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Running Free

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Liam knelt down, knee sinking into the moss of the forest floor. He traced the paw print in the mud with a finger. The scent was faint, but lingering. It had been two weeks since anyone had heard from Theo. In the aftermath Monroe left he was shrugged off as being able to handle himself while the pack prioritized the stabilization of the town and the remaining hunters that were lurking on the fringes of the area. No one had time to chase after Theo, or even wonder where he’d gone. Except Liam.

Finding anything about the older boy was a challenge—it was like he left not trace or impact on anything after Liam had pulled him up from hell. He assumed Theo was staying with the people he was passing off as his parents, but that had been a dead end. Asking the pack had been a waste of time, too. Either they didn’t know or they didn’t care. Scott had been the only one who remembered seeing Theo’s truck. The alpha had Liam scouting the Primal pack’s former territory when he found the tire tracks going into the woods. After finishing his recon Liam convinced Scott to let him track Theo into the forest.

He’s my responsibility.

Scott didn’t trust Theo, but his self-sacrificing attitude towards the beta softened the edges of his suspicion, and when he heard about Theo taking Gabe’s pain the majority of his anger toward Theo disappeared. Enough so that he felt comfortable letting Liam run off on his own to hunt him down.

The forest around Beacon Hills was wild and dense. There were at least three other packs that held territory on the outskirts, at least until Monroe had decimated them. Deaton had tried to explain the pull of the Nemeton to Liam a few times. The most he gleaned was that it was like a huge magnet for supernatural creatures, for better or worse. Scott didn’t talk much about what they had done before Liam had become a member of the pack, but Liam could feel a dark spot deep in the alpha. The scent of dead leaves. The sharp edge of danger to come. The Nemeton wasn’t something to be taken lightly.

It was nice to get away from the flurry of activity in town. Everyone was either on edge still or exhausted. Liam felt wrung out, tired. Without Theo around he felt his grip slowly loosening—anger just beneath the surface. When Theo was around it was easier to focus.

Because he’s a mad dog and I’m his leash. If he bites anyone it’s my fault.

That felt right. Kind of. There was something else there but Liam pushed it away whenever it came up in his mind. And with Theo gone it came up often, nagging at the back of his mind—a constant companion to the anger growing inside of him.

Theo was Theo and that was that. But that wasn’t true. Liam knew that wasn’t true. When Theo first came to them he knew there was something about the older boy he couldn’t quite place. And after everything that had happened, all the murder and pain and suffering, whatever Liam saw all that time ago was still there. He watched it grow in Theo like a spark of fire searching for fuel. And it had changed him. Stiles and Malia could make all the excuses they wanted, bad mouth Theo until they were out of breath, but nothing could change the fact that he had taken Gabe’s pain. Nothing could change the fact that Theo Raeken cared enough about someone else other than himself.

Which was the main reason Liam was deep in the woods, trying to find his scent. The truck has been easy enough to find, parked under a tree. The doors were locked, and Theo’s clothes were inside. At first Liam was confused but the older boy’s scent was everywhere around the truck, as if he ran everywhere through the area to throw off a single specific trail anyone with a nose could pick out. The paw prints clued Liam in—Theo had gone full shift.

Liam cursed under his breath. Theo was always a pain in the ass. The only other person that Liam had seen do a full shift before was Malia, though Scott told him Derek was able to do it too. Theo was a bit of an anomaly being a chimera, but at least it made his scent unique. Unmistakeable. Something that stood out from the other smells of the forest.

The paw prints helped. From what Liam could tell Theo had been crossing back and forth through different parts of the forest randomly—old tracks overlapping fresh ones. Some scent was faded, some stronger. Was he chasing something? Looking for something out in the middle of nowhere. The nagging voice inside told him that Theo might be setting up a trap. Maybe there was some cache of weapons the dread doctors had left behind. Liam shook the voice off—if Theo had anything bad planned then he had ample opportunity before this. No, there was something else.

The deeper Liam got, the louder the silence became. The forest was alive with sound and smells, not like the town. He felt the primal side of himself wake as he took in the trees and the leaves moving in the wind. This place was old. Sacred.

He’d been walking for an hour before he realized he wasn’t following Theo’s trail. Instead he was moving without thinking, heading deeper and deeper into the forest. He wanted to break off, to look for signs of the chimera again, but something in his gut kept him moving forward.

The clearing was small and the smell was familiar—dead leaves and old, old power. The same smell Liam caught from Scott sometimes. The dark mark on his soul.
The Nemeton was enormous. The roots plunged into the ground like they were searching for something deep in the soil. Even though it had been cut down, Liam could still feel the pressure of it all around him.

The sound of leaves rustling caught his attention. He ducked behind a large oak tree just in time to see a sleek black wolf emerge from the forest and approach the Nemeton, placing a dead rabbit at the roots before sitting down.

The wind shifted and Liam recognized Theo’s scent right away. More earthy, more primal, but definitely Theo. He watched the chimera. Theo was waiting for something, the wolf’s posture was relaxed but alert. Liam leaned closer—he recognized the black pelt from when Theo had first arrived, harassing Mason and forcing Liam to reveal his werewolf nature. The anger rose like a wave before Liam pushed it away. That was a long time ago. That was the old Theo. This Theo was different.

When Liam looked towards the Nemeton the black wolf was gone. A low growl made him jump as Theo emerged from behind him. Liam took a step back, trying to get his feet under him. He was startled but the growl wasn’t threatening. It was accusatory.

What are you doing here?!

Liam fell, landing on a soft patch of moss as Theo advanced, fangs bare and glistening.

‘Theo…’ Liam stared at the wolf. The anger coming off Theo was easy to spot—his body language screamed it. Liam let out enough of his wolf side to spark his eyes, showing them to the wolf, then looking down and to the side. No challenge here.

Theo stopped growling. The sound of his panting filled the clearing. Liam’s eyes darted up as the older boy shifted back to human form. He felt his cheeks get hot seeing Theo crouching naked beside him. Without saying anything Liam pulled off his sweater and offered it to Theo. The older boy raised an eyebrow and smirked, using it to sit on.

‘Dunbar. Why the hell are you out here in the middle of nowhere?’

‘Why are you out here in the middle of nowhere?’

‘I thought it would be nice to go on a vacation.’

Theo smirked at the frown on Liam’s face. The beta felt his face getting hot. His hands instinctively moved backwards, looking to make space between him and the naked guy in front of him. He felt the rough bark beneath his skin and a cold spike drove itself into his spine, making him jump away from the Nemeton.

Liam rubbed his hand and Theo watched with intensity. Liam couldn’t place the quick flash of emotions and scents. Anger? Jealousy? Why would Theo be jealous? Liam turned around, looking at the enormous tree stump, noticing the other small animals that Theo had placed at the roots.

Like offerings.

‘What are you doing with the Nemeton?’

He expected Theo to flip him off, or say something snide. Instead the older boy exhaled—a great weight on his naked shoulders.

‘It took me two weeks to find this thing. It took you a few hours.’

‘I wasn’t looking for it. I kind of just started heading in this direction.’

‘That’s because we’re different. You got the bite from Scott. I’m a science project gone sideways. Things like the Nemeton—you have a connection to it. All of you. You can feel it even if you don’t want to. Me, I get nothing.’

‘Why do you want to feel the Nemeton? It’s freaky.’

‘That’s not the point, Liam. There’s a connection there, get it? Like how a pack is connected. Like how you all make each other stronger. Better. I don’t have that.’

‘Theo… you’re a part of the pack.’

‘I can tell you’re lying, Liam.’

Not lying, but not quite sure. Theo was definitely a part of their lives. A part of Liam’s life. To Liam he felt like he was a part of the pack, like he belonged. Like Theo fit into his life.

‘I’m sure Scott—‘

‘This isn’t about Scott. This is about… fuck. I don’t know. Let’s go back.’ Theo said, wrapping Liam’s sweater around his waist.

Liam bit his lip. It felt like they needed to stay, like there was something in the air that was promising something Liam couldn’t quite figure out. They had to stay.

‘Your wolf is beautiful.’

‘What?’

Fuck.

‘I mean, I’ve only seen it once before. That time with Mason. You know.’

Theo tilted his head, waiting. A gesture that annoyed Liam and made his heart race at the same time. He wasn’t doing a a good job forming his thoughts into words. His tongue felt thick in his mouth.

‘Are you hitting on me, Dunbar?’

‘What? No! I mean, I was just saying your wolf form is badass. Why do you have to flip everything around on me, I’m trying to be nice.’

‘And hitting on me is not nice?’

‘Dammit, Theo! Stop it.’

Theo shrugged and chuckled. It was always fun winding Liam up, even if sometimes he ended up with a broken nose.

The anger was cracking the surface of Liam’s control and the feeling tethering him to the Nemeton was nearly drowned out by the rage. He was about to tell Theo to go fuck himself. About to lash out, until Theo opened his mouth.

‘I could teach you.’

‘What?’

‘To shift.’

Liam frowned. ‘Scott says it’s rare for anyone to be able to do it. Malia and Derek were born with it. I’m not even an alpha, I doubt you could teach me.’

‘C’mon, Dunbar. I know it’s your favourite pastime to ignore me when I’m talking but I’m offering to teach you something and I know for sure I can do it.’

‘How?’

Theo raised his eyebrows, looking past him toward the Nemeton.

‘I’m not going near that.’

‘You don’t have to.’

‘So what’s the deal then?’

‘I learned a lot from the dread doctors. Turns out after a century and a bit they collected quite the pile of research notes. This thing is a beacon, sure. But it’s a lot more than that, if you know how to tap into it.’

‘And you know how to do that.’

‘In theory.’

‘Is that why you were…all the rabbits and…porcupines?’

‘Better than skunks.’ Theo pushed his hair back. ‘Yes. I was hoping… I don’t know. I thought maybe I could get its attention.’

‘By offering it dead things.’

‘Yes, by offering it dead things, Liam. For someone who loves history you’re pretty clueless when it comes to druids and human sacrifices.’

‘So if the rabbits didn’t work you were gonna move to people?’

‘Fuck you, Liam.’

‘Hey, I was joking! It was a joke.’ Liam held up his hands. Theo usually had a lot thicker skin. Malia threw sharper barbs at the boy all of the time and he would smirk and turn them around on her. This Theo was…vulnerable. It confused Liam.

‘So…how does it work? The shifting thing.’

Theo’s eyes darted to Liam, face softening when he saw it was an honest question.

‘I touch you, I touch the Nemeton, you pull whatever it is from there, through me. That should do it.’

‘Seems kind of vague.’

‘It’ll work. It’s mostly instinct.’

‘Does it hurt?’

‘Sort of, but not like a pain you’ve ever felt before.’

‘Gee, great. That really sold me.’

‘Shut up and strip.’ Theo waved his hand.

‘What?’ Liam felt his cheeks getting hot again.

‘Fangs and claws plus jeans equals shredded. Got it?’

Liam mumbled under his breath the entire time, half thinking Theo was playing an elaborate practical joke as he pulled off his shirt and jeans.

The air was chilly on his exposed skin. He kept his hands over his groin, flushing when Theo made a very obvious look over of his body.

‘Being nearly killed by a town of murderous hunters did wonders for your physique, Dunbar.’

‘Shut up!’

Theo chuckled and moved beside him, holding out his hand. Liam hesitated. What was he doing deep in the woods by an ancient, possibly evil tree, and a boy that had once tried to kill him and everyone he loved. It was insane.

Then there was that smile—the little one that started at the corners of Theo’s lips and grew slowly, eyes sparkling with mischief.

He felt Theo’s hand take his own, long fingers grazing the calluses lacrosse practice left behind and gripping firmly. He was standing in the woods, naked, holding Theo Raeken’s hand. Liam felt the flush in his cheeks spread across his body. If the others saw him like this he would be embarrassed enough to die.

All of that went away the instant Theo touched the Nemeton.

Dull pain. Coldness followed by a rushing warmth. Senses toppling over each other, each fighting for dominance. Sight falling behind scent. A world of sounds opening up sharper and more keen than when he was in his human form. The faint taste of blood in his mouth, then he was looking up a Theo.

Up. At Theo.

Liam felt his tail wag.

I have a tail.

He snorted and dropped to the forest floor, rubbing his fur all over the moss and leaves. Theo laughed, watching the newly transformed wolf’s antics. Liam ran in circles through the clearing—stretching new muscles and feeling new power coursing through his veins—anger replaced with the joy of being a wolf.

Theo ran his hand along the edge of the Nemeton. The rough bark now seemed less sharp. In seconds he was on all fours again, black pelt shining in the small diamonds of sunlight that peeked through the leaves above.

He turned his head, taking in Liam’s new scent. Not different than before. Just, more Liam than ever.

The younger wolf took a sharp turn, running into Theo, knocking the black wolf over.

Theo snarled and snapped at Liam. The younger wolf panting, oblivious, but focused on Theo’s body language and scent.

Theo stood, walking around Liam calmly. The beta’s golden eyes followed him. Theo sniffed the air, taking in the scent of the forest. The day was bright and the sun was warm. It was good weather for a chase.

Theo lunged, grabbing Liam’s tail with his jaw and giving a playful yank.

Liam yelped and sprung to his feet but Theo was already ahead of him, bolting into the forest with a mischievous cry.

Catch me!

Liam responded. He wasn’t about to let Theo get the best of him.

#

Two wolves ran through the forest outside of Beacon Hills, free of the weight of their human lives. There was the forest, and each other. The smell of cold wind with the distant promise of winter. The warmth of the sunlight on their fur. The joy of the chase, the power of the run.

Liam never imagined it would feel like this, and part of him knew that this was only a glimpse, a preview of the power that was in him granted temporarily by the Nemeton. Through Theo. Theo, who was beautiful. Theo, who was fast and smart. Theo, who he was chasing. Who he wanted.

They tumbled and rolled, yipping and scuffling to wrestle for the top position between them, playing like puppies. Their run took them far from the Nemeton, close to a small stream, warmed by the day as it flowed through the hills.

Theo stopped to drink, dipping his tongue into the water. Liam stood across from him—thick grey and brown fur moving the the faint breeze, golden eyes watching Theo. It was then that Liam realized it was impossible to lie when you were a wolf. And what’s more, he didn’t feel the need. Theo was beautiful, and he wanted to tell him that. Words didn’t work but the wolf knew what to do.

It’s mostly instinct.

Theo’s words rang true. Liam groomed the black wolf, nuzzling against him, breathing him in.

Theo leaned into Liam’s attention, matching it with his own. Soon they had settled to the forest floor, dozing together in the sun, one wolf to another.

#

Liam woke at dusk, sky tinted pink and orange. His arm was asleep. His human arm. He shifted his weight, but that didn’t help. He realized why when he looked over his shoulder, finding Theo’s head resting on his bicep like a pillow. Naked. Alone. Together.

Before Liam could panic Theo yawned and rested his head on Liam’s chest, scratching Liam’s belly gently with his fingernails until he realized that he no longer had paws.

Theo tilted his head, looking up at Liam.

‘So was it good for you?’

‘What?!’ Liam scrambled to sit up, covering himself with his hands. Theo burst out laughing.

‘We didn’t…I mean, we were wolves. And then I was chasing you… we didn’t? I mean I don’t remember?’

‘Calm down, baby wolf. Nothing scandalous happened. Believe me, you’d definitely remember if it did.’ Theo cocked an eyebrow and gave a wide smile that was contagious. Soon Liam was grinning. He didn’t hesitate to lean back against Theo, unconsciously mimicking the wolf cuddle they were sharing earlier. The steady beat of Theo’s heart was calming. The older boy twisted a strand of Liam’s hair around his fingers. It struck Liam as oddly gentle. Not a trait he associated with the Theo he knew up to this point.

Theo picked up on the shift of Liam’s mood.

‘What’s wrong?’

‘Why were you really looking for the Nemeton? Why all the offerings?’

Theo’s fingers went still. Liam felt him draw back, not breaking contact but making a space between them that he knew was about to be filled with words.

‘I’m not like you.’ Theo said.

‘Theo…’

‘I am. Like how I can’t feel the Nemeton. Like how I can’t be a part of a pack, not really. It bugged me, when the dread doctors told me that. Do you know what it’s like to be a lone wolf? You don’t survive out there on your own. A wolf without a pack goes wild. Gets hunted down.’

‘I know you don’t believe it, but you are a part of the pack, Theo.’

Theo shook his head.

‘I could ignore it before. It’s easier when you don’t feel anything, when you’re numb. But now… Gabe. I can’t go back to that, to being numb. And I don’t know where I fit anymore. I’m an incomplete experiment—parts of things smashed together to make a monster. I thought that if I could spark something with the Nemeton, maybe I could fix that.’

‘You’re not a monster.’

‘I’m pretty sure I’ve heard you call me one before. All of you at one point or more. Psychopath. Murderer. Heartless monster. Except that’s not true. I have a heart. But it’s not really mine, is it?’

Liam bit his lip. He didn’t know what to say. Shame and guilt over the old words he knew he’d said. Theo never talked about his sister. Theo never talked about anything. When he opened his mouth it was usually to insult someone, or to stir up trouble. Except lately he’d been giving advice. Trying to help, even if it had come with the occasional fist fight, Theo had changed. Liam realized he changed too. The first time laid eyes on Theo came to mind. He thought he had changed when Hayden had come into his life, and she had softened his edges a bit, but it had been Theo. It had always been Theo.

He didn’t think. Impulse moved him. Not anger, something else. It was different when Theo was a wolf. Affection was easier when there was no lying. Theo’s lips were warm and slightly chapped. The kiss was quiet and small. He felt Theo’s hand on the back of his neck, and the kiss deepened and grew into a long silence that contained only him and Theo.

When they separated the look on Theo’s face made Liam’s heart jump. No sharp glare. No snide comments. Just Theo. Liam didn’t know what to say, but the short time he was a wolf told him that his message was clear.

Liam smiled, taking the older boy’s hand in his own.

‘Let’s go find my pants.’

#

The walk back to the Nemeton was embarrassing at first, but walking through the woods stark naked was something Theo was used to, and Liam adapted quickly.

He watched Theo’s body twist and move, following some unseen path back the way they came. Liam loved Hayden, she had been the centre of his world at the exclusion of nearly everything else. Only Scott could call him back from that world. But Theo, Theo was everywhere, grounding him. Making him a part of everything around them, anchoring him.

They got back to the Nemeton faster than Liam thought they would. The familiar tug of the clearing had faded but was still there. He saw Theo shiver as they approached the tree, stopping in his tracks.

‘Are you cold?’ Liam asked.

‘No.’

‘Then why are you shivering?’

‘The Nemeton feels—‘ Theo turned to Liam, then looked at the Nemeton. ‘It feels heavy. Cold.’

‘You said chimeras couldn’t sense the Nemeton. Couldn’t form bonds like us.’

‘Maybe when we…when you transformed. Touching the Nemeton… I can feel it.’ Theo closed his eyes. The air was filled with Liam’s scent. But there was something else, something like strength. He felt it, just by standing close to Liam.

‘You’re a part of the pack. Maybe not Scott’s, but a pack. Our own pack. A pack made of you and me.’

‘I don’t deserve…’

‘Theo.’

The older boy looked at him, eyes raw.

‘Shut up.’

Liam pulled him into a kiss. The warmth of the sun found them together under the forest canopy. Liam knew things were changing, that everything was changing. The Nemeton had given them a glimpse of a small corner of the future. There was power there, and danger. But Liam wasn’t worried. He knew that they would be able to handle whatever happened, because a pack was always stronger together.


Chapter Text


While the Nemeton had been easy to find, Theo’s truck was harder. At first Liam lead the way, confidant in his tracking skills. He passed the truck on his way in and had a clear picture of it in his mind. After an hour of trudging through the bushes it was dark and they were not closer to the truck than before.

‘I’m cold.’ Liam rubbed his arms. Theo glared at him, Liam’s sweater the only piece of clothing wrapped around his waist.

‘Follow me.’

Theo unwrapped the sweater from his waist, standing naked in the moonlight. Liam felt his face flush, eyes drifting down.

‘Are you checking out my ass, Dunbar?’

‘What? No. I was picking up my sweater!’ Liam scooped it up, watching Theo shift. He casually brought the sweater up to his nose. Theo smelled good.

It was strange to watch a full shift—Theo made it seem effortless, one form flowing into the other like water moving from a lake to a stream. In a few seconds a large black wolf stood in front of Liam, throwing a questioning glare over its shoulder before trotting off into the trees.

‘Hey, wait!’ Liam bolted, trying to keep up with Theo. It had been so much easier to keep up when he was a wolf.

#

Liam found Theo waiting beside the truck, golden wolf eyes watching as he panted, coming to a stop at the back of the truck.

‘Holy jeez you’re fast.’

Theo gave a pleased yip.

Silence stretched out between them. Theo scratched an itchy forepaw with his front teeth.

‘Um Theo, where’s the key?’

The black wolf huffed and stretched, shifting back into a naked Theo who walked directly towards Liam without missing a beat. Liam clutched the sweater tight as the chimera loomed over him, moonlight making his skin glow. Theo leaned in, chest and neck nearly touching Liam, moving at the last second to tilt just past him to pluck the key from the bed of the truck.

Liam tried to get his heart under control. He knew Theo was smirking without looking. As the older boy leaned back, head passing Liam, he gave him a quick kiss on the cheek.

‘You’re cute when you blush baby wolf.’

Theo winked and unlocked the truck. In a few seconds he pulled on his clothes. It always felt weird after being without them for so long.

