For a smart person, it took Theo an inordinately long time to realise what was going on.
More than anything, he was pretty sure he hated Liam Dunbar.
He was amused by him, for sure. The kid was funny, all anger and fire and puppyish charm, but in the same way an animal was funny to Theo. It was amusing, until it wasn’t. Until he was annoyed because Liam was in the way, with his unshakeable moral compass and knowing looks.
The first time he could remember really noticing him was after the Dread Doctors had taken him and Hayden. Sure, Theo knew about him—he knew about all of them, but he had just been a piece in Theo’s grand plan. No more or less than any of the rest of them. Beta with anger issues, lacrosse player, IED. The checklist of things he knew.
But what he had noticed was the way the young beta was with his chimera girlfriend.
How gentle he had seemed then, how completely polarised it had seemed from the angry, bloodthirsty beta he had been warned about. The kid who was unusually strong, who couldn’t be contained. Theo had, at the time, felt weird watching them. It had been recon, he told himself. A way to learn more about them. Maybe, even then, there had been an inkling. Not about Liam, but about himself. That there was some version of him, in some reality, that wanted something like that.
Theo didn’t know what it really felt like to want a person. Power. Safety. Control. He knew all about that. But a person? Theo had flirted with Malia and with Tracy, had played upon something he objectively knew people wanted. Played at caring, played at sexual tension and desire. But in truth, it was nothing more to him than an act. Neither of the two women had interested him past what he could gain from them, and Theo never questioned that much. To him, he wasn’t meant to love or to want. He was meant to win. To succeed. To manipulate. The idea of wanting that was as foreign to him as the idea of family. Two things Theo didn’t particularly believe in.
The second thing he had noticed about Liam was, cliché as he knew it would sound to ever admit, even to himself, his eyes. They were blue. Theo knew that, in an objective, general knowledge sort of way. But when they were screaming at each other outside the Hospital, waiting for the Ghost Riders to come for them, it had really struck Theo just how blue they were. It made no sense, why that was what he noticed. He didn’t care, not really, he just… noticed. And once he noticed, he couldn’t un-notice. How blue they looked in the light of the sun. How blue they looked when he was wide eyed and angry. How when they shifted back from a golden glow, they shifted back to a blue that nearly seemed as bright to him.
The third thing Theo noticed, and perhaps the most ridiculous, was that the kid was a really nice person. It was obvious, actually. Hard to ignore. But Theo hadn’t ever paid particular attention because it hadn’t really suited him too. Just as foolhardy and selfless and self sacrificial as Scott. He would’ve rolled his eyes about it, if he wasn’t too busy constantly trying to pull the beta out of the line of fire.
Which was another thing Theo was annoyed about. Why did this damn guy keep feeling the need to throw himself into danger?
Theo could remember it with startling clarity. The moment the Ghost Rider had had him on his knees, by the neck. He was positive he was going to die, and only a few minutes after Liam had told him he wouldn’t save him, that he would use him as bate.
He remembered seeing the gunshot, looking up to see Liam, caught in the throes of his own life or death battle, pointing a gun. He realised that the boy had shot the Ghost Rider that had nearly killed him. That despite promising that he wouldn’t save him, Liam had done just that. Not even just saved him but risked his own hide to do so. There were a few seconds, that felt far longer to him, where Theo just stared in shock at Liam.
From that point onwards, Theo had been unable to see the idiot in danger without running in after him. Throwing him into the elevator had been easy as breathing, Theo knowing full well he might not make it out of that alive. Only the knowledge that getting taken might mean he never got back out kept him alive that day. That, and the underlying, sinking feeling that he refused to forget Liam Dunbar.
He had lied when he said he wouldn’t die for him.
He was sure that Liam knew it too. But Theo wasn’t prepared to give so much away, and he had no idea that Liam felt anything more than disdain for him.
In truth, his feelings of protectiveness had been amping up over time. Theo flat out refused to listen to them.
