Scott leaves at the beginning of summer.
He’s the last of them to go, leaving Liam behind with the weight of a responsibility he isn’t ready for yet, despite the months of preparation Scott insisted on. There are fissures, Liam thinks, in the town, and deeper cracks in the people that are left to protect it.
“I can’t do this,” he tells Scott, his face buried in Scott’s shoulder. “Not without you.”
A year ago, he didn’t know who Scott McCall was. Today, Liam’s overwhelmed by the imminent loss of the one person who’s always believed in him, despite their rocky start. He can’t think of anyone better suited to protect Beacon Hills than Scott, but keeping him chained here would make him unhappy. Liam’s got selfish impulses, sometimes, but right now, those desperate pleas are dormant and quiet.
He wants Scott to be happy. He wants him to stay, and Liam knows better than he did a year ago; he can’t have it both ways.
“I’m going to miss you,” he confesses, and then comes the bigger truth. “I - I wanted to say thank you,” Liam breathes, “For everything you’ve done for me.”
“Liam,” Scott laughs, soft and affectionate. “You don’t have to thank me. You’re going to do alright,” he promises, “I wouldn’t have put you in charge if I didn’t believe in you.”
Liam believes him, but it doesn’t make saying goodbye any easier. He’s standing in the driveway with Melissa when Scott’s dad comes to pick him up, and judging by her glassy eyes, she’s not doing any better at hiding her tears than Liam is, sniffling into his sleeve as the car pulls out and drives off, Scott waving at them through the window until he rounds the corner, disappearing from sight.
It doesn’t feel real, him being gone, and he thinks Melissa needs a hug about as much as he does, which leaves them clinging to each other in the driveway, her smile wavering a bit when she draws back. “Me and you, kid,” she sighs, arm around his shoulders as she leads him inside, “We’re gonna get through this, somehow.”
He manages to smile back, but he keeps turning to glance at the deserted road, aching, wondering where to go from here.
For the first time in months, Liam breathes a sigh of relief when he wakes up and realizes that maybe this is the year things are finally going his way, without a new enemy at the door every couple of weeks. He lies in bed, wondering if it’d come off as too clingy to text Scott less than two days after he left, and decides to do it, anyway.
nobody’s dead yet!
The reply is characteristically supportive, and Liam laughs out loud.
great job liam !!! im settled in, going 4 coffee w/ roommate who smells like cheese...ttyl (:
He clutches the phone to his chest, a stupid smile stretching his mouth. Maybe this will be his year, after all.
“It’s weird,” Corey agrees, “Everything going back to normal, except it hasn’t. Everyone’s pretending.”
Liam knows exactly how that feels. The guy who bags the groceries at the store watched Liam get kicked in the stomach and punched in the face; last week, he acted as if it never happened, avoiding Liam’s eyes. It’s the weirdest thing, trying to get back to how things should be, still on the fringes of the town, the outsiders who don’t belong.
Mason makes a soft noise, swatting at a fly. “It’s weird,” he adds, “Feels like limbo, you know? Waiting for the other shoe to drop.”
Scott leaving doesn’t mean that the three of them are alone. Liam never brings it up, but he knows that Chris has all but moved into the McCall house, and Deaton’s never further than a phone call away. The sheriff’s got their backs if they need him, and it feels almost safe, but not quite. Every time things seem to be going their way, something bad comes along to destroy that illusion.
“We got this, man,” Mason says, snapping Liam out of his thoughts. “The three of us, that’s all we need. We’ve got brains, brawn and kickass fighting skills.”
“I’m confused,” Corey admits, “Who’s the one with kickass fighting skills? No offense, Liam,” he adds, and Liam bristles. “But you’re all brute force.”
“Obviously,” Mason laughs, “Liam's the kickass one, but I still say Theo could take him.”
A weird silence descends on them. Liam chokes on a french fry.
He hasn’t seen Theo around, lately, and the way Corey starts shifting nervously tells him Corey isn’t on board with this conversation, either, except Mason’s not letting them ignore their way out of it. “Guys, come on,” he groans, “Nobody likes him, least of all me, but do I seriously have to remind you that we could use him? We’re not alphas, or banshees, or werecoyotes. We don’t have the numbers, anymore, and he’s pretty good in a fight.”
That, Liam can’t deny. “I get it,” he promises, “But I don’t think he wants to help us. He’s finally got his freedom. I don’t see him sticking around to sing songs around the campfire with us.”
“You’re such a loser,” Mason mumbles, then straightens up, his voice authoritative. “It’s a win-win, guys. He can’t make it on his own, and we really can’t afford to turn anyone away, especially when we’re all that’s left.”
“Can we not do this right now?” Corey sighs, looking seconds away from turning himself invisible to escape. “Can we enjoy the summer, the way normal teenagers are supposed to?”
“We’re not normal, anymore,” Mason mutters, and Liam nods, staring down at his hands, his heart beating fast.
Liam misses the times that Scott would hug him, or brush his hair back, letting Liam believe for a small, precious moment that Scott might see him the way Liam saw Scott, but he’s not the naive kid he was a year ago. There’s always going to be something about Scott that makes Liam ache, but it’s not a bad ache, anymore.
Liam thinks about how rivers eventually flow into the sea, disappearing in the great abyss. He thinks about Scott’s warm smiles, and how he’s almost alright without him.
“Boys,” he calls, as Corey promptly snatches the second case out of Mason’s hands and disappears, hidden from view behind the car. “It seems a little late for you to be out here.”
Liam glances around, trying to figure out if anyone’s listening in, then stumbles all over his words when he tries to come up with an excuse while Mason offers the world’s fakest smile, both of them trying to keep their cool. For all that he’s more than qualified to be running around fighting hunters and other supernatural creatures, the sheriff is weirdly uptight about the underage drinking. “We were, uh,” Liam offers, trading panicked glances with Mason, who’s less than helpful, loudly pretending to take a call from his mom. His phone screen is still black. “We were...tracking a lead,” Liam blurts, “On...some stuff. That’s been happening.”