Liam’s nose wrinkled when he climbed into Theo’s truck. While Theo’s scent was great, his unwashed socks were not. As Theo struggled to get the truck going Liam looked around. Old fast food wrappers littered the floor. A blanket and a pillow stashed in the back seat covered the dirty socks, and from what Liam could tell, one of the three outfits that Theo always wore when he popped up from wherever he lived. Liam frowned.

‘Theo?’

‘Yeah?’ The chimera’s brow furrowed as he turned the key again, engine struggling to turn over.

‘Do you live in your truck?’ Liam asked.

The truck roared to life. The sound of the engine rumbling filled the space between them.

‘Theo?’

‘Yes, Liam?’

‘You’re crashing at my place.’

‘Wow, one kiss and I’m in. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.’

‘Okay, well, now you’ve been downgraded to the couch.’

‘Wait, you were going to let me sleep in your bed?’

‘What? No! No.’

‘Then were was I going to be sleeping in they hypothetical “Theo you’re crashing at my place” situation?’

‘Theo, shut up and drive.’

Theo smirked and shifted the truck into reverse, giving Liam a small jolt as he tapped the brakes, earning him a glare.

‘Buckle up.’

#

The lights were off when they got to Liam’s house. After a few minutes of searching through his pockets for his keys Theo rolled his eyes and pulled a spare from the rock by the back door.

‘Are you spying on my family?’

‘Liam, most people leave a spare hidden somewhere near the door. Plus I can smell your mom’s scent all over this one, single rock.’

‘Okay. So that’s a bit creepy that you know that.’

‘Creepy maybe. But it’s getting us into the house.’ Theo grinned, unlocking the door before Liam could stop him.

‘There’s a—‘

The alarm was loud. To supernatural ears they were blaring sirens. Liam scrambled to punch the code into the security system as Theo covered his ears. The pad gave a quiet beep and the noise stopped.

‘I was going to say “there’s a security code” but hey, waking up the entire neighbourhood works.’ Liam said.

There was a note on the table, and cold pizza in the fridge. Liam was happy his parents weren’t home—he didn’t think he could handle to delicate dance of who Theo was and why he was staying and who were his parents, along with all of the other questions he knew they’d have for him. This way at least he could avoid the headache for the weekend until they got back.

‘Hey there’s pizza in the…’ Liam turned around to find Theo on his second slice, crusts discarded on the breakfast bar counter. ‘…fridge… if you’re hungry.’

Theo swallowed and set his last crust on the counter before opening the box to offer Liam a slice. Cold pizza never tasted so good. Liam ate ravenously, glancing up at Theo who chuckled at the sauce all over Liam’s face.

‘Hits me like that too after a full shift. Everything tastes so much better, everything seems more…’

‘…alive.’ Liam mumbled through a mouthful of Hawaiian pizza.

‘I’d kill for a shower.’ Theo winked. Liam frowned again.

‘It was a joke.’ Theo poked Liam’s forehead with a finger. ‘If you keep frowning you’ll get all wrinkly, baby wolf.’

Liam shoo’ed Theo down the hall to the bathroom, tossing a fresh towel at his face when the chimera began to strip in the hallway.

‘I thought you liked it when I got naked!’ Theo yelled as Liam stalked back to the kitchen.

After hearing the hot water kick in Liam sighed. He’d been lucky enough to dodge things with his parents, but there was someone he couldn’t avoid even if he wanted to.

Pulling out his phone he saw the dozens of missed calls and text messages, mostly from Scott. He fired off a quick text confirming he was safe and things were cool.

—Did you find Theo? Scott’s text came microseconds after Liam sent his own, which meant Scott had been waiting this entire time for his report.

—Safe and sound.

—Where was he?

—Nemeton.

—I’m coming over.

—Can it wait? Wiped. Liam bit his lip, hoping for mercy from his alpha. He watched as the three little dots danced and danced and danced. How long did it take to reply?

—First thing in the morning.

—Thanks.

Less painful than Liam thought. At least until morning when he was sure he’d have to deal with Scott’s questions. And the look the alpha gave him. That, “I’m worried but I trust you but I’m here for you but don’t mess up” look. But that was something to worry about tomorrow.

Liam stretched. His body felt awkward. He wondered if that was a side-effect of a full shift. Did Malia feel this when she went between human and coyote, or was it different because of the Nemeton.

Because of Theo.

Theo. Liam closed his eyes. They’d kissed. Several times. He made a fist to keep his heart from speeding up. This…wasn’t exactly what Liam had planned on, or expected in any way. All the things Theo had done, the people that he had killed, it was hard to ignore when the chimera wasn’t in the room, but as soon as Theo was in front of Liam it felt like everything else faded away. He knew Theo had issues. Huge issues. He knew that together sometimes they were a firestorm of anger and violence. But now there was something else. Liam felt the anger die down inside of himself, felt it change like Theo had changed in front of him these past few months.

He remembered holding the sword, desperate to help his friends. He remembered being ready to face a monster that felt like it was twelve feet tall—ready to strike Theo down and send him back to whatever punishment he deserved. The moment Theo climbed out of the ground and spoke he knew he couldn’t do it, even when he got angry and used the sword as a threat. There was no way he could send Theo back after seeing the look on his face.

Where’s my sister?!

The panic. The fear. Hayden got satisfaction from it. Liam did as well, but in a different way. It meant the thing that he saw in Theo the first time they had met hadn’t been imagined. Beneath the charm and swagger, Theo had feelings. Even if he’d done an amazing job at hiding them. It was hard to forgive the chimera, even after beginning to understand his motivations. Theo was messed up. Alone. Twisted. But he was still human, just like the rest of them. And Liam had never seen anyone so afraid in his life after he plunged that sword into the ground.

The hot water turned off and Liam tried to gather his thoughts. Sleepovers and late night talks with Mason had given him a small glimpse at the possibility he might fall in love with a guy as much as a girl one day, but he didn’t think it would be Theo. It was hard enough dealing with the death of their friends, the death of all the supernaturals Monroe had gunned down in such a short time. Liam still found his mind wandering to Brett and Lori. They’d faced a lot of messed up things, but he’d never seen his friends hunted down. Never seen so many people die. It was too much to handle, and now that he had found Theo and the anger started to fade, everything felt like it was going to crash down on him.

Without thinking Liam curled into a ball and draped his tail over his nose.

Wait. I have a tail. Again.

Golden eyes spotted his shirt on the floor nearby. He wiggled his hind leg to free it from his jeans and boxers. Human clothes were for human bodies.

He smelled Theo before he saw him. His scent was peppered with shock and surprise, giving way to contentment. Liam was glad he couldn’t blush because even though Theo was wearing a pair of his sweatpants he was still a sight to behold.

The chimera draped his wet towel over a chair and sank to the floor beside Liam, stroking the thick fur along his back. Theo was surprised Liam was still able to full shift. maybe the Nemeton had changed more things than he assumed, which was great since Theo was tired of trying to get stray dogs to chase him. It would be great to have someone who might actually challenge his speed. But Liam looked worried. It was harder to read werewolves when they were in wolf form, but Theo had been able to full shift for a decade—he was able to pick up some of Liam’s body language. The younger boy was distressed.

Theo sighed, leaning back against the counter as his fingers kneaded Liam’s fur.

‘It’ll be alright, baby wolf.’ Theo’s voice was deep and true. Liam closed his eyes, enjoying the attention.

‘Did you call Scott? Never mind, I know you did. You’re a good beta.’ Theo’s words didn’t have any of their usual sarcasm. ‘He’s probably going to kill me for doing this to you. Even when we were little he had the strongest sense of justice I’ve ever seen. And Stiles. Well, Stiles hasn’t changed at all—he’s always hated my guts. I mean, I guess it’s kind of expected since I…well… since everything.’

Theo shifted, looking up at the ceiling. ‘I’m sorry, you know? Fuck it feels so cheap to say that.’

Liam nuzzled Theo’s leg, eyes still closed. Theo gave an easy smile.

‘I am sorry. I don’t think… I don’t think I can say that to the rest of them, you know? I just can’t. I’ve been so messed up for so long, baby wolf. The dread doctors… they told me I was special. That I could be something amazing. But that was a lie. All I did was hurt and kill the people that meant the most to me. Tara… she had every right to do that to me.’

Liam flicked his ears. He wasn’t able to follow everything Theo was talking about. There was so much about the chimera that he didn’t know. After everything that happened he just wrote Theo off as being deranged. Tragic maybe. But he didn’t stop to think about the details of his life. The things he’d done growing up with the dread doctors. Whatever had happened to him in hell…

‘When you brought me back, I thought it was because Scott told you to. Because it seems like a Scott thing to do. But I guess it was more of a Liam thing. I dunno if you’ve ever had a second chance to do something, baby wolf, but the second I was out of that place…there was no way I was going back. That’s all I could think about for awhile. So I wanted to impress Scott. Be useful. Make myself in-disposable. Then I saw how god damn clueless you were—‘

Liam snorted. Theo smiled and scratched him behind the ears.

Oh yeah.

‘And I knew I had to keep an eye on you. You charge in too quick. You never stop to think. You—‘ Liam gave a quiet growl. Theo chuckled.

‘Sorry.’

Liam let out a sigh. It was easier like this—Theo’s voice was soothing. His hands running through his fur, talking about himself. Liam the human would have interrupted him several times, or maybe broken his nose once or twice. Liam the wolf was happy to simply be on the floor. The floor was comfortable.

‘What’s wrong, baby wolf?’ Theo slid down, laying his head on Liam’s flank. ‘Why did you shift?’

Liam didn’t answer, but his breathing changed, and the anxiety came back, tinting his scent. Theo kept petting him, slow and steady.

‘It’s easy to forget sometimes how young you are.’ Liam snorted again, shifting his weight.

‘I don’t mean it like that. I mean, you’re a kid Liam. I guess most of the pack is. I know I’m not that much older, but trust me, I grew up very fast with the things I went through. A broken arm, a busted nose, that’s easy pain. That pain can be shared or taken away. But Liam, the pain you feel now. The loss. I wish I could reach out and take that for you. I would if I could.’

Liam knew Theo was distressed. He could smell it. He turned his head, gently licking Theo’s free hand, causing the other boy to give a sad smile.

‘I don’t deserve this.’

Liam rested his muzzle on Theo’s arm, snuggling into him. Words had run their course, and there was nothing left to say in that moment anymore, so Liam scooted as close to Theo as he could get—soft pelt pressing against Theo’s skin, warming him up. Theo felt the exhaustion of several full shifts catching up to him. He could feel the steady beat of Liam’s heart pressed against him through the thick fur. His eyes were heavy and the last thing he remembered was dragging his hands through the wolf’s pelt one last time.

#

Liam had a kink in his neck when he woke up. He felt the warmth of Theo’s chest before he opened his eyes, head moving up and down gently with every breath the chimera took. Part of him panicked like it had the night before when he woke up next to the older boy. Liam felt it swell in his mind, and his eyes started to open—

The sun.

Theo’s chest rose and fell.

The moon.

Theo’s heart, steady and calm.

The truth.

Theo’s scent, everywhere around him. Pack was close. He was safe. They were together.

Liam’s eyes opened to take in Theo before he could wake up. He looked peaceful when he was sleeping, almost serene. Theo’s shoulders were broad, and his body was well-muscled and toned. Liam ran his finger tips across Theo’s chest. It was strange how it was so hard and so soft at the same time.

And exciting.

Theo’s breathing changed and Liam felt the older boy staring at him.

‘Don’t start something you’re not ready to finish, baby wolf.’ Theo smirked. The smell of coffee caught their attention. Theo was looking past Liam’s face, embarrassment clear from his scent. Theo shoved Liam aside to adjust himself in his sweatpants before draping himself on the naked werewolf.

‘We have to stop meeting like this.’

‘God you’re corny.’ Liam nudged Theo. The chimera’s chuckle turned into a yawn and a stretch.

‘Mmm, I smell coffee. Thanks baby wolf.’ Theo kissed Liam’s nose, making the boy blush.

‘I didn’t make coffee.’

Theo perked up.

‘I did.’ The deep voice came from above them. Both boys turned, looking up. Scott sat in one of the chair on the other side of the breakfast bar, peering down at them.

Liam felt the blush start at his feet and rise all the way to his hairline. He scrambled, grabbing the nearest piece of clothing to cover himself.

‘Liam, you know we shared a locker room after practice like every day.’ Scott smiled.

‘This is different.’

Scott looked down at Theo who gave a sheepish grin.

‘I see that.’

Theo wasn’t modest, and being the only one of the two wearing pants took it upon himself to sit with the alpha while Liam cursed to himself and tried to untangle his boxers to cover his embarrassment.

The sound of Liam’s struggle was the only thing in the house. Theo knew Scott was staring at him. Smelling him. He glanced up. Scott was looking at him like an over-protective dad, arms folded. He nudged a coffee towards Theo, expression unchanging.

Theo took it—glad to be doing anything to ease the awkward situation.

Scott exhaled and some of the tension between them eased.

‘I’m leaving in a week.’ He said.

‘What? No.’ Liam finally managed to get his boxers on, even if they were backwards.

‘I’ve already missed a ton of classes Liam. I should probably take off tomorrow…’ Scott handed his beta a coffee.

The rest of Scott’s sentence was etched in his scent. While he didn’t think Theo was an active threat anymore, there was still worry. Reservation.

Theo ran his tongue along the inside of the fangs forming in his mouth, trying to dismiss them—Scott wasn’t going to chase him away. There wasn’t going to be a fight. And if there was there was no way he’d leave Liam. Which would have been a strange concept a few months ago, but now it made perfect sense.

Theo glanced over at the beta werewolf. When had he started to feel so drawn to him? The anger was fascinating at first—a powerful tool. Then there was the way Liam moved. The way he smelled. The stupid, infuriating things he did. His unconscious mimicking of Scott’s values. Half the time Theo wanted to shake him. Still did. But there was something else there that crept up without Theo noticing. He couldn’t help looking at Liam. At his lips. Thinking of kissing him so many times.

‘…through the Nemeton. Right Theo?’

‘Hey?’

‘You weren’t listening.’

‘Liam says you taught him to do a full shift.’ Scott said, not bothering to hide his disbelief.

‘Kind of?’

Scott’s eyes narrowed. Theo felt the weight of the alpha’s power on him. It was familiar—the same strength that Liam drew on as a beta, that the whole pack drew on. Scott felt something different, leaning close to Theo, then looking at Liam.

‘What else did you do?’

‘You know how chimeras don’t really follow the rules of the supernatural.’

‘That’s because they’re not really supernatural.’ Scott’s words hit Theo a bit harder than he thought they would. Liam’s hand on his bare shoulder gave him reassurance.

‘Well, whatever Theo did when we went full wolf might have changed that.’ Liam said.

Scott sat back in his seat, arms folded. He sighed.

‘Okay, pack meeting.’

‘What, for this? It’s no big—‘

‘Liam. You can full shift, which is pretty rare for even born werewolves, and Theo has some sort of pack bond with you—I can feel it. Plus on top of all that you were messing with the Nemeton.’ Scott’s eyes darkened at the mention of the ancient tree. Liam caught the scent of dead leaves and a felt a slight chill. The mark of the Nemeton was always with them—it had killed Allison, and doomed Stiles to become a victim of a dark kitsune. Scott was strong enough to bear the consequences of dealing with the Nemeton directly. What if they had been similarly marked?

‘Grab a shower. I’ll call the others.’ Scott said. Liam hesitated, hand on Theo’s bicep before the chimera gave a small smile that told him it was okay to leave.

Theo drank the rest of his coffee as Scott rallied the pack to come over to Liam’s place. Once that was done Scott levelled the protective dad glare at Theo again.

‘How did you find the Nemeton?’

‘Honestly, I kind of stumbled around the forest for a few days.’

‘And you didn’t know this was going to happen?’

‘I knew I could help Liam to do a full shift, but that’s pretty much where my plan ended.’

‘Why? Why did you want him to be a wolf?’

Theo frowned. Every lie possible came to mind, but he knew that Scott would see through them now that the pack was wary of every word that came out of his mouth.

Theo mumbled an answer.

‘What?’ Scott strained to hear, Theo’s voice had been so quiet and the words ran together on purpose.

‘I SAID he told me I was beautiful. As a wolf I mean. And maybe we kissed.’ Theo puffed out his chest.

Scott chuckled to himself. It was strange to see Theo acting so normal. It was strange to see Theo caring about someone other than himself, but it was good. It was what Scott had been hoping for, but not holding his breath on. And Liam had been the catalyst of it all.

Scott nodded, it made sense then, the way the beta’s scent changed sometimes—asking specifically to be teamed up with Theo. The looks they shared. And since Theo had taken Gabe’s pain at the moment of his death, it meant that not only did he care about Liam, but he cared about other people. If Theo could care about a hunter that was hell bent on killing him on his own, then Scott had no doubt his feelings for Liam were real, and from what he saw, very strong.

Liam came into the kitchen wearing fresh clothes, hair slicked back. Scott could see how they were drawn to each other, Liam coming to a stop at Theo’s side. Protecting him. Scott felt himself grinning at the couple.

‘What? What did I do? Did I miss a spot shaving?’ Liam felt his face. Scott watched as Theo joined in the inspection, fingers caressing the now smooth skin of Liam’s face.

Scott shook his head.

‘The others are on their way. Theo, you might wanna toss a shirt on. And maybe some jeans.’

‘C’mon.’ Liam grabbed the chimera’s hand, dragging him up to his room.

Theo stood by the door, looking at the lacrosse posters and bikini-clad babes on Liam’s walls as the beta rummaged through his dresser.

‘Here.’ He tossed a shirt at Theo and leaned back to watch him pull it on.

‘What did Scott say?’

‘It was more like what did he not say.’

‘What does that mean?’

‘It means he didn’t tear my throat out. Or threaten to kill me. Or run me out of town for dating his son.’

‘You’re fucking weird Raeken.’

‘Liam, this doesn’t fit.’ Theo looked down at the shirt, clearly too small, hugging every muscle of his torso.

‘I like it. It’s a good color.’

Theo smirked, pushing Liam gently against the wall, feeling the beta’s heart speed up as he leaned in to kiss his neck and along the exposed part of Liam’s collar bone.

Liam swallowed as Theo pulled away.

‘Umm, you’re welcome.’

‘Get out so I can change. I don’t want you perving on me.’ Theo nudged Liam towards the door.

‘But I—‘

‘Scram you idiot werewolf.’ Theo gave him a slap on the ass, making Liam jump and blush at the same time.

As he closed the door he heard Theo’s soft laugh. A smile spread across his face. Maybe it wasn’t so bad being involved with Theo Raeken after all.


Chapter Text


There were cookies. Several kinds of cookies, just sitting on the table, untouched by any of the pack members and friends in the room. Liam wiped his palms on his jeans. He felt like everyone was looking at him. He did a quick scan of the room. Everyone was looking at him. Especially Mason. Who was grinning like an idiot. Corey sat next to him. Lydia sat in the armchair, checking her phone. Malia and Stiles weren’t around, leaving space for a very uncomfortable Nolan standing in the corner.

Without thinking Liam tilted towards Theo, sitting next to him on the couch. The small movement caught the attention of every werewolf in the room, causing Liam to tilt in the opposite direction to ease the tension, which didn’t last long when Theo’s long arm snaked around his shoulders, pulling him close.

‘So…’ Corey was the first to speak, ‘You can turn into a wolf. Like, for real.’

‘Yeah.’

‘And you said the Nemeton did this?’ Mason asked.

‘With Theo’s help.’

All eyes turned to Theo who rubbed Liam’s shoulder. ‘Got to pass on something to the future generation, right?’

Lydia turned to Scott, ‘So just to make sure we’re all completely fine with this happening.’

Scott shrugged, swiping a cookie off the plate.

‘Wait for Derek.’

The grumpy were wolf had been hanging around the woods near the old Hale residence for the past few days. Scott had tried to talk Derek into returning but Derek hadn’t given a hint of what his intentions were either way. When he called about the Nemeton Derek sounded like he was in a rush to get over to Liam’s house, but so far they’d been sitting there for nearly an hour with no Derek.

‘Is it bad?’ Nolan worked up the courage to speak, cringing when the attention in the room fell on him. Liam felt his fists clench seeing Nolan there, but Scott said it was important to build bridges and to let more humans see and understand their world.

‘On a scale of one to Theo it’s somewhere at a 4.’ Corey said, causing Mason to chuckle. A glare from Liam shut him up.

‘Scott—Stiles.’ Lydia handed the alpha her phone, rolling her eyes. She took notice of Theo’s arm around Liam’s shoulders for the first time, a smile spreading across her face.

‘Liam. I can’t believe you—this was your plan all along. No wonder you resurrected Theo.’ She said.

‘What? No! I didn’t even know this was a thing.’

Lydia nodded, resting her head on her fists and leaning forward.

‘Obviously.’

Liam relaxed.

‘Theo clearly manipulated you into tapping the power of the Nemeton so he could get revenge on all of us.’

Liam’s eyes flashed, fangs jutting out from his snarling mouth. Everyone braced for a fight, waiting for Scott to step in. Before the alpha could put down the phone Theo reached out, hand gently stroking the back of Liam’s neck.

‘Easy baby wolf.’ He whispered. Liam’s eyes never left Lydia’s smirking face as his rage faded. ‘She doesn’t mean it.’

‘What?’

‘She wanted to see how you’d react.’

Lydia gave a satisfied smirk and plucked her phone from Scott’s fingers, tossing her purse over her shoulder.

‘As adorable as this is, I do have a life I need to get back to. Call me if things go from 4 to Theo.’ She waved, walking out the back door, passing Derek on the way in.

Scott greeted Derek as the older wolf came inside. He was relying on Derek’s experience and knowledge to figure out the repercussions of what Theo and Liam had done with the Nemeton.

