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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.

Chapter Text

Theo wakes up with the dawn out of unwilling habit, even cocooned in the dark of the McCall basement with Liam curled into the curve of his body. He’s too used to sunlight pouring in through his truck windows. He’s too used to the tap-tap-tap of flashlights against the glass.

His eyes ease open in the darkness. He holds himself very still.

It doesn’t matter; Liam wakes up when he feels Theo waking up. He shifts around, muttering to himself, and then groans, long and sustained. One of his arms is layered over Theo’s around his waist. He squeezes it. He seems to realize it’s Theo’s right arm, still marked up with its permanent-marker veins; his fingers start to stroke, inexact in the darkness but clearly, clumsily, attempting to trace the lines of ink.

Theo shivers, and buries his nose in the back of Liam’s neck.

Of course, Liam’s hair is so ridiculous it makes him sneeze. Liam gives a great honking laugh in response, and wriggles around like an eel in the circle of Theo’s arm until he’s facing Theo. Even in the dark Theo can spot his wide, blinding grin. He stares at it, wanting to kiss it. He doesn’t, something fluttery but with sharp edges uncoiling in his gut.

Liam just gives him a long look, his eyes flaring gold in the darkness so that he can see, and then he leans forward, and kisses Theo himself. Theo melts into it. He brings his marked-up right arm up to thread his fingers through Liam’s hair.

It’s as equally a bad idea as it was last night; his fingers get tangled again. He huffs, but more out of reluctant amusement than actual frustration. Liam just squints his nearest eye closed and reaches up to help free Theo’s fingers, Theo holding himself steady to let him. “Gonna have to do something about that, aren’t I,” Liam observes, half a joke and half—something else. Another fluttery something squirms in Theo’s gut, but this one feels more like possibility.

He grins at Liam, can’t help it, and leans forward to kiss him, this time. But halfway there, he’s interrupted.

By Liam’s stomach, of all things; even as Theo is pulling back slightly and blinking, bemused, Liam’s stomach rumbles again. He and Theo are lying close enough that Theo can actually feel the heat from his cheeks, but even as Liam is flushing he’s also laughing, these big, almost-silent belly laughs that shake the rest of his body and the futon mattress and Theo himself. Theo finds himself laughing in turn, more quietly, but just as genuine.

Liam cocks his head, looking thoughtful. “Do you think any of the pizza is left?” He wonders, sounding hopeful. It can’t be much past six a.m. Theo turns his face into the ridiculous grinning snowperson embroidered into the pillow below his head to smother the ridiculously fond look on his own face.

“Stay here,” he tells Liam, once he’s managed to scrape it off his face, and cheeks. Liam doesn’t look fooled at all when Theo turns his head back around to look at him. “I’ll go check.”

He kisses him one last time before he goes, though, just because he can.

There’s a reason Theo offered to go check the pizza situation instead of letting Liam go himself, and the reason was this: Liam would sound like a herd of elephants climbing the stairs, and making his way down the hallway towards the kitchen, and Theo makes practically no noise at all. But it winds up being a double-edged sword: in the quiet, not just in the house but in Theo’s chest, all his instincts soothed throughout the night by the press of Liam’s body against his own, warm and softly breathing and safe, Theo misses that he’s not the only one awake. Several steps down the hallway from the door down to the basement stairs, he’s grabbed by the arm, and dragged to a stop.

He startles, and looks up at Argent, eyes wide and heart in his throat. Argent just looks right back. His fingers—his right hand clasped tight around Theo’s right bicep—spasm.

And then he looks down, and in the grey, early morning light, he must spot the marked-up stretch of Theo’s forearm. His eyes widen, and then narrow. His brow furrows. He slides his hand down, so that he’s gripping Theo’s wrist instead, and twists, turning Theo’s forearm out, away from his body. His thumb traces over one of the lines, which itself traces over Theo’s vein below. There’s no way that Argent doesn’t recognize them for what they are. His eyes flick up to Theo’s face.

And then the door to the basement slams back open, and Liam appears in the frame. “Theo, you okay?” he hiss-whispers, his head twisting as he glances around. “I heard your heart go—” He spots Argent, finally, and Argent’s hand around Theo’s wrist. His eyes go wide. His mouth starts to open.

