Liam looks up at him after he lets the talk button on the radio go, and grins wide enough that his eyes crinkle at the edges as he holds up an arm. Theo doesn’t get it except that he does; he’d already started reaching, instinctively and before he’d made the conscious decision to do so, for Liam’s hand to haul him back up. He nearly pulls Liam into himself. He doesn’t care.
Apparently neither does Liam. He stays close to Theo, his eyes running critically over Theo’s face and body until they snag on the blood-stained edges of the bullet graze torn through Theo’s t-shirt sleeve. He reaches forward and scrapes a fingertip over the tear, seemingly checking on the skin underneath. It’s whole, and healed, but Liam doesn’t take his hand away.
“Hey, look,” he announces, tongue firmly in his cheek as he looks back up at Theo. “You didn’t die for me.”
Theo’s lips quirk without his permission. “Looks like you didn’t die for me, either.” It feels weird to be saying it. It feels like they might be saying something else.
Liam just grins. His finger still tucked into the tear in Theo’s shirt is very warm, and Theo can’t think about much beyond it. He wants to drop down to his haunches, put his own fingers to Liam’s calf, where the bullet had punched its way through; wants to make sure that the skin and muscle have healed. He doesn’t want to drop down to his haunches, because doing so would mean Liam’s hand falling away from his arm, his skin. He’s caught in the middle of conflicting impulses. He just keeps staring down at Liam, who keeps staring up at him.
And then they both jump, because the stairwell door slams open down the hallway, and spills out the Sheriff and Parrish and Agent McCall.
“Hi,” Liam greets, blinking.
“Hello,” the Sheriff returns, seemingly by polite reflex.
“Little late to the party, are we?” Ms. McCall yells from down the hallway, startling them all again.
There’s a chaotic confab in the middle of the floor’s waiting room. Sometime in the intervening minutes after Theo had followed Liam who had followed the sound of Monroe’s voice desperate over to the radio, someone had covered Gabe’s body with a sheet. Theo stands at Liam’s side, not entirely sure how he’d ended up there, and stares at it. Consequently, he misses most of the conversation.
He isn’t pulled back into it until Liam suddenly smacks the back of one of his hands against Theo’s chest. “—that okay?”
Theo stares at him. There’s blood at the corner of his mouth—probably he’d torn open his lip or his tongue or something on his fangs at some point during the fight—and his hair’s a tangled mess, shoved even more messily behind his ears. “What?” Theo replies, after a few seconds have gone by and Liam’s starting to give him a strange, squinting look.
“I said, can you give us a ride back to Scott’s house?” Liam repeats, slow and a little annoyed.
“Who’s we?” is the first thing that comes to Theo’s mind to ask, but regardless he ends up in the driver’s seat of his truck less than ten minutes later, Liam in his front seat and Mason, Corey, and Nolan in the back. Theo squints at them in the rearview mirror, Nolan wedged in between Corey and Mason and looking decidedly green, and there are a million things he could say—several hundred different things he probably should say—but what he ends up saying is, “Don’t throw up in my car.”
Nolan goes even more green, but nods.
The McCall house is still bullet-ridden. Mason and Corey pile out the second Theo pulls into the driveway and turns off the engine, dragging Nolan into the house with them in the same way that they’d dragged him out of the hospital, but Theo doesn’t move. Liam doesn’t either.
“They’re going to have to move, aren’t they,” he says, looking at the bullet holes. It’s not actually a question, and it’s loaded with subtext; it’s not what he’s actually asking.
Theo glances over at him. “Probably,” he replies. To which question, he’s not sure, but Liam seems to accept it regardless.
“C’mon,” he orders, and hops out. He doesn’t wait for Theo to follow, just beelines it for the door.
Theo just sits, and watches him through the windshield. He flicks through the catalogue of his available options. I could turn on my truck, and leave, he thinks. No one would be able to stop him. He could be long gone, disappeared, poof, by the time the McCall pack, or the Sheriff, or anyone, could pull the resources together to come after him. I could go raid the operating theaters, and then leave, he thinks next. He hadn’t time the last time he’d fled—right after the Wild Hunt, and fully expecting that, while finding a way to reassemble Kira’s sword wouldn’t be the first priority for the just-reunited McCall pack, it’d be a priority—and so they still held resources, supplies; several valuable supernatural artifacts that Theo could sell for frankly disgusting amounts of money to the right, unscrupulous buyers.