Derek looked at the boys on the couch, he waved at them to stand as he approached. Liam was on his feet instantly, he hadn’t missed the respect his alpha gave Derek. Theo was slower to stand, and when he did he puffed to his chest, defiant, causing Derek to raise and eyebrow.

The evolved werewolf took in their scents. There was an overlap between them, a shared element that he was assuming hadn’t been there before. The scent of power from the nemeton was faint, less than the mark on Scott and Stiles. Their body language spoke loudest. Derek took a step towards Liam. Theo bristled, a low growl coming from his throat.

‘Theo!’ Scott moved to intervene. Derek waved him off, grinning. No a bad sign at all.

Liam gave Theo a look, trying to get him to calm down. Theo frowned and relaxed his posture. Derek looked Liam over. There was definitely power there, some was from Scott and Liam’s connection to the pack. There was something else too, an innate drive that Derek guessed was fuelled by Liam’s awesome anger. Derek circled the boys—there was something else, a shared bond between Liam and Theo.

Derek walked to the armchair, pushing it back. He pulled out a leather pouch, pouring the fine dust into a circle. The scent was unmistakable—mountain ash. Before he closed the circle, Derek pinched the bag off and gestured to Theo.

‘After you.’

‘You want to trap me.’ He folded his arms. ‘It won’t work.’

‘Humour me.’ Derek said.

Theo stepped into the circle, waiting as Derek finished pouring the mountain ash to close the circle.

Everyone stood back, waiting.

‘You kind of have to step outside of it for anything to happen.’ Derek said. Theo rolled his eyes. He took a step forward and slammed to an invisible barrier, knocking him on his ass. Mason burst out laughing.

‘What the hell?’ Theo was on his feet in a flash, testing the barrier. ‘This doesn’t make sense.’

‘I’m not entirely sure what you managed to do, but it looks like you jumpstarted whatever part of you was supernatural. I’m assuming you just inherited all of our weaknesses along with the strengths.’ Derek said.

‘Strengths?’ Nolan asked, feeling more secure now that Theo was trapped.

‘Theo and Liam have a bond, that’s easy enough to see. As far as I can tell it’s similar to the bond of a beta to an alpha.’ Derek said.

‘What? So Theo is Liam’s beta? How is that possible?’ Scott asked.

‘It’s similar. Honestly I’ve never seen anything like this.’ Derek said.

‘Great. Cool. I love it. Now could you maybe break the circle so I can sit down?’ Theo said.

‘What if Lydia was right?’ Mason asked.

‘Mason!’ Liam couldn’t believe what his friend was saying.

‘Liam, dude, I got like a million question and I’m happy that you’re happy, but this is Theo. As in the scale “1 to Theo”.’ Mason said.

‘He saved my life, I don’t know how many times—‘ Liam started.

‘Eight.’ Theo muttered.

‘—and he took Gabe’s pain. He’s changed!’ Liam looked at Scott—surely the alpha would side with him on this.

Scott’s eyes were dark, lost in thought.

‘Scott, please. Without him… Scott I don’t think I could do it.’ Liam said.

‘What do you mean?’

Liam bit his lip, glancing at Theo. The chimera’s body language screamed to be next to Liam, but he kept a tight hold of himself.

‘The mantra doesn’t work. Hayden is gone. You’re all leaving. If I’m alone… Scott it’s only a matter of time until I hurt someone.’

‘Liam you’d never—‘

‘Scott, listen to me. Theo, he keeps me calm. He helps me keep control the anger, even when it’s worse than it’s ever been, he keeps me grounded. If Theo isn’t around it’ll be like when you first bit me.’

Scott folded his arms, looking at Theo. The chimera had done a number on his pack, and he’d been paying for it ever since Liam pulled him out of the ground, something Scott was still not sure was the best idea. But he had seen Theo change, but giving him such intimate access raised his hackles.

He sighed. What choice was there?

‘Break the circle.’

No one moved. Scott looked at Nolan, the closest. Nolan pointed at himself, surprised to be addressed directly. Scott gave him a nod.

Nolan reached out slowly, eyes on Theo who gave a wide smirk, showing off his fangs. Nolan hesitated.

‘Theo, play nice.’ Scott said.

Theo rolls his eyes and looked away from Nolan. He felt the pressure of the barrier fall as Nolan’s finger swept through the mountain ash. Immediately his senses snapped onto Liam, focused and intense. Liam did his best not to gasp when he felt it. Theo made his way to the younger boy, wrapping his arms around him without thinking.

Derek cleared his throat, watching the boys lean into each other. The grin on Mason’s face was unmistakeable. Theo was whispering in Liam’s ear. In response the younger wolf pulled him close, burying his face in Theo’s neck.

This time Scott cleared his throat. Derek nudged him and shook his head—there was nothing to the world but each other.

Scott waited for the others to clear out before he closed the door behind himself, leaving Theo and Liam inside, still embracing.

‘Okay, so that wasn’t what I expected.’ Nolan said.

‘What, not enough blood sacrifices and pentagrams?’ Mason asked, making the boy blush.

‘Scott.’ Derek knew the alpha was worried about something.

‘I remember how he was with Hayden—distracted, unfocused, sloppy. If that happens again…’

‘You’re worried about choosing between Liam the angry time bomb and Liam the love sick puppy.’ Derek said.

‘Not to interrupt,’ Mason said, ignoring Derek’s frown, ‘But this is way different than Hayden. Like, next level different. I grew up with the guy and this is the clearest I’ve ever seen him honestly.’

‘Probation.’ Scott said. ‘We see how it works out between them and if things get off the rails…’

‘You’ll do what?’ Derek asked.

‘Break them up?’ Scott suggested.

Derek chuckled and slapped the younger wolf on the back.

‘Good luck with that.’

#

Liam peered over the edge of the truck, under the hood. He never had to fix his own car before, but Theo was insistent on checking out the engine since the truck had trouble starting the other day. He watched Theo take the engine apart without a second thought, cleaning and checking things Liam didn’t even know were under the hood of a truck.

‘What’s that?’ He pointed.

‘Fan belt.’ Theo said without looking.

‘That?’

‘Rad.’

‘That?’

Theo peeked over the werewolf’s shoulder.

‘Liam, that’s the battery.’

‘Shut up I knew that. It was a test.’

Theo raised an eye brow and got on his back, reaching up under the truck, cursing as he struggled to get deeper.

Liam looked around. They were backed in the back driveway of his house, out of sight. He reached down and lifted the front of the truck.

The cursing was replaced with the sound of metal sliding and clanking. Theo emerged, grease and oil smeared all over his face and hands.

‘Got it.’

Liam set the truck down. Theo sat nearby, tinkering with whatever part of the truck he’d extracted. Liam had never seen Theo so focused.

‘We could’ve taken it to a mechanic.’

Theo made a scary noise.

‘Okay. Just…putting it out there.’

Theo wore a small smile as he managed to open the part up and set the screws aside.

‘I didn’t know you could do whatever this is.’ Liam said, watching him.

‘Got lots of practice.’

‘With the dread doctors?’

Theo nodded.

‘They made you take apart car engines?’

Theo cocked his head, setting his ratchet aside.

‘Yes, Liam. In addition to dabbling in the paranormal and conducting gruesome experiments on living people, they also ran a chop shop.’

‘A chop shop?’

‘You know, stolen cars? Chop ‘em up for parts? Resell the cars clean?’ Liam’s face was blank. ‘You know what, never mind.’

‘So they had an evil car junkyard?’

‘Thank god you’re pretty.’

‘Hey!’ Liam hit Theo’s arm, knocking the part out of his hands.

‘What the hell?!’

‘I didn’t do it on purpose!’

Theo bent down to pick it up, knocking into Liam’s head.

‘Fuck!’

‘You hit me!’

‘I didn’t hit you, idiot!’

‘I’m not an idiot!’

Liam punched without thinking, connecting with Theo’s nose.

‘Fuck!’ Theo grabbed his nose, blood mixing with the grease.

‘Shit, Theo I’m sorry.’

Theo glared at him from behind his hands for a second, look softening when he saw the panic on Liam’s face.

‘Sometimes I just, I don’t think. And you’re such a dick.’

Theo reached out. The younger boy looked at him, unsure. Theo took Liam's hand and touched it to the blood from his now-healed nose. Liam took his hand back, looking at the blood and grease smeared across his fingers.

‘That’s what happens when you lose control, baby wolf.’ Theo said, wiping the blood off on the hem of his shirt. ‘If it has to be someone, I’m glad it’s me. Okay?’

Liam bit his lip, frustration and guilt coloring his scent.

‘Don’t get me wrong, Dunbar. I don’t like getting my nose broken, so the sooner you get things under control the better. But until then, I’m saying you don’t have to feel bad.’

‘I didn’t used to.’ Liam said, looking at the blood on his hands. Theo smiled and leaned in. Liam tried to back up, bumping into the truck.

‘Do not kiss me like that, it’s gross.’

‘It’s only grease.’

‘And blood!’

‘My blood.’ Theo smirked, as if that fact changed things. He wiped his mouth on the back of his arm. ‘Better?’

Liam closed the space between them. The chimera’s mouth was warm and his lips were soft. They pulled apart, resting their heads against each other, speaking in hushed whispers.

‘I’m sorry I hit you. I don’t want it to happen again. Ever.’

‘Liam, I’m not made of porcelain. I won’t break.’

Liam shook his head, ‘Not the point.’

He wrapped his arms around the chimera. Neither of them needed any more pain, especially not from each other. There’d been enough suffering, enough death. Liam had no way to say that, no way to form his thoughts into words that made sense. Instead he pressed his head against Theo’s, trying to will his intentions to the chimera with all his might.

‘It’s okay, baby wolf.’ Theo sank his hand into the soft hair at the nape of Liam’s neck. ‘I hear you.’

Liam sighed. The smell of Theo surrounded him, mixing with grease and blood and dirt.

‘Not that I don’t think you smell good—‘

‘You think I smell good?’ Theo asked, pretending to be shocked. Liam pushed him gently.

‘—but maybe we should grab a shower.’

Theo looked up at the sky. It was warm but overcast—clouds blotting out the sun, heavy with rain.

‘I have a better idea.’ He said, backing away towards the fringe of trees that lead into the forest behind Liam’s house.

‘We have to be at Mason’s in a few hours.’ Liam protested.

Theo gave a wicked grin, pulling off his shirt and tossing it aside.

‘Theo…’

The chimera undid his pants and looked Liam in the face, giving a sly wink before pulling his jeans off.

No underwear. Huh.

Theo jumped, shifting in the blink of an eye, howling playfully as he darted off into the woods.

‘God dammit.’ Liam picked up the chimera’s clothes and set them on the bed of the truck. He crossed his arms. Theo was being stupid. There was no way he was going to chase him. Not a chance.

He watched as the black blur of Theo darted among the trees, tapping his foot. No way he was going to shift and tackle the black wolf to the ground.

Theo howled, teasing. Liam cringed. It was loud. In the distance he heard Scott answer Theo’s call.

Is everything okay?

Liam sighed, tearing his shirt off and struggling out of his pants before shifting effortlessly to his wolf form and howling in response.

All is well.

He was surprised when Theo joined in his howl, matching harmonics to make a louder, stronger voice.

Scott’s response came just as the rain started.

Joy.

If Liam was a human he’d smile. But since he was currently a wolf, there was a mischievous Theo to track down and tackle instead.

#

Mason was focused on whipping around the rainbow road in the third consecutive hour of Mario Kart, Corey snuggled into his side reading a book of bad poetry when a giant wolf snout came out of the darkness and pressed itself against his patio door.

There were several screams. A controller hit Corey in the head. A book went flying. For a split second things were undignified, then Mason was standing in the middle of the room, baseball bat in hand, Corey behind him. They watched as the large grey wolf sat on the deck under the outside light, wet from the rain. A second wolf, larger and back, joined it, panting. Mason watched them paw at the glass for a second.

‘It’s Liam and Theo.’ He dropped the bat. No wonder Liam hadn’t texted him back.

‘Uhh, are you sure?’ Corey asked as Mason opened the patio door, letting the wolves inside.

Mason stepped back. He knew wolves were big. Bigger than dogs. But Theo and Liam were huge. They stood in silence, waiting.

The second Liam began to shake Mason dove on him with a blanket, barely containing the wet dog smell that was about to fly all over his room. As Liam finished shaking off beneath him he looked up into Theo's golden eyes.

'Don't you dare.'

Mason knew wolves couldn't really smile, but it sure felt like that's what Theo was doing right before he shook off in the middle of the room, spraying Mason with rainwater and wolf hair.

'Not cool.'

He threw Liam's wet blanket onto Theo, turning to find a clean shirt to change into. When he was done he was surprised to find Liam still a wolf, sitting at this feet.

‘Well, aren’t you going to change?’ He asked Liam. The wolf whined.

Theo rose, form stretching and flowing until he was fully human.

Fully naked.

‘He’s shy.’ Theo stretched, muscles in his torso straining with effort, ‘I’m not.’

‘Clearly.’ Mason said. Theo wasn’t his favourite person, but it would be stupid to deny that the guy was hot.

Corey threw Theo some sleep pants, glaring at his boyfriend. Mason gave a sheepish grin. Liam remained a wolf, leaning into Theo’s stroking fingers after the chimera got into his pants.

‘Is he stuck like that?’ Corey asked.

‘Naw. He’s just sulking because he couldn’t catch me.’ Theo winked.

‘I don’t even want to know.’ Mason said, throwing a pair of sweat pants into the bathroom. ‘You can change in there if you want.’

Liam snorted and pushed past Theo, body language declaring that their epic chase wasn’t over yet before slipping into the bathroom to shift in private.

By the time he was dressed he came out to find Theo, Corey and Mason playing Mario Kart on Mason’s small TV.

‘How can you stand split screen on something that size?’

‘Well excuse me Mr. "My Parents Have A 55 Inch Flat Screen". There’s pizza on the table.’ Mason said without looking up. Corey wasn’t much of a gamer but he enjoyed picking up the controller from time to time. Theo was surprisingly good, making Mason struggle to stay in first place.

Liam was ravenous. He could smell Theo near the pizza box—the other boy had already eaten his share so Liam didn’t feel bad about polishing off several slices. He watched the boys dig into their game, shouting and jostling each other. Corey was timid at first, slowly joining in when he was sure Theo wasn’t going to hurt him. Theo and Corey never really spent much time together. Liam guessed it had something to do with all the things Theo had done. Corey had been at the brunt of it in the beginning, along with Hayden. What would she think of… No. It didn’t matter. It wouldn’t change anything either way.

‘You cheated!’

‘It’s built into the track!’

‘No shortcuts!’

‘Excuse me for not knowing the house rules. Maybe you should post them on a sign!’ Theo spat.

‘Liam—your boyfriend cheats.’ Mason said, tossing the controller aside.

Boyfriend.

Was that what Theo was? His boyfriend? The words felt odd. They’d kissed, sure. They’d saved each others lives over and over, and Liam couldn’t deny that there was something about the chimera that he had been drawn to, even at the start.

He looked over at Theo. The older boy was studying him carefully, reading him. Measuring each reaction and smell. Liam felt like he was standing at the edge of a chasm. It wasn’t too late to take a step back, or keep walking along the rim. Theo gave him nothing—no scent, no small hints in the way he was holding himself. Nothing to help Liam’s decision. So what then? How was he supposed to decide? What would Scott tell him to do? No. That wasn’t right either. This didn’t belong to anyone else but himself. What then? Too much thinking. Maybe if he just spoke from the heart…

‘You should see him when we’re running in the forest. Never knew a wolf had so many dirty tricks.’ Liam exhales, stepping off the edge into the darkness. Except it isn’t darkness he steps into, it’s Theo and his small, nearly hidden smile. It’s gone as quick as it appears, but it makes Liam’s heart soar.

‘I see you have the same twisted sense of fairness as your friend, baby wolf.’ Theo said, pulling Liam into a loose embrace. Liam leaned into Theo, looking up into his eyes.

‘You’re just afraid I’ll catch you fair and square.’

‘There’s no such thing as fair and square in the real world, Dunbar.’ Theo winked and reached around him to nab the last slice of pizza.

‘Hey.’ Corey protested. Werewolf boys could eat their weight in pizza and still be hungry.

Theo brushed past him like it was no big deal, proving his point. When they were sitting down he wordlessly tore the pizza in two and dropped half on Corey’s plate as if it was the most nonchalant thing to do before he picked up the controller again.

As Theo coaxed Corey into a game, Mason gathered up the dishes in his room, heading to the kitchen.

‘Lemme help.’ Liam said, taking half the cups and plates, trailing behind his friend.

Liam carefully set the dishes down by the sink. He could hear the faint sound of Theo and Corey playing in Mason’s room in the basement.

‘So… Liam. My man. My buddy. Got something you want to tell me?’

‘Umm, good pizza?’

‘You and Theo. How long?’

‘What? Just now. I mean, I guess we kissed the other day. And there were a few times I think he wanted to kiss me before.’

‘Dude I mean how long have you been sleeping with the enemy?’

Liam frowned.

‘Okay, that came out wrong. I retract that.’ Mason held his hands up. ‘I just mean…when I was going through…well, all the shit coming out and finding a boyfriend that wasn’t a douchebag, were you like, gay in secret?’

‘What? No. I mean, kinda? No. Ugh!’ Liam rubbed his hands on his jeans. ‘Look, I loved Hayden, I thought she was hot. I…I wanted to protect her, you know? Then she was gone.’

‘Now it’s Theo.’

‘Yeah. Kind of. Except maybe I’m starting to think I liked him for a long time. Like maybe when he first showed up.’ Liam said, catching the look on Mason’s face ‘Not the fucked up things he did—I mean, when we thought he was just a guy who wanted to belong to a pack. Which in a way is still true.’

Mason shook his head. ‘I don’t get it. How can you trust him? After everything he did. He hurt us Liam. He hurt you, a lot. Corey, too. If he wasn’t on his best behaviour right now I’d toss his ass out.’

‘I dunno, man. I know I keep saying it over and over, but he’s different now. I think… I think something bad happened to him in hell.’

‘Liam. That’s exactly what’s supposed to happen in hell. Bad shit.’

‘Not like this. I think he has nightmares, like, bad ones.’

‘He told you?’

‘Shit no. I’d have to pry that out with a crowbar. When we were in his truck I snooped a bit. He’s been living there since the wild hunt. Sleeping there and everything. And it smells like sweat.’

‘So he’s not allowed to get hot when he sleeps?’

‘It’s different. Sweat and fear. Terror. I didn’t mention it. I didn’t want to scare him off. But whatever it is, I think it's part of what made him change.’

Mason sighed and cracked a can of coke.

‘Scott trusts him. Derek gave him the all clear. You make out with him. I guess I’ll just have to trust the faith you got in him. As long as he doesn't do anything to mess with you. Or anyone.’

‘Thanks, Mace.’

Liam pulled his friend into a tight hug.

‘Now that that’s out of the way I have to say, you could do worse. I mean, dude is shredded.’

‘Mason, were you checking out my boyfriend?’

‘It was kind of hard not to. I mean he was right there, out in the open. Just…being quite…open.’ Mason grinned.

‘Keep your eyes to yourself!’ Liam shoved Mason playfully.

‘Does this mean you’ll come shopping at the mall with me?’

‘We always go to the mall together, why would that change?’

‘I mean go shopping and check out guys. You know.’

‘Mason, just because I have a boyfriend doesn’t mean I’m gonna have the ability to pick out good matching outfits any more than before.’

‘I believe that because of the phrase “good matching outfits”.’

‘Besides, I’m pretty sure if I even checked another guy out Theo would hunt him down.’

‘Got that right, baby wolf.’ Theo stepped into the room with the empty pizza boxes. Mason gaped as the chimera scooted past him to open the fridge and take out two cokes before heading back downstairs.

He paused, turning back to Liam and giving him a quick kiss below the ear before trotting back downstairs and resuming his game with Corey.

‘What… Did…’ Mason gathered himself then leaned in close to his friend.

‘Is Theo Raeken a romantic?’ He hissed

Liam beamed. ‘Guess so.’


Chapter Text


‘Help me!’ The world was frozen, moving slowly as Theo clawed at the ground, trying to keep himself from being dragged down the gaping chasm. Her hands were cold and strong—stronger than they should be. She didn’t let go. He knew what she wanted. He knew he had no right to it.

‘Liam, help me!’ Theo screamed, voice cracking in distress. His claws made gouges in the stone of the floor as Tara reclaimed him. Tear streamed down his face. He couldn’t go back. He couldn’t take it again, not this. He knew she deserved to tear her heart out of his chest over and over, but Theo couldn’t endure the torture, not like the first time. There was no numbness to save him.

‘Theo!’ Liam stood over him, a concerned look on his face.

‘Where is she?’ Theo turned his head, scanning the dark corners of the room.

‘Theo, are you okay?’

That’s right, he wasn’t in the tunnels. He was at Mason’s, sleeping in the guest room with Liam. His boyfriend.

‘Just testing you. You passed.’ Theo gave a single thumbs up, falling backwards on the bed.

Liam sat beside him, watching his chest rise and fall.

‘You dream about Tara, don’t you?’ He asked. Theo stiffened. In a second he was on his feet.

‘Going for a run.’ He said. In the normal world that meant sneakers and shorts. In Theo Raeken world that meant turning into a giant black wolf and bolting out the door.

‘Theo!’ Liam yelled as he watched his boyfriend’s tail disappear into the woods. He would be alright. He was Theo after all. Theo who often said one thing and did another. Theo who had lived a life Liam knew little about. Liam bit his lip and closed the door. Mason was making pancakes upstairs.