But he doesn’t get the chance to speak. Ms. McCall appears in the main bedroom’s doorway, rubbing sleep out of her eyes. “Please tell me you started coffee,” she yawns, apparently noticing Argent but not yet Theo mostly hidden by the angle of her view. But then she does spot him, and then Liam, and for a long moment it’s the four of them standing there in a wonky square, staring.

But then: “Speaking of coffee,” Argent says, and smoothly right over the top of the strange stalemate that had fallen, “I was thinking of going and picking up several of everything on the diner’s breakfast menu. Theo, here,” he adds, his fingers tightening just shy of the point of pain on Theo’s wrist, “is going to help me.”

“Wait, I can—” Liam starts to reply, scrambling the rest of the way out of the stairwell and into the hallway, but he’s intercepted. Ms. McCall literally sidesteps from her bedroom to the basement doorway and catches him with an arm looped around his neck, spinning him around in a loose circle to shed his momentum and then planting her feet, and therefore his, with the end result being that Liam makes no forward progress whatsoever.

You can stay here and help me,” Ms. McCall tells him, quiet but with a deliberate sort of brightness that brooks no argument in her tone, “get ready for when the hungry horde wakes up.” Her eyes meet Argent’s over the top of Liam’s head. They’re not hard, exactly, but her arm around Liam’s neck is as immovable as Argent’s fingers around Theo’s wrist.

“But—” Liam tries, his eyes still wide and still on Theo’s face. He doesn’t try to pull away from Ms. McCall’s arm around his neck but he’s practically vibrating where he stands, his pulse thundering in Theo’s ears.

“Come on,” Argent just says, and tugs forward on Theo’s wrist, towards the front door. Theo goes, with one last backwards look over his shoulder at Liam.

Outside, the air is brisk and the grass is still wet with dew. Feeling like an alarmist but also like he’s not being unreasonable, Theo tries to run the odds on how likely it is that he’s walking out of the McCall house for the last time. He shoots a look at Argent, searching for clues to help his calculations, but he gets nothing. Not from Argent’s scent, or his pulse, or the easy slope of his shoulders. All he gets is: “It’s unlocked,” Argent tells him, and climbs into the driver’s seat of his hulking SUV.

Theo follows, after the barest hesitation.

They don’t talk. Argent flips on the radio, though, and then spends a few seconds fiddling with the presets until he finds a local news program. The day’s headlines fill the space between them, and Theo gets the odd sense like the words are filling up the cab, and pushing out all the air as they do. His breaths feel shallow, and unsatisfying. He keeps smelling Liam on himself, and it makes things better for the split seconds before it makes things worse.

“Argent—” He tries, the two of them stopped at a stoplight even though there’s literally no one else on the road. Argent glances over at him, easy, eyebrows rising in a silent question. Theo doesn’t know what he’d possibly ask. Everything he could ask—what are you going to do with me? Can I at least get a head start?—sound simultaneously ridiculous and yet eerily possible. He jerks his head back forwards, and says nothing.

But Argent does in fact take them to the diner. He parks right outside the glass doors, because it’s barely six-thirty a.m. and his is only the second car in the lot. He gets out of his car. Theo, not knowing what else to do, gets out, too.

Still, he rounds the hood, wary. Argent’s waiting with his hands tucked in his pockets, and an expression on his face that Theo finds hard to read. He’s smiling, sure, but it’s barely more than a quirk, and his eyes are narrow, thoughtful. He doesn’t move towards the doors when Theo reaches him.

“Tell me something, Theo,” he asks, as Theo comes to a slow, halting stop a few feet away from him. Theo forces himself to meet Argent’s eyes, and waits. “If you were me,” Argent continues, his voice still a deceptively unreadable sort of easy, “what would you do about you?”

Theo stiffens. His throat closes up. In the early gray sunlight, the permanent-marker tracery he’d made of the veins on his right forearm seems duller, less stark than it had in the bright lights of the McCall’s basement. He swallows. His mouth still tastes of Liam, and the promises Theo had made him last night.

He says, “I’d go find Kira’s sword, and find a way to reassemble it. Or,” he adds, something shaky and like momentum compelling him onward, “I’d make it even simpler, and.” He gestures towards the firearm he knows Argent has holstered under his arm. He can smell the wolfsbane in the bullets from where he’s standing.

