Theo thrust his fist upwards, punching through the earth and concrete, his claws reaching clear air at last as the ground exploded around him. The invisible hands that had been dragging him towards the surface vanished and he found himself standing in a cloud of dust and dirt. He felt alive, blood pounding through his body, his eyes glowing yellow, casting the tunnel beyond him in a red sheen, his muscles bunched and flexed, sharp claws pressing against the palm of his hand as he clenched and released. The chimera looked around, faintly recognising the tunnel, but he had more immediate concerns. “Where’s Tara?” He demanded from the two teenagers standing in front of him.
Hayden The name sprang into his mind automatically, and he nodded. “Yeah, where is she?”
“You killed her, remember?”
Theo glanced at the other one, Liam his brain supplied and the chimera blinked as it all came rushing back to him; the Dread Doctors, the Beast, that insane plot to get Scott’s werewolf powers, and Stiles…how the hell did he manage to forget about everything he had done to Stiles? He groaned, fingers brushing dirt from his temple, This isn’t right, everything feels wrong. Theo was dimly aware that they were talking in his direction. He looked away, frowning as he tried to clear his mind of the memories, of the last time Stiles had looked at him, the way his eyes had gleamed, fury in his voice, even though he smelled disappointed. He had to get out of here, he had to find Stiles, explain, apologize. Theo glanced back at Liam and Hayden, watching them suspiciously as they edged closer, the male werewolf with a sword in his hands. This can’t be real… The chimera moistened his lips, the earthy taste of grit unpleasant on his tongue. He waited until Liam was closer, before snarling and diving forwards, catching the werewolf off guard. Theo slammed him into the wall, claws at his throat, knee pressing hard at his wrist, forcing him to drop the sword.
“Theo!” Hayden cried out beside him. “We’re not trying to hurt you.”
The chimera ignored her, looking around for Scott and Kira, sniffing the air. Where are they? Where’s Beast? This is different from before, maybe she’s not here, if it even is real. Or maybe, maybe this is another trick. He growled as Liam struggled to break free.
“We’re the ones who brought you back!”
“Where’s my sister?” He asked them again, frowning as they glanced at each other. “Well?”
“Your sister’s dead.” Liam muttered. “You just asked us that. She’s still dead, you still killed her.”
“She died a long time ago.”
“No,” Theo looked away, memories tugging at him, Hayden’s voice faraway. “No…that…she was right-”
“There’s no one here but us, Theo.” Liam said, his voice strangely calm.
“And soon there won’t even be you!” Theo growled at him, feeling as though a switch was just flicked on inside of him. Being bad is what I know. “I’m going to kill you! I’m going to kill all of you!” His claws dug into Liam’s chest as he stared into the werewolf’s amber eyes.
“Send him back!” Hayden picked up the sword and thrust it into her boyfriend’s hands.
Liam hefted it and pushed the chimera backwards. “You know what this does?”
Theo looked at him and then at the sword, loosening his grip. “That’s the sword. Kira’s sword.” He muttered, realization in his eyes. “If that was all just a dream, if this is reality, then…no, no, no, it’s a trick, it has to be. Hehe.” Theo suddenly chuckled and let Liam go. The werewolves were staring at him as he walked back to the center of the hallway, looking both ways. “Where are you Tara?! You can’t hide from me! I know you’re here, I know what you’re coming for!” He roared into the darkness, his voice descending into intelligible mumbling. “You want my heart? Come and take it!”
“Theo, stop, she’s not here.” Liam exchanged another glance with Hayden before moving forward to touch his arm.
“Don’t!” The chimera shrugged him off, still muttering darkly, eyes unfocused. “A new playground, but the same old tricks. Just phantoms, no, no, no. I’m not…You can’t, hahaha.”
“He’s crazy.” Hayden pulled Liam away. “Now what?”
“We don’t really need him to be sane.” He replied, frowning as Theo slashed randomly at the air. “He just needs to be able to handle the current. Let’s at least ask him.”