#

Theo pushed himself as hard as he could, muscles straining under the pressure of constant speed and whip-like turns. He dove through underbrush and shot through the forest like a black bullet—nothing could catch him. Faster. Faster. Nothing would ever catch him. One day if he had to run, he would be safe. He was never going back there with her. No one would ever make him.

But Liam had the sword. He broke it. I’m safe.

That was a lie. Liam could change his mind. Someone else could trap him. Anything was possible.

Liam wouldn’t let anyone hurt me.

Unless it was all a lie. Something Scott put Liam up to, in order to control him.

That kiss… that wasn’t a lie.

Theo would be foolish to believe anything coming from the younger wolf. It would be best if he just kept running and didn’t look back.

‘Shut up, idiot!’ He screamed, not realize he had been in human form for several minutes, alone in the forest. He punched a tree as hard a he could, over and over. What was happening to him.

Run. He needed to run this out of his system. He needed to be fast. The power was awake in him now and had to be directed somewhere.

Theo took a deep breath and shifted again, taking off deeper into the forest. He would run until his legs stopped listening to him. He would run until his lungs couldn’t keep up with his pace. Then maybe he could rest.

#

Liam wanted to go after Theo after they finished breakfast, but Mason convinced him to hold off—Theo was able to look after himself. Which was true, but Liam already felt himself getting anxious, anger simmering at small things that shouldn’t bug him.

The sun. The moon. The truth.

Nope. Still doesn’t work.

He had lacrosse practice, which was probably the worst thing for him to be doing. He spotted Nolan in the hall and nodded at the boy to come over. Nolan broke from his friends. Whenever he got close to Liam he kept his eyes down.

‘Hey, I don’t think I can do practice today.’

‘No problem.’ Nolan said. ‘Is it like…that time of month?’

‘What?’

‘The moon. I thought… Scott said…’

‘Oh. Yeah. Still no. It’s more of a personal thing.’

‘Theo?’

Liam raised his eyebrow.

‘Sorry.’

Liam sighed. Nolan had helped them. Scott wanted him included in things. Nolan wasn’t bad.

‘Theo took off for a bit. Sometimes… Sometimes I have a harder time staying focused on things when he’s not around.’

‘Because you’re mates?’

‘Mates?’

‘Yeah don’t wolves like, mate for life or something?’

Liam blinked. He didn’t know how to answer that. He didn’t know anything about wolves, and anything he knew about werewolves usually came from Scott or Mason. A quick text might clear things up.

—Mace, do wolves mate for life?

—Some do.

—What about werewolves?

—Umm, some do?

—Not helping.

—Ask Scott. Or Derek maybe.

‘Well?’ Nolan looked at him.

Liam shrugged. He grabbed his bag and turned to head down the hall.

‘Hey, umm, are you guys gonna hang out later? Like tonight?’

‘There’s no pack meeting for like a week.’

‘No I mean, are you hanging out. I just, I don’t really got a lot of friends right now. Gabe was kind of my only one.’

Liam felt his anger swell at the mention of Gabe. He made a tight fist and pushed it into his pocket.

‘Yeah. I guess. Text me later.’

‘Thanks.’ Nolan smiled.

#

Theo was tired. He’d been running non-stop. At noon he’d reached the edge of the wildlife sanctuary that was next to Beacon Hills. He stood on the hill, looking down at the black road that cut through the land. It would be easy to keep going. He still had enough strength to put a lot of distance between himself and everything he’d been through. Very easy.

The sound of the wind dancing through the grass filled his mind. He’d been here before, after Liam had plunged the sword into the ground and he managed to slip away when all eyes weren’t on him for once. He’d stood in this spot, thinking the same things he was thinking now, the same fear coursing through his veins. And he hadn’t left then. He hadn’t left because of that stubborn, stupid, clumsy beta.

‘Fuck.’

Theo turned around. If he went full tilt he’d get to Liam’s house before school got out.

#

Liam was home when Theo got there. He waited in the bushes near his truck, watching him in the kitchen. Liam’s parents would be home tomorrow, then it would be back to the truck until he could figure out what to do.

Theo felt strange knocking on the door. Instead he stayed in wolf form and scratched at the patio door around back. Liam’s head poked out from the divider of the kitchen, smiling when he saw Theo. The younger boy opened the door, letting the black wolf step inside. When he turned around Theo was standing behind him, wet and dirty.

The chimera scratched his neck, not sure what to do. Liam lingered, equally as uncomfortable.

‘Uhh.. do you like spaghetti and meatballs?’

‘Do you put anchovy paste in the sauce?’

‘What? Who would ever do that?’

Theo shrugged. ‘Some people put anchovy paste in the sauce.’

‘This house is a no anchovy zone.’

‘So you’re saying if I brought anchovies in here you’d kick me out?’

‘You just said you didn’t like anchovies!’

‘Don’t put words in my mouth, Dunbar.’

‘I’ll put something in your mouth.’ Liam fumed. Theo’s eyes widened, a smirk growing across his face as he leaned in towards the shorter boy.

‘Liam Dunbar, I’m shocked.’

The younger boy was ready with a come back but before he could get the words out the doorbell rang.

‘Hold on!’ He took a step towards the door then paused, looking back at a very buff, very naked Theo.

‘Put this on.’ Liam threw his apron at Theo, who snatched it from the air as Liam opened the front door to find Malia, arms crossed in front of her.

‘Where is he?’

‘Who?’

‘Theo.’ She pushed past Liam into the house.

‘Sure, just, come in. Why not.’ Liam closed the door.

‘Aren’t you supposed to be in Paris?’

‘It was cold.’

‘You lived as a coyote for years outside.’

‘Still didn’t like being cold. Do you have a point Liam, or are you just stalling to save Theo’s life? Scott told me here was here and he was getting all “Theo” with your brain.’

‘What?’

‘Seriously, how frequently do you guys use my name to describe stuff?’ Theo asked, stepping out of the kitchen wearing the apron Liam threw at him earlier.

‘Why are you in the kitchen. And why are you naked and wearing an apron?’ Malia demanded.

‘Well, Malia, since I’m wearing an apron it clearly makes me not naked. And since you asked nicely I was helping Liam make supper and didn’t feel like getting tomato sauce all over myself.’ Theo didn’t miss a beat.

Malia cocked her head and looked at Liam.

‘He’s been living in his truck!’

Malia’s glare was steady and unflinching.

‘He saved my life.’

Her eyes narrowed.

‘Uhh, he taught me how to so a full shift?’ Liam tossed that out there since he knew Malia spent time in full coyote form.

She let out a huff.

‘Scott told me. Do you know how reckless it is messing with the Nemeton? Like, stupid, dumb reckless.’

‘Yes.’

‘Things are just kind of getting back to normal and you had to go causing trouble with Theo of all people.’

‘He was helping me.’ Theo said. Malia paused, looking between them. She stepped close to Liam, smelling him deeply, causing the beta to blush.

‘Why do you smell like Theo? What’s going on?’

Liam guessed Scott left out the new dimension of their relationship out of the conversation. Or Malia didn’t hear him. Or Malia stormed out of Scott’s place all the way over without hearing the full story.

‘Umm, we’re… we…’ Liam tried to find the best way to put it.

‘Dating.’ Theo said. ‘So far he’s taken me to a giant tree stump in the woods and to his friend’s house to play video games.’

Malia snorted.

‘I know. He’s not racking up the points with either of those.’

The werecoyote flicked her gaze between the boys for several seconds before turning to leave.

‘Liam try not be stupid. Theo if you hurt him in any way, well, you’ll get the rest of the threat if you do.’

She opened the door, pausing before she left.

‘And for god’s sake take your boyfriend out on a proper date.’

Then she was gone, leaving a confused beta werewolf and a smirking Theo. Sensitive noses detected the smoke before it got too bad.

‘Garlic bread!’ Liam dove into the kitchen, desperate to save the meal.

#

Liam watched as Theo polished off three plates of spaghetti, letting out a loud burp when he was done.

‘Charming.’

Theo winked, leaning back in his chair.

‘Sorry about the anchovy thing. You’re just too easy to wind up sometimes.’ The chimera said, picking apart a piece of burnt garlic bread.

Liam didn’t know what to say. Theo being vulnerable was a strange enough occurrence. Theo apologizing came completely out of left field.

‘Thanks? I think.’

Theo nodded.

‘Sorry I ran off this morning. I had to kind of clear my head. Things are weird for me.’ He offered, looking like he was straining to place one word in front of the next.

‘That’s cool.’ Liam said, clearing the table. Theo stood to help but Liam waved him off.

‘Go grab a shower.’

‘Is that your subtle way of saying I smell?’

‘Theo, you reek. Go have a shower.’

‘And they say chivalry is dead.’ Theo dropped the apron on the chair, making his way upstairs.

Liam fought not to watch as the chimera climbed the stairs.

I can look. He’s my damn boyfriend after all.

Liam glanced up. Theo had stopped halfway up the stairs and was smirking over his shoulder at catching Liam. The older boy winked before climbing the rest of the stairs. Why did Liam feel like Theo was winning this strange game they were playing? And why did the chimera look so good without his clothes. It didn’t seem fair.

Half way through the dishes Liam’s phone buzzed with a text.

—I’m on my way over to your place. Should I bring anything?

Shit. Nolan.

Liam tried to think of an excuse to blow him off, but he remembered their conversation in the hall that morning. Plus Nolan had covered for him at practice.

—Snacks?

—Got it.

Okay, things were still fine. He’d just text Mason and get him and Corey to come over, maybe watch some cheesy horror films or something. Guys night in.

—No can do. Came Mason’s reply.

—What why not??

—On a date w Corey. Ciao.

Liam sighed. Okay, so Nolan was gonna come hang out. That wasn’t too weird. Except Nolan got him beaten down in public. And almost played a part in all of their friends being murdered. But he also helped them in the end, despite everything being stacked against them. Liam had more or less made peace with the boy. But Nolan wasn’t Theo’s favourite person. He’d have to make sure to tell the chimera as soon as he was out of the shower.

The doorbell destroyed those plans as Liam rushed to let Nolan in.

‘That was fast.’ Liam said.

Nolan stashed his bike along the side of the house and held up a grocery bag of snacks.

‘Went to the store before I texted.’

‘Oh. Cool. Uh, come in. Watch some TV. I’m just finishing the dishes.’

‘Cool.’ Nolan kicked off his shoes and grabbed the remote as Liam rushed back to the kitchen and finished putting the dishes away. He’d pop upstairs and tell Theo—

‘Nolan.’ He heard the chimera from the kitchen, rushing to the living room.

‘Theo he—‘ Liam stopped when he say Theo, still damp with a very small towel around his waist standing at the bottom of the stairs looking at Nolan who had turned beet red.

‘This was the only towel I could find.’ Theo told Liam.

‘Oh. Here.’ Liam grabbed a full sized one from the laundry and tossed it to the chimera, realizing the events that were about to unfold as the towel left his hands.

Theo let go of the towel around his waist, reaching to grab the bigger one from the air.

The small towel fell.

Theo caught the new one, arms above his head, fully naked in front of Nolan, who wasn’t as accustomed to werewolf manners as the rest of the pack. Theo watched the boy’s eyes dart up and down his body.

Liam watched, waiting for his boyfriend to cover himself up. Instead he was stunned as Theo winked and used the towel to dry his hair, disappearing down the hall.

Such. A. Dick.

‘Umm, sorry about Theo.’ Liam said.

Nolan shrugged and went back to watching TV, face still red.

‘How was practice?’

‘Brutal. Coach had us running plays the whole time. He was super mad you weren’t there.’

Liam knew he’d pay for skipping out on practice but it was better than shoving a freshman into the ground until he was dust.

They chatted for a a few minutes, Liam relaxing into the armchair. Nolan seemed to be desperate for attention. He’d already taken the boy aside and had a long talk about what had happened with Monroe. He’d even forgiven him. Something he thought would have been a lot harder. Maybe Scott was rubbing off on him more than he thought. But this Nolan was nervous. Not afraid, but definitely anxious.

‘Nolan you know you’re safe here.’ Liam said. He was pretty sure anyway.

‘Um, sure.’

‘It’s just that, you seem a bit on edge.’ Liam pointed to his nose, ‘Werewolf thing.’

‘Oh. Oh! Yeah. I guess, kinda.’

‘So what is it?’

‘I just had some questions. If that’s okay.’

‘That’s all? Sure.’ Liam shrugged. Scott had been big on letting Nolan into the pack to see what they actually did day-to-day and when something threatened the town. Nolan had been pretty shy at first but he was starting to get more and more engaged. A few questions were no problem.

‘How did you know you were in love? With Theo I mean.’ Nolan sat on the edge of his seat.

Liam blinked. Not the question he was expecting.

‘I just…’ He gaped, trying to find the words.

‘Got here just in time.’ Theo said, leaning against the back of the other chair. ‘How did you first know you were in love with me?’

‘Now, look. I don’t know if this is really fair—‘ Liam stopped when he saw the look on Nolan’s face fall. ‘But I guess we can talk. About that kinda stuff.’

‘Thanks Liam. I just… I don’t really have anyone I can ask. My parents are kind of, well, I can’t talk to them.’

Liam frowned. He glared at Theo, who held up his hands.

All yours.

‘Well, I guess i didn’t notice really at first if that helps.’

‘Gee, thanks.’ Theo said.

‘Shut up.’

‘So you didn’t know right away then.’

Liam thought back to when Theo first dropped into his life. There was definitely something there. A few weeks ago he would have called it annoyance. It kind of was. But there was s hidden side to it that he was only now exploring.

‘Looking back, yeah. There was something there.’ He met Theo’s eyes, surprised to see the openness in the chimera’s face. Theo gave a small smile and nodded back at the beta.

‘Not that he wasn’t a pain in the ass then. Or after. Or now.’ Liam said. Theo clicked his tongue against the roof of his mouth.

‘So close to being romantic there, Dunbar.’

Liam smirked.

Nolan frowned in thought.

‘So who’s the lucky guy?’ Theo asked, sitting in the vacant chair.

‘What?’

‘C’mon kid. Pure curiosity doesn’t drive someone to ask something like that. You’re snooping for a reason.’

Nolan blushed. ‘I think I might be… you know.’

‘A werewolf?’ Liam asked, confused.

‘Gay.’ Nolan blurted out.

‘Oh.’ Liam said. Theo turned his head slowly to look at the beta, shooting him a look. ‘What?’

‘You just now figuring out what was going on?’

Theo teased.

Liam frowned, grabbing a bag of nachos.

‘That’s cool.’ Theo said to Nolan.

‘You’re not mad at me?’

‘For being maybe gay?’

‘For the stuff I did to Liam.’

‘Who me? Naw. Not at all.’ Theo said. Nolan relaxed. ‘Mostly because I know that you know that if you ever do anything like that again I won’t hesitate to do everything in my power to make your life a living hell. And I don’t just mean you—I mean everyone around you. Parents, friends, pets…’ Theo gave a toothy smile.

Nolan sank in his seat.

‘He’s just kidding.’ Liam offered.

Theo raised his eyebrows, crunching a chip between his teeth.

#

Nolan left around one in the morning, riding his bike home. They’d managed to watch three Terminator films before calling it a night.

They stood next to each other at the bottom of the stairs. Theo was waiting to be told where he should sleep, and Liam was trying to figure out what to do. The first night he brought Theo home they had ended up sleeping on the kitchen floor.

‘I guess let’s crash in my room.’ Liam immediately felt lame as soon as he said the words.

Theo chuckled and followed him up the stairs.

Liam’s room was still the disaster zone it was the other day. Theo watched the beta clear off his bed and get a fresh blanket. While Liam changed the bedding Theo looked closer at the posters on Liam’s walls—hard-muscled athletes, slim women with tans carefully posed on the beach.

‘You never said down there.’ Liam fluffed the pillows.

‘Said what?’ Theo asked.

‘If you were gay.’

‘That’s cuz I’m not.’

‘So you’re bi like me.’ Liam nodded.

‘Nope. Wrong again.’

Liam frowned. What other options where there? As he finished putting the new blanket on the bed Theo flopped down onto the mattress. He put his arms behind his head and closed his eyes. Liam settled in beside him.

‘You’re not gay, you’re not bi. What are you?’

‘With you.’ Theo said without opening his eyes.

Liam grinned, nudging the chimera. Theo looked peaceful. Unguarded. Liam wondered how many people ever saw him like that. Or how often he got to let his guard down in general.

Theo didn’t move when Liam shuffled closer, resting his head against the older boy so he could smell him better.

‘You used my shampoo.’

‘I like it. Makes me smell like you.’

Liam smiled, nuzzling into Theo’s side. Theo dropped an arm, holding Liam close. He felt the beta’s hand on his chest followed but a hesitant kiss, then another. Theo popped an eye open.

‘What are you up to, baby wolf?’

Liam sat up, leaning over Theo, pressing his mouth gently against the chimera’s jaw, travelling upwards until they were kissing deeply.

Theo grabbed Liam’s waist, pulling him over so he was straddling his torso.

‘You’re being bad, baby wolf.’

‘Sorry. I’ve only ever done this once before. And not with a guy.’

‘It’s fine. You’re doing fine.’

Theo silenced him with another kiss. Liam’s smell was intoxicating. The more he was around the werewolf the more he was sure he’d never be able to leave, even if it meant facing Tara again one day.

Liam pulled Theo, rolling over so the chimera loomed over him. Theo nuzzled his face into the crook of Liam’s neck, inhaling deeply.

‘You have no idea how bad I want you, baby wolf.’ He stroked Liam’s cheek gently. Liam grinned, leaning up for another kiss.

Theo moved back, smirk growing on his face.

Liam frowned, then lunged forward, sure of victory.

Theo moved to the side, narrowly avoiding Liam’s advances.

‘What the hell, Theo!’

‘Hey, just cuz you’ve seen me naked doesn’t mean I’m easy, Dunbar.’

Liam hiked himself up on his elbows, looking at Theo in disbelief.

‘What do you want?’

‘Italian? Maybe some nice French cuisine.’ Theo made a show of tapping his finger to his chin.

Liam groaned, collapsing backwards in the bed.

‘I’m going to kill Malia.’

‘Not before you take me to dinner, stud.’ Theo grabbed Liam’s sides, raking his finger across the smaller boy’s ribs gently. Liam roared with laughter.

‘Uncle! Uncle! OK! You win!’

They collapsed beside each other on the bed. Theo took Liam’s hand and brought it to his lips for a small kiss. Mason was right—Theo was kind of a romantic.

At least when he’s not busy being a dick.

‘So, does that mean I have to go sleep on the couch?’ Liam asked. Theo’s response was to pull the other boy to his chest.

‘Did you just declare yourself big spoon?’

‘Just for tonight.’ Theo said, burying his face in Liam’s mane.

‘You’re saying I can be the big spoon tomorrow?’ Liam asked. Theo made a noise in the back of his throat.

‘I’m taking that as a yes.’

Theo’s hand moved around to Liam’s chest, fingers splayed out to feel the beat of the beta’s heart. Liam rested his palm on the back of Theo’s hand and exhaled—all the tension and worry leaving his body.

‘My parents come home tomorrow.’

Theo gave a non-committal grunt.

‘What are we going to tell them?’

Theo buried his face deeper into Liam’s hair.

‘You could stay in wolf form and I’ll tell them I adopted a stray. I’d get you the best kibble.’

Theo frowned and pinched Liam’s nipple.

‘Ow! That hurt.’

‘Veto on the kibble, baby wolf. Gives me bad breath.’

‘Theo we should figure this out now.’

‘In the morning.’

Liam sighed, turning on his side. He was startled when Theo pulled him closer, half asleep.

‘Don’t leave.’

Liam was about to argue, but the look on Theo’s face changed his mind. Part of him actually looked scared to be alone. Liam remembered that when he left last night for a few seconds Theo had that bad nightmare.

The beta moved in closer, feeling the warmth of Theo’s skin next to his.

‘Don’t worry you idiot, I’m not going anywhere.’


Chapter Text


Teeth. The smell of fear. Liam knew that Scott was nearby, and somewhere behind him was Theo. There had been more hunters than they initially thought—Scott leading them into nearby territory to rescue the survivors of a pack that Monroe had decimated. Scott meant for it to be a simple mission but he brought Liam along for backup. When they arrived Theo had trotted out of the shadows in full wolf form, unwilling to stay behind when Liam might be in danger. Seconds later the hunter launched an attack, separating the group.

Liam scanned the trees—there were at least three hunters trying to pin him down. He could hear Scott is the distance, snarling as he dealt with the hunters that were chasing him. Liam rushed the first hunter, smashing his gun against a tree and shattering the clip. The second one got one good shot off, hitting him in the right shoulder. Liam’s rage flared as he swiped the weapon out of the hunter’s hand with his claws. He turned to deal with the last hunter, coming face-to-face with her as he blew a handful of wolfsbane into his face, blinding him.

Stunned Liam lashed out in front of him. One arm twisted backwards, dislocating from his shoulder. He roared in pain. Two more hunters secured him, binding his hands and bringing him to his knees with shock batons. He lunged, trying to bite them. The bonds were too strong. The wolfsbane had weakened him. Pain shot through his arm.

The sound of his alpha fighting faded into the distance. They were drawing Scott away. He felt someone grab the back of his shirt, hauling him along the forest floor before tossing him against a thick oak tree. Liam struggled to focus on the threat in front of him. There were four of them including the woman who had used the wolfsbane.

As they closed in a shadow stretched out, white fangs gleaming. A hunter screamed as Theo tore into the back of his leg, teeth ripping muscle and dropping the man to the ground. Blood dripped from his teeth as golden eyes snapped onto the woman who had harmed his mate.

