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I Was Never Really Here

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I Was Never Really Here

 

‘There wasn’t a clear, identifiable emotion within me, except for greed and, possibly, total disgust. I had all the characteristics of a human being—flesh, blood, skin, hair—but my depersonalization was so intense, had gone so deep, that the normal ability to feel compassion had been eradicated, the victim of a slow, purposeful erasure. I was simply imitating reality, a rough resemblance of a human being, with only a dim corner of my mind functioning. Something horrible was happening and yet…’

Theo angrily hurls the book into a corner.

His thoughts turn over themselves again and again. A rough resemblance of a human being… why had Peter given him this book? Of all the books he owns, why American Psycho? Peter knows exactly what is happening, must have remembered this quote and how well it would fit Theo’s past.

Theo sighs. Peter probably thought it would be funny. He probably did not do it to be mean. But Theo is finished with that book for good. And he will tell Peter when the inevitable quiz follows, as it does with all the books Peter makes him read. First he will give Theo a book, then he will ask about twice a day how far Theo is with the book, and when he is finished, Peter will ask him questions about the book. Which character do you think I’d be? What did you think of this scene or that quote? How’d you like the ending? And so on and so forth.

Peter has also started teaching him chess. Isaac is not terrible, but lacks the patience. Theo is doing surprisingly well at it, he thinks, but he does not like playing. It always gives him a raging headache. He has no idea why Peter keeps pushing him to practice.

Theo does not understand why Peter keeps trying to teach him stuff, anyway. Nobody has cared this much about Theo’s education since… well, nobody has cared about Theo this much in a really, really long time. Automatically, his senses reach out, and he hears Peter rustling around in his big apartment upstairs, never sleeping, and he hears Isaac snoring across the hall, resting calmly for once.

Theo can’t help but think of Liam. How worried he had been about Theo, after the whole fear demon thing. Mason and Corey, too. Scott, obviously. Even Malia and Stiles had been a bit less mean. All of this caring takes a lot of getting used to.

‘I was simply imitating reality, a rough resemblance of a human being…’

Theo rubs his eyes, trying to ward off the memories.

“You’re barely human…”

And Scott had been right when he had said that to Theo, so right. Theo had gotten so angry at this comment because he had known, even then, how right Scott was, but he’d had to go to hell to acknowledge it. The question is, how much more human is Theo now? He cannot help but wonder, looking at his right forearm. At night he takes the bandages off because they get itchy when he sweats, so the wound is exposed, held together by Mrs. McCall’s neat stitching and nothing else.

How human am I? Theo wonders.

He thinks of Liam and closes his eyes.

 

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

 

Stiles is never ever opening his mouth again, seriously. Because when he said, “let’s get this shitshow on the road,” he hadn’t meant for it to be a literal shitshow, and yet, here he is, partnered with Malia to look for hunters, and tagging along with them, for some stupid reason, is goddamned Theo.

This morning, when Stiles was having breakfast with his Dad, Scott called him to tell him that Argent has reported hunters being seen in or around Beacon Hills. It is unclear whether these hunters belong to Monroe, or that messed-up institution hunting for psychics in Arizona, but they are all sure that Monroe has just hidden somewhere to lick her wounds and regroup. She has definitely not disappeared forever. It pays to be watchful.

The pack met at Melissa’s house, where it was decided they would all check on different locations around the area where there were rumored sightings of hunter-ish people. Stiles was paired with Malia, which is definitely cool. He was hoping Scott would tag along, as well, but he was already on the move with Argent and Isaac, and Liam was on the verge of leaving with Corey and Mason, so when Theo asked what he should do, Liam threw a careless “oh, just go with Malia and Stiles,” over his shoulder, and before Stiles could say, “fuck you, Liam,” Theo had already agreed and suggested they use his car because, as he explained, Stiles’s old truck “smells like duct tape and anxiety.”

Peter is still at the animal clinic with Deaton, discussing mysterious stuff that Stiles has no business understanding. He knows Theo came to Melissa’s place directly from the clinic because Peter and Deaton wanted to question him and test some of their theories as to what on earth is wrong with Theo to make him clairvoyant all of a sudden. Stiles is still grappling with the new information on Theo’s time in hell he gained a few days ago. He has to admit his curiosity, though. What could make Theo into what he is? What is he, anyway? Not a werewolf, but no chimera, either.

“I can hear you thinking, Stiles,” Theo says without diverting his eyes from the road, and Stiles realizes he has been staring at the back of Theo’s head for a good two minutes.

“Really, you can? Are you a Jedi?”

“What’s a Jedi?” Malia asks and shoots Stiles a quizzical look over her shoulder.

“Malia.” Stiles puts a hand over his heart. “How long did we date? How can you seriously not know that?”

“I don’t know,” Malia says. “But if it was important, I’m sure I’d know what a Jedi is.”

“It is important!” Stiles says. “Because I know we watched A New Hope together, and you said you hadn’t fallen asleep, you were just resting your eyes. Guess that was a lie. But that’s not the point. I think the point is that Theo is obviously a descendant of Darth Maul. Aren’t you? I mean, it would explain a lot.”

“Maybe I am, maybe I’m not,” Theo says.

“You were at the clinic, right?” Malia says and scrutinizes Theo from the side.

“Yeah.”

“What did Deaton and Peter do?”

“Ask me questions. Make me handle things made from all different sorts of materials. Play chess with me.”

“Chess,” Stiles says.

“Yeah. I don’t get it, either. And Peter keeps accusing me of cheating when playing with him. I mean, how do you even cheat at chess?”

“Not sure, but there must be a way,” Stiles says. “But I don’t get what chess has got to do with finding out what’s wrong with you. There must be some kind of ritual for this stuff.”

“There is. But they’re all…” Theo shrugs. “Really dangerous.”

“Well, what’s the worst that could happen? I think you should definitely take the chance.”

Stiles knocks on the back of the driver’s seat a couple of times to emphasize his point, and it seems to annoy Theo, so he has done his job. Malia, meanwhile, looks thoughtful.

“Lydia’s really good at chess,” she says. “You ever played her?”

“Lydia’s not too keen on spending time with me, I think.”

“None of us are,” Stiles says. Malia shrugs and looks out the window. Theo sighs. “Well, we’re here,” he says.

He parks his car in a parking lot belonging to a rundown apartment complex just outside of town. Allegedly, there have been hunters going in and out of the building. Now that they are here, Stiles is unsure what to actually do about it.

“So now that? Do we wait and look for hunters?”

“Guess so,” Theo says.

“And if we see some?”

“We call Argent, or Scott. Let them know.”

“Maybe I can smell them,” Malia says and opens the door.

“Malia—” Theo probably wants to say something along the lines of “don’t let them see you,” which is something Stiles can agree on with him, but Malia is already out of the car before either of them can get any further. Rolling his eyes, Theo gets out, as well, and Stiles follows.

“Maybe you should stay in the car,” Theo says.

“And why would that be?”

“Because you’re a helpless human?”

“Hey, if you’re a Jedi, you should know what’s gonna happen, right? So shouldn’t I be safe?”

“Could you guys be any less subtle?” Malia says, walking toward them from wherever she disappeared to. “We’re supposed to be staking this place out, and you’re just standing there.”

“You just ran off,” Theo says. “Not quite that subtle, either.”

“I know what I’m doing.”

“Trust me, I know better.”

“Trust, huh,” Stiles says.

“Yeah, I know, Stiles. You don’t trust me, you don’t trust me. Play a new record.” Theo frowns. “See that car over there?”

“Which one?”

“The red Toyota over there.” Theo points.

“Yeah, sure, I see it.” Stiles shrugs. “What about it?”

“Don’t know. It just… seems off.”

“It smells familiar somehow,” Malia says. “I know that scent, but… can’t really—”

“That’s Kate,” Peter says, and Stiles jumps about a foot in the air.

“Where the hell did you come from?!” he hisses at Peter, who stands there, arms crossed, like it is the most natural thing in the world to sneak up on people.

“The clinic,” Peter answers. “And the scent you’re noticing—it’s Kate.”

“Kate Argent?” Theo clarifies, looking extremely confused.

“One and the same. You never met her, but I reckon you did your research,” Peter says, and Theo nods.

“But what would she be doing here?”

“Good question. I intend to ask her when I see her. Another good question is, why would she be here if the reports are correct that this is a hide-out for hunters?”

“And why are you here again?” Stiles asks.

“Well, Deaton and I finished up at the clinic, and I wanted to see what the two of you,” he points at Malia, then Theo, “were up to. But I recognized that scent from a mile off. She’s here. I know she is.”

“Okay, that’s not a good sign, is it,” Malia says. “She’s crazy and dangerous, and she hates you.”

“She can’t hate me more than I hate her. Anyway. Stiles, get in the car.”

“Hey! What?”

“You’re a helpless human and you need to get in the car.”

Stiles is fuming. “Malia, could you help me out here?”

“I mean…” Malia looks unsure. “You ARE the only human here. You get hurt easily.”

“Malia!”

“I just don’t want you to get hurt,” Malia says, but Stiles is very indignant about this. He is NOT helpless.

“Get in the fucking car, Stiles,” Theo says.

“I am not taking orders from you, asshole.”

“Stiles, get in the car!” Theo says urgently, looking around. “I’m serious.”

“What is it?” Peter asks. “Your newly acquired spidey-sense tingling?”

“Not sure. Maybe.” Theo looks unsettled, nervous, and Stiles has a feeling that maybe, just maybe, there is something approaching, and maybe, just maybe, Theo can actually sense danger. He didn’t have any reason for lying in the tunnel in Why, and he certainly has no obvious reason for lying now, especially since Peter is here and it’s kind of obvious those two have a weird father-son thing going on.