I could stay, he thinks next. He gets out of his truck. He goes inside the McCall house.
Corey and Mason had apparently sat Nolan down in an armchair in the living room, and left him there. They’re in the kitchen, as far as Theo can tell, opening and closing cabinets and debating the merits of ordering pizza. Liam is…nowhere to be found.
Except then Theo finds him. He’s in the basement, searching through piles of clean laundry folded neatly into baskets but not yet taken upstairs, his brow furrowed in concentration as he flicks through his options.
“They’re going to be too long for you,” Theo notes, leaning against the wall by the stairway and crossing his arms.
Liam just shoots him a dry look. “Something, something, beggars, choosers,” he recites absently, and yanks out a pair of sweatpants that he’s going to have to roll up at least three times to have any hope of successfully wearing. He stops, and looks critically up at Theo. His gaze is clinical but Theo still finds himself stiffening under the attention, something squirming in his gut. But Liam just dives back into the basket, and yanks out a shirt. “Here,” he offers, holding it out. When Theo doesn’t immediately come forward to take it, he wiggles it impatiently. “Look, the smell of blood on my clothes always drives me nuts.”
It’s depressing that you know that, Theo thinks, unbidden. It’s depressing that any of them—myself included, Theo realizes, somewhat blankly—have enough experience with blood-soaked clothes to have ingrained opinions about them. He accepts the shirt.
By the time they get upstairs, Mason and Corey have cracked, and are on the phone with the pizza place. Mason shoots Liam a grimace as he says into the phone, “Maybe the better question is, how many pizzas can you deliver in the next half-hour?” Theo’s close enough to Liam as they crest the stairs that he feels it when Liam snorts, amused, his arm practically brushing Liam’s back.
Scott and the rest of the pack who’d been at the school pile inside the house shortly afterwards. Scott himself looks like some kind of Halloween festival reject, blood dried tacky down his face from where he’d clearly tried—succeeded?—to claw out his own eyes. Liam and Mason and Corey all cluster around him, a little school kid awed as they stare up at his perfectly healed face.
Derek barely manages to shove a potted plant underneath Nolan’s mouth in time as Nolan finally—probably for the best—gets sick. Theo watches him while everyone else is still watching Scott, and trading breathless battle stories; Nolan looks like he’s throwing up more than just whatever meager food he’d eaten that day. His shoulders heave like he’s throwing up every bit of bile that Monroe had managed to get him to swallow. His body shakes like it’s ridding itself of every venomous thought that had taken root and sprouted between his ribs.
Theo has to look down, and away from him, after a while. He winds up staring at the skin of his right forearm. He runs the tip of one finger over the vein he can see, starting from his wrist and following it as far as he can—as far as he can remember of the blackness that’d flowed out of Gabe, and into him, earlier—up, up to his elbow. The scrape of his nail over the inside of his elbow makes him shiver. When he looks up, Liam is watching him questioningly.
Theo drops his hand.
The pizza arrives nearly at the same time that Ms. McCall and Argent do. Ms. McCall looks surprised at her own surprise to see two pizza delivery workers stood blinking owlishly behind the veritable towers of boxes in their arms. She looks more genuinely surprised when Derek interrupts her attempts to pay, and does it himself instead.
There literally isn’t enough room for the amount of pizza that Mason and Corey had ordered at either the kitchen table, dining room table, or the two of them combined. The issue is mooted to a certain degree when each of the werewolves just claims a box for themselves; Malia claims two. Theo stands bemusedly beside Nolan as he watches Liam wander off with a large double-pepperoni in his arms, and then accepts the plate Ms. McCall hands him with an absent, reflexive thanks.
If her eyes linger on his face, and it takes her a few seconds to let go of the plate, well: it’s only a few seconds. It’s several million seconds less than he deserves.
The couch and loveseat and several of the chairs pulled in from the dining room are all occupied when Theo gets back to the living room, full plate in hand. But it matters precisely not at all, because Liam is sitting on the floor in front of the TV, and Theo—just doesn’t even question picking his way immediately to Liam’s side, and dropping down next to him.