Theo leapt through the air, then as suddenly as he was heading towards he, he was flying sideways, crossbow bolt sticking into his ribs.

‘Theo!’ Liam screamed. The black wolf was still, unmoving. Liam struggled against his bonds. The pain nearly made him pass out. A satisfied hunter approached the wolf to secure his kill. As soon as he was next to Theo the downed animal moved with incredible speed, fangs sinking into the man’s hands, crushing bone and crossbow at the same time before falling once more, breath shallow.

The remaining hunters turned to Theo. Liam watched as they closed in, knives gleaming in the moonlight.

No.

Liam had to move. He had to do something or Theo was going to die. He moved his arm—the pain welling up, meeting the rage inside of him. The woman—she held her blade up, ready to plunge it into Theo.

The world went still. The rage, the force Liam felt inside went calm. There was nothing left inside but the spark of power at his core. Scott’s power. His power. Theo’s power. He drew on them all at once, forcing his claws to lengthen, the chains breaking. Liam could feel his body changing, fangs growing. He was leaping in the air, speeding past the hunters towards Theo.

He felt the knife sink into his back—a sharp pain that disappeared as his shift continued until a large grey wolf dwarfed the hunters,. He bared his fangs, hackles raised, ready to tear them to shreds. Scott said no killing. Scott said humans were friends. Theo was more important. If any of them moved Liam was ready to destroy them.

Protect Theo.

The smell of fear filled the clearing. The hunters were frozen. The woman with the wolfsbane moved slightly, fingers inching towards he pocket. Liam was on her in a flash, teeth snapping, eyes flashing in anger. The other two hunters ran, scrambling in the woods to escape.

He could smell the wolfsbane. He knew what she was doing. Theo was already wounded—a hit of wolfsbane would weaken him. Maybe enough to kill him. She had to die for Theo to be safe.

Liam opened his jaws, ready to close his fangs around the woman’s throat.

Theo’s whine of pain stopped him. The black wolf snuggled to get to his mate.

Liam hesitated, the tips of his fangs pressing into the flesh of the hunter’s neck. She could feel his hot breath on her face, only a few inches away.

Theo whined again. Liam closed his mouth, backing away enough to let the hunter run, but still close enough to snap her neck if she tried anything.

He didn’t need to worry—she was gone as soon as she felt like it was safe to flee.

Liam threw his head back, breath coming out in a thick sliver cloud as he howled, calling for Scott.

Liam turned his attention to Theo, shifting back to human form the beta bent down, cradling Theo’s wolf head in his lap, immediately taking the wolf’s pain.

There’s so much. More than there should be.

Theo was dying. He could feel it. The black wolf reached out with his paw. Liam felt his boyfriend start to shift.

‘No! Don’t… don’t move.’ Liam concentrated, taking as much pain as he could, but it wasn’t enough.

Theo shifted, breath turning shallow.

‘Theo don’t you dare leave me alone, you stupid idiot!’ Liam kept his focus on taking the edge off Theo’s pain, but the wolfsbane was interfering and his strength was waning. He was vaguely aware of Scott joining him, and the scent of three other werewolves from the pack they had come to save. Liam fought to stay awake as his vision faded.

The last thing he saw was Theo Raeken’s golden eyes. There were no words, but Liam knew what that look meant.

I’m sorry.

#

Liam opened his eyes to the bright light of the sun. He threw his arm up to shield his vision.

Theo was hurt. Theo was dying.

He turned, a jolt of pain going up his arm. He felt for the edge of the bed, instead coming into contact with dense fur of a wolf. One sniff of the air and he knew it was Theo. Liam buried his face in the black wolf’s pelt, feeling the steady rise and fall of his breathing.

Scott came into the backroom of the vet clinic with several takeout containers from a nearby diner to find Liam spooning with a wolf, who also happened to be his boyfriend. And former arch nemesis. And all around pain in the ass, Theo Raeken. He shook his head, never expecting this turn of events.

Scott opened a container and fished out a fork. Liam stirred at the smell of food, eyes focusing on his alpha.

‘M’time is it?’

‘Ten thirty.’ Scott said, handing Liam breakfast. ‘Thursday.’

Two days they had been lying in the back, recovering. They tried to move Theo, who growled when they tried to separate them, even for a second. Anything besides medical attention for Liam got the same reaction from the black wolf—a snarling growl.

Keep away from my mate.

Scott had pulled alpha rank on Theo to calm him down, surprised when it worked, giving more weight to Derek’s theory that Theo was more than a chimera now.

‘You’re lucky someone in their pack knew how to deal with healing a full shift wolf or Theo wouldn’t be alive.’ Scott said.

‘What happened?’ The alpha asked.

‘I…I almost killed someone.’ Liam said. It was better to tell Scott things like this. In the past hiding things only caused trouble. ‘I got so angry, I shifted before I knew it. I had to protect Theo. He was… he was hurt bad.’

Liam looked down at the sleeping wolf, running his hands through Theo’s fur. The wolf let out a contented sigh.

‘It’s not the first time your control has slipped. But you stopped yourself.’

Liam shook his head.

‘I had control. It was underneath all of the anger. I dunno… I just saw them hurt Theo. They were going to kill him. I was furious. Then everything inside got clear and there was this choice, Theo or the hunters. And I made up my mind. If Theo hadn’t stopped me, I would have killed her.’

‘That was just the adrenaline.’

‘No. It was different. He was dying. I know you don’t understand but I didn’t care what I had to do to save him.’ Liam said.

Scott sat in silence. He nodded.

‘I understand.’

He gave a weak smile and patted Liam on the shoulder.

‘Get some rest.’

‘Umm, my parents…’

‘They think you’re camping with your new roommate.’ Scott chuckled and closed the door, leaving the two alone.

It was the late afternoon when Theo woke up, blinking. He opened his mouth in a lazy yawn, showing off all the sharp teeth in his mouth.

‘Ugh, Theo, have you been eating mice again? Your breath stinks.’ Liam waved the smell away.

Theo glared at him.

Can wolves glare?

Liam reached out to scratch Theo’s chin—it had been a small battle to find his boyfriend’s special spot. A battle that had spilled over into several days previous after his parents had come home and Theo had charmed his way into the spare bedroom in the basement.

Liam’s mother pestered for details he didn’t have, but Theo was ready with a cover story about how his parents had disowned him and kicked him out when he told them he was gay. Liam’s parents had made him welcome, and so far Liam had deflected all of his mother’s questions about his relationship with Theo, but he knew that she suspected something was going on between them.

Between Theo’s teasing, lacrosse practice, and Mason asking him a thousand questions now that he wasn’t straight, Liam barely had time to arrange a proper date for him and Theo, and despite what the chimera said, he seemed happy enough to continue as they has been over the past few weeks. He’d managed to keep his assortment of odd jobs a secret from everyone so far, trying to save up enough money to take Theo somewhere nice, even though he thought that the older boy was just saying it as part of their game.

I’ll take him to a five star restaurant. That’ll show him!

Those easy days were shattered by reports from all over the world of hunters organizing, mobilizing. Scott couldn’t stand by doing nothing. The entire thing had Monroe’s signature all over it. They started going out scouting, rounding up omegas from slain packs, giving them shelter until they could find a new pack.

At first Scott didn’t want Theo around, but every now and again the chimera would tail Liam. He’d saved their skin two times over the past week, and he had paid for it when his luck ran out with their last mission.

Liam reclined, letting Theo rest his furry head on his chest.

‘Promise me you’ll stop.’ He said to the wolf. Theo looked at him with unblinking eyes.

‘I know why you do it. You don’t have anything to prove. And you’re not disposable, alright?’

Theo huffed. Liam flicked his ear.

‘I mean it, idiot. I’m not strong enough, Theo. I’m not like Scott. If something happened to you I don’t think I would make it. So start thinking before you come up with all your great ideas to jump into the middle of things, okay?’

Theo whined, licking the trails of tears from the beta’s face. Liam wrapped his arms around Theo’s neck, burying his face in the wolf’s fur, inhaling his scent with a sigh. Sometimes it was easier when Theo was a wolf.

#

Liam dumped everything on the table. Mason raised an eyebrow as Corey bent over, counting the money. Nolan sat at the end of the table, working on a report for history class.

‘You’re not serious.’ Mason said, ‘It’s the most expensive place in Beacon Hills.’ He flipped the brochure for Le Petit Bistro over in his hands.

‘The cheapest appetizer is like twenty-six bucks. You know how Theo eats—you’ll go bankrupt.’

‘One hundred and forty-eight dollars and sixty cents.’ Corey finished counting.

‘That is definitely not enough.’ Mason handed the brochure back to Liam.

‘I’ve been working for three weeks. I was sure this would be enough.’

‘Not even close. Plus what are you going to wear?’

Liam looked down at his clothes.

‘No. Don’t even say it. You’d get turned away at the door.’ Mason said.

‘How do you know?’

‘Because he showed up at the door in jeans and they turned him away.’ Corey crossed his arms and held up two fingers ‘Second date. Train wreck.’

Nolan snorted. Mason shot him a glare.

‘At least I got a boyfriend.’

‘Hey it’s not as easy as you guys make it look.’ Nolan complained.

‘I make it look easy?’ Liam asked.

‘No you.’ Nolan blushed.

‘Is he picturing my boyfriend naked?’

Mason shrugged ‘Honestly it’s not hard—I think we’ve all seen him naked.’

Liam frowned.

‘Remind me why I’m trying to take him on a romantic dinner again?’

‘So he’ll have sex with you?’ Corey piped up.

‘Cuz you love him.’ Nolan chuckled.

‘Because you want to win whatever stupid game it is you’re both playing.’ Mason offered.

‘Oh yeah, that one. Maybe a bit of the others too.’ Liam nodded.

‘Why don’t you ask your parents for some money?’ Nolan finished the last of his history report and closed his text book.

‘They don’t know we’re going out.’

‘They know.’ Mason said without looking up as he picked at Liam’s shirt. ‘Trust me.’

‘Oh, why don’t you enlighten us on how you’re such an expert on the things my parents know Mason.’

‘Your mom asked me.’

‘What!? What did you say?’

‘I told her you were going out.’

‘When was this?’

‘Like a week and a half ago.’

‘So when you guys told them me and Theo were “going camping”…’ Liam trailed off.

‘They probably through you were banging.’ Nolan said.

‘Nolan!’ Corey shot him a look. The teen held up his hands and Corey couldn’t help grinning.

‘It’s true.’ Mason smiled, ‘Your mom asked if you were being careful. I told her you were hopeless but Theo was a very responsible guy.’

‘Oh god.’ Liam covered his face, collapsing into a chair. ‘My life is over. I can never go home.’

‘I guess you could sleep in Theo’s truck?’ Corey said. Liam shot him a glare.

‘Dude it’s fine, whatever. I wish my mom was as cool about it as yours. She still thinks all me and Corey do is hold hands.’ Corey wagged his eyebrows at his boyfriend.

‘Okay, none of that.’ Mason said.

‘My shattered home life aside, how am I going to get enough cash to take Theo out?’

‘Well, there is one way…’ Mason said.

#

‘You want what?’ Malia folded her arms.

‘I’ll pay you back. With interest.’ Liam begged.

‘No.’

Mason’s idea of asking the pack for a loan wasn’t going well. Lydia had pinched his cheek before walking off. Scott had no cash to spare between school and scouting for omegas and lost werewolves. Stiles was still off being Stiles. Malia was next on his list and the door was closing in his face.

It stopped at the last second.

‘Wait, what’s the money for? Some lame video game about a talking hamburger?’

‘It’s actually to take Theo out. To the bistro down town.’

‘The one with the crystal chandeliers.’

‘Yes.’

‘The one I’ve been waiting for Scott to take me to.’

‘…Yes?’

‘The one that you’re taking your boyfriend, who tried to kill us all, to without being asked or figuring out he wanted to go after a long series of clues, each more obvious than the last?’

‘Okay, I’m lost.’

‘Hold on.’

Malia disappeared into the house. Liam wasn’t sure what she was talking about, but he had the vague notion he was getting Scott in trouble somehow.

‘Here.’ Malia pressed several bills into his hand.

‘This is too much.’

‘Shut up. I just texted Derek. Head over to his place, he’s waiting.’

‘What? I don’t…’

Malia closed the door in Liam’s face, texting furiously. He guessed Scott was getting and earful.

‘Thanks?’

#

Derek was scary. Sometimes. Most of the time. If Liam hadn’t been a werewolf he would have never thought to approach Derek at all. Even as a werewolf it had only been Malia’s prompting that brought him to Derek’s loft.

‘Just in time.’ Derek said as Liam opened the door. ‘Strip.’

‘Huh?’

‘Malia told me you were going out down town and that everything you wear “screams grubby lacrosse jock” in her words.’

‘Okay, I don’t feel like that was very helpful of her.’

‘Strip.’ Derek said, tossing a dress shirt at him.

‘Most of these should be your size. I never wear them so you might as well find something that’ll impress your date.’

Liam fumbled out of his shirt and pants, standing in the middle of Derek’s loft in his underwear as the older werewolf mixed and matched clothes, getting him to try on different combinations. He was getting tired of doing up buttons when Derek declared they’d found the right outfit—black slacks with a dark blue collared shirt.

Liam admired himself in the mirror—the clothes hugged his body just right. Derek shook his head.

‘That’s never gonna work. Here.’ Derek opened the top button of the shirt, then the next, then a third.

‘Hey!’

‘If you want to get a guy’s attention, this is the way to do it. Trust me.’ Derek said.

‘How do you know how to get a guys attention?’ Derek grinned and tossed Liam a small vial. He held it up to the light. Inside was a small, dried root.

‘What’s this?’

‘Ha'il chii' gah. Bear root. Good for tooth aches if you chew it.’ Derek said.

‘And I want this why?’

‘Take a smell. A small smell—it’s strong.’

Liam opened the vial and took a quick whiff. The spicy, earthy aroma spread through him, warming him up.

‘Smells great!’

‘No werewolf likes cologne or perfume, but one whiff of that and Theo’ll pay attention.’ Derek tossed a pair of leather shoes to Liam.

‘Here’s a helpful hint—no seafood, no garlic bread. Oh, and if he orders the most expensive thing on the menu don’t make a big deal about it.’

‘Why not?’

‘It’s a test. Trust me. And knowing Theo you better stay on your toes.’

‘Why do I feel like you’re sending me to my doom.’

‘Your words, Liam. Not mine.’

#

‘This would be more romantic if we weren’t in the backseat of your best friend’s car.’ Theo smiled as Mason drove them downtown.

‘And miss out on any part of this? No chance.’ Mason said.

Theo shook his head. Liam came home and told him to get dressed up for a genuine date. Which was great, except Theo had nothing to wear so he ended up enlisting Liam’s mom’s help to raid her husband’s closet and find some older, slimmer clothes that Theo wore like a million bucks.

When he stepped outside he was surprised to see Liam holding the door to the backseat open. Freshly shaved, with hair combed, Liam was stunning.

‘What?’ He asked after Theo stared at him for several seconds. ‘Is my shirt untucked?’

‘Sometimes I look at you baby wolf and I think “wow”. Then you always open your mouth and ruin it.’ Theo said, climbing into the car.

Liam flipped him off behind his back.

‘Saw that.’ Theo said as Liam closed the door.

They were sitting in the car when Theo noticed it. At first he thought Mason has some sort of new air freshener in his car. A warm, earthy scent that made Theo’s nose tingle. Then he noticed the smell coming off of Liam.

‘Are you wearing cologne?’ He asked.

‘Sort of. Do you like it?’

Theo leaned in close, lips brushing Liam’s neck, taking in a deep smell of his scent.

Liam swallowed the lump in his throat.

Theo nuzzled into his neck.

Mason watched through the rearview mirror. It was so wrong how hot Theo was, leaning in close, lips brushing Liam’s neck.

A loud honk brought him back to reality as he straightened the car and focused on the road. He glanced up once more to see Theo wink at him. Mason rolled his eyes.

#

Derek was right—Theo ordered the most expensive thing on the menu. The restaurant was beyond fancy. Liam ignored all the forks that were laid out and stuck to the one closest to his plate.

The table was big. It felt like Theo was a mile away from him, making conversation awkward.

‘So… ready for the big game?’ Liam asked.

‘Liam, you do remember that you’re the one that plays lacrosse, right?’

‘Yeah. Oh yeah. Sure. Just, I meant are you going to come and cheer me on.’

‘Have I ever gone to any of your lacrosse matches before?’ Theo asked.

‘Yeah. You’re always under the bleachers on the left.’ Liam said. Theo nearly spit out his water. He was sure that he kept his presence concealed.

‘So you coming?’

‘Yeah, I’ll be there.’

Liam grinned. Theo shook his head. Sometimes the beta was a lot more perceptive than he let on.

Their food came with flair to match the decor. It tasted good enough but there was barely a single portion. Liam poked his meal. He wasn’t entirely sure what he’d ordered but he knew he didn’t like olives, using his fork to push them off his plate.

Except it wasn’t a push so much as a fling. A flight right onto Theo’s white dress shirt.

‘Shit! It was an accident!’ Liam said as Theo's eyes narrowed, a slow smile spreading over his face.

‘That wasn’t an accident, Dunbar. That was an act of war.’

#

Liam waited until Theo was finished yelling at the beefy waiter that threw them out of the restaurant. He hadn’t meant to start an all-out food war with Theo—he just didn’t like olives. Besides, any normal person would have overlooked such a small thing and kept enjoying the very expensive meal.

Theo stalked down the sidewalk, shirt smeared with rich meat juices and olives.

‘Where are you going?’ Liam asked, chasing after his boyfriend.

‘I’m starving! They made us wait an hour to cook something that I could hold in the palm of my hand. Plus I didn’t even get to eat it thanks to you.’

‘Me? You were the one who started throwing dinner rolls!’

‘First of all, they were biscuits at best. That place wishes they had dinner rolls. Second, you threw and olive at me!’

‘Okay, that did happen but it was a total accident.’

Theo paused. Liam had the most serious look on his face and the chimera couldn’t keep it together any more. A smile broke his performance and he started to chuckle, pulling Liam in close.

‘Thanks for taking me out. Even if we only got to the appetizers.’

Liam smiled, leaning into Theo’s arms. The quiet moment was interrupted by the rumbling of the taller boy’s stomach.

‘Tacos?’ Liam asked, spotting a small restaurant.

‘Tacos.’ Theo nodded.

#

They sat on a park bench under a street lamp, eating a bag of greasy tacos and slurping huge cups of fountain pop.

‘Not how I was picturing this ending up.’ Liam said.

‘What, you wanted to end up on a park bench with some one else? Nolan maybe? Or Derek?’

‘What? No. Just, I worked so hard to save up for a real date.’

‘Liam, this is a real date. So were the last dozen times we went out together.’

‘Even when you got shot with the crossbow?’

‘Especially when I got shot with the crossbow!’

Liam gave a quick smile, toying with his straw.

‘You know, when I saw you there I really thought you were dying…’

Theo ran a gentle hand through Liam’s hair, pulling him into a soft kiss.

‘No work talk.’ Theo breathed in his scent. 'Mmm. You still smell good.'

Liam chuckled and shook his head. It was nice to be able to relax after everything that had happened. He knew that things weren’t going to cool down, which made moments like this all the more precious. They had to take them as often as they could. Scott would be calling a pack meeting soon, and as many of them that were left would gather, ready to face whatever was on the horizon.

‘What is it Dunbar?’

‘Umm, can we kiss some more?’

‘You’re such a dork.’

Theo leaned in, pressing into Liam’s side as they made out, tacos forgotten. When they pulled away Liam chuckled.

‘You taste like salsa.’

Chapter Text


‘Don’t give up!’ Liam shouted. Things were dire—they’d been pushed to the very edge. Mason was lying on the floor, unmoving. Theo was gritting his teeth, trying to keep up with every move their attackers were making, but it was too much for the chimera. Liam cursed under his breath. There was no way they were going to make it out of this one unscathed.

The buzzer sounded. The basketball bounced across the gym floor, settling against the wall. Liam wiped the stinging sweat from his eyes. They lost by one point.

‘What the hell was that?’ Theo yelled. ‘You were supposed to be covering him!’

‘I was, then they knocked Mason down!’ Liam helped his friend to his feet. A game of pick up at the rec centre had fast and loose rules and no referee to call out the obvious foul.

‘Don’t feel too bad, you’re just kids.’ The captain of the other team waved, heading to the showers.
Liam felt his teeth lengthen, eye’s shimmering.

Theo’s punch to the gut knocked the wind out of him. The chimera swooped down to catch Liam on his shoulder, supporting him until his breathing returned to normal.

‘You know,’ Liam gasped, ‘A simple “calm down” would have worked.’

‘I was angry.’ Theo said, setting Liam back on his own two feet, ‘Sorry.’

Mason rubbed his hip where he hit the floor. He hated basketball. And volleyball. And lacrosse. How did he let Liam talk him into playing? He turned to Theo, glaring.

‘This bruise has your name all over it.’

‘Me?’ Theo pointed at himself, pretending to be shocked.

‘Why did I let your boyfriend let you talk me into playing this stupid game?’ Mason winced—the skin where he fell was irritated and raw.

‘I feel bad.’ Theo said. ‘Want me to kiss it better?’

‘Wha?’ Mason fumbled for words.

Theo wheezed as Liam’s fist connected with his stomach, knocking the air from his lungs.

‘Ok, good game, gotta go, bye!’ Mason grabbed his bag and bolted out of the room as fast as his injured hip would carry him.

‘What the hell?’ Theo gasped.

‘The only thing you’re going to be kissing is me.’ Liam said, pulling the chimera forward by the shirt and pressing their lips together. Theo found his breath mid-kiss, straightening to his full height.