He told himself it was because Liam brought him from hell. Because he wanted a pack. Because he had to make amends. Because Liam and Tara were actually sort of similar. Because he was learning to be moralistic.
The truth was far simpler.
After the war ended, Theo spent a lot of time in his truck. He had nowhere to go, and while there was nothing left for him in Beacon Hills, he stayed.
When someone knocked on his car door in the middle of the night, Theo began yelling before he even looked up.
“I’m going, I’m going!” He had shouted, before sitting up, finding himself face to face with a red nosed, bleary eyed Liam.
The blue-eyed boy stood calmly, unusually so, waiting for Theo to open the door to him. When he did, Liam began to speak, without stopping.
“I know you’re going to say no, but I have a spare bed available. It’s freezing out tonight and my parents won’t care, neither of them is ever home.” He blew into his gloved hands, before glancing back up at Theo. “But since I’m pretty sure you’re about to say no,” Liam was right, Theo was about to say no, “Here.”
Liam had left the hoodie and was gone as quick as he came. If not for the soft maroon thing in his arms, Theo might’ve thought he imagined it.
But no. It was Liam’s lacrosse hoodie. Thick fleece that made him feel a little warmer. Theo never would’ve admitted it, but he was pretty sure that was the exact night he was truly a goner. No going back, no undoing it.
Laying alone in his truck, surrounded by warmth and Liam’s scent, Theo felt less alone. He felt less like a dead man walking.
It took weeks for him to finally park his car outside Liam’s house. He didn’t go in, didn’t make any move to signify he was there. It only took ten minutes for Liam to notice, and to come let him in. Theo was awkward about it, barely speaking to anyone, barely taking up any space.
It took months before he even unpacked the few belongings from his car, into his new closet.
Which led him to right about where he was now. Standing alone in the hallway of Beacon High, about to finish up his (repeated) final year of school, watching Liam walk down the hall with Hayden at his side.
Theo had never had any particularly strong feelings about Hayden before, but right then, he loathed her. And he knew, because he could smell, that she hated him too.
Hayden was holding his hand, and Liam was smiling like nothing could ever be wrong in the world.
Because of course he was. Because Liam loved Hayden. Liam had loved Hayden since before Theo had even liked Liam. Hayden was Liam’s and Liam was Hayden’s. He remembered seeing them in the car, after they’d been kidnapped. Remembered the tenderness. How Liam had been so angry at the thought of losing her he’d turned on his own Alpha.
Theo had been angry and violent, but he had never, ever been like that over love.
Although, he realised, that wasn’t true. Theo had been willing to hand himself to the Ghost Riders. Willing to go up against Monroe’s soldiers. Willing to walk right into danger again and again and again. For Liam. For Liam and his blue eyes and his self-sacrificial attitude and his absolute compassion even in the face of someone who had manipulated and hurt him.
Theo had had Liam all to himself for a while. It had started off slow, awkward breakfasts sat across from each other. Become movie nights in pyjamas, curled next to each other on Liam’s bed. They were, Theo would hazard to presume, friends. Liam had become Theo’s best friend.
But it wasn’t enough. And Theo felt stupid, wearing Liam’s sweatshirt, pretending not to watch the two.
It’s just a sweatshirt, he reminded himself, and nothing more. It didn’t mean anything. To Theo, it had become his most worn item of clothing. Mostly at home and in bed, where no one would see him, not even Liam. Wearing it today had been a first time, a risk. It had been a pretty public statement that he and Liam were… something. Friends? He didn’t know.
He started when someone pressed a hand on his shoulder and glanced back to find Mason behind him.
“He’ll realise.” Mason said, and Theo just stared at him a moment.
“I’m sorry?” He asked. Theo had spent time around Mason and Corey, obviously, but not the same way he had Liam. And what was more, Theo was only just realising himself how badly he wanted Liam, how did Mason seem to know already?
“He’ll realise.” He repeated.