“Okay, okay,” Stiles says, “maybe I’ll get in the car. But you need to be careful, too, okay, Malia, you’re not immortal—”

“Stiles, get down!” Theo says then, and before Stiles can really grasp what is happening, Peter is shot in the chest and then Malia is going down and he is tackled by Theo and they land in a heap on the ground and there is gunfire from seemingly all directions. Stiles squeezes his eyes shut for a moment and stays still, until he remembers that a) Theo’s on top of him (yuck) and b) Malia has been shot, so he peels his eyes open and shoves Theo to the side, who moves suspiciously easily. There’s blood on Stiles’s shirt, but he hasn’t been hit, he’s certain of it, so it’s probably Theo’s, but Stiles sees Malia lying on the ground a few feet from him, clutching at a bullet wound in her abdomen. She’s not getting up, and it’s bleeding a lot, so the bullets must be laced with wolfsbane. So there are hunters here, Stiles thinks as he starts crawling toward her, but why are Malia and Peter so sure the car belongs to Kate then, it makes no sense, they would hunt her, too… unless they already have her, of course…

The gunfire seizes.

“Look at that,” Kate Argent says as she approaches. “Christmas has come early for me this year.”

 

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

 

Stiles still can’t believe that Kate is actually back, even as she drags him into the cellar of the apartment complex by his throat, making her corporeality painfully clear to him. Dumped onto the floor, he gasps for air hastily and barely has energy for reacting to her chaining his left wrist to the wall. Kate crouches down in front of him and pats his cheek.

“Stiles, Stiles,” she says. “All grown up and stuff. You’ve gotten really cute, you know that?”

“You… haven’t,” Stiles spits out once he has enough air. Kate grins.

“Your personality hasn’t changed one bit, I see.”

She stands up and turns to see her goons (obviously hunters armed with wolfsbane bullets, and what the hell?) drag the werewolves inside and drop them unceremoniously on the dirty cement. Malia is still heavily bleeding from the gunshot to her abdomen, and Stiles can now see that Theo has been shot in the lower back and seems to be in a lot of pain. Both of them are gazing at Peter, whose chest is riddled with bullet holes, but who is miraculously still conscious, and growling, whether in pain or anger, Stiles can’t say. Likely both.

“I have to admit, I wasn’t expecting to see you all,” Kate says merrily. She squints at Malia. “I remember you, I’ve seen you. You smell familiar.”

Her eyes land on Theo and she walks over to him. “You’re new, though. I think I would have remembered a pretty face like yours.”

Theo stares at her silently.

“Care to introduce yourself?”

He doesn’t answer, and Kate stomps on his back, making him yell in pain. She turns toward Peter.

“It doesn’t really matter. You’ll be dead soon, anyway. But you…” A grin tears open her features. “I’m really glad to see YOU again, Peter.”

“Doubt anyone’s ever said that to you,” Peter says, voice surprisingly steady, but it is offset by the fact that he looks like an extra on The Godfather.

“I’ve been waiting to see you,” Kate says. “Been picturing a thousand different ways to kill you.”

“None of them would succeed,” Peter hisses.

“I mean, I also tried a lot of them. I tried this curse that extinguishes werewolves who’ve killed innocents, figured that with your track record, you’d be the first to go—”

“That was you?” Stiles says.

“—and I even got feedback that it worked, that you died, but well, goes to show that you can only ever trust your own eyes. Sent a fear demon your way, I imagined what it would be like, you dying over the fear of something as trivial as fire—”

Peter growls. Definitely anger, this time.

“—but I guess the thing wasn’t strong enough. Now, though, I’ve got you right here, and I’ve got a dozen useful guys here, and half a dozen brand-new chainsaws in the other room, so… when in Rome, right?”

She snaps her fingers and points at Theo and Malia, and one of her goons drags Theo over to where Malia is and then traps them in a circle of mountain ash.

“Don’t walk away,” Kate says and laughs a little, and Stiles feels such an intense hatred that he images slitting her throat right here and now. Two of her goons grab Peter’s arms and drag him toward a heavy door on the far side of the room, and then suddenly Peter is gone from his view, and then so is Kate, but all of this is so surreal. This can’t be really happening, can it?

Theo groans painfully as he rolls himself onto his stomach and pushes a hand through the mountain ash, breaking the barrier.

“We… need to… go,” he says quietly.

“What about Peter?” Malia says.

“He’s immortal,” Theo says as they can hear a chainsaw revving up in the other room. “I’m sure he’ll be just… fine. We, on the other hand, are not immortal, and I don’t know about you, but I’m losing a lot of blood, and we need to get help.”

More chainsaws are coming to life next door, and Stiles can hear Kate laughing. He swallows.

“You sure he’ll survive this kind of thing?” he murmurs. Not that he is actually worried, but well. Maybe chainsaws are a bit harsh.

“No,” Theo says as he laboriously crawls out of the mountain ash, creating a path for Malia. “I’m not sure. But we can’t help him like this. I can’t walk, I think my spine’s injured. Malia?”

Malia pushes herself to her feet, leaning heavily on the wall. “I can try,” she says, swaying.

“Get to Stiles, tear the chain… out of the wall.”

Chainsaws running, the sound high-pitched, undercut by screams… of pain… shrill… this is a horror movie, Stiles thinks, it has to be. Only he is right in the middle of it and Peter is dying, again, only he won’t come back from this, no one can.

“Malia, now, goddamnit,” Theo hisses. “I can’t walk, okay, so get moving!”

“Yeah,” Malia grounds out and stumbles forward, carefully sidestepping the mountain ash.

“Wait, I have my cellphone!” Stiles whisper-shouts and yanks it out of his pocket. “Oh, thank God. I’m calling my Dad.”

“Okay,” Theo says, “you do that. But make sure you’re walking away at the same time.”

Only right at that moment the screams and shrieks of pain cease, and so does the noise of the chainsaws.

Stiles already has his thumb over his Dad’s name on his phone, so he taps it, holding the phone to his ear, praying that Kate can’t hear the beeping of the line through the heavy door.

“Pick up, Dad,” he murmurs. “Please.”

Malia makes her way over to him, and Stiles wants to beg her to go faster, but he knows she can’t, she’s hurt, she’s going as fast as she can. Theo is already closer to the exit, crawling along, dragging his apparently paralyzed left leg behind. Malia has almost reached him, but his Dad hasn’t picked up yet and there is no noise from next door, and if they don’t leave right NOW Stiles is afraid they never will.

The door is pushed open and hits the wall with a loud bang that echoes through the empty cellar. Malia turns, hand almost touching the chain that keeps Stiles prisoner. Stiles sees that Theo stops crawling and kind of collapses, like a house of cards. And Kate, she is standing in the door, with raised eyebrows, covered in blood from head to toe, and crosses her arms.

“What’s happening here?”

“Nothing,” Stiles says, phone still held to his ear. Why on earth is Dad not picking up?

“We were trying to leave, bitch,” Theo snarls from his space near the exit.

“I can tell,” Kate says, confused. “But I don’t know how. My guy locked you two in a circle of mountain ash. You can’t leave.”

She briskly stalks over to Theo and grabs his left ankle, dragging him back into the middle of the room, ignoring his yelps of pain, before yanking the phone out of Stiles’s hand and hurling it against the wall. It shatters into pieces.

“How did this happen?” Kate inquires and knocks Malia to the floor. “Which one of you? Stiles is chained to the wall, he couldn’t reach you, so one of you broke the barrier. You’re both werewolves. So. Which one of you? And how?”

They don’t answer, so Kate huffs in frustration before grabbing Malia’s arm and pressing her hand into the mountain ash on the floor. Malia’s hand goes up in flames and she cries out. Kate lets her go.

“Not you.”

She walks over to Theo and uses a foot to push him over on his back.

“You, then.”

She looks him up and down. “You’re covered in it, and yet it doesn’t hurt you. How?”

Theo stares at her defiantly, and she grows angry. “Tell me how you do it! This is one of our biggest weaknesses, and you transcend it like it’s nothing! Tell me how you do it!”

Theo is breathing heavily, but he still sounds like his usual smug self when he says, “I’m not telling you.”

“Oh yes, you are,” Kate says. “You’re telling me everything!”

“No.”

“I’ll kill you!”

“You’ll kill me anyway.”

“I’ll kill the other two right before your eyes.”

Theo glances at Stiles, and Malia, who’s on the floor cradling her charred hand. “You’ll kill them, anyway. Have at it.” He looks back at Kate. “Bitch.”

Rage contorts Kate’s features, and she punches him in the stomach, making Theo yell in pain, but then Kate is yelling, too, when her hand catches fire. Theo presses out a pained laugh.

“Gotcha.”

Kate shakes out her hand, and it heals immediately. Her rage abates as contemplation relaxes her face.

“Indeed you got me,” she says. “But I got you, too. And you’re not walking away from me. Hey!” she yells over her shoulder, and some of her goons, also covered in spatters of blood, appear.

“Trap the girl in mountain ash again, and then remove the stuff from his clothes. Then keep cleaning up the mess. You got it?”

The goons comply. Stiles yanks on his chain even though he knows the action is futile. He really is a completely helpless human. Once Theo’s clothes have been sufficiently rid of the mountain ash, Kate sits herself on his stomach, knees on either side of him, and stares him down. Theo is staring back, still defiant as ever, because Stiles knows why Theo won’t tell her his secret, of course. It’s because he doesn’t know it himself, none of them do.

“So, you won’t tell me what I need to know,” Kate says.

“No.”

“Well, you know, I can get quite creative with torture devices that might convince you otherwise.”

“I’m pretty sure you can’t think of anything I haven’t already experienced,” Theo says.

“Don’t challenge me, kid.”

“I’ll challenge you any day of the fucking week.”

“And what if I torture poor, fragile Stiles over there? Will that motivate you?”

“Stiles and I are not friends,” Theo answers flatly. “So if you want to torture him, it won’t break my heart.”