It’s relatively quiet, everyone too busy eating to talk, until Stiles leans back a little in his seat—he’d claimed his own full pizza box, too, his human status be damned—and says, “That is—so weird.”
His eyes are on the bullet holes pockmarking the McCall living room wall. There’s a slight breeze outside; it’s whistling in through the holes at a volume that the humans probably can’t hear, but all the supernaturals can. But even without that data point, Stiles is right: it’s so weird.
But Ms. McCall just leans over the back of the couch, and presses a sloppy kiss to the top of Stiles’ head, and answers, “That is tomorrow’s problem.”
A lot of things seem to be tomorrow’s problems. The bullet holes. The hunters they’d captured. The hunters they hadn’t captured.
Ms. McCall’s pronouncement seems to be some kind of cue; an invocation; permission. Mason slumps against Corey’s shoulder, groaning with exhaustion. Stiles one-ups him by collapsing sideways into Lydia’s lap and throwing his feet up into Derek’s, seemingly relying on Derek’s werewolf reflexes to get the pizza box still filling it out of the way in time. Malia doesn’t even bother with ceremony; she just gets up, and heads for Scott’s room, all without a word.
“Nolan can take the couch,” Liam announces a few minutes later, after Scott has performed a series of rough calculations in his head and concluded that they seem to be two beds short. “Theo can split the futon in the basement with me.”
Ordinarily Theo suspects this would be worthy of some comment. In the palpable atmosphere of nearly catatonic exhaustion filling the McCall house, it barely registers; Scott nods, and that’s it. He waits until his mom and Argent have disappeared into the main bedroom, and Stiles and Lydia and Derek have disappeared into one guest bedroom, Corey and Mason into the other, before trotting off after Malia. He reappears a few seconds later with a balled-up blanket and a pillow, which he stuffs into Nolan’s arms with the type of absentminded disregard for the poleaxed look on Nolan’s face that’s probably exactly what Nolan needs.
“C’mon,” Liam murmurs to Theo, after Scott has disappeared back into his room, and Nolan has sat down on the couch, blank-faced and with his arms still full of his borrowed pillow and blanket.
This time, Theo doesn’t hesitate before following.
Theo hadn’t really noticed the futon shoved into the back corner of the basement when he’d followed Liam down before, and he hadn’t really noticed it during the time he’d been infiltrating the McCall pack, either. It means he spends a few seconds staring skeptically down at it, because—
“Have you actually tried fitting two people on this?” He asks, genuinely concerned. He runs the geometry in his head again. He doesn’t come up with any different results.
“It’ll be fine,” Liam dismisses. Theo appreciates his optimism, if not his practicality.
He sits on the edge of it while Liam disappears back into the laundry room, and reappears with a wrinkled blanket. This he tosses vaguely in Theo’s direction, before hunting around the floor and coming up with several holiday-themed throw pillows. Theo raises his eyebrows. Liam raises his own right back.
He also stops, after he’s tossed the throw pillows onto the futon, and frowns down at himself. He plucks at the shirt he’s wearing. “I’m gross,” he announces, apparently completely unashamed by that fact. “I have to rinse off, this is too much even for me.”
He’s saying all this at Theo but not really to him; the second he’s done speaking, he wheels around towards the laundry room again. It takes Theo a second to realize there’s a small bathroom tucked into the corner just to the side of it. Liam disappears inside it without another word, and Theo hears the water start up shortly afterwards.
It leaves him sitting in the middle of the McCall’s basement, alone in a house full of people, almost each and every one of which he once, without exaggeration, tried personally to kill. Theo thinks about this for a few seconds, and then he squeezes his eyes shut, and lets himself fall back flat, onto the futon.
Almost immediately he has to make a face, and shift. He digs a hand back behind himself, and when he brings it back up, he finds that the offending items that had crunched and poked themselves into his back are a crumpled up sheet of paper and a black marker, respectively. Theo has no idea what either had been for, or what they’re doing on the futon, and after a second he goes to drop both over the side. But as he’s reaching over to do so, he catches sight of the bare stretch of his right forearm again.
He drops the paper, but keeps the marker.
This is a permanent marker, he finds himself thinking as he brings it up to his mouth, and uses his teeth to uncap it. This is a stupid idea. He spits out the cap, and brings the felt tip to his wrist.