“Nothing to realise.” Theo defended, putting a smirk on his face. It didn’t feel right, didn’t feel confident. Theo tried not to think about how it must look. “When’d she get back?” He tried to keep his tone from sounding bitter, but ultimately failed miserably
“Few days ago.” Mason filled in, still looking at him with pity. Theo thought it was easier when he looked at him like he was a monster.
He nodded slowly, glancing back at them, now walking away. “Good.” Theo lied; glad Mason wouldn’t be able to sense it. “I know he was pretty broken up by her leaving.”
Mason nodded slowly, as if thinking about it. He obviously knew Liam better than Theo did – he should with a ten year head-start – but Theo didn’t really know how else to play off this vulnerable and weird conversation. “Sure.” He agreed, “But that doesn’t mean they’re right now.” He paused, seeming to deliberate before adding, “He’s happy around you, you know.”
Liam was the reason Theo was a part of the pack now. Of course, it was Liam’s pack now, so it should be his choice. Still, Theo didn’t think any of the rest of them cared much for him. He thought he was tolerated, at best.
Theo snorted, “Happy around a chimera of death?” He attempted, a weak shadow of his former lying ability.
“You haven’t been that in a long time, dude. You’re wearing his sweater.”
Mason left and Theo stood there, wondering if he should just get in his bullet ridden truck and drive the hell home, put it in the wash and return it to Liam’s room. Liam had worn it plenty of times since that day. It sort of passed between them, a shared thing. If Theo didn’t know any better, he would think Liam was doing it on purpose. He would think Liam knew how his scent warded the nightmares away. How it shielded him from his past and from the crushing fear of loneliness that had begun to blossom in his chest during late, cold nights.
Turning on his heel, Theo left before he could be soon. Before he could be judged. Far as he knew, Liam hadn’t even noticed him in it, he didn’t have to own this. Only Mason had really taken too much notice. Mason, who was apparently far nicer to him than Theo had realised.
He ignored the buzzing in his pocket, only reading the messaged on the screen when he pulled up outside Liam’s – now his – house.
Puppy: where the hell are you?
Puppy: can’t believe u ditched me, ur my lab partner
Theo hadn’t even considered that. He thought about writing something petty back about how maybe Hayden should be his new partner, but he couldn’t muster it. Hayden had been there when Theo hadn’t. Hayden was his first love. Hayden, who’d never tried to kill him or manipulate him, who hadn’t been to hell.
If Theo was still harbouring more homicidal qualities, he might wish she was gone. Her and her stupid hair, her stupid eyes. She was a real werewolf. She was too many things Theo could never be.
The beginning, and the end of that thought, was Liam. She was Liam’s. Something Theo would never have.
It was hours before Liam returned home and Theo could hear two heartbeats. Hayden’s too, he was sure.
When Liam opened the door to his room, Theo seriously considered jumping out the window.
Instead, he stayed put and watched as Liam walked into his room. Liam, who was pintsized and bright eyed, who was kind and compassionate where Theo had always been selfish and manipulative. Who had annoyed Theo so much at first, but who had come to mean so much to him.
Theo would do anything for him. Theo would do absolutely anything for him.
Including letting him go.
“’S’up?” He asked, feigning casual disinterest as he stared down at his homework. He needed to start paying more attention, this looked like hieroglyphics to him.
“Where were you today, man? Can’t believe you left me alone with Finch. You know I can’t stand her.” He began, jumping up and sitting on Theo’s desk. Hayden followed, leaning in the doorway.
“Hi.” She greeted, her voice stilted and awkward. She clearly didn’t want to be around him, probably didn’t approve of Liam letting him live there. That was fine, Theo didn’t really approve of her either, but only one of their opinions really mattered to Liam.
“Sorry. Just wasn’t feeling the best. Also I was falling behind, so I decided to have a study day.”
“Going to hell will do that to you.” Even despite the obvious dislike Hayden was displaying, Theo wasn’t expecting that. It had been a while since anyone had treated him like the enemy, and he’d almost forgot how it felt. Green eyes finally shifted to meet brown, and he was met with nothing but anger and hatred. Distrust.
