly against the chair. As he glares at his clawless, useless fingers, another several droplets of blood fall from his nose to land in the still glimmering puddle from earlier, and after awhile that—that’s almost meditative, so he stays like that, his head hanging loosely down on his exhausted neck.
I don’t think he’s ever going to forgive me, he finds himself thinking, and then nearly barks a black, humorless laugh when he realizes that—at least to Theo—Liam’s forgiveness or lack thereof wouldn’t matter. Brett and Lori are dead, Liam, Theo had all but shouted at Liam that night in the woods, they can’t care what anyone says about them. Theo supposes he can understand why Liam broke his nose that night.
He tries to hold onto the humor, but the thought of Liam—the thought of Liam slung unconscious over that hunter’s shoulder, Monroe telling him, you, I need to deal with Scott —causes his panic to resurge. He spends a painful half-minute having to fight off hyperventilation, his mind too sluggish to control his steadily breaking-down body. Scott will save him, he has to tell himself over and over again; Scott always manages to save everyone.
Except me, Theo thinks, and the humor roars back tinged with hysteria.
But even that isn’t sustainable, Theo’s burning veins and cramping muscles and failing organs all blurring together into one indistinguishable mass of pain . His eyes draw helplessly back to the drip-drip-drip of the silver blood falling from his nose and splashing into the puddle now flowing up and over the edge of the chair, and after awhile he just—lets himself stare at that, everything else falling away.
Which is why the sudden sound of a metal door banging open somewhere in the building some time later startles him so badly.
He looks up. Or he tries to, anyway, his head rolling bonelessly on a weak neck. He just barely manages to tip it towards the noise of pounding footsteps coming closer, and even the fact that the position once more sends mercury-infused blood streaming down the back of his throat isn’t enough to give him the strength to bring it down. Instead he just chokes, feeling blood start to bubble over his lips as he stares, his gaze unfocused and skipping, towards the empty stretch of room where Monroe and her hunters had both appeared and disappeared from; where he can hear shouting.
Except it’s not just random shouting: Theo can hear his name.
Awareness trying its best to sink its claws into his brain, Theo tries to straighten, to tip his head down, to do something, but can’t manage anything other than a weak gasp. His mind is too sluggish—his body already well on its way to shutting down—for him to hold onto any train of thought, who would be calling his name overwhelmed by pain and poison and lethargy. Then, seconds later he’s faced with a new conundrum, dark shapes like bodies appearing in his blurry vision, but he can’t focus enough to identify them, either.
But then he doesn’t have to, because Liam skids to a graceless halt in front of him, breathes, “Theo,” in a low, desperate whisper.
“Liam…?” Theo chokes out, his eyes running as best they can over Liam’s face; has he started hallucinating?
But Liam’s ignoring him, now, repeating, “It’s okay, you’re going to be okay,” on a frantic loop as he stomps ruthlessly on the jumper cables attaching the car battery to Theo’s chair to disconnect them, as he reaches out shaking hands to grab the needle connecting the IV to Theo’s skin, yank it loose. Theo finds his eyes helplessly following the needle as it falls; as it starts pouring mercury onto the ground by Liam’s knee. Then he jerks, both in surprise and in response to simple physics, when Liam’s clawed hands suddenly strike out to cut through the zip-ties still connecting Theo to the chair.
Except that the zip-ties were the only things that were keeping Theo upright, and the second their bracing holds disappear, he tips forward; Liam has to swear in startled surprise and catch him, his arms looping under Theo’s and Theo’s chin catching jarringly on Liam’s shoulder. It’s okay, you’re going to be okay, Liam promises brokenly again, and carefully moves, twists around to lay Theo gently on the floor. Theo makes a distressed noise and gropes out an uncoordinated hand to try and catch him when he straightens, but Liam just catches it, holds it tightly as he stays on his knees next to Theo’s head.
“Shohreh,” He suddenly calls, though his eyes never leave Theo’s face; Theo knows, because his eyes never leave Liam’s, “Shohreh, over here! Please.”
More footsteps, and then Shohreh appears over Theo, too. Theo reluctantly and just barely manages to tip his chip towards her instead, the movement causing his head to spin, and he groans, squeezes his eyes shut and arcs his neck back.
“Shohreh, what do we do?” Liam demands lowly, his fingers spasming around Theo’s; Theo tries to squeeze back, but can’t, his body refusing to listen, “How do we save him?”
But Shohreh just murmurs, “Liam,” gently and with grief already saturating her raspy voice.
“No. No, no, no,” Liam denies, and then Theo feels hands on his face, cupping his cheeks; he blinks his eyes open and stares up at Liam, who’s staring down at him, his expression a rictus of pain, “Theo, don’t do this.”
“I’m s—I’m sor—I’m sorry, Liam,” Theo manages to pant out, “I’m so sorry.”
“No, Theo, you—you don’t understand,” Liam tells him, his fingers tightening around Theo’s face, “It’s over. It’s over, okay—Monroe’s dead. Did you hear me? Monroe’s dead.” His expression cracks and he sucks in a shaky breath, says, “You were right about howling. One of Shohreh’s betas heard us. The Yreka pack heard us.”
Theo smiles helplessly up at him, “Heard you,” he corrects dopily, but that just makes Liam’s expression twist more.
“Us, Theo,” Liam disagrees harshly, his voice breaking, “They heard us . And did you hear me ? Monroe is dead.”
“Good,” Theo manages, and weakly moves his arm, his hand searching until he finds one of Liam’s forearms, squeezes it best he can, “Hey, that’s good.”
“Yeah. Yeah, it is good,” Liam agrees, and Theo starts when he realizes there’s wetness running down Liam’s cheeks, “So don’t do this.”
“I don’t want to,” Theo confesses, what’s left of his better sense too late to drag it back, keep it locked behind his teeth, “I wish I could stay.”
“So stay,” Liam tells him, his fingers now stroking at Theo’s face; Theo wonders hazily if he even realizes he’s doing it, and hopes so; it feels nice, “C’mon, Theo. Stay.”
“Can’t,” Theo says, and then coughs wetly, his body bowing and his feet scrabbling weakly at the ground as he does; Liam makes a distressed noise and Theo feels Liam start trying to take his pain, though if it’s working, Theo—can’t tell, “Monroe was right. Mercury poisoning. End—ending like I began, as one of the Doctors’ failed—”
“Don’t say that,” Liam cuts him off fiercely, and Theo stops, blinks up at him.
“Hey,” He breathes, and concentrates everything he can left on reaching up the hand he has wrapped around Liam’s forearm, on touching trembling fingertips to his glistening cheek, “Hey, I need you to promise me something else.”
“No,” Liam says, shaking his head vigorously, except that it dislodges Theo’s fingers and Liam makes another wounded noise, darts a hand up from Theo’s face to catch them, hold his hand tightly in the air, “No more promises. Your promises suck.”
“Liam,” Theo just insists, twisting his wrist so that he can free his hand from Liam’s—though it’s not so much freeing as Liam realizing what he wants and letting him go—and puts his hand back on Liam’s face, “This wasn’t your fault.”
“It it wasn’t my fault you wouldn’t have had to make me promise not to tell Monroe where to find the operating theater,” Liam counters, and the burr of self-loathing in Liam’s voice yanks at Theo’s chest, even as weak as he is; Theo tightens his fingers against Liam’s skin as best he can, forces Liam to look at him.
“This wasn’t your fault,” Theo repeats as forcefully as he can, “Liam, you have to promise me—”
He breaks off, coughing again. It’s worse this time, his lungs locking up and all the muscles in his chest seizing; it’s only when Shohreh puts her hands on his arm and starts siphoning as much pain as she can that he’s able to relax enough to start breathing, however unsteadily, again.
“Promise me you’ll work to believe that,” Theo finally manages to finish, his eyes dragging painfully back to Liam’s.
But Liam just begs, his eyes spilling over faster than ever now, “Theo, please don’t do this.”
“Liam,” Theo demands, though his voice trembles and he can feel blood trickling from the sides of his mouth.
Liam stares down at him, his expression twisting up more and more, and then he nods, quickly and jerkily, like he’s afraid he might change his mind if he doesn’t do it fast enough.
“Okay, Theo,” He agrees shakily, “Okay. I promise.”
“Okay,” Theo tells him, smiling up at him.
“Okay,” Theo tells him, and lets his arm fall heavily back away from Liam’s face and to the floor.
“Okay,” Theo tells him, and lets his eyes drift shut.
Except that he wakes up.
He doesn’t come awake gasping. He doesn’t come awake at all, really; his eyelids feel too heavy to move, and his jaw feels like its wired shut. But awareness starts to filter back in, little by little and then in an increasing flood as the seconds drag slowly past.
That’s the smell of the McCall house, the scent of Scott and Ms. McCall and the McCall pack itself seeped deep into the floorboards and walls and furniture. That’s the sound of a baker’s dozen worth of heartbeats, the McCall pack and pack-adjacent crammed tightly enough together that their heartbeats are overlapping in Theo’s ears. That’s the feel of something cool touching his chest, then sliding over to cover the skin over his heart; his sister’s heart.
That’s someone asking, “How long is this supposed to take, exactly?”
And that’s Lydia, snapping, “I don’t know . The last time I saw this stuff used, I was nearly catatonic, and that was with a version of it that wasn’t a year old and possibly useless.”
What, Theo thinks, though the thought is still easy, disconnected; unconcerned. Version of what that wasn’t a year old and possibly useless? Except then he remembers.
Except then he comes awake gasping.
Several people shout in surprise as he suddenly jackknifes upwards on the couch. Stiles takes it to the next level and trips backwards over the coffee table, and is only rescued from falling on top of it and shattering it into firewood by Derek grabbing his arm and hauling him back upright at the last second. Theo stares at Derek’s fingers wrapped around Stiles’ bicep for a few uncomprehending seconds, his breath panting harshly in and out of him, and then his eyes jerk to Lydia, attention caught by her hands as they slowly come up to cover her mouth, wetness starting to spill over and down her cheeks.
“Lydia?” Theo asks in confusion, and then makes a startled noise and catches her when she lunges for him, Ms. McCall—who’d been sitting next to Theo and checking his vitals with a stethoscope—getting quickly out of the way as Lydia hugs him tightly, even with the way that she has to awkwardly bend to do it.
“I guess you were right about the mystical serum that can bring people back from the dead not having an expiration date,” She manages to choke out through her tears, and Theo feels his own eyes start to burn, so he squeezes them shut, hugs her back just as tightly.
But with his senses coming fully back online, the cacophony of overlapping heartbeats in the room starts to resolve, and a certain heartbeat—stumbling and stuttering over itself—catches his ears. Theo goes rigid, his eyes snapping open and his head jerking up as he looks out into the mass of people in the McCall living room, searching.