Theo started as Liam and Hayden moved around into his vision. “Who are you? What are you doing here? Did she send you?”
“Err, no.” Liam moistened his lips. “Um, Theo, we need your help.”
“Help. Help.” The chimera echoed him, eyes searching the darkness. “I tried to help once.”
“Uh huh. Well, maybe you can-”
“It didn’t work, though.” Theo continued speaking over him, “He wanted my help, but not that sort of help, a different kind, I thought…” He paused, staring at Liam. “I know you.”
“Yeah. Liam, remember?” The werewolf spoke quickly before Theo’s attention was diverted again. “We need your power to help us.”
“I said I’d kill them all, including him. Why did I say that?” Theo looked at the werewolf, expecting an answer. He blinked and then nodded. “Help you how?”
“You’ve heard about the Ghost Riders?”
The chimera hesitated, “Sounds familiar, stories, from…them? Doctors, Doctors of- Dread Doctors.” He shook his head. “No, I won’t go back! No, you can’t make me!” Theo snarled, brandishing his claws in Liam’s face.
The werewolf shook his head. “No one is going to make you go anywhere, not if you help us. Tell us what you know.” He saw Hayden glance at him, and cleared his throat as Theo frowned in concentration. “Actually, if you come with us, we can show you what we need your help with.”
“You can go wherever you want, I guess.” Liam replied, unnerved by the sudden lucidity in Theo’s eyes. It passed almost immediately as the chimera began muttering again.
“Good, good, then I can find him, find…and help. No, not help, no, no, help is wrong, have to-”
“Theo!” Hayden cut across him and gestured towards where Mr Douglas was waiting for them. “It’s this way. We don’t need you for long.”
Theo eyed her with suspicion, glancing at Liam. “It’s them you have to watch out for; the, uh, the sister, yes, watching, always need to watch for her...”
Liam sighed, avoiding the chimera’s crazed eyes, instead pushing him gently. “C’mon, Theo, it really is this way.” His pulse spiked as the chimera grabbed his arm tight. “What?”
“It’s the heart you want, isn’t it?” Theo stared at him, a piercing yellow stare, but he moved when Liam walked, their progress up the tunnel slow. “Yes, I thought so, you’re after the heart, just as she is, as they all are, but they can’t have it, it’s mine, mine, mine! Mine now, no, no, no, you can’t have it back. Take it, oh, you can try and take it. But-” Theo stopped speaking as they reached an intersection in the tunnel. He released Liam’s arm, walking slowly around the black wire hanging down from above. His attention flicked to the man standing opposite him, battery clutched in his hands. Theo sniffed the air, a strangely familiar scent in his nostrils. He moved closer to the man, sniffing him even as Mr Douglas recoiled. “You…you are not him.” The chimera dismissed the man, flicking his attention back to Hayden, hearing her apologize.
“Theo, this is Mr Douglas.” Liam explained. “A teacher at our school; he’s seen the Ghost Riders too, and he’s helping us with our plan.”
“To catch one.” Theo whispered. “Catch the lightning, riders of the storm, taking people, harvesting more and more for their unstoppable army.”
“That’s right.” Mr Douglas nodded at the cable. “We need to negate their lightning, or at least, that’s what Liam and his friends have told me. He says that you have an ability to help us. Is that so?”
“Ability?” Theo echoed at the werewolves. Where did she go? What sort of game is this?
“Yeah, you took Josh’s powers, remember?” Liam sighed as the chimera looked blankly at him. “You can do it, Theo.”
“This is to get the heart, isn’t it? Tired of just ripping it out? Want to try something different? Why don’t you just take it?” Theo pulled down his sweater, exposing his chest to Liam. “I already told you I don’t want to play anymore, just take it again!”
“It’s alright, Mr Douglas, he’s just, err,” Hayden struggled to explain and shrugged. “Crazy. Completely nuts. Um, just go ahead.”