“Hayden,” Liam sounded more tired than angry, and Theo was pretty sure this wasn’t the first time they’d talked about this.
“No, it’s fine.” Theo began, defensive, “Say what you need to say, Romero.”
He didn’t know why he invited it, especially when he knew it would sting so badly. Especially when he desperately didn’t want to remind Liam of how unworthy he was.
“I don’t know why you’re even still here.” She snapped, staring him down, “You’re the reason I died. The reason Corey did. The reason Josh and Tracy stayed dead.” Yep. It stung. Theo just stared at her though, refusing to show a hint of a reaction. “You don’t have a genuine bone in your body.” She snapped.
Theo could apologise. He could try to reason with her. Try to appeal to Liam instead. He could try to show her how he’d changed – and he had.
Instead… “Sure. Yet I spend more time with your boyfriend than you do.” He smirked, “Or are we just supposed to forget how you skipped town when the going got tough?”
Hayden’s eyes flashed yellow and she opened her mouth to speak again before Liam cut in between them. “Enough.” He said quickly, his tone enough to remind Theo why Liam was the one left in charge. He did have it in him, when the time called for it. When he wasn’t busy giggling like a puppy at some movie he was watching in his boxers, eating cereal at 3am.
Those were the parts of Liam Theo loved best though. The messy, unusual, sort of strange moments of him. Running in in the middle of the night to tell Theo about his dream. Falling asleep in Theo’s bed and then refusing to leave till morning. Spilling tea all down the front of himself because he got distracted ranting about something while holding it. Liam as a big serious Alpha who helped people and put himself at risk was one thing, and Theo did love that too, but Liam, curled around himself and snoring? That was his favourite Liam.
“Can you get out of my room?” Theo finally said, glaring her down. And, for good measure, him too. Liam hadn’t done anything, except have the audacity to not love him back. But he felt angry right at that moment, so that was what was going to happen.
They both left and Theo tried to ignore any and all sounds coming from Liam’s room. When he could hear heartbeats racing, he decided he couldn’t take it and left. He dropped the freshly washed maroon hoodie by Liam’s door and headed out, grabbing his keys and figuring anywhere was better than here.
His phone buzzed a few times, but he didn’t look. People only texted him if they needed something (unless they were Liam) and Theo wasn’t in the mood to be needed right now.
But Theo would always end up here. Sitting at that bridge, staring down into the water. It would be cold, but nowhere near as cold as it was that night.
He thought about Hayden, about her long, shiny hair. About her real werewolf eyes, unchanged by murder and cruelty. He thought about how much Liam had fought for her and ignored the way it hurt his heart to think of. He thought about how Liam had told him about Hayden before, how she had been his first love, how he would’ve done anything for her back then. He thought about how Liam kept a picture of her in his room. Granted, Mason and Corey were in it too, but still.
He thought about Tara. Icy, dead eyes and long stringy hair. The cruel, familiar lilt to her voice when she called out his name. He thought about the pain, about the crushing guilt, thought about how he could never make amends. He thought about how, sometimes, when no one was looking, Liam would sneak into his room in the dead of night and lay by his side, holding his hand until the sun came up again. Liam never asked, Theo never told, and they never, ever acknowledged it.
The worst nightmares were the ones with Liam in them. Tara’s hands reaching through his chest, ripping his heart from his chest, looking Theo did in the eye.
Theo shouldn’t be able to love. Monsters didn’t love.
Yet, he did. He had hated Liam so vehemently. Hated his stupid hair, his doe eyes, the way he could go from looking like a threat to a guppy in a matter of moments. He thought about how despite all his rage, and despite all his mistakes, Liam kept getting back up. How he kept helping Theo. How he insisted on giving Theo a place in the world.
He thought about how that place was gone, now that Hayden was back.
Theo barely noticed when Liam sat beside him. He was half asleep, living in this weird place where he could almost imagine what it would be like to be Hayden. What it would be like to be able to touch him. To be able to look at him without hiding the affection in his eyes.