Lydia pulls back when she feels him tense and Theo’s attention snaps back to her. “Sorry,” he says automatically, a bit sheepishly, but the rest of him is still straining towards that heartbeat.
Lydia just laughs wetly and shakes her head, climbs to her feet and wobbles a little as she does it, Derek reaching out an automatic hand to steady her, and looks over her shoulder, smiles as she looks right at Liam.
“C’mon,” She says, and holds out a hand.
Liam just stares at her, wide-eyed and barely breathing if the rapid rise-and-fall of his shoulders is anything to go by, and then his gaze flicks to Theo. His expression starts to crumple in on itself and Theo feels his own breath hitch, starts to push himself reflexively up from the couch.
Except he’s still too weak—too weak from coming back from the dead —and his legs give out. But Liam’s instantly there, catching Theo under his arms and folding with him to the ground, the two of them both hitting their knees. Theo goes to pull back, wanting to look at Liam’s face—wanting to say sorry, I’m so sorry —but Liam just makes a wounded sound and surges forward, nearly knocking Theo back as he wraps his arms around Theo almost tight enough to hurt, his face buried in the side of Theo’s neck. His own expression cracking open, Theo turns his face against Liam’s shaking shoulders, hugs him back just as fiercely.
It takes him a few seconds to realize that Liam is whispering something, so low that even the supernaturally-sensed people in the room probably can’t hear it. Theo can, though. And even if he couldn’t, he can feel Liam’s lips moving against his skin, I didn’t think it was going to work, over and over again. Theo tightens his arms, slides one hand up to cup the back of Liam’s head; presses his forehead harder against Liam’s shoulder, trying to ground him.
Trying to ground himself.
He isn’t sure how much time passes, but at some point someone gently puts their hand on Theo’s arm, says hey gently. Theo jerks and looks up at Scott, Liam doing the same.
“I’m really sorry,” Scott apologies quietly, “And I know how absurd this is going to sound, given, uh,” He falters, seemingly trying and failing to come up with a pithy way to describe you dying and coming back to life, “But my mom, Liam’s dad, and Dr. Deaton want to run some tests. See if everything’s, um.”
He trails off again, and glances blinking over Theo’s shoulder to his mother, because he’s right, and saying see if everything’s alright after Theo had died…however long ago, and is now apparently not dead, will in fact be absurd.
Theo follows his gaze just in time to catch Ms. McCall offer, “Humor us, please. We’ll all feel better if we can, y’know, make sure your blood pressure is within healthy limits.” She smiles wryly at him as she says the last part, a nudge-wink acknowledgement of the aren’t our lives crazy kind.
“Humor me,” Dr. Geyer corrects from where he’s stood with Mason and Corey on one side and an incredibly pale and wide-eyed Alec on the other, “Melissa was very must be a day that ends in ‘y’ when Scott told us about this plan, but my blood pressure needs to pretend like this isn’t absolutely insane.” He pauses, seems to consider his choice of words—and consider his step-son, still on his knees and holding tightly onto Theo—and adds, “Not that I’m not thrilled it apparently worked.”
“Right,” Theo tells him blankly, then glances at Scott, at Ms. McCall; at Liam, who tightens his grip around Theo’s shirt and looks at his father.
“I’m going with him,” Liam announces, voice hard like he’s expecting someone to argue with him.
But no one does, and his father just smiles softly at him, murmurs, “Wouldn’t have dreamed of telling you otherwise.” Liam colors, some, but he doesn’t try and defend himself.
Agreement struck or not, no one actually manages to leave the house for another half hour. Once Theo staggers to his feet—Liam automatically and without a word moving to brace his shoulder under one of Theo’s arms—it’s like some spell breaks, and Theo spends the time hugging one person after the next, his ribs aching in the best way with the pressure.
Ironically Scott’s the first offender; the second Theo is upright, he—after checking with Liam—pulls Theo in for a bruisingly tight embrace. “I’m so sorry,” he tells Theo, then leans back some to look at him, “I’m—”
Theo cuts him off, brow furrowing as he—gently—points out, “You didn’t even do anything.”
“Yeah,” Scott agrees, and smiles sadly even as he steps back, “Exactly.”
Theo doesn’t get a chance to address it; Malia eels her way in between Scott and Theo and yanks him in so tightly that Theo makes an oofing noise and can’t actually get his arms up to hug her back. Staring down at the messy strands of her hair, Theo eventually settles for dropping his chin onto the top of her head, closing his eyes.
“I leave for a week and a half, and you literally get yourself killed?” Malia hisses after a handful of long seconds, tilting her head up so that she can glare at him.
Theo could argue, or defend himself—Malia’s probably expecting both—but he...doesn’t really want to; he can feel the pinch of too-sharp fingernails against his back, and there are blue flecks in Malia’s eyes when he meets them.
So instead he just tells her, “My bad,” and smiles weakly when she narrows her eyes at him. Malia harrumphs, but she lets him go.
Mason. Derek. Alec. Stiles, back for winter break like Lydia and hugging Theo after a moment of them staring awkwardly at each other. The Sheriff, who pats him on the shoulder after they’ve briefly hugged and says thanks for the overtime in a genuinely cheerful tone of voice; the walkie-talkie clipped to his uniform squawks almost as if on cue, and he wanders away to answer it, saying how’s the clean-up going, McCall. Corey watches the Sheriff go along with Theo, and then turns back to him, smiles slightly.
“Death by mercury poisoning’s a bitch, huh?” He says, and while Mason freezes and looks like he’s strongly considering smacking Corey, Theo just laughs and lets his head drop down loose on his neck, nods in agreement. Corey laughs too, and then he reaches forward and pulls Theo into a hug as he says, “Guess we’ve got that in common now, too.”
“Guess so,” Theo agrees as Corey releases him, “Think we should get t-shirts made?”
Corey grins, but then his eyes flick to the side and he murmurs sorry, Mr. Argent, and moves out of the way so that Argent can come to a stop in front of Theo. His pulse is steady and his scent is gunpowder and metal, but it always is, so Theo has no idea what to expect, just stands still and watches him.
And then all at once Argent seems to abandon his composure, mutters, “Dammit, Theo,” and reels Theo in, wraps him in a tight hug. Theo’s eyes start to burn again and so he turns his face into Argent’s chest, clenches his fingers in the back of Argent’s shirt.
When Argent finally pulls back, Ms. McCall is there and smiling softly, scrubs on and keys in her hand, “Ready to go?” She asks, a gentle prod, and Theo laughs a little wetly, nods; Ms. McCall’s smile flickers wider for a moment and she pulls him in for her own hug, then releases him and tips her chin past the now milling crowd of McCall pack members towards the front door.
Theo glances around for Liam, finds him still standing just behind himself, and at Liam’s small nod, follows Ms. McCall out.
He spends the rest of the afternoon—because it is afternoon, Theo realizing with a jolt that he’d been… out for half a day—at the hospital with Ms. McCall, Dr. Geyer, and Deaton, who luckily seems to give off such an air of supreme confidence that none of the other hospital staff bother to ask what he’s a doctor of.
They draw blood. A lot of blood. They run him through an MRI and a CAT scan. They biopsy his kidneys, looking for any traces of mercury. At one point while Dr. Geyer is looking more and more hysterical—Ms. McCall looking a mix between bemused and straight-up amused as she watches him read the results—Deaton hands Theo a stem of wolfsbane flowers, which Theo drops with a yelp the second they touch his skin.
“Interesting,” Deaton comments, and then—as expected— completely fails to elaborate; Theo shares a longsuffering look with Liam, sat on the hospital bed next to him kicking his legs and trying not to smile.
It’s just getting dark when Ms. McCall returns from hers and Dr. Geyer’s latest round of testing yet more of Theo’s blood, her eyes on the clipboard in her hands as she apparently studies her notes; behind her Dr. Geyer has no notes, just a dazed and vaguely bewildered expression.
“Well,” Ms. McCall announces as she comes to a stop in front of Theo and Liam still sitting on the bed; Dr. Deaton had decamped after his wolfsbane test with a shrug and a congratulations on not being dead, Mr. Raeken, “Given that you’re a supernatural hybrid of a werewolf and a werecoyote who just came back from the dead, you seem to be in perfect health.”
Theo doesn’t know whether he’s allowed to laugh at her description—the wry tone would seem to indicate yes, but Dr. Geyer behind her looks a little manic—and so he just stares at her, wide-eyed. Ms. McCall holds his eyes for a few seconds longer, her expression that professional sort of bland that nurses and doctors all seem to perfect, and then her lips slowly curl up into a crinkle-eyed grin.
“You’re free to go,” She tells him, and Theo does grin then, thanks her quietly and is about to hop off the table when she clarifies pointedly, “You are free to go back to my house . Overnight observation. Hopefully between me and Scott we’ll have the non-supernatural and supernatural bases covered in case something does happen.”
Theo opens his mouth to say something, and then closes it a second later when Ms. McCall’s eyebrows start to rise.
“Liam,” She says, abruptly switching her focus when she correctly interprets Theo’s mouth shutting as Theo wisely refraining from arguing, “You can take him, right? If you need to stop by your house to pick up something to sleep in, that’s fine, but I think you’ve still got a toothbrush and some sweats in the guest closet.”
Liam stares at her, the implication of her choice of words sinking in, and then all at once he seems to snap out of it and nods jerkily as he stammers, “Ye—yeah. I can take him. And, um. You’re right, I think I do have some stuff still at your house, we can go straight there.”
“I do not have a toothbrush,” Theo attempts to point out, but no one actually seems to care; Liam just hops down from the table and goes to briefly talk with his father, and Ms. McCall goes back to studying her notes.
When they get back to the house, Scott, Malia, and Argent are the only ones there. Scott looks up at them as they come through the unlocked front door, smiles; he’s sat on the couch watching TV with Malia asleep with her head in his lap, Argent stretched out in the loveseat with his eyes heavy-lidded and his arms and legs crossed.
“Hey,” Scott rasps, blinking some and straightening as Theo quietly pulls the door closed behind himself, Liam hovering uncharacteristically uncertain in front of him, “I figured you’d probably be feeling pretty beat, told everyone we could reconvene tomorrow.”
Theo—isn’t actually sure what he’s feeling. He’d managed to push off feeling much of anything at the hospital by concentrating on the tests, on Dr. Geyer’s obvious but good-natured confusion, on Ms. McCall’s steady hands instead of the needles that she’d been inserting into his arms; into the same exact vein that Monroe had stuck her IV needle full of mercury less than twenty-four hours ago. And when that hadn’t worked he’d concentrated on Liam, never more than a few feet away no matter what test his dad or Ms. McCall insisted on running, his pulse a comforting rhythm that Theo could seek out like a beacon.