“Stuff,” the sheriff repeats, unamused. “You’re worse than Stiles, you know that? Can’t tell a lie to save your life. You too, Mason,” he calls out, and Mason meekly tells the still-locked phone that he has to go.
Liam wonders how Scott survived Beacon Hills for so long. Somehow, it’s more daunting to face down the sheriff’s disapproving frown than to stare down a Berserker, and Liam is intimately familiar with how scary those things are. “Please don’t arrest us,” Liam says, and Mason smacks him, eyes wide.
“We haven’t done anything illegal,” he hisses, expression landing between please stop talking and oh god we’re screwed we’re all going to jail, “Stop giving him ammunition!”
“Right, yeah,” Liam adds, trying to look innocent. He doesn’t think it works; the sheriff keeps on frowning, but there’s almost a reluctant spark of amusement in his eyes as he looks at them shuffling in place, anxious and jittery. “We totally haven’t done anything illegal.”
“Tonight, at least,” Mason adds, which doesn’t seem helpful. “Or, uh, ever. Totally.”
“I really don’t have time for this,” the sheriff sighs, and he turns to go, waving a hand. “Tell Corey I said hi. Don’t drink and drive.”
Gaping, Liam tries to read the man’s expression. He points a finger at them, stern and oddly paternal, all at once. “You’re getting off easy, just this once,” he promises, and Liam breathes an audible sigh of relief once his car peels out of the parking lot.
Corey materializes, shaking so hard the bottles in his arms are clinking up against each other. “Oh my god,” he says, caught between laughter and disbelief, “Did we break the law and get away with it?”
“Just this once, apparently,” Liam says, and before he knows it, the three of them are standing there in a loose half-circle, laughing so hard it echoes.
Liam isn’t jealous, and he isn’t bitter, but sometimes, he’s sad. Mason can tell.
“Hey, so,” he says, because he always could read Liam too well, knowing when to pitch in with a distraction. “Have you thought about it?”
Mason asks him approximately ten questions a day, if it’s a slow one. Liam can’t keep up with whatever it is he’s supposed to be answering.
Corey’s elbow drives into Mason’s stomach, a little too violently to be gentle. “Nothing,” he tells Liam, without much conviction, “It’s not important.”
“It kind of seems important,” Liam points out, thanking the waitress who brings them their pizza and drinks. “Do you need a minute?” he asks Mason, taking note of his wheezing.
“I’m good,” he groans, “And it is important, Corey. Traitor.”
“...am I supposed to guess?”
Mason looks wounded, but Liam’s more concerned with the fact that his expression flies straight to apprehension after he’s done licking his wounds. “So,” he says, intently studying his slice of pepperoni, “I told Theo we wanted to meet him on Saturday. That’s a thing that’s happening.”
Liam’s thoughts aren’t racing, but they aren’t idling, either. He looks between Mason and Corey, wondering why the two of them look so guilty, but all he manages to ask is “What for? Where did you even see him, anyway? I thought he left.”
“I bumped into him at the store,” Mason informs him. “And, Liam, come on. We could use him, and he needs us. I said we could talk about helping each other out.”
“It’s a necessary evil,” Corey mutters, then frowns. “A necessary pain in the ass. A necessary, smug inconvenience.”
“He wasn’t looking all that smug,” Mason adds, “And we can handle smug if it means not being outnumbered and ending up dead.”
“Saturday, then?” Liam asks, his voice a little thin. “Where?”
It’s not that he doesn’t want Theo around, or that he hasn’t thought about him, but returning to normalcy meant returning to a world without Theo in it, and so far, it’s not working out the way he wants it to. Theo hanging around means that Liam will have a constant reminder of what he did to Scott after letting Theo get inside his head.
Maybe they could’ve been friends in another life, but not this one, except Mason is right. Liam is going to have to play nice.
“Besides,” Corey adds, frowning almost accusingly at Liam, and he realizes that he’s lost track of the conversation. “He actually likes you. Maybe it won’t be so bad.”
“Yeah,” Liam mumbles, “And maybe hell will freeze over,” and it’s unnecessarily harsh, the tone of his voice, but he can’t help it. The longer he goes without being around Theo, the easier it is to let Theo get under his skin.
It’s frustrating, not knowing who he’s trying to convince: them, or himself.
Liam would tell them if he could. He’d tell them everything, but a stubborn part of him insists that the two of them are safer, not knowing.
“How’s summer so far?” his mom asks, first, disarming and genuinely curious. “We don’t talk as much, you know. I have no idea what’s going on with you.”
He picks at his potatoes, shrugging listlessly, but then he feels a stab of guilt for being so callous and looks up to mirror his mom’s tentative smile. “It’s alright,” Liam promises. “Mostly, me and the guys hang out. I think I found a part time job, though.”
“That’s great,” his dad says, a little too enthusiastically. “And otherwise? You’re feeling alright?”
“I’m not depressed,” Liam tells him, laughing a little. “You guys worry too much. Things have changed, is all. It’s different, now.”
The summer heat is bad enough, but the cramped back of the truck is suffocating, windows whited out with fog. Liam’s mouth can’t find a place to settle, trailing up and down Theo’s tense neck, teeth finding vulnerable places to leave his mark. The bruises never last, Liam thinks, with a strange sense of melancholy.
The first time he fucks Theo, it’s in the back of his truck. His hands are clenching, scrambling for purchase on the seats, thumping hard against the door as Liam drives him up against it, his head banging against the roof with each thrust, and Theo’s making these noises that Liam has never heard before. They spill out of his mouth, lovely and obscene.
“Fuck, Liam,” Theo gasps, a litany of the same name said over and over, each time more desperate than the last. He’s slick with sweat. Their bodies stick together in all the wrong places, but Liam can’t bring himself to shift and adjust; can’t bring himself to leave the heat of Theo’s body for one second. “Ah-”
Theo’s legs are spread wide apart and trembling. Liam’s pushing one knee back against Theo’s heaving chest, and he hisses “Jesus, I’m not that flexible,” but he gives when Liam pushes hard enough, and he’s rewarded with a moan that goes straight to his stomach, to the brewing pleasure that’s building in intensity. “Never mind.”