“I’m sorry,” Liam began, clearly about to go on a little rant, if his sharp breath was anything to go by.
Theo cut him off, “It’s fine, Liam. Nothing she said was untrue.” He shrugged, trying hard to pretend it didn’t bother him.
Liam let out a long, annoyed sigh. It sort of caught Theo off guard, he’d thought Liam was about to apologise, not get annoyed at him.
“For fuck sake, it’s obviously not true, Theo. I know you’ve changed.” He began, annoyed, like Theo had somehow done the wrong thing to him.
“You don’t have to—”
“No, shut the fuck up.” He snapped, “I’m over this. Whatever this little thing is you’re doing; I don’t like it. You’ve been acting weird since Hayden got here. It doesn’t change anything, Theo.”
It changed so much. How could Liam not know how much it changed? Theo wondered what dumb, lovestruck look must be on his face. He hoped he looked annoyed instead. To hell with this vulnerability thing, he didn’t want Liam to know. He didn’t want to see the way Liam’s eyes fell away, didn’t want to see him try to let Theo down gently.
“It changes absolutely everything.” Theo snapped back, without his brain’s permission.
“No, it doesn’t. You’re in my pack, Theo. You’re my friend, no matter what you think. And what the fuck is with you putting the hoodie back? It’s yours, Theo. I gave it to you.”
“It’s just polyester.” Theo snapped, “I know I’m your friend. I get it.” He snarked, shaking his head.
“What the hell does that mean?” Liam asked, annoyed.
For someone so smart, Liam was so stupid.
Theo couldn’t take it. As it turned out, he was stupid too.
He leaned forward, eyes squeezed shut and pressed his lips against Liam. It was needy and too forceful, but Theo was acting on one second of insane courage here, so what did it matter? It would be the one and only time this happened anyway. He would have to skip town after this. He couldn’t see Liam’s awkward placations. He couldn’t deal with Hayden’s hatred. He couldn’t face Mason’s pity. He couldn’t face the guilt of what he’d done to Corey.
He had to get the hell out of here.
The second he pulled away, Theo got to his feet and took off running.
Not only was Theo stupid, apparently, he was a coward too.
He got back in his truck and drove. His clothes were at Liam’s, but it didn’t matter, he had to get the hell out. He had to leave. His phone began ringing and barely stopped. He wished he didn’t have that stupid phone mount in his car, because he could see it. Liam’s picture, sitting on the floor in his boxers, kept flashing. Then, in a more surprising turn, Mason’s photo. Corey’s. Theo figured that meant they knew too, and god, there was no way he could go back now.
Theo would do absolutely anything for Liam.
Including letting him go.
Chapter 2: It's Just Polyester
Theo is gone and Liam has to figure out what the hell any of this means for him.
Hope you like it guys, it's like 1am as I post this, so we'll see if I still like it in the am! Hope it was everything you wanted!
Liam Dunbar was never exactly known for his intelligence. He wasn’t stupid, by any means. But he also wasn’t always emotionally aware.
So when Theo Raeken kissed him, Liam might as well be finding out that Santa Claus really did exist and was going to hunt him like Monroe.
It wasn’t that Liam had never noticed Theo. In fact, it was very, very much not that. Theo had always been attractive. Annoyingly so, if you asked Liam. He had no right to be so good looking, especially whilst being the sort of person he was. And yet, he was.
No, it was more that it had never even occurred to Liam that Theo might look at him that way.
Theo was, well, Theo. All sharp edges and biting wit and Liam sometimes felt out of his depth. He felt like something useless and mediocre, against someone so smart.
It’s just polyester. The words rung over and over in Liam’s head. Just polyester his ass—it was the first step to them becoming friends. It was the first time Liam had really felt like Theo might be one of them. The first time he thought he could make him stay. That he could make up for the shit Theo had been through.