“Hang on a minute,” The teacher looked between them and Theo. “He doesn’t seem all there, I’m not so sure we should be asking him to do something like this.”
“He can do it.” Liam replied as Theo sniffed the wire curiously. “He has the ability to absorb electricity, even if he’s not aware of it. His, uh, time underground seems to have messed up his mind a bit.”
“I don’t like this.” Mr Douglas shrugged uncomfortably as he looked around at them.
Theo grabbed the wire and looked at them. “Do it.”
“Are you sure you understand-”
“You’ll just take my heart anyway.” The chimera smirked, “What difference does it make how she gets it?”
“Uh, right.” Mr Douglas turned the dials carefully, and nodded at Liam. “Ok, here we go.”
Theo blinked rapidly, stars exploding around his head. He stared up at the tunnel’s ceiling, ringing in his ears as the others cried out. This isn’t how it starts. Where’s the metal gone? Looking at his burnt hand, the chimera tried to remember what had happened. He scrambled onto his feet and glanced up the passageway, seeing Liam and Hayden distracted by the still sparking wire. Mr Douglas was twiddling the dials this way and that, but he didn’t have much time until they looked for him. Now’s our chance, run! She’ll never catch us if she can’t find us! Theo turned and sprinted down the tunnel, his rubber soles making no noise.
He heard Liam shout behind him, but kept going, turning a corner rapidly, breathing fresh air for the first time. Real? Maybe, a door, look! If it opens- Theo burst through the door into a wet, dripping tunnel, this one wider than the last. Yes! That hasn’t happened before! But, still run, we need… He paused, thoughts tumbling over and over in his mind. Theo sniffed the air carefully, then resumed running, hearing the werewolves close behind him. Natural light was ahead of him; twilight turning into night time. Theo exited the storm drain and found himself in a part of Beacon Hills he didn’t recognize.
“Theo! Get back here!” Liam shouted as he saw the chimera climb the sides of the concrete embankment, scrambling forwards and hoisting himself over the top.
“Just use the sword!” Hayden gestured at him, but her boyfriend shook his head.
“He knows about the Ghost Riders, he still might have information we could use.”
Theo reached the top and felt a smile tug at his lips as the edges of the Preserve were just in front of him. This, I remember, running, freedom, run… The chimera began pulling his clothes off, dumping them as he ran across the asphalt parking lot and leapt into the deep loam of the forest floor, landing on four paws.
Liam and Hayden slowed to a stop as they came to the Preserve, frowning at his discarded clothing. She gathered the pieces, searching for anything that might help them, as Liam crept forward, frowning at the tracks. “Ok, this is weird. There’s human footprints and then nothing. Except over here,” He pointed towards a tree. “There’s paw prints. Could be coyote, or wolf, maybe, hard to say. Can he, can he fully shift?”
“I don’t know, no one ever talks about him.” Hayden shrugged, rifling through his jacket. “There’s nothing in here; his wallet, phone; but that’s dead, some-” She withdrew her hand suddenly, groaning. “Ah! Damn it!”
“What? What is it?”
“He has mountain ash in his pockets!” Hayden dropped the jacket, kicking it into the bushes. She glared at Liam. “He’s gone. Not only have we released Theo Raeken, but we’ve managed to lose him.”
“Yeah, but you saw the way he was acting, whatever Theo was before, he’s not the same.” Liam shook his head. “Do you think we should look for him though? Scott’s gonna be mad either way, but I figure if we at least have control of Theo, he won’t be so-”
“Scott doesn’t know?”
They turned quickly, but the direction of the voice was impossible to discern. “That’s right, Theo. He doesn’t.” Liam gestured at Hayden to stay still. “Look, I don’t know what happened to you, but you have to know that your sister isn’t here. And we’re not…” He winced, continuing on. “We’re not after your heart.”
“Easy to say,” Came the muttered reply. “So, if Scott doesn’t know about this, I guess you’ve done it alone, didn’t even tell him?”