“Uhm,” Stiles says. “I’d really like not to be tortured, so…”

“So you’ll tell me?” Kate looks at Stiles greedily.

“I can’t,” Stiles says.

“Why not?”

“Because we don’t know,” Theo says.

“You don’t know,” Kate says. It is obvious she does not believe him.

“No, I don’t. It’s a mystery, okay. We can’t explain it.” Theo shifts a little and groans in pain. “So you can torture me, torture Stiles, torture Malia all you like, but we can’t tell you what we don’t know.”

Kate chews on her lower lip. “But maybe you can.”

“I don’t get it,” Stiles says. “How can we tell you what we don’t know?”

“He gets it,” Kate says and taps Theo’s nose with her index finger. “Don’t you?”

Theo swallows. “You haven’t tried this before, have you.”

“No,” Kate says, “but it can’t be that hard.”

“It is. It’s really difficult, and you can do a lot of damage when you don’t do it right, trust me, I speak from personal experience—”

“What are you guys talking about?” Stiles inquires, because he doesn’t understand, but Theo isn’t smug anymore, his voice is laced with dread, so whatever it is, it can’t be good.

“You want to enter his mind,” Malia says. She hasn’t spoken in quite a while, but she is sitting up now, staring at Kate with fear and anger.

“I’ve heard about this thing. You just jam the claws in the back of his neck and then you can get information. It’s simple.”

“It’s not simple,” Theo says, and Stiles can see him make weak attempts to wriggle free. “It’s anything but simple. Please—”

“Don’t do it,” Malia says. “Even if you turn his mind into scrambled eggs, you won’t find what you’re looking for, because he doesn’t know, he has no idea.”

“People know things without being aware of it all the time,” Kate says slowly, greed clear on her face. She lifts her hand and claws grow out of her fingers.

“You have to be either an Alpha or a really experienced werewolf to know how it works,” Malia says. “The only ones I know who really know how to do it are Scott and Peter.”

“Well,” Kate says. “Peter’s dead, and Scott’s not here, so I really have no other choice, right?”

“No,” Theo says, and Stiles can almost taste the panic he radiates now. “Don’t, please, don’t, I’m serious, I don’t know anything, just—”

“Don’t—” Malia starts. But Kate isn’t deterred. Ignoring Theo’s weak attempts to fight her off, she pushes his head to the side and swiftly buries the long claws of her right hand deep inside his neck.

Theo makes a choked-off noise, his hands balling into fists and all of his muscles tensing as his eyes roll back into his head. Kate closes her eyes.

“Ah,” she says, eyes rapidly moving behind closed lids. “This is interesting…”

Theo makes another choked-off noise that sounds almost like a sob. Watching this feels incredibly intrusive to Stiles, and he has no idea how it must feel to have this ritual forced on himself. He knows that this is exactly what Theo did to Lydia, and he feels like this is some kind of fucked up poetic justice, but he also knows how utterly pointless it is. The answer Kate is looking for is not there for her to find. He yanks on his chain again, stopping only when he feels like his wrist is close to breaking.

“Jeez,” Kate murmurs, frowning. “That’s disgusting… whoa… gross. Ugh… damn it… where is it… tell me… I want to know! Argh!”

She yanks her claws out, and Theo’s body relaxes. His hands lie loosely at his sides, eyes half-shut.

“God damnit,” Kate spits and stands up. “I saw all kinds of messed-up shit in that head, but not one useful thing.”

“Like I said,” Malia says, turning accusing eyes on her. “He has no idea.”

“Fuck!” Kate yells and gives Theo another hefty kick to the side. To Stiles’s mild alarm, he does not react at all this time. Not even a flinch.

“Alright then,” Kate says, brushing hair out of her face with a frustrated gesture. She sighs. “I’ll find out soon enough. At least now I know that there’s a way to beat this weakness. That’s something.”

She shoots a look at the door when they can hear chainsaws again. “My guys are finishing the job. I couldn’t help myself, I went straight for the head.” Kate grins at Malia, who looks furious. “They’ll clean up the mess, and then… well… it was nice knowing you.”

“What are you gonna do with us?” Stiles asks.

“Me? I’ll do nothing. I’m leaving now. Those two, they’ll probably bleed to death, if the wolfsbane doesn’t get them first. You, Stiles, well. Maybe you should have been nicer to me, and I would’ve made it quick. But when my guys are finished mopping up the blood, they’ll have some fun with you.”

“Why are you even here?” Stiles asks, because wondering about Kate means he doesn’t have to think about their terrible situation.

“I have business here. Which is none of yours.”

“What business? I know you killed your father, not that anyone’s gonna miss him. You gonna, what, kill your brother now, too? Or are you still chasing after Derek? Huh?”

“I don’t know why you keep asking all these stupid questions and expect an answer, Stiles, but I’d shut up now if I were you, or I might be convinced to kill YOUR father,” Kate says. “Y’know, just for sports.”

“You’re a fucking bitch,” Stiles yells. “You know that? Theo was right, you’re a bitch, a fucking bitch, and when Scott finds us, he’ll—”

“He’ll what? With any luck, you’ll be dead by then. Those two, definitely.”

Kate looks at the immobile figure at her feet. “Theo, you say his name was? Word of advice? Never enter that mind, it’s disturbing. I feel like I need to shower. Twice.”

She looks at herself, covered in Peter’s blood, and laughs. “I need to do that, anyway. Lovely how things come together sometimes.”

Malia’s gaze drifts over to the door, where they all know her father’s dismembered body to be. “Go to hell,” she whispers. Stiles can barely hear it. Kate is not even paying attention; she keeps looking at Theo, scratching her chin.

“I don’t know,” she says. “Do I need to chain him down? If mountain ash can’t stop him? On the other hand, he doesn’t look like he’s going anywhere.” Another kick that elicits no reaction at all.

“Guess it’ll be fine.” Kate shrugs and gives Stiles a wave. “I’ll not be seeing you around.”

When she turns to leave, Stiles takes a deep breath and starts screaming. “HEEEEELP! Someone help us! HELP! We need HELP! HEEEEELP!”

“What are you doing?”

“I’m yelling for HEEEEEELP!” Stiles answers defiantly. “Someone’s gotta be around to hear. You can’t just leave us here. HELP! Help, someone!”

“I really can, Stiles,” Kate says, and the last thought Stiles has before his head collides with the wall is that he should have seen it coming.

 

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

 

When Stiles comes to an indefinite amount of time later, it is to the sound of music. Quiet, muffled, tinny music. Lifting his head is the first mistake he makes, as a world of pain explodes behind his eyes.

“Oooooh, Jesus.” Stiles raises a hand to his forehead. “Ow. Shit. Ow. Oh God.”

“Hey, Stiles,” Malia says. She sounds tired and resigned. Stiles carefully blinks open his eyes.

“What was that sound?” he says once he has gotten his bearings enough to talk.

“Theo’s phone.”

“Seriously?” Stiles moves his head to look in Theo’s direction, which is his second mistake. Dizziness overtakes him and he almost loses consciousness again. It hurts so much he almost starts to cry. Almost.

“He… has his… phone?” he eventually manages to say.

“Yeah.”

“But… that’s good news. We can… call for help.”

“We can’t do anything, Stiles,” Malia says, and when Stiles has ridden through the new wave of pain he slowly, very slowly, turns his head again to look at Theo. Theo, who has not moved one inch from where Kate left him. A puddle of blood has gathered around him. He appears to be breathing, and once in a while his eyelids flutter, but apart from that, he might as well be dead.

“But…”

“I forgot my phone at Melissa’s,” Malia says, “and yours is broken, and Theo has his phone, but he can’t use it.”

“Has he said anything? Anything at all?”

“No. I threw some rubble at him, and he didn’t react at all. He’s catatonic, Stiles. Just like Lydia was.”

“But… Lydia was still moving around and stuff—”

“His legs are paralyzed, remember?” Malia shakes her head and closes her eyes as Theo’s phone rings again, too far away from either Stiles or Malia to answer it. Stiles recognizes the music, it is the Doctor Who theme. Liam must have done that.

“We can’t do anything,” Malia repeats, and Stiles can hear the tears in her voice. He knows she is right, but he cannot accept it.

“Fuck!” Stiles yells and jerks the iron chain, the only thing that stops him from walking over to the immobile Theo, to take his phone and call Scott, call his dad, call Chris Argent, call Derek, call Deaton, call everybody he can think of who would be able to fix this. “Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!”

The yelling and the movement jar his head, and he has to stop and ride out another wave of excruciating pain and, that’s new, nausea.

“Just stop, Stiles,” Malia says. “There’s no point…”

“So you’re just giving up?”

“Stiles,” Malia says, and she sounds so exhausted, “I have no idea how long you were unconscious, but Theo’s bleeding out, and I’m doing the same. Peter… I don’t know. He’s… probably dead for real. You can’t… well, I don’t know. But I’m locked in this mountain ash, and you’re chained to the wall, and Theo can’t hear us.”

“But someone’s calling him, that means they’re looking for us, right?” Stiles swallows back bile. “They… know that something’s wrong. They’ll come for us.”

“They haven’t yet. We’ve been here a while, Stiles. Your Dad didn’t pick up his phone when you called him, and nobody’s come to get us. Something’s going on, I can feel it.”

“But they’re coming for us. They must be. They knew where we were going. They’ll wonder where we are, why we’re not answering our phones.”

“When?” Malia gives a shuddering sigh. “Not sure… how much longer I can last. I’m bleeding, I can’t heal because of the wolfsbane…”

Stiles wants to argue, give her hope, but he can’t think of anything to say. So he doesn’t. He just sits. There is nothing more to do.

 

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

 

An indefinite amount of time later, Stiles is incredibly thirsty. He has peed, back turned to Malia. He couldn’t hold it any longer.