“You never shut up, do you?” Liam groans, and he’s still wearing his shirt, stupid name-tag from the pet shop getting caught between his shoulder and armpit, pushing the cold edges of steel right into his skin.
“Maybe you’re not doing this right,” Theo laughs, because no matter what, he always seems to be able to laugh. Liam would envy him, if he didn’t know it was an act. He doesn’t want the act, right now; he wants the ugly, underneath.
Liam can’t think of anything to say to that. He moves harder, but there’s not much leverage, not much room to move, but Theo’s still making these sounds, panting against Liam’s mouth when he bends down for a kiss. It’s not their first, and Liam wonders if it could be the last. Theo shuts himself off. He avoids Liam, sometimes, when he thinks he’s shown weakness.
The first time Liam fucks Theo, he blurts “I think I'm in love with you,” and Theo stiffens beneath him, for a second, before his body melts back into pliancy.
He doesn’t mention it, after. He doesn’t say anything at all, actually, until Liam’s halfway across the parking lot, heading back inside for his shift.
“Liam,” Theo calls, looking anywhere but at him, “Don’t ever say that again.”
There’s nothing to be upset about, Liam reminds himself. He knows what Theo is and what he isn’t. Hope’s got no place in their arrangement.
“Ever heard of heat of the moment?” Liam half-shouts back, but Theo’s long gone, and Liam’s mutter of it’s not like I actually meant it goes unheard.
“What is it?”
He wants to ask Scott about forgiveness, about redemption. He wants to ask Scott a lot of things, but the one question that makes it out of his mouth intact feels both silly and too big to be voiced. “Do you trust me?”
Scott’s voice is both very gentle and surprised, soothing Liam’s fears. “Of course I do,” he promises, “With my life. But that’s not what you’re really asking me, is it?”
Liam swallows, hard. Last night, Theo got on his knees for him, and Liam discovered that he had the softest skin right below his ear. He spent what felt like a lifetime exploring all that bare skin.
“...do you trust me with Theo?”
Scott doesn’t explode at him in a rant, the way Stiles would. He takes a deep breath and sighs, laughing a little on the other end of the line. “I do,” he eventually says. “I wish I could trust him with you, too, but I can’t. At least not yet.”
I think I’m in love with you. He can’t tell Scott that part. Liam isn’t sure he even meant it, in the first place.
Theo doesn’t know he didn’t mean it, and Liam’s getting tired of screwing things up. “I get it,” he tells Scott. “He’s...different. I don’t think he has anyone.”
There’s a knowing thing in Scott’s voice when he says “He’s lucky he has you,” and when their goodbyes are said a few minutes later, Liam flips restlessly through an old comic book, thinking about everything that he said to Scott and everything he hasn’t told Theo.
He knows how to make Liam’s body feel good. He knows how to make Liam see stars, but he knows Theo looks at him and sees somebody convenient. With Liam, Theo doesn’t have to worry about his strength - Liam has to do all the worrying, because after an embarrassing attempt at fooling around on Liam’s desk, Theo was left staring at the hole Liam punched straight through the wood.
Theo’s a skilled fighter, but Liam’s stronger. He’s never seen anyone recoil from him as fast as Theo did, telling him to slow down.
He doesn’t have to keep secrets around Liam, is the other thing. Theo can lose control and it doesn’t matter. A regular human would go running if Theo’s claws came out, but Liam’s used to it, by now, and almost doesn’t think twice about it. It’s left him with a few ruined shirts and scratches Corey stares knowingly at when the marks go all the way up to his neck.
Liam feels like he’s doing everything wrong, things happening backwards. Theo saw him naked before he ever kissed Liam, and the first time Theo let Liam fuck him, it was quick and dirty, an impulse decision. He’s never put too much thought into first times, but it would’ve been nicer if Theo had actually looked him in the eyes.
Thinking about it is giving him a headache. He rolls over onto his stomach, sighing, and decides to do this the only way he can: day by day.
Liam’s brain is barely back online. He stares blankly at Theo, buttoning up his jeans, hair a flattened mess from Liam’s insistent hands. “Huh?” he asks, knees still weak from Theo climbing in his lap and riding him relentlessly, but the moment that his mind keeps replaying isn’t Theo’s abs clenching, or his thighs trembling, or the restless, moaning curve of his mouth.
He thinks about Theo dragging Liam’s hands up his chest, wordlessly asking to be touched, and shudders. “Can I have a little more context, maybe?”
“When we’re fucking,” Theo clarifies, spitting the word out like maybe he’s hoping it’ll rattle Liam, somehow. “Who do you think about?”
“You?” Liam says, because what other answer is there? “Who else would I be thinking about? Your face is sort of right there, you know.”
Theo’s smirk is wicked and not at all genuine. Slowly, bit by bit, Liam’s learning to tell the difference. “Not Scott?” he grins. “Or maybe he’s the one fucking you. Am I getting warmer?”
Liam’s mouth can’t seem to move. He’s speechless. Of all the dirty things Theo’s ever said to him, this is the one that makes Liam flush hot and stammer, stumbling over his words when they get stuck between his teeth. “Of course not,” he hisses, “That’s - who does that? Why would I think of anyone else?”
“Because you have the hots for Scott. It’s painfully obvious.”
Any other day, Liam would come at Theo twice as hard as Theo’s coming at him, but he can’t bring himself to taunt back and start a fight. He feels miserable, crashing down from the high, because nothing good ever lasts with Theo, does it? He’s always looking for that one last tender place to sink his teeth in.
“Had,” Liam mutters, smoothing his shirt down, “As in past tense.”
Even that is saying too much, he realizes, and gives Theo his back. He hears the barely-there stutter of Theo’s breath, but it’s enough to tell him he’s managed to surprise Theo, for once, except he can’t take any joy in the little victory when Theo’s dragging reluctant, uncomfortable truths out of him.
This whole time that Theo’s been using him as a distraction, he’s been thinking Liam’s using him as a replacement. “You’re really an asshole,” Liam tells him, voice wavering the tiniest bit. “I don’t get why I keep trying.”