But Theo wouldn’t explain all that even if Scott had asked, so he just says, “Good idea, thanks,” quietly, smiles back at Scott when Scott sinks back into the couch cushions. Then he nods at Argent and follows Liam up the stairs.
Liam doesn’t say a word as they move around each other, Theo in fact having to track down one of the extra toothbrushes still in its packaging under the McCall guest bathroom sink, Liam pulling his and a set of sweats as predicted out of the guest closet. He hadn’t said much at the hospital, either, not unless someone had asked him a direct question, and sometimes not even then; Theo side-eyes him as they brush their teeth, picking at his scent.
But Liam just leans down and spits, rinses his mouth out and then braces his hands on the sink, orders, “Stop,” quietly; Theo jerks.
“Liam, I—” Theo starts, flinching; he looks like an idiot holding his toothbrush hovering awkwardly in the air and with toothpaste foam around his mouth.
But Liam just reaches out and lays a gentle hand on Theo’s chest—right over Theo’s sister’s heart—and shakes his head softly, “It’s okay. Just...not tonight.”
“Okay,” Theo agrees, and manages a flimsy and firmly unconvincing smile when Liam flicks his eyes up to his own; Liam watches him for a second and then nods, leaves him alone in the bathroom.
Theo stares after him, and then catches sight of his own pole-axed expression in the mirror, grimaces. Forcing himself to focus, Theo finishes brushing his teeth and then leaves the bathroom. He has to take a detour to Scott’s room to steal a pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt to sleep in; his current outfit, sourced as it is from the hospital, smells like antiseptic and vaguely like illness, and Theo had left his old clothes—the ones he’d died in —to be incinerated along with the rest of the hospital’s waste.
He’s half-expecting it to be awkward when he comes into the guest bedroom, and it is, a little bit, Liam already on one side of the bed with his back to Theo and burrowed under the blankets. But after Theo has swallowed back a sigh and turned off the lights, climbed into the other side of the bed, Liam immediately turns so that he’s facing Theo instead, his eyes searching Theo’s face.
“Tomorrow, okay?” He says, and it’d be a nonsequitur if it wasn’t for his comment earlier in the bathroom; if it wasn’t for all the things left hovering between them.
“Tomorrow,” Theo agrees after a few seconds, and smiles slightly when Liam does.
Liam closes his eyes then, and so Theo does, too. And even as hyper-focused on Liam as he still is, his ears fixed on Liam’s steady heartbeat, his nose on Liam’s scent, it still somehow catches him off-guard when Liam reaches out under the sheets and finds one of Theo’s hands, threads their fingers together.
Exhaling low and slow, Theo tightens his fingers around Liam’s, and falls asleep like that.
Except best laid plans: Theo wakes up in the middle of the night alone.
He jerks immediately upright, glancing around wildly in the dark. His senses arrow out reflexively, and while finding Scott’s and Malia’s sleep-slow heartbeats in Scott’s room down the hall, catching Ms. McCall’s and Argent’s in the master bedroom, helps settle some of his instinctive panic, it doesn’t answer the question burning between his ribs. Closing his eyes again and concentrating, Theo stretches out his senses deliberately this time; he finds what he’s looking for and feels his chest cramp, grimaces as he throws back the blankets and gets his feet on the cool floor.
“I thought nightmares were my thing,” Theo comments hoarsely as he steps out into the McCall backyard a minute later, sliding the door closed behind himself with his eyes on the already-tense line of Liam’s back, which goes instantly more rigid when he realizes Theo has joined him.
“Wasn’t a nightmare,” Liam disagrees neutrally, his crossed arms tightening, too, “It was a memory.” Theo watches as he takes in a deep breath, exhales it out slowly before adding, “Eleven hours worth of them, in fact.”
Theo feels his brow furrow. “Wha—oh,” he starts to say, and then cuts himself off with a mental curse.
Liam just snorts a humorless laugh and glances over his shoulder at Theo, then goes back to looking out into the night-dark yard. His expression had been hard for the few seconds that he’d met Theo’s eyes, and Theo winces, still stood awkwardly by the door and now too unsure of his welcome to come forward.
“It took an hour after you—” Liam falters, but then forces himself onwards, his voice getting sharper and less carefully controlled as he explains, “—after you died to get back to Yreka from the warehouse where Monroe had us. Scott, Malia, and Argent had turned around the second the Yreka pack called them after they heard us howl, but Monroe’s planted tip meant it still took them three hours after that to get back to Shohreh’s house.”
“Liam—” Theo tries weakly, but doesn’t fight it when Liam just steamrolls right over him.
“Scott wasn’t sure whether he should wait to tell everyone back in Beacon Hills that you’d been killed in-person—he was pretty upset, even if he was trying to put a brave face on it for me and Malia—but eventually Argent convinced him to start calling everyone; he said waiting wasn’t going to change anything, that it’d just make it worse. So that was another hour before he got around to calling Lydia,” Liam keeps going mercilessly, his pulse starting to kick up and his scent going bitter and ashy.
Theo drops his head down, feels his expression going pinched, his own arms coming up to cross protectively over his chest; to cover the vulnerable parts of himself.
“Lydia remembered the serum almost immediately. You should have heard her, Theo,” Liam abruptly says, interrupting his own flow, “I knew you two had figured out how to work together on the antidote and vaccine, but this—this went beyond that. She kept telling Scott that they had to try the serum, that he had to go get the serum. She wouldn’t let him say no, not that he wanted to. So that was another two hour-long roundtrip for Scott and Argent to get to the operating theater and back.”
He wheels around to face Theo suddenly, and Theo startles backwards some, his eyes flying reflexively up to meet Liam’s. Liam’s expression spasms but he locks it down quickly, his jaw clenching and releasing.
“And then four hours. Four hours back to Beacon Hills with your corpse in the back of Argent’s SUV so that we could try some—some insane plan, injecting you with some disgusting liquid that Scott and Argent pulled out of the bottom of the tank in the Dorris operating theater in the slim hope that it brought you back to life,” Liam finishes, now practically spitting out the words, “You were dead for eleven hours, Theo.”
“I’m sorr—” Theo starts to say, but Liam doesn’t even hear him, his expression cracking open and his hands uncrossing to clutch at his hair, Liam briefly jerking away before turning almost instantly back.
“And you want to know the worst part of it all?” Liam asks him, more than half a demand as he drops his hands to gesture furiously.
Theo hesitates, almost expecting Liam to keep going without a response, but Liam just glares at him, so Theo says, “What?,” quietly.
Liam keeps glaring, but his expression starts to twist and his shoulders start to heave, his voice breaking as he answers, “It didn’t even matter. Shohreh and her pack found me fifteen minutes after Monroe left you there to die. Monroe was dead within twenty.”
Theo sees where Liam’s going and starts shaking his head, saying, “Liam, no. Don’t do that to your—”
But Liam just interrupts him, snaps, “If I’d refused to make your stupid promise, if I’d told Monroe where to find the operating theater, everything would have been fine. Shohreh would have killed Monroe before Monroe could find it, and it wouldn’t have been too late to save you by the time we got back to you.”
“We couldn’t have known that. You couldn’t have known that,” Theo disagrees, his need to make Liam understand overcoming the fear gluing his feet to the floor so that he can take an insistent step forward.
But Liam just shakes his head and takes a step back, his voice shaking now as he insists, “I never should have made that promise. I never should have agreed to help you sacrifice yourself.” All at once it’s like he can’t handle looking at Theo anymore and he jerks away, turning his back to Theo and his arms flying up to cradle his head as he chokes out, “If there hadn’t been serum left in the tank, if Lydia hadn’t remembered it...If it hadn’t worked, you’d be dead, and it would have been a complete waste, and it would’ve been all my fault.”
And now Theo can’t handle it; he lunges forward and gets a too-tight hand around one of Liam’s arms, pulls him back around so that he can meet Liam’s eyes as he says, low and quick and forceful, “Liam. Look at me, Liam—you didn’t kill me.” And this is possibly the most surreal conversation Theo has ever had, but: “ Monroe killed me.”
“I could’ve stopped her,” Liam counters, trying to yank his arm out of Theo’s grip, but Theo doesn’t let him go, “You heard her, it was up to me whether or not she took the IV out, and if I’d told her what she’d wanted to know, you would’ve lived! I never should have promised—!”
“I’m glad you did!” Theo interrupts, almost shouting it. Surprise seems to draw Liam up short and he stops struggling for a moment, staring wide-eyed up at Theo. His own shoulders now heaving, Theo holds his gaze intently and repeats, more quietly but no less emphatically, “I’m glad you did.”
“Theo…” Liam breathes, his brow pinching together.
Emotion like a cornered animal tearing at his chest, Theo flinches and squeezes his eyes briefly shut, then slowly opens them back up and finds Liam’s gaze again, tells him quietly, “Liam…My whole life, I’ve only ever wanted selfish things, and I never cared who else had to pay for me to get them. You want to talk about deaths that didn’t matter? I killed my sister . I killed Scott, and Josh, and Tracy, and I still didn’t get what I wanted. And you want to know the worst part of all of that ?” Theo demands, unable to stop himself now even with the stunned-startled look on Liam’s face, “None of the things that I wanted, that I did so many terrible things to try and get, none of them were worth the cost.”
He pauses, wanting to make sure that he has Liam’s full attention, that Liam’s really listening as he concludes:
“Except for this.”
“Theo, I don’t—” Liam stutters, his eyes searching Theo’s and pain and grief all over his face.
“Liam,” Theo says more gently, then hesitates, touching his tongue to his bottom lip, “The one good thing I’ve ever really wanted, the only thing I’ve ever wanted that mattered, you gave me .” He stops, searching Liam’s eyes and face in return, “You didn’t tell Monroe where to find the operating theater, and I wasn’t the reason that anyone else died. Because of you, Liam. That’s the part of this—the only part—that’s your fault. You gave that to me.”
He breaks off, his hands coming helplessly up to cradle Liam’s face, holding it steady between his palms as Liam’s unsteady, uneven breathing starts to cause his shoulders to shake; as Theo’s own unsteady breathing causes his own shoulders to shake. Tightening his grip just enough to get that extra bit of grounding that he needs—that they might both need—Theo holds Liam’s eyes.
“So, thank you. Thank you, Liam,” He tells him, voice gone barely more than a whisper now as he helplessly repeats, pulling Liam in against himself and burying his face in the side of Liam’s neck as he says, again and again, feeling Liam’s fingers clench tight in the back of shirt, “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”
He can feel wetness against the side of his neck, can feel Liam shaking under his hands, and then—Liam pulling back abruptly before just as abruptly changing directions and surging forward—he can taste that wetness on his lips, can feel Liam’s mouth trembling against his own as Liam kisses him.