They must have been here for hours. He has lost all sense of time. Malia has stopped talking some time ago. She has probably lost consciousness, whether it is due to blood loss or wolfsbane poisoning is irrelevant. Theo’s condition doesn’t seem to have changed. His phone rang once more, and Stiles knows he is only ten feet away from calling for help. But he cannot move.

It is cold in the cellar, and his head still hurts, and he just can’t understand why nobody is coming. They must know by now that something’s wrong, Stiles thinks for the hundredth time. They know where we went. Why aren’t they coming for us?

The only sounds Stiles can perceive are his own breathing and the noises from next door. Kate’s goons had been using the chainsaws for God knows what (to cut Peter’s body into pieces) for quite some time. Then there was the rustling of plastic bags (to wrap up the pieces of Peter’s body). Then there was chatting, and the sounds of things (rags, soaked with blood) hitting the bottom of a trash can. Some of the goons walk past Stiles through the door to freedom, one of them taking his time to stop and kick Theo in the side, showing obvious disappointment at the failure to conjure up a response. All of them are carrying plastic bags (with body parts).

Malia’s right, Stiles thinks, something’s going on. There must be a reason why nobody’s looking for us. They didn’t forget about us, they couldn’t have.

The door opens just as Stiles feels like he might be nodding off. One of the goons steps through, marches right over to Stiles. He’s tall, with a wide, ugly, angry face. Stiles christens him Angryface. He’s lacking creativity. Angryface crouches down in front of Stiles and grins, or tries to. Grinning is hard with a face as angry as his.

“So, the boss said we could have some fun with you when we’re done cleaning up.”

“Oh yeah?”

Stiles blinks at him wearily. “When you say fun, do you mean fun fun? Or, like, fun for you but torture for me?”

“You’re not in any position to make requests, are you,” Angryface says. “Just take it as it comes.”

“Been doing that for the last couple hours, actually. I’ve about had enough of that.”

Angryface punches him in the face for that remark, and it hurts, although the way his head is jerked to the side and rumbles with a brewing concussion is more painful than the punch itself. Stiles groans. Angryface smiles. Stiles hears sounds through the door, although they are hard to make out, what with the renewed ringing in his ears. At first he assumes it’s the residual goons laughing about something. But the smile drops off Angryface’s angry face, and he stands up, and Stiles realizes it is not laughter he hears, but screams. God, he has heard enough screams of pain for the rest of his entire life.

The door opens, and a figure steps through, and Angryface is speechless. He stutters out something incredibly cliché like “but that’s impossible,” or some such. Stiles is not really listening, because Peter Hale has just stepped through that door even though Kate had told Stiles, to his own face, when Stiles’s hearing was still completely intact, that she cut off Peter’s head with a chainsaw, and she would really not have any reason to lie about that.

Peter does not care that he should be a headless corpse cut into pieces. He howls (and could that be done a bit more quietly, thanks a lot) and charges at Angryface, who is still so shell-shocked he does not even attempt to make a break for it. Peter rips out Angryface’s throat, so now he is covered in more blood than before. Some of it must be his own.

Peter turns toward Stiles, and his eyes stop glowing a supernaturally bright blue.

“Stiles,” he says.

“Peter,” Stiles says. “You’re not dead.”

“No, I’m not.”

“So…”

“Don’t ask me, I don’t know how it works.”

“Okay…”

“Stiles, are you okay?” Peter starts to crouch down in front of Stiles, and Stiles clamps his eyes shut.

“Dude, you’re naked.”

“Yeah, I’m aware. Guess my clothing isn’t immortal. Shame, those jeans were Calvin Klein. Stiles, what happened?”

“Kate… she…” Stiles vaguely gestures in the general direction of Malia, and Peter stands up, presumably to help her, only to stop abruptly.

“There’s mountain ash. You need to break it.”

“I would if I could, asshole,” Stiles says and wriggles the chain around his wrist. Peter comes over and Stiles clears his throat.

“Please, just put on some pants.”

Peter sighs exasperatedly and Stiles can practically hear his patented Hale eye roll. “Fine. Guess this idiot doesn’t need pants anymore.”

Stiles hears the rustling of clothes and chances a look to see Peter pull up Angryface’s ratty jeans. They are too long for Peter, but at least Stiles doesn’t have to look at his dick anymore. When Peter hurries over and pulls the iron chain out of the wall like it is made from thread, Stiles almost starts crying out of pure relief.

“Now, Stiles. Malia needs help.”

Peter grabs Stiles by his arm and pulls him to his feet none too gently. The sudden change of position means that Stiles has to sit (or rather, fall) down again. His legs are made of jelly and his head is lost at sea.

“Stiles, goddamnit, move!”

“I’m trying,” Stiles says, because he is. He didn’t choose to be in a lot of pain and so nauseous he can barely lift his head.

“Try harder.”

Peter drags Stiles over to Malia, and the second Stiles has used his foot to spread the mountain ash, Peter lets him go and rushes over to Malia. Stiles slumps against the wall and watches as Peter carefully touches his daughter’s cheek.

“Malia? Malia? Malia, love, wake up, it’s me.”

Stiles sees the tell-tale black lines rise up Peter’s arm. Good, he thinks. Her healing is triggered. After a minute, Malia stirs. She groans in pain and confusion, but soon enough she understands who it is that is kneeling next to her, taking her pain.

“Peter…?”

“Yes, sweetheart, it’s me. I’m fine. See? I’m a-OK.”

“What…”

“You, on the other hand, need to see Deaton immediately.”

“What about Theo?” Malia murmurs. “Is he awake?”

Peter looks up in alarm. He only had eyes for Malia, but now his gaze is drawn toward the still figure in the middle of the room. “Theo? What about him?”

“Kate… she wanted to know how he managed to not be affected by mountain ash, but… he couldn’t tell her,” Stiles says slowly. Everything seems to be taking place in slow motion. “So she, y’know… wanted to find out.”

“She didn’t know what she was doing,” Malia says, sounding more aware by the second.

“I’m gonna let go for a minute, love, okay?” Peter says. Malia gives a sharp nod.

Peter gently turns Theo’s head to the side and sees the claw marks on his neck. When he looks up, there is naked fury etched onto his face. “I’m gonna kill her, I’m gonna kill her, I’m gonna KILL her! I’ll rip her to shreds with my bare hands! SHIT!”

He takes a few deep breaths, attempting to calm himself. Tapping Theo’s face lightly, he tries to elicit a reaction, but Stiles already knows this to be futile. He closes his eyes for a second, and then suddenly Peter is in front of him again, shaking his shoulder.

“Stiles, you can’t sleep now, you need to stay awake.”

“I’m awake, I don’t know what you want from me,” Stiles says, offended.

“Good. You need to help Malia to the car while I take care of Doctor Evil.”

“Okay, I got it,” Stiles proclaims, although in the end Malia and Stiles help each other stay upright and follow Peter, who carries Theo and deposits him on the backseat of his own car.

“I’ll send someone to pick up my car,” Peter says as he jams the key into Theo’s truck’s ignition. “None of you are fit to drive.”

“You think?” Stiles snaps from the backseat. Theo’s feet in his lap. He can barely keep his eyes open, his head hurts so bad.

“Stiles,” Malia says, turning slightly to look at him before gasping and squeezing her eyes shut. Peter’s right hand lets go of the steering wheel to reach over and grasp her arm. She breathes easier as he syphons some of her pain. “Stiles, his phone.”

“Right,” Stiles says and laboriously leans over to fumble with Theo’s jeans. He finds it, but everything is blurry so he just hands the cell phone over into Malia’s non-concussed hands. She fiddles around with it until she has to stop when the pain becomes too intense again, and Peter takes the phone out of her hand and puts it on the dashboard as one hand stays on the steering wheel and the other syphons her pain.

Peter must have put the phone on speaker since Stiles can hear the beeping and his senses are not supernatural as far as he knows. And then he nods off for a second and comes back to Scott’s voice.

“… from Theo’s phone?”

“Because Theo can’t come to the phone right now,” Peter says angrily.

“Is he hurt?”

“Yes. Badly. So’s Malia. Stiles has a concussion, your Mom should check on him, but we need to get to the clinic. I’ll explain everything then and there.”

“Okay, sure… I’ll meet you there later—”

“No, Scott, now, you need to get there now, do you understand me?”

“What, why? What’s wrong?”

“You’re the Alpha and Doctor Evil needs you present, trust me.”

“Peter, what’s happening?”

Peter sighs and lifts his hand from Malia’s arm as she seems be momentarily better. “Kate’s back, Scott.”

“Wh… wait, WHAT? Kate Argent?”

“Yes, Kate Argent, do we know any other Kate who could fuck up a day to this degree? Kate’s back in Beacon Hills, and she’s done a lot of damage.”

“Okay, but what exactly has she done?”

“She entered his mind, Scott. She didn’t believe Doctor Evil when he said he doesn’t know why he’s unaffected by mountain ash so she thought she could just extract the information from his mind, and, well, as far as I know you already know what happens when someone who’s got no idea about this kinda thing tries it.”

“…oh. Okay, shit. Uhm, and you think I can fix it?”

“You’re the Alpha. You’ve got the best chance.”

“Okay, okay, I’ll be there as soon as I can, I swear. Can I speak to Malia and Stiles?”

“You’re on speaker. Go ahead.”

“Guys? Are you okay?”

“Hey,” Malia says. She sounds as shitty as Stiles feels.

“Scotty,” Stiles says, or rather, rasps. “I’m not sure either of us can reasonably be described as okay right now.”

“God, I’m so sorry. I should have been there. I just couldn’t… you won’t believe what happened. All of this shit at once.”

“What happened?” Stiles asks, dread spreading in his chest. “Is my Dad okay?”

“What? Yes, of course, he’s fine. It’s not… we found her, man. Monroe.”

“What do you mean, you found her?” Peter asks sharply.

