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Shadows of War

Chapter Text


Pain tore through his shoulder as they ducked behind the corner for cover. He squeezed the flesh, willing it to heal as fast as possible as the blood ran down white knuckles.

‘They have us pinned!’ Ryo yelled from the other side of the door way.

Theo scanned the trees at the edge of the grass—the violet of their night vision equipment let him get a rough count. Sixteen. Too many. Maybe if their group hadn’t been separated. He hoped the others made it over the bridge. At least then they’d have a chance at escape.

He clutched the container under his left arm tightly. It had taken so long to find, so many had died. If they were captured here it would all be meaningless. Everyone he had left behind, everyone that had sacrificed—pointless.

A snarl from Kali drew their attention.

‘What are you doing?’ Theo winced, wound still knitting together.

‘I’ll draw them away.’ She said, green eyes burning in the dark of the room, sharp claws flexing like a cat, ready to strike.

‘No.’ Theo said. ‘We can make it out the back. We’ll lose them in the forest.’

She gave him a sad smile, ‘You can’t save everyone, Theo.’

Gun fire echoed in the forest. They’d found the others. Screams and roars filled the air—they were putting up a fight.

‘You’re not going in there alone.’ Ryo said, kitsune aura shifting as he brought his power to the surface.

Theo felt his fangs and claws respond. If they were going to fight, he wanted to be ready.

Ryo shook his head. ‘Run.’

‘Keep it safe.’ Kali said, eyes locked on the wooden container Theo clutched. He clenched his jaw, nodding. He would protect it with his life.

He didn’t have the luxury of watching them charge out into the night, roaring with defiant anger, but he heard them as he slipped through the window and bolted through the woods. If he was lucky he’d make it to the bridge.

Gun fire in the distance increased. The roars of his friends turned into death knells. He clutched the container to his chest. More lives lost to the war that had bloomed when they weren’t watching. Now Theo held their last hope—the last chance that they might survive the carnage that had spun out of control over the past decade from a small spark to a raging fire that incinerated everything in its path.

He knew the woods well enough to find his way, superior night vision giving him a boost as bare feet avoided rocks and roots of the many foot paths they had made over the past several months. Paths that led to their home, now nothing more than an empty house. A gravesite.

The sharp metal smell alerted Theo to them. Three, maybe four. They hadn’t seen him yet, weren’t looking for him. A random patrol maybe, a net made to catch anything that tried to slip through.

He stopped, chest heaving as he tied the container to his back, pulling the cloth tight. He willed his heartbeat to calm, focused his senses. One was no problem, even two he could handle. Four was too many without some assistance.

He snuck up on them, eyes watching trained movements from the underbrush. Their black armour and violet goggles were easy to spot. The silver hammer insignia on their arms marked them as the enemy. Theo clenched his teeth together. Now wasn’t time to let anger take the helm. He had to be careful. The future was resting on his shoulders, or between his shoulder blades more accurately.

The time for them to attack was bad. The moon was full. Theo knew it wasn’t a mistake. It was confidence—they didn’t see the full moon as an inopportune time as their predecessors had. They relied on their training, their weapons, and their strategy to snuff out the lives of any creature they saw as inferior. As any creature that they saw as less than human. That was their mistake.

The clouds parted and the silver light of the moon filled the forest. Theo closed his eyes, soaking up its power. He felt the rush of bloodlust, the rage, the anger. He grabbed it like a whip and took control, directing all of the power coursing through him to a single goal—survival.

The first one went down with a single swipe. His claws were longer, sharper with the full moon behind him. The second one he took out before she could bring her weapon up. The third got off several shots before Theo got close enough to silence her. The forth was ready.

Theo ducked, following instincts as a hail of gun fire was levelled at his torso. He dove, rolling on his side, circling behind the hunter. Claws came down like spikes, stopped by the silver gleam of a knife stabbing into Theo’s palm.

He bit his tongue to keep from roaring in pain—if he alerted the others his chances of survival were nil.

Fighting with a knife embedded in his hand wasn’t easy, the wound was constantly trying to heal as he pressed forward with his attack—slashing and lunging. One human, no matter how trained and combat-hardened, was no match for a werewolf on the full moon. Theo drove him to the edge of the river, looming over the man who looked around them for a weapon of any kind. Before he could get a fix on the large rocks beside him Theo brought his foot down on the man’s head. The cracking of glass followed by the whine of his goggles powering down were enough to satisfy Theo. He glanced over his shoulder. A dozen laser sights bounced through the shadows of the trees. They’d find him in less than a minute. The bridge wasn’t an option any more.

He looked down the river—rocks and rapids turning into jagged waterfalls a few hundred feet downstream.

Theo untied the container, strapping it to his chest and securing the cloth tight before hugging himself and jumping into the water. He would use his body to protect the container, as Ryo and Kali had used theirs to give him time to escape.

As the current pulled him down stream he heard the sound of their armour as they came to a stop at the site of their decimated platoon. Then there was only water rushing past his eyes and eyes. Gasps of breath when he surfaced. Lungs burning when his foot got caught behind a boulder, current keeping him underwater.

Theo grunted in pain as he pushed with as much force as he could muster, snapping the bones in his ankle to free the foot. The cry of agony was muffled by the rapids as his body was tossed from rock to rock, smashing into muscle and bone.

He steeled himself against the pain, keeping his arms tight around his chest. There was no way they would be able to find him. It had been bad luck that their camp was discovered. They’d been lax with security, confident that hunters wouldn’t come so far into territory where they hadn’t established a base of operations. There was no way they could know what Theo had, no way for them to see him as anything more than a single werewolf on par with all of the others of his kind. He’d seen them operate for a decade now—if he could survive the waterfall and the trip downstream a few miles there was no way they would expend their resources to track him down.

His body was pressed to the limit, battered with force and currents that would kill a human being. Maybe even a werewolf. The full moon accelerated his healing, keeping him together in-between plunges into the icy water. It did nothing for his lungs, which burned like any other breathing thing when plunged into a river without air.

The water calmed—a sign of the ending current. The last waterfall had tossed him into a few jagged rocks, slicing his neck and back open. One eye was too bloody to see out of. He’d need to rest and heal before continuing.

His left arm was strong enough to pull him to shore. The river bank was soft. A welcome change from the rapids he’d just came through. The pain in his ankle was dull in comparison to when he’d broke it twenty minutes ago. He willed it to heal—as long as he could walk the other wounds could heal as he made his way to a road.

A faint metallic smell caught his nose. Theo sat up. They were looking for him, upriver. Making their way towards his location slowly. Probably moving in a grid, searching every leaf and stone for any trace of him. Which meant they knew who he was, and what he had with him.

He pushed through the pain and got to his feet. It might heal crooked if he walked on it now. He’d have to break it later and let it heal properly, but right now there was no time to rest. He would press on through the forest, leaving as little of a trail as he could manage in his current state. He paused for a second, judging if he had enough strength for a full shift. The energy and focus needed were enormous. His hands clutched the container. He could open it for a few seconds. That might be long enough.

Theo shook the fog of doubt away. There was no time for that, and nothing was worth risking the end of the war and the safety of his pack.

His pack, waiting for someone they didn’t know was even alive. Did they think Theo had abandoned them after what happened with Scott? Did they know how much trouble they were in? Were they even safe?

Theo caught his breath, wincing as he took several steps forward. None of that mattered right now. First he had to get to the road, then he had to find a vehicle to the nearest town and make his way back home. To Beacon Hills.

###

The bell rang, signalling the end of the school day. Dozens of students started chatting, heading for the door as soon as they scooped up their backpacks.

Liam sank into his chair, whiteboard eraser in had. He couldn’t imagine being a teenager again. So oblivious to everything that was going on in the world. But they hadn’t been oblivious at least. Then again he grew up in a pack of werewolves, that kind of thing did tend to open a person’s eyes to the goings on of the world.

Still, he didn’t remember being so talkative as a teenager. He frowned as he cleaned the whiteboard. History had become one of the more popular classes at Beacon Hills High School after he had started to teach. It hadn’t been a solid plan that they would all return to the town after graduating, but several of them had found themselves drawn back there without thinking. Scott had been relieved when Liam took the job at the school—it was always good to have someone there to keep an eye on things since the building had been built on converging lines of supernatural energy. More than once Liam had intervened in incidents before they escalated out of control. More than once he had used what Scott had taught him to steer his students down the right path, and now that he was an alpha, those lessons continued to guide him.

He sighed, rubbing his stiff neck. Teenagers had so much energy, it was hard to keep up with teaching and all everything that came with the job plus his responsibilities as pack leader.

Liam took the newest batch of essays and put them in his bag before locking the drawer to his desk. While other teachers had demons from time to time they wanted to hide in the form of alcohol or recreational drugs, Liam’s demons were actual demons. Or as close to them as could be. It wouldn’t do to have cleaning staff or nosey students rummaging through his desk. A lock had never stopped them when they had been students, but Liam figured if someone was that desperate then he could probably overlook digging through drawers to find a few bucks or some test answers. Might raise a few questions if they found the mountain ash or the vial of wolfsbane he kept for emergencies though.

The air was cold—fall was creeping up on them. School had started two weeks ago and coach was already coming down on the lacrosse team hard. Liam watched them as he walked to his car, pausing when he saw one of the boys flick the ball into the air and whip it into the net with force beyond normal human strength. He narrowed his eyes, catching a glimpse of the boy’s face. Will. He’d have to give the young werewolf another pep talk about keeping things under wraps. Part of Liam thought letting a teenage werewolf play sports of any kind was asking for a disaster. Scott would have told him he was just getting old, and they had both managed fine, as had Alec.

Coach spotted Liam watching from the fence and gave him a brief wave. Liam raised his hand and gave a smile before watching the practice for a few more seconds before heading to his car.

The first turn of the key prompted the engine to make a chugging sound before giving up. Liam counted to four and turned the key again. This time the engine woke up, revving to full power in a heartbeat. Though it wasn’t as big of a money pit as Stiles’ old jeep, it wasn’t about to win any trophies on the race track.

He checked his phone before heading down the road. A few messages from Melissa—they were having dinner so there was no rush to get there right away.

Liam found himself driving past the lights into the East side of Beacon Hills. He came to a stop outside the graveyard, turning off the car and rubbing his hands on his legs. It had been a few months since he came here.

The walk was short. The town kept the graveyard pristine and trimmed, even in the fall months. Liam didn’t need to think of where to go, his feet knew as soon as he stepped out of the car. The row of stones that bore the names of his friends and family that had fallen over the past fifteen years.

He bushed a few leaves off of Hayden’s grave. She had been buried next to her sister a year after she’d died. Liam pressed his palm to the cold stone. When she had left as a teenager it had broken his heart. When she returned years later she’d helped him piece his life together after everything that had happened. Along with Mason, Liam had counted her among his closest friends. Her death had been awful, and it hit them all hard. Now there was a vague sense of loss and sadness when he remembered her. They had been through so much.

The next grave after Hayden’s sister belonged to Scott. They never found a body, and no one knew exactly what had happened. Liam wanted to believe that the alpha was still alive somewhere out there, saving people. Helping people. But even if that was true, he wasn’t in Beacon Hills, where they needed him more than anything.

Liam sighed. Things had been so much easier when Scott was alive. When Malia was around. Before Theo left. His fist clenched as he remembered. Scott was gone. Malia had gone feral, and Theo was probably dead by now. All that remained of their pack was here in Beacon Hills. The new werewolves Scott had brought before he disappeared. The few that had come after Liam became a true alpha in his own right. They had remained small—facing the challenges and dangers the nemeton drew to the town. Some had come into their lives and wandered away. The world was becoming more dangerous. Liam could see the signs, feel the pressure of change on the horizon. It had been the same feeling when the wild hunt happened, but more oppressive.

A cold breeze made Liam shiver. He pushed his hair back, scanning the trees. It felt like eyes were on him, watching him, but he couldn’t see anything, and he was downwind.

It was dark by the time he got home. His house wasn’t huge—teachers didn’t get paid very much, but with his parents’ help he was able to get a decent place in town. Liam was afraid his dream of becoming a teacher would be a disappointment to his parents, but both of them had been more than supportive. They had moved away six or seven years now when Liam’s dad had been offered a job in Chicago. They always came back for Christmas to visit, but it had been hard when they first left.

‘I’m home!’ Liam closed the door and struggled out of his boots.

‘We’re just doing the dishes.’ Melissa McCall said from the kitchen. Liam sniffed the air.

‘Meatloaf?’

‘There’s a plate for you in the fridge. We didn’t know if you were going to watch practice or not.’ She said, drying her hands. The years had been kind to her, but the loss of Scott had taken its toll.

‘He’s pretty mad at you, by the way.’ She said.

‘What? Why?’ Liam asked, frowning. ‘Oh. Tonight was the thing.’

‘Tonight was the thing.’ She said.

‘Alright. I’ll talk to him. Thanks.’ Liam said, holding out a few wrinkled bills.

Melissa waved them away, putting her coat on. She never took Liam’s money, even though he knew she could use it.

‘Oh. There was an… incident today.’ She said.

‘How bad?’

‘Not as bad as last time, but I think he’s pretty spooked.’

‘Okay. Thanks, Melissa.’ He said. She gave him a smile and a quick hug.

‘If you need anything…’

‘You do way more than you need to already.’ Liam smiled. She reached out, smoothing his hair back. After Scott had gone missing Liam and Chris Argent had been the two that drew her out of her depression. Ever since then she had taken to caring for Liam like he was another son, which was close to true, since he had been one of Scott’s betas.

The door closed and Liam inhaled, glancing upstairs. His stomach growled. The scent of meatloaf was thick in the air, but there were more important things to deal with first.

He didn’t try to hide his footsteps as he climbed the stairs. The door was open a crack, but Liam knocked anyway.

‘Go away.’ The voice inside was angry.

Liam stifled a sigh and peeked around the corner of the door. Leo sat on the floor, back against the end of his bed, arms wrapped around his knees.

'I'm sorry I missed baseball tryouts. I'll make it up to you.' The boy refused to look at him, sulking.

‘Hey. Aunt Melissa said you had a hard day at school.’ Liam sat on the floor beside the boy, careful to give him his own space.

The boy didn’t picked at the cover of his school scribbler, separating the clear plastic from the sparkly green cover beneath with a sharp claw.

‘How long as that been going on?’ Liam nodded at the claw. Leo pulled his hand away, sitting on both of them to keep Liam from seeing.

‘Hey. I’m not mad.’

Leo looked up at him for the first time since he came into the room, dark green eyes searching Liam’s face for a lie.

‘Did… did you scare all the kids in your grade too?’

Liam chuckled. ‘Maybe, but not in the same way.’

‘Oh.’

‘Remember what we talked about last month? How we’re both werewolves, but you’re different?’

‘Cuz I was born this way.’

‘Yeah. That makes you special. It means you have to try extra hard to control things when they happen.’

‘Why?’

‘Well, when I became a werewolf it was like everything happened all at once. I had to learn fast so I wouldn’t hurt the people around me. You’re a born werewolf so you get to learn in drips and drops. It’s a lot easier, believe me.’ Liam smiled. The boy’s eyes sparkled in response, a small grin forming on his face.

‘Tell you what, why don’t I give uncle Derek a call and see if he’ll come by to visit next week so you guys can hang out.’

‘Okay. Can we order pizza tonight?’

‘I thought you guys had meatloaf for dinner.’

‘Yeah but I like pizza too.’ Leo pouted. Liam shook his head.

‘Alright. But it’s gonna be cold pizza for lunch for a few days.’

‘Yes!’ Leo beamed.

‘And you got to call the pizza place.’ As soon as the words left Liam’s lips the boy shot down the hall to get the cordless phone.

‘Hey! No anchovies. Or mushroom!’ Liam yelled as he heard the phone being dialled.