Theo had been caught up enough in his mantra of thank you’s that Liam’s sudden switching of tracks catches him off-guard, enough that he stumbles backwards under Liam’s momentum.
He oofs when his back connects with the side of the McCall house, but that doesn’t stop Liam. Far from it, Liam uses the way the sound causes Theo’s mouth to drop open to lick inside it, his hands coming up to clutch Theo’s head, tugging it into the position that Liam wants it. His brain still trying to catch up with the turn of events, Theo just barely manages to swallow back a moan, his own hands dropping to Liam’s hips to pull him harder against himself as the kiss deepens, turns faster and slicker.
Then Liam’s fingers slip under his shirt, dragging up his sides and over his ribs, and Theo has to break away, gasping. His hips buck reflexively against Liam’s at the sensation and that causes Liam to groan and press back harder, pinning Theo’s hips still with his own and grinding against him, his mouth dropping to kiss and then bite at the join of Theo’s shoulder and neck.
“Jesus fucking— ” Theo groans, and yanks Liam’s head back up, licks into Liam’s mouth this time, one hand dropping low— low —on Liam’s back to encourage him closer, to grind harder against Theo’s own hips; he ends up swallowing the cry that Liam gives, Liam’s rhythm stuttering.
And then a goddamn siren goes off in the distance, and Theo snaps back to reality to realize that he and Liam are maybe another half-minute of graceless frotting from getting each other off in the middle of the McCall’s backyard.
Jerking his head back—and painfully so, the back of his skull cracking against the wall behind him—and literally holding Liam at bay with his hands on Liam’s shoulders, Theo stares at him wildly and pants out, “We can’t do this here.”
“What?” Liam manages, but his mind clearly isn’t on Theo’s perfectly valid point; his eyes are fixed on Theo’s mouth and he is, consciously or not, straining against Theo’s restraining hold.
Groaning—and already regretting the decision—Theo lets Liam collapse his arms and surge back into him, their mouths colliding with more force than Liam was likely aiming for, but it doesn’t slow either of them down. In fact it speeds them up, Liam dropping his hands to grab Theo’s hips so that he can pull them against his own, grind his hard cock still trapped in his guest-closet sweatpants against Theo’s. Pleasure winding steadily tighter in his gut, Theo holds Liam’s head still as he moans into his mouth, Liam’s hips starting to stutter against his own, except— except …
Swearing, Theo drops his hands to Liam’s hips and uses the grip to shove him backwards, and then—remembering his earlier miscalculation—takes advantage of the space to swing out from between him and the wall, take a few steps away. Liam yelps in surprise and stumbles against the wall in the absence of Theo’s bracing weight, and immediately turns around to glare at Theo in outrage.
“What the hell, Theo?” He hisses, except that instead of intimidating he looks like the best kind of mess, his straining cock obvious through his thin sweatpants and his hair wild from Theo’s fingers, his mouth—even as his healing kicks in and starts to erase it—red and full; Theo has to swallow back another moan at the sight and resist the urge to dive right back in, pin Liam against the wall this time.
So instead he hisses just as quietly, “Did you not hear me? We can’t do this here! We are in the McCall’s backyard, with Scott, Malia, Ms. McCall and Argent all asleep inside. Not to mention,” he starts, gesturing between their admittedly already-kind-of-a-lost-cause clothes, “These are the only clean clothes you and I have access to, so if we mess them up—”
He cuts off, because the second he’d said it, Liam’s eyes had dropped thoughtfully between his legs and he’d touched his tongue to his bottom lip in a clear indication that he was thinking of a way to take care of that last point. His hips bucking against empty air, Theo muffles another noise with the back of his wrist and then holds both hands out in a pleading sort of gesture; Liam’s eyes flick up to his.
“My apartment is fifteen minutes away,” Theo reminds him, but Liam doesn’t look convinced, just takes the half-step forward he needs to hook his fingers in the waist of Theo’s sweats, start pulling him in.
“That’s a long time,” Liam points out, and presses the flat of his palm against Theo’s abs so that he can slide it down and into Theo’s pants, wrap his fingers around Theo’s cock, “Relatively speaking.”
Theo gasps and goes up onto his toes, his fingers rising to clutch reflexively in the fabric of Liam’s shirt, his head falling back as Liam starts to work him. The earlier twist of pleasure that he had, admittedly, denied himself snaps right back, and Theo feels his toes curl against the rough wood of the patio, fully prepared to be proven wrong about whether they could or could not, in fact, do this here.
But then either Ms. McCall or Argent must shift in their sleep, because Theo recognizes the very distinctive squeak of Ms. McCall’s mattress, and he’s reached down and stilled Liam’s hand before the thought has even fully developed.
Liam makes an irritated noise and tries to restart his very determined attempt to get Theo off, but Theo just tightens his grip around Liam’s wrist and, when Liam lifts his eyes from where he’d been intently watching his hand move inside Theo’s sweatpants, promises him lowly, “ I swear I will let you do whatever you want to me, once we get to my place.”
He then immediately has to suck in a gasp when his offer causes Liam’s hand to tighten around his cock, his eyelids fluttering and his fingers spasming around Liam’s shirt and wrist. When he manages to refocus on Liam’s face, Liam looks thoughtful.
And then he says simply, “Can I fuck you?,” and Theo stares at him.
But it hardly matters, because Liam still has his fingers wrapped around Theo’s cock, and it jerks at his question. Liam grins, manages another stroke, two, before Theo manages to gather his scattered wits enough to clamp his hand back down around Liam’s wrist, still his movements.
“Yes,” Theo finally manages to say, going for firm but still sounding irritatingly breathy, “Yes, you can absolutely do that. Once we get to my apartment.”
Liam grins and releases his cock, grins wider when Theo can’t quite swallow back a protesting whine, “Okay.”
“You fucking asshole,” Theo mutters, releasing his wrist so that he can grab Liam’s face between his hands, kiss him deeply.
Liam gives him maybe ten blissful seconds, and then he pulls back and frowns theaterically at Theo, chastises, “Theo, we can’t do this here, remember?”
“You fucking asshole,” Theo repeats incredulously, but he’s laughing, so.
Retrieving their keys turns into a somewhat fraught process, because Argent is a notoriously light sleeper and Theo is, technically, on medical house arrest. But both of them are fairly motivated, so they manage to snag their jackets, keys and wallets tucked safely into the pockets, and then dart out of the front door—their shoes left behind out of both impatience and Argent’s constant lessons about efficiency in planning—and to Liam’s beat-up old SUV. Then they both skid to a stop and stare at it, because it’s not exactly known for starting quietly—it does, in fact, sound not unlike a jet engine spinning up, because of course it does—but then they glance at each other, and both dart for the doors.
No one appears yelling in the rearview mirror after them and neither of their phones start ringing with angry calls, so Theo spends the time on the way to his apartment fending off Liam’s wandering hands at red lights and desperately resisting the urge to grind the heel of his palm down against his aching cock. It doesn’t help that trapped in the cab of the SUV with Liam instead of outside in the open air, the smell of Liam’s arousal fills the space quickly, to the point that five minutes in Theo gives up and tilts his head back against the passenger-side headrest, takes in a deep breath of it as he bucks up against his hand; the SUV whines as Liam apparently presses the gas pedal down harder.
Theo lives on the seventh floor and there’s no realistic way he and Liam can climb seven flights of stairs in their current state, but he still spends a moment staring at the elevator doors when they get inside Derek’s building, because he has extremely well-educated suspicions about what’s likely to happen in such an enclosed space. But Liam just grins and presses the up button, shoves him inside when the doors open. Theo spins around to glare at him, but—as suspected—Liam’s already followed him in and followed him back, pressing Theo up against the back of the elevator and taking his mouth again.
Small favors, the elevator doesn’t stop at any other floors, because while Theo hasn’t exactly spent enough time in the building to become friends with his neighbors, shoeless frotting in the elevator isn’t necessarily the impression he wants to make. The doors pop open on the seventh floor and Liam drags Theo out as forcefully as he’d shoved Theo in originally, and ordinarily Theo would protest this treatment, except he—doesn’t really want to. They’re at his front door quickly and Liam plasters himself up against Theo’s back—which isn’t helping Theo get the door open any faster, especially when Liam slides one hand back into Theo’s pants—but finally after some fumbling, he gets it unlocked and rolled open, Liam taking his hand back to crowd Theo through the door, close and lock it behind himself.
He’d probably meant to get right back to collecting on Theo’s earlier promise— can I fuck you?, and jesus christ —but Theo stumbles, caught, as he looks into what was the empty stretch of his apartment, and is now—not so empty.
“Uh, Liam,” Theo tries, confusion tipping Liam’s name up into a question, “When did I get furniture?”
But Liam just gets his hands on Theo’s shoulders, spins him around so that Theo is facing him; he’s grinning widely and leans forward to kiss him, long and slow and deep, and then he leans back and answers, “Since Lydia decided to get you surprise, please-stop-being-so-pathetic Christmas present furniture. Apparently it was a double-score for her, too, because she made Peter pay for it all. She even got you silverware—congratulations on joining the rest of us in being a semi-functioning adult.” He grins again when Theo sneers at him in response, but then he adds innocently, “She got you a real, non-air-mattress bed, too.”
That jolts Theo out of his absentminded consideration of whether he’s more irritated or weirdly touched by Lydia’s executive decision to interior decorate his apartment without telling him—seriously, there’s a painting over his new couch—and he stares at Liam, possibilities already spooling instantly out in his mind; Theo had been approaching the air mattress problem as a bridge that they’d figure out how to cross when they got there. Liam just grins again and gets his hands on Theo’s chest, slides them up and underneath Theo’s jacket so that he can push it off his shoulders. Theo lets the jacket fall and then drops his keys on top of it, brings his hands back up to hold Liam’s head as he kisses him again.
“Let’s go see this bed, then,” Theo murmurs against his lips after a few long seconds, and smiles helplessly when Liam does.
Getting up a spiral staircase while attempting to continuously kiss someone ends up being an exercise in futility. Mostly what ends up happening is that every few steps one of them pushes the other up against the railing and halts all forward progress for the time it takes the other to groan and shove them off, start moving again. And then, at the top, Liam yanks Theo back around and surges up against his mouth, and in an extremely impressive bout of acrobatics, Theo trips backwards on the last step and lands flat on his back, Liam on top of him.
“Ow,” Theo comments contemplatively from the floor, his hands still on Liam’s hips; it takes him a second or two to realize that Liam is shaking on top of him because he’s silently laughing, and Theo punches him in the thigh, “That was all your fault.”