Liam wasn’t naïve about the things Theo had done. He knew he’d been a bad person, that he’d brought bad things down on them. But he also knew Theo had been indoctrinated into this as a nine-year-old. He knew he’d been manipulated and twisted and tortured. He knew he’d suffered for it. He knew Theo regretted it.
He could remember the first night he snuck into Theo’s room in the dead of night, without speaking, without prodding. He could remember how he had heard Theo crying. It was so foreign that at first he didn’t even notice it. Or at least he didn’t understand it. He thought maybe Theo was watching something on his phone, or that he was laughing. But after a few moments of silence, the chemosignals were enough. He was sad. Scared. Grieving. He was terrified. Liam had moved slowly. It took him a few minutes to decide to move at all, but he couldn’t just leave him there alone any more than he could just abandon him in that truth.
He crept into the room in silence. He had no good plan, instead, just laying atop the blankets in silence. The crying had subsided, leaving shaky breathing. Theo didn’t look at Liam, or even speak. Liam didn’t either. He just took Theo’s hand in his own and lay there in silence until Theo’s breathing evened out again, and Liam knew he was asleep. It didn’t take long for Liam to fall asleep too.
When he woke up, Theo was gone, the shower was running, and Liam saw himself out. It became a pattern. Not every night, but most. Liam let himself in in silence, Theo didn’t speak or look at him, Liam didn’t either. He just held his hand. That was how he knew Theo regretted it. He knew how, in the dead of night, when no one but him was around, Theo was overcome with grief and emotion. Liam didn’t want him to feel more exposed than he was ready to be, so he never spoke of it, not even to Theo. But he knew.
Liam knew how often Theo wore the hoodie. He might try to hide it, but he underestimated Liam sometimes. Or at least, underestimated how much Liam looked at him.
Still, Liam didn’t think he had liked Theo like that. Had he? Theo was objectively attractive, sure. But did Liam want to date him?
Could he picture holding Theo’s hand? He already had. Could he picture falling asleep by his side, curling into his muscled body and feeling safe and warm there? He already had. Could he picture them staying up late talking and laughing? They already had. Could he picture kissing Theo?
Okay, so maybe Liam had the emotional awareness of a particularly stupid fish, but he was doing his best here.
He got to his feet a few moments after Theo had begun to run away, a dumbfounded look on his flushed face. “Wait, Theo!” He called, moving to run after him. Liam was faster, but Theo had too much of a head-start, Liam wasn’t going to be able to catch up on him.
“Fuck,” the beta muttered, calling Mason on instinct. When the line picked up, Liam didn’t even wait for Mason to speak before he launched into it. “Theo kissed me and ran away, he’s going to skip town, I can feel it.”
“Um, okay. I’ll try to call him?” Mason suggested, unsure. Liam was barely paying attention though; his mind was elsewhere.
When he’d brought Theo back from hell, Liam had thought he hated him. When he’d brought Theo back from hell, Liam had been sure he was going to put him back.
When he told Theo he would use him as bait, he really didn’t know he was lying. But when push came to shove, Liam wasn’t a killer. He was too much like Scott, too hell bent on saving people, on doing the right thing, by any means necessary. When he saw Theo in danger, no matter how angry he was, he did what he felt was right. He saved him.
He had barely noticed Theo’s shock, and he had had no idea it would mean anything to Theo until Theo had thrown him in the elevator and run. It was weird, how Liam hated him, but seemed to gravitate around him all at once. He still thought he was a dick, but he took notice. How Theo had said he went through all of it to keep him from being taken. How Theo kept stopping him from hurting people. How he had told Liam ‘your dead friends are going to stay dead’. Liam had been so angry at the time. Later, he sort of realised it was the worst ‘run away with me’ speech ever. Trying to stop Liam getting caught in the crossfires of someone else’s danger.
Liam had no idea why Theo kept saving him, but he could only assume it was because he felt like he owed him. Because Liam had brought him back. Or that maybe Theo believed saving him would make Scott trust him more, let him be a part of the pack.
