“I have a theory!”
Mason rolled his eyes, pulling the front door closed behind him. “Hello to you too, Li.”
“Hey Mase! Hey Corey! Okay, I have a theory.”
Corey snickered when Mason just sighed in response.
Liam bounced around, both of his parents were at the hospital, and Theo’s shift at the bookstore-cafe hybrid that he worked at wouldn’t be finished for at least another hour, so he had the whole house to expel his energy in as loudly as he wanted to.
“Okay so this might sound crazy, but I think that Theo is ticklish.”
“Dude,” Mason’s eyes widened, looking up at his best friend after toeing off his shoes.
“No way!” Corey exclaimed, his eyebrows meeting his hairline, “where is this theory of yours coming from?”
“Okay, okay, so,” Liam slapped his hands together looking between his two friends, “Theo had wanted to do something nice for my mom, so he was baking her favourite brownies, he even got that weird milk that she likes and the egg substitute she uses in her cakes.”
Mason huffed out a laugh through his nose, “of course you’re already sidetracked as soon as you start your story.”
Corey rubbed Mason’s arm and gave him a look that asked for patience, and Liam continued.
“So he was trying to hide it from my mom, right? As like a surprise or something but you know my mom and surprises, I love her but she always has to know everything like that one time we tried to plan that dinner for her and-”
“Liam,” Corey’s voice was soft, and his tone was somehow both encouraging and warning all at once.
“Right, so everytime my mom would try to come in the room, he would stand in the doorframe and block her view by moving around, but my mom was getting a little impatient, kind of like that look you’re giving me now, Mase.” Liam’s dazed look turned to the boy in question, his eyebrow slightly raising.
“Sorry, Liam. Continue.”
“So my mom did that thing she does with me where she gives her whole ‘we can do this the easy way, or the hard way’ spiel,” Liam’s voice had raised comically in an attempt to nail his impression of his mother. “Except Theo’s new so he didn’t know what the ‘hard way’ would be so he just told her again that she would have to wait for a few more minutes. My mom took that as him asking for the hard way and she tickled his sides, he jumped like he had been electrocuted or something! I think he might’ve even giggled too.”
Corey was smiling, nodding along to Liam’s recounting of the tale. “Alright, sounds like a sound theory to me.”
Liam grinned wide at the validation from Corey, since he and Mason had started dating it felt like a breath of fresh air that finally there was someone patient who would at least listen before teasing him.
Not that he didn’t love Mason, but sometimes he just didn’t want to be kept on his toes.
“How do you want to go about this?” Mason questioned, his fist under his chin as if deep in thought.
Liam couldn’t help it when his mind blanked momentarily, “go about what?”
“Proving your theory?”
“Okay, okay, I was hoping you guys would help me. I have a plan.” The dangerous glint in Liam’s eye was one that Mason had seen far too many times over their lives, and it gave him a clue that Liam’s plan would probably be theatrical and crazy… But it would definitely get the job done.
All three heads rapidly shot towards the door, and that was when Liam realized just how strange the three of them probably looked. They still had yet to sit down since Mason and Corey had arrived, and Corey was still wearing his coat despite the fact that they had been inside for nearly an hour.
“Uh- hey- hi Theo!”
As usual, Liam and Mason stumbled over their words as a team, Corey just sent his former alpha a shy smile accompanied by a small wave.
Theo’s brow furrowed, his mouth pulling into the small pout that Liam figured Theo didn’t even know that he did, and yet it still made the younger boy’s insides turn to mush.
Liam tried to make a smooth recovery, but he never really was an expert in smooth. “Why are you back?”
“I- uh- I live here. I think. I mean unless you-”
“No, no! I mean what are you doing back so early? I thought your shift ended at six today, I was going to surprise you with food when you got home.” Liam made sure to take note of Theo’s previous demeanour. Theo didn’t usually jump to conclusions anymore, and the Dunbar-Geyers had tried to make it as obvious as possible that this was his home, they would never kick him out. Liam figured the older boy hadn’t slept the night before, and he made a mental note to sneak into Theo’s room that night under the pretense that he had another berserker nightmare.