His mother would kill him if she knew that Liam was letting her grandson order junk food on the heels of a balanced dinner. But she’d never find out. Even if they still lived in town Liam had lots of practice keeping secrets. Leo on the other hand tended to say anything that popped into his head. It had taken a few years of werewolf pep talks to get the importance of keeping quiet about supernatural things across. It wasn’t that the town didn’t know about them—after the small civil war that had broken out all those years ago there was an increased awareness of the supernatural, but as long as they handled things discretely and quickly, no one cared. Still, it wouldn’t due to have a werewolf toddler running around causing trouble.

Those years had been the hardest. At least Scott and Malia had been around to help then. Now Liam relied on Melissa, Mason, and Corey most of the time. Being a dad was hard. Being a werewolf dad meant there were a whole lot of different lessons that Leo needed. Derek was an invaluable source of information on raising a born werewolf. He’d call the evolved wolf after the pizza came to try and arrange some hang out time between him and Leo. Born werewolves got each other in a way Liam couldn’t wrap his head around, but if that was what Leo needed to grow and be happy, he was more than willing to call Derek as much as needed.

‘Dad! Can we get garlic fingers?’ Leo yelled from downstairs.

‘What kind of question is that—yes!’ Liam got to his feet. ‘And stop yelling in the house!’

###

Theo had been driving for sixteen hours without stopping for anything besides restroom breaks and gas. The past two weeks were a blur of pain and desperation. The highways were off limits so he’d been keeping to the backroads and unmapped routes in case he was being followed. They knew he had the container, but they couldn’t know why he wanted it, or what he was going to do with it. Still, it was better to stay off the radar and keep as hidden as possible. But he was reaching his burnout point. He needed to sleep for a few hours before hitting the road again.

There was a gas station a few miles up the road next to a motel. He’d crash there for a few hours before making one final long leg of his journey to get home. At least when he got there the running would stop. There would be no where else to go once he got to Beacon Hills.

The gas station was run down, like most thing along the long stretch of road. Theo forked over a few bucks to fill the car he stole from someone’s driveway. If there had been more time he could have bought an old rust bucket and drove it into the ground heading back. But there was no time for anything anymore. He’d skip sleeping altogether if he knew he wasn’t about to pass out.

The motel wasn’t much better than the gas station. The front desk was occupied by an elderly woman in her seventies who was ravenously eating her way though several boxes of takeout. Theo stomach rumbled when he smelled he sugary food and salty noodles. Sleep was more important than food. The woman grunted when he slid the last of his cash over the counter and took the room key. That was fine—he knew he looked worse for wear without shaving or having a shower for a week or more.

On the way to his room he stopped at a vending machine—a few snacks might help set things right. He jingled the change in his pocket before fishing out a few quarters and making his selection. The machine lurched then went quiet. Nothing came out. Theo glanced down the walkway into the office. The desk clerk was busy eating and watching her small TV. He made a fist and gave the machine a thump on the side, making a small dent but shaking loose several snacks. He scooped them up and went to his room.

The bed sagged in the middle. Theo had to use the cushions from the sofa to keep the mattress supported in the middle in order to lay flat. After a quick meal of cheese crackers and stale chips washed down with tap water he jumped into the shower. The hot water lasted ten minutes, but it was refreshing. Once he was dry he got under the covers and set his alarm. He’d get seven hours of sleep and hit the road.

The sound of nothing filled the room. His mind raced. This was as close to home as he’d gotten in a decade. He wondered if everyone was still there, if his old pack remained intact, or had they splintered off. Moved on. What if Liam had moved on, gone to a big city. What if they had forgotten about him?

He rolled onto his side, pulling the blanket tight. It didn’t matter what they thought about him. This was about more than just his pack, though they were a crucial part of everything. Ten years. Had he changed? Had Liam?

Theo sat up in bed. He had to stop thinking about Liam. There were more important things going on. Things that would affect them all. Theo’s eyes fell on the wooden container on the chair less than two feet away. He’d bled to secure it. So many werewolves and their allies had died so Theo could bring it this far. All he had to do was get it to Beacon Hills and everything would be alright again. The scales would tip in their favour, or at the very least balance out.

He shoved all of thoughts out of his head, closing his eyes. That was all the encouragement his body needed, and he was asleep by the time he was on this third breath.

Morning came faster than he thought it would. His sleep wasn’t as restful as he hoped, but it was enough to help him keep going.

He dropped the room key at the desk before jumping in the car and continuing on his journey.

###

Liam watched Leo run around the back yard, throwing rotten apples at a big rock near the edge of the forest. He shook his head, happy that his boy was amused by simple things before finishing up the dishes.

He’d fallen behind his grading. Saturday had been dedicated to Derek giving Leo some pointers on different werewolf things that would happen as he got older. After that Liam had gotten ten times the amount of pep talks from Derek about how to raise Leo properly. Liam was grateful for the advice and insights, but it was overwhelming. After Derek had left he spend all Sunday morning trying to write down what the evolved wolf had said before he forgot.

He looked at the stack of papers on the kitchen table. He’d graded two so far. Forty more to go. Sneaking a peek out the window again Liam decided he should go for a walk with Leo, take him along some of the forest paths. It was important Leo didn’t get lost in the future. Even though he was sure the boy had already thoroughly explored the area, this way Liam could be sure he knew all the paths and walkways. It was important.

Leo tossed the rotten apple in his hand away as soon as Liam stepped outside, earning a chuckle.

‘Feel like taking a walk?’

Leo shrugged, following as Liam made his way into the forest. The afternoon sun filtered through the branches and remaining leaves. The air was crisp. Several birds sang to each other, making plans to head south before it got too cold.

Liam took it all in as they made their way down the path. The deeper they got the more distant the noise of the town became. Soon there was nothing but the sound of the forest surrounding them, engulfing them. Liam sighed. The forest always cleared his mind.

‘What’s that smell?’ Leo asked. Liam sniffed the air, then crouched low, waving his son over. They creeped up to a huge tree, peering around the side. Three deer were grazing in the small clearing. A low growl caught Liam’s attention. He glanced over his shoulder to see Leo’s eyes flashing gold, little claws peeking out.

Liam kept his body still while moving his arm up along Leo’s back, coming to a rest on the back of the boy’s neck. He let the tips of his claws come out, gently pressing into the spot where Leo’s scruff would be if he were a wolf. The boy dropped his head, eyes turning their normal dark green. Liam was suddenly very glad Derek talked his ear off the previous night.

A louder growl surprised the alpha. The deer scattered as he turned. A large coyote blocked the path home. It’s hackles were raised, ready to attack the intruders in its territory.

Liam felt Leo move behind him, grabbing onto Liam’s leg.

The scent was familiar. Liam growled, eyes flashing red. The coyote didn’t back down, barring its teeth.

Liam took a step forward, roaring. The coyote responded, eyes turning blue.

‘Malia.’ Liam calmed as soon as he put the scent to a person. After Scott went missing Malia had turned feral and run off into the woods. No one had seen her in the past ten years.

‘Who is it?’ Leo whispered.

‘That’s your… aunt. Aunt Malia.’ Liam said. She had calmed down but her body language was still aggressive, blue eyes locked on Leo.

‘Leo, show her your eyes.’

‘You said not to.’

‘Not at school. Not to strangers. But right now it’s very important you listen to me, okay?’

Leo nodded. He closed his eyes, frowning as he focused his efforts. When he opened his eyes they were gold, peering back at the coyote with curiosity.

Malia calmed, backing off.

‘Wait! Malia…’ Liam could tell she was about to bolt. ‘I know things have been hard. But if you’re in there, we could really use your help these days.’

Her ears tilted back, panting to show her anxiety.

‘Just… it’s safe, okay? If you want to come back. I want you to come back.’

She studied him for several second before bolting off into the thick trees. In a moment she was gone as quickly as she had appeared.

‘Why were her eyes blue?’ Leo asked, taking Liam’s hand. ‘You said wolf eyes are gold or red.’

‘Some have blue eyes.’ Liam said as they walked back to the house. He’d have to come out here on his own later and try to track Malia down. If he could find her maybe he could use his roar to force her into human shape again.

‘Why?’

‘I’ll explain it when you’re a little bit older, okay?’

‘Okay. What’s for supper?’

‘Not pizza.’

‘Aww.’

‘Besides, I know you have spelling homework to finish.’

‘I hate spelling. Computers do all the spelling anyway now.’

‘Not for you they don’t.’

‘No fair.’

‘Tell you what, finish your spelling and you can have the rest of the garlic fingers.’

‘Yes!’ Leo yelled and ran ahead to the back door.

Liam looked over his shoulder towards the woods. The sun was setting, and night was falling. He didn’t know how to help Malia, but at least he knew she was alive.

He looked up at the stars, constellations revealing themselves in the dark sky. The heavy, ominous pressure was back. Something bad was coming, and Liam wasn’t sure if their pack was going to survive this time.

Liam closed his eyes. The image of Theo’s cocky grin came to life in his mind. The alpha rubbed the stiffness in his neck again. Things were starting to take a toll—they would have to have a pack meeting soon. If Theo were here he knew he’d be able to handle things. It had been a decade since the pack fractured and everyone split.

‘I could really use your help right about now.’ Liam whispered to the memory of the former chimera.

‘Now I know I’m really hard up.’ He smiled to himself. Theo would get it.

Chapter Text


Leo’s bat connected to the ball with a hollow metal thud, sending it flying into the out field. The crowd cheered as the players ran for their bases. Liam watched his son closely—maintaining the balance between werewolf strength and human athleticism was difficult when he had been a teenager. He imagined it would be harder for a nine year old boy, but Leo adapted his senses with a natural grace that amazed him.

Liam watched as Leo tagged first, then boldly stole second base. He settled in there, eyes scanning the field. It was odd to see such a serious look on the boy’s face. His intensity was frightening.

Almost like Derek.

That made since, given their similar birthrights. But Derek was a Hale, through and through. Leo was more like Liam than anyone else in their group. Maybe it was because Liam had been raising him since he was two years old and picked up the habits and views of his parent. After they had found Leo alone in the woods Liam became attached to the born werewolf immediately. Mason told him it was because of the natural pack bond that older wolves had with pups, who were mostly helpless. That vulnerability had sparked something in Liam, and he found himself working to adopt the young wolf.

‘What’s the score?’ Mason’s voice interrupted Liam’s thoughts. He smiled as his friend made his way up the bleachers, followed by Corey who was holding several hot dogs and drinks.

‘Winning so far.’ Liam took a hot dog and drink off of Corey’s hands. He smiled watching them settle in next to each other. Even after all the time that had passed they still had moments of unspoken closeness. Corey’s arm went around Mason’s waist without thinking, both of them leaning into each other. They had been the first of their pack to get married. Liam glanced at the matching wedding bands on their fingers from the corner of his eye. The wedding had been epic. Theo had sulked in the corner all night until he got the chimera to dance.

Liam was suddenly conscious of the leather band around his neck. The metal hanging from it beneath his shirt felt heavy. As he thought of the past.

Another crack of the bat shook him out of his reveries. Leo was powering in to home, pushing as hard as his human half could go. He barely touched the plate when a boy from the other team tagged him with the ball.

Leo stood, dusting his uniform off, waving up at Liam with a huge smile. Liam waved back, watching the field clear and the teams switching places.

‘I’m surprised you didn’t make him go into lacrosse.’ Corey chuckled.

‘He loves baseball. Besides, junior high is the entry for lacrosse.’ Liam said, finishing his hotdog.

‘I saw Derek at the hospital talking to Melissa the other day.’ Mason said, watching the game unfold, but keeping an eye on Liam’s reactions.

‘Oh. Yeah. I asked him to come by and have a talk with Leo.’

‘Born wolf problems?’ Mason asked.

‘They never seem to end.’

‘Imagine when he becomes a teenager.’ Corey grinned, causing Liam to rub his temples. He could already feel the future headaches setting in.

‘I don’t even want to go there.’

‘Do you think he’ll be like Liam was?’ Corey nudged Mason.

‘God I hope not, for Liam’s sake. For everyone’s sake.’

‘Hey!’ Liam straightened in his seat, ‘I wasn’t that bad.’

‘The spoon.’ Mason said without taking his eyes off the pitcher. He was throwing some serious heat for a little kid.

‘The spoon?’ Corey asked. Liam felt his cheeks flush.

‘Once Liam got so mad he stabbed a basketball with a spoon.’

‘Okay.’

‘And he popped it.’

‘Shit.’ Corey’s eyes flicked toward Liam, who rubbed his hands on his jeans and pretended to focus on the game.

‘I wasn’t that bad.’ He muttered.

‘And I’m sure Leo will be a saint.’ Mason chuckled. ‘From talking with Derek I think you might want to get some of those old chains Scott and Stiles used to use on you durning full moons. Born wolves can be very… mischievous.’

‘Do you have to interview everyone about everything?’ Liam groaned.

‘Hey, someone has to keep all the information straight. Since we got all of Deaton’s archives in order it’s been a lot easier to find things.’ Mason said.

‘How do you even find the time?’ Liam asked. Mason ended up studying medicine and eventually took on an internship at the hospital. A few years ago he wrapped up is studies and was now a general practitioner working closely with Melissa McCall. Liam knew from growing up around Scott and his mother that the hours were long and brutal.

‘He skips date night.’ Corey shot. Mason cringed, trying for a grin.

‘Surprise.’ He said.

‘Mace, are you on a date with your husband. At Leo’s little league game?’

‘Kinda?’ Mason said, studying Corey’s face.

‘You’re lucky I like baseball.’ He said before taking a bite of his chilli dog. Mason’s shoulders sagged with relief. ‘But next week we’re going to a real restaurant. With real drinks. And dressing up a little.’

‘Deal.’ Mason nodded, sealing it with a quick kiss. Liam couldn’t help the quick stab of jealousy in his gut. He caught himself quickly, looking away, but a look from Corey told him the chimera had picked up on the bitter scent of his emotions.

The crowed cheered as one of the players hit a home run, clearing all the bases.

‘We need to talk.’ Mason said.

‘Hunters.’ Liam said. There had been a large number of game hunters coming into town lately, all of them leaving after a few days without catching anything. At first Liam thought game might be scarce at time of year, but after the sixth hunter went into the woods and didn’t return he alerted the sheriff and got Mason and Melissa to keep an eye on things.

‘No bodies.’ Mason kept his voice low so anyone sitting near wouldn’t be able to hear unless they had heightened senses. ‘But there have been… parts turning up. Fingers mostly. A ear. A foot. Not enough to make any kind of positive identification.’

Liam leaned back against the wooden plank behind him. He knew from talking to Parish that the hunters spoke to no one in town, they spent little and paid in cash. Even the vehicles had been rented. The odd ones that had turned up had no trace of anything useful. Everything about the situation told Liam that it was trouble. They had been fortunate over the years, staying ahead of most of the problems that came up before they turned into full-fledged life-or-death situations. There had been a few close calls. The last big one had been when Scott ran off on his own. Losing him had nearly knocked them down for good. Liam knew it wasn’t a coincidence that he exerted himself a few months later when Hayden had returned and drawn out his true alpha nature. He was fixing a hole in the pack where their heart had been torn out.

‘What do you want to do?’ Mason asked.

‘Have you talked to Deaton?’ Liam leaned forward, looking at Corey.

‘Not yet, he’s off on one of his extended trips.’

Liam frowned. Deaton helped guide the pack, and his experience had been invaluable. Corey was learning from him slowly. It was hard when he was constantly leaving the clinic to take care of whatever it was he did in the shadows.

‘Try to get ahold of him again.’ Liam said. He could feel the shadow growing. It was hard to prepare without knowing what the nature of the threat was, but they would do everything they could to meet it face on. He felt confidant that his pack could handle whatever was on the horizon—they were good at thinking on their feet. Scott’s improvised plans had gotten them though countless scrapes. The alpha had once told Liam all he had to do was listen to his heart. To follow it wherever it took him in the moment. It came off sounding a little bit like a greeting card line, but Liam could feel the honesty of Scott’s words behind it. Another thing he’d be lost without.