‘Get a room fags.’

The kiss ended. Liam gripped Theo’s arm tightly. Theo breathed in deeply.

‘Theo…’

‘Just getting a scent.’

‘Theo.’

‘Hold that thought, baby wolf. I’ll be right back.’

‘Theo, no.’

Theo smiled at Liam, then he was halfway across the room. Basketball, like lacrosse or any other sport, meant playing with a handicap. But since the game was over, and someone was threatening his boyfriend, Theo didn’t feel obliged to follow Scott’s rules, tearing across the court to come up behind the gangly kid that had insulted them.

‘Wanna say that again? I’m a bit hard of hearing.’ Theo loomed over the kid, who couldn’t be more than fourteen years old and tall for his age. The kid looked confused, unsure how Theo had gotten across the room so fast. His buddies, all around the same age, stepped back eager to see how things played out.

The kid pushed out his chest.

‘What, you fags got no shame, always rubbing everyone’s faces in your shit.’

Theo took a step forward.

‘Theo, let’s go. They’re just kids.’ Liam stopped at his side, taking his hand. Theo glared at the teenager, allowing Liam to pull him away.

Suddenly Theo tore free from his boyfriend’s grasp and lunged at the kid. Liam’s heart jumped—Theo was so fast Liam wasn’t able to reach out and stop him if he wanted to.

The chimera paused, lips a few inches away from the kid’s ear. Theo whispered and the kid’s eyes got big before he turned an bolted, his gang of shocked friends following in his wake.

‘What the hell did you just do?’ Liam asked.

‘Told him what I smelled. Mother, sisters, pet dog…german shepherd, lilacs—you know the ones that grown on Brant avenue. The house with white trim.’

‘What the… Theo, don’t you remember everything we just went through because people were scared of us?’

‘Sure, but this wasn’t related to anything werewolf-y.’ Theo peeled off his tank top and wiped his neck and forehead. ‘This was because of gay powers.’

His eyes flashed, throwing the balled up shirt through the air and into the net with little effort.

#

Liam pushed the door open and stormed upstairs. Theo followed several feet behind, keeping away from the tidal wave of rage. He closed the door gently, noticing Liam’s step-father at the table for the first time.

‘Lover’s quarrel?’ The doctor asked.

‘Something like that. We were playing a friendly game of pick up.’ Theo said.

‘Let me guess, things got less than friendly. Liam has always had a competitive streak.’

‘Nothing like that. Well, a bit like that, yeah. It was more how I handled some lip kids that saw us kissing.’

‘Ah.’ Dr. Geyer nodded, ‘And what was it you did?’

‘I kind of threatened them.’ Theo said carefully. He didn’t speak to Liam’s parents a lot, and he knew one step could get him kicked out. As much as he liked mouthing off, he liked living under the same roof as Liam more. It made it easier to protect him. And sneak kisses.

‘I mean, I did it in a non-violent way. With words. The violence was implied only.’ Theo admitted.

‘And how did Liam react… to this name-calling?’

‘I think it’s the first time he’s been called anything negative since we started dating. Kind of hit him hard. But I took care of it.’ Theo said.

‘You’ve been on the sharp side of homophobic comments before.’ Dr. Geyer asked.

‘A few times.’

‘They don’t bug you?’

‘I have a long list of things that bug me and trust me, they’re somewhere near the bottom.’

‘You don’t care what people say about you, you care about what they say about Liam.’

‘No, I care about how they make Liam feel.’ Theo licked his lips, trying to think of how to explain things.

‘I used to feel….weak. Like the world was hammering at me from every side and I couldn’t do anything to stop it. So I got stronger. And stronger. And soon there was nothing left but that. I didn’t even know why I wanted to be in control so bad—I just knew I had to be the best. Be the strongest.’

‘Be the alpha.’ Dr. Geyer offered. Theo’s eyes darted to the man’s face. He hadn’t realized how deeply the analogy cut through the chimera.

‘Exactly. I was obsessed. I…hurt a lot of people. Did a lot of bad things.’

‘Because you were afraid of being weak. Being alone.’ The doctor guessed. Theo nodded.

‘I don’t want Liam to ever feel like that. I don’t ever want to feel like that. I couldn’t let them just walk away, thinking they could make anyone that was different less than them. I couldn’t.’

‘Well, you didn’t dent any lockers or get violent, and as a parent I can’t say I condone threatening people.’ Dr. Geyer leaned closer. ‘But as a parent… well that’s a different story.’

Theo exhaled, relief clear on his face.

‘Just don’t make a habit of it.’

Theo nodded, heading upstairs to find his boyfriend, leaving Dr. Geyer to his reports.

#

Theo watched Liam from across the street. He’d given up trying to tail the boy in secret, Liam always seemed to know where he was, even when Theo was doing is best to conceal his presence. He’d tried to apologize the night he’d threatened the teenager in the rec centre but he’d made matters ten times worse. Now the beta was avoiding him, plunging the pack into a very uncomfortable atmosphere.

Scott was off saving as many packs as he could from Monroe—occasionally he’d call on them to help. Lydia had gone off to university and Malia split her time between school and helping Scott. Derek was still around, but he followed his own schedule and agenda, and aside from a snarky text to Theo now and again, Stiles could have been half way across the world.

That left the B team in Beacon Hills. Mason, Corey, Liam, and Noah. Plus Theo, who was pretty sure ranked the mini-pack up from a C to a B all on his own. Things were pretty quiet at first, a few minor bumps here and there. Theo had been out scouting the edges of their territory lately, keeping it clear of hunters on his own. It was easy enough to harass one or two of them at a time and drive them away. As long as he stayed on top of it, it was manageable.

Things at home, however, we not as manageable. Liam’s competitive nature clashed with Theo’s stubborn streak and it had been nearly a week since the two of them spoke more than three words to each other. It was driving Theo mad, though he would never admit it. He couldn’t even remember what stupid thing he’d said to get a rise out of the beta that had gone so wrong. Having Liam so close, smelling him constantly, it was enough to drive Theo into a frenzy. It took every ounce of control the chimera had not to grab the boy and shake him, but he’d be damned if he was the one to give in first.

Right now Theo watched as Liam sat with Mason outside of McDonalds, eating ice cream. Or Mason was eating ice cream and Liam’s cone was melting as he gestured and did his “angry whisper” thing at his best friend. There was too much traffic between them to catch what they were saying, but Theo saw Liam point towards him several times so it wasn’t hard to piece together what his boyfriend was angry about.

Theo ducked away, heading through the small park running along side of the road. He never went too far from Liam, even though they were having a cold episode it didn’t mean that he could abandon the beta to his anger.

It was hard to be alone. Theo had spent most of his life alone. Even with the dread doctors he was left to his own devices. Between experiments and studying his body, Theo learned as much as he could about the supernatural. About the world that he was missing. The pain of solitude only intensified when the chimera experiments began. Werewolf. Werecoyote. Add the intense needs of a pack-oriented animals to a lonely little boy and Theo physically ached to be surrounded by friends. To be seen. To be touched. Lone wolves never survived very long. But this was Liam. Liam was an idiot. He hadn’t rejected Theo, hadn’t abandoned him. He was just being difficult.

Running took up a lot of his spare time. Reading. Exercise. He was careful to keep the physical energy drained, or the frustration would mount quickly. The part of him that wanted to leave was still there, nagging him from the back of his mind. He was free. He could do anything he wanted.

Or could he?

Liam kept him here. The Nemeton had cemented the bond between them, and the beta’s love solidified things. It was torture to be so close to the other boy and not be allowed to touch him.

Theo hadn’t realized the sun set as he walked along the riverbank, lost in thought, until the street lights came on. The air was cold—rain was on the horizon. He walked down the footpath, past the skate park where there was a lone teenager trying to pull off a kick flip. Theo remembered the story he told Scott of how he’d got the bite trying to land an ollie and smirked. He watched the skater mess up over and over. The wind shifted, carrying his scent to Theo, who was surprised Nolan was out so late.

As the chimera made his way down to the bowl, Nolan turned to face him, pushing his hoodie back. He relaxed when he recognized Theo’s face.

‘Pretty late.’ Theo said, nodding at the board in Nolan’s hands.

‘I’m not very good so I practice when no one’s around.’

‘I thought lacrosse was your thing.’

Nolan shrugged. ‘I’m way better at lacrosse. I’m crap at skateboarding.’

‘You know one definition of insanity is repeating something over and over, expecting a different outcome.’

‘Ouch.’ Nolan kicked his board, grabbing it with his hand. ‘I’m gonna give you a pass cuz you and Liam are on the outs.’

‘How is he? Not that I care.’ Theo asked.

‘Shitty. I mean, he’d never admit it but dude is hurting. What did you say to him?’

‘I don’t remember. I wasn’t thinking.’ Theo was used to lying.

Nolan nodded. ‘Judging from how Liam is acting it was pretty bad.’

Theo shrugged. Nolan wasn’t an expert on body language but Theo looked kind of deflated compared to his usual cocky self.

‘You’re in rough shape, too.’ Nolan said.

‘Me? I’m in my prime.’

‘You’ve only insulted me once since you came over here. Normal Theo would have worked in at least five more jabs by now.’

‘Okay, so I’m a little off my game.’

Nolan smiled. The sky cracked, thunder echoing off the clouds. Rain pounded the ground, soaking everything instantly.

‘C’mon!’ Nolan yelled, skateboard over his head. ‘My place is right here!’

Theo felt the cold rain cover him, chilling him to the bone. He looked over his shoulder. It would take an hour to walk back to Liam’s house, and when he got there the welcome would be as warm as the rain he was standing in.

Theo made up his mind, running after Nolan.

#

Nolan finished drying his hair, tossing a clean towel to Theo who used it to stop dripping all over the floor. They’d come in the back, Nolan opening the door like it was a time bomb. Once they were inside he held his finger to his lips. Theo nodded. He could hear re-runs of old game shows playing the living room.

Nolan waved from him to take his shoes off. Theo held his wet shoes in one hand, following the teenager as he quietly made his way through the living room towards the stairs. An old man snored in an armchair, glasses perched on the end of his nose. A woman nearly the same age was sleeping in front of the TV.

Once they got to Nolan’s room the younger boy closed the door with the same care he had when they first got to the house. As soon as the latch caught with a click Nolan’s shoulders sagged in relief. Theo raised an eyebrow.

‘My parents don’t like a lot of noise.’ Nolan said, setting his shoes down by the heater.

‘Well if they’re anything like your grandparents they could probably sleep through a missile strike.’ Theo said.

‘Grandparents?’

‘Downstairs.’

‘Those are my parents. I was kind of a late surprise.’ Nolan rubbed the back of his neck.

‘Oh.’ For once Theo had no words.

‘Here.’ Nolan tosses a sweat shirt and some pants to Theo before getting changed himself.

The chimera watched the human wiggle out of his wet clothes with interest. Nolan’s build was similar to Liam’s but his scent was very different. Lighter.

‘Are you just gonna stand there?’ Nolan chuckled as Theo dripped onto the floor. The teenager turned on some quiet music as Theo got out of his wet clothes, drying off before putting on the sweats Nolan tossed him. It was nice to be warm.

Theo was keenly aware of Nolan’s eyes on him. The boy’s excitement wasn’t hard to pick out from the scents in the room. Nolan was lying on the bed. He patted the spot next to him, face falling when he saw Theo hesitate.

‘I’m not gonna hit on you or anything. I mean, you’re hot but I’d never do that to Liam.’ Nolan said.

‘I…I don’t mind cuddling up. For warmth.’ Theo hated himself the moment he said it. It had been so long since he got to be next to Liam. The nightmares had started to come back. If there was a chance at being close to a pack member he was going to take it.

Nolan is part of my pack.

It was an odd realization, but Theo accepted it without much though as he curled up on the bed next to the boy.

They listened to music for a few minutes, lost in their own thoughts before Nolan took Theo’s arm and pulled it over top of him.

‘Nolan…’

‘I just want you to hold me, okay? I miss it. Nothing else, I swear!’

Theo sighed. Nolan was as lonely as he was. He rested his head on the pillow, wrapping one arm around Nolan. He felt the boy settle immediately. The initial excitement in the air had faded into a smell of contentment and security.

‘Is it true, what they all say about you?’ Nolan asked. ‘That you tried to kill everyone?’

Theo closed his eyes.

‘Yes.’

‘Why?’

‘I was stupid. I believed stupid things. I was afraid.’

‘You’re not stupid.’

Theo snorted.

‘Tell that to my boyfriend.’

‘He’s going nuts. It’s hard to keep him focused on the field. He said… he said when you’re not around it’s hard for him to stay calm. I dunno how he’s lasted this long.’

‘He’s an idiot.’

‘You’re both being idiots. Do you know what I’d give to have someone hold me like this? And you both get to do that like every day if you want to. I got no one.’ Nolan clutched Theo’s arm tightly. The chimera could smell the tears running down Nolan’s face. He wasn’t sure how to react. Nolan had hurt Liam, but he was a part of his family now. He imagined that was how the other pack members saw him—blood-stained hands that were at least on their side now. But Nolan, he was just a kid who believed the wrong person. Believed the wrong thing, a lot like Theo had. It hadn’t helped that his only friend had become one of Monroe’s most fanatic followers.

Theo paused. No one liked to mention Gabe. The few times his name came up at pack meetings Nolan was always quiet. Theo assumed it was to distance himself from the deeds of the other boy, but now he wondered.

‘Did Gabe hold you like this?’ Theo asked. He felt Nolan’s heart speed up. The teenager nodded.

Theo pulled him tighter. ‘I’m sorry Nolan. I didn’t know. No one did.’

‘I don’t want them to. Gabe…we were together for a week or so before Monroe started to say all these things. Like she could protect us. Make us safe. Gabe, he was stronger than me.’

‘No. He was more afraid. The bigger the fear the more you cling to the promises of the people you think are powerful.’

‘Did someone like Monroe lie to you too?’

Theo sighed. There was no way to wipe the past away. The things he had done were a part of the actions that made him who he was. The shame, the guilt, they were a part of him too. There was no way to run from those things, no matter how hard he trained or how fast he became.

‘There were people that told me I was special. That I was meant for great things. They lied.’

Nolan shifted his body to face Theo.

‘Maybe not.’

Theo looked at the boy, confused.

‘I mean, maybe they did lie, but I think you’ve already done great things. You helped Liam so much. You’ve protected us. You…you helped Gabe when I couldn’t do anything.’

Theo hugged the boy close. Nolan was scared and alone. He knew the feeling well. He knew where it could take him. How many times had Theo laid in the dark, wishing for someone to hold him, to make him feel safe? How many times had he cursed himself for being weak, for wanting things he could never have? Nolan was pack. Pack was family. Theo’s heart ached for the boy, making him more confused than ever.

‘Thanks.’ Nolan squeaked out after he got his tears under control.

‘My shirt is drenched.’

‘Technically it’s my shirt.’ Nolan smiled. Theo loosened his arms until they were both comfortable again.

‘Make up with Liam.’

‘I don’t know how. Every time I open my mouth he shuts down. If he got mad I could deal with it. When he loses control and hits me, I know what to expect.’

‘That’s messed up.’

‘Yeah, kinda.’

‘Really messed up.’

‘Okay, thanks Nolan. Picture is loud and clear now.’

‘Did you try getting him something?’

‘I caught like four rabbits for him.’

Theo could tell Nolan was scrunching up his nose in the dark.

‘Rabbits aren’t really a traditional sign of peace. Or romance. Or—‘

‘Okay! I get it. Exnay on the rabbits.’ Theo rolled his eyes. ‘If you were in a fight with your boyfriend what would you want him to get you to make it better?’

‘Well, it can’t be something that doesn’t mean anything.’

‘What’s that supposed to mean?’

‘Like on TV it’s all flowers and chocolates.’ Nolan said. Liam did like chocolate.

‘But you wouldn’t want that.’

‘Right.’

‘Because it’s…cliche.’

‘Right!’

‘So what would you want then?’

‘I dunno. Something… something that told me that he cares, right? Something that meant something to just us.’

‘Nolan you’re a closet romantic.’

‘Well I’ve been in the closet so long I picked up some bad habits.’

‘Something that shows I care… But I look out for him every day. I’ve chased off like twenty hunters.’

Nolan hit Theo’s arm gently.

‘Ow.’

‘Nolan, you were the one that hit me.’

‘I did’t think your arm would be that hard.’

‘Well it is.’

Nolan snorted, turning over in the bed to get some space. Theo looked up at the ceiling. What could he get Liam that showed he was sorry, that he cared? The distance between them was clear. Maybe it was best to put everything in Liam’s hands, to remind him that when it came down to it, it was the beta who called the shots, not Theo.

Sleep came quickly—cold and black and unforgiving.

#

‘Theo! Wake up! Jesus!’ Nolan shook him as his eyes opened.

‘What?’ Theo felt chilly. He wiped the sweat from his forehead. Light from the rising sun was peeking through Nolan’s window.

‘You were screaming into your pillow. I thought you were having a heart attack or something.’

‘I have dreams.’

‘Dude, normal people have dreams. You have nightmares.’ Nolan said. Theo could hear his heart racing. He’d freaked the teenager out. Without Liam around the dreams had started to get more and more real, like they had been when Liam first brought him back.

‘What time is it?’

‘Like five in the morning.’

‘I gotta go.’ Theo said, standing up to pull his shoes on. He opened the window. It would be easiest to leap to the tree and scale his way down.

‘Nolan… thanks.’ Theo said before jumping outside.

#

The tunnels were the last place Theo wanted to be, but he had to find it. It seemed like a bad place to hide something, but it was Scott’s idea. Maybe they thought he wouldn’t go down there since that’s where Kira had opened the special hell the skin walkers had made for him. But it was more than that—it had also been home of a sorts when he was with the dead doctors. Returning reminded Theo of the fear that gripped him so tight that he became a killer obsessed with becoming as powerful as he could. All so he wouldn’t be weak. Wouldn’t be alone.

It was easier to find than he thought. He gathered it up in his shirt before making his way back to the surface, careful not to touch it with his bare hands.

#

Liam sat at the edge of the field, working on a chemistry assignment with Mason, who spotted Theo approaching before Liam. It wasn’t until Theo was a few feet away that Liam caught his scent, looking up with a sneer.

‘What do you want—‘ Liam’s words stopped as Theo untied the arms of a grey hoodie, dumping silver shards onto the grass at Liam’s feet.

‘What is it?’ Mason asked, turning over a piece of the edged metal with his fingers.

‘A sword.’ Theo said.

‘A swor— oh. Oh damn.’ Mason said, letting the piece drop.

‘I don’t know what stupid thing to do to show you that I care since I can’t do flowers or chocolates—‘

‘What is he talking about?’ Mason asked. Liam’s eyes were fixed on his boyfriend, completely focused on him.

‘—But I hope that this shows it, because there’s nothing I am more afraid of than going back there. Except for losing you.’ Theo held out his hands. There was nothing else. He hadn’t really planned on what he was going to say, just that he was going to say something.

Liam stood without speaking, standing in front of Theo, anger boiling over inside. He lunged forward, hitting Theo in the jaw. The chimera staggered, then righted himself.

‘You stupid idiot.’ Liam’s words were measured and even. ‘Do you even know why I was so pissed in the first place? Do you remember what you said?’

‘That it was okay because if anyone blamed you for threatening that kid I’d let them take me instead. Even if it meant torches and pitchforks.’

‘Do you remember what you said after that?’

‘…That it didn’t matter what happened to me as long as you were safe.’ Theo looked at Mason ‘What’s so wrong with that?’

‘Theo, how many times have you thrown yourself in danger to save us? Save me?’

Theo shrugged.

‘Do you think if anything happened to you I’d be sad for like a day then completely over it? Is that what you think?’

‘What? No.’

‘Then why the hell did you bring me this?’ Liam kicked the pile of blade fragments. ‘I could’ve gone the rest of my life without seeing it again and I would have been happy.’

‘I don’t get it! I was trying to be nice, to show I cared!’

‘Theo Raeken… I know you love me. I want you to care about yourself as much as I do. Or at least enough to want to save your skin on your own so we can fucking grow old together.’

Theo let his arms hang at his sides. It would be so much easier to shift and run through the forest. But where would he go? Who would hold him at night? Liam was the only one he could think of, and Liam was here in front of him, asking him to do a thing that he had no idea how to do.

‘I want to.’ Theo said, causing Liam’s shoulders to relax. ‘But I don’t know how.’

‘It’s okay. Okay?’ Liam said, pulling the taller boy into a hug. ‘We’ll show you, alright? All of us. Just…stop being such a Theo.’

‘Oh my god. It’s happened. I’ve become the embodiment of an insult.’

‘Well, maybe it’s time we changed that.’

‘What, no more 1 to Theo scale?’

‘Yeah. Maybe it should be 1 to Monroe now.’

‘I can agree there.’ Theo said, smiling at the beta.

‘I second that.’ Mason said from the grass.

‘Motion carries.’ Theo said.

‘Now who’s the dork?’ Liam took Theo’s hand, pausing when he caught a familiar scent.

‘Why do you smell like Nolan?’

Chapter Text


It was a big decision. Liam didn’t know if he could handle the pressure. Theo was closing in on Australia—he nearly controlled every part of that and everyone knew that he who controls Australia controls the world. At least on this version of the Risk board game.

Liam was tired. Mason was tired. Corey vanished. Nolan was asleep in a beanbag chair ten feet away in front of MTV no one was listening to. Only Theo was alert and awake. Liam studied his boyfriend’s face. Theo was far too perky to have been playing a game for four hours. Risk went long sometimes, but Theo’s talent for charm and manipulation came out to shine—there had been more destabilizations of power and reversals of fortune than he could keep track of.