“Rhiannon let me off early,” He looked up at Liam from where he had previously been looking at the floor, and continued to anxiously scratch at the back of his neck. “I- uh, I brought you those lemon tarts that you like so much, Rhiannon let me make a fresh batch to take before I left. And there’s some cookies and croissants that I brought back if either of you two are hungry before dinner.”
Liam smiled wide, in the contagious, goofy way that he always did, and Theo found himself mirroring Liam’s expression. Corey let out a ‘thank you’ before Mason raided the box of treats, giving his boyfriend an oatmeal cookie while eating a sugar cookie himself.
Theo awkwardly scratched his neck. “You can handle dinner? If not I could probably cook up some of that cheesy pasta or something.”
Liam didn’t think his smile could get any wider. Since after the war, Theo had been trying desperately to receive forgiveness from Scott’s pack. Surprisingly, it was easier than he thought it would be, but that didn’t stop him from trying harder and harder with each new day. Theo was trying particularly hard with Corey, whose favourite food happened to be Theo’s homemade pasta. Corey looked down, but Liam could see that his cheeks held a soft smile.
“It’s cool, T, I was gonna order some food,” Liam reassured him, moving his hands in a dismissive manner.
“Alright, I can make it the next time you guys are over if you want,” Theo offered, a barely-there blush held on his cheeks. Corey nodded eagerly, and Mason mumbled something through a mouthful of icing. “Alright, well, I’m gonna head up, I have a little bit of a headache.” As if to further solidify his words, the chimera rubbed the heels on his palms over his eyelids.
Liam frowned slightly, trying to neutralize his expression. He had a sneaking suspicion that Theo was going to take a nap so that he could stay awake throughout the night, but he would find a way to coax Theo to sleep later on. Before Theo could scent his confusion, Liam smiled again, sending a thumbs-up Theo’s way, “let me know if you need anything.”
Theo climbed the stairs, and Liam finally turned around to look at his two best friends, who were both wide-eyed, with varying degrees of crumbs on their faces.
“We’re getting Greek.”
“What happened to Chinese-?”
“Shh! We’re getting Greek.” Liam figured that Theo wasn’t listening to them, considering how tired he seemed to be, but the younger boy wanted to spare himself from embarrassment nonetheless. After all, he did say they were ordering dinner, he never specified what it would be. So what if that dinner just happened to be Theo’s favourite after he had a particularly bad day?
“It’s alright, you know?” Liam asked, sitting on the bed opposite from Theo, who now had a scowl on his face.
“What’s alright?” Theo questioned, feigning naivete.
“They accept you now, you’re free, you’re never going to have to go back there. So, it’s alright. You can calm down.”
Theo sighed, shaking his head and reaching under the bed for his shoes. Liam felt the sudden urge to push the hair out of Theo's eyes, and before he could stop himself he was reaching out, carding soft fingers through even softer hair.
Theo froze completely, looking straight up at Liam in shock. Liam finally realized what he had done and felt his face go bright red.
“I-uh. I,” Liam moved his hand like he had touched a flame. “I’ll wait in the car.”
Liam dashes out of the room and Theo is stuck to wonder what the hell just happened.
Five minutes later Theo is walking down the porch steps, his hair brushed back in a way that implies that he had been running his hands through it. Liam knows that now is the absolute worst time to be staring, but Theo just looks so soft in his jeans and his thick, orange knit sweater.
Theo notices the staring, and his cheeks go pink. He clears his throat, “ready to go Puppy?”
Liam nods, sending the older boy a smile and jumping into the passenger seat.
Pack meetings always start with food, and today they were having tacos and nachos courtesy of one Melissa McCall. Liam doesn’t know if he believes in God, but he does believe that Melissa must be an Angel.
The Puppy Pack scarfs down their food, as usual, while the older members of the pack take their time. Scott and Stiles are standing by the dining table, talking to each other about how Stiles’ training has been going. Everyone else is sitting on various pieces of furniture in the living room, talking amongst themselves. Except Theo.