‘Where have the body parts been turning up?’ Liam asked.

‘All over, usually hikers come across them on the foot paths, or in the sanctuary.’

‘Parish said the hunters entered the forest in random points as well. Nothing there seems to line up. Not yet.’ Liam said. Something caught his attention.

‘Which foot paths were you talking about?’

‘The ones that join up with the main path leading into the wildlife sanctuary. There’s one that goes behind your place. Ours too.’ Mason said.

‘Leo and I went for a walk out there a few days ago. We saw Malia.’

‘What? Where? How was she?’ Mason asked.

‘Feral. She didn’t back down until we both did a quick shift.’

‘Did you get her scent?’ Corey asked. ‘Did she look thin?’

‘She looked plenty healthy. And mean.’

‘She spent eight years or so as a coyote. She’s been stuck like that now for almost ten years. That’s a long time to be an animal. She might not be able to come back.’ Mason said.

‘We have to try. She showed me her eyes after I roared to calm her down. I know she’s in there somewhere.’

‘So you think she’s the one leaving us souvenirs?’

‘Maybe.’

‘Why?’ Corey asked.

‘I have no idea.’ Liam threw up his hands. None of it made sense. He knew from experience that everything was connected somehow. Stiles was alway going on and on about cause and effect—how there was no such thing as coincidence. He just couldn’t see the whole picture yet. There were too many missing pieces.

‘If we could find Malia and just talk to her…’ Liam sighed.

‘Let’s do it.’ Corey said.

‘What?’

‘Mason might be stretched for time but I can help. We can meet up after you’re done class and head out on the paths to find her.’

‘I’ll still have to force her to shift back.’ Liam said.

Mason squeezed his shoulder. ‘I know you can do it.’

Liam wished he had as much confidence in his own abilities as Mason did. It was something Scott had managed. He didn’t tell them that he had tried to force Malia to change back when they met her in the forest. He could feel her defiance. Refusal. It made no sense. After Scott had disappeared her mind snapped and she ran off into the woods, avoiding all contact with anyone that wasn’t an animal. Maybe Mason was right, maybe she was going to be a coyote for the rest of her life.

Liam turned his attention back to the game. Leo was stepping up to bat again. He promised they’d grab a pizza after the game with the rest of the team. Each parent took turns treating the boys—this week was Liam’s turn.

He tried to set his worries about the future aside for the time being, but even has he cheered for Leo the dark clouds were gathering.

###

It took Theo another week to roll into Beacon Hills. He’d been tailed two separate times, but had managed to shake his perusers off by switching cars and back tracking. The manoeuvres had added a few days to his journey but it was worth it to slip into town undetected and unfollowed.

He ditched the car a few miles outside of town, covering it with alders. He didn’t mind if it was found in a few days, but if it showed up as he entered town it might complicate things.

The walk into town was quiet. Beacon Hills had changed. There were new streets, new neighbourhoods. Old buildings were gone, and modern structures took their place. Still, it had the same ancient feeling beneath it all. The land spoke to him clearly—this was a place of power.

Theo walked down the street without hiding his face. It had been a long time since he moved openly with other people. No one paid any attention to him. He didn’t recognize any one he passed. It was possible everyone had moved away, that there was no pack left here for him to protect. Even so, his mission didn’t lose any importance.

He sniffed the air. It smelled like it was going to rain. The clouds were grey, but thin. In the next few hours they’d gather until they were heavy enough to pour.

The cold air stung his cheeks as he climbed the small hill to the wrought iron gates that led into the graveyard. He hadn’t meant to be sentimental by heading there. Instead he felt like he was chasing the echo of something, or someone, who had been there not long ago. A faint familiar scent that was chased away by the wind just as Theo was about to place it.

There were flowers on Scott’s grave. That meant that Melissa was in town at least. If she was still with Argent it would make his life a bit easier. Still, that was the back up plan in case everything fell apart. He’d try his luck in the forest first, but for now he looked down at the cold, granite slab that bore Scott McCall’s name. He knew they buried an empty coffin. An attempt at closure, but he knew that it was something none of them felt, Theo included. It was like a festering splinter beneath the skin—grown over but still causing harm.

‘Who are you?’ Theo turned to find a boy leaning against the willow tree a dozen feet away. He hadn’t even noticed the kid when he stopped by the grave.

The boy couldn’t be more than nine or ten years old—dirty blond hair and green eyes. He pushed himself off the tree and shoved the book in his pocket. Theo felt the hair on his neck stand up.

‘You’re a werewolf.’ He said. The boy studied him.

‘So are you. Kind of.’

‘Kind of.’

‘You smell like other things too. You stink.’

‘Thanks, kid. I haven’t exactly been able to grab a shower these past few days.’

The boy wrinkled his nose, then looked at the grave. He knew his dad would wander over and sit in front of this row of stones sometime. He never knew the guy who was under the plain grave, but he did remember aunt Hayden. He was sad when she died. It didn’t seem fair, but his dad always told him that they did everything they could to help people. Save people. And Hayden had died saving him.

‘What’s you name?’ Theo asked.

‘I’m not supposed to talk to strangers.’

‘Well you failed big there, scrappy doo.’ Theo folded his arms. A mischievous gleam was in the kid’s eyes as he sized up the adult.

‘Maybe I thought you looked more weird than strange.’

‘That was your comeback? That’s almost the worst one I’ve ever heard.’

‘I don’t get a lot of practice. My dad makes it too easy.’

‘You know, it’s pretty creepy for a kid to hang out in a graveyard.’ Theo looked at the graves.

‘I wasn’t hanging out.’ He walked past Theo, glancing at the head stones. ‘I was keeping them company.’

The boy’s scent lingered for a few seconds after he left. That familiar scent was there, mixed with a dozen others. Theo looked at the other head stones—newer and cared for. Hayden. He touched the letters of her name. That was someone he hadn’t thought about in a long time. He had never gotten a chance to make amends with her, and now it looked like he never would. Still, after he finished here everything would be wiped clean. All of the people he had hurt, that he’d killed, the lives he’d destroyed—this would more than atone for everything he had done.

There wasn’t any more time to waste. He touched the wooden container with his finger tips. Time for a walk down memory lane.

###

‘I think we’re lost.’ Corey said.

‘We’re not lost. This is basically my backyard.’ Liam said.

‘We’ve gone by that same tree four times.’

‘It’s a tree. All trees look the same.’

‘Well you’re definitely not a biology teacher.’

‘Hey, I can cover bio if I need to.’

‘Sure, you could just tell them all organs look the same for good measure.’

‘Exactly. Wait. No.’ Liam frowned.

‘Maybe we should head back.’ Corey said.

‘We still have a few more hours of daylight. I’m sure we can catch her scent. Have you gotten anything at all?’

‘You know my sense of smell isn’t as sharp as a werewolf, but I haven’t been able to pick anything up so far. Are you sure she was here?’

‘I saw her. Leo saw her. She was right here.’ Liam paced around the clearing of the small foot path. Malia was causing so much trouble. He wished she would just walk back into town, maybe bring Scott with her.

Sure, and Hayden while we’re at it. And Scott. And Brett and Lori.

He shook his head. This wasn’t helping.

‘What are you doing?’ Corey asked as Liam dropped to the ground, getting close to the leaves and needles on the forest floor.

‘Getting perspective.’ He said, moving leaves gently with his fingers. He knew it was her paw print as soon as he uncovered it.

‘Here!’ They crouched down. The scent was faint, but there. It had been a few days. Liam was surprised there was as much scent left as there was. He smelled the familiar notes of Malia mixed with the wild will of a coyote. They branched out from there, trying to catch a trail.

‘This way.’ Corey waved him over. He was right—she’d gone up the hill.

The trail was hard to follow at first, then the scent got stronger. Maybe they would be able to actually find Malia.

Liam’s hope was crushed when they came across a dozen more marked paths Malia had made—overlapping and crossing one another. He was sure she had done it on purpose to keep her lair safe from anyone trying to find it. Coyotes were pretty crafty.

‘What now?’ Corey asked, confused at the multiple tracks.

‘We find the strongest trail and follow it.’ Liam picked it out in a few seconds, Corey following behind. It was nice to have Corey around—he used to be jumpy, afraid and reluctant whenever there was a threat around. His apprenticeship with Deaton had tempered his personality and now he was a constant, calm presence. Mason tended to get wrapped up in things, but Corey was always able to see clearly. They worked well together. That’s why it was a surprise when Liam caught the scent of worry coming off the chimera.

‘What’s wrong?’

‘That obvious, huh?’ Corey asked.

‘Not hard to pick up on now that you’re not holding back.’ Liam said. He felt Corey was more calm than usual as they romped through the woods.

‘Mason and I are just a bit concerned.’

‘Why? I can handle things with Leo. Melissa helps out a lot.’

‘And that’s great. Really. But we were more thinking along the lines of a more concrete solution.’

‘Well, I guess that would help. Will has offered to watch Leo a few times. They get along well, and since they’re both wolves theres no weird “don’t growl at your babysitter” talks.’

‘Uh, okay. Sure. Not really what I meant though.’

‘Well I’m not sending him to boarding school.’ Liam looked at Corey like he was insane.

‘Liam—this has nothing to do with Leo. Well, it kind of does, but not directly. I mean, everything is a part of all the things around it so there’s no avoiding that, but that’s a different talk for a different time.’

‘What in the world are you trying to say, because you lost me like three words into that mess.’ Liam said.

Corey sighed.

‘You still wear it.’

‘What?’ Liam’s eyes darted away from Corey’s face. He was a terrible liar.

‘Liam, when’s the last time you went out with someone? On a date.’

‘There’s not really time for that with work. And Leo. And the pack.’ Liam muttered.

‘The pack isn’t going anywhere—we have each other’s backs. Melissa looks after Leo, and you said it yourself that Will can babysit him. So maybe it’s time to possibly try to have something called a social life.’

‘I’m happy the way things are.’

‘Sure,’ Corey nodded, ‘You have lots to be happy about, Liam. But I see how it’s weighing you down. We all do. You make everything about everyone else around you. I know it might hurt, but maybe it’s time to let go.’

‘We’re wasting daylight.’ Liam said.

‘Sure. Okay. Just, promise me you’ll think about what I said? We’re worried about you.’ Corey said.

Liam gave a curt nod before they resumed tracking Malia. He felt bad for making them worry. It wasn’t that he didn’t want someone to share his life with, it was just that everything else took priority. He had so many responsibilities now. Dating was the least of his concerns.

His fingers tightened around the leather strip hanging from his neck.

‘Here!’ Corey waved him over, ‘Her scent is really strong, then drops to nothing.’

‘That’s not possible.’ Liam said. It was like she had purposely led them to the rocks along the hill. Something metal sat on the moss beside them. Liam picked it up—a golden insignia in the shape of a hammer, covered in dried blood.

‘What is it?’

‘No idea.’ Liam handed it to Corey.

‘There’s something in Latin inscribed on it.’

‘I guess we’re taking it to your husband then’ Liam wiped his hands off. He scanned the trees. She was watching them—he felt it. He had the same feeling the other night. Malia was keeping an eye on them, warning them. She had to be in there, aware of what was going on. It didn’t make sense any other way. And if she was in there Liam would be the one to bring her back to the pack. But for now they had to get back before dark.

###

Theo had been wandering the wildlife sanctuary for the past hour. Finding the nemeton was never an easy task. Even with all of his experience he had trouble locating it. If he put his palms on the ground and focused on sensing the currents of energy moving beneath the soil he should be able to follow them back to the nemeton’s grove but so far he’d been going in circles.

The druid that had taught him the trick of reading the energy currents was long dead, but it had been something that helped Theo more than once over the past decade. It seemed Beacon Hills was the exception to the rule. But that was the whole reason why he was here to being with.

Theo closed his eyes and kept his feet moving. It was a trick that had worked a few times in the past. If he couldn’t see where he was going and was able to distract his mind he could get into a type of meditative trance—letting the nemeton draw him to it. He just had to keep his legs moving and his mind wrapped up in something inane.

He wondered if they still played lacrosse at the high school. Maybe the loud-mouthed coach would be retired by now, but somehow Theo couldn’t picture that. He knew Scott was excited to take charge coaching the team after he came back to work at the animal clinic. Those dreams were gone now. How different would things be if he had never left, if he had stayed with the pack in the aftermath of disaster? Would the past ten years be filled with happy memories, or would he have messed everyone and everything up like he did with everything else in his life.

The one good thing he had he left behind like it had meant nothing. Like he had meant nothing. At night, in the loneliness of the dark, he wished he was beside Liam. More than once. The years they had been together were the best of his life. Liam had been the best thing that had ever happened to him. He had no idea when he first laid eyes on the angry beta that his whole life was going to change.

He had no idea that when he turned his back on Liam and left Beacon Hills that things would turn out like this. But he would make it better soon. Once he found the nemeton, he would set everything right. Everyone would be safe.

Theo exhaled and opened his eyes. He had been walking for a long time. The sky was dark with thunder clouds. The daylight was fading quickly.

He could feel the power of the nemeton pulsing in the air, in the soil. The giant stump sat in the middle of the grove. No animals came here, no birds sang. This was a holy place. But it was wounded. Theo could feel the jagged scar digging into the very nature of the grove. When they had cut down the nemeton they had thrown everything out of balance, and not just in Beacon Hills.

Theo walked up to the ancient tree, pulling the container from his pack. Finally it would come to an end.

The growl came from the other side of the grove. It was unnatural—a deep bass mixed with a strangled cry. The threatening aura was palpable. Whatever it was did not want Theo near the nemeton.

He carefully took a step back, eyes focusing on the shadows. He could see movement through the trees. Whatever it was, it was at least as big as a horse. When it stepped into the light Theo felt his breath catch in his throat. The body was black, resembling a short-haired hound, but instead of paws it had curved talons. Its head was bone, reminding Theo of the berserkers he’d crossed paths with time and again. A thick purple tongue snaked out of large jaws, tasting the air. Its eyes were pinpoints of burning red, darting around to find him.

‘This was for sure not part of the plan.’ Theo said as the creature pushed off the ground, balancing on its hind legs before crashing down onto the forest floor. Its weight alone smashed a huge granite bolder. Its eyes focused on him—it had his scent.

‘Oh shit.’

A gurgling roar tore out of its throat, bellowing with enough force to make Theo flinch. The wolf in him was coming across loud and clear—

RUN!

He was half a mile away before he realized he was sprinting. The creature was close behind him—ramming into trees and rocks like they were minor inconveniences.

Theo redoubled his efforts. he couldn’t die here, not like this. Not yet.

He focused the last of his strength to leap through the air to a nearby hill. The creature slowed, coming to a stop at the edge of the valley between the hills. It sniffed the ground, pacing along the edge of the valley before turning to disappear into the shadows once more.

Theo collapsed on the ground, chest heaving. Whatever it was didn’t like visitors. He wiped the sweat away from his forehead—how was he supposed to get past something that big? What was it? Did the pack put it there, or was it another one of the strange things drawn by the power of the nemeton?

Theo knew the small valley contained one of the currents of power streaming through the place. The creature was unwilling to cross it. He wasn’t sure how that could be used to an advantage, except for not getting bitten in two at the moment. There was no time to work this out—he would have to get help from the pack. He’d planned to return after he’d finished, after he knew they would be safe, but with the monstrous beast keeping him from getting to the nemeton for more than a few seconds it made his task impossible.

Theo got to his feet. He might make it back to town before the sun fully set if he ran full tilt.

