In the secret parts of Fortune? O, most true; she
Is a strumpet. What's the news?
None, my lord, but that the world's grown honest.
Then is doomsday near: but your news is not true.
Let me question more in particular: what have you,
My good friends, deserved at the hands of fortune,
That she sends you to prison hither?
The sky turned a bruised purple as the sun dropped behind the hills to the west. Theo and Scott got out of the SUV a moment before Argent did, the air stinging their nostrils much as it had all day. It had been a relief when they had finally left the ghost town by the water, grateful for the vehicle’s efficient air conditioning. The saline, chemical smell of the Salton Sea had given both the werewolf and the chimera headaches all day.
As much as the twilight air stank, Scott paused once he was completely free of the Tahoe. He was tired and sweaty and grimy with wind-blow sand, and he stretched his arms wide in an effort unkink his limbs. Theo, emerging on the side of the vehicles, was just as filthy. His shirt was stained with the sweat of the afternoon’s heat, and he was openly yawning. Chris Argent should have fell over, given he lacked the supernatural stamina of the two younger men and so far more susceptible to the afternoon’s work in 100-plus degree temperatures. Yet, he didn’t show much fatigue at all.
“There’s a restaurant across the street.” Scott pointed at a local diner with glowing bands of red and yellow neon that no one could possibly miss. “Want to go have dinner?”
“I could eat.” Theo yawned again.
“You boys go. I’m exhausted.”
“You don’t really look exhausted, Mr. Argent.”
Chris cocked his head to the side. “Scott, I’ll be lucky if I don’t drown in the shower. If I manage not to do so, I’ll call your mother before I go to bed. Any message?”
“I love her, and we’ll be home soon.”
The older hunter nodded and headed towards his motel room. They had picked up the keys when they had first arrived in town, so now they wouldn’t have to mess with check in. They’d been on dozens of nearly identical missions to this one had become very good at thinking ahead.
This time they had tracked down on three runaway born wolves -- children really -- to the numerous ghost towns on the shores of the sea. They had fled Monroe’s hunters, but they were lost and alone. Yet now they were rescued and at another motel with the other survivors of their decimated pack -- alive and with friends.
“So. Dinner?” Theo reminded him. Scott had watched Chris Argent and drifted off.
“I don’t know, now. A shower sounds really good after all that shit today.”
“Yeah. But it was worth it.”
Scott raised one eyebrow. “You didn’t seem like you were having much of a good time.”
“What? Nah. I was fine.”
Scott frowned. “How about I order some pizza and we eat in my room? You can go clean up and then come over. Give me a half hour?”
Theo took in a deep breath and then nodded. Scott left Theo still in the parking lot to go to his own room. He started stripping off his clothes the moment the door was closed, leaving a trail heading toward the bathroom. His hand was on the shower handle when he bit his lip and came back out. Fishing for his jeans, he pulled out his phone checked it for messages.
There were five texts from Liam, mostly complaining about the cost of graduation robes. There were fifteen texts from Stiles. The first four were normal enough, but then Stiles had forgotten that Scott would be without service all day today until the last text, which was apologetic for the tone of the previous ten. Scott smiled. There was the standard voicemail from his mother. There was also a voicemail from Lydia, a rare enough surprise to put a smile on his face. Neither of them were urgent. His smile dimmed when he saw there was nothing from Malia. He checked her Instagram — she was visiting Manaus with Cora and Derek. His smile faded away completely. Putting the phone on the table, he went back to take his shower.
Theo did almost the same thing in his room, but he didn’t check his phone. After all, there was no one to call him.
Scott was dressed in only his most comfortable pair of sweatpants when Theo knocked on his door exactly a half-hour later. He opened the door, still rubbing his hair with the towel. “I’m sorry, man. I just ordered the pizza. I don’t know how long it’s going to take to get here.”
“We can watch a movie while we wait.”
“These motels gouge you on movies.” Theo observed, cynically. “They’re overpriced.”
“Mr. Argent is paying for it.”
“Okay, I’m in.”
Theo followed him into the room as he retreated back to the bathroom to finish drying off. Theo was careful to hide his appreciation as he watched the alpha’s back muscles flex as dried his hair. After Scott had disappeared back into the other room Theo pulled the outside door shut, his hand lingering on the doorknob. His body reacted to Scott’s physique; gritting his teeth, Theo whispered “Stop that” to himself, sitting down in an uncomfortable motel chair.
Scott was pulling on an old lacrosse jersey when he re-emerged. “Find something?”