“She was there, at the hideout that Argent, Isaac, and I checked out. When we realized we called your Dad and Parrish and Liam, but before we could get through to you, she must have realized we were there—”

“So she blocked all cell phone signals,” Peter guesses.

“Yes. I’m so sorry, guys, really, we were cornered, I couldn’t—”

“Stop apologizing, Scott, it’s fine, we survived, let’s just make sure it stays that way,” Peter interrupts impatiently. “Just be at the clinic, and make sure Deaton has all of his arsenal ready to burn the wolfsbane out of Malia and Theo.”

“Yeah, sure. Uhm, Peter?”

“What!”

“Are you okay?”

Peter sighs. “Yes, of course I’m fine. I’m immortal, remember.”

“So Kate…”

“It’s a funny story to tell the kids, trust me. Be at the clinic, Scott. I’ll meet you there.”

Peter hangs up.

 

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

 

“And you can’t fix it?”

“I might, but his mind has been interfered with enough. You’re his Alpha, you have a direct connection to him and thus the better chance at success.”

“I’m fine, I’m fine,” Stiles says impatiently, trying to peer around Melissa as she shines a light in his eyes. He has had concussions before, and he wants to hear what is being said.

“Hold still, Stiles,” Melissa says in her don’t-mess-with-me voice. “Peter said you were sleepy and barely coherent before. I have to make sure there’s no lasting damage.”

“So make sure, then,” Stiles says as Deaton speaks up.

“Peter’s right, Scott. If anyone should enter Theo’s damaged mind, it should be you.”

“And why does his mind need to be entered at all?” Malia says from the side. Deaton had burned out the wolfsbane in her stomach, but the wound has not healed yet, and she is sitting down, resting. “You fixed yourself,” she says to Lydia, who is standing next to Stiles and has as of yet refrained from speaking.

“Yes,” Lydia says, a hand on Stiles’s shoulder. Her hand clamps down slightly, and Stiles turns his head despite the pain sudden movements cause him, because he needs to see her face. This whole situation must be dragging up traumatic memories for her.

“But it was very hard, and it took me a long time.” She pauses. “If this process can be sped up, that would be… good for him.”

“You know it was him, did this to her?” Stiles says to Peter, who snarls at him in frustration.

“Yes, I know, you nitwit! So you’re saying he deserves this?” Stiles wants to say that yes, goddamnit, Theo deserves any shit thrown his way, but Peter keeps talking. “Because he doesn’t, and even if he did, there’s the possibility that the damage done is irreversible, and I don’t know what else you think we could do, but if you try to get him locked up in Eichen House for three months I’ll burn the place to the ground. Should have done that a long time ago.”

“Stiles,” Lydia says quietly when Stiles gets ready to argue. “No one deserves this kind of thing.”

“So you’re saying you forgive him?” Stiles says.

“Forgiving isn’t the right term for it. It’s more like… I don’t need to forgive in order to recognize that he’s changed, Stiles. And by the way, neither do you.”

Deaton rights himself from his position bent over Theo’s back. “We may have to postpone discussions about the morals of forgiveness to a later date,” he says politely. “His wolfsbane poisoning is healed, so now it’s your turn, Scott.”

Scott hesitates. He has been riddled with wolfsbane bullets himself by Monroe’s lackeys, and he still seems exhausted even though all of his wounds are already healed, at least on the outside.

“It didn’t make any sense,” Scott had told Stiles earlier, when Deaton was taking care of Malia. “It’s like she knew we were gonna be there. The second I caught her scent, I called your dad and then I called Liam, and then the signal was just gone, even though we hadn’t seen her at all, we were hidden well, so she couldn’t have seen us either.”

“Maybe she had infra-red cameras or something,” Stiles said. “Those would detect you.”

“Maybe,” Scott said. “But Argent says we were too far away for any of these normal sensors. I don’t know.”

“So she escaped again,” Stiles said, and Scott sighed heavily in defeat. “Yes.”

In the present, Scott chews on his lower lip, doubt clear in his expression. “I don’t really know what to do.”

“Just be careful,” Peter advises him. “Imagine you are trying to extract a very distant memory from a very fragile mind. It’s like… It’s like a walk on a street littered with glass shards while you’re barefoot. Tread lightly, always look twice where you’re going, and grasp Doctor Evil only when you can see him clearly.”

Scott nods, grateful for the instruction. “Right. Okay. I will.”

Stiles watches as he takes Deaton’s position next to Theo, and he cannot help but think that it is not unjust for Theo to experience firsthand what it feels like to be violated like he violated Lydia. Violated is the right word here. But if Lydia is capable of looking beyond the past, maybe so should Stiles. You don’t need to forgive to recognize he’s changed, Stiles repeats to himself. He thinks about Theo’s stint in hell, where apparently he was repaid his bad deeds a thousand times over.

Scott steels himself for the challenge, Stiles can see his anxiety at screwing this up. The way Peter described it, it does not sound simple at all. Peter has tried his best to sound reassuring when he said it, but he still radiates tension with his tightly crossed arms as he watches Scott’s every move like a hawk and Scott lets his claws grow and then carefully seeks a connection with Theo’s mind.

 

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

 

something doesn’t fit

He is standing on a street. Dusty. Lonely. Alone. The guy is standing by a building, he is hammering a picture on the wall. He looks at Theo and says words. Theo does not hear the words, he doesn’t need to, he’s heard them before.

There’s a distant rumbling. Something’s coming. Someone? Someones.

I’m gonna treat you like an animal. You’re an animal. I’m gonna use you like the bitch you are

 

i’m rolling down

 

They are coming for him, from all sides, like a tidal wave, slowly, slowly becoming more and becoming faster, rushing, like a wave—

—and Theo is running for his life, they are streaming in from all directions now, left, right, front, back, and he is running, just running, trying to escape them all

it seems inevitable that they shall catch him, catch up to him at some point, but until then Theo will keep running because that is what he has to do

 

It was the dream itself enchanted me:
Character isolated by a deed
To engross the present and dominate memory.

 

he knows that.

He is standing by a steep incline now, he has lost them momentarily but they will come for him. A girl is standing there (Tara, her name is Tara) and she points to the hill, it’s made of grass, and she tells him that he has to roll down the hill and chant, or he will never escape

he rolls himself down the hill, feels every blade of grass as it pokes into him. It looks softer than it feels. And he chants:

i’m rolling down
and i’m sincere
that i was never really here

 

deep deep down
there is a rumbling
and theo can’t move he’s not supposed to everything is happening somewhere else and this one doesn’t count he will have forgotten about it before the thought has finished because everything is happening somewhere else this one does not count

 

Theo can’t move, he can’t breathe, the weight pushing down on him is heavy and something hurts but for a moment when he is coming to he can’t quite tell what and why and where he is, until he can. He considers fighting back for a few seconds. But, really, it’ll just get him into more trouble than he already has.

So he just stays still.

 

and bears it.

 

The water is cold, his feet are cold, and he wishes he could take it back, but really it’s kind of too late now, so might as well go through with it.

 

Old kettles, old bottles, and a broken can,
Old iron, old bones, old rags

 

Having his chest cut open simultaneously hurts more and less than he imagined it would. At some point he stops feeling anything at all

 

One would have thought the security at Beacon Hills High would have gotten better at some point over the last few years, Theo thinks wryly as he scrubs his hair under the steady stream of the shower. Seems like nobody actually cares about the supernatural disasters that seek out this place on a regular basis. All the better for Theo, because he has spent enough time on the streets without a shower. If he starts smelling bad (or weird), someone is bound to notice something, and Theo doesn’t want—or need—anyone to notice.

He doesn’t need help, he is F.I.N.E.

 

i’m rolling down
and i’m sincere
that i was never really here

 

Or maybe it’s not that people don’t care. Maybe they just… forget. If you don’t remember that something happened to you, then did it really happen? You cannot acknowledge what has long since disappeared.

 

how human am i

he’s not supposed to everything is happening somewhere else and this one doesn’t count he will have forgotten about it before the thought has finished because everything is happening somewhere else this one does not count

 

i’m sincere

 

Maybe at last being but a broken man
I must be satisfied with my heart, although

 

The house is old and big and dark and Theo keeps getting lost wherever he goes. It is almost 6 am and he has to leave in twenty minutes, but he is not ready yet, not in the least. He still has to pack, and some of his stuff seems to have just disappeared. He still has to shower, but he cannot for the life of him find the goddamned bathroom.

 

(In the distance, the sound of a train.)

 

Hurrying around, he gathers his stuff, trying to remember where he put everything and wondering how he managed to fit so much into such a small suitcase. This is too much to be on the move with, he thinks.

Checking his phone, he realizes he has almost no time left to catch his train. And he still has to shower.

The bathroom is ordered around a staircase that leads down into another room, and at any time someone could walk upstairs and surprise Theo, which is an arrangement he does not particularly like, but he will have to make do. The shower is inside a huge old grandfather clock. Building a shower that way seems highly impractical.

 

(You’re too young to cross the finish line.)

 

Now that my ladder’s gone
I must lie down where all the ladders start
In the foul rag and bone shop of the heart.

 

After spending so much time in the darkness, everything is too blinding, too much, and human contact that doesn’t hurt makes no sense to him anymore, so he has to attack, before his heart is ripped out yet again—

 

i was never really here—

 

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

 

They all watch Scott nervously as he stays still, eyes closed, with a slight frown on his face, and tries to repair Theo’s mind. Argent enters the room almost silently and takes a seat next to Stiles.

“Liam still outside?” Stiles whispers.

“Yes,” Argent answers in a hushed voice. “Still raging.”

Because of course Liam’s reaction would be to completely lose his shit when he saw the catatonic Theo and heard what happened. Derek, Corey, and Mason must still be trying (and failing) to calm him down.