It’s awkward; he’s not left-handed. The first few strokes of the marker over his skin jump and judder, streaking where he doesn’t want them to. He shifts to better steady his arm, his wrist braced against one upraised knee and his elbow on his hip, and tries again.
He’s so caught up in what he’s doing that he doesn’t actually realize that Liam’s out of the shower, not until Liam wonders, “What are you doing?,” from the edge of the mattress.
Theo jolts, jerking to look up at him. It leaves a streak of marker up the inside of his bicep; Theo can feel the cool wetness of it. He freezes, suddenly unsure how to explain. Or, more realistically: only now realizing that he’d never even thought about having to explain, and so he has no explanation ready. He opens and closes his mouth a few times, and then gives up, and shuts it.
Liam had fixed his eyes to Theo’s face while he’d waited for Theo to say something, and when he realizes that Theo apparently isn’t, he lets them drift away. They drift back to Theo’s marked-up arm, of course; where the hell else where they going to go? He drops the towel he’d been using to dry his hair onto the ground, and gets a knee up on the futon as he reaches for Theo’s arm, and takes it gently in both of his. His fingers at Theo’s wrist and elbow feel like brands.
Liam spends a few seconds studying the marks. It doesn’t take him long. “Veins,” he realizes, practically breathing it out. His eyes flick up to Theo’s. There’s a question there, several questions. Theo doesn’t know how to answer any of them, so he doesn’t.
Liam studies his face for a few seconds longer, and then he drops his eyes back to Theo’s mark-up arm, and the veins Theo had traced there. When he’d kneed his way onto the futon, he’d wound up pressed thigh-to-thigh with Theo. He keeps one hand on Theo’s wrist, his fingers a gentle cage, and with the other he starts tracing the marks, running the pad of his middle finger from the sensitive inside of Theo’s elbow to meet his own fingers at Theo’s wrist.
Theo shudders. “Liam,” he rasps, still flat on his back and staring up at Liam kneeled at his side, but that’s all he manages before Liam suddenly surges forward, and uses the grip he still has on Theo’s wrist to yank Theo up, and into him. When their mouths meet it’s with a clack.
Theo moans, and shudders again. He doesn’t know what’s happening. His arm still feels sensitive from the constant scrape of the marker over it, made even more sensitive by the subsequent scrape of Liam’s finger. The pressure of his and Liam’s mouth colliding had opened up a cut on the inside of his lip, but it’s gone before he really registers it; it leaves nothing but the absent sharp tang of blood behind.
Theo opens his mouth. It seems the thing to do.
Liam takes immediate advantage, pressing his tongue forward and licking into Theo’s mouth. His hand leaves Theo’s wrist, and cradles one side of Theo’s face. His other hand comes up to do the same on the opposite side, so that he’s holding Theo where he wants him, steady for the strokes of Liam’s tongue. Theo goes where Liam guides him, lets Liam tilt his jaw this way and that, brings his own hands up to tangle in Liam’s already-tangled hair. It’s not a good idea; his knuckles get stuck on a knot and Liam breaks off on a helpless laugh, one eye squinting closed at the pressure and the pain as Theo grimaces, and tries to free his fingers.
When he manages it, Liam grabs his wrists, and forces both down by his head. Liam leans against them after, pinning them place as he drops his mouth back to Theo’s, and kisses him again. He kisses Theo, and releases his wrists. He kisses Theo, and slides his palms up to meet Theo’s own. He kisses Theo, and threads their fingers together, and squeezes.
At some point when he’d surged forward, he’d ended up between Theo’s legs. Theo honestly can’t remember if that’d been his doing or Liam’s or some combination of the two, but either way it lets Liam grind forward, against him. Theo whines, high and bitten-off in his throat. It’s the most lupine sound he’s ever made when human-shaped, and it seems to delight Liam to no end. He grinds forward again, clearly looking for another. When that doesn’t work, he changes the angle, and tries again.
This time Theo frees his hands, and gets them around Liam’s face as he rolls them over, and grinds down. This time, it’s Liam who whines.