“Yeah,” Theo agrees, sitting there on the thin mattress, all the mockery falling from his voice. “Neither do I.”
“I’m never going to understand you,” Liam scowls, standing in the doorway, because someone has to leave first. There’s no other version of this story. “You’ll never let me.”
Theo’s stricken face is going to destroy him. Liam goes before he gets the chance. He washes Theo’s scent off of him in the shower at home, and falls into a broken, dreamless sleep.
It takes a while to find the right moment, but Mason’s putting the controller down and digging into his noodles, so Liam stalls for time until he reluctantly says “Have you ever told Corey you love him?” and watches as Mason’s eyebrows migrate almost all the way into his hairline.
“It’s a little too soon,” Mason tells him, shrugging. “There’s a right time and a wrong time for that. It’s never been the right time, so far.”
Liam hangs his head, sighing, until Mason says “What’s with the sudden interest in my love life, dude? You still pining?”
“Over Hayden? No,” Liam assures, leaning back to rest against the bed, hands folded in his lap. “I’m curious, is all.”
Mason doesn’t believe him. He makes a vaguely condescending sound, but right when Liam thinks he’s letting it go, Mason says “This is about Theo, isn’t it?” and Liam feels like all his defenses have been torn down all at once.
“I’m not blind,” Mason tells him, an edge to his voice that Liam doesn’t recognize. “And I’m not stupid, but I am tired of you keeping secrets. You thought I wouldn’t notice?”
Liam really can’t argue. He knows he put Mason through a lot of crap, not letting him in on all the secrets that were choking him with their weight, but Liam’s been trying to tell Mason for weeks. “I was going to tell you,” he mutters, “It’s never been the right time, so far.”
That, at least, makes Mason smile, faintly apologetic. “Yeah,” he agrees quietly. “I guess it’s complicated, huh?”
“That’s the understatement of the century.”
He thinks about Corey and Mason, hand in hand, and how something brittle inside of him is longing for a different version of that intimacy.
“We’re sleeping together,” Liam makes himself say, “Or, we were. For a while. And then…we weren't, anymore.”
Mason’s still recovering from the sleeping together part, but he’s making a real effort at not spluttering. “Oh. Cool?” he tries, then amends “Not the last part. Unless the sex was really bad?”
He sounds a little hopeful, and Liam laughs out loud, because Mason keeps succeeding in making him feel like things are going to be alright; like it isn’t as serious and earth-shattering as Liam’s built it up to be. “No, it was good,” he says, flushing. “Really, really good, but I said something stupid, and then he said something worse.”
“The wrong name?” Mason guesses, and Liam frowns at him, because that’s actually kind of devastating to think of - except Theo was thinking it, too, and Liam doesn’t understand why.
“You’re killing me, man,” Mason groans, “Spit it out, already. I can’t help you drown your sorrows unless I know what they are.”
It takes a lot of effort to say it out loud, harder than the first time, because unlike Theo, Mason isn’t going to run away from this conversation. He’ll try to help, and Liam has to remind himself that that’s a good thing. “I told him I loved him. Kind of.”
He’s already bracing himself for a lecture, but he isn’t prepared for Mason to let out this long, deep sigh, sounding almost relieved. When Liam keeps staring, eyes anxiously flitting between Mason’s face and the open window, Mason says “I kind of figured,” and leaves it at that.
It takes a while for Liam to find his voice, and when he does, it squeaks out of him on an incredulous hiss. “You knew?” he asks, wondering which is worse; Mason knowing Liam knows what Theo’s mouth tastes like, or Mason knowing that Liam’s in way over his head.
He does feel a little guilty when Mason shrugs, not quite looking at him. “I mean,” he starts, “You’re not as subtle as you think you are, dude. When the truck’s a rockin…”
“Oh, god,” Liam groans, burying his head in his hands, “You saw?”
“No, ew,” Mason protests, genuinely offended, “But that thing reeks. Corey told me.”
This is why Liam hates keeping secrets. They always end up coming back to bite him in the ass.
“We don’t have to talk about it,” Mason promises, “But please stop trying to lie to us, Liam. We’re your friends, you know? We got your back.”
“I got yours, too,” Liam promises, managing to smile.
He misses Theo, is the uncomfortable truth.
Liam sees the truck parked around Beacon Hills, now and then, but can’t make himself get close enough to talk to Theo. After how the two of them left things, he doesn’t think Theo’s interested in talking, anyway, until a Monday afternoon at the grocery store, coming face to face with Theo in the cereal aisle.
Theo looks up from the box in his hands, and if Liam’s expecting some kind of reconciliation, he’s not getting it. “Hi,” he tries, watching as Theo’s expression stays eerily calm, briefly wondering why Theo smells like sawdust. “...how have you been?”
Maybe Theo’s a little less pissed off than Liam thought he was, because he’s strangely on board with making small talk. “Fine,” Theo mutters, “You?”
“Fine,” Liam echoes, “Totally fine,” he adds, clutching his box of Lucky Charms to his chest like a protective barrier between him and Theo. “Great, actually. Super.”
“Super,” Theo repeats, shoving his hands into his pockets. “You’re a bad liar.”
“All of us can’t be experts.”
It’s a little cruel, but Theo’s never been above low blows, either. He glares at Liam, shoving his way past him, muttering “I really don’t need this right now,” and when he doesn’t stop as Liam calls his name, he rushes to follow Theo into the parking lot, managing to snag his sleeve and stop him in his tracks.
“What?” Theo asks, “What the hell do you want, now?”
“A chance to fix things,” Liam blurts without meaning to. Theo’s always made fun of him for trying so hard, but Liam’s not letting this go. “Why do you keep running? I didn’t mean it, you asshole. You don’t have to avoid me forever.”
“You’re the one that left!” Theo snarls, yanking free of Liam’s grip. “I’m not always the bad guy, you know. Look in the mirror, sometimes.”
“I know!” Liam hisses, “Don’t you think I don’t know that? At least I’m trying,” he says, “You could at least talk to me.”