Theo is kind of awkwardly hovering around Liam, Mason, and Corey, looking sort of lost. Liam smiles to himself. Their plan was pretty detailed, but this could probably help get it going.
Liam looks at the armchair, Mason is grinning up at Corey, who’s sitting in his lap. Then Liam catches Theo’s eye, a glint in them that causes Theo to squint at him. Liam develops a shit-eating grin before patting his lap as an invitation.
Theo looks absolutely horrified, shaking his head. “No fucking way.”
“C’mon, T. Aren’t you uncomfortable standing?”
Theo shakes his head again, “I don’t think I’ll ever be that uncomfortable.”
Liam pulls a pout, putting his hand over his heart. “How dare you? You’ve wounded me so.”
Theo shakes his head and goes to turn around, but suddenly he’s tripping over something that wasn’t there before.
Appropriately, or inappropriately, as Theo would probably describe it, Theo lands right into Liam’s lap with an “oof”.
Theo whips his head around to see that Malia had overheard their bickering, and she’s laughing to herself with a mischievous smile on her face. She tries to fake sympathetic, but she can’t hold back her laughter long enough, “don’t hurt Liam’s feelings.”
Liam snickers, giving Malia a high-five. He lets Theo struggle in his lap until he’s sitting upright before tightening his grip. Theo wiggles in Liam’s tight grasp until Liam dances his fingers over Theo’s side, and he suddenly goes pin straight.
Liam smiles to himself, but he doesn’t give Mason and Corey the signal just yet. Mason does shoot him a thumbs up though, most likely due to the compromising position that Liam has managed to get Theo into.
Theo tries to keep his cool, but he knows that his face is bright red whenever anybody strikes a conversation with him.
Stiles and Scott move a little closer to the rest of the pack, leaning against a wall as they continue their conversation.
“Yeah, Theo had mentioned that he could smell Monroe’s scent in the preserve last week.” Scott told Stiles.
“Really?” Stiles asks, looking at Theo. He quirks an eyebrow when he sees who Theo is using as a chair. Theo didn’t think it was possible to get redder, but it happens nonetheless.
“Yeah, I was full-shifted. I thought she might have been around so I went to the coyote den, but she never showed.”
Stiles nods along as he listens. “Well, we had managed to triangulate a possible location of her new base. We think she’s moved to Washington, but we’ve heard sighting from a bunch of different cities that suggest that-”
Theo’s eyes go wide and he quickly clamps both of his hands over his mouth. He moves his elbows like he’s trying to protect himself from something. Despite the desperate attempt at muting himself, it is pretty obvious that the muffled sounds are broken giggles.
Stiles quirks his head to the side, “Are you laughing at me? Dude, can you be serious with me just for once?”
“Uh, Stiles? I think Theo’s distraction has something to do with that.” Scott pointed at Theo’s side, where it appeared like Theo’s shirt was moving on its own.
Theo was doubling over as much as he could in Liam’s grasp, hasty laughter pouring out of him that he was very obviously trying to conceal. Everyone else in the room had pretty much clued in on the fact that Mason and Corey appeared to be ‘missing’, so they were taking in the sight in front of them since there seemed to be no threat of danger.
“Is he?” Stiles stopped himself with a dumbfounded look, “is he giggling? Is Theo giggling? This is priceless.”
Theo’s face and ears heat up, his eyes opening just enough to glare. “I’m not a child, Stiles. I don’t giggle.”
“Ya’know, that would’ve been way more convincing if you weren’t giggling when you said it.”
Scott had a fond smile on his face, watching as his beta and the other founding members of the Puppy Pack reduced one of their former rivals to a puddle of giggles.
“You know, I was starting to wonder if Theo was anything like we had remembered him,” Scott looked to Stiles, whose mouth was still open in shock, “some things never change.”
Liam’s eyes brightened at that revelation, “So which spot used to be Theo’s worst?”
Scott gave Stiles a look of warning, shaking his head and letting out a sigh when he realized that the freckled boy would reveal it anyways.
“Under his arms and behind his knees. Our pal, Theo here, once gave Scotty a bloody nose because Scott jabbed him in class when he had his hand up.” Stiles had a sinister smirk on his features, one that Scott made a mental note to fix later by embarrassing his best friend in front of the pack.