Theo rolled the dice, decimating Liam’s forces with a grin. He had a chance to wipe Liam off the map, but instead he fortified and allowed the beta’s game piece to survive. Liam watched him do it several times now—Theo never completely knocked anyone out of the game, and if it looked like someone was about to be destroyed, he stepped in to keep the peace with his sizeable army. The only one who’d managed to escape the game was Nolan, who rolled so bad several times in a row that he’d lost before things really revved up.

‘Theo, you do understand the objective of the game, right?’

‘You know, I don’t go to a fancy public school like you Mason, but I think I can grasp the purpose of a simple board game.’

Liam rolled his eyes. On one hand, it was nice that his best friend and his boyfriend got along well enough to joke with each other. On the other hand it was driving him up the wall. He’d even spoke with each of them separately to try and get them to cool it, which lasted a grand total of three hours at the longest.

The game continued. Things were different without the old pack around. Scott still dropped by, usually with a werewolf seeking shelter from hunters. Some of them stayed the night, others took off after a week. The last one they had found, Alec, he had no one. Scott had invited him to join the pack, and the kid had settled down with Scott’s mother until they could sort out logistics. Liam had invited Alec to game night. Now he was glad the teen turned him down.

Theo glanced over Mason’s shoulder. ‘Your turn.’

Corey materialized out of thin air, leaning on Mason’s shoulder. He halfheartedly rolled the dice and moved his pieces around.

When it was Theo’s turn again he marshalled his forces, cutting deep into Mason’s territory but stopping before doing too much damage.

‘Theo. Humour me. What is the point of Risk?’ Mason asked.

‘To keep a firm yet tactical grip on the balance of power, using the strong and the weak against each other in order to create a hierarchy of dependency that makes me the indispensable centre of power controlling all things.’

Mason threw up his hands. Liam was silent.

‘You mean, you’ve been keeping the game going this whole time?’ Corey asked.

‘What? Isn’t that the point? World domination?’

‘Yeah, as in, take over the world.’ Mason said, gesturing to the box.

‘Well, I effectively control the fate of everyone on the board so I guess I win.’ Theo folded his arms.

‘That’s not how it works.’

‘Mace, just… let it go. Let it go.’ Liam squeezed his friend’s shoulder.

‘Fine. You win Theo.’

‘I can’t help but feel this victory is a bit hollow.’ Theo said. ‘Another game?’

‘No!’ Nolan woke up, flailing. ‘No more Risk! Ever! Put it on the list with the other one.’

‘You mean Monopoly.’ Corey said.

Nolan’s eyes narrowed, ‘We never say the M word around the T word.’

‘I thought you were going to stop using my name as a swear.’ Theo said, helping Liam pack away the game.

‘Plus, I like Monopoly.’

Nolan groaned, ‘I’m too young to go through that again.’

Corey gave him a look. Mason shook his head.

‘Theo is an evil genius when it comes to economical manipulation.’ Liam said.

‘It’s a closed system! A child could topple it.’

‘Well, what do we do now? It’s 8pm and half our boardgames are vetoed. And I’m not playing Mario Kart just so Mason can crush us all again.’ Nolan said.

‘Hey! I didn’t get crushed.’ Liam said.

‘We all got crushed.’ Corey said.

‘You sure the new kid doesn’t want to come hang out? Alex?’ Theo asked.

‘Alec.’ Nolan corrected him quickly. Every head in the room turned to stare at the teenager, stuck in the grip of the beanbag chair. ‘What?’

‘Oh my god. You have a crush on Alec.’ Corey beamed.

‘What! No. He’s been here like three days. Four days. And like eight hours.’ Nolan slowly nodded, ‘I… I might have a crush on Alec.’

Theo folded his arms.

‘You don’t know anything about him. What if he’s a dick?’

‘What like you’re being right now? Lighten up Theo!’ Mason said, nudging the chimera. Theo shot a look at Liam, trying to get him to intervene.

Corey flopped down next to Nolan.

‘Have you talked to him? Does he like you? Are you going to ask him out?’

Nolan blushed.

‘I met him the other day when Scott was here. We talked for like, ten minutes or something. That’s all.’

Mason sat on the other side of Nolan, upping the interrogation. Theo leaned against Liam, enjoying Nolan’s embarrassment at his crush. Theo filled the beta in on some of the things Nolan had told him—enough that he was sure to keep the boy’s privacy but also give Liam an idea of how bad he was hurting. They’re re-doubled their efforts to include Nolan when they had mini pack meetings. Which were pretty much just game nights. Shy at first, Nolan fit into the group perfectly. It seemed like he had a new crush every other day, and got his heart broken more than once.

‘Just an observation,’ Theo whispered to Liam, ‘I think this is the gayest things have gotten so far.’

‘Shut up. You love it.’ Theo shook his head and tried to hide a smirk. They were a pack, Theo could feel it. The old McCall pack remained, threads connecting them all to each other. But this was a new pack. A pack within a pack. Theo didn’t know if such a thing was possible, but when they gathered together like this he felt calm. Happy.

They listened to Nolan talk about Alec. The young werewolf should be there with them. He had been through a lot, but if he stayed on his own waiting for Scott he’d never form deep bonds with the pack.

Theo nudged Liam. The beta met his gaze and nodded. Lately they had been strangely in sync.

‘Gonna grab some air.’ Theo said as he stepped outside with Liam. As soon as they were around the corner they ditched their clothes and took off into the forest in wolf form.

Theo liked to be chased—it was his favourite game when he was a wolf. Liam had yet to catch up with him and it bugged him to no end.

Taking the path to Scott’s house brought back a lot of memories for Liam. A pang of loss made him whine. Before he could feel too bad, Theo rubbed his body against the large grey wolf, calming him down.

The backlight was on. The door was unlocked. Alec wasn’t inside, and Scott’s mom was probably working.

‘I think he took off.’ Liam said.

Theo started to rummage through Alec’s backpack.

‘What are you doing?’

‘Looking for something we can get his scent off to track.’ Theo pulled out a stiff sock. Liam wrinkled his nose.

‘I am not smelling that.’

‘Don’t be such a baby, baby wolf.’ Theo took a whiff, eyes watering.

‘Kid needs to learn proper hygiene. C’mon.’

Liam paused, shifting to wolf form before grabbing a hoodie and dragging it with him.

#

Alec was bad at covering his tracks. Or he was just bad at being a werewolf in general. They found him in the wildlife sanctuary, sitting against a tree. His eyes widened when he saw them, scrambling to his feet.

Liam darted behind the tree, shifting to human form and holding the now dirty hoodie out for inspection. He hoped it was one of Scott’s old ones so it would be a little big on him, and not Alec’s, that would reveal too much. Luck wasn’t with him. He wrapped it around his waist before stepping out from behind the tree.

Alec’s eyes flashed gold, ready to fight. He calmed down when he recognized Liam’s face.

‘Liam?’

‘And Theo.’ The beta nodded at the large black wolf.

‘You can turn into actual wolves?’

Theo shifted, muscles and fur taking human shape with little effort. He stood naked as usual, not caring who saw. ‘Well I’m convinced Liam is part german shepherd, but yeah.’

Liam glared at him.

‘What? It’s because of you—‘

‘What Theo means to ask in a polite and friendly tone, is do you want some company?’

Alec averted his eyes from Theo.

‘If I say yes will you put some clothes on?’

‘Depends on how cold it gets.’

‘Not that cold from the look of it.’ Liam couldn’t resist. When Theo blushed it was subtle, but Liam caught the small signs and smirked.

Alec leaned against a small birch tree.

‘You okay?’ Liam asked.

‘No. I don’t know.’

‘I know you’ve been through a lot. And sometimes it’s good to be by yourself, but it might be good to hang out with people who get you.’ Liam said.

‘Like you?’ Alec shook his head.

‘Alec, how much did Scott tell you?’ Theo asked. The boy shrugged.

‘Liam is Scott’s beta. Do you know what that means?’

‘No idea.’

‘It means he’s got Scott’s back when he’s not around. He holds the pack together. He takes care of us.’ Theo said.

Nolan looked between them, gesturing with a finger.

‘Are you guys a couple?’

‘Yeah. So are Corey and Mason.’ Liam said.

‘And Scott and Malia.’ Theo added, not sure what Alec’s reaction would be.

‘So you’re like… open?’ Alec asked. Liam stared at the boy, confused.

‘If by open,’ Theo mused, ‘You mean we sleep with other people then no. If you mean non-judgemental and not-jerks, then yes.’

Alec nodded. ‘Okay.’

‘Wait, what did you mean by that first thing? That’s a thing?’ Liam asked.

‘Sure.’ Theo said, ‘But it’s not on the table for you, baby wolf.’

Alec snorted.

‘You’re so gay.’

Theo’s eyes narrowed.

‘I mean in a not-jerk way. Like, an “I’m cool” way.’

‘Great. Now I don’t have to maim you.’ Theo smiled.

Alec smiled.

Liam shook his head at the boy, eyes wide.

Alec cleared his throat.

‘So will I be able to turn into a wolf like you guys?’

‘If you eat your wheaties and do all your chores.’ Theo said. Liam cuffed him on the back of the head gently.

‘It’s not something you can learn. I think. I mean, I kind of did. But that’s different.’

‘Oh.’ Alec said.

‘Can you manage a shift?’ Liam asked Alec. The boy gathered himself, claws and teeth growing. He gave a small roar, eyes glowing.

‘Run with us.’ Theo smiled, turning into a wolf and bolting. Liam was quick to follow suit.

Alec hadn’t been a werewolf for long, but he could read their body language loud and clear.

Run. Chase. Catch!

The three of them disappeared into the shadows of the forest, carving a trail through trees and shrubs. Liam watched Theo lag behind, almost close enough for Alec to catch, then pull away in a blur, taunting the young werewolf.

The night was cold and crisp. Liam and Theo worked as a pair to lead Alec back to Mason’s house. When they got there they were out of breath.

‘Where are we?’

‘Friend’s place.’ Theo said, pulling his pants on.

‘Do you like Mario Kart?’

‘Hell yes!’ Alec smiled.

#

Theo leaned against the wall, watching the room. Nolan hadn’t spoken a word since they dragged Alec into the room. He sat in the far corner, eyes wide and watching the werewolf destroy Mason at Mario Kart.

‘This kid is a demon. Totally unfair!’ Mason yelled as Alec beat him for the tenth time in a row.

‘Now you know what it’s like for us when we play with you.’ Corey smirked. Alec beamed at the attention.

‘Nolan, it’s your turn.’ Theo said from across the room.

‘What? Me?’

‘Yeah, c’mon! No one else will play with me.’ Alec gave a fake puppy face. Theo and Liam could hear Nolan’s heart start to race. He climbed over the furniture to sit beside Alec, picking up a controller. The boy smiled, picking his racer. Nolan gave a nervous glance to Theo, who remained stone-faced, winking before finding a seat at the table.

‘Gonna go pick up the pizza.’ Mason said, grabbing his keys.

‘Get an extra one. I have a feeling Alec might eat as much as Theo.’ Liam said, handing Mason a few crumpled bills before the pair slipped out the back.

‘Great, cold pizza.’ Theo said.

‘What do you mean?’

‘Did you see them? They’re going to spend like twenty minutes making out in Mason’s car before they even start the damn thing. Then when they get back they’ll go for round two while the pizza just sits there in the back, not getting eaten.’

‘Sounds like you’re jealous.’ Liam smiled, leaning close, lips pressing against the chimera’s thick neck before gently nipping.

Theo took Liam by the head and kissed him gently before gesturing to the boys in front of the TV.

Alec cursed as Nolan managed to keep up with him, stealing glances when the human was too focused on the screen to notice.

Alec obviously hadn’t figured out how to focus his new senses yet, and he definitely wasn’t able to pick up scent very well or he’d know he turned Nolan into a nervous wreck every time their bare knees touched.

Nolan crashed and bolted from his chair. ‘Bathroom break!’

‘Wow.’ Alec said, pausing the game.

Liam sighed.

‘You go after doofus. I’ll talk to the new puppy.’ Theo said.

#

‘Nolan?’ Liam knocked on the door. He could hear the boy’s heart pounding in his chest before he even got to the door.

‘Dude, wanna let me in? Unless you’re…you know, actually using the washroom.’

The lock slid open with a click and Liam stepped inside.

Mason’s basement bathroom was small. There was barely enough room for him to sit down next to Nolan, their knees butted against each other.

‘So… Alec.’

‘Yeah.’

Liam drummed his fingers on the sink. Relationship advice was hard. What did he know? He’d been with Hayden for a brief period and that had mostly been him making an idiot out of himself. And now he was with Theo, a much more complicated relationship than he ever thought he’d be in. Ever. And Theo was hard to predict sometimes.

‘What do I do?’ Nolan asked. Gabe had been the one that asked him out. Gabe had taken most of the initiative in their relationship. Nolan wasn’t as forward or as comfortable.

‘Just…picture it like you’re on the lacrosse field.’ Liam offered. ‘You’re great when you’re playing. Driven. Focused.’

‘Yeah, that’s because I’m not thinking. I’m just playing. There’s nothing else on my mind. When I’m sitting by Alec it’s all just… I dunno.’

‘Fuzzy? Like you’re gonna have a heart attack?’

‘How did you know?’

‘I can hear your heart. Surprised it hasn’t burst yet.’

‘Wait, does that mean you can hear his too?’

Liam smiled.

‘You’re not going to tell me anything.’ Nolan folded his arms. ‘Theo has rubbed off on you.’

Liam gave him an unimpressed look.

‘Not like that!’ Nolan hit Liam’s arm.

‘Well, I mean, unless it is like that. Which is cool. Not that you need to tell me either way, though. Like yes for you guys are doing it or no for you’re not but you wouldn’t tell me if you were anyway.’

‘Nolan…’

‘Yeah?’

‘You’re walking right along the edge right now.’

‘When Alec looks at my I throw up in my mouth a bit.’ The teenager blurted out. ‘Oh god I didn’t mean to tell you that.’

‘That’s…cute. And pretty gross.’ Liam patted Nolan on the back.

‘Can you listen in and hear what’s going on out there? Does he hate me?’

‘No, I’m pretty sure he thinks you just drank too much coke.’

#

This was it. This was his time to shine. Real people, real stakes. Real life. Theo did enjoy scheming now that he wasn’t actively trying to destroy people’s lives. But this was delicate, and couldn’t be rushed or forced. They were real people that he cared about—he had to handle things just right.

‘Alec. I’m guessing Scott gave you the run down about the full moon and the whole bit, yeah?’ Theo sat beside the young werewolf.

‘Sure. But I can keep okay control now.’

‘Great. So, how long have you been a werewolf?’

‘A few months I guess? What about you?’

‘I’m a bit more complicated.’

‘What does that mean?’

‘Never mind me, this is about you.’

‘It is?’

‘Sure. I mean, I might not be able to teach you how to do a full shift, but I can teach you a few other handy things.’

‘I thought you said you guys didn’t have an open relationship.’

Theo pressed his lips together into a smile. Kids.

‘I’m not hitting on you.’

‘Oh. I just thought… Okay.’

‘Do me a favour. Close your eyes.’ Theo said, earning a look from the boy, ‘I’m still not hitting on you.’

Alec snorted and closed his eyes.

‘Now, you know you have a superior sense of smell. Well, I want you to tell me how many different smells you can pick out in the room.’

Alec inhaled several times, getting a feel for the different smells and their intensity.

‘Ten.’

‘Good. Do you know who they are?’

‘Me. You. Nolan. Liam. Two other people that smell a bit like Mason. And Corey. He smells kind of prickly.’

‘That’s great. What does Nolan smell like?’ Theo asked, ‘Catch his scent and focus in on it.’

‘He smells like kinda vanilla candles. Dust? Like when you open an old book maybe.’ Alec concentrated on the smell.

‘Anything else?’

‘Yeah, there’s lots of different things, but I can’t tell what they are.’

‘Alright. Well, there’s your homework. See if you can figure out what else is in Nolan’s scent.’

‘Why Nolan?’

‘Well if you start sniffing around my boyfriend I might have to chase you up a tree for one. And Mason and Corey are probably similar. Nolan’s safe. Stick with Nolan.’ Theo said.

‘Okay.’ Alec shrugged and started going through Mason’s game collection. Theo rubbed his chin. This was going to be harder than he thought. Alec didn’t have the attention span for the long game. Something short and sweet might be a better way.

Theo leaned back in his chair, listening to his boyfriend trying to give Nolan a pep talk in the bathroom. He grinned.

‘Hey, bet you that you can’t hear if Corey and Mason are back.’ Theo said.

Alec strained to hear. Theo gave him a mocking grin.

Alec closed his eyes. He heard faint sounds of clothes rustling outside, then a car engine starting.

‘They’re just leaving.’

‘Good. But I bet you can’t tell me what show Mason’s mom is watching upstairs.’

‘That’s easy, she’s watching the OC.’ Alec smiled, getting the hang of focusing his hearing on a specific thing.

‘Great. Now I bet you can’t tell me what Liam and Nolan are talking about in the bathroom.’

‘Easy, it’s right there. I barely need to… Wait a sec…’ Alec sat forward in his chair. Theo knew exactly what they were saying—he didn’t need to strain like Alec did to know that Nolan was pouring his anxious heart out to the beta.

Alec’s eyes widened, cheeks flushing.

‘Umm, they’re talking about lacrosse.’

‘That’s all?’

‘Yeah.’

‘That’s a lie.’

‘What? No. How can you tell?’ Alec frowned. ‘Oh, I guess you can hear them too.’

‘Sure, but that’s not how I can tell it’s a lie.’ Theo said, pressing his hand to Alec’s chest. The boy’s heart sped up instantly.

‘This is what gives you away. Gives everyone away.’

‘What? That’s nuts.’

‘It’s hard to pick up, but if you listen closely most people’s heart rate will change when they lie, because they’re afraid of getting caught. People get excited, anxious, afraid—you can tell that if you can hear their heart beat. Give it a try.’ Theo said.

‘Your heart is normal.’

Theo’s breath caught in his throat. It was anything but normal.

‘It just skipped.’

‘Yeah, great job kid. I didn’t mean try it on me.’

‘Wha?’

The bathroom door opened.

‘You’re up.’

Nolan was rubbing his neck when he came out of the bathroom, settling in beside Alec to resume their game. The werewolf gave Theo a few curious glances. Liam wrapped his arm around the chimera’s waist, leaning into him.

Alec watched how they touched one another, then over to Nolan. As they started their second course on the mushroom cup Alec leaned against Nolan, tongue sticking out as he concentrated to heart the other boy’s heart.

Liam smiled, figuring out what Theo had taught Alec while he was calming Nolan down. And Alec was a quick learner. He tuned into Nolan’s accelerated heartbeat quickly, moving away and scooting closer several times to test his theory.

Nolan crossed the finish line, surprised he won.

‘That’s not fair! I was distracted!’ Alec said.

‘By what?’ Nolan was confused. Alec turned red. Before he could speak Mason and Corey burst in with an arm-load of pizza that was devoured as soon as it hit the table.

Liam kept looking at Nolan and Alec, sitting near each other, sneaking glances when the other wasn’t looking.

‘God, is that what we looked like?’ Liam asked.

‘No, there was a lot more blood. From all the punching.’ Mason said.

‘Not that much. I totally remember looking at you like that.’

‘We’re not talking about five minutes ago, Theo.’

‘I mean it. I gave you that same look that Alec has right now.’

‘The one that makes it look like he wants to kiss Nolan but he’s afraid to make a move?’ Corey asked.

‘Yeah. Kinda. More the first part.’ Theo said.

‘When was this?’ Liam asked.

‘There were at least five or six different times. I stopped waiting for you to look away even.’

‘I don’t recall anything like that.’ Liam thought back.

‘Dunbar. In the elevator. At the hospital.’

‘Oh.’ Liam said, remembering, ‘Oh! Wow. Oh wow.’

‘Yeah.’

‘You had the hots for me.’

‘Yes, baby wolf. Before that even.’ Theo leaned over, nuzzling Liam’s neck.

Corey rolled his eyes, ‘Werewolves.’

Liam puffed his chest out at the attention as Theo grazed his neck with the tips of his teeth, causing him to shudder.

Liam tapped his chin with a finger, closing his eyes as Theo gently kissed the spot before pulling his boyfriend into a deep kiss.

Corey started to choke on his pizza, unable to breathe until Mason slapped him between the shoulder blades.

As the kiss deepened Liam gave Theo’s chin a few gentle bites, pulling away before resting against his mate’s forehead and munching on some pizza as if nothing happened.

Theo caught Alec’s eye and gave a wink, causing the boy’s eyes to widen.

‘Pause the game—bathroom break!’ Alec said, bolting.

The door slammed behind him, leaving Nolan alone on the couch, very confused.

‘He does realize we haven’t been playing for like half an hour, doesn’t he?’

Chapter Text


Theo’s tail kept getting in his face. Liam swatted the black blur every time it brushed against his face. After the tenth time he used his feet to push the sleeping black wolf out of bed. Theo hit the floor with a loud thud, scrambling to his feet a second later. Golden eyes glared at Liam from the end of the bed.

What was that for?

Liam snorted and tried to keep in a chuckle. Theo shook to smooth his fur before stretching into a full shift.

‘The last time I checked, this was my bed. In my room.’ Theo folded his arms.

‘You kept hitting me with your tail!’ Liam said.

‘Not my fault. I was having a nice dream.’ Theo said, flopping down on the bed beside his boyfriend.