###

They stood in a circle, looking at the strange golden insignia. Leo had gone to bed early, too young to be included in the more serious pack meetings. Will was there, along with Jasmine—their two teenage pack members. Alec and Nolan were on their way back to town and would have to be filled in later. Melissa was working, but Mason had time between shifts to make it. Corey was busy handing out coffee and hot chocolate, but he’d had a chance to look the strange object over already.

Thunder rocked the heavens outside. Rain poured down with urgency, pelting the windows. The senior members of the pack were unavailable, but that wasn’t uncommon. Derek was easy to reach, so was Lydia. Stiles was harder to get in touch with since he had taken a promotion at the FBI, and Deaton was still away.

‘Maybe it’s a pin.’ Will said, turning the heavy object over in his hands. The blood didn’t have a scent that any of them were familiar with. The words inscribed below the hammer were worn and difficult to make out.

‘What does it say?’ Jasmine asked.

‘Something about a hammer.’ Mason said, shaking his head. ‘My Latin isn’t the best, and it’s hard to make out some of the other words.’

He squinted before taking out a pair of glasses. Liam choked back his laughter. The way they were perched on his nose made Mason look like an old librarian.

‘What? They’re for reading.’ He frowned, inspecting the medallion.

‘It says something about holding a hammer. Maybe “I hold this hammer.”’

The pack jumped as rolling thunder shook the sky. The door swung open and Theo stepped inside, soaking wet, eyes scanning the room before spotting the gold insignia.

‘It says “We are the hammer that crushes all in our path”.’

‘Theo?’ Liam stood slowly, palms sweating. Heart heavy.

Theo flashed a his trademark grin.

‘Hey, white fang. Miss me?’

Chapter Text


‘Sorry, am I interrupting?’ Theo asked.

‘You fucking asshole.’ Liam’s words were steady and even. Theo’s heart pounded in his chest. This was not how he meant for their reunion to happen. He glanced around the room. Familiar faces were old now, and new faces were young and fresh. A changing of the guard, maybe.

Liam was older. They all were. His hair was longer, swept back away from his face the way he had kept it after they had met. His jaw was more pronounced—stubble from the day more pronounced than when he had been younger. His shoulders were broad, and though his clothes were simple, Theo had no doubt the kind of shape the beta was in. A quick look at Liam’s eyes made him rethink things.

Alpha. Not beta. When had that happened?

Liam’s low growl shook everyone in the room. The other werewolves looked down and away, avoiding eye contact. Theo’s gaze dropped too. He squeezed his eyes shut. It wouldn’t due to wolf out here. There would be too many questions and he needed things to move quickly. Every second was precious.

‘Where were you?’ Mason stood, anger joining with Liam’s. ‘It’s been over ten god damn years, Theo. Where the fuck were you.’

‘I was fighting a war.’ Theo lifted his jaw. Stubborn. He could match their anger with his own in a heartbeat.

‘You left.’ Liam said. No anger. No rage. Something worse.

Theo looked at the younger wolf, red eyes fading until Liam, plain old Liam, looked at him and tore through every joke, every snide comment, every excuse that Theo had prepared to defend himself.

‘Liam. I—‘ The alpha turned his back on Theo, fists clenched.

Heartbreak. This is what heartbreak was.

‘It wasn’t supposed to be like this.’ Theo exhaled. He needed to focus. He needed control. Liam always had a way of stripping that from him, making him feel vulnerable. There was no time for this—everyone was in danger.

‘You said you were fighting a war.’ Corey said. Theo nodded.

‘That medallion. You found it on the body of a hunter?’

‘Something like that.’ Mason grumbled.

‘They’re meticulous and efficient. It’s likely they’ve already sent in scouts to survey the area.’

‘Who are they?’ Corey asked.

‘Have you ever heard of the Malleus Malficarum?’ Theo asked, looking at Liam, who remained silent, eyes burning a hole into Theo.

‘The Hammer of Witches.’ Mason said, ‘It was written by Heinrich Kramer and Jacob Sprenger and used in the dark ages as a guide to hunt witches.’

‘Kramer and Sprenger popularized the text. But they took inspiration from one of the Old Families that survived from Roman times. Like the Argents, they hunt down werewolves. Except they have a broader vision—the death of every supernatural being in the world.’

‘That’s insane.’ Will said. Theo looked at him—he reminded him of a young Liam, talking before thinking.

‘As insane as it is, they’re out there moving their pieces into place.’

‘Who are they exactly?’

‘Malleus. The Hammer. That insignia proves they’re here in Beacon Hills.’

‘We can handle a few hunters. We’ve done it before.’ Mason said.

‘You don’t understand.’ Theo said. He tossed a leather pouch on the floor, dozens of claws spilling out of the top, causing everyone to move back. ‘This is what they do to people like us. This isn’t some small problem we can wing our way through—this is a war. A real war. It’s been raging across every part of the world. Beacon Hills is just the final stop this time, instead of the first. You can’t attack them head on—they number in the thousands. You can’t hurt them—for every one that falls two more step up. You can’t run.’

Theo looked at the claws on the floor. ‘These were my friends. Warriors I fought along side of. Many of them faster, stronger, better than me. This is what’s left.’

Theo sought out Liam’s eyes. The hard look the alpha had on his face had turned into a grave seriousness.

‘They’ll find everything you love, everything you care about and they’ll crush it right in front of you. To the Argents we were animals to be hunted. To the Hammer we have no right to exist.’

‘Theo,’ Corey touched him on the shoulder. ‘Calm down. The younger ones are getting upset.’

‘If what you’re saying is true,’ Liam said, standing. ‘Then I’m glad you came back to Beacon Hills to warn us.’

Theo threw up his hands. ‘Warn you? Ten years and you’re still an idiot.’

‘Watch it.’ Mason said. Liam was an alpha. A true alpha. It had tempered his anger and gave him more control, more power. And that made it hard to tell when he was about to lose it. Over the years Mason managed to work out the signs and he was pretty sure alpha Liam was ready to erupt.

‘What were you doing while I was out there, fighting? Bleeding!’ Theo knew he was being stupid, but he couldn’t stand this Liam. The look he was giving him. The Liam he knew would be angry. The Liam he knew would tear into him. It was what Theo expected, what he needed.

Liam’s movements were a blur. His fist connected to Theo’s jaw, the force of it knocking him into the table, breaking it in two.

‘I was waiting for you!’ Liam snarled. He reached into the collar of his shirt and yanked on the strip of leather around his neck, breaking it. He threw it at the barely conscious Theo before walking away.

‘Get out of my house.’

‘Liam—‘ Mason thought they should at least come up with a plan for what was going to happen next, but when Liam turned to look at him, tears at the corner of his eyes waiting to fall he sighed.

‘C’mon Cor.’ Mason said, helping Theo up.

‘He’s not going to fit in that little bed in the guest room.’ Corey said, gathering up Theo’s things.

‘He’ll have to deal with it tonight. Get his other side. Dude is jacked.’

###

Liam sat in the dark, looking out the patio doors into the night. The sound of rain filled the house.

Theo fucking Raeken.

How many nights had Liam looked up at the sky and wondered if he was alive? When Theo left it had been messy. The Theo he knew from their high school days would have just ghosted—there one day and gone the next. But after things had calmed down in the town Liam found himself dating Theo of all people. At first no one thought it was a good idea, but Liam had pushed against the pack until they relented, convinced that Theo had changed. And the thing was, he had. After being together over five years he broke it off with Liam, spit in his face, and drove off to find a better life. Liam couldn’t believe Theo would do that. He waited for him to come back. Months turned into years. And now his dream had come true. Except maybe he had been wrong about Theo the entire time. Or maybe he had been right, but not in the way he thought. Maybe he had fooled himself into thinking Theo had loved him.

‘Dad?’

Liam wiped his eyes with the back of his arm.

‘Hey little lion.’

‘Dad, I’m not a little kid anymore.’

Leo stopped in his tracks, catching the scent of Liam’s mood.

‘What’s wrong?’ Liam asked. Leo shook his head.

‘You thirsty?’ Leo nodded.

Liam got a glass from the cupboard, running the cold water before taking it to his boy. Instead of taking the glass from his hand, Leo’s little arms wrapped around Liam, hugging him tight.

‘What are you doing?’

‘You smell like when auntie Hayden died. But worse.’ Leo said, burying his face in Liam’s sweater.

‘Oh little guy, you don’t have to worry about me.’ Liam said.

’S’my job.’ Leo said, tightening his hug. Liam sighed, calming down. He wrapped his arms around Leo and held him close. If what Theo said was right, then Leo was in danger too. Everyone was. He’d get Mason to keep an eye on the former chimera tomorrow while he got everyone together for a full pack meeting. Theo was an unfeeling jackass, but he was convinced of the seriousness of the threat to their lives. All those claws. Liam fought back a shudder.

‘Want to watch some TV?’

Leo nodded. They sat together on the couch, watching late night TV until Leo was lulled back to sleep.

###

Theo’s mouth was dry and his jaw ached. He probed it with his finger tips, wincing. Alpha’s always packed a wallop. His bone was still knitting together. At least it meant the Liam he knew was still in there somewhere.

He shifted in his bed, peering down at his feet sticking off the end of the antique foot board. The place smelled like Mason and Corey. He sighed. Staying at Liam’s was probably crossing a line after his outburst.

Something was digging into his side. Theo stretched, fingers grabbing and catching onto a strip of leather. He pulled it free. Two gold bands hung from the leather, gently clinking together.

‘Shit.’

He dropped his hand to his chest. Liam had ripped them off his neck before throwing them at him before he passed out. Had it been random chance he was wearing them the same day Theo came back? No. He’d probably worn them every day for the past ten years. He didn’t need to inspect them to know what was inscribed on the inner side—he’d gotten them made after all.

A gentle knock on the door interrupted his thoughts.

‘Breakfast is ready.’ Corey said.

‘Tell him he’s an asshole.’ Mason’s voice came from downstairs.

‘I hear you.’ Theo said, ‘Both of you.’

He sighed, putting his feet on the floor. The leather pouch on the night stand caught his eye. He cradled it in his hands. The claws of all his friends—the ones he could get ahold of anyway. He had promised to take them with him, to finish the journey together. He had planned on burying them with the nemeton. At least that way they might find some peace after all they had sacrificed.

The wooden container sat beneath it. Theo touched it with his finger tips. The seal hadn’t been broken or tampered with. It was too important to leave behind.

Theo broke the outer seal, removing a small walnut. At first glance it looked no different from any other walnut, but closer inspection would reveal the careful work that had gone into carving it. The wood was special. The scent that it kept inside leaked into the air—promises of wild power filled his nose. He wrapped it in a piece of leather and put it in his pocket.

It took Theo a few more minutes to drag himself downstairs, wearing the same clothes he had on yesterday—something he’d gotten accustomed to, but when he went to sit at the table Mason made a face and waved him away.

‘Shower first. Leave your clothes outside the door and I’ll wash them. You can borrow some of Corey’s for now.’

‘Sure, why not.’ Corey mumbled into his coffee. Mason shot him an apologetic look, then raised his eyebrows.

‘Come on.’ Corey sighed, leading Theo to the downstairs bathroom and getting him a fresh towel.

‘Take your time.’

‘I smell that bad, huh?’

‘No, you smell really, really bad. I was just being polite.’ Corey smiled.

‘Thanks.’

Theo shut the door in the chimera’s face. Corey was always a bit of an odd one. After Scott gave Theo the bite Corey became the last true chimera. A survivor of the old days. Part of him wished Scott hadn’t given him the bite—but at the time everything was happening it made sense. With Scott gone and Liam as the new alpha, Theo wasn’t sure of his exact place in the pack any more.

He turned the water on, scalding off the dirt and grime of the road, the dried blood, the sweat and fear. It felt good to take the time and scrub himself off, and the hot water lasted more than five minutes.

Theo knew he had messed everything up with Liam. Maybe with the whole pack. He knew that when they learned the truth about Scott none of them would forgive him. Fate was cruel and calculating—everything he had done, all the changes he had made and here he was. He held out his hands, letting water pool in them. He could force the divide between Liam and himself—to push the alpha away so he would find someone more worthy. Or he could try and mend things. To take back all of the harsh words that crossed his lips before he left all those years ago. It tore him apart to be so cruel to the one person he loved more than anything. He meant it to cauterize the emotional wound he knew he was causing, to give Liam the unspoken permission to hate him and move on.

Theo dropped his arms, the choice was obvious. He would stay the course, keep focused and deal with Liam accordingly. He’d faced down the Hammer’s armies, survived hell and resurrection, and faced fear itself. He could do this little thing. This human thing. He could be jerk Theo again and keep them all at arms length.

The bang on the door startled him.

‘Theo? You alright in there?’ Corey’s voice was more concerned than annoyed.

‘Fine.’

‘It’s just, you’ve been in there over half an hour now.’

Theo turned off the water and grabbed a towel.

‘Finished.’

‘Okay, clean clothes are outside the door.’

Theo dried his hair, wiping the fog away from the mirror. He still looked rough. A quick scan of the bathroom yielded a spare razor. Keeping time in mind, he worked as fast as he cold, nicks and cuts healing whenever he made them.

He walked into the kitchen a few minutes later, heading straight for the coffee. He took a deep drink, feeling the hot liquid give him a burst of energy.

‘Good coffee. Makes the stuff I’ve been drinking taste like dirty water.’ Theo said. Mason and Corey sat side-by-side at the table, staring at him.

‘What?’ He looked down at himself.

‘Nothing!’ Corey said before fiercely whispering at his husband ‘Stop staring.’

Mason shot him a look. Corey glared, kicking him under the table.

‘It’s not my fault all your clothes are too small for him.’ Mason said.

Theo knew the shirt was somewhat tight, but the jeans were a decent fit. He settled in across from the couple, digging into a real breakfast, eating ravenously. As soon as the plate was cleared Mason heaped a second helping onto it without a word. Theo raised his eyebrow.

‘Best friend is a werewolf. Husband is a chimera. I know how much food you guys can put away.’

‘Are you saying I’m fat?’ Corey pouted. Mason leaned in, rubbing Corey’s abs.

‘What do you think?’ He smirked, sharing a quick kiss.

It felt like a railroad spike drove into Theo’s gut. He looked away quickly.

‘You heading into the clinic today?’ Mason asked, grabbing his bag.

‘Someone has to keep things running while Deaton is away.’ Corey said.

‘Deaton isn’t here?’ Theo asked.

‘He’s off on one of his “research trips”. You know how that goes—leave in the blink of an eye and turn up at the last second.’ Corey said.

‘Have fun.’ Mason said, giving him a quick kiss before heading to the door. He paused before turning the door knob, looking at Theo. ‘I know the world is ending. And from what you said things might turn bad really fast. But he did wait for you for an entire decade so maybe try to ease up on being a dick a little bit.’

‘Sure.’ Theo managed to mutter. He felt Mason’s heavy gaze on him, judging, then the door closed.

Corey started to clear the table.

‘I’ll help.’ Theo said, grabbing his dishes and brining them to the sink.

‘If you want I can come help at the clinic, too.’ Theo said.

‘I’m guessing this has nothing to do with the Hammer, or the fact you randomly popped up in town again.’

‘A little bit. I needed to take to Deaton about something.’

‘Mason has all of Deaton’s notes. Well, most of them. I guess some of the older bestiary stuff is in the clinic basement.’

‘I promise I’ll stay out of your way.’ Theo said. Corey folded his arms.

‘And buy you lunch?’ Still nothing.
‘And clean the animal cages.’ Corey said. Theo sighed.

‘And clean the animal cages.’

Corey shook his head.

‘And do the dishes.’

Theo narrowed his eyes.

‘I dragged you up the stairs last night.’ Corey said.

‘Now I feel like the one that’s being called fat.’

‘Somehow I have trouble picturing that. Soap is by the sink!’ Corey smirked, disappearing down the hall.