He freezes after he’s said it—that was possibly going to be a loaded phrase from now until forever—but Liam just props his chin up on Theo’s sternum, says, “Yeah, okay. I’ll own that,” and grins.
Then he leans forward and takes Theo’s mouth, stretches his body out on top of Theo’s, his hands coming up to thread into Theo’s hair. Groaning, Theo opens his mouth to Liam’s tongue, presses his hips up against Liam’s ass. It’s in the process of trying to get his hands on Liam’s skin that he realizes Liam is still wearing his jacket, and Theo sets out to immediately remedy that, gets it slid down his arms and is about to throw it to the side when Liam breaks the kiss and kind of flails for it.
Theo stops and stares at him, still holding it in one hand, “I mean, I’m not saying I can’t work with this apparent kink, but…”
Liam just rolls his eyes and sits up as he swipes it; Theo would maybe attempt to say something else clever except Liam sits up directly on top of his hard cock, and Theo has to make an undignified choking noise and arch up at the bolt of pleasure it sends shooting up his spine. When he opens his eyes back up, Liam is fumbling his wallet out of his jacket’s pocket, and then something out of his wallet, and then he throws both his wallet and jacket off to the side. That done, he leans back over Theo and dangles something in front of his face; Theo looks from it to the smug expression Liam is wearing behind it.
“Do I want to know why you had a tiny packet of lube in your wallet?” He asks skeptically, though his body betrays his attempted tone; his fingers spasm around Liam’s hips, because, well: can I fuck you?
“Incredibly awkward BHHS sex education and having Mason as a best friend,” Liam explains cheerfully, palming the packet and leaning back, and deliberately grinding down, the ass; Theo grits his teeth and bucks up in admittedly poorly thought-out revenge. Liam’s eyelids flutter and he bites back a gasp, but then he shakes himself a little and tilts a considering look down at Theo, “Did you want to see this new bed of yours or not?”
He’s not really asking, though; the second he finishes the question he scrambles to his feet and heads for the bed, which is—once Theo has bitten back a protest and twisted around to watch him go—very nice. Whoever Lydia browbeat into helping her haul and assemble—or probably paid, actually, now that Theo has the spare brain cells to think about it—all his new furniture had put together a very tasteful set-up, up to and including a headboard and matching nightstands, the bed itself covered in a full-on coordinated duvet set, pillows and all.
But the part that Theo’s actually interested in—the part that catches and keeps his attention—is Liam climbing onto the bed and sweeping the majority of the pillows off before flopping onto his back and sticking an arm behind his head, his other hand coming to rest as an oh-so-deliberate frame for his hard cock. Theo swallows, and wastes no further time scrambling to his feet after him.
The second he gets his knees on the bed, Liam sits up and drags him forward by the hips, pulls him up and over himself so that Theo’s left straddling him. Groaning, Theo leans down to kiss him, shivering when Liam’s hands slide up and over his back, taking his shirt with them as they go. Once the fabric bunches up under his arms, Theo takes the hint and leans back, strips it over his head and off.
What he hadn’t fully anticipated is Liam following him up and then crowding him backwards, his hands landing on and then sliding down Theo’s thighs to yank his legs out from underneath him so that Theo hits his back. He blinks up at Liam when he lands, and Liam smirks, takes advantage of his new position between Theo’s legs to grind forward against him.
“Jesus christ,” Theo groans, and arches his head back; Liam laughs and leans down to mouth at the join of his shoulder and neck.
His hands start to wander as he keeps it up, as Theo turns his head and noses at the side of Liam’s face until Liam gives in and kisses him. Theo’s breath keeps hitching as Liam scratches his fingers over one of Theo’s pebbled nipples, down over the curve of his ribs. He starts to bring his trailing fingers back up and over Theo’s arms, but he gets to the bend of Theo’s elbows and jerks to a sudden, graceless halt.
“Liam…?” Theo murmurs, the kiss breaking with Liam’s abrupt rigidity.
He can feel Liam’s jaw working against his own, and then Liam sits back, his left hand dragging over Theo’s arm to Theo’s hip as he goes, but his right hand stays exactly where it’d stopped; right over the thin skin of Theo’s left elbow, the veins underneath.
“Liam,” Theo repeats quietly when he realizes.
“What’d it—what’d it feel like?” Liam asks unsteadily, his eyes flicking up to Theo’s from underneath his ducked brow.
For half a second Theo considers not answering, or trying to distract Liam, but then he touches his tongue to his bottom lip and says, “Cold, at first. Then it burned.”
Liam stares at him, expression gone raw and his breathing uneven, and then he squeezes his eyes shut. Theo winces and is about to bring a hand up to Liam’s face, encourage him down so that Theo can kiss him, when Liam suddenly bends, puts his mouth right up against the spot where Monroe had inserted the IV needle. Theo gasps in surprise, and then gasps again in a confused mix of arousal and—something else, when Liam opens his lips and bites, gently but unmistakably, at the skin; it’s not the same kind of pinch that the needle had been, but it still jolts through him.
Liam spends half a minute or so laving attention on the area, and Theo’s such a helpless mess of touched and turned-on that he doesn’t know what to do, can only hold his arm still while simultaneously grinding his hard and aching cock up against Liam’s stomach. But Liam doesn’t stop, just keeps focusing on that spot, though his hands drop to Theo’s hips and hook into his sweatpants, pulls them and his briefs down when Theo immediately lifts his hips for him. He breaks off when he has to lean back and shift to get them fully off and tossed somewhere, and Theo thinks about moving, about leaning up and claiming his mouth or something, but then just—doesn’t, just stays right where Liam had put him and stares up at him, panting and now naked and hard.
Liam stares back at him for a long few seconds, and then his lips quirk up in a soft smile, “Hey.”
“Hey,” Theo says softly back, and Liam folds back over him, kisses him again.
They kiss for a few long, slow minutes, and Theo has just tangled his fingers in Liam’s shirt, suddenly outright insulted by it still being on Liam’s back and blocking Theo from feeling Liam’s skin, when Liam suddenly breaks the kiss and starts sliding downwards. Theo freezes, intuition and anticipation both kicking in hard, and then he jerks when he realizes his grip around Liam’s hem has halted Liam’s progress and Liam is glaring up at him from halfway down his chest.
“I mean, if you’re not interested…” Liam throws out, though his shit-eating grin gives him away.
Theo rolls his eyes and instead of letting go of Liam’s shirt like Liam had probably been expecting, pulls it harder up. Liam squawks indignantly and flails a bit, manages to extract himself from his shirt after a few undignified seconds. Sitting up some and glaring at Theo, he reaches forward and swipes his shirt from Theo’s hands, throws it unceremoniously to the side.
“Are you done? Can I get back to what I was doing?” He asks, faux-irritation thick in his voice.
Theo grins and tightens his thighs briefly around Liam’s hips, then releases them before Liam can get actually annoyed, gestures benevolently for Liam to continue. Liam tries to hide it but he’s smiling as he refocuses, scooching down the bed some so that he has room; his hands come to rest on either side of Theo’s hard cock and Theo swallows, looks at that view and then forces his gaze up so that he can meet Liam’s eyes.
That seems to be all the signal Liam had been waiting for; he grins and leans down, takes Theo in his mouth.
Theo gasps and just barely manages to keep his hips from arching up. He doesn’t manage to keep his hands from threading into Liam’s hair, clenching but not pushing as Liam starts to work him, one forearm braced over Theo’s hips to keep them still and one hand wrapped around the base of Theo’s cock.
“Holy—holy shit,” Theo pants out.
His hips strain up against Liam’s hand and Theo swears, looks down and is about to apologize when Liam opens his eyes and looks back through gold-flared eyes as he engages his supernatural strength to drive Theo’s hips back down. Theo’s breath stutters on his next inhale and he jams his head back down, eyes squeezing shut as arousal drives hard through him, his fingers clenching tighter in Liam’s hair.
He tries to warn Liam off when he gets close, his fingers tugging at his hair and—when that doesn’t work—his heel thumping against Liam’s back. But Liam just catches his leg with one hand and forces it back down—which really doesn’t help with the situation—and Theo moans, his back arching and his non-trapped foot scrambling at the sheets, and comes. That’s almost too much to bear as-is, except then he can feel Liam swallowing around him, and he gives another bitten-off cry and arches again.
When he finally comes back to himself enough that he can open his eyes and look up at Liam, his legs splayed bonelessly out and his hands—which Liam had gently untangled from his hair at some point when Theo was... distracted —falling away from his face, Liam is smirking down at him. He looks even more wrecked than he had in the McCall backyard, which up until this point Theo would have bet was impossible, and Theo forces an arm up, hooks his fingers around the back of Liam’s neck until he can pull him down into a kiss.
The movement drives Liam’s still-covered and still very hard cock against his ass, and Liam moans, his hips jerking helplessly and his hands fisting in the sheets on either side of Theo’s head. So Theo smirks against his mouth and brings one of his legs up and around Liam’s waist so that he can drive his heel against the small of Liam’s back, pressing Liam’s hips harder forward as a result; Liam breaks the kiss and turns his head, pants against the side of Theo’s mouth as his hips roll again, and then again.
“You know, I seem to recall I made you a deal,” Theo murmurs, turning his face some so that his lips drag against the corner of Liam’s mouth as he speaks.
Liam groans and turns his head quickly to catch Theo’s mouth, licks deep inside it for a long second, two, before he pulls back just enough that he can look in Theo’s eyes and correct, “You made me a promise, actually.”
Theo freezes, staring up at Liam, because the emphasis in that sentence wasn’t accidental, but Liam just smiles gently when he catches the panicked look on Theo’s face, leans back down to kiss him soft and slow and close-mouthed.
Then he pushes back up just enough to catch Theo’s eyes again and says, “You and me, we keep our promises, huh?,” and Theo has to swallow past the sudden tightness in his throat, has to blink away the sudden heat in the corners of his eyes.
“Yeah,” He agrees softly, “Yeah, we do.”
Liam smiles again and darts down to kiss him quickly, and then—Theo squawking in sudden, startled protest—he abruptly straightens and then flops backwards, out of the circle of Theo’s legs. Theo rises up on his elbows to stare, and realizes almost instantly what Liam is doing. Or, more accurately, attempting to do; he probably should have put the lube packet on one of the nightstands instead of the bed itself, because he now—apparently—can’t find it. Theo snorts with laughter and drops back down to his back, then yelps when Liam reaches over and punches him in the thigh for his sass.