“Him?” Hayden repeated. “Scott, you mean?”
“No, not Scott.” Theo stood up, looking at them suspiciously over a nearby bush. “Him.”
The chimera hesitated, avoiding their inquisitive stares. Finally, he sighed and whispered his name. “Stiles.”
“You remember Stiles?” Hayden said, moving closer to the bush.
Theo frowned at them, expecting a trap. “Why wouldn’t I? He’s…I…We…” He shook his head, backing away from her, before stopping suddenly, a moment of clarity in his deranged state. “Where is he?”
“Gone?” Theo echoed, blinking. He shook his head again, “No. I don’t believe you. He’s…he can’t be. He’s the glue that holds everything together, without him, you’re all just…”
“Just what?” Liam asked, curious. But Theo didn’t answer, moving deeper into the forest. The werewolves followed him closely, catching sight of his dirt streaked naked body as he darted from tree to tree. “You have his underwear, right?” He muttered, glancing at Hayden, relieved when she nodded. “Let’s keep on him then.” They followed the seemingly random direction Theo took through the forest, walking rapidly one way, before pausing and then turning back. Liam averted his eyes every time the chimera walked towards them, feeling his cheeks burn. He frowned at Hayden as she looked obviously at it. “What are you doing?” Liam hissed at her as Theo walked right between them, as though oblivious to their presence.
“Nothing.” The werewolf replied innocently as her eyes raked across Theo’s smooth naval.
“You’re looking right at his…you know!”
“Are you feeling self-conscious? I think you’re bigger actually.” She smirked at him, turning to find that Theo had vanished. “Damn it, where did he go?”
Liam cursed under his breath and ran forward, searching the dark undergrowth. He gestured for Hayden to come closer, hearing the sound of fast flowing water near them. The werewolves crept forward, stopping short at the top of a high waterfall. “Shit!” Liam exclaimed, lurching backwards. He felt Hayden looking at him. “No, no way. He couldn’t have jumped that.”
“He’d survive it.” She peered over the edge. “We would.”
“Ok, let’s get down there.” Liam glanced at her. “Using the path, not jumping.”
Theo surfaced behind the waterfall, the erosion having worn away the rear wall of the plunge pool. The water was icy cold and he felt the chill hit him hard, breath pulled from his lungs. The chimera swam quickly backwards, pushing himself back into the spray of the waterfall for a few minutes. He ignored the chill spreading across his limbs, treading water instead, his mind retreating from its previously feverish state. Think I’m crazy, don’t they? Well, maybe I am, the longer this goes on, the more realistic it feels. But that was what, no, is what Tara created. Sure, a hallway in the hospital, but always the same, never different. Maybe this is reality? But without him…No, I have to make sure, I have to find him, make him understand, maybe then… Theo let the thoughts trail off, hearing the two werewolves talking nearby, on the bank closest to him. The chimera grabbed hold of a smooth stone jutting out from the bank, stopping himself from being sucked away. After a few minutes, he heard them leave, snapping branches and arguing about something. He didn’t care what it was, instead making his way towards the opposite bank, dragging his shivering body out of the water.
Theo stayed on all fours, letting the transformation twist his body again, black fur appearing before his eyes, matted and wet as his limbs stretched into legs and paws. He shook his head, clearing his eyes of the after-effects. The wolf started to run through the forest, letting his nose guide him back to all the old familiar places; first to the school, but Stiles’ scent was missing and he whined softly, sniffing the ground where he remembered Stiles always used to park. But even the traces of the blue Jeep had been expunged, and Theo turned away, following disused paths through backyards and plots of wasteland until he reached his old house.