The dishes we done in a few minutes, leaving Theo to wander the house while Corey gathered his notes. Most of the furniture was antique, tasteful. The art on the walls covered a wide range, from simple and abstract, to fully rendered landscapes, but it was the photographs that caught Theo’s eye.

Small pictures framed and scattered throughout the house on end tables and mantles. Frozen memories caught in frames. Pictures of Mason and Corey as teenagers. Pictures of them with Liam and Scott. The pack together. Pictures of Nolan and Alec double dating with Corey and Mason.

A wedding. Liam with Hayden. Liam alone. Liam with a strange boy. Theo looked closer. There were several pictures of the boy. His brain clicked in and he recognized the boy from his visit to the graveyard. It made sense—the boy had been a werewolf. But he hadn’t been at the meeting Theo interrupted last night.

‘Who’s the kid?’ Theo yelled down the hall. Corey shut the door to his office and made his way to Theo, taking the picture from his hands.

‘That’s Leo. Liam’s son.’

‘Liam’s… son? Like, his kid.’

‘Yes, Theo. His kid. As in, Liam is a parent and has a child.’

Theo glanced at the pictures, jealousy smouldering. ‘With Hayden.’

Corey studied Theo—he was good at playing a jerk, but scent didn’t lie. And the way the wolf was glaring at the picture of Liam and Hayden, arms across each other’s backs, there was no mistaking it. Theo was a jealous ex-lover. But that didn’t make much sense. He was the one that had broken Liam’s heart, leaving in the wake of tragedy.

‘No.’ Corey said, putting a hand on Theo’s shoulder. ‘Hayden was a part of the pack, but her and Liam never got back together.’

‘How did she die?’ Theo asked. Corey gave him a forced smile.

‘Maybe another time.’

‘Alright.’ Theo nodded. Liam had a son. An adopted son. Or maybe he had him with someone else. Still, Mason said Liam had waited all these years for Theo to come back. Like an idiot.

‘I’ll go start the car.’ Corey said, heading outside.

‘Be out in a second.’ He shoved his hand into his pocket, fingers bumping against something. He pulled the rings out, looking at the picture of Corey and Mason’s wedding.

Theo ran his finger along the edge of the larger ring. The one that was supposed to be his.

The car horn outside told him he needed to pick up the pace. Without thinking he tied the leather strip around his neck, tucking the rings under the collar of his shirt.

He made the usual banter when he got into the car, trying to focus on anything but the cold metal slowly warming beneath his shirt where it touched his skin. Corey didn’t say anything but he he saw the leather cord peeking out the back of Theo’s collar. He’d seen the same familiar string around Liam’s neck every day for the past decade.

He smiled to himself and focused on the road.

‘What?’ Theo asked.

‘Nothing.’ Corey said.

###

The animal clinic was unchanged from what Theo remembered. The only difference was the people that worked there, and Deaton had finally gotten the squeaky door fixed.

He followed Corey into the office, waiting as he greeted the woman at the front desk. Corey pulled on a white coat before waving to Theo, leading him into the back. They passed a room full of cages, a dozen or so with animals recovering from illness or surgery. Leaving that room they went into one that was nearly identical, except all the cages were empty. Theo covered his nose immediately. Corey smiled.

‘Cleaning things are in the closest over there. I get off at noon for lunch break. We can go through the old books then.’ He glanced at the cages. ‘Good luck.’

Theo stood still, willing his sense of smell to dull a little. It didn’t work. Even when his nose was at its worst it was still hyper sensitive to the smells in the cages, but he needed to find out what the creature was near the nemeton, and how to get around it. A dozen messy animal cages were nothing compared to everything else he’d faced.

The sounds of the clinic in the background were soothing in a mundane way. Theo focused his hearing on the small details of life—people coming and going. Dropping off beloved pets and picking up newly healed animals. He listened to Corey speak with each family that came in, focusing on their specific needs. Making small talk. He knew everyone that came in, and the ones he didn’t know well he coaxed into easy conversation. Corey was good at his job.

Time passed quickly, and by the time lunch had come Theo had finished his task. Corey poked his head in as he put away the last of the cleaner.

‘You said something about buying lunch earlier.’ The chimera smirked.

Theo felt his pockets, then looked up at Corey.

‘Guy walks in looking like he’s driven across the continent and smells about the same I figured he doesn’t have spending money to throw around, let alone pocket change. C’mon, you just gave me the perfect excuse to order take out.’

###

The books Theo needed were ancient. Corey took them out of storage carefully, setting them on the desk in the office as Theo finished off his food.

‘Mason hasn’t gotten to recording these ones. He started but some of the pages are so old being exposed to light makes them crumble.’

‘So how are we supposed to look at them?’

Corey smiled and flicked off the light. Their eyes adjusted quickly to the dark.

‘Good point.’ Theo said. Enhanced night vision had it’s benefits, but he never thought he’d be using it to look at an ancient tome.

The book creaked and cracked as Corey opened it, dust filling the air.

‘Most of it is in Greek. And Latin. And French.’ Corey said.

‘What’s that?’

‘Hebrew. I think. It’s been passed down for generations—everyone contributing something to the pages. Some of the things in here I’d never want to meet.’

Theo reached out to flip the page after scanning it—some were filled with diagrams, others with sketched and cross sections of fantastical creatures.

‘What is that?’

‘Dragon. Maybe.’

‘A dragon.’

‘Yeah look, there’s the tail, wings, spikes… and whatever that part is.’

‘Okay.’ Theo frowned. The book was over two inches thick.

‘What are you looking for exactly?’ Corey asked.

‘If I knew that I wouldn’t need to look it up in a book.’

‘Got me there. Listen, I have to get back out there. Feel free to keep poking around. Just be careful.’

‘Yes mom.’

Corey shook his head, leaving Theo to pour over the tome. Minutes turned into hours. There were so many creatures, so much information. The only thing he has seen close to this amount of knowledge were the dread doctor’s notes, and those had been destroyed in the aftermath of their assault on Beacon Hills.

Theo stepped outside for a break. His head was starting to hurt reading all the strange symbols and trying to make sense of the book. He was surprised when he saw Leo walking down the road with his backpack, two older boys pushing him from behind. Taunting him.

Theo smirked—at this point distractions were more than welcome.

‘Where you going, freak?’ The blond boy shoved Leo, who stumbled but managed to regain his footing with ease. Beyond that he showed no signs of hearing the older boy.

‘So creepy. He’s like a robot.’ The red-haired boy laughed.

Theo could see the restraint the young werewolf had. He might not have access to his full power until he became a teenager, but Theo could sense his strength from where he stood. He followed at a distance, watching the interaction unfold. Ignoring the problem solved nothing. The boys, maybe two or three years older than Leo, increased their taunting. Leo stopped in his tracks. The edge of his control was fraying. Theo believed in letting people work things out for themselves. It was better to try and fail, to make mistakes, and let the failures drive you to improve. Except in the matters of young werewolves when a mistake could mean a torn out throat.

‘Hey!’ Theo yelled, causing all three boys to spin around. He folded his arms.

‘Where do you think you’re going?’ He asked, narrowing his eyes at Leo.

‘Me?’

‘You forgot, didn’t you.’ Theo said, looking at the other two boys ‘Kid flipped out on some high schooler a few days ago. Put him in the hospital with stitches.’

The boys stepped away from Leo, eyes widening.

‘Judge was going to send him to juvie but we got his sentence commuted to community service.’ Theo focused on Leo again ‘He was supposed to head here directly after school.’

Leo studied Theo carefully. The older boys broke away, whispering to each other as they continued down the road, glancing back at Leo now and again until they turned the corner.

‘They’re gone.’ The boy said.

‘You’re welcome.’

‘I was gonna deal with them.’

‘No one likes a liar, kid.’

‘I’m not a kid.’

‘You’re like, eight.’

‘I’m ten.’ Leo rolled his eyes.

‘Ten going on sixteen.’

‘Theo!’ Corey yelled from the door of the clinic. He saw Leo standing at the side of the road and ran over.

‘Hey Leo, you stopping in for a visit? Patrick misses you.’ Corey said.

‘Okay.’ The boy said, taking Corey’s hand.

###

Patrick was a turtle. A very grumpy turtle. When Theo reached out to touch his nose Patrick bit him. Leo glared at the adult, moving between him and the turtle before whispering to him about everything that had happened to him that day.

‘Weird kid.’ Theo said when he and Corey were in the next room.

‘Liam found him when he was a baby. His parents were killed by hunters. As far as we can tell the only thing we know about him is that he’s a born werewolf and his name is Leo.’ Corey said before clearing his throat, ‘Mason and me are his godfathers.’

Theo felt the urge to mimic the boy and roll his eyes. Of all the things to brag about.

‘That doesn’t explain the weirdness.’

‘He’s different sure. Weren’t you. Weren’t all of us?’ Corey said. It was true, many of them had been outcasts, hiding something from the world. Hiding from the world. Theo… he remembered being different himself. Being numb. Doing everything, anything to feel. A wish that had been granted the moment the ground had opened up and swallowed him whole.

‘You got another hour or so.’ Corey said, looking at his watch. ‘Make sure Leo calls Liam. The last thing we need is an alpha-sized freak out. But hey, you know that first hand now.’

Theo shook his head. This Corey had teeth.

He leaned over the tome for the next hour, finding a few similar creatures but nothing that matched what he saw. A light knock on the door came just as he was getting frustrated again.

‘What?’

The door opened slightly. Leo peeked in.

‘What are you doing in the dark?’

‘Reading.’ Theo said. The boy made a face. Theo waved him into the room.

‘I can’t see.’ Leo said when the door closed.

‘Use your… You don’t know how to do that yet.’

‘Do what?’

‘Can you shift at all? Do your eyes change yet?’

Leo shrugged.

‘It’s easier if you can, but not needed. Here, I’ll show you.’ Theo focused, eyes changing color.

Leo focused, face twisted in concentration. The hair on Theo’s neck stood on end as the watched Leo’s eyes change from a dark green to a deep red. He exhaled, eyes widening.

‘I can see everything now!’ He beamed, looking at Theo. ‘Your eyes are the same color as Dad’s.’

‘So are yours.’ Theo said, taken aback.

‘Is that bad?’

‘Not bad. Just… different. Really different.’

‘What’s the book?’ Leo asked, losing interest with eyes.

‘It’s old. Full of ancient creatures.’

‘What for?’

‘So if we see something we don’t understand we can find it here. Maybe understand it better.’ Theo said.

They flipped through the book together, Leo pointing out the drawings that interested him and Theo trying to explain by glancing at the notes he could grasp, which were few.

Theo turned the next page, eyes taking in the drawing that filled both pages. The creature was the same one he saw deep in the forest, there was no doubt in Theo’s mind. He took out his phone, ready to take a picture, then stopped. No light meant no flash. He tucked his phone away and scribbled down the letters on the page as best he could, but since they weren’t English it was a shot in the dark if they would make any sense later.

‘What is that?’

‘Something dangerous.’ Theo said, slipping a bookmark so they could find the page later if they needed.

‘Looks like a sad puppy.’ Leo said.

Theo ran his hand through his hair, smoothing it back. He was finally getting somewhere, and it had only taken all day.

‘Wait, what time is it?’

‘Four thirty eight.’ Leo said looking at his phone.

Shit.

‘We got to call you dad.’

‘You know my dad?’

‘Sure. Kinda.’

A few seconds later and they were listening to the ring of Liam’s phone go to voicemail.

‘Well that’s not good. We’ll just have to walk you home.’

‘I can get there by myself.’ Leo insisted.

‘Sure, but then who will tell me what Patrick’s been up to all day?’ Theo asked.

###

The wind was cold. Theo rubbed his arms. The shirt he borrowed from Corey had long sleeves, but it was made of thin material. Leo on the other hand was perfectly warm in his puffy coat.

‘And then he met a tank but it didn’t matter. You know what he did to it then? The stomped on it and crushed it to bits.’

‘You don’t say.’ Theo had been listening to a continuous stream of Patrick-inspired adventures for the past fifteen minutes. He managed to find Liam’s house the night before by the sheer luck of stumbling across the werewolf’s scent. Without it he was following cues from Leo, who was all too happy to scold him when he started to turn down the wrong street.

They turned the corner, heading along the last leg of the journey when Theo’s phone rang.

‘Hey Doc, what’s up?’ He asked.

‘Where’s Leo?’ Mason asked.

‘Right here.’

‘Put him on.’

Theo shrugged, handing the phone to Leo. He spoke to Mason, answering questions with yes and no before handing the phone back.

‘What’s up? We tried to call Liam but it went to voicemail.’ Theo said.

‘Get to my place right now. Keep Leo safe. Liam is flipping out.’ Mason hung up.

‘I think we’re in trouble.’ Theo said.

‘We didn’t even do anything.’ Leo said.

‘I think that might be part of it. Listen, maybe keep the eye trick between us for now.’

‘You mean like how our eyes match?’

‘Yeah. Or that you can do it at all. Just for now.’ Theo said.

‘Like a lie. Dad says we shouldn’t lie.’

‘Yeah, he’s got a point. But this might make him worry about you more. And it doesn’t hurt anything. So it’s not that bad.’

Leo thought it over for a second.

‘Okay.’

It took ten more minutes to walk to Mason and Corey’s place. Mason was off to the side, talking to Parish. They waved as Theo and Leo approached. Liam was pacing in the front yard. As soon as he spotted Leo he ran over.

‘Are you okay? Are you hurt?’

‘I’m fine.’ He said as Liam pulled him into a hug.

Theo watched as Liam smoothed the boy’s hair, concern all over his face.

'We called like ten times.'

'I forgot my phone at the school.' Liam said.

‘I got to hang out with Theo! He’s cool.’ Leo said, making Theo grin. Liam shot him a look, wiping the smirk away immediately.

‘What happened?’ Theo asked looking past Mason. The door had been kicked clean off and the windows had been smashed in.

‘Someone broke in and sacked the place.’ Liam said, standing.

Theo scanned the area, slipping a hand into his pocket. It was still there. Still safe.

‘They were looking for me.’

‘They weren’t looking for you behind the paintings Theo. They were looking for something small.’ Liam said.

Theo shifted his weight. Liam remembered the old habit signalling Theo was about to pitch him a huge lie.

‘Save it, Raeken. Pack meeting. Now.’

Theo’s heart jumped. Liam was sexy when he was angry.

Liam frowned when Theo’s scent changed.

‘Whatever you’re thinking of saying, don’t. As a matter of fact, not a peep until everyone is here. Got it?’

Theo opened his mouth, earning a glare from the alpha.

This time he gave in to the urge and rolled his eyes. He’d try to behave for a few hours.

Maybe.

Chapter Text


‘I don’t buy it.’ Alec said as he scanned the forest floor.

‘Don’t buy what?’ Nolan asked. Liam had doubled-down on their efforts to find Malia and bring her back to the pack. That meant all free hands were on patrol in the wildlife sanctuary and surrounded forest. Alec’s transfer as a park ranger had come through the day before they had arrived. He wasn’t familiar with all of the preserve but he’d spent a few years roaming the woods with the McCall pack before everything had turned sour. He welcomed the chance to get outside and re-familiarize himself.

Nolan on the other hand, wanted to be inside watching TV. It was cold. And he had a lot of work to do before taking over for the last Grade five teacher who had disappeared without a trace—something Liam had Parrish looking into. It was well established that when someone went missing without a trace in Beacon Hills it only ever meant trouble of the paranormal variety. But now they were running around in the woods, combing through leaves and mud looking for a very large, very feral Malia who, from what Nolan had heard, didn’t want to be found.

Alec turned as he heard Nolan chuckle.

‘What?’

‘Nothing. This just reminds me of something.’

‘Oh? Oh.’ Alec grinned. ‘The time with the revenant things.’

‘Back when you hated me.’