“I haven’t looked yet.” Theo grabbed the remote and held it up. “What’re you in the mood for?”
“I don’t know. You choose.”
Scott readied the bed, building up pillows so he had a wall between him and the headboard. Theo flipped through the channels, a smile breaking out on his lips...
“Werewolf: The Beast Among Us.”
Theo ducked as Scott flung a pillow at his head. “You told me to choose!”
“Okay, make it something less ironic funny and more ha-ha funny.”
Bowing his head to show he understood, Theo kept flipping. “Clue.”
“I’ve never watched it.”
“Scott! You’ve never watched Clue? It’s a classic.”
Scott looked over. “When did it come out?”
The alpha shrugged. “I haven’t watched a lot of older movies.”
Theo narrowed his eyes and pushed the select button. “I’m not sure why a thirty-year-old movie is on a pay channel, but I think you’ll love it. At least tell me you’ve played the game.”
“Oh, yeah. It’s one of Stiles’ favorites.” Scott sat down on the bed. “We haven’t had much time to play board games recently, but before all of this …” He gestured to himself and to Theo. “We played it during Winter Recess all the time.”
“Of course it’s one of Stiles favorites. Let me guess — he won all the time.”
“Yeah, he was pretty good at it.”
The movie started. Theo kept glancing over to see if Scott was enjoying it. Scott was laughing pretty loudly at the right parts. Theo smiled to himself.
When Leslie Anne Warren as Miss Scarlet declared how she loved getting presents from strange men, Scott spoke out suddenly. “You know, you can sit on the bed if you want to.”
“You keep looking over here at me. I know that chair can’t be comfortable.”
Theo looked uncomfortably away instead of answering, causing Scott’s brows to scrunch up in confusion. Both of them were saved from the awkward moment by a knock on the door.
“Pizza!” Scott hopped up, digging out his wallet. He engaged in some banter with the delivery boy while Theo paused the movie. When he came back, he had two pizzas with him and a two-liter of Sierra Mist.
“Sausage, green peppers, onion and pineapple for me.” He dropped one box on the bed and opened the lid. “Pepperoni, black olives, extra cheese and hold the sauce for you.” Scott put that one next to the first.
“You … know what toppings I like on my pizza?” Theo asked, surprised.
“In case you don’t happen to remember, we’ve eaten a lot of pizza on a lot of missions like this over the last two years.”
“But that’s exactly how I like it.”
Scott squinted. “I...know...”
Theo reached over to snag the box and pull it over to his side of the bed, but Scott grabbed the other side.
“Get on the bed. That chair can’t be comfortable.”
“It’s fine.” Theo kept his eyes on the pizza box so Scott couldn’t see his face.
“Come on. Look me in the face and say that it’s comfortable,” Scott ordered, off-handedly. Theo shrugged, picked up the pillow that Scott had thrown and sat down on the bed. He used the pillow as a back rest.
“There a reason you’re being so nice to me tonight?” Theo asked as he toyed with the controller in his hand.
“I’m not being nice to you. Start the movie.”
Theo pointed at the pizza. “Sierra Mist is my favorite pop. You’re worried about me being comfortable. That’s being nice.”
Scott reached for the remote control in Theo’s hand, but Theo moved it out of his reach.
“You looked like you had it rough out there today.” Scott admitted. “You seemed pretty miserable.”
“It was 102 degrees in the shade, the Salton Sea might be the smelliest body of water on the entire planet, and we had to search through a trash dump. No one had it easy out there today.”
“It was more than that.”
Theo glanced at the motionless actors on the paused television screen. His finger hovered on the button that would un-pause the movie and evade the question. He looked up to see Scott staring at him with a sad expression — the one that Stiles had once described as the Lassie-after-you-shoot-her-mother look.
“Okay.” Theo let out a long sigh.
“You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to tell me, but if you can tell me, I’d really like to know.”
“You remember the Pathologist?”
Scott nodded solemnly. “I got up close and personal with him.”
“He was Russian. While he was born, I think, in the 30s, he was the youngest of the Doctors, and the last one to be recruited. He was into some crazy shit, even before he got his mask. He worked at Aralsk-7.”
“Okay. I don’t know what that means,” Scott admitted.
“It was the premier Soviet biological weapons complex during the Cold War. They made all sorts of terrible things there. It was built on Vozrozhdeniya Island in the Aral Sea. The government abandoned it after the collapse of the Soviet Union, but the Doctors built an Operating Theater there. That’s where Dr. Deaton discovered that tooth …”
“Yeah, I remember him telling me about it.”