If Argent’s surprised by his answer, he doesn’t show it. Instead he just keeps looking at Theo, and then he says: “What do you think Liam’s opinion would be on all that?”

Theo stares at him, thrown. “I’m not sure Liam’s opinion should get to count,” he admits eventually. He thinks of Liam’s hands around his marked-up forearm last night, of Liam’s weight across his hips. Of Liam, curled into the curve of his body this morning. He explains, “I’m not sure he’s the most reliable narrator, when it comes to me.”

This time, Argent’s lips flicker. His eyes stay fixed on Theo’s face. “What about Scott’s opinion?” He wonders.

Theo feels his intuition—woken up, now; shaken loose of the quieting influence of Liam’s bones pressed up tight against his own—shift, and slouch. He watches Argent right back. He touches his tongue to his bottom lip. He asks, “What about yours?

Argent’s unreadable expression cracks right down the middle. Underneath it is a grin, not wide but curved in a crooked half-circle, enough so that it crinkles the edges of his eyes. He looks decades younger in response, and several thousand pounds lighter, and Theo stares, and stares, and stares.

But then his expression sobers, some, and Argent replies, “You’re not the only one whose moral compass needs regular calibration checks.”

He takes his hands out of his pockets. He leans sideways just enough that he can hook his fingers around the metal handle of the diner door, and pull it open. He holds it there, waiting.

“Come on,” he says. “We should get back to the pack soon.”

And they should, and so Theo takes one step, and then another, forward; forward.

Chapter Text

It’s actually probably a good thing that Argent and Ms. McCall hadn’t let Liam come with Argent and Theo to the diner, because when Argent had said he was going to get several of everything on the diner’s menu, he hadn’t been kidding; his SUV’s entire backseat winds up covered in aluminum trays of eggs and hash browns and pancakes and bacon and whatever else Argent could convince the bemused staff to provide. There wouldn’t have been room for Liam in the car.

Still, when they get back to the McCall house, Liam is waiting on the porch. He’s sat on the top step with his elbows on his knees, and his hands are clasped tightly enough together that Theo can see, even through the windshield and down the street, that they’re bloodless from the pressure. He jerks, and looks wide-eyed up at Argent’s SUV when he hears it rumble onto the McCall’s street. He visibly shudders out a breath when his eyes lock with Theo’s.

Argent doesn’t say a word, just pulls back into his spot in the McCall driveway, and shuts off the engine. Theo had wound up in charge of the cardboard carafes of coffee, wedged snugly in between his feet in the footwell; he retrieves these as Argent hops down from the driver’s seat, and hovers waiting in the doorway. Argent takes them with a wry smile, the quirk to his lips subtle enough that Liam—already rushing down from the porch—probably won’t see it, but Theo does. Theo’s lips quirk back, entirely beyond his control.

He climbs down from the passenger seat as Argent rounds the hood of his SUV, and passes Liam on his way. Liam shoots him a wary look, which just winds up being more comedic than anything; his hands full of cardboard carafes of coffee, Argent—to Theo, at least—looks whatever the opposite of threatening is.

But context matters, and Theo has a great deal more, now, than Liam does.

Liam doesn’t slam into him, but it’s a close thing. He does skid to a stop, and almost has to backpedal a little to regain the extra few inches he needs not to collide with Theo, stood waiting by the passenger door. He waits until the front door closes behind Argent to exhale out a huge, shaky breath, his eyes searching Theo’s face.

“Jesus christ,” he hiss-whispers. “I was genuinely worried that—”

He doesn’t actually finish that sentence, so Theo doesn’t know what he was genuinely worried that. But Theo can take an educated guess. No doubt Theo had genuinely worried about some of the same things himself, when he’d been following Argent out of the house originally. “I’m okay,” he replies quietly, instead. It feels like an understatement, in fact, but Theo doesn’t think now’s the time to get into that with Liam, though he—wants to, at some point. He will, he decides.

Liam just shudders out another breath, and reaches forward to twist his fingers in the absolute edge of Theo’s shirt. If Theo had had any sense he would have left the passenger door open, giving them a physical barrier between themselves and the McCall house and the McCall pack inside it, but he hadn’t. Instead, it’s just Liam and the angle of his body, hiding his white-knuckled, gripping fingers behind the bulk of his own chest.