‘I didn’t hate you! I had a huge crush on you.’

‘You had a funny way of showing it.’

‘I was like, seventeen. I was awkward. And a werewolf. It’s hard enough when you’re crushing on someone and being afraid to make yourself look like an idiot, plus on top of that worried you’ll actually crush someone. Physically.’ Alec folded his arms.

Nolan closed the space between them. Alec could turn from intensely focused to pouty in the blink of an eye. He wrapped his arms around Alec, leaning into his warmth.

‘You’re doing it again.’

‘Doing what?’

‘Stealing my body heat.’

‘We’re sharing.’

‘I make more body heat—you use it. What exactly are you brining to the table?’ Alec asked.

‘This.’ Nolan gave him a quick kiss. ‘Now, what were you not buying?’

‘Theo. He treats Liam horribly after everything he did for him and turns tail and runs. I mean, what happened with Scott was awful. But the rest of us got through it. More importantly we didn’t run away.’ Alec said, resuming his scan of the forest.

‘Normally I’d agree with you,’ Nolan said, pausing, ‘But there’s something else you gotta keep in mind—Theo is fucked up. We’re all fucked up.’

‘I’m not.’

‘Babe, you’re right there along with the rest of us under the dictionary heading for “fucked up”.’ Nolan laughed at the face the werewolf made.

Movement in the trees caught their attention. Alec caught a scent and pushed Nolan low to the ground. Something was moving in the bushes, a few hundred feet away. Alec narrowed his eyes. There was a group of them.

‘Malia?’ Nolan whispered.

Alec shook his head.

‘Berserkers.’

###

Liam sat at the kitchen table. His grading was finished for the day but his mind was racing. Though the Hammer had left no marks indicating they had been the ones who broke into Mason and Corey’s house, there was no mistake they had been targeted. He’d pressed Theo for more information but the werewolf hadn’t been forthcoming. He knew Theo was hiding something—he was an expert on the man’s habits and behaviours. The fact that he wasn’t getting the whole picture irked Liam. When he was younger he would have been infuriated that Theo was withholding potentially vital information. Now he was set on slowly increasing the pressure until Theo gave in and finally let them in on everything that was happening.

Liam had reached out to Stiles, asking him to pull reports the agent had flagged as having supernatural victims. The request was filled quickly, since Stiles was keen on organizing and labelling everything that came across his desk, and beyond. Looking at the numbers was worrisome—Theo had been right about the increase in deaths and disappearances of supernatural creatures and those around them. It was as if a wave of silent destruction was sweeping across the land and they had been completely oblivious to it.

He glanced at the time—the pack would be here soon. A big step into putting Theo in the spotlight in an attempt to draw out the truth.

‘Dad can you check my work?’ Leo said running down the stairs, thrusting a barely legible worksheet in front of Liam.

‘Sure. Grab a seat.’ Liam nodded to the snack he’d just made for his son. Leo sat down and picked the crusts off his sandwich, listening to the TV in the other room.

‘This one here.’ Liam tapped with his finger. ‘There’s a better tense you could use on the verb.’

Leo frowned. He hated when he got something wrong. Liam smiled, watching him correct it right away. After yesterday the boy talked about Theo constantly. Theo is so cool. Theo’s so strong. Did Liam know Theo can turn into a full wolf. The questions dug into him like claws, but he smiled the whole time and kept emotions from clouding his scent, though he was sure the boy picked up on something. Still, he seemed to be infatuated with the jerk that was Theo Raeken. To make matters worse there was no way that Theo could stay at Mason and Corey’s place any more, not with the Hammer looking for him. He knew Theo bushed it all off, saying it wasn’t a problem before he’d sneak back to whatever beater truck he’d driven into town and sleeping in it at night like he’d pulled when they were teenagers.

Liam hadn’t insisted Theo stay with them. He hadn’t given the werewolf any other choice—Theo wasn’t safe on his own, and hiding him would have been a move they pulled as teenagers. Liam had seen too much, experienced too much, to skulk around in the shadows, avoiding confrontation. Theo would stay with them, openly. If any one dared to attack their home they would have the full fury of the Beacon Hills alpha to content with.

Theo’s presence bothered him. He was torn between reaching out to him or punching him. He remembered day when the two went hand-in-hand. He was so confused then, trying to sort everything out all at the same time had proven to be more of a challenge than he was able to meet. Theo had helped him. One simple kiss snapped everything into perspective. The five years they had been together had been the happiest Liam had ever been, until Leo had come into his life. He still didn’t fully believe the things Theo had said to him after limping out of the woods following the final confrontation with Monroe. Her return had been brutal, and they had paid a heavy price to put an end to her fanaticism. There wasn’t a day that passed that Liam wished Scott was there to give him advice.

Liam reached for the rings around his neck, grasping air. He frowned and scratched his chest instead. He regretted throwing them at Theo now, not realizing how often he’d held them in the palm of his hand like a reassuring thought. A promise that hadn’t been fully made or broken. A reminder that his life had been on hold until the moment Theo had walked back through the door. And now it looked like their entire world was perched on the edge of a volcano threatening to erupt.

Leo pushed the crusts around on his plate, pretending to listen to the TV in the other room, watching his dad hold on to the collar of his shirt. It was a habit Liam had that Leo was accustomed to seeing. Well, he was usually holding his weird necklace but he didn’t have that anymore. Leo had seen it hanging around Theo’s neck when they had come home last night. He’d been excited to have the adult stay over and helped make up a bed in the basement.

‘Did you lose it?’ Leo asked.

‘What?’ Liam shook off his reflecting. Leo had corrected his worksheet and finished his snack.

‘Your necklace is gone.’

‘Oh. Yeah. I lost it.’ Liam smiled. Leo narrowed his eyes.

‘You said no lying.’

‘True, but there are sometimes you don’t tell people things. Because it hurts. Or it’s a secret.’ Liam thought carefully about his words. He didn’t want to create any barriers between him and Leo, but he wasn’t keen on diving into his regrets and bad decisions with his son when they were potentially in the middle of a battle.

Leo nodded, accepting the explanation faster than Liam anticipated. He was used to a hundred questions from the boy. Leo did want to ask questions, but something inside of him told him to leave it alone. Maybe he would ask Theo later when the man woke up.

‘How long is he going to be asleep?’ Leo pouted.

‘Leo, we talked about this—Theo is a guest and you can’t bug him every second of the day.’ Liam said.

‘Who’s bugging what now?’ Theo lumbered up the stairs into the kitchen, hair messy from sleep, eyes half open.

‘Theo!’ Before the werewolf could react Leo leapt into the air, tackling Theo’s waist. He looked down, smoothing his hair back. He was big enough that the impact hadn’t even shifted his feet.

‘Well, well, well. If it isn’t some sort of small puppy.’ Theo said, tickling Leo’s sides and making the boy release him from a tight grip.

Liam watched them play together. It was like seeing the Theo he fell in love with as a teenager. He found himself frowning, folding his arms.

‘We’re making your dad pout.’ Theo whispered to Leo, who looked over at Liam, promptly hugging the alpha.

Liam shook his head, smoothing out the boy’s messy hair.

‘Any coffee, white fang?’

Liam frowned again.

‘It’s on the counter. From this morning. You slept all day, by the way. So, congrats.’

Theo lifted the coffee pot to his nose, smell it and making a face. He dumped the old coffee out and started to make a fresh pot. He paused, looking at the time.

‘I have to go.’

‘What? Where?’

‘I was going to meet up with Mason and help clean the place up.’ Which was true, but Theo also had a piece of paper covered in strange writing he needed Mason to look at.

‘Already taken care of.’ Liam said, ‘Sheriff put a deputy outside of their place twenty-four seven just in case.’

‘Stilinski was always over cautious.’ Theo said, turning on the coffee. He’d finish then make an excuse to slip out.

‘Why don’t you go read a chapter of your book?’ Liam said to Leo. The boy glanced between the two men then went upstairs to his room.

‘Parrish is sheriff now.’ Liam said.

‘What happened to Stilinski?’ Theo asked, pouring a fresh mug. The look on Liam’s face told him enough.

‘When did he die?’

‘Two years after you left. Heart attack. Stiles came back for the funeral. We thought he’d be devastated. Instead he just dove into his career. He hasn’t been back since.’

‘And Lydia?’

Liam shook his head. ‘They’re still together, but it’s long distance from what I know. It’s always been rough with them. She does her own thing, but she’s waiting for him to come around, you know?’

Theo glanced at Liam. The alpha was staring at him.

‘Maybe she should have just moved on when she had the chance.’

‘And leave Stiles wounded and grieving?’

‘Maybe Stiles needed to be on his own for awhile. Maybe he needed to take care of things that he didn’t want Lydia to get involved in.’ Theo said, setting his coffee down.

‘Maybe Stiles could just speak openly and include Lydia in his plans so she wouldn’t have to worry about him all of the time. Maybe she can actually help him.’

‘Maybe she’d just get hurt. Or worse. Do you think Stiles could live with himself if that happened?’ Theo asked. Liam looked away.

‘What are we doing?’ Liam asked.

Theo yawned and stretched. ‘I don’t know about you but I’m ready to go for a little walk.’

‘To where?’

‘Maybe I’ll go see Corey. Catch up a bit.’

‘He’ll be here in twenty minutes for the pack meeting.’

‘Alright, I can make myself scarce for a few hours.’

‘Theo. You’re the one that has all the intel on the Hammer—who they are, what they’re doing, what will happen next.’

‘What happens next is we’re all fucked.’ Theo said. ‘Maybe you didn’t hear me the other day—it’s only a matter of time with these people.’

‘I don’t believe it. I won’t believe it. There has to be a way we can fight back, to turn the tide. Convince them to back down.’

‘Fuck, it’s just like talking to Scott McCall.’

Liam’s eyes narrowed. Theo sighed. He had meant to keep a distance from Liam, to keep them all safe, but it looked like the alpha was going to force it all out of him. The more he resisted the more Liam was going to push back. At least that hadn’t changed, and yet the brash, impulsive boy Theo loved was gone. Maybe a more direct approach would work on this older, wiser wolf in front of him.

‘Look Liam,’ Theo leaned in, ‘I know you’ve probably checked in with Stiles, Parrish, or whoever you can get in touch with by this point. You must have an idea of how the Hammer works. They don’t take hostages. They don’t take prisoners. They kill us without thinking. We’re monsters to them. There’s not even a shred of doubt you can grab to convince them otherwise. Believe me.’

‘You’ve tired.’ Liam challenged him.

‘No. But Scott did.’ Theo said, heading back to the basement.

Liam frowned—that made no sense, unless Scott was still alive. But he would have heard from him. There’s no way Scott would have disappeared without telling them anything. Or maybe Scott encountered the Hammer before he disappeared. Who was he that night in the woods when Monroe had launched her final attack? It was too long ago, he’d have to ask Mason.

###

Everyone was there, crammed into Liam’s living room and kitchen. Mason and Corey sat together, with Alec and Nolan close by, catching up. Will and Jasmine sat on the sofa, watching and waiting on their elders. Leo insisted on attending, but Liam had bribed him with a new video game to stay in his treehouse until they were finished. Parrish was chatting with Lydia, who took a week off from her practice to return home. Melissa McCall was in the kitchen, making snacks. Argent was settling in, giving Melissa a hand. At the back of the room Derek and Peter Hale watched everyone around them, staying silent. Liam knew they had seen something and he didn’t have a good feeling about it.

There were a handful of other pack members that were on the fringes of the group, but none of them had been around for the past week. When Liam got Parrish to look into their whereabouts all of them had disappeared, which, adding up the people that had gone missing over the past month in town made a total of eleven people. Not a number that Liam felt good about.

‘So where is he?’ Lydia asked, crossing her legs.

‘Doing laundry in the basement.’ Liam said.

‘Here? Now?’ She cocked her head.

‘Theo get your ass up here!’ Liam yelled down the stairs, making the room fall into silence. A few seconds later Theo came bounding up the stairs.

‘I see the midnight society has gathered.’ Theo said.

‘We want answers.’ Lydia levelled her glare at Theo. He felt like a kid on the school ground, cornered by a bunch of older kids. They all looked at him, expecting a fight, and he was ready to give one, but the look on Liam’s face made his breath catch in his throat. His plan was to focus. To finish his mission. To save everyone. Involving them put them directly in the path of danger Theo was trying to keep them out of. It didn’t matter though, he knew the look on Liam’s face. Sure, the teenager had grown, but the stubbornness remained. If Theo left them out of this he knew they would worm their way in, possibly in worse ways. If he gave them just enough information to guide them to places they wouldn’t be hurt…

‘The Hammer—who are they really? Where are they located?’ Liam asked.

‘The Order of The Hammer is ancient. You could walk past one of them on the street and you’d never know. Their true colours only come out after you’ve been deemed a target. After that there’s no reasoning with them, no talking you way out of it. It’s kill or be killed.’ Theo said.

‘And you,’ Melissa stood up,’ Have you killed?’

Theo glanced at Liam.

‘Yes.’ He said. The mood in the room shifted. ‘I know that Scott wouldn’t approve. Believe me, I know. And I’m not about to suggest that you all change your ways now.’

‘You said it was kill or be killed.’ Alec said.

‘It is.’

‘I don’t understand.’ Jasmine said. She rarely spoke at the pack meetings, having been bitten only a year ago. The last time Theo and Liam had fought frightened her, and she needed to wrap her hear around what was going on.

‘Neither do I.’ Lydia said. ‘It sounds like you’re telling us to lay down and die.’

‘No.’ Theo said. He bit his lip. ‘I’m saying I’ll do it. I’ll protect you. All of you.’

‘What do you mean?’ Mason asked.

‘I… My hands are bloody. They’re been bloody since I was nine years old.’ Theo looked up at Liam, ‘I’m not like you. I’m not like Scott. I can never be. But I have a purpose. Let me be the claws and the fangs. Let me kill so you don’t have to.’

‘Theo, man, that’s kind of crazy.’ Nolan said.

Theo shook his head, ‘I’ve travelled all over the world. I’ve seen a lot of packs, met a lot of people. Beacon Hills is unique. Scott’s ideology, the bridge that he made between us and the normal world, that’s worth dying for. Worth killing for.’

‘You don’t just get to decide how things are going to go, Theo. You don’t get to take away the choices.’ Liam said. ‘There could be other ways.’

Theo held up his hands. ‘That’s what I’m talking about. That stupid, stubborn, blind-belief in a better way. Of all the places in the world, this is the only one left where humans and supernatural beings stand together without fear. Ask Argent.’

All eyes went to Chris, who rubbed his temples.

‘Theo’s right. The mark that Scott made on this place and everyone in it are different. If they weren’t I wouldn’t be here.’

‘So you propose we all sit back twiddling our thumbs while you fight off this invincible army one soldier at a time.’ Peter leaned back in his chair.

‘It’s not as simple as that. There’s a pattern.’ Theo said.

‘This is the kind of thing that would have been useful to know when you first showed up.’ Liam said.

Theo glared at him before continuing. ‘After scouts enter the area they’ll head for the nemeton. They’ll try to set up a base there quietly. Then they work from the outside in—driving all the supernatural creatures together. Because we’re all drawn to the nemeton’s power it’s a natural place to end up.’

‘Then they slaughter us.’ Peter stared off into space, piecing the plan together. Theo nodded.

‘How do you know this?’ Derek asked.

‘I’ve seen it before. Several times.’

‘Where?’

‘Brazil, Greenland, France, Egypt, China, Logashkino.’ Theo said.

‘Nemeton groves.’ Peter said. ‘They’re not just attacking supernatural creatures, they’re attacking the idea of the supernatural itself.’

‘We secured the nemeton in Greenland without any trouble, thinking it was an isolated incident. We didn’t understand their tactics then. But when we went to France we came across a slaughter house. Thousands dead. A raging war. We were barely able to push them back. By then we figured out what they were doing. A small group of us were sent to the remaining nemeton groves to make sure they were secure.’