Liam heard Theo’s heart skip when he said he wouldn’t die for him. Liam heard his own heart skip when he said he wouldn’t either.
Asking him to live with him had been a weird sort of thing. Liam didn’t know why he was doing it. He didn’t know what he stood to gain. He had everything to lose, if Theo was truly not as good as he pretended to be. Not as changed.
Yet, he couldn’t let him go. Couldn’t let him lay out there alone in the destroyed car he had carried Liam to to stop him from hurting Nolan.
He didn’t know when he and Theo had really become friends. When it had gone from an uncomfortable alliance to a friendship. When it had gone from a friendship to a best friendship. When Theo had become his anchor.
Liam knew he was Theo’s. He figured that was why he kept taking his sweater. That was why Liam would wear it sometimes and then give it back. So the scent wasn’t truly gone.
Liam knew Theo was his too. He stopped him from killing. Stopped him from getting too angry, or at least found a way to channel it.
When Hayden had come back, Liam had felt relieved somehow. This made sense. It was easy. He could do this and not have to feel bad about it. It wasn’t that he loved Theo. Absolutely not. He didn’t like him either. They were just close. And Hayden was a safe choice. His first love, someone he cared about, someone who hadn’t hurt their pack. Someone he knew for sure Scott would approve of. That his friends would.
When Hayden had had a go at Theo, Liam had felt anger flare in his stomach. The familiar feeling of anger climbing into his blood, into his mind. He’d controlled it, kept it back, because he knew he couldn’t snap now. Liam remembered how unbothered Theo had seemed, how he’d barely looked up, barely taken the smirk from his face when he’d said he spent more time with Liam than Hayden did. Liam’s stomach had flipped, but he told himself it was because Theo was fighting with Hayden, not because the almost flirtatious implication had had any effect on him.
Theo had left and Liam had followed, finding him seemingly half asleep by the river. Liam hadn’t known why he wanted to search for Theo there exactly, it had just felt like the place to go. Felt like the place he would be.
Theo kissing him was not something Liam was even remotely prepared for. It wasn’t even a possibility. Something which had never crossed his stupid mind. He knew, or at least thought, Theo cared about him, but in that way? Liam never would’ve seen that coming.
But it was over before it’d even begun and now Liam was faced with the fundamental question. Did he want Theo to kiss him?
Liam got into his shitty, beat up old car, driving to god knows where. All he could think of was to head to the roads out of Beacon Hills. If he knew Theo, and he was pretty positive he did (maybe better than any living person) he would be skipping town right now. He drove past his own house, just to see, but found nothing. No truck, no lights on. No Theo.
Liam drove for hours, doing nothing but thinking. Mason had promised to keep trying to call him, to tell him Liam needed to talk to him, that he was part of the pack and couldn’t leave, but Liam couldn’t shake the feeling it wouldn’t work. Theo was probably already gone, if his usual crazed driving was anything to go by and he doubted he’d ever hear from him again. Theo knew how to disappear, and he had taken so, so long to let Liam in in the first place. Liam knew he had cared, at least enough to keep him alive, but he didn’t know whether that was something they could get back now.
Still, thinking back over it, things seemed to become clearer in Liam’s mind. Theo, wearing his hoodie. Theo, sitting by his side while they played games or watched movies for hours on end, rolling his eyes at anything unrealistic, but staying by his side, nonetheless. Theo, coming to all of his lacrosse games, even though he had no interest in the sport. Theo, who had come to Liam’s house all on his own, agreed to sleep in a room next to him, let Liam sleep beside him and not bothered (after a while) to hide his cries. Theo, begrudgingly accompanying him to dances and events he had no interest in. Theo, who thought Liam loved Hayden.
It was hours of driving into the early hours of the morning before Liam gave up and headed home. He had school the next day, had work and lacrosse and a pack he had to look after.
He didn’t want to let it go, to let Theo go, but he had no idea where the boy was going, and no way to find him unless Theo wanted him to.