It’s just Liam, tipping his head down just enough that it’s just brushing the curve of Theo’s shoulder, but not resting there. “Jesus christ,” he breathes again, and then he, in quick succession: twists his fingers even tighter so that the edge of Theo’s shirt digs into Theo’s lower back; leans forward so that he can press a quick, hard kiss to Theo’s collarbone; and wheels away, stepping around Theo to reach for the door to the backseat of Argent’s SUV just as the McCall house front door opens, and spills out Scott and Malia and Stiles and Corey and Mason, already yelling about how starving they are. Nolan follows bemusedly after, tugged along in their wake and looking like he’s not at all sure how he’s gotten to where he is.

Lydia and Derek are in the kitchen and dining room respectively when Theo gets inside, calling out measurements back and forth to each other and Ms. McCall as they apparently strategize how to fit all of the food on tables and counters with the least chance of potential catastrophe. Stiles tries to help, at one point—his arms still full of aluminum trays—and gets immediately, universally shut down. He scowls, for about two seconds, and then he shrugs and starts trying to peel open one of the corners of the trays to get to the bacon underneath; Derek slaps his hands away and yanks the trays out of his arms, which may have been what Stiles had wanted all along. He beams.

Breakfast is a chaotic affair. In addition to what Argent and Theo had brought back from the diner, Ms. McCall had apparently sent Liam to the corner store a few blocks down to buy several cartons of juice and milk and cans of flavored sparkling water. Mason ends up grabbing one of each of the latter, him and Corey clustered in front of the coffee table on the floor of the living room and trying each before giving it a score, and lining the cans up in order of preference.

Malia joins in, after a while, and immediately declares grapefruit the undefeated champion, which is like a gilded invitation for the rest of the pack to get involved. Lydia is eventually harangued into score-keeping, Ms. McCall digging out a worn spiral notebook from a random drawer in the kitchen and then handing that and a cheap ballpoint pen over with a wry look.

Theo just stays behind the island, the living room and its associated chaos visible through the open entryway, and watches with a bemused smile on his face. Liam does, too, though he braces himself on his elbows on the opposite end of Theo, and determinedly doesn’t look over. His scent still smells just slightly sour with fear, and his pulse is still a little fast; every now and then he’ll glance at Argent, and then just as quickly jerk his eyes away.

It’s as he and Theo are standing there, at least five feet of distance between them, deliberately not looking at each other, that Stiles suddenly looks up from where he’s sat cross-legged with Malia and Mason and Corey in the living room, and squints at them. Theo stiffens. Absolutely no good can come from that look on Stiles face.

He’s proved right seconds later. Stiles cocks his head, and asks, “Are you two leaving room for Jesus because you think everyone didn’t hear you last night?”

Liam makes a choked sounding noise and his elbow slides off the edge of the island. If it wasn’t for his werewolf reflexes the end result probably would have been him breaking his nose on the counter as he slips, but as it is when he manages to jerk back upright, his cheeks are flaming. He opens and closes his mouth a few times, but doesn’t manage to say anything.

But Theo just squints right back at Stiles, and then he concludes, absolutely sure of it: “You didn’t hear shit.”

Stiles freezes, immediately looking both shifty and therefore caught. But after a split-second his limbs go liquid again, and instead of denying Theo’s claim, he just rocks back on his sit-bones so that he can loop an arm around Derek’s neck—Derek sat behind him in an armchair—and pull Derek slightly down and off-center as he counters loftily, “Yeah, but someone did.” Derek gets this look on his face like he wishes he could be doing literally anything other than being forced to take part in this conversation.

Sat next to him, Mason is glancing rapidly back and forth between Stiles-and-Derek and Theo, looking salaciously interested. “Someone heard what?” He wonders eagerly, and then he really seems to study the bright-red flush on Liam’s cheeks and the careful amount of space left between Liam, himself, and Theo, and his eyes widen. “No way!” He squawks, and then he seems to realize: “Did you hear?” He demands of Corey as he turns towards him, the question half an accusation. The pinched look on Corey’s face seems to be enough of an answer for him. “Why didn’t you tell me?” He wails.