But that gives Theo ideas, so he scrambles upright himself and takes advantage of Liam still comically muttering to himself and sliding his hands over the covers looking for the packet to get ahold of the waistband of Liam’s sweats, start yanking them down. Liam’s distraction means that he isn’t prepared for it, and Theo ends up messing up his own plan when he starts laughing hard enough at the way Liam makes a startled noise and goes abruptly flat, that he has to let go of Liam’s pants and briefs only halfway down Liam’s legs to fall sideways, shaking with silent laughter.
Liam turns around to glare at him, but he also takes advantage of what Theo started to scramble the rest of the out of his sweatpants and briefs, throw them to the side. But that seems to give him an idea, and he peers over the edge of the bed, looking thoughtfully at the pile of pillows that he’d knocked off earlier.
“...damn,” He comments resignedly after a moment, and then heaves a sigh and vaults off the bed, goes to crouch over the fallen pillows as he searches underneath them for the packet.
Theo props himself up on one elbow and enjoys the show; Liam must realize he’s doing it because he throws an arm back behind himself, middle finger extended. Snorting, Theo drops back down flat and waits, snorts again when seconds later Liam gives a triumphant cry and appears over the side of the bed with the little packet of lube held high.
“Impressive,” Theo tells him dryly; Liam just grins and gets one knee up on the bed between Theo’s feet, gets the other up so that he’s kneeling naked between Theo’s thighs. Abruptly it’s not as funny anymore; Theo swallows.
Liam grins and then drops down onto his hands, palms on either side of Theo’s head as he kisses him, licking into his mouth when Theo immediately drops it open for him. And then he shifts, his mouth still on Theo’s but his hands sliding up and over Theo’s head so that he’s braced on his elbows instead, and Theo hears the sound of packaging ripping, can’t stop his hips from bucking up against Liam’s stomach; can feel his cock already starting to harden again as it drags against Liam’s abs.
He brings his hands up to clutch at Liam’s back, dig into the rippling muscles of Liam’s shoulders as Liam shifts again, his weight now braced on one elbow. Theo’s breath hitches in anticipation and he drops his leg wider as the back of Liam’s free hand brushes the inside of his thigh, as Liam presses a slick finger against the rim of his ass and then pauses there.
“Yes?” He asks against Theo’s mouth, and Theo bites back a moan and surges up into him, kissing him hard and wet and dirty; Liam makes a surprised, punched-out sound and kisses him back.
“Yes,” Theo tells him when he breaks away, “God, yes. Please, yes.”
Liam grins cheekily down at him, “Don’t have to tell me twice.”
“Pretty sure I just told you three—” Theo starts to snark back, and then cuts off on a moan that goes higher and breathier as Liam slides his finger in slow and steady.
Theo pants against his mouth, gasps out jesus, Liam, as Liam starts to work his finger. He doesn’t really have the presence of mind to kiss Liam back, too focused on the pressure and the burn and the steadily increasing pleasure of Liam’s finger inside him, but Liam doesn’t seem to mind, just mouths at Theo’s jaw, his neck as he keeps pumping his hand, twisting his wrist.
Not long after, he presses a second slick finger against Theo’s entrance and Theo gives a jerky nod before Liam can even ask, has to arch his head back, the muscles in his stomach and legs going tight with the sensation as Liam slowly withdraws his first finger and then presses both just as slowly back in. The added stretch means that Theo feels all of it, the bumps of Liam’s knuckles and the drag of his fingertips, and he can’t quite bite back a whine; doesn’t regret it when the sound causes Liam to groan and his hips to buck against Theo’s thigh.
And then Liam’s searching fingers press against something inside of him and Theo sucks in a sharp breath, arcs hard enough at the spike of pleasure that Liam has to shift to pin him more fully down. He doesn’t stop, though, just keeps at that spot until Theo is panting and clutching at his neck, the back of his head, his fingertips digging into Liam’s skin as his hips jerk helplessly against Liam’s hand, his cock once more hard and aching against his stomach.
“C’mon, Liam. C’mon, please,” He finally gasps out, and Liam groans and nods jerkily against his shoulder, withdraws his two fingers only to press back in a half-second later with three.
The additional burn combined with the shocks still jolting through his system causes Theo to cry out and he has to turn his head away from Liam’s, pant against Liam’s shoulder as he digs his fingers harder into Liam’s muscles and spreads his legs wider, presses back against Liam’s hand as Liam presses harder in. Liam buries his own moan in Theo’s neck and goes searching for that spot again, finds it again quickly and is prepared for Theo’s reaction this time, already pinning his hip down and holding him steady as he works it.
“Okay, enough, c’mon,” Theo moans after—half a minute? A minute? Theo has literally no idea —some time, his knees squeezing at Liam’s hips and his fingers raking up Liam’s back to clutch at his hair, pull him up so that Theo can look at him.
He looks wrecked, his eyes wild and his hair in complete disarray, and he must see an equally desperate look on Theo’s face because he starts nodding frantically. Then he stops, holds Theo’s eyes in warning as he slowly withdraws his fingers. Theo swallows back a protest, his hips jerking, but lets Liam go when he sits back, stares at him in heavy-lidded desperation as Liam fumbles for the discarded lube packet, gets his hand slick and then wraps it around himself, his eyelids fluttering shut.
“Liam,” Theo moans, more because he can’t stop himself than as an order, but Liam takes it as one anyway, folds back down over Theo with one hand braced by Theo’s head, the other holding himself steady as he presses the tip of his cock up against Theo’s entrance. But then he pauses, and Theo catches Liam’s eyes to glare at him, tells him warningly, “If you’re waiting for me to say yes again…” Liam just grins at him and doesn’t move, so Theo groans and smacks him on the shoulder, says, “ Yes,” then says it again when Liam starts to press immediately inside.
Liam may have been intending to pause again past that initial first bit of resistance, but Theo doesn’t let him, just wraps his legs around Liam’s waist and starts slowly but relentless encouraging him further, and further. Above him, Liam sucks in a sharp breath but doesn’t fight him on it, just keeps pressing forward until, between his own movements and Theo’s admittedly unasked-for assistance, he’s fully seated. Then he pauses, the muscles in his thighs tense like he’s expecting Theo to immediately start trying to get him to move and he’d been saving up all his stubbornness for not doing that, but Theo doesn’t.
He can’t, the sensation of being full and stretched briefly shorting out his ability to think. Instead he just lays underneath Liam and pants, every other exhale a breathy moan, his fingers clenching and unclenching rhythmically around Liam’s back and his legs trembling around Liam’s hips as he adjusts to the feeling. Liam starts murmuring nonsensical praise, pressing his lips to Theo’s jaw, his neck; the corner of his slack mouth. Theo turns into it best he can, kisses Liam sloppily back, his body occasionally jerking with little zings of pleasure and sensation.
And then the feeling of being overfull steadily becomes a feeling of being perfectly full, and Theo groans, wraps his arms more tightly around Liam’s back and uses the grip he has around Liam’s waist with his legs to move, to fuck himself back onto Liam once, twice. Liam gives a surprised shout and his hips buck forward hard, pressing Theo’s hips down into the mattress, and Theo gasps, head arching back.
“Couldn’t have just said I’m ready, could you, you show-off,” Liam mutters, but he has to pant it out and his hips keep giving these short, sharp little jerks, so Theo doesn’t take it personally.
Instead he just grins and uses his leverage to pull the same move a third time, and Liam makes a noise and reaches down to grab his hips, forcefully pin them to the bed.
“I feel like you’re following the letter but not really the spirit of your earlier promise,” He points out, glowering, and now Theo grins cheekily, drags his hands over Liam’s shoulders and down his chest so that he can scratch his fingernails over Liam’s pebbled nipples, grin wider when Liam gasps.
“Just trying to help,” Theo tells him innocently, and gives a startled laugh and yanks his hands out of the way when Liam abruptly folds down over him so that he can take Theo’s mouth, kiss him deep and harshly.
He leaves his hands on Theo’s hips, though, and when he starts to move he uses them to keep Theo’s hips still. Theo moans in a startled burst of arousal as he tries to move like he had before and can’t, Liam’s grip preventing him, and Liam smiles fiercely against his mouth and thrusts forward harder, his fingers digging furrows into Theo’s hips, the curve of his ass.
And then, of course, as if Theo needed more evidence of Liam’s determination to take full advantage of Theo’s promise to him, he deliberately finds that spot inside of Theo and starts hitting that on every thrust; Theo gives a choked cry and scrabbles at his shoulders, his legs tightening best they can even with Liam’s restraining grip. He can feel himself clenching tight around Liam, and while Liam’s rhythm doesn’t so much as stutter, he drops his forehead to Theo’s chest and moans, then does it again as he keeps up his relentless pace.
It isn’t long before Theo feels arousal winding tighter and tighter in his gut again, his cock dragging against Liam’s stomach with every thrust and starbursts of pleasure shooting up his spine every time Liam hits that spot, and so he wraps his arms more tightly around Liam’s neck and shoulders, pants out, “Liam. Liam, I’m going to—”
Liam darts up and takes his mouth just as he gives a long, loud cry, and comes. He pauses in his thrusts as he does, pressed up tight against Theo’s ass and holding there as he rides out Theo’s orgasm with him, and finally Theo collapses back down, his arms falling bonelessly away from Liam’s shoulders and to the bed as he stares pleasure-dazed up at him.
Liam goes to let go of his hips—probably correctly interpreting that Theo couldn’t get clever with his movements now even if he wanted to—but Theo’s hands reflexively dart down before he’s even thought about it, holding them there. Liam’s brow furrows as he looks back up at Theo, and Theo just stares back at him, startled by his own reaction but also really, really willing to roll with this turn of events. A slow, satisfied smirk curls Liam’s lips, and he deliberately tightens his fingers hard around Theo’s hips, smirk widening when Theo gives a sharp, shaky gasp and jerks against him.
“Yeah, okay,” Liam tells him, and leans down to kiss him slow and wet and dirty, “I can work with that.”
And then he starts to move again.
Theo’s officially tapped out between the orgasm still sending aftershocks zinging through him and his earlier one, but that—actually seems to work for both of them, Liam taking advantage of his pliability to haul Theo’s hips further into his lap—his fingers still tight around Theo’s hip-bones—and Theo clutching his hands in the blankets beneath him to brace himself best he can against Liam’s thrusts. Liam bends back over him and kisses him, though from the increasingly uncoordinated swipes of his tongue, the way that it mostly devolves into breathing against each other’s mouths, he’s on the edge, himself.
So Theo turns his face against the side of Liam’s head, his mouth right up against Liam’s ear, and gasps out, “That’s it, Liam, c’mon. C’mon, please,” and Liam gives a choked cry that becomes a long, drawn-out moan as he comes, his hips jerking forward to press up tight against Theo’s ass and then staying there.