“Well, when we were there, I wasn’t … I wasn’t needed often, and the Doctors made it clear that they expected me to stay out of the way while they worked. The Aral Sea is like the Salton Sea — it’s drying up. The island isn’t even an island anymore. Today, it was the smell. That smell brought back a lot of memories I’d really rather had stayed lost. I was eleven, and …”
“It’s okay.” Scott’s voice was gentle.
“I was bored. I was lonely. There were people living nearby, but I was told in no uncertain terms that anyone I talked to would have to be … dealt with. So, there were plenty of long hot days alone on the shore of a dying sea.”
Scott reached out and put a hand on Theo’s arm and his eyes widened a bit when Theo didn’t flinch at his touch. When the chimera had first come back from the Skin-walker’s underworld, he shied away from any touch he could see coming. No matter how gentle, Theo’s heart would race and his eyes would dilate, subconsciously reacting to any touch as if he were prey. “I’m sorry. You could’ve said something. Mr. Argent and I could have looked by ourselves.”
“Scott, come on. I’m a big boy, and it was seven years ago. If I can’t handle a little random sense memory, how much use am I going to be if things get really bad?”
The alpha hummed in hesitation. “I think that we all should let ourselves feel things, no matter how long ago they happened.” His blushed awkwardly. “Man, I sound so stupid, but thank you for telling me, anyway. Do you want to talk about it some more? I won’t force you, but I feel like you should.”
“I don’t really want to talk about it. Anymore.”
“Okay.” Scott took his hand off of Theo and settled back down on the bed. He turned his gaze back towards the paused movie. “You know, I always like to think that talking helps because, well, you’ve already experienced what’s bothering you. You’ve already done your best with it. Maybe someone else can do better.”
Theo turned the movie back on. They were quite for minutes, but eventually the movie drew Scott back into it. He started laughing again. Theo sat there and watched, but he no longer quoted the movie. He didn’t laugh. He watched but his eyes cut to watch Scott every few minutes.
Finally, as Wadsworth was about to reveal the first alternative ending to the movie, Theo paused the show.
“You’re a hypocrite.”
“What?” Scott looked confused.
“Everyone who can bring themselves to speak to me in the pack, and I mean everyone, even your own mother, says that they wished you talked to them more about what’s happened to you.”
“No you don’t. You talk to others about what happens to them. You talk about how you feel about what happened to them. You never talk about how you feel about what happens to you.”
“I wouldn’t say never …”
Scott looked shocked, and the shock caused him to scoff.
“I’ve talked about plenty of things with plenty of people.”
Theo made to turn the movie back on but Scott reached over and grabbed the control and tugged it out of his hand.
“Maybe I just don’t want to talk about it with you.”
A fleeting look of hurt crossed Theo’s face but quickly disappeared. “That’s fair … I guess.”
Scott grimaced. “Look, I didn’t mean it like that.”
“No, I get it. We’re not exactly friends, are we?”
Scott looked around the room, at the two of them sitting on a bed eating pizza in front of the television. He turned back to Theo. “If we’re not friends, what’s this?”
“We’re working together,” Theo protested, a little feebly.
“Yeah, coworkers hang out like this, after work.” Scott scoffed once more.
“Let’s just watch the rest of the movie.”
They finished Clue. Then they cleaned up the remains of the pizza and threw the boxes and the empty two-liter into the trash. Neither of them looked at each other, but Theo took a step toward the door.
“You tired?” Scott asked it suddenly and too loudly.
“Uh … I’m tired, but not tired-tired.”
“Wanna .. Wanna watch another movie?”
“Nah. I know me. I’ll fall asleep half-way through it and it’ll be a waste, even for Mr. Argent. We can watch some television.”
Scott chuckled. “Right now, there’s not much on.”
They ended up watching an NCIS marathon, side to side, lying on the bed. Theo felt himself drifting off. “If I start to snore, make me go to my room.”
“I told you there wouldn’t be much on,” Scott apologized. “You don’t have to stay if you’re bored…”
“What?” Theo asked, his tired eyes suddenly more awake. “No, I...that’s not what I meant.”
“So, what did you mean?” Scott tilted his head to the side.
“Nothing.” Theo said quickly. “I didn’t mean anything by it. Forget it.”
Scott playfully socked him in the shoulder. Theo chewed his lip for a long moment, a struggle of some kind written into his features.
“Come on, man.” Scott prodded again. “What’s up?”
“I...don’t know really.” Theo admitted, avoiding the direct gaze Scott was trying to pull him into. “It’s like...I’m getting too comfortable. Too relaxed.”