“Maybe because I was trying to pretend I couldn’t hear,” Corey mutters darkly, his cheeks filling with their own brush of color as he glances up from under his lashes and glares at Theo and Liam both.

Theo grimaces apologetically—Liam’s still frozen, deer-in-the-headlights style—but apparently their torment isn’t over. Malia had still been focused entirely on the lineup of flavored sparkling waters in front of her, apparently having been partially persuaded by Stiles’ impassioned ode to mango flavor and looking really determined to pick a final winner in the match-up, but she looks up at Corey’s claim.

“Hear what?” She wonders, and then she seems to take a good look around the room, finally, and catches on. “Oh,” she says, and Theo preemptively winces, because: “You mean about Theo and Liam having sex last night?”

Liam squawks out another wordless protest. There’s nothing around for him to accidentally concuss himself on as a result but he looks like he maybe wishes there was, his cheeks flushing an even brighter red, which Theo would have previously thought impossible. Theo just groans and covers his face with his hands.

It’s Ms. McCall, bless her, who rescues them all from themselves. “La, la, la,” she half-chants, half-singsongs, her hands raised pointedly over her ears. “I can’t hear you! But whatever it is that I’m not hearing is not going to be discussed in my kitchen and living room, over this lovely breakfast that we went out and got you all!”

Mason and Corey and Stiles and Malia and everybody all mutter immediate, abashed apologies, but not before shooting final glances at Theo and Liam. Theo makes sure to glare and/or sneer back at every one of them, depending. But he also gives up, and slumps back against the kitchen counter behind himself, and when Liam apparently gives up, too, and comes to slump down next to him so that their arms press together, he just quirks him a tired, bemused grin.

Liam returns it, and then—either in spite of or because of everyone’s eyes still very much on them from the living room—he leans over, and arches up, and presses his lips to Theo’s. It’s only once Liam pulls back from the brief-but-firm kiss that Theo sees the upraised middle finger Liam had preemptively presented to the rest of the gathered pack. Stiles cackles.

But either Liam’s kiss or Liam’s upraised middle finger or both seem to act as some kind of signal, or sign—punctuation—and the entire interlude is laid to rest right there on the floor between the kitchen and living room, right over top of the plaster dust from the bullets that had ripped through the walls just a few days prior. Malia and Stiles go back to squabbling over sparkling water flavors—Malia rescinding her previous partial acceptance of the superiority of mango, and going all-in on grapefruit—and the rest of the pack—and Nolan, who still looks confused as to his continued presence in the middle of it all—drift off into other side conversations.

Theo starts to relax. He lets Liam take hold of his right arm and turn it closer to the window over the sink, Liam’s eyes flicking over the permanent-marker veins there again, this time in the natural light rather than the harsher fluorescents of the basement. His fingers stroke lightly over the marks and Theo can feel eyes on them again from the living room, but he doesn’t look up. I want to see these tomorrow, Liam had declared, and it hadn’t been a question last night but it’s one Theo has answered today regardless, and the crooked smile that takes over Liam’s mouth is soft and wondering and as delicate as his fingertips on the inside of Theo’s elbow.

Theo cups Liam’s face with his left hand and leans forward and kisses him—ignoring Stiles’ attempted wolf-whistle, cut off by Derek’s hand flattening over his mouth—and then gently edges past him to go get more coffee.

He ends up running out to his truck immediately after, because his phone when he goes to check it is running on fumes, and every other charger in the house is already occupied. When he gets back inside with it, the little white cord with its plug dangling forlornly off the end, Mason has scuttled into the kitchen from the living room, and is hiss-whispering something into Liam’s ear. He notices Theo’s reappearance and starts dragging Liam sideways, towards the door to the back porch.

“I can still hear you,” Theo calls pointedly after them, because even as Mason is sliding open the back door and hustling Liam—who just looks longsuffering—outside, Mason is still alternately exclaiming and asking Liam questions that Theo simultaneously hopes Liam has no intention of answering, and desperately hopes Liam has every intention of answering, specifically in a place where Theo can overhear.