“About what?” Theo asks, “Look, Liam, it was fun while it lasted, but-”
Theo’s words are what got Liam into his bed. He doesn’t have time for them, now, and this is the part of the sad story where Liam pushes Theo flush against the wall, every part of his body rubbing up against the bricks, Liam’s mouth covering Theo’s in a harsh, brutal kiss.
He doesn’t want it to be brutal and messy, but Theo’s never going to allow Liam to be gentle. He’s tried, before, and Theo got scared and ran. “Stop,” Theo’s groaning, contradicting himself with the hand that slips up beneath Liam’s shirt. “This is a bad idea.”
“It’s been a bad idea from the start,” Liam points out, but he backs off. Even if Theo doesn’t mean it, he said the words. “Are you really telling me it’s over?”
Theo’s nod is firm. “We want different things,” he ends up saying, as if that makes it any better. “I’ll see you around.”
He’s happy to play stand-in for Scott while he’s gone, and while the two of them are eating popcorn on the couch to a documentary on the Discovery Channel, Melissa sighs deeply and says “You’re the last of my boys left,” with a wry little smile. “How’re you doing, with the whole alpha thing? Being in charge isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be.”
“It’s not that bad,” Liam tells her, cheeks warm. It’s still overwhelming, being forgiven and still cared for. “Um, we thought maybe there was a new werewolf in town, but it was just a stray dog? It’s been quiet,” he mumbles, “It’s making me nervous."
“Tell me about it,” Melissa groans. “You know you can always ask Chris for help, right? Me too,” she adds, “I’m getting pretty handy with those cattle prods.”
Liam likes Melissa; likes that she’s blunt and compassionate and badass, all at once, but imagining her and Chris Argent together is a little like imagining his own parents having sex. It makes him blush and squirm uncomfortably.
“I know,” he promises her, “There’s really nothing happening, though. Nobody’s bothering us. It’s almost a normal summer,” Liam sighs, burrowing morosely into the blanket he and Melissa are sharing.
“Almost?” she asks, the same knowing tone to her voice that Scott has. “Is something going on? I’m a mom, don’t think I won’t hesitate to embarrass it out of you, Liam.”
Telling Mason about Theo was embarrassing, but nowhere near as bad as telling Melissa. She’s never going to forgive Theo, and she shouldn’t, but Liam’s cold with anxiety at the thought of confessing and seeing her disappointment and betrayal. “You probably don’t want to know,” he starts, evading the subject. “It’s better that you don’t.”
She lets him have his silence for a minute, and Liam’s beyond grateful for the gentle squeeze to his shoulder. She’s always been kind to him. “I get it,” Melissa says, “But if you ever need to talk, let me know.”
“I will,” he promises, and gets the hell out of there when Chris arrives at the door - he doesn’t stick around to see them kissing, but maybe it’s cool, he thinks to himself, that at least someone’s getting what they want.
“Hand to my heart,” Corey’s snorting, sprawled out on Mason’s bed. Mason’s on the floor; Liam would be concerned over how hard he’s laughing if he wasn’t busy doing it himself, clutching at his stomach. “In overalls and everything!”
Theo Raeken is working as a carpenter. Liam really can’t be blamed for laughing himself sick.
It explains the sawdust smell, he figures, and the fact that Theo was buying groceries. He must have a place to live, now, instead of his truck, and Liam’s both relieved and a little angry; angry, because Theo’s been keeping secrets, but then he remembers that he’s not entitled to Theo’s business, anymore, if he ever was. “Oh, man,” he groans, trying to catch his breath, “Good for him, I guess, but...overalls?”
A part of him wonders why Theo’s bothering to play upstanding citizen. He could leave, Liam knows, and go anywhere, but he’s still in Beacon Hills, putting together a life for himself without anyone pulling his strings. Maybe, Liam muses, Theo prefers a life of quiet mediocrity to one of constant fighting. Liam can’t say he doesn’t understand the appeal.
Thinking back, he’s realizing Theo’s been softening. Not that he’s any friendlier than he used to be, but maybe Theo’s learning what it means to be human, and Liam feels a little bad for pushing so hard. People are allowed to change their minds, he tells himself. It’s important to remember that.
Having Mason and Corey around lets Liam relax. He doesn’t think too hard about the rest of the world around them, and it’s easy to sink back into being a teenage boy, heartache and all.
He can’t do this, he thinks, sinking deeper into despair with each passing moment. Mason’s great at quick thinking, and Corey’s more than useful when it comes to getting around without being seen, but there are hunters in town out for blood and Liam’s not willing to risk anyone else in this fight. Chris tried to talk them down and ended up with a bullet in his lung; what good is Liam going to be, going up against three skilled and bloodthirsty hunters?
Melissa looks tired, but at least she’s bringing good news. “He’s stabilized,” she sighs, “And he should be alright.”
Liam’s throat is tight. “What am I supposed to do?” he asks, because he’s trying to fill the void Scott left behind and failing miserably at it. “I can’t take them all on. Not by myself.”
Someone’s coming down the hall, footsteps heavy. Liam knows he can’t call Scott and worry him, but he desperately wants to hear his voice. He needs someone to tell him he can do this, that it’s going to be alright, and he glances up, startled, when Melissa’s heartbeat jumps, her body stepping in front of Liam - shielding him, he realizes, warm all over.
“You need to leave,” she’s saying, and Liam meets Theo’s eyes slowly.
The tension is palpable, but Theo holds his hands up in a gesture of peace, backing up a step from Melissa. “I will,” he tells her, “But not without Liam.”
“It’s alright,” Liam says, and Melissa turns to look at him, brow creased with worry. “What do you want, Theo?”
“The same thing you do,” he sighs, “Look, we need to get rid of the hunters, and neither one of us can do it alone. Let's go, already.”
Theo came to help. Liam can’t quite wrap his head around it, but he rises slowly, taking Melissa to the side, whispering. “Get Parrish to watch the room,” he tells her, and she nods briskly before walking away. Liam’s not risking Chris being targeted again, and Melissa is on the phone with the sheriff’s station by the time Liam’s walking out of the hospital with Theo.