This was new. Theo having nice dreams instead of violent nightmares that woke him screaming every other night. Liam made space under the blankets and Theo was pressed up against him before he could blink.

‘What was the dream?’

‘Not telling you. You pushed me out of bed.’

‘Again—the tail. Remember?’

‘Still not telling you.’

Liam shook his head, running his finger tips through Theo’s hair, admiring the soft light from the street outside carved out the shadows his boyfriend’s body made.

‘Was I there?’

‘Of course. You’re always pestering me, Dunbar.’

Liam rolled his eyes.

‘Fine, don’t tell me. I’m not going to tell you my dream either.’

‘Liam—I never asked about your dream.’ Theo pulled back to look at the beta’s face.

‘So?’

‘So, it’s kind of an empty threat. Unless I wanted to know what your dream was. Which I don’t.’

‘You were there.’

‘This is not a surprise. I’d be more concerned if I wasn’t there. Or if someone else was there. Like Scott.’ Theo said. Liam wrinkled his nose.

‘What? Scott’s a good looking guy.’

‘Yeah, but…it’s way weird to think of him like that.’

‘Like what?’

‘You know…’ Liam trailed off, trying to control the blush he knew was coming.

‘Like how you think of me.’ Theo grinned. He propped himself up on his elbow, leaning across Liam’s chest.

‘Yeah.’

‘So the dream you were having. With me in it. It was a sexy dream.’ Theo smirked.

‘What? No! Well, maybe. Just a bit.’

‘Well, baby wolf, I’d be happy to make your dream a reality.’

‘But I wanted to know what your good dream was.’ Liam said as Theo peered down at him.

‘Maybe it was similar to yours.’ Theo said, ‘We could always compare.’

‘My parents—‘

‘Are not home at the moment.’

Liam frowned. ‘Theo, did you plan this?’

Theo gave a mischievous smirk.

‘Oh god I’m dating an evil mastermind.’

‘Just a mastermind, baby wolf.’ Theo said. Liam shot him a look. ‘Okay, not evil but maybe “bad boy mastermind”.’

‘You don’t get to decide if you’re a bad boy, Theo. Theodore.’

‘Don’t you dare.’

‘Theodore doesn’t sound like a bad boy name to me.’

‘Liam, I swear to god.’

‘What you can dish it out but you can’t take it?’

‘Okay. Sexy time is cancelled. Pillow fight of revenge is on.’ Theo said. Liam opened his mouth to discuss the benefits of sexy time but got a mouth full of pillow as Theo began a relentless attack.

It took Liam several minutes to retaliate, launching into a barrage of pillow-based attacks, tackling Theo before he could get to the pillows that were now scattered across the room. They rolled around on the floor, fighting for dominance until Liam felt Theo’s chest shaking beneath his own. He pulled back, concerned Theo was hurt.

‘You okay?’

Theo grinned up from beneath him, chest shaking with contained laughter.

‘You’re an idiot.’ Theo said, leaning up to kiss Liam. When they parted Liam gave a dopey smile.

‘Does this mean sexy time is back on?’

‘Only if you can get the bed made again in the next minute.’ Theo barely got his words out before Liam flew across the room, desperately gathering the bedding to make a comfy nest. One minute was not a lot of time.

#

Liam flicked the light on as soon as he stepped inside. He looked down at his shirt, torn, shredded, and covered in blood. He poked a finger through one of the bigger holes as Theo, Mason, Corey, Alec, and Nolan poured into the room from outside. All of them were dirty, bloody, and worn out.

‘My shirt is ruined.’ Liam looked up at the others as they settled onto whatever comfortable surface they could find in Mason’s basement. ‘I think it was the second wendigo.’

‘Second wendigo, sixth wendigo… what does it matter?’ Alec said, flopping down onto the beanbag chair in the corner. He reached for Nolan’s hand drawing the human onto his lap.

‘No wendigos. No talking about them, no…drawing pictures. Or songs. Nothing.’ Mason said, eyes closed as Corey cleaned the wounds on Mason’s arm.

‘You didn’t have to run in there like that. That’s what Liam’s for.’ Corey said.

‘Yeah—you know the drill,’ Alec said, ‘Liam charges in and destroys like half of everything, then Theo charges in to protect him from the other half. Repeat as needed.’

‘Thanks guys.’ Liam said, pulling his shirt off. Theo gave him a concerned look. Liam gave a reassuring smile. His body ached, but he was okay.

It had been hard when Scott left, then Malia. Now they were on their own, taking care of any supernatural threat to the town. Derek and Chris Argent popped in now and again to check on them, and the occasional FaceTime from the rest of the pack was welcome, but the bulk of the work fell on their shoulders. Mason and Nolan ended up being invaluable—Mason for his growing knowledge of the supernatural, and Nolan’s new skills from volunteering at the animal clinic.

Liam wiped the blood off his chest with his ruined shirt. He looked around the room. This was his pack now—together they were strong. Strong enough to defend against an onslaught of seven wendigo with minimal casualties until Argent got there to help finish them off. The Nemeton attracted some unsavoury creatures.

Liam’s thoughts were interrupted by strong arms wrapping around him from behind. He leaned back against Theo’s chest. The chimera leaned in close so his lips were next to Liam’s ear, whispering low enough so only they could hear.

‘Are you sure you’re alright?’

‘I’m fine. Just tired.’ Liam felt his muscles relax, tension and pain from his minor scratches draining away.

‘Hey.’ Liam glanced at Theo as the chimera took his pain and discomfort.

‘What?’

‘You don’t have to do that.’ Liam said.

‘I want to.’ Theo said, gently squeezing the younger boy with his arms. Liam had changed, and Theo was sure he was the only one that had noticed. Maybe Scott would if he ever found time to visit them. The rough, raw power the beta commanded was losing its edges, becoming more refined. It was only a matter of time until Liam was an alpha in his own right. Maybe beta’s bitten by a true alpha turned into true alphas themselves. Theo wasn’t sure of how the rules worked, but he saw Liam become more focused and confidant every day.

‘I’m starving.’ Corey said.

‘Pizza.’ Nolan suggested from Alec’s lap.

‘No more pizza.’ Theo said.

‘Chinese food.’

‘No more take out!’ Theo buried his face his the nape of Liam’s neck.

‘What then, mister the-basic-teenage-foodgroups-aren’t-good-enough?’

‘Breakfast.’ Theo said.

‘Huh?’ Alec stared at him.

‘I could go for some french toast actually.’ Nolan said.

‘Oh! Scrambled eggs and bacon! Lots of bacon.’ Mason said, getting serious.

‘Great idea. But I’m not cooking.’ Liam said.

‘No one would be able to eat whatever you cooked up, baby wolf. We’re going to the all night diner near the gas station.’ Theo said, giving Liam’s ribs a gentle pinch. The beta barely held in a yelp—levelling a death glare at the chimera.

‘Too tired to drive.’ Mason said, throwing his hands up. Corey grabbed them and gently placed them back in his boyfriend’s lap.

‘I’ll drive.’ Theo said, pulling the keys out of his pocket.

‘We’ll never fit in your truck.’

‘Lots of room in the back.’

‘Theo, we’re not riding in the bed of your truck.’ Mason sat up.

‘I’ll drive real slow. It’s only a few blocks. Or I guess we could all stay here and starve to death.’

Mason looked at Liam, ‘Your boyfriend is cruel.’

‘And right.’ Theo offered.

‘At this point,’ Nolan pipped up, ‘Nothing can stand between me and pancakes.’

‘Truck it is.’ Theo smirked.

#

The diner was empty when they arrived. Unspoken consensus was reached as they all slipped into one of the extra large booths at the back, everyone scanning the laminated menus.

A tired waitress took their orders rapid-fire without writing anything down before pouring them all dark black coffee and disappearing into the back.

Corey sat beside Mason, content to be next to each other. Liam could feel Theo’s hand resting on the small of his back as they bantered. Nolan and Alec were practically hanging off of each other in an obvious just-started-dating way.

As an argument between Mason and Theo devolved into name-calling and eventual low grumbles, Nolan looked around the table, eyes going wide.

‘What’s wrong?’ Alec asked, picking up the shift in Nolan’s scent.

‘Are we… are we on like a triple date?’ Nolan asked.

The table lapsed into silence as each of them took in the scene. The bell above the door rang as a group of shirtless guys poured in from the club looking for very late night snacks. They talked up a storm, making out and clamouring into a booth on the opposite end of the diner.

Mason made a dismissive noise. ‘Our table is way more gay than theirs.’

Theo raised an eyebrow.

‘What? It is! They wish their table was as gay as three couple of guys having a post-wendio-battle meal. It’s pretty gay.’

‘Umm, sorry but bi here.’ Liam raised his hand.

Alec blushed and slowly raised his hand.

‘Represent.’ Liam said, giving Alec a high five.

‘Undeclared here.’ Theo said as their food came.

‘No way I’m letting that slide.’ Mason said, digging into his eggs.

‘What can I say, I’m a no labels kind of guy.’ Theo shot him a grin.

‘No way, screw that. You’re totally into Liam. Liam is a guy.’

‘He’s also a werewolf. Maybe I’m a lycanthrosexual.’ Theo said, drenching his french toast in syrup.

‘Lycanthro-wha?’ Alec asked.

‘Nothing. Theo’s just being a dick.’ Liam said, focusing on his toast.

‘You gotta be something.’ Corey mumbled.

‘He is.’ Liam said. ‘He’s Theo.’

‘Werewolves.’ Corey shook his head.

‘Besides,’ Theo said, ‘It’s important to keep options open when you’re dating an idiot.’

‘Theodore.’ Liam’s tone was sharp.

‘Ouch.’ Mason laughed. ‘Dude, you sounded just like your mom.’

Liam felt his face flush. He glanced at Theo, who was now busy devouring everything on his plate.

A burst of laughter came from the other booth as the crew of guys rehashed whatever adventure they had been on that night. A few of them gave side glances toward the pack, whispering snippy comments.

‘Holy shit.’ Alec said.

‘What?’ Nolan asked.

‘They’re talking trash about us!’

‘Ignore them.’ Liam said.

All noise at the table stopped and everyone turned to look at the werewolf who paused mid-bite.

‘What?’ Liam asked. Theo pressed his hand to Liam’s forehead.

‘Ice cold.’ He reported.

‘What the hell?’ Liam asked.

‘Sorry,’ Mason said, ‘It’s just you’re usually the first to …you know…’

‘Lose your shit.’ Corey filled in.

‘Thanks, Wordsworth.’ Mason said.

‘Well I’m not going to lose my shit. Let’s just eat and relax.’ Liam said.

‘So weird.’ Alec said as they started to eat again.

Another loud outburst from the other party interrupted them. Theo’s head tilted. Liam’s grip tightened on his fork.

‘What?’ Mason asked.

‘They think Theo is hot.’ Corey said, watching the other booth.

‘And they think Liam’s “not”.’ Alec chuckled.

Theo’s fingers grazed the back of Liam’s neck, calming him.

‘I’m here with you. Not with them.’ Theo whispered. ‘Who cares what they say.’

‘I care.’ Liam said.

‘Not the time to lose your cool, baby wolf.’ Theo said as Liam’s fork twisted in the beta’s grip.

‘Screw them. Come here.’ Theo stood to grab Liam’s coat so they could head outside for a second before things escalated, but as he left the booth one of the guys from the other booth whistled.

‘We’re over here stud.’ One of them yelled to Theo.

Liam shot to his feet. Theo felt the hair on the back of his neck stand—Liam’s rage was palpable. He was afraid the beta was going to flip the table but instead Liam grabbed Theo by the shirt collar and slammed him against the wall.

‘Liam! Calm do—‘ Theo was cut off by his very pissed, very passionate boyfriend locking lips in them back of the dingy all-night diner. Theo relaxed as the kiss deepened. There were several cat calls from the other booth that faded away as Liam poured every ounce of what he felt for the chimera into their kiss. In front of everyone, without any shame or hesitation.

After their lips parted Theo leaned in, lips pressed gently to Liam’s jaw line several times, a slow smile forming on his face.

The applause from the other booth broke their spell. Liam sat down, turning beet red as a casual Theo managed to slide into the booth with a smug swagger. He threw his arm around Liam and raised his eyebrows at the guys in the other booth who were now starting to focus on their food.

‘That wasn’t how I thought that was going to end.’ Nolan said.

‘Don’t be surprised. Liam can be a good boy when he wants to.’ Theo said.

Mason tossed part of his crust at Theo. ‘We saw your face—you were ready for a punch.’

‘A punch, a kiss—attention is attention.’ Theo shrugged.

‘Liam your boyfriend has issues.’

‘A fact I’m very well aware of.’ Liam said.

‘It’s a good thing I’m charming.’ Theo said.

‘Theo, you’re not supposed to be the one that says that. It kind of… ruins the charm.’

‘Well, I guess honesty is my best quality.’

‘Theo… just stop. Please. Just stop.’

Theo opened his mouth to speak, a sparkle of mischief in his eyes.

‘Guest bedroom if you say another word.’ Liam spoke without looking up from his plate.

Theo held up his hands and bowed his head as the waitress sat the bill down on the edge of the table.

Mason scanned the numbers, working out the costs for everyone.

‘Why is mine double everyone else’s?’ Theo asked, going for his wallet.

‘Because you eat like a horse and basically had three breakfasts for supper.’ Liam said.

‘He’s a growing boy.’ Nolan said.

‘Exactly.’ Theo said, causing the rest of them to laugh. ‘Wait, what? What?’

‘Nothing.’ Alec waved it off. Theo’s face darkened.

‘Explain the joke.’

‘Inside joke, had to be there.’ Nolan said. Theo raised an eyebrow.

‘First I’m a synonym for all bad things and now I’m an inside joke. Great.’

‘You’re growing up so fast.’ Liam said.

‘Maybe it was those three breakfasts.’ Mason offered. Liam rolled his eyes, surprised they were winding Theo up with inside jokes that they made up on the spot.

‘Alright, enjoy your walk home.’ Theo said pulling out his keys.

‘You wouldn’t.’ Alec said.

‘I’d join you all for a stroll but…all those eggs.’ Theo rubbed his tummy before heading for the door, causing the rest of them to scramble.

‘Wait!’ Liam called after his boyfriend, noticing he didn’t pay. He tossed down several bills before chasing after the rest of the pack. He’d make Theo pay him back later.

#

Liam listened to the shower run as Theo washed the dirt and dried blood off himself. A few months ago he would never have been able to imagine things the way they had unfolded. What was going to happen to them now? Would Scott ever come back, or any of the old pack for that matter. What was going to happen when they left for college? And Theo… in the real world he’d be at college with Scott and the rest of the older pack members. How long was he going to stick around?

It was a full moon outside. Liam could feel its tug, but the temptation and bloodlust was easy to still lately. Another thing Theo had changed. Liam felt in control with the chimera by his side. If Theo left…

He would never leave.

That’s right. Liam shook his head. He was worrying about things that didn’t need to be worried over. Besides, if Theo left, he would follow. The quickness of that idea startled him, and he turned it over in his mind several times before realizing it was true. The idea of being away from the older boy seemed like something impossible to comprehend. He started to wonder if the chimera felt the same way—memories of Theo’s body language and protective, caring gestures fill Liam’s mind. No doubt Theo felt the same way. Whatever had happened at the forest all those months ago had changed them. Or maybe it was something that had started the moment Liam plunged the sword in the ground to pull Theo out of hell.

Or maybe even before that.

It was a valid thought. Why had he insisted on using the sword at all, even when Scott was adamantly against it. Because they needed Theo. No, it wasn’t just that. No matter what Liam said the image of Theo being dragged into the ground by Tara had struck him. Theo’s voice breaking as he clawed at the ground. That was real. That was true. For a second then, Liam saw the Theo that was beneath all the swagger and charm—the frightened little boy playing with monsters. He was glad he used the sword. Glad he broke it too.

‘Hey.’ Theo’s voice was soft. Concerned. ‘Did you hear me?’

Theo’s hair was still wet, clinging to the damp skin of his forehead. His eyes studied Liam for distress. His scent has sparks of worry.

Liam reached up, pulling Theo onto the bed, cuddling against him.

‘You know I’m still wet, right?’ Theo asked as Liam wiped away drops of water from Theo’s face.

Liam smiled, fingers tracing the muscles of the chimera’s arm and chest.

‘What’s wrong, baby wolf?’

‘Just thinking.’

‘Thinking is bad for you.’

‘No, thinking is bad for you. I see you cooking up schemes in there all the time.’ Liam said, breathing in Theo’s scent.

‘Hmmm. But you like my schemes.’

‘Only when they don’t involve anchovies.’

‘Again with the anchovies.’

They rested next to each other for a few seconds before Theo pulled away.

‘Where are you going?’

Theo reached down and pulled Liam to his feet.

‘We’re going for a run.’

‘Again?’

‘Full shift, baby wolf.’

‘You just want someone to chase you.’

‘No, Liam. I want you to chase me.’

#

The night air was thick and cool. The moonlight lit the forest pale gold, banishing the deep shadows as two young wolves raced through the darkness.

Theo moved with all the speed he could muster. Liam had started to get more crafty during their chases—luring Theo into dense areas of trees where it was difficult to maneuver. But even that didn’t slow the black wolf down very much.

Still Liam had been keeping pace for awhile now. Theo was pushed to his limit as the large grey wolf bounded towards him, teeth nipping at Theo’s tail.

They raced deeper and deeper into the forest, over hills and streams, past familiar places and into territory less travelled.

Theo slowed his pace when he realized Liam wasn’t behind him. He trotted down a small hill, ears and nose seeking out some trace of his mate.

The black wolf glanced the way he’d come—he was sure Liam was there a moment ago. He sat down, throwing his head back to howl. As the breath escaped his muzzle he felt a set of fangs press into the scruff of his neck. Gentle, but unmistakable.

Theo sank to the ground, trying to duck out of the grip, but Liam followed, keeping his fangs on Theo’s neck until they were laying on the moss-covered forest floor.

Theo tried to shake the beta off, but Liam wasn’t budging. The beta gave a small growl.

Give up.

Theo huffed. He rolled onto his side and presented part of his belly.

You got me.

Liam opened his mouth, panting and pleased with himself. The scent of dead leaves and dark things filled the air as the wind shifted the clouds in the sky. The moonlight fell on the broad expanse of the Nemeton.

Liam watched as Theo shifted back to human form. He joined him a second later, both of them staring down at the ancient tree.

Theo sighed. Liam put an arm around his waist. The naked thing didn’t even cause him to blush any more, at least not when they are around the Nemeton.

Theo reached out, running his hand over the rough part of the stump. He shivered as he felt the cold, ancient power hum beneath his palm.

They found a soft spot to sit, leaning against a tree at the edge of the Nemeton clearing.

Liam listened to Theo’s breathing. Theo’s heartbeat. The chimera was thinking. His pulse was faster than normal. He was agitated, but instinct told Liam to be quiet and wait.

‘We were old. Not like, super old. But old. Like Scott’s mom’s age.’ Theo said.

‘What?’

‘In my dream. We were old.’

‘Oh.’ Liam said, shifting to give Theo some space.

‘We had a house. And you worked at the school.’ Theo said, thumb running across the back of Liam’s hand. ‘And we had a dog.’

‘What kind of dog?’

‘Brown.’

‘Brown is not a kind of dog.’

‘I don’t know. German Shepherd?’

Liam nodded. German Shepherds were cool.

‘What else?’

‘That was it. No wendigo, no hunters, no Anuk-ite. Just us.’

‘Together.’

‘Yeah.’

‘Do you think… do you think that’s possible?’

‘I don’t know. But I remember it made me happy. The dream did I mean. I was happy.’

‘Happy is good.’

‘Happy is hard, Liam.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘Happy means you have a lot to lose.’

‘Or a lot to protect.’ Liam offered.

‘I’m afraid, baby wolf.’ Theo said. Liam frowned. Theo wasn’t afraid of anything. No, that wasn’t true. Theo just hid those parts of himself from everyone.

‘Of what?’

‘That every time I close my eyes I’ll wake up there. With her. I know that it’s what I deserve. I know that I’m on borrowed time.’

‘Now who’s being an idiot.’ Liam said. ‘We talked about this.’

‘Just talking about things doesn’t make them go away. Just saying sorry doesn’t un-do all the bad things.’ Theo said.

‘Do you really think you don’t deserve this?’

‘Maybe.’

‘Then what about me?’ Liam asked. ‘This. Us. This is supposed to happen. I know I can be a pain. And I know you have stuff you’re dealing with. And you try to do it all by yourself. But you don’t have to. I’m here. I’ll always here. I mean it. You don’t have to hide everything, Theo. You’re part of a pack now. We’re all here for you, just like you’re here for us.’

‘What about when things change?’ Theo asked.

‘That’s life, right? Stuff changes. We change. As long as we do it together.’

Theo sighed and leaned into Liam. The fear was still there. Shame. Guilt. But they weren’t as heavy, weren’t overpowering like they’d become when Liam first reached into hell and pulled him back to Beacon Hills. Maybe the dream was closer to being something real than he thought.

‘Rex.’

‘What?’ Theo asked.

‘Our dog. That’ll be his name. Rex. Good name. Strong name.’

‘Hell no.’

‘What would you name it then?’

‘Monroe.’

‘Not funny.’ Liam nudged him.

‘Just think, when she’s bad we could scold her.’

‘Yeah and when we get home she’d lick our faces. Super weird.’

‘Subversie.’

‘Shut up. Idiot.’

They leaned against each other, taking in the sight of the full moon hanging in the sky over the remains of the Nemeton. The danger of the place hadn’t diminished—there would always be threats drawn to their home. But it didn’t matter. They would face each one together, as a pack. As family.

FIN