“He wants to go looking for her all on his own and rip her head off,” Argent murmurs, face expressionless. What Stiles wouldn’t give to be able to read chemosignals right now. He has no idea what Argent is thinking about the reappearance of his sister, although he looked suitably horrified when he heard that she used a chainsaw to behead Peter.

Isaac, sitting next to Malia and mending his own wounds (he has to grow back a lot of skin on his legs because someone threw acid at him), huffs out a subdued laugh, and Stiles makes eye contact with him. Apparently he has been listening in and found something quite amusing, although Stiles cannot really find the humor in the situation right now. The frown on Scott’s face is growing deeper and more severe, and Peter has his arms tightly crossed and is staring holes into the side of Scott’s frowning face. It does not help the situation that Peter has refused to take the time for a shower, so even though Argent lent him a shirt he is still covered in chainsaw-grime and a mixture of his own blood and the blood of Kate’s goons. He smells terrible enough that even Stiles’s non-supernatural nose feels personally insulted. And still, nobody dares tell him to go take a shower again.

Peter is actually immortal, Stiles thinks as his thoughts wander. Melissa is gazing at her son in worry, Stiles and his concussion momentarily put on hold. Actually immortal. He simply cannot stay dead. Being killed by a curse… being shot in the head… those things left his body basically intact, it did not seem that impossible to heal those wounds. But this time was different. Stiles knows those trash bags contained parts of Peter’s body, so there is no way this was just a wound he had to heal. It’s more like he would have had to regrow… well, everything. Including his head. And that just sounds impossible. So Peter Hale is immortal and there is no explanation for it. It’s insane.

Scott’s face scrunches up suddenly, and he starts breathing heavily, sounding upset. Peter’s shoulders tense up even more. Lydia’s hand cramps down hard enough around Stiles’s shoulder he flinches a little.

 

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

 

someone tries to grab him

I was never really here

 

whatever this someone wants

(how human)

it can’t be good

i

please no—

 

was

 

leave me alone—

 

never

 

you don’t get to—

 

really

 

maybe I wanna stay here, at least here I know what to expect.

 

here—

 

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

 

Scott tears his eyes open with a yelp and stumbles back in the same instant that Theo sits up so abruptly and with so much force he basically flies off the operating table and lands on the floor with a resounding thud. The sudden commotion startles everyone, and Melissa rushes over to Scott to hug him because Scott appears extremely distraught (and Stiles remembers what Kate said; “I saw all kinds of messed-up shit in that head… Never enter that mind, it’s disturbing.”), and Peter, to Stiles’s surprise, stays rooted to the spot, still incredibly tense, even as Isaac limps forward to help Theo. But when Isaac lays a friendly hand on Theo’s shoulder, Theo gives a violent flinch and jerks away.

“Don’t—” he says, trembling hard, looking around the room in disorientation.

“Theo?” Isaac says and reaches out to him again, and Theo slides back a few inches on the ground to avoid his hand. Stiles has the sudden image of an anxious street dog in his head.

“Don’t touch me,” Theo hisses. Isaac looks crestfallen.

“But…”

“Get the fuck away from me!” Theo snaps, and Stiles is surprised. He has never seen him lash out at Isaac before.

“Leave him be,” Peter says. “He needs to calm down.”

“You sure?” Isaac says, looking back at Peter.

“He doesn’t mean it,” Peter says. “He needs to get his bearings. Just leave him be for a moment.”

Scott, meanwhile, is really pale, and his hands are trembling. Actually he looks like he might cry, Stiles realizes.

“Scotty, you okay?” Stiles asks.

“Maybe you should sit down for a minute,” Melissa suggests, and Scott gives a small nod and lets his Mom lead him to a chair next to Stiles. Up close, Scott does not just look pale and upset, he looks haunted, like he just peeked at the heart of terror.

“What did you see?” Argent inquires with urgency, but Scott shakes his head.

“Scott, if there is something we should talk about…” Deaton says, but again Scott just shakes his head.

“We shouldn’t… I mean, I… Theo’s… no… I mean. Yes. But I shouldn’t…” Scott rubs his eyes and then blinks a couple of times. “I need to talk to Theo. Not to you. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it to sound like…”

“If you saw something dangerous in there that suggests we shouldn’t trust him, you need to tell us,” Argent states matter-of-factly, and Stiles could not have said it better. But again, Scott shakes his head.

“I didn’t see any of that,” he says.

“Are you sure?” Stiles says.

“I didn’t see ANY of that,” Scott says with more force. Argent nods, satisfied.

“Good. At least now we can be sure.”

“But you did see something that frightened you,” Melissa says, and Scott sighs.

“It’s nothing to… it’s not… look, it wasn’t anything you need to be worried about, but… I just need to talk to him about it, okay? I saw it in his mind, and he kept it secret, and there’s a reason for that.”

“Okay,” Deaton says and nods with finality, although Stiles is sure he must be extremely curious. He has been trying to figure out the riddle of Theo’s condition for a while now, he would probably pay money to see what is going on in that head. “Just sit, then. You need to rest.”

“Yeah,” Scott says and leans forward, resting his head in his hands. “Just a moment.”

Theo is still sitting on the floor, knees drawn to his chest, and gasping for air like he’s just finished a marathon. He keeps shooting nervous glances at the room, like he does not recognize anyone, and Stiles considers the possibility that the damage done is indeed irreversible. Did Theo forget them?

Peter kneels down in front of Theo, far away enough that Theo has no reason to feel caged. “Hello, Doctor Evil. Can you hear me?”

Theo glances at Peter’s face.

“Okay, good,” Peter says. “There’s no reason for you be scared right now. No one’s gonna attack you.”

“You’re covered in blood,” Theo says eventually.

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“I was killed.”

“Who?”

“Who killed me?”

Theo nods.

“It was Kate. Do you remember? Kate Argent?”

For a moment, Theo just stares at Peter. Then his hand slowly wanders to the back of his neck. When his fingers come back bloody, as Scott’s claw marks have not healed yet, Theo asks quietly, “What happened?”

“I think you remember what happened,” Peter says.

“But… after that. Why am I here, in the clinic, and what… who…”

Realization dawns on his face as he turns to look at Scott, whose face is still buried in his hands.

“You.”

Theo struggles to his feet, drawing away from Isaac’s helping hands. “It was you again, Scott, wasn’t it.”

Scott does not react, but Peter explains. “He fixed the damage she did. He had to do it. Or did you want to stay a vegetable for the rest of your life? He’s your Alpha—”

Stiles assumes that was the wrong thing to say when Theo’s face contorts with rage. “You had no right to do that!”

Scott finally looks up. “I get it, Theo. Okay? I GET it.”

Theo, if that is possible, gets even angrier. “You… piece of SHIT! You had no—”

“I know,” Scott says, and now he sounds angry, as well, but there is a weird undercurrent of sorrow in his voice that Stiles cannot make sense of. “I know I had no right, and I’m sorry. I’m really sorry, Theo. Seriously.”

Theo steps back as if Scott were hurling insults at him. “Shut up.”

“But Peter’s right, I had to do it, there was a lot of damage, and I had to at least try and fix it. And… I’m sor—”

“Stop apologizing,” Theo snarls.

Scott swallows. “I can’t undo it. So…”

By this time, everybody in the clinic is following the conversation, because it does not really seem to cohere. Stiles is confused. Scott must have seen something terrible while inside Theo’s mind. Obviously. The guy has done terrible things. But what did Scott see?

Theo is still breathing a bit too rapidly, and he still looks furious, but he gives a jerky shrug. “Fine. Whatever. What’s done is done.” He looks down at himself and realizes he is naked from the waist up. Deaton had to cut off his shirt to get at the injury to his spine. “Where’s my shirt? I need a shirt. I wanna leave.”

“Your shirt’s ruined,” Peter says.

“Fine. I don’t really need it.”

“You can’t go,” Scott says. “There are things we need to talk about.”

“We?”

“You and I.” Theo does a perfect imitation of the exasperated Hale eye roll.

“God, why do you always wanna talk about shit? Can’t you just let it go?”

“You, and me,” and Scott adds, “and the Sheriff.”

 

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

 

It takes ten very tense minutes after Scott drags Theo after him out of the room and tells everybody in his Alpha voice to “not listen in, under any circumstances, do you hear me? Just don’t,” for them to come back, with Theo looking still angry, but kind of resigned. Scott tells them all to regroup later at his Mom’s house so they can talk through the events of the day and how to proceed.

“Theo and I are gonna talk to the Sheriff at the station,” Scott says.

“At the station?” Theo bristles. “Great! Great idea.”

“I’m coming with you,” Stiles says, because if they are going to see his Dad, he needs to be there. He has not seen his Dad since breakfast and he needs to know he’s okay. Also, Stiles does not really like Theo anywhere near his Dad without Stiles himself present. Too much has happened. You don’t need to forgive to recognize he’s changed, Stiles reminds himself. But still.

Only, Theo immediately says, “You’re not coming.”

“Of course I’m coming.”

“Stiles…” Scott looks at him uncertainly.

“Scott!” Stiles flails a little. “I need to see my Dad.”

“I know, but… you should see him later. After we’re done talking to him.”

“Hey. Anything that concerns my Dad concerns me.”

“This is Sheriff business,” Scott says. Stiles squints at Theo.

“So you did see something he’s done that the Sheriff needs to know about?”

Theo tightly crosses his arms. Scott shakes his head. “Stiles, just don’t.”

“But, Scott!” Stiles is getting upset. Whatever this is, he needs to just know.

Scott sighs and looks at Theo. “He… could wait in the car?”

“I’m not waiting—”

Theo shakes his head. “You know what? Whatever. What. EVER.”

“He won’t hear anything. He’ll just wait outside.”

“Whatever. Let’s just get it over with.”

“I’m not waiting outside, whatever this is,” Stiles says, just to say something, but Scott makes a frustrated noise.

“Stiles, I love you, but honestly? Shut up.”