‘What does that mean, “secure”?’ Mason asked.

‘The nemetons are more than places of power. When properly cared for they’re sanctuaries for people like us. They protect us. But it’s been thousands of years since they were awake.’ Theo said.

‘Oh no.’ Lydia said. ‘No, no, no. We’re not doing this. We can’t do this.’

Theo gave her a sad smile. ‘It’s too late.’

‘What’s she talking about?’ Liam asked.

‘In ancient times human sacrifices were made in the groves to keep them heathy.’

‘Even a false, ritual sacrifice has power.’ Theo said. ‘Lydia—how is he?’

‘Stiles? Fine. He’s fine.’

‘Lydia.’ Theo pleaded.

‘He… it’s hard. But he’s strong.’ She said.

‘The nemeton leaves a mark. Participating in ritual sacrifice is dangerous. Most of the time it speeds up the clock.’ Theo said.

‘What does that mean?’ Liam asked.

‘It means,’ Derek stood to his full height, ‘anyone that does something so stupid gets their life cut in half. Or worse.’

Liam looked at Theo. The older werewolf wouldn’t meet his eyes.

‘Theo?’

‘Derek’s right. Once is dangerous. Six times is pretty stupid.’ Theo shrugged.

‘What did you do?’ Liam stiffened. ‘You idiot, what did you do?’

‘I made a decision. That’s all. My life for all the ones that would be lost if I ran. I’m done running, Liam.’ Theo said.

‘What does this mean?’ Corey asked.

‘It’s part of an ancient, dangerous druidic ritual.’ Mason said, ‘Theo acts as a vessel of sacrifice for all of the nemeton groves, relinking them and essentially turning all of the dials to eleven so they become holy places again. I didn’t think anyone alive knew how to do that.’

‘This is why you needed to talk to Deaton.’ Liam said.

‘Yes.’

‘And when you’re finished, this helps us how?’ Alec asked.

‘The Hammer will never be able to achieve the destruction of all supernatural things. More than that, we’ll be stronger. The nemeton will protect the town and everyone in it. The same for all of the other nemeton groves.’

‘This is insane.’ Liam smoothed back his hair. ‘I can’t believe you did this!’

‘I did it to protect everyone. To protect you.’

‘Bullshit.’

‘Everything I’ve done since you drove that sword into the ground has been for you, white fang.’

Liam studied Theo’s face. He suddenly felt his age weigh down on him, causing him to sigh.

‘So what now?’

Theo held up the piece of paper he transcribed at the clinic. ‘I need to know what this says. There’s something big and nasty in the forest. I don’t know if the nemeton has called it for protection, or if it just wandered in, but I can’t get close with it there.’

‘That’s from the bestiary.’ Corey said. Theo nodded.

Mason took it, scanning the strange letters. ‘It looks Greek. Ancient Greek. It’ll take awhile to translate.’

‘I can help.’ Peter said, looking over the paper with Mason.

‘What about the rest of us?’ Lydia asked.

‘There’re going to be a lot of supernatural creatures showing up in and around town fro now on.’ Theo said, ‘Some of them will be dangerous.’

‘Like berserkers.’ Nolan said.

‘Exactly.’ Theo said.

‘No, he means there are berserkers here already. We saw six of them in the forest when we were looking for Malia.’ Alec said.

‘Malia?’ Theo asked.

‘She showed up the other day. Feral. We think she’s some where out in the sanctuary. If we can just get to her I’m sure I can force her back to human form.’ Liam said.

Theo bit his lip. Malia would complicate things, but they did need all of the help they could get.

‘We’ll keep patrols going regularly. Parrish is that something you can help with?’ Liam asked.

‘I can spare a few of my more experience deputies.’ Parrish nodded.

‘Good. Every one else stay alert. Mason and Peter, let us know as soon as you translate that page.’ Liam said, ‘Theo, we need to talk after I’m done here.’

Theo nodded. He headed to the door.
‘Where are you going?’

‘Just getting some fresh air.’

‘Don’t go far.’ The worry was easy to see on Liam’s face.

Theo gave him a small smile.

###

The cold air hit Theo’s lungs like a cement wall as he stepped outside. He held it in, letting it turn to a burning pain, then exhaled. He’d just set them all on the path to their own deaths. Unless he could finish what he started first. Then things would return to the way they were. And maybe, if he survived, he would get to spend his final days with his pack. With Liam.

The backyard was big, fences on either side with the back open to the forest. Theo looked into the shadows of the trees. The wind shifted and he caught a familiar scent. Blue eyes watched him from the undergrowth. Malia.

Theo rubbed his arms to fight off the shiver that coursed through him. Liam thought Malia had gone feral, but from what Theo heard she seemed to be keeping watch over the pack in her own way. It might be best to leave her be, but he doubted he could convince Liam to call of his search. The similarities between Liam and Scott only grew with age but it wasn't unexpected. When they had first met Liam’s anger drowned out many of his qualities, and as he learned to keep it under control the value he put in his friends and family came to the surface.

And now he’s a dad.

That part had been a surprise. Theo looked up at the tree house where Leo was waiting for the meeting to end, reading comic books. He looked back to the woods. Malia lingered then trotted away. Was she keeping an eye on Leo?

Climbing the treehouse proved dangerous—the boards that were nailed on were made to support the weight of a small boy, not a full-grown man. Theo crouched down, opting to leap up to the door in a single movement.

The floor creaked as he landed, making sure to support half his weight by gripping a huge overhead branch.

Leo tilted his head, looking out the door. He wore a pair of huge glasses, making Theo chuckle.

‘What’s with the specs?’

‘I like to pretend I’m smart.’ Leo said, taking them off carefully and folding them up.

‘Smart people are annoying.’ Theo said, ducking through the door.

‘My dad is smart.’

‘Your dad is a pain.’

Leo giggled.

‘You like him. I know it.’ He rocked back and forth as Theo settled in across from him.

‘And just how do you know that?’

Leo pointed to the leather strip poking out of Theo’s shirt collar. Theo paused then looked down. He had forgotten he still had the rings around his neck. He pulled them over his head and studied them. He looked up at Leo’s face, eyes wide with curiosity.

‘Hold out your hand.’ Theo said. Leo extended his fingers, making a cup out of his palms.

‘Don’t drop them.’

‘I won’t!’

Theo tilted his hand, letting Leo take the rings, turning them over in his little fingers, trying them on. He smiled when he squeezed several fingers into one ring.

‘I never knew it was two things.’ Leo said.

‘What do you mean?’

‘Dad never let me look at it. I just thought it was some stupid necklace.’

‘Do you know what they are?’

‘Uh-huh.’ Leo nodded. ‘My teacher got one, lots of people wear them. It means you got married.’

‘Nailed it.’

‘But why does Dad got two of them?’

‘Well, this one is his.’ Theo separated the slightly smaller ring. ‘And this other one is mine.’

‘Oh, so like, you and my Dad are married together.’

‘We were going to be.’

‘Then you changed your mind.’

‘No. I still wish… I meant for everything to be different. But sometimes you give up the things that will make you happy for more important things.’ Theo said.

‘That’s dumb.’ Leo said.

‘Some choices are hard, pup. Sometimes you have to put responsibility before being happy.’

‘I would just do both.’ Leo shrugged.

‘You’re definitely Liam’s son.’ Theo smiled, tucking the rings back under his shirt collar.

‘So like, does that make you my other Dad?’ Leo asked, eyes full of hope.

‘Well, I don’t know about that…’ Theo sighed. Leo had mastered the sad puppy dog look and pulled it off flawlessly, ‘I guess kinda.’

‘Yes!’

‘But you can’t go around calling me Dad.’

‘Why?’

Because it’s weird.

‘Because you might upset Liam.’

‘Okay. But I can still think it.’ Leo nodded.

‘Boys? You up there?’ Liam yelled. ‘It’s time to come inside.’

Theo looked at the boy and rolled his eyes, causing Leo to giggle.

‘Leo Dunbar, Theodore Raeken, don’t make me come up there.’ The alpha said.

Theo struggled to keep his laughter in. Liam sounded exactly like his mother when she had caught them kissing on the couch a week after they started going out. He smiled at Leo, mussing up his hair.

Liam stood beneath the tree house. Theo’s heart leapt in his chest when Leo jumped off the edge, plummeting into Liam’s arms without effort. Liam set the boy on the ground and put his hands on his hips, waiting for his ex to come down.

While Theo decided the best way down, Leo jumped up on his Dad’s back. Liam lifted him in an easy piggyback, running around the backyard.

Theo’s smile slowly faded as his resolve hardened—Liam was happy. That was worth protecting. Maybe Leo was right. Maybe there was a way to find a balance. Or were they just whispers of a ghost they all wished was still with them. Even if they weren’t, Theo had already walked so far down his path that there was no way to turn back now. Even Scott would have been able to see that, but somehow he knew Liam never would.

Chapter Text


Wind raked through the trees. Liam kept his eyes on Theo, walking a few paces ahead. Derek was behind, making sure they were’t being followed. There had been numerous sightings in the past two days since Nolan and Alec stumbled across the berserkers. They’d been working over time to make sure all of the supernatural creatures were kept separate from the town. Theo tried to tell Liam that he was overreacting—the beast in the woods was protecting the nemeton. Nothing could get near it, and the supernatural begins would still be drawn to it—leaving the town alone. Liam didn’t like to take chances. Which was why they were out in the woods at daybreak.

Derek brought up the rear, scanning the trees.

‘So you’re like, the cool teacher at school. The one that’s hip and down with the lingo of kids these days.’ Theo asked, spot checking the hills that were downwind from them.

‘Something like that.’ Liam said, distracted.

‘I thought you wanted to teach at university.’

Liam paused, looking back at Theo. ‘I did. I went to the city for a year or so.’

‘Didn’t like it?’

‘Didn’t fit.’ Liam said. ‘This is where I belong.’

‘And you,’ Theo yelled back at Derek, ‘I thought you split for good.’

The big werewolf shrugged. Derek was never the chatty type.

‘Maybe we can save the twenty questions for when we’re not scouting the area for invading enemy forces.’ He smirked at Theo.

‘Fair enough.’

They covered a decent amount of ground over the past few days. Constant patrols with unpredictable patterns helped them discourage Hammer scouts from entering their territory, but Theo knew it was only a matter of time until they were pressed into a corner.

The sound of distant gunfire caught their ears—a sound too faint for a human to pick up.

‘This way.’ Derek was off, Theo and Liam following on his heels.

They ran through the underbrush, weaving around the gnarled trees and moss-covered boulders. The sound of gunfire increased. Theo estimated at least three different sources.

The wind shifted, carrying the faint metallic scent of the Hammer towards them. There was another smell—power and blood. A smell Theo was familiar with. He felt the rage grow in his chest, power surging with it. There was no way he could force his shift back now, and there was no way he could let Liam see his eyes without the world crashing down at his feet. If he went ahead maybe he could take out the scouts before Derek and Liam even reached them.

Theo sped up. He heard Liam protest behind him, falling away as Theo zeroed in on the scouts.

He burst out of the underbrush, chest heaving. Three scouts in black tactical armour spun to face him, taken off guard. They trained their sights on Theo, who reached the apex of his shift, red eyes burning in the early morning light. His roar was deafening, making two of the scouts reel backwards. The third shot him in the gut. It burned. Theo had been shot before—a gun wound in the belly was the easiest to fight through. For a normal person the internal bleeding could take fifteen minutes to a few hours to kill them. For a werewolf it was one of the most ineffective places to be shot—claws still worked and fangs still tore.

Theo grappled the third scout, wrestling him to the ground before tearing at his throat. The metal guard he wore kept Theo’s claws from finding soft flesh. The scout reached for his rifle. Theo bit his hand, twisting with his jaw until the man screamed in pain. Before Theo could register the scout’s other hand, he’d whipped out a serrated knife and plunged it into Theo’s shoulder. The werewolf grunted from the impact, leveraging the force of his own arms with the scout’s, snapping his forearm. The pain was enough to overwhelm the scout. Theo tore off the neck guard and raked his claws through the soft flesh.

A hail of bullets pelted his back, forcing him to the forest floor. The pain seared through muscle and bone. Theo willed himself through it, turning on the scout that shot him, ripping out the back of his legs with his claws.

Theo was vaguely aware of Derek and Liam restraining the third scout as he crushed the windpipe of the one beneath him.

He straightened his back, pain rippling through him as his body dealt with the wounds. Theo calmed his heartbeat, claws and fangs disappearing.

‘Theo!’ Liam and Derek held the third scout, arms restrained behind his back. Their eyes looked past the wounded werewolf to the trail of bodies that led over the hill. Theo clenched his fists together, claws biting into his palms.

‘You knew them.’ Derek said.

‘They were a family of werewolves. From Canada. I told them about the nemeton. About Beacon Hills. They must have tried to break through the perimeter the Hammer has set up.’

Liam looked over the bodies. Two children were laying face down in the leaves, covered in blood. One was Leo’s age.

He almost jumped when Theo turned to face them, his face a mask of thick anger. The werewolf marched towards them, rage focused on the scout in Derek’s grip.

‘Theo, cam down.’

Theo glanced at Liam as he advanced. He pulled the knife from his shoulder in one swift movement used it to slice across the scout’s throat. Derek let go of the man, letting him drop to the forest floor.

‘This is what they do.’ Theo pointed the bloody knife at the twelve bodies on the ground. No weapons to be see. Two of the men in partial shift.

‘You can’t just kill people!’

‘Someone has to, Liam.’ Theo gestured to the bodies, ‘What if this had been Mason? What if it had been Leo? These were my friends!’

Derek waved his hand, quieting both werewolves. They listened carefully. A muffled moan caught their attention and they went to the fallen bodies, searching for survivors.

‘Theo.’ The voice was familiar.

‘David.’ Theo looked at the man’s torso. Several bullet wounds were healing.

‘We need to get him to the clinic.’ Derek said.

‘My family.’ David craned his neck.

‘Gone.’ Theo said, lifting the slender man in his arms. Derek led the way back, Theo behind him, carrying David.

Liam looked around the clearing. There was no way he could leave them here like this.

###

Theo leaned against the wall outside of the clinic, looking at his hands. The scouts he had killed were the first of many to come. He knew Liam’s plan of taking one of them alive, and he knew it was pointless. Conditioning and training made the Order of The Hammer unbreakable. The only way to strike a blow was to wipe out the scouts and whatever intelligence they’d gathered pushing into Beacon Hills territory. It was going to be impossible explain that to Liam.

The look on the alpha’s face when Theo killed the last scout lingered. He saw Liam’s expression every time he closed his eyes. Anger. Pity. Desperation. Theo dropped his hands, tilting his head back. There was no other way. He’d been down this path too many times. He’d looked for alternate routes. He’d looked for compromise. He’d tried it the way Scott wanted. All that remained was claw and fang against hammer.

Derek opened the backdoor, poking his head out before joining Theo.

‘He’s stable. Sleeping now.’ The evolved werewolf said.

Theo nodded. David and his family had taken him in when he was wandering the mountains along the MacKenzie river. The Dene family had watched over him, tended to his wounds. David had joined him when they travelled to France to take back the nemeton there before returning to his family. Now David was the only survivor.

‘Show me your eyes.’ Derek said, looking out at the trees. Theo studied him, then looked away.

‘I’m not saying they were innocent. But I’m guessing there’s a reason you charged in there ahead of us.’

‘I was angry.’

‘You were angry after you saw the bodies.’ Derek said, ‘You’re hiding something.’

Derek pushed off the wall and disappeared around the corner. The older werewolf was always aloof, following his own way. Theo didn’t know what Derek was after but it wouldn’t matter anyway after Theo got to the nemeton.