It’s tense. Liam didn’t expect otherwise, but as the two of them get into Theo’s truck, it’s getting harder and harder to endure the stony silence. Liam stares out of the window, then jolts when Theo comes to a sudden stop at the outskirts of town. He hasn’t been paying attention to where they’re going; he figured Theo would want to come up with a plan, first, instead of charging headfirst at the hunters.
“What’s going on?” he asks Theo, watching those stupidly familiar hands clenched around the steering wheel.
“Before we do this,” Theo mutters, “I wanted to talk.”
Liam’s heart doesn’t start beating faster, but it’s a close call. Sitting in the passenger seat reminds him of all the times Theo dragged him into the back of the truck, his mouth dry and hot against Liam’s own. All the memories hit him at once, and it’s hard not to blush, thinking of how much he misses having Theo close enough to kiss.
He can’t read Theo’s expression. His eyes are dark, mouth pursed, and there are shadows sculpting his face into something ageless and soft, begging Liam to reach out and touch, but his hands stay in his lap, twitching.
It’s weird, missing someone you were never with in the first place, but Liam can’t help but feel that there was more between them than the sex. Wishful thinking, maybe.
Theo isn’t facing him, and he’s speaking quietly, like a part of him doesn’t actually want Liam to hear what he has to say. It’s oddly vulnerable, the way the words are softly falling out of Theo’s mouth.
“I know you didn’t mean it,” Theo starts, voice growing more and more uncomfortable by the second, “I didn’t mean to freak out, for what it’s worth. Look, I know I said we weren’t on the same page-”
Oh, god. Liam’s holding his breath, now, in a weird mix of anticipation and terror.
“-and maybe we weren’t,” Theo goes on, still refusing to turn and face Liam, “But it wasn’t awful, what we had. I guess I’m sorry,” he finally says, “For being a dick. For pushing and pulling. Can we just...get back to normal, already? We don’t have to talk about it.”
Liam has seen Theo naked. He’s seen Theo without his walls up; he’s felt Theo’s heartbeat racing under his hands. How is he supposed to forget about that? How are they supposed to pretend it never happened?
“That’s not what I want,” Liam whispers, because deep down, some part of him knows that he could die tonight, taking on the hunters. Theo could die, too, and it’s easy to be brave when you’ve got nothing left to lose. “Can you honestly tell me that’s what you want?”
“Honestly? No,” Theo says, voice tight with strained laughter, “But I’ve been told I’m a good liar.”
And this is it, Liam realizes, the moment he’s been waiting for, except it doesn’t happen like it does in the movies. Theo’s not looking at him, still, and Liam thinks maybe they’d both be better off if things went back to how they used to be, long before he knew what Theo’s mouth tasted like. There’s no going back from that, he realizes.
“No,” Liam says, “You’re a pretty bad liar, actually,” and Theo’s eyes finally meet his.
It’s clumsy, the way Liam reaches to fist his hands in Theo’s jacket, but Theo’s equally uncoordinated, all but falling into the gap between their seats when he sinks a hand into Liam’s hair and meets him halfway, his mouth covering Liam’s in a shockingly soft kiss that’s almost chaste, if not for the desperate way Theo’s pushing closer, sighing against Liam’s lips.
It's a moment Liam wants to hold on to, but he can't memorize it when his heart is racing, body shifting closer to Theo's, their heartbeats so loud in Liam's ears, drowning out the distant sound of the woods and the animals moving through them.
There isn’t enough time to say everything that needs to be said, Liam thinks, heavy with the realization. “If we both make it out alive,” he whispers, “You don’t get to run away again.”
“You’re kind of cute when you’re trying to threaten me,” Theo laughs, but his eyes are softer than Liam’s ever seen them before. “But I’ll take that deal.”
Liam staggers, getting back in the car, and Theo’s still wiping soot off his face as he settles behind the wheel. Their clothes aren’t going to stop smelling like smoke any time soon, and without Liam having to ask, Theo drives them both over to the clinic. Liam can’t sneak back home in his shredded shirt, so the chance to get cleaned up and changed is welcome.
He keeps sneaking glances at Theo, but Theo’s doing it, too. For the first time in a while, all Liam sees is a teenage boy; no armor and no bluster makes Theo seem smaller than he really is, but it’s a pleasant change. Liam’s been waiting for it, for a while.
The shirt he’s handed smells of Theo, and it doesn’t hang off of Liam, exactly, but it’s a little loose in the shoulders, a little too long for his build, but Theo’s eyes are heated when he looks Liam over. Liam can see him swallow, dry and thick.
“Not right now,” Liam mutters, but he still goes when Theo wraps a hand around his wrist and tugs, pressed up against Theo’s chest. “Really? I smell like death, and you still…?”
“No, you idiot,” Theo mutters, seeking out Liam’s mouth. It’s soft, Theo nudging their lips together. “You’re the one always thinking about sex, apparently.”
“I can’t help it,” Liam huffs, and maybe it’s the worst possible time to be doing it, but that doesn’t stop him from mouthing at Theo’s neck, delighted in the shudder it earns him. “Not when I know how good you are at it.”
“Yeah?” Theo grins, and it’s kind of devastatingly hot, Theo’s thigh pressing slowly between Liam’s knees, up against his cock. He’s hard already, flushing all the way down his chest, sighing against Theo’s cheek. “You missed me, didn’t you?”
“Missed your mouth,” Liam laughs, and Theo makes a face when Liam waggles his eyebrows at him. “C’mon, please?”
“You’re lucky you’re cute,” Theo groans, still smiling, but he jumps about a foot in the air at the sound of someone clearing their throat.
Deaton’s standing there. He doesn’t look amused. “Boys,” he greets them. “Not that I’m not happy to see you getting along, but this is an animal clinic. You might want to consider taking this somewhere else.”
Liam’s speechless. He can’t move, frozen with a building sense of horror, and Theo grabs him by the arm and escorts him past Deaton with a choked “We’re getting right on that,” as they rush outside.