When they leave the animal clinic, Stiles sees Corey leaning against Theo’s truck and watching as Derek and Mason talk to Liam, or rather, talk at Liam, who is looking at the ground in silence. They all look over to Stiles, Scott, and Theo then, and Corey murmurs, “Finally,” in the same moment that Liam loudly says, “Theo!”

“Hey,” Theo says, barely sparing him a glance.

“So it worked?” Derek asks, and Scott nods.

“It worked. But we need to talk to Noah about something, so we’ll see you later, okay?”

“Sure,” Derek says, clearly confused.

“Theo?” Liam says, also very confused. Theo waves a tired hand at him. Argent managed to produce another shirt for him, but Theo looks so uncomfortable in it Stiles suspects he may have preferred to go shirtless. “I’ll see you later, Liam.”

“Oh… okay.”

Stiles thinks he hears Mason say something like, “but now you know he’s fine,” as he gets into Theo’s truck yet again. He misses Roscoe, but the old thing is still at Melissa’s.

“Maybe I should drive,” Scott says as Theo gets in behind the wheel.

“Maybe you should shut the fuck up,” Theo answers and starts the car. An uncomfortable silence fills the way to the Sheriff’s station, and Stiles is not a fan of uncomfortable silences, but he is definitely missing some key piece of information here. He wants to know, but has no idea how to approach the subject, so for once he decides to just say nothing.

And as happy as he is when he can finally see and talk to his Dad, he cannot let go of this feeling that he is missing something important.

“Not that I’m not happy to see you here, Scott,” Dad says, “but this has been a really long and trying day, as you already know. So… whatever this is, can it wait?”

He looks from Stiles, to Scott, to Theo, who looks the unhappiest Stiles has ever seen him, at least as far as he can recall.

“No, I’m sorry. I don’t really think it can wait,” Scott says. Theo says nothing, just looks out the window, and Stiles waves a hand through the air.

“I don’t even know what it’s about,” he says.

“Okay?” Dad is confused.

“Okay then,” Scott says. “Stiles, go wait outside.”

“What—no! I’m not waiting outside.”

“Is this official Sheriff stuff?” Dad asks, and Scott nods.

“So Stiles doesn’t need to hear it?”

“No.”

“Okay then, son. Do me a favor, wait outside, okay? Get a snack from the kitchen or something. I’m hoping this won’t take too long.”

“Scott,” Stiles argues, “if this is something important that concerns the pack, I should—”

“It isn’t! Why won’t you believe me?”

“Cause it involves him!” Stiles says and points at Theo angrily.

“Just let him stay,” Theo says. “Doesn’t really matter.”

“No,” Scott says, but Theo interrupts him.

“He’ll find out eventually. You’ll tell him, or Stilinski will tell him. It doesn’t matter.”

“It’s decided then,” Stiles says and plants himself on the couch.

“Find out what, exactly?” Dad says as he sits down behind his desk. Scott takes a seat in front of him, but Theo stays by the window, not explaining anything, so Scott sighs and starts talking after a minute.

“Okay, so, I don’t know how much you know about what Kate—”

“I’ve heard the whole thing,” Dad says. “Melissa told me all about it.”

“So you know what she did to Theo.”

“Yes.”

“Well, I had to fix it. The damage she did. And—”

“When you say fix, you mean you had to do the mind-meld thing, too?”

“Yes, exactly,” Scott says. “And when I did, I saw something. Something that concerns you, as the Sheriff.”

“Okay,” Dad says and leans back. His eyes wander over to Theo. “And that would be…?”

“Theo?” Scott looks at him, but Theo shrugs, eyes never leaving the window.

“You wanted to tell the Sheriff, Scott. So you tell the damn Sheriff.”

“Okay.” Scott rubs his forehead lightly, thinking for a moment. “So, I saw… and I talked to Theo about it afterwards, and he confirmed that I saw correctly, so this definitely happened… uhm… so one of your deputies, I couldn’t tell which one, but it was definitely one from this station, he, uh… God, I don’t know how to say this…”

“Jesus Christ,” Theo says. “One of your deputies attacked me a couple months ago and raped me in the back of my truck.”

“What?” Dad says, as Scott’s mouth hangs open with the words he could not say.

“You heard me,” Theo says. His inability to seek eye contact belies his casual voice. “Since Scott wasn’t capable of getting to the fucking point.”

“Which one?” Dad says. “Which one of my deputies allegedly did this?”

“Don’t know his name,” Theo says. “He took his name tag off. Thought it through.”

“This is a serious allegation,” Dad says. “Sit down and tell me about it.”

When Theo does not move, Dad repeats it with his Sheriff voice. “Sit down.”

Theo shoots him a look, finally, and slowly walks over to the second chair, drops into it.

“Scott, this isn’t… you’re not seriously believing him, are you?” Stiles finally manages to say.

“Stiles, you don’t get it. This has nothing to do with believing. I was in his head. I SAW it.”

Stiles remembers the way Scott had looked after his trip into Theo’s psyche… but still, this could not be real. “He could’ve faked it,” Stiles says, because he does not know what else to say, but also because he knows that if anyone could do that, it would be Theo.

“And to what end?” Scott asks. Dad cuts both of them off.

“Never mind that now,” he says and looks to Theo. “Tell me about the attack. If you want this to be treated seriously, I have to hear your side of the story first, before consulting the person you’re accusing of this crime.”

“I didn’t WANT any of this,” Theo says. “It was months ago. It doesn’t matter. I wouldn’t even be here if—”

“Never mind that now. Talk about the attack.”

Theo sighs and lets his head fall back. “Well, it was summer, couple weeks after Monroe had up and disappeared, the Anuk-Ite was defeated. I was homeless, so your deputies kept me busy at night, waking me up and telling me to move my car, ‘you can’t park here,’ all that bullshit. So when the guy pulled up next to me in his squad car, I thought that’s what he wanted, so I got out of the car, I’d been sleeping in the backseat. I told him I was gonna leave, but he said he wanted to see my license and registration, so I turned—” Theo stops himself for a moment. Stiles can only see half of his face from the couch, but he looks angry. “Look, I know it was pretty dumb, but I thought he was telling the truth. I hadn’t eaten in two days, I was tired, I wasn’t paying attention. I should’ve realized he’d taken his nametag off, and I should have noticed the shock baton in his hand.”

“It’s okay,” Dad says. “What happened?”

“I… I turned away from him. I was opening the front door, I was gonna get my papers out. He shocked me, I guess. I don’t know how long I was out. Can’t have been long.”

His eyes drift over to the window again. “When I came to, I was bent over the backseat. He’d chained my hands to the handle on the other door. He was…”

Theo stops again. Stiles cannot see his face at all, now that he is looking at the window and not at Dad anymore, but he has noticed how Dad’s posture and tone have changed subtly, form interrogating a suspect, to questioning a victim.

“It’s okay,” Dad says. “Keep going.”

“He was raping me. I thought about fighting, y’know. The handcuffs were laced with wolfsbane and it was burning, but I could’ve gotten out of them and I could’ve killed the piece of shit, but I thought, well.” Theo shrugs. “I didn’t think if it came out that I’d killed a deputy, you’d believe me when I said it was self-defense, so I just waited it out. Didn’t take too long. He left me there. He… just left.”

“He left you chained to the door handle?” Dad asks. Theo nods. “Then what did you do?”

“I snapped the damned cuffs in half, then had to wait a little. My healing was pretty slow. I drove over to Beacon Hills High, broke into the locker room, took a shower… waited around till morning, met Liam and Scott at the preserve.”

“What did you do with the handcuffs?” Dad asks.

“Just left them there in the parking lot,” Theo says.

“Wait… you met us at the preserve that morning? Was that the day you helped Liam and I chase down that rogue omega?”

“Yeah.”

“Why… why didn’t you say something?” Scott asks in shock.

“Would you have believed me?” Theo asks. “Would it have made any difference?”

Scott opens and closes his mouth a few times.

“Okay, so I know you don’t know his name. Can you describe him to me?”

“Tall,” Theo says slowly, shifting a little in his seat. “Kinda skinny. Going bald. White. Late thirties, maybe.”

“Is he here right now?” Scott asks, and Theo nods once.

“His scent,” Scott explains at Dad’s momentary confusion.

“Ah, right.” Dad scratches his chin. “Well, that description fits… Deputy Anderson to a t.”

“Anderson?” Stiles says, still in disbelief. “But he’s a nice guy. He used to pick me up from school when you didn’t have time. Bought me ice cream. He wouldn’t do that kinda thing.”

“Well, I have the log here,” Dad says, switching his computer out of stand-by. “Scott, what date was it you chased that rogue omega?” Scott tells him, and Dad scrolls through the log.

“Okay, I see. Anderson was on patrol that night.” He looks at Theo.

“What time was it when he approached you?”

“Somewhere between 2 and 3 am, I guess.”

“Parrish tried to contact Anderson at 2:26,” Dad says, studying the log. “Got no response from Anderson’s radio. Ten minutes later, Anderson reported back, said his equipment was faulty and needed a check-up. So there’s a time period on the night in question during which Anderson has no alibi.”

He clicks around on his computer a few times, before he folds his hands on the table and leans forward slightly. “So, let’s say I believe you. Unfortunately, there’s not that much I can do.”

“But—” Scott starts, and Theo shoots him a venomous glare.

“See, I TOLD you.”

“As you said, it was months ago, and there’s no evidence left unless we do a thorough examination of your truck, but if we don’t find Anderson’s DNA there’s no way to back up your story, and it’ll be his word against yours.”

“And no one will believe me,” Theo says. “Like I already SAID. So all of this is completely pointless. Can I LEAVE now?”

“But, Noah,” Scott says. “Theo’s telling the truth. I know he is.”

“Scott—”

“He’s a Sheriff’s deputy. And he’s dangerous. Someone like that shouldn’t be walking around with a badge and a gun.”