Mason just slaps both of his palms over Liam’s ears, like that will in some way help. He glares back at Theo. “Well, maybe pretend like you can’t, then!” He orders, still in that same low hiss like he isn’t in a house full of primarily-supernaturals who are all doing one of the worst jobs Theo has ever seen of acting like they are not also listening.

Theo just rolls his eyes and leaves Liam—who gives him a quirked, amused smile over Mason’s shoulder—to his fate. He spends the next few minutes trying to locate a free power outlet for his charger, and when he finally comes up for air—a small smile on his face that every now and then becomes a smirk as he does, in fact, overhear Mason’s and Liam’s conversation in the backyard—it’s to Scott standing nearby, and looking absently out the back door. Theo jumps and bangs his elbow accidentally on the wall. Scott glances down at him and grimaces as he apparently clocks his own hovering behavior, and offers Theo a hand up.

Theo takes it.

He takes it with his right hand, which hadn’t been intentional, just instinctual. Still, it means that Scott doesn’t let go of his hand right away. Instead he twists it carefully over, so that the permanent-marker veins that Theo had traced there last night are on full display. It’s almost exactly the same move Argent had pulled earlier in the morning, though there’s no way Scott can know that.

Scott’s eyes run over the veins for a long few seconds, and then finally he releases Theo’s arm. He says, quietly enough and with the two of them in their own little pocket of calm in the midst of the chaos—the least interesting thing going on, considering—that he probably isn’t overheard: “It’s an amazing feeling, isn’t it?”

And Theo gets why he didn’t say it’s a good feeling, or whatever, because it hadn’t been. Taking Gabe’s pain had hurt, obviously. But that’s not the feeling Scott means. Scott means: the feeling of being able to help someone like that. The power inherent in using the frankly stunning abilities that they’ve been gifted to help, rather than to hurt. It’s why Theo nods, in response, his throat too tight to verbally agree.

Scott may not be holding Theo’s arm anymore but he doesn’t stop looking at Theo, his attention just as much of a physical weight. He cocks his head, just slightly. He wonders, “Planning on sticking around this time?”

This time, unlike last time, when Theo had taken advantage of the quiet recovery that had fallen after the Wild Hunt to disappear before anyone could decide whether or not they wanted to take the option away from him. Theo doesn’t regret it, exactly, but he is now curious what may have happened if he hadn’t.

He looks over Scott’s shoulder through the back door at Liam dragging crooked fingers down his face in an exaggerated grimace, his groan audible even to human ears as Mason continues to rant at him. In the reflection of the glass, Theo can see his own marked-up arm.

He thinks he’d probably left exactly when he needed to have left, and stayed exactly when he needed to have stayed.

That’s why when he looks back at Scott, he answers, “Yeah,” and then: “Yeah,” a second time as he swallows past a suddenly-thick throat, “I was thinking that I’d—like to figure out how to do that. If that’s—” he hesitates, his eyes flicking down to the unbroken drape of Scott’s shirt, and Scott’s stomach underneath; sometimes if he tries, though he never wants to, necessarily, Theo can remember exactly what it’d felt like to drive his clawed hand through Scott’s gut, “—if that’s okay.”

Scott’s lips just flicker. “Yeah, I think that’s okay,” he replies. “I think, in fact,” he continues, “that I’d like to figure out how to help you do that.”

And then he tips his head over his shoulder, out towards Liam still sequestered with Mason in the backyard.

He adds, “And I don’t think I’m the only one.”

Theo expects that to be the end of it—Liam’s lips quirking in turn through the glass and over Scott’s shoulder—but Scott keeps the gesture going, the tip of his head becoming the sweep of an arm as he includes within it the rest of the pack. Malia and Stiles and Corey are all ignoring them, still engrossed in their ongoing flavor match-up, but it’s benign negligence; it’s an almost familial, familiar disregard. Derek notices the movement of Scott’s arm and glances up, which causes Lydia to glance up, which causes Nolan to glance up, but they all just smile and go back to whatever they were doing. Argent and Ms. McCall both nod.

Scott looks back at Theo, and the flicker of his lips becomes a full curve, crinkling the corners of his eyes. He says, “I mean, if you think that’s okay.”

Theo can’t help it; he laughs, quiet and under his breath but heartfelt.

“Yeah,” he answers. “Yeah, I think that’s okay.”