Theo’s trembling. Liam’s worried, for a second, that Theo’s having some kind of breakdown after almost being caught with their pants down, but when they get to the truck, Theo braces his hands on the hood and laughs.
It’s infectious. Even though he’s burning up with humiliation, Liam starts laughing, too, leaning on Theo for support, their bodies crashing into each other. Theo’s arms are shaking, but they come up and around Liam in an embrace that’s hopelessly gentle, his chin resting on Liam’s shoulder, laughter slowly dying down.
“So,” Liam eventually asks, still chuckling, “Your place or mine?”
Scott’s voice over the phone is tired, but bright, and Liam’s having to hush Mason and Corey every few minutes until they roll their eyes at him and go outside, leaving him to finish his break in peace. “You’re coming back, right?” Liam’s asking, a hopeful note to his voice. “Everyone misses you.”
“Yeah, of course,” Scott promises, “But you don’t need me there to hold your hand, Liam. You’re doing great.”
“We’re holding down the fort,” Liam allows, offering a bland smile to a passing customer. “Your mom’s gonna kill you if you don’t visit soon, though.”
Liam’s a little distracted, truth be told. He’s been splitting his summer between hanging out with Corey and Mason and meeting up with Theo, and it’s been pretty hectic, all things considered. He knows he should be grateful; Scott never had time for regular teenage stuff, after all, and Liam’s been pretty lucky these past few months, other than the incident with the hunters.
Scott keeps talking for a while, and when he pauses, Liam decides to bite the bullet and rushes to say “So, hey, Theo’s kind of part of the team,” and pauses, waiting to hear if Scott’s going to freak out on him. “I figured I should tell you.”
He’s got to tell Scott the full truth eventually, but Liam figures it’s alright to start small. It was hard enough to let Mason and Corey in on the fact that he’s sort of dating someone who tried to kill him, once. Scott’s a lot harder to confess to.
His voice is soft, though, when he says “And you trust him, right?”
“I do,” Liam ends up admitting. “He helped. He’s helped a lot, actually. It isn’t as lonely with him around.”
Scott’s endless capacity for compassion never ceases to amaze Liam. “I’m glad,” he says, and he genuinely sounds it. “Tell everyone hi from me, alright? I’ll see you soon. And, Liam,” he adds, “I’m proud of you.”
“Thanks,” Liam whispers, and hanging up doesn’t feel as hard as it used to.
It’s a gentle coaxing, and he’s already keeping enough from her, he thinks, that he owes her at least this. “Yeah,” Liam starts, staring intently down at his cereal, “I’m kind of seeing someone, actually.”
He doesn’t remember feeling this way with Hayden. Theo’s a fractured thing that Liam gets to hold, sometimes, when it suits him, but his smiles are coming easier, his laughter sounding more genuine. Maybe Theo’s happy, too, Liam thinks, biting his lip against a stupid grin.
“Oh, baby,” his mom laughs, clapping her hands together, “I’m so glad. He seems good for you,” she adds, and Liam jumps guiltily at the fact that she knows it’s not a girl, facing her knowing smile. “As long as you’re happy, I am too.”
Liam says “I really am,” and pretends not to be blushing, fidgeting in place. “I’ve never felt this way before,” he sighs, and thinks to himself that it’s a good thing, the fact that despite all the bad blood and all the anger, Theo looked at him, wondered, and decided to stay.
There is no bed. Theo has a mattress on the floor, tucked into the corner, and he looks devastated, sprawled out on his back with Liam’s hands around his wrists, keeping him in place with a bone-crushing grip that he’s realized Theo enjoys.
The windows are open, but it’s still so hot; the sweat is dripping from them both, but Liam can’t think of stopping, not for anything in the world, his forehead pressed against Theo’s breastbone, resting there as he breathes shallowly.
Theo’s wrists are flexing in his grip. He’s panting, open-mouthed and helpless, chest pink with a full-bodied blush, and Liam's mouth waters at the sight.
“Could do this forever,” he sighs, and Theo chokes on a laugh.
“You better not,” he gasps, “You’re fucking killing me.”
Liam has learned how to take his time, by now; how to take it slow and make it last, and it’s all the more worth it for Theo’s trembling thighs, his ragged sighs, the way his mouth opens on wordless pleas. It’s urgent, the way their bodies move together, and Liam braces a hand on the mattress by Theo’s head to fuck him deeper, harder, and he can hear Theo’s teeth clicking together as he shuts his mouth to smother a moan.
His fingers are digging into Theo’s thigh, keeping it bent back towards his chest. It opens Theo up to him, making him vulnerable, but Theo’s clawing marks down Liam’s back the second he lets go of Theo’s wrists, both of them pushing and pulling just enough that it’s not quite a power struggle, but something playful. “Liam,” Theo whines, “God, fucking touch me already.”
“What was that?” Liam asks; when he sits back on his heels, dragging Theo’s hips into his lap, Theo makes this sound that’s raw and ragged, his arms flexing when he grips the sheets between white-knuckled fingers, panting. “Ask me nicely.”
Theo’s glare is a little weakened by the fact that his lashes are fluttering, his mouth wavering as he tries to find his voice. “You fucking dick,” he grunts, and Liam can see him rolling his eyes as he mutters “Fucking touch me, please.”
Liam’s laugh is short and soft, and before he gives Theo what he wants, he leans down to taste the hollow of Theo’s throat, mouthing across his racing pulse. He can’t stay away for long; his fingers trail slowly down Theo’s clenching abdomen, lingering on the inside of one thigh, reveling in the punched-out moan he gets when his hand fists Theo’s cock, slow and rough, the way he likes it best.
“You look good like this,” Liam says, leaning back down to kiss the cluster of freckles on Theo’s shoulder, following the path to his neck, his sharp collarbone.
“Like what?” Theo asks through a groan, thighs tightening around Liam’s waist. He’s moving in desperate little thrusts, meeting Liam halfway, his stomach tightening with each stroke of Liam’s hand.
“You look good,” Liam repeats, half-smiling, mouth pressing a kiss to Theo’s throat, “When you’re mine.”
Theo goes still. His eyes are closed, mouth parted, and Liam wonders if this is the moment it all comes crashing down.