“And that...puts you on edge?” Scott guessed.
“It’s not as stupid as it sounds.” Theo said, defensively. “Do you know how many nights I spent falling asleep in front of a television before I came back to Beacon Hills?”
“I’m guessing not a lot?”
“Yeah.” Theo nodded. “And I don’t think I’ve watched TV once since I came back from… wherever the Skin-Walkers had me.”
Scott turned the television off and then shifted his body to look at Theo face to face.
“I’m sorry. I …”
“Why are you sorry? You didn’t cause it.”
“I know that, but it can hurt for people to assume things. I kinda … I kinda felt I was pressuring you to do things with me, when I thought you really wanted to sleep.”
“Do you really think, Scott, that I want to be alone?”
They stared at each other.
“No, I guess you wouldn’t.”
“Wait a minute -- you said were afraid you were pressuring me?”
Scott didn’t say anything at first. Theo raised both eyebrows, staring at him, both their sleepiness forgotten.
“Did you think I wouldn’t want to watch movies with you?”
The alpha didn’t say anything at that either.
“You thought I was uncomfortable?” Theo burst out laughing.
“What’s so funny?”
“I was uncomfortable, but not because you were pressuring me. I wanted to stay, but I didn’t …”
Now they both laughed and leaned back on the bed. Scott left the television off.
“You are my friend, Theo.”
“Do you want to be?”
“Many people would say that, after what happened, it's impossible for us to be friends. Some of those same people would say that you were being irresponsible and I surely must have an ulterior motive.”
“You have an ulterior motive for watching Clue with me?”
“I’ve done something very similar to that before.”
Scott pursed his lips and then shrugged. “I know the truth now. What could you possibly be hiding now that’s worse than what I've already discovered?” He blinked and then shook his head. “I must be tired. That didn’t make any sense.”
“No, it did.” Theo picked at a loose thread on the bed spread.
“Seriously, though, Theo, you’re not a danger to me. I know people have called you a psychopath or a sociopath, but I know that you’re not.”
“I thought you were going to study to be a vet, not a psychologist.” Theo laughed at his joke, but it died on his lips when he saw that Scott wasn’t amused. “What?”
“When you were doing … what you did … you always had a goal in mind. You were never cruel to be cruel. You wanted power, and you’d do anything to get it.”
Theo looked nervous suddenly.
“You don’t want power for the sake of power anymore. Which is why you work with me. Which is why, tonight, I wanted to hang with you.”
“So you’re trying to what … reform me?”
“No!” Scott looked mildly cross. “I spent hours helping lost children today; I’ve done my good deed for the day. I wanted to hang with you because I want to be your friend and I thought you wanted to be mine.”
“You don’t know what I want!” Theo objected.
“Then tell me.”
Theo looked at Scott for minutes. The motel room was quiet except for the hum of the air conditioner that kicked on once again.
“Scott. You don’t want to know.”
Scott’s eyes locked onto Theo’s.
“You just don’t.”
“You’ll think it’ll scare me.” Scott burst into a smile. He chuckled. “If you haven’t been paying attention, there’s very little out there now that scares me, and the stuff that does, I find a way to overcome.” His voice was light. He was joking. “After all, I’m the hero.”
“That’s the problem.” Theo’s tone was earnest in direct contrast to Scott’s humor. “I’m the villain.”
Scott opened his mouth to protest, but before he could get the words out, Theo darted forward and kissed him.
Theo pulled away. His skin was flushed, and his heart raced. In shock at his own behavior, he tried to turn away, to leave the bed, to look anywhere but at Scott and what he had just done. He moved fast, hands slipping on the bedspread. He would bolt the moment his feet touched the floor.
He never made it.
Scott grabbed him by the wrist. Theo tried to pull away, but the alpha’s grip was stronger than him. Scott yanked him back and pushed him down on the bed.
“Did you mean that?” Scott demanded.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” Theo pleaded. “I shouldn’t have done that.”
Scott leaned down over him. He used his hand on Theo’s opposite shoulder, pinning him down to the bed. “I asked you a question. Did you mean it? Because if you didn’t, I … what did I do to deserve that?”
Theo was looking up at him. He licked his lips, but the words didn’t come out. He pushed with his legs against Scott’s. He wasn’t fighting the hold; he was just fighting.
“Tell me,” breathed Scott. “Tell me what you feel.”
“I feel … I feel like Tara’s tearing my heart from my chest.”
Scott’s face softened imperceptibly.
“But it’s just you.”