Theo frowned, seeing another car in the driveway, different scents other than his and those fools who had pretended to be his parents. He sat on his haunches, watching as the side door opened, light spilling out. The wolf cocked his head, watching a dark-haired girl come outside. An agent of evil…be prepared! She walked a little way towards him, and Theo let his hackles rise, growling in the darkness under the rose bush. The girl stopped moving, staring at him, his eyes glowing yellow. She screamed and ran back into the house. Theo blinked and stood up, padding stealthily out of the driveway. Maybe I never lived here, because none of this is real, but I can’t trust them, any of them, they’re all after the heart, my heart, it’s mine now. But…he could still be here. The wolf crossed the street, squeezing through a gap in the fence that he remembered from before. Theo stopped moving, looking back at the fence. How did she know about that? How does she know about any of it? Tara, no! Don’t say her name! But she was dead, in the other place when I lived here, when I found him, perfect, soul-burning…Stiles. It doesn’t make any sense. It, it…no! He whined softly, shaking his head and kept moving, pushing the thoughts to the back of his mind.
Theo arrived at Stiles’ house, confusion washing over him as he sniffed around the Sheriff’s cruiser. Stiles’ scent was there, but somehow it wasn’t, as though he was only able to smell it after realizing it should be there. Theo groaned internally, a sick feeling in his stomach, it all felt wrong, twisted. But if this is reality, and Liam and Hayden were telling the truth, if she…Tara…careful! If she isn’t here, she’s below, then the Wild Hunt is in Beacon Hills. Maybe. It could another trick. The wolf crept over to the tree that grew beside Stiles’ window, looking up at the sturdy branches. “Ah!” Theo gasped as he reverted back to his human form, leaping up to grab hold of the trunk, pulling his body upwards. He frowned as he sat outside Stiles’ bedroom. Or rather, where his bedroom was meant to be. There was a boarded-up window, the scent of fresh paint and cut wood. He blinked as memories of climbing in the window to see Stiles resurfaced suddenly; the scent of happiness on the air. But that was before, before he knew the truth, before… The chimera reached out a finger to brush against the wood. “Recent.” Theo muttered to himself, “Trying to pretend he was never here? No, the Sheriff wouldn’t do that, he loves his son. So, it must be… They ride the lightning.” The chimera finished absently, dropping to the ground. “Scott lives nearby, if the Ghost Riders took him, they’ll want him back. But I need him too, need to find him, explain, apologize.” Theo nodded to himself and turned back into his wolf form.
Scott’s car pulled into the driveway, bright lights illuminating the driveway. Theo watched as the Alpha, Lydia, and Malia got out, heading towards the house. The wolf felt the fur bristle across his body as Malia stopped in the middle of the lawn, her eyes sweeping the garden.
“What is it?” Scott called out, his key in the door. “Malia?”
“Nothing.” She shook her head. “I just thought I smelled something familiar. But it’s impossible.”
Theo bowed his head in relief as they went inside. When he looked back up, the wolf had transformed back into his human form. The grass was wet under his feet, but Theo ignored it, walking towards the front door. He paused, glancing to one side, thoughts whipping across his mind like a hurricane. If this is a trick…But what if they’ve been telling the truth? Does it matter? Stiles isn’t here, but then I wasn’t here either and they only came for… Theo shook his head, trying to clear his thoughts of the incessant chatter. He swallowed and knocked on the door, the wood feeling real against his knuckles in a way that it hadn’t at Stiles’ house. The chimera stared at his hand, not noticing the door had been opened until there was an audible gasp in front of him. “Huh?” Theo looked up, finding himself face to face with Scott.
“Err…Theo?” Scott gulped, his eyes unable to resist trailing down the chimera’s naked body. He managed to pull his eyes up before Theo noticed him. “What…Who…uh.”
“Scott!” Liam barrelled out of the sitting room, grabbing his Alpha’s arm. “I swear, I was literally about to tell you! I just, I didn’t expect him to show up here…and still naked, oh crap.”
“What? What’s he even doing here?!” Scott glared at his Beta.
“Where is he?” Theo broke in, looking at them, expectantly as the rest of the pack gathered around the door. He frowned, suspicious of their stares and muffled gasps. “How did you let him get taken?”