He’s never said it before, not out loud. Theo’s still shuddering, and Liam almost can’t bear to look at him, but with his eyes closed, he almost flinches at the hand that comes up to touch his cheek, slow and careful.
“You pick the worst moments,” Theo whispers, “To tell me these things.”
“Shut up,” Liam mumbles, but he’s laughing, taking Theo’s wrist in his hand, kissing the center of his palm. “You’re not angry?”
“Why would I be?” Theo huffs, his heels digging into Liam’s lower back, urging him to move. “You’re not wrong.”
Liam can’t think of anything to say to that, but Theo’s got this look in his eyes that suggests he doesn’t want to keep talking, either, in case it gets uncomfortable. Liam can work with that, and instead of pinning Theo’s wrist, Liam laces their fingers together, pushing Theo’s hand back against the mattress, gasping when he drives himself deep, thrusting so hard Theo’s back arches.
Later, after the sweat has cooled on their skin, Theo rolls over and rests his chin on Liam’s chest, and it’s almost sweet, the way he’s toying with the sheets by Liam’s hand, pretending he’s not reaching for it. “You have the weirdest hangups,” Liam informs him, but he takes Theo’s hand and brings it to his mouth, brushing his lips across Theo’s knuckles. “Happy, now?”
“Overwhelmingly,” Theo says, his voice dry. His heartbeat doesn’t waver, and Liam laughs out loud.
Liam is never going to be what Scott is, but he thinks that might be alright. He knows what he is and what he isn’t, and for a beta, he’s managing to keep Beacon Hills safe without too many hiccups, chasing off the omegas that roam through town every now and then.
It’s been a quiet few months, he reflects, watching as Corey and Mason splash around in the water. He wouldn’t trade it for the world, but there’s always going to be that uneasy feeling lingering in the back of his head, telling him that sooner or later, the scales will tip and everything will go south. For now, he’s soaking up the sun and half-heartedly pretending not to be staring at Theo, almost grateful for the sunburn that’s masking his blush.
It wasn’t as awkward as he expected it to be, slowly letting Theo into their circle. He’s still an asshole, but all of them have managed to settle into a rhythm without getting into too many fights, and Liam is content to count that as a win. His sunglasses are sliding down his nose with sweat, and he feels a little morose, realizing this is one of the last few summer days he’ll get to spend with all three of them.
Theo’s going to take an apprenticeship across town, and Mason and Corey won't have a lot of the same classes that he does, this year, which means Liam’s been dragging them all into group activities for a week, now, to make the most of it.
Liam’s squinting up at the sun when Theo settles down behind him, his arms around Liam’s chest, chuckling up against Liam’s neck. It makes him shiver. “See?” Theo says, poking Liam in the ribs, “I told you I could play nice.”
Theo’s still a little damp with water, and Liam ends up staring at the droplets trailing from Theo’s jaw to his throat, following that path all the way down to Theo’s navel. Keeping his hands off is brutal, but Liam manages, especially when Mason shouts “Keep it PG, guys!” and tries to find an invisible Corey, splashing at thin air. Theo’s hands are traveling along Liam’s chest, slow and sinful, until Liam shudders harshly and squirms.
“Stop that,” Liam hisses, and Theo smirks at him before backing off, moving to sit beside Liam, getting water all over his towel. “Do you get off on embarrassing me, or something?”
“I get off on a lot of things,” Theo grins, “But alright, point taken. I’ll keep my hands to myself.”
Liam dies a slow death, hearing that, because he’d privately been wondering if he could get away with dragging Theo back to his truck for some privacy, and Theo laughs out loud at the stricken expression on Liam’s face. “Not all day,” Theo promises, “I’ve got plans for you, later.”
He lies back down, and Liam follows suit, scooting close enough that his hip rests comfortably against Theo’s. Distantly, he can hear Mason and Corey swimming and laughing and spluttering, and Liam drifts off, smiling.
“It’s going to ruin everything,” Liam moans, hiding his face in his hands. “Seriously, how do you see that conversation going?”
“You need to relax,” Mason tells him, sounding both exasperated and a little bit like he’s about to start laughing. “I get that he’s your alpha, but this isn’t his business.”
Liam is finally breathing more easily, but then Mason says “Besides, I don’t think you have to tell him. He’s probably gonna be able to smell it,” and Liam makes a noise of despair, blushing hotly.
“This is going to suck,” he sighs, trying to think of an excuse to bail early once he gets to Scott’s place. “Wish me luck.”
“You got this,” Mason assures him, but when Liam’s in the car, he overhears Mason on the phone with Corey, whispering he’s having a meltdown and, honestly, Liam can’t argue with that one.
Theo’s waiting down the block, barely acknowledging Liam as he rips the door to the truck open and slams it shut after getting inside, wide-eyed and red-faced, still processing everything that’s happened tonight.
“Chris says he has guns. Lots of guns,” he relays to Theo, “And that he won’t hesitate to use them if you go Dark Side on us again.”
“And Melissa said to tell you she’s got eyes everywhere.”
“Got it,” Theo chuckles, “So when can I expect Scott to show up and threaten me?”
He’s handling everything a lot better than Liam is. Slowly, Liam mumbles “Scott called you my boyfriend,” and decides that staring down at his shoes is better than looking at Theo when he says it. “I didn’t know what to say."
“Hey. Look at me.”
Liam does, and Theo’s giving him a look that’s both exasperated and amused, his mouth twitching with laughter. “You’re kind of oblivious,” he tells Liam, “If you think I’m not your boyfriend. Seriously, you can’t be that dense,” he goes on, shifting to reach across the space between them, his hand finding Liam’s. “What the hell else would I be?”
“...an insufferable asshole?” Liam tries, but he’s smiling, now, leaning in close. “You’re actually cool with it? You’re not gonna freak out and run?”
“Liam,” Theo says, his mouth so, so close. “I stayed. Don’t tell me you don’t get it.”
“I think I do,” Liam promises, and Theo kisses him right there, out in the open, slow and soft, until Liam forgets that the rest of the world exists at all.