Theo keeps murmuring whatever nonsensical praise he can think of as Liam continues to gasp against his shoulder, as his hips continue to give tiny little jerks as he slowly comes down. He releases the blankets to bring his hands up to Liam’s back, dragging his fingertips lightly over Liam’s shoulders and ribs and shivering in sympathetic response when that causes Liam to shudder and bite off a low groan.
Finally Liam pants out, “Okay. Okay,” and then, a question, “Okay?”
“Okay,” Theo agrees, and braces himself for the strange, dragging-and-then-empty sensation of it as Liam pulls out, flops down next to him on the bed, one leg left carelessly over one of Theo’s and the other bent at the knee and splayed outwards.
The position is probably accidental but it still draws Theo’s attention down to Liam’s spent cock and he has to swallow back a moan, cover his face with his hands as he tries to catch his breath. When he drops them, Liam tilts his head towards him and smiles, the corners of his eyes crinkling with it. Except—except then the smile abruptly falls off his face and his expression spasms; Liam jerks his head away and all at once sits up, digs the heels of his palms against his eyes.
“Liam?” Theo asks in alarm, and goes to sit up, too.
But Liam just twists around and plants a hand in the middle of his chest, keeps him down. He’s still not looking at Theo but he shakes his head in clear instruction, and so Theo reluctantly relaxes back down, though his eyes never leave Liam’s face. Finally Liam sucks in a deep breath and drops his other hand, leaves the one he’d used to pin Theo where it is as he turns his head slightly to meet his eyes.
“Your, um,” Liam starts, a little hoarsely; he stops, swallows, and tries again, “Your face...the bottom half of it was covered in mercury when we—when we got back to the warehouse. When you…” He trails off, but Theo knows the end of that sentence finishes with when you died. Swallowing again, Liam looks away and confesses quietly, “I don’t think I’m ever going to get that image out of my head.”
Theo flinches. Liam must feel it through the hand he still has on Theo’s chest because he looks at him, gives him an apologetic smile that’s really more of a grimace.
“Hey,” Theo says, and wraps his fingers around Liam’s still half-braced hand on his chest, tugs lightly; not enough to dislodge it, but enough to indicate what he wants.
Liam hesitates for a second, and then he lets Theo collapse his arm, twists back around and folds back over him so that they can kiss again, soft and slow. Theo doesn’t say I’m sorry, though he is, and he doesn’t say it’s okay, because it both is and isn’t. He just kisses him, and when Liam sighs against his mouth and then pulls back, scoots down some so that he can bury his face in Theo’s neck, Theo just wraps his arms around him, presses the side of his face to the top of Liam’s head.
They stay like that for another few minutes, Theo’s eyelids starting to get heavy and Liam’s heartbeat slowing from where Theo can feel it beating against his own ribs, and then Liam groans slightly and mumbles, “We need to go back to Scott’s, don’t we?”
“Yeah, we do,” Theo agrees.
But neither of them moves.
Theo wakes up the next morning not because it is, in fact, morning, or because Liam’s ridiculous hair is in his mouth from where he’s pressed up tight against Liam’s back, but because there's an immensely irritating, crunch-and-clink repetitive sound nearby, and it’s driving him nuts. He blinks open his eyes, then shouts and flails as he catches sight of Scott, Malia, and Stiles all studying him and Liam from the chic little sitting area Lydia had apparently deigned to put in the corner of the loft.
“Boom,” Stiles crows in victory, and makes a grabby-hands gesture with one hand towards Scott, his other holding a bowl of cereal, “Longer than five minutes. Pay up, Scotty.”
Scott groans and arches up so he can get his hand in his jeans’ pocket, fish out his wallet as he whines, “Aw, c’mon. It’s usually takes like, thirty seconds, max, for Theo to wake up once someone opens his door.”
“Yeah, well. Liam must have really worn him out,” Malia comments, her arms crossed and her legs stretched out before her from where she’s sprawled back in one of the chairs; when Theo’s attention jerks to her, she smirks sharply.
“Okay, what the fu— ” Theo starts to demand, absently giving all the thanks that he and Liam had climbed under the blankets at some point last night, because they are both still very naked.
Except Liam chooses that moment to join the party, raising his head and glancing sleepily around as he complains, “God, Theo. Why are you yelling?” Theo stares at him incredulously, but then Liam must catch sight of Scott, Malia, and Stiles, because he freezes and says, “Oh. Uh, hi, Scott. Malia. Stiles.”
Stiles says hi, Liam in a deliberately over-cheerful tone and Malia rolls her eyes, but Scott raises his eyebrows and says, “Hey, Liam,” in a voice dry enough to give Argent’s best a run for its money, “So. Funny thing happened this morning.”
“Yeah?” Liam replies weakly, “Any way this story could wait until I am—we are—wearing pants?”
“I’m not sure people who aid and abet medical house arrestees with making a jailbreak get to make requests,” Stiles offers, still sounding annoyingly cheerful, which only gets worse when he starts eating his cereal again: crunch-clink, crunch-crunch-clink.
Scott just ignores both of them—and Theo, who flops back onto his back and covers his face with a groan—and continues, “So my mom wakes up and goes to check that her patient is, y’know, still alive, only her patient and the person who was supposed to be watching her patient are both gone without a trace.”
“Her first mistake was putting Liam in that lofty a position of responsibility,” Theo mutters, then yelps when Liam punches him in the arm; Scott ignores that, too.
“You two seriously couldn’t have left a note ? Or, I don’t know, worn shoes?” He demands, “We only put together where you likely went because—”
At that point he abruptly trails off, an embarrassed and slightly pole-axed look crossing his face, which only gets worse when Malia fills in, “When I smelled what you two started getting up to in the backyard,” with her usual lack of bedside manner.
Scott winces and says, “Yes. Thank you, Malia,” a little haltingly. Then he returns to glaring at Theo and Liam and concludes, “Luckily Derek was able to confirm he could hear your heartbeats in the building when I called him, or you’d be dealing with Argent right now.”
Theo’s about ninety percent sure they’re going to be dealing with Argent later regardless, but: “Would you rather we stayed?” He asks Scott pointedly, and is desperately and unexpectedly trying not to laugh at the look that crosses Scott’s face when he hears the front door roll open and he drops his head back, complains, “Seriously?,” to the ceiling as Lydia, Derek, and Alec all walk in.
“Who won the bet?” Lydia calls up, sounding blithely unconcerned with the fact that she’s now becoming the fourth person to technically break into Theo’s apartment this morning.
“Me!” Stiles yells back gleefully, turning to lean over the loft railing to beam down at her, “Well, technically us. You were the one who made the original guess.”
“Oh my god,” Liam groans, and starts apparently attempting to suffocate himself with a pillow; Theo grabs it away from him, but hits him with it for good measure before he throws it to the side.
“Okay!” Theo announces a little more shrilly than he’d intended, glares at Scott, Malia, and Stiles when they all look over at him; he can hear Lydia’s, Derek’s, and Alec’s footsteps on the stairs, but he’d already resigned himself to his and Liam’s audience doubling in size, so: “Glad we could have this talk this morning. Anything else?”
Lydia is smirking when she crests the stairs and even Derek’s lips have some curl to them—Alec just looks a little hunted, like he’s definitely not sure if he should or wants to be a part of this insanity—and Theo gives her a dirty look. She just raises an eyebrow and gestures around, a clear oh, I’m sorry, don’t you want to thank me for my brilliance with respect to the bed and all Theo’s other new furniture, and Theo just snorts a laugh, shakes his head. And then he refocuses on Scott when Scott tosses something— two sometimes—onto the bed with him and Liam; one each of his and Liam’s abandoned shoes.
“Yeah,” Scott says, answering his earlier question about there being anything else: “You two need to get up and get ready. We’ve got to get on the road.”
Theo just squints at him, “Get on the road to where?”
“Well, I mean, if you don’t want your truck back,” Scott says, shrugging, and Theo jolts as he remembers that he’d had to leave it at Isabella’s when he and Liam had fled Monroe’s hunters... yesterday, what the actual fuck. Scott laughs at the look that must be on Theo’s face and then he adds, “Not to mention, there are some people in Yreka who’d like to see you, too.”
“Oh,” Theo says softly, remembering Shohreh’s hands on his arm when he’d been dying on that warehouse floor, “Right.”
Scott’s smile softens and then he glances at Malia, smacks a hand down on her thigh as he pushes himself to his feet, hauls her up when she takes his hand afterwards.
“We’ll be downstairs,” Scott tells him and Liam, moving to follow the train of Alec, Lydia, Derek, and Malia heading back down the stairs; he has to grab and unceremoniously shove Stiles to get him to go, too.
Theo just stares after him, but it’s Liam who comes back to himself when Scott is already halfway down the stairs to shout, “Oh my god, just go to Derek’s, you perverts!”
“Nope!” Scott sing-songs cheerfully back, “You two have officially lost your unsupervised privileges for the foreseeable future!”
Liam’s only response is to pelt a pillow over the loft railing where it—based on sound alone—manages somehow to hit Stiles, who yelps in surprise and swears. Liam smirks, and then he frowns contemplatively at the ceiling as he announces, “I...do not have clothes here.”
Forty-five minutes later and he’s tugging one of Theo’s shirts further over his wrists, kicking a leg to settle one of Theo’s pairs of jeans over his shoes, while he and Theo spill with Scott and the others out of Derek’s building and into the parking lot. Derek, Stiles, and Lydia peel off to head for Derek’s Toyota and Scott, Malia, and Alec beeline it for the Jeep, but Theo jerks to a graceless halt and then slaps a hand out over Liam’s chest to stop him, too, because Argent is leaning up against his SUV and watching them with a silent but very judgemental raised eyebrow.
“He—ey, Argent,” Liam tries, already wincing; Theo looks heavenward in despair at his lack of grace. When Argent doesn’t say or do anything—literally, he doesn’t so much as blink—Liam grimaces and offers, “At least we stuck with our designated buddy?”
If the look on Argent’s face gets any drier, he’s going to officially be in danger of shriveling up, but luckily Liam’s comment just causes him to stare in disbelief at Liam and Theo before he sighs heavily and orders, “Just get in the car.”
Liam goes, scrambling into the back and greeting Ms. McCall sat in the front seat with another cringe-inducing he—ey, Ms. McCall, but Theo doesn’t move right away, a question eating at him. Argent catches his hesitation and turns back from where he’d started heading for the driver’s door, meets his eyes.
“The hunter family, the one with the bogus tip,” Theo asks, can feel the tension between his shoulders winching tight as he looks back at Argent.
Argent’s jaw clenches and his scent briefly spikes with anger, but he just says, “Taken care of.”