Laying in bed, Liam sent out a text to the boy he was only just realising the depth of his connection to. He felt anxious and overwhelmed, writing and rewriting a thousand texts he wouldn’t ever send, with varying degrees of pleading or vulnerability.
Eventually, he settled on a few words.
Liam: It’s not just polyester. Please come home.
Days passed. Late nights where Liam would go out driving, go out in the woods looking for any sign. Classes where he would look around for Theo’s truck or his familiar frame, only to find nothing. The rest of the pack didn’t talk to him about it much, apparently sensing it was a sore topic. Hayden had barely spoken to him since the incident in his bedroom, after Theo had told them to get out.
On the sixth night after he left, Liam drifted to sleep. He dreamt of Ghost Riders and Dread Doctors, hunters beating him senseless in a classroom full of laughing students, Oni and red eyed killers. He dreamed of the Anuk-Ite and facing his worst fears. He dreamt of Theo. Theo in the elevator. Theo fighting by his side. Theo getting taken by the Riders. Theo getting tortured by the Doctors. Theo getting shot with an arrow or turned to stone. Other people he loved made appearances, but there was only one constant.
Liam slowly stirred back into reality when he felt a weight on his bed shift and a warmth in his hand. He looked up at the familiar warmth and smell, wondering if he was supposed to speak. Wondering if he was allowed.
“Don’t.” The boy cut him off. “Don’t. I know. I know I’m not Hayden. I know I’m not trustworthy. I know I’m not… what you want. Don’t. Don’t try to let me down gently. I’m back, okay? Just… don’t.”
Liam sat in silence for a minute, trying to figure out where to begin. All he could think to do was ask a question.
“Why did you leave? Go into the woods when you did?” He asked, his voice barely a whisper, he was sure it would’ve been inaudible to human ears.
A beat passed. Then another. “I couldn’t watch you and her. I know she’s what you want and that’s fine. You should be happy. But… she was right. I’m not worth being around you. Being here. I had to get out.”
Blue eyes ran over the silhouette of Theo, an empty shape in the dark. He knew just what face the boy would be making, and even in the darkness, he could picture the exact green of his eyes. He blinked into the darkness, pondering his words. The conversation was slow but measured. More vulnerable than any they’d ever had.
“After you told us to get out, I told Hayden she had to accept you were here to stay or leave.” Liam breathed out.
Theo’s shadowed silhouette turned to Liam. He couldn’t see Theo’s face, but he knew what look he was getting.
“She left.” Liam added, a sort of nervous quiet to his voice.
“Why would you do that?” The older boy asked, brows furrowed in confusion.
Liam could hear his own heart pounding. “I loved Hayden. In a way, I guess I always will. But… I guess…” He felt like he might vomit, suddenly. “I guess I love you too.”
“As a friend?” Liam had never heard Theo sound so young. So vulnerable and afraid.
Liam could speak, but he couldn’t find the words. Instead, he leaned forward, pressing his lips against Theo’s. This kiss was far softer. There weren’t any banging teeth or awkward tenses. Liam squeezed his eyes shut, feeling his stomach flip and his heart beat hard. Theo’s hand rested on Liam’s face, gently touching the edges of his floppy hair.
After a second of silence, Liam’s forehead rested against Theo’s in the dark, Theo spoke again. “I heard your hearts beating fast, I thought maybe you were…” He trailed off.
Liam frowned, confused, “Wait, you thought we were having sex? Theo, I thought you were good with chemosignals.”
Liam could almost hear the smile in Theo’s voice. “Guess I was just scared to lose you.”
After that, Liam and Theo didn’t hold hands in silence in the dark. They didn’t pretend it didn’t happen. After that, when Theo saw Liam walk down the hallways, he wasn’t looking for Hayden. He was looking for his anchor.
He was looking for Theo, wearing his sweatshirt, seeming to finally begin to believe they wanted him there. Theo didn’t need the sweatshirt anymore; he had the real deal. Liam, curled around him every night, snoring softly on his chest.