It’s also Liam who surges up, forcing Theo to sit back on his heels—to sit back on Liam, really, Theo’s knees on either side of Liam’s hips—as Liam starts scrabbling at his shirt. Theo doesn’t want to break off kissing him, though, and so he winds up with it bunched underneath his armpits until Liam finally gets impatient enough, and yanks himself back, away from Theo’s mouth, so he can pull it over Theo’s head.
He doesn’t dive back in to Theo’s mouth, once it’s gone. He dives lower, and takes one of Theo’s nipples between his lips, and sucks.
Theo jolts, and gives Liam another of those whines he’d so desperately wanted earlier. Liam grins against his chest; he can feel the shape of it against his skin. With his tongue now laving over the hardened peak of Theo’s nipple, Liam drops his hands to Theo’s hips and grinds upwards as he drags Theo’s hips down, and this time they both moan; the rush of air over his damp skin makes Theo bite off a cry.
It also makes Liam impatient, apparently; he twists around so that he’s facing the back wall, away from the edge of the futon, and drives Theo back down, onto his back. Theo hits the futon mattress with a thump, and stares blinking up at Liam, pleasure-dazed and mouth slack, as Liam rears up to strip his own shirt over his head. Liam leans back down to cover Theo’s body with his own immediately after, and the brush of skin to skin makes Theo shudder, and bury a too-loud sound in the muscle of Liam’s shoulder. And then, at that point, Liam’s skin and muscle and bone are right there, and so he bites.
Liam barely manages to muffle his cry in time.
But he does, and then he takes his hands, and rakes them down the sides of Theo’s legs, Theo’s knees pressed tight to Liam’s sides. He seems frustrated when Theo’s jeans don’t immediately follow the pressure of his guiding fingers. He grumbles a bitten-off sound into the side of Theo’s neck. Theo grins, turning it into the side of Liam’s cheek so that Liam can feel the shape of it, and helps him; he reaches down to undo his own button, and zipper, so that on the next pass, when Liam rakes his fingers down Theo’s sides again, his jeans and briefs go with them. He lifts his hips to help as Liam pulls them the rest of the way down, briefly moving back so he can pull them the rest of the way off.
He doesn’t move back in right away, but stays half-crouched at the edge of the futon, in between Theo’s spread legs. At first Theo thinks it’s because Liam’s looking at his hard cock, or the V of his abdomen, but that’s not what Liam’s looking at.
He’s looking at Theo’s arm.
At the marked-up black stretch of it. At the imperfect tracery of the veins underneath. His eyes don’t leave them as he stretches up, and bends over, not to cover Theo’s body with his own again, or even to kiss him, but to press his mouth to the start of the marker lines at Theo’s elbow. His tongue dips out to touch and then trace the path of one. Theo’s too stunned to shudder. He’s too gutted to moan.
“Liam,” he barely manages, when Liam’s lips meet his wrist. His fingers twitch against Liam’s cheek. Liam glances up at him.
He meets Theo’s eyes for a long stretch of seconds, and then he does surge up and take Theo’s mouth, and hard. Theo does shudder, then. He does moan.
“God, Theo,” Liam bites out in response, and then his hands are on his own hips, working down his own pants. Theo bears his weight as Liam does so, his fingers reaching down to help.
They get his sweatpants and briefs off. Liam falls back fully into him, after, and at that point they’re finally both naked, and Liam’s cock slots into the groove of one of Theo’s hips. He gives a helpless thrust, and then another, his mouth open in a choked-back cry against Theo’s shoulder. Theo hooks his fingers around Liam’s hips, fully content to help him get off just like that.
But Liam rears up soon after, his eyes a little wild. He stares down at Theo, jaw slack and breath panting, and groans. He shifts his hips. He gets his cock lined up with Theo’s own, and then he wraps one hand around both of them.
Then he thrusts.
Theo has to slap a hand over his own mouth to stifle the cry he gives. He leaves it there as Liam tightens his grip, and then swivels his palm up, up to gather the wetness at the tips of both of their cocks, and bring it back down, slicking them. His eyes roll back in his head a little at the added slide, and the exponentially increased pleasure, and his hips buck, helplessly; Liam has to shift, and resettle himself, to stay balanced.
But he doesn’t complain. He just keeps moving. And more than that: Theo feels fingers sliding in between his palm and mouth, and groans as he realizes what’s happening. He lets his hand fall away, replaced by Liam’s own, and takes Liam’s fingers in deep when Liam presses them between his lips, crooks them down against his tongue.