Theo holds his gaze for a few seconds longer, then jerks a nod, heads for the back door that Liam had left open for him. Once he’s settled and buckled in—Argent back in the driver’s side seat and already turning the engine over—he looks up to see Ms. McCall studying him in the rearview mirror. When she sees him staring back her expression goes dry, and she raises her eyebrows.
Sorry, he mouths, wincing, and means it, but Ms. McCall’s eyes just flick over in the rearview to Liam bent forward in his seat so he can hold the back of Argent’s chair and pester him with questions, and she just smiles, looks away. Theo bites back his own smile and settles back against his seat, his eyes drifting out the window, then almost immediately has to turn back when Liam smacks him on the shoulder and pulls him into the argument that he has somehow already gotten into with Argent.
Mason’s hybrid is already in the stretch of field that serves as the overflow parking lot at Shohreh’s ranch house, along with, Theo’s realizing, nearly two dozen other cars, many of which he recognizes. Nina’s and Nathaniel’s crossover is parked next to Jyoti’s mustang, and Ailene’s Jeep is squeezed in between Marcus Sivaraja’s sensible four-door and Rosalia’s dust-covered truck. Theo stares at the stretch of cars signaling the presence of the Carson City, Lakeview, Chemult, Sacramento, and Denio packs, among others, his ears catching the dull roar of dozens of voices inside the house and out in the backyard, and slowly, slowly, pushes his door shut.
Ms. McCall and Liam had already gone to catch up with Scott and the others just pulling in, but Argent lingers by his door, very deliberately not looking at Theo. Grimacing, Theo shakes himself out of his stupor and tucks his hands in his pockets, kicks a foot against the ground.
“Not what you were expecting?” Argent asks mildly, and tilts his head back slightly to meet Theo’s eyes finally when Theo looks over at him.
“Monroe’s dead, most of her people are dead with her or captured, and the stragglers don’t stand a chance,” Theo answers, shrugging, “Mostly I’m surprised Shohreh managed to pull a celebration like this together in less than a day.”
Argent just gives him a slight smile and—ignoring his attempted deflection—says, “Monroe being dead is part of it.”
Theo looks up at him, and something must be all over his face, because Argent laughs quietly and reaches out a hand, reels him in for an unexpected, if quick, embrace. Then he claps Theo once on the shoulder and shoves him lightly towards where the rest of the McCall pack had started heading for the house, Liam walking backwards to talk to Mason, Corey, and Alec, Lydia with her fingers threaded through Derek’s and Stiles’ arm around her shoulder; Scott pauses from where he’d been talking with his mother and Malia to gesture back at Theo and Argent: hurry up, c’mon.
The instant they hit the house, the pack gets pulled in all directions. Scott gets pulled into a circle of alphas, all of whom immediately stop whatever they’d been in the middle of to demand that Scott introduce them to his mother. Malia is almost immediately swarmed by Yreka pack children who definitely want to show off their cool shapeshifting playmate, and she winds up dragging Derek off with her. Lydia becomes an instant celebrity by merit of being the one who’d come up with the vaccine, and she—and Mason, who accidentally answers a complicated biology question and gets yanked into the conversation, too—winds up surrounded by starstruck werewolves. For Stiles, Corey, Alec, and Liam, there’s a pick-up lacrosse game happening in the backyard, werewolves and pack-born humans alike, and they’re on the field and whooping within minutes.
Theo’s leaned up against the back railing watching them along with Argent when Deputy McPherson steps out of the house, two beers in hand. He hands one to Argent, who thanks him absently, and nods at Theo.
He starts to say, “Good to see you…” and then trails off, clearly wondering how impolitic it would be to say alive —or just still thrown by the complete insanity of having watched Theo die yesterday and seeing him up and perfectly fine today —and then he laughs quietly, and quirks a smile, tells him simply, “Shohreh’s in the kitchen.”
“Thanks,” Theo tells him, and pushes off the railing so that he can head inside; McPherson takes his place, starts talking with Argent.
Shohreh is indeed in the kitchen, talking with Ailene and chopping the tops off of strawberries, tossing them into a bowl. She breaks off when Theo walks in and smiles warmly, sets the knife down and opens her arms; Theo doesn’t slow, just walks right into them, presses his face against her shoulder as her arms come around him.
“I have to admit, Mr. Raeken. When Scott told me his plan, I’d thought he’d lost his mind,” She confesses, then murmurs, “I’m very glad to have been wrong.”
“Thank you,” Theo tells her, his voice gone hoarse; he squeezes her tighter and adds more quietly, “Thank you for saving him.”
Shohreh presses a kiss his cheek, then pulls back some to look at him, brings her hands up to cup his face as she says, “Thank you for saving all of us.” When Theo just frowns at her, she strokes her thumbs over his cheekbones and explains, “Liam told us about the promise you made him give.”
Theo colors, he can feel the heat in his face, and opens and then immediately closes his mouth again. Shohreh smiles at him and leans forward to press another kiss against his forehead, then releases him, shooing him back towards the backyard.
“Go, go. Enjoy the party. This is as much your victory as anyone else’s,” She orders, and picks her knife back up, resumes chopping her strawberries.
Theo hesitates for a moment, and then he smiles, nods, murmurs hey, Ailene, and then heads back out to where he can hear the pick-up lacrosse game still going strong. He’s still there, sat on the same couch he’d fallen asleep on that one time, when Scott finds him later, now watching a veritable herd of various packs’ children running after Malia and Derek in their full-shift forms; somewhere down in the grass, he can hear Lydia and Stiles laughing with delight as she watches them, can hear the rest of the McCall pack members scattered in and among the other packs, all talking and laughing and joking.
Theo looks up when Scott drops heavily down onto the couch next to him with a groan, a mason jar full of something sweet and acidic—strawberry lemonade, Theo realizes, thinking back to Shohreh’s bowl of fruit—in his hand. He takes a long drink and then grins at Theo, props his head up on his hand as he looks out into the backyard, to where Liam had apparently made some tongue-in-cheek comment to Nathaniel and is now hurriedly running away from him, Nathaniel giving chase while Nina and Mason and Corey all yell peanut-gallery commentary.
“So. I guess you figured out why I asked you to come to Liam’s with us that night, and why I kept bringing him back to Dorris,” Scott suddenly says, grinning at Theo when Theo looks over.
Theo squints at him for a second, confused, but then he remembers. Scott, staring at him in the operating theater not quite two weeks ago after Liam’s screw-up with Rossler and Preston, saying: why do you think I always brought him here after he and I fought? And then, even more confused: Why do you think I asked you to come with us that night Liam told his parents about being a werewolf?
And then there had been Monroe, standing over Theo with that sharp smile on her face and saying: I don’t think I’m the one underestimating how he feels about me.
“Yeah, I…guess I did,” Theo agrees quietly, his eyes drifting back out to the grass; to Liam, who feints right when he should’ve feinted left and runs right into Nathaniel’s outstretched arm. The sight of him is like a warm weight in Theo’s chest, wrapped tight around his sister’s heart; an anchor.
Scott laughs quietly, easily, nods as he absently watches Nathaniel catch Liam in a loose headlock, Liam squawking and trying mostly ineffectively to get free. Then he touches his tongue to his bottom lip, taps his fingers against the glass in his hand.
“Scott?” Theo prompts gently, studying him.
“I’m almost definitely not going to say this right,” Scott warns, but then he sighs and sets his glass down between his feet, braces his elbows on his knees and then his chin on his hands, and tips his head to look at Theo as he tells him, “Liam told me what Monroe said when she had you two tied up, before she—before she started poisoning you.”
Theo feels his expression pinch and looks away, fills in neutrally, “That I’m not one of your betas, and I’m not part of your pack.”
Scott grimaces, nods in confirmation, “That last part is obviously bullshit—” Theo jerks and stares at him in surprise, but Scott doesn’t even slow, “—but I wanted to…I thought maybe…”
He huffs in frustration and brings a hand up to scratch awkwardly at the back of his neck, then finishes:
“I wanted to offer you the Bite.”
Theo stares at him. He’d already been completely thrown from Scott’s that last part is obviously bullshit comment, and this just knocks whatever progress he’d made in reassembling his scattered thoughts right back down. Scott winces, colors some.
“I knew that was going to come out weird,” He mutters, possibly to himself, but he doesn’t take it back, just smiles best he can at Theo given his apparent embarrassment, “But, well. It worked with Hayden, so I figured…”
They’re both distracted by a sudden burst of noise. Out on the grass Liam has freed himself of Nathaniel’s headlock and jumped on his back with a theatrical cry, which turns out to be a bit of a strategic error given that Nathaniel’s over a head taller than him. Nathaniel just oofs and laughs and then flips Liam—relatively—gently off, kneels in faux-victory, arms raised, against Liam’s chest as Liam guffaws with laughter and Nina, Corey, and Mason all cheer. Theo listens to it all, and finds a slow, helpless, and wide smile breaking across his face as he does; he looks back at Scott.
“Thanks. Really, thanks,” He tells him, but his mind isn’t on Scott anymore, not really: it’s on Liam, that night in the forest, snarling you’re not here because anyone’s making you.
“But…?” Scott prompts, correctly interpreting Theo’s response.
Theo glances back at him from where his gaze had drifted back out towards the grass; towards Liam, now out from underneath Nathaniel’s knee and bouncing from foot to foot with his hands up like a boxer as he faces a sniggering Nathaniel; he looks like a complete dork, but the sight of him causes Theo’s chest—his sister’s heart—to bloom with warmth.
“But…,” but the sun, and the moon, and the truth, “But I think I’m finally figuring out how to be a chimera,” Theo finally says, looking back at Scott and smiling.
Scott studies him for a long few seconds, and then he smiles back, reaches forward and claps him on the shoulder, shakes him a bit once he’s got a grip. Theo laughs and rocks with it, and then his head jerks up and out—Scott’s doing the same—when Liam suddenly calls their names.
“Hey, what are you two doing up there?” He demands; Nathaniel attempts to take advantage of his distraction to rush in, and Liam has to shriek and dodge away. Once he’s successfully put a few feet between himself and Nathaniel, he yells, “C’mon, get down here.”
“Guess we’d better go,” Scott comments wryly, and reaches down to grab his glass, drains it quickly before setting it back down and pushing himself to his feet, jogging down the steps to the grass.
Theo doesn’t move immediately, just watches as Scott drops down next to Corey, laughs at something Nina says. Liam dodges out of the way of another attempted grab by Nathaniel and then spots Theo still sat on the couch.
“Come on, Theo!” He shouts, “Stop sitting up there on a couch by yourself, you’re a part of this now, better come own it!”
And so Theo—he grins, and gets to his feet, and does.