“Well, you’re right about that.” Dad sighs. “Guess we should ask him about it.”

Scott nods grimly. “Good. I can tell if he lies to you.”

Dad gets up and opens the door to the squad room, calling for Deputy Anderson to have a quick word with him in his office. Scott shoots a look of worry at Theo and murmurs, just loud enough for Stiles to catch it, “are you okay?”

“Shut the fuck up,” Theo says as he gets up and moves back to the window in an unusual display of nervous energy. “Don’t ask stupid questions.”

Anderson follows Dad into the office with a friendly, if confused, expression on his face. It freezes the second he lays eyes on Theo, Stiles can tell.

“So, Sheriff, what’s this all about?” he says.

“Close the door, please, Anderson?” Dad says as he sits down behind his desk again.

Anderson does as he is told and then stands in the middle of the room, eyes dancing from Dad to Scott to Theo and back. He does not even seem to have noticed Stiles on the couch.

“What’s this about?”

“The young man by the window levelled some serious allegations against you,” Dad says. He is using his official voice again.

Dad reads out the log entry. “Where were you when Parrish tried to reach you that night?”

“How would I remember, that was months ago.”

“You reported that your gear was faulty. You haven’t done that before or after, the entire year. Seems to me like an incident you’d remember.”

“Sure I remember reporting—”

“So where were you and what were you doing when you noticed your equipment was faulty?” Dad says forcefully, and Anderson’s face turns slightly red. Stiles sees Theo’s position shift so he is fully facing Anderson now, back to the window. His face is expressionless, but he seems alert and tense.

“Are you interrogating me?” Anderson snaps.

“You didn’t answer my question, Deputy.”

“What did he say I did?”

Scott is getting up from his chair, now, as well, positioning himself between Anderson and Theo. Stiles knows he can read chemosignals and probably already knows what is going on inside Anderson’s head, and if he feels like this is a necessary move, it is not a good sign, but Stiles still can’t believe this. It just can’t be real.

“He said you attacked him that night,” Dad says. “That you used a shock baton to stun him. That you then bent him over the backseat of his own car, chained his hands to the door handle—”

Stiles watches as Anderson’s face contorts with fury. He doesn’t really look like the nice guy who used to pick little Stiles up from school and let him doodle at his desk until the Sheriff had time to take care of his son.

“This is bullshit,” Anderson says and levels a stare at Theo, but Scott is still there, watching every movement of Anderson like a hawk.

“—and that you then proceeded to sexually assault him,” Dad finishes.

“So what he’s saying is, I’m a rapist?”

“Are you?” Dad says. “Did you do it?”

“No, I did not! This is ridiculous! I’ve never even seen this guy before!”

“He’s lying,” Scott says with absolute certainty.

“Are you sure?” Dad asks, and Scott nods once.

“One hundred percent.”

Anderson presses out a laugh. “Oh, and how would you know? Read my mind, did you?”

“Didn’t need to,” Scott says. “The second you saw Theo standing there, your heart skipped a beat. Your heart was racing when you said you didn’t do it. Why would you be so nervous if you had nothing to hide?”

“My heart was not racing—how would you even know?” Anderson looks at Dad. “Noah, this is completely ridiculous. I don’t know why these kids would make something like that up, but—”

“Yeah, me either,” Dad says. “Which is why I believe them.”

“You can’t hide your heartbeat,” Scott says. Anderson’s face turns a darker shade of red.

“And how exactly,” he says, “can it be that you can hear my heartbeat, huh?”

“Considering you laced the handcuffs with wolfsbane,” Dad says, “I’d say you already know the answer to that.”

“You’re one of them,” Anderson says and takes a step toward Scott in obvious threat, and the way he emphasizes ‘them’ makes it very clear what he means and what he thinks about ‘them,’ but Stiles watches Theo when Anderson takes a step forward and sees an expression cross his face, just for a split second, but Stiles knows that expression. It is the same one Theo was wearing this morning when he had pleaded with Kate not to force her way into his mind, when he had begged, “Don’t, please, don’t, I’m serious, I don’t know anything…” It is fear, Theo is afraid, and he is trying not to show it, and that, more than Scott’s superhuman ears and Dad’s instinct, makes Stiles understand.

“Holy shit,” Stiles says. “You did it, didn’t you. You actually did it.”

“Stiles?” Anderson turns and finally notices Stiles on the couch. “What are you doing here?”

“You’re a rapist,” Stiles says, full of disgust. “You raped him. Oh my God. What the fuck is wrong with you?”

“I did NOT—”

“And I honestly thought you were a nice guy, I mean, shit! You had all of us fooled.”

“Stiles, you’ll shut up if you know what’s good for you,” Anderson says, and Dad’s hand is suddenly on his gun as he says, “Are you threatening my son?”

“And you really planned it,” Stiles says, getting up from the couch. The situation feels so surreal, but this is the truth. Deputy Anderson is not who he says he is. And to think, he had been so sure Theo was a liar. “You took your nametag off, just to make sure he wouldn’t have a name to give to anyone. You laced the handcuffs with wolfsbane, because you knew what he is. You had the baton already in hand when you approached him. How many times have you done this kinda thing and got away with it?”

“You have no idea what you’re talking about, you little bitch!” Anderson makes a move as if he wants to charge toward Stiles, but Scott is there, his eyes glowing an eerie Alpha red when he says, “Don’t move.”

“Sheriff, if you honestly believe what these—these monsters are saying, then—”

“They’re not monsters,” Dad says with steel in his voice. “They’re human beings.”

Theo’s expression crumbles, but he has himself under control again before Stiles can decipher what it means.

“You can’t prove anything,” Anderson says then. “This will never get in front of any judge, and you know it. No one’s gonna believe that little weasel, not when they know what he is.”

“I’m aware of the lack of evidence and that it’s your word against his. I can’t arrest you. But I can fire you.”

“What?!”

“I need your badge and your service weapons now—”

“But you can’t fire me. Not a couple weeks before Christmas.”

“I can. You’ll receive full pay for the rest of the month, but I need your badge and your service weapons, both of them. And I need your desk clear within the hour.”

“You can’t!”

“Anderson. Your badge and your guns. Now.”

With furious movements, Anderson rips off his hip holster and the small gun attached to his ankle and slams them on Dad’s desk.

“This isn’t over,” he says, voice trembling with rage as he detaches the badge from his uniform.

“Please clear out your desk now. That’s all.”

As soon as Anderson has slammed the door closed behind himself, Dad drops back into his seat and drags a hand through his face.

“Jesus,” he says. “This was a long and trying day and I honestly thought it couldn’t get worse. And then you lot go and just—make it happen.”

“Sorry, Dad,” Stiles says honestly. Scott nods.

“Yeah. Sorry.”

Dad looks at Theo, who stays rooted to his spot by the window, eyes fixed on the door. He clears his throat. “You, uh. You okay, kid?”

Theo doesn’t even react at first, and only when nobody else answers does he do a double take and realize Dad means him. “What? Yes. Sure. I’m fine.”

Dad does not believe a word he says, and Theo rolls his eyes. “Look, it doesn’t matter, okay? It happened and I don’t really care. I’m fine. It was my fault, anyway, so I don’t understand why we had to make it into such a big deal.”

“But it’s not your fault,” Scott says, and Dad sighs heavily.

“Look, kid, I know—”

“Of course it is. I should have been paying attention, I should have seen it coming, I mean, he was holding a fucking shock baton in his hand and I turned my back on him. I was asking for it.” Theo looks at them like THEY are the crazy ones. Stiles doesn’t even know what to SAY to something this absurd.

“No,” Dad says. “You weren’t. You have to understand—I know this is hard, but—”

“I don’t understand why you even care this time,” Theo says. “Is it only cause he’s a deputy?”

“This time? So there was another time?”

“What… yes, I mean, of course!”

“Okay, what are you even talking about?” Stiles says.

“The hunters?” Theo looks at them all expectantly. “When they caught me and those two rogues whose pack had been killed? You didn’t care at all then. You just locked me in a cage with the other two and only let me out after I’d tricked them into confessing to shit.”

“But they didn’t…” Scott says slowly.

“Who didn’t do what? These hunters had me for over two days, Scott. What on earth did you think they did to me?”

“We didn’t know,” Dad says tiredly.

“You didn’t tell us,” Scott says.

“And you didn’t ask,” Theo says. “I thought you knew. I thought you knew and you just didn’t care. But, well. What difference would it have made? You wouldn’t have believed me.”

Scott wants to say something, but Theo shakes his head. “Just… forget about it. It doesn’t matter. I’m done talking about it. And I’m leaving now.”

Theo leaves the office, and Scott looks incredibly guilty, and even Dad looks slightly guilty, aside from incredibly exhausted, and Stiles just can’t take it, so he goes after Theo. He catches up to Theo in the parking lot.

“Hey!” Stiles says.

“Fuck, Stiles! Leave me alone, okay?”

“You know that’s bullshit, right?” Stiles says.

“What part? Or all of it? Wait, I don’t care what you think.”

“The part about it being your fault.”

Theo stops and turns around. “And you’d know because you know everything, right?”

“Please just tell me that’s a scheme you’re hatching, that you only told Scott and my Dad that because you want them to feel sorry for you. Because that’s the only way this would make any sense at all.”

Theo closes his eyes and takes a deep breath. “Yes, Stiles. Sure, Stiles. This is all just a scheme. I made it all up to worm my way back into Scott’s heart, because there wouldn’t have been an easier way to do so that wouldn’t leave me completely…”

“But it wasn’t your fault,” Stiles says. “I mean, for once in your fucked up mess of a life, there’s something you’re not to blame for. Seriously, Theo, what the hell?”

Theo shakes his head. “Just… don’t tell Liam, okay? Just don’t tell Liam.”

Stiles has no words left to say, so he watches as Theo hops into his truck and drives off.