He slits his eyes open, and meets Liam’s own, and sucks.
This time it’s Liam who gives the lupine-sounding whine, high-pitched and helpless and matched by his jerking hips. With his hand around them both and his cock—both of them wet, and leaking—sliding against Theo’s own, every move Liam makes tightens the pleasure at the base of Theo’s spine tighter, until he can feel the muscles of his abdomen clenching, and clenching, and he knows.
“Liam,” he tries to warn, but Liam’s fingers are still in his mouth, so it comes out as a muffled moan. Liam must understand him anyway, because he rips his fingers away, and ducks down to swallow Theo’s loud, and helpless, cry, as Theo starts to come. He keeps moving even after Theo’s shudders have died down to smaller twitches. His eyes squeeze shut—Theo can feel his eyelashes sweep against his own cheeks—and his fingers spasm, and with only one, two, three more thrusts, Liam’s coming, too.
He collapses onto Theo, after. It can’t be pleasant; Theo’s stomach had wound up covered in both of their releases. Still, Liam doesn’t seem to mind; he presses his mouth to whatever parts of Theo’s skin he can reach, his kisses sloppy and wet. They don’t get less so when Theo turns his head, so that he can kiss Liam back.
But eventually their kisses slow, and keep slowing until they stop, and Liam squeezes the hand he’d dropped to Theo’s hip in warning, and rolls off of him, onto his back. They squelch a bit when he does; Theo snorts a laugh, helpless. He keeps laughing, after, and eventually has to cover his mouth to try and cover up the sounds. His fingers press hard to his lips, and after a while he’s not sure if he’s still laughing, or he is still laughing, but at the same things. He can’t seem to stop, regardless.
When he’d first started to laugh, Liam had grinned in response, clearly in on the joke. When Theo had kept laughing, he’d joined in, seemingly just as helpless. But when Theo had kept laughing behind that, his expression had sobered, and he’d leaned up on one elbow to look down at Theo, studying his face. Theo shakes his head, apologetic. He’s not really laughing anymore. He doesn’t take his hands away from his mouth. Liam watches him for a few more seconds, and then he shifts, so that he’s sitting up with his legs crossed underneath him. He reaches forward, and slides his fingers around Theo’s right wrist. He doesn’t pull.
After a long few seconds, Theo relaxes his arm. He presses his wrist into Liam’s grip; an offering.
Liam’s lips flicker, and he accepts it.
He pulls Theo’s wrist arm into his lap. The dark lines of the veins Theo had drawn there are stark against the pale of his skin and Theo’s own, and even starker against the fading red of his softening cock between his legs. Liam drops his eyes from Theo’s face to his arm, and lifts his own right hand to start tracing his fingers down Theo’s skin, his middle finger once again following the thickest of the lines.
When he gets to Theo’s wrist, he twists his hand so that his palm is resting against the outstretched points of Theo’s fingers. He starts carefully folding them inwards, until Theo’s hand is closed in a loose fist. He brings the shape of it up to his mouth, and presses his lips to Theo’s knuckles. He wraps a hand around the veins marking Theo’s forearm.
“I want to see these tomorrow,” he tells Theo quietly, squeezing his fingers around the black lines of the marker; around Theo’s true veins, underneath.
Theo’s throat goes tight. He’s not actually sure he’s going to be able to answer. It takes him one, two, three tries to swallow, and promise, “You will.”
Liam’s eyes just search his face, shrewd. “What about the day after that?” He wonders.
The day after tomorrow, the marker would begin to fade. Theo squints at him, confused. But then he realizes: “You will,” he promises. Liam would see his arm, bare or not, and if needed he’d see Theo’s veins turn black again as Theo took someone else’s pain, anyone else’s pain; whoever’s he could.
The corner of Liam’s eyes start to crinkle; he’d caught that Theo had caught on. “What about the day after that?” He presses, his tongue now starting to burrow into his cheek.
But Theo just promises, “You will,” and he reaches up and gets a hand in Liam’s hair to encourage his head down so he can kiss him as he tells him, “And the day after that, and the day after that,” over and over again until Liam covers his mouth fully, and kisses him back: his promise accepted.