“Stop, don’t! Liam, let me go. Guys, stop!” Theo tried to sound threatening, he tried his very best to school his features and control his chemosignals, but he had been taken so off-guard. All of his defenses were down and he absolutely did not know how to get them back online. “Liam, if you don’t stop I’ll break your nose.”
Theo’s eyes went wide and shiny before shutting completely, and he shrieked as nimble fingers that he could only assume were Corey’s slipped under his arm. At this point Liam barely had to put in effort to contain Theo, who had surrendered himself to the attack knowing that he was trapped on all sides by Liam and the other two invisible boys.
“Aww, does that tickle? Is somebody’s armpits ticklish? What about your knees, Theo? Does this tickle?” Mason teased Theo ruthlessly, the same way that he would tease Liam in similar situations. It always drove Liam absolutely crazy, and it seemed like Theo wasn’t doing any better. Mason’s fingers had made their way down to Theo’s knees, spidering over them. When his fingers slipped behind the older boy’s knees they got the real reaction.
Theo screeched and snorted before falling limp against Liam, his head down as he laughed silently and a few tears streamed down his rosy cheeks. Liam figured that Theo wasn’t aware enough to smell his own chemosignals, so while he probably would have to do some damage control on Theo’s embarrassment, the older boy wouldn’t know enough to be embarrassed about the stark smell of happiness floating through the room. Liam didn’t get to smell Theo’s chemosignals very often at all, since the older boy couldn’t shake the habit of masking them, but Liam found that he really, really adored the smell of Theo’s own forest-y, cinnamony scent mixed with joy.
“Alright, alright guys, that’s enough,” Liam shooed away his two best friends. Mason and Corey became visible to the rest of the room, Mason, with a wide, menacing grin on his face like some Disney villain, and Corey, a much smaller, more fond smile on his own. As soon as they stopped tickling, Theo slumped back, bringing his hands up to his face, still shaking from the residual laughter. Liam once again wrapped Theo up tight in his arms, giving the older boy a bearhug from behind while nuzzling his chin into the crook of Theo’s neck. Theo had flinched at first, but Liam had rubbed his hand soothingly over Theo’s bicep.
Scott smiled softly at Liam and Theo, only Liam catching it, and winked. “Alright, so, as we were saying, we have a pretty good idea as to where we think Monroe’s head hunters might be.”
Stiles looked dumbfounded, “Wait are we just going to ignore that whole thing? We’re just gonna let Theo pretend that-”
“Where do we think they are?” Corey piped up, never usually one to ask questions during pack meetings.
“Really, guys? We’re brushing over th-”
“So we believe that Monroe has left her head hunters at the Nevada base, but she herself is in Washington overseeing some of her amateur hunters there.” Scott continued, completely ignoring Stiles.
Theo had recovered mostly, he was no longer laughing silently or shaking. Liam had taken to rubbing small circles on his back. Theo finally uncovered his face, still blushing to the tips of his ears. Liam had to stop himself from laughing at the adorableness of it all, knowing that it would just make things worse.
“You don’t have to be embarrassed,” Liam soothed in a whispered voice, Scott still giving the pack a rundown. “You’re pack now, sometimes pack messes with each other. We give each other affection and stuff.”
Theo somehow turned even redder, fighting a small smile that threatened the way to his face. “Shut up.”
Theo shook his head, but he shifted so he could lean his head back on Liam’s shoulder, his head in the crook of the younger teen’s neck as he looked over at Scott to gage what everyone was talking about.
Liam just smiled, wrapping his arms around Theo’s waist and leaning his head against Theo’s.
Liam zoned out until he heard Mason’s voice and looked over. Mason whispered loud enough for Liam to hear but not loud enough to interrupt. “Two for one!”
Liam furrowed his brow before moving his head so he could look down at Theo, whose breathing and heart rate had slowed. He smiled wide, nodding eagerly in Mason’s direction as Theo snored softly.
Now Liam has a better, much cuter method to get Theo to sleep.