He slipped his hand into his pocket, finger tips touching the cool leather bundle at the bottom. He kept it with him everywhere he went, just in case.

###

‘Hand me that book over there.’ Mason said, eyes glued to the the translation in front of him.

Will blinked, turning to look at the pile of books all around them. He reached out, grabbing one and thrusting it into Mason’s hands.

Mason opened the book, a look of confusion crossing his face before slowly closing it and holding it up.

‘Will, I don’t know how you’d think this would help.’ Mason held up Automatic Transmission Repair for Dummies.

‘I just grabbed the one on top.’

‘Why is this even here?’

‘Mine.’ Peter grabbed it, tossing it into the corner, keeping his eyes on his work.

‘Hand me the big brown one that says Ancient Greek Grammar.’ Mason looked at the teenager.

Will passed it to Mason, standing with his hands at his side.

‘Isn’t there some kind of test you should be studying for?’ Peter asked, glancing up at the teenager standing like a shadow behind Mason.

‘Not if we’re all going to be dead by the end of the week.’ Will said, rubbing his palms on his jeans.

‘Good point.’ Peter said.

‘What do you have for this part?’ Mason asked, pointing to the photocopy of the notes Theo had made.

‘Here.’ Peter pointed to his scribbled notes.

‘That doesn’t look right. Here, that has to come before because of the tense of the breathing on this letter.’ Mason said.

‘The last time I checked I had… what, twenty more years of experience with ancient Greek.’

‘That explains is.’ Mason nodded. ‘You’re getting sloppy in your old age.’

Will nearly choked as Peter glared at Mason. He grabbed the pencil and corrected his notes, re-reading them.

‘I was right, wasn’t I?’ Mason smirked.

‘Right or not it still doesn’t make sense unless we finish getting through the rest of it.’

‘I like you better when you’re not trying to kill everyone.’ Mason said, getting back to the translation. ‘You’re easier to be around when you’re not all murder, stab, kill.’

‘Wait, what?’ Will frowned.

‘Peter had this thing he used to do. Lots of cloak and dagger type stuff. Schemes and plots.’

‘Like Theo?’

Peter scoffed. ‘Please. If I wanted to I could still wrap you all around my little finger.’

‘And yet here you are.’

‘Not worth it.’ Peter muttered.

Will put his hands into his pockets, ‘Anyone else we hang out with on the former attempted murder list?’

Mason put down his book, thinking.

‘Nope, I think that’s it. I mean, Theo was way worse than Peter when he was bad.’

‘But he’s not bad any more. Right?’
‘As long as Liam is around Theo’ll be fine.’

‘Are they like… together?’

‘They used to be.’ Mason said, ‘Come to think of it they got together when Liam was about your age.’

Will rocked on the heels of his feet, fidgeting.

‘Do you think that what Theo said was true? Are we all going to die?’

‘Well I know one thing for sure,’ Peter closed the book he was thumbing through, ‘I’ll kill you myself if you don’t shut up and let us finish translating this.’

‘That’s fine. I have to get to work anyway.’ Will said, heading for the door.

‘You didn’t have to be so harsh on him.’

‘Someone has to be. Scott McCall disappears and you all go soft as rotten peaches.’ Peter grumbled. ‘This pack used to have backbone.’

‘You sound like an old man.’

‘I am an old man.’ Peter said, ‘I should be allowed to complain as much as I want. Besides, you know it’s true.’

Mason gave him a look. Peter blinked.

‘Partially true at least.’

Mason shook his head, grabbing a new book and flipping to a dog-eared page.

‘This part looks backwards.’ He showed Peter. Soon they were lost in the work of translating the confusing phrases and trying to make sense of Theo’s awful handwriting.

###

‘When is Dad coming back?’ Leo sat at the kitchen table, working his way through a stack of comic books as Lydia went through Liam’s cupboards.

‘He’s taking care of somethings at the animal clinic but he told me he’d back back for dinner. Which I thought would be nice to make, except your Dad forgot to go grocery shopping.’ Lydia said, closing the cupboards.

‘I’m bored.’ Leo collapsed back into his chair, sinking down.

Lydia checked the time. Liam was supposed to be back by now. She had to meet with Alec and Nolan to check out Eichen House. It had been quiet for the most part, but Lydia had convinced the alpha to let them poke around. It always paid off to keep an eye on Eichen House.

The sound of the front door opening brought relief. ‘Thank god. I’m late meeting up with Alec. You know how sulky he gets.’

‘I only have a vague recollection.’ Theo said, pulling off his boots.

‘Sorry, I thought you were Liam. Where is Liam?’ Lydia paused from gathering her things.

‘Still at the clinic.’

‘I thought your friend…’

‘David.’

‘I thought you’d want to stick around and make sure he’s alright.’

‘He’ll be okay from what Corey and Derek were saying. Better for him to get a little rest.’ Theo said.

‘You too from the sounds of it.’

‘Liam told you what happened?’

‘Some of it.’ Lydia said.

‘Hello, I’m right here.’ Leo stood in front of Theo. Lydia watched the tired wolf’s eyes brighten as he mussed up Leo’s hair.

‘So you are.’

‘Can you keep an eye on him until Liam gets back?’ Lydia asked.

‘Of course. Me and the pup are buds.’ Theo said, fist bumping with the boy. Lydia smiled—Leo looked like he was on top of the world.

She smoothed the boy’s hair, giving him a hug goodbye before rushing to her car. Theo shook his head. Alec could get pretty sulky if he was given the chance.

‘I’m hungry.’

‘Let’s make some dinner then.’

‘I want pizza.’

Theo was tempted to call for a pizza—he was wiped out and the look Liam gave him was still on his mind. Then again, if Liam found out he’d fed Leo pizza for the third night in a row he’d only upset the alpha.

‘No pizza tonight, pup.’

‘Aw.’

‘And don’t try the puppy dog eyes—they won’t work tonight. Grab your coat, we’ll go to the store.’ Theo watched Leo speed out of the room and round the corner. As soon as he was out of sight he heard the unmistakable sound of a ten year old falling and scrambling to get back up.

‘You okay?’

‘Fine.’ Leo yelled back. Definitely Liam’s son.

###

They walked down the aisle of the supermarket—Theo pushing a shopping cart. The deeper they got into the store, the more Leo grounded him, tethered him to the present. He had told them all that he would kill so they wouldn’t have to. He’d been doing it for years now. But it was different being half the world away and killing to protect someone, and having them right there in front of you watching.

Leo held up a box of pop tarts.

‘Does your Dad let you have those?’

‘No.’ Leo said, disappointed. Theo took the box from the kid’s hands and tossed it into the cart. Leo beamed.

‘Your Dad used to live off those things when we were…’ Theo paused. How did he explain their relationship to Leo? How did he explain it to himself?

‘When you used to kiss and stuff.’ Leo grabbed several cereals that Theo was sure were made up of marshmallows.

‘It’s called dating. You’ll be doing plenty of it when you’re older.’

If he survives that long.

Theo pushed the thought from his mind. He would make sure Leo survived along with Liam.

‘Dating’s dumb.’

‘That it is.’ Theo agreed.

‘Let’s get chips.’

‘We need a few healthy things, pup, or your Dad will get mad at us.’ Theo said. Leo sighed as they browsed the produce aisle.

‘Hey Leo.’ Will set a box down, smiling at the young werewolf.

‘Hi.’

‘Bag boy?’ Theo asked, looking at the simple uniform.

‘More like heavy lifting boy.’ Will nodded at the stack of boxes. He looked around to make sure no one was watching before lifting several of them at a time with one hand, causing a huge smile to spread across Leo's face.

‘If I were your alpha I’d tell you not to do something so stupid where people might see.’ Theo said, folding his arms. Will frowned, bracing for a lecture. Instead Theo slapped him on the back.

‘But I’m not your alpha. And I know you can lift way more than that.’ He winked. Will blushed and stammered something about getting the order off of the truck.

Theo grinned and hauled Leo into the land of vegetables.

‘This stuff tastes boring.’ Leo picked at the leaf on the bottom of a cauliflower.

‘Maybe.’ Theo said, ‘But I bet Will eats all of his vegetables.’

Leo shrugged.

‘And look at me—I always make sure to eat mine.’

Leo’s eyes widened, looking at the size of Theo’s arms. He placed a cauliflower into the cart, rushing for the peppers. Theo smiled. Maybe Liam and Scott were right. Maybe he had made a terrible mistake.

Theo watched as Leo pawed through the cantaloupes, tongue sticking out of mouth, nostrils flaring as he sniffed for a ripe one. He had left and Liam had given his heart to raise this boy that had no connection to him, save for their supernatural heritage. Theo didn’t know if he would have made the same decision. He had meant when he said he wasn’t like Scott and Liam—they were wired differently. At the same time the things Liam did, the things he said constantly challenged Theo and made him question what he was doing. Maybe he was capable of more than he thought.

Leo carefully put his chosen cantaloupe in the shopping cart.

‘What’s wrong?’

‘Nothing.’ Theo pushed the cart.

‘You smell bad.

‘Thanks.’

‘I mean, you smell nice. But you smell like something is wrong. Like how when Dad smells when he visits the graveyard kinda. But not like that.’

‘Alright.’

‘Are you going to get married soon?’

‘I’m pretty sure your Dad hates me, pup.’

‘No he doesn’t. And if he said it he’s lying. We’re not supposed to lie, but he said that something when people are hurt they say things different.’ Leo stopped to smell the apple bins.

‘Anyway, he looks at you a lot.’

‘What do you mean?’ Theo asked.

‘When you’re not watching. He’s pretty sneaky about it. I think if he hated you he wouldn’t do that, because the kids in my class hate me and they don’t want me to even be there.’

‘Hey,’ Theo said, stopping the cart, ‘If someone doesn’t like you, that’s their problem, okay?’

Leo shrugged.

‘Leo Dunbar, listen to me—don’t take shit from anyone, okay?’ Theo rested his hands on Leo’s shoulders. The boy thought for a second then gave a little nod.

‘You’re in trouble.’

‘What?’ Theo grabbed the cart again.

‘You said a swear word.’

‘I’ll do my best to make up for it later.’ Theo said, steering them to the cashier.

As they waited for the clear to ring the groceries through Leo slipped his hand into the older werewolf’s open fingers, looking around absently. Theo was confused for a moment. At ten he would never reach for anyone’s hand. Then again, at ten he was a sociopathic paranormal science experiment so he couldn’t gauge anything Leo did by that. The kid seemed much more well adjusted than Theo had ever been. He wondered if Liam held his Dad’s hand like Leo was holding his, then shook his head as if he could banish the thought.

He wasn’t Leo’s Dad. He felt his fingers graze the rings around his neck. Maybe he could have been, if things had turned out differently. If Scott hadn’t been so hell-bent on being a martyr.

Leo caught him watching, giving Theo a shy smile. The older wolf found himself smiling back.

###

Theo opened the back of Corey’s car. Since he and Mason had an extra they’d been letting Theo use it.

‘Pass me that bag.’ Theo said, holding out his arms. Leo started passing him the groceries, one bag at a time.

The wind shifted, brining the scent of metal to Theo’s nose. He glanced up and over Leo’s shoulder. Five Hammer scouts were moving towards them, fast and silent, their rifles aimed at the car. Behind them an imposing figure in full black armour walked towards them, a giant golden hammer in his hands. His face was covered in a mask of smooth black metal.

Theo grabbed Leo, pulling him around the side of the car as they opened fire. Leo screamed as the bullets smashed the windows of the car and tore through the metal. Theo landed on his shoulder, protecting the boy from the hard concrete. Glass fell all around them. The scent of fear filled the air, pairing with the screams of the other shoppers. Theo craned his neck. There were several other werewolves in the store, going about their business. The scouts took aim, two shots for each—head and heart. Not only the supernatural beings, but anyone around them was quickly eliminated.

‘I’m scared!’ Leo gripped Theo’s arm tightly. The sounds of fighting came from a few dozen feet away.

Theo looked out to see Will engaging two of the scouts, the others were firing at Theo, keeping him pinned down. He was right—Will was a lot stronger then he let on.

‘Stay here.’ Theo said. Leo shook his head, hugging Theo tightly.

‘Don’t go.’

Theo closed his eyes for a second, letting Leo lean on him before untangling himself from the boy.

‘Close you eyes and your ears, okay. Promise me you won’t look.’ Theo said, reaching into his pocket. There was no way he would survive Leo looking at him the same way Liam had. Like he was a monster.

‘Promise me, Leo.’

‘I promise I won’t look.’

Theo nodded.

‘I’ll be right back.’

Theo stood, stepping out from behind the car. He had to lead them away from Leo—it didn’t matter that he was only a child. If they saw him they would put two bullets in him just like they’d done to the other supernaturals. At this point it might not even matter to them.

Theo felt a bullet clip the back of his calf as he ran across the parking lot, ducking behind an SUV. He watched from a distance as Will subdued two of the scouts, careful not to kill them. Theo shook his head. Scott’s creed had found the next generation.

He had to do this quickly, without shifting if possible. He waited until the next scout came around the edge of the SUV, slipping behind him and putting him into a hold. The other scout came from the opposite side in a move meant to catch Theo in a stream of crossfire, but the wolf used the body of the first scout to take the brunt of the fire. He threw the body at the other, following on its heels, hands grasping the man’s neck and twisting. The snap was audible, he didn’t need superior hearing to make it out.

Before Theo had a chance to catch his breath he felt the wind pressure shift as a huge hammer came down on top of the SUV he was hiding behind. He almost forgot about he juggernaut that was following the scouts.

Theo leapt away as the car was torn in two. The faceless soldier tore the hammer free, lifting it up to his shoulders with ease. Theo’s instinct told him to move but by the time his feet were pushing him back it was too late—the hammer swung faster than he thought possible. He felt it connect with his ribs, breaking several and smashing his sternum, sending him flying backwards into the windshield of a parked car.

Theo wheezed as his lungs struggled to draw in air. If he had been standing still he would have been completely crushed.

‘Theo!’ Will yelled. The final scout was engaging him hand-to-hand—every time Will tried to break away the scout blocked his progress.

Theo pulled himself out of the windshield. He’d have to face the juggernaut alone.

The enormous soldier moved towards Theo with huge strides, lifting his hammer for another blow. Theo grabbed the rings around his neck. There was no way he could heal fast enough from a blow like that on his own. He had to lure the juggernaut to a narrow space where his hammer couldn’t be wielded as freely. If only he had a few seconds to think of a plan.

A small roar echoed across the parking lot. The juggernaut stopped in his tracks, turning toward the sound. Theo’s lungs spasmed, coughing up blood as the tissue knit back together. His eyes widened when he saw Leo standing defiantly in front of the juggernaut, eyes blood red, teeth little more than puppy fangs.

‘Leo, run!’

The juggernaut lowered the hammer, assessing.

Leo’s panicked eyes sought Theo out. Theo shook his head, coughing up more blood as we focused on healing the smashed organs inside. Leo looked up at the enormous man in black armour—there were no vulnerable points, no exposed flesh. No face.

The little werewolf roared again. The juggernaut lifted the hammer. Theo had no doubt that the boy had always been a target, but now his priority had been bumped ahead of Theo. He took a step forward, pain running through his whole body.

The hammer was reaching its apex. Leo’s eyes were wide with fear.

Theo reached into his pocket. He knew what he was about to do was dangerous. Any chance that might jeopardize the mission could mean the end of everything, but he couldn’t let Leo die. He couldn’t watch someone he loved be smashed by the Hammer again.

He squeezed the shell, breaking the seal just enough for a crack to form. Just enough for a single spark of power. But that’s all he needed—a single spark to ignite the inferno inside of himself. He caught hold of it, drawing it into his body. Bones popped and snapped as they re-aligned themselves. Organs healed and flesh knit together. Theo felt the burn of the energy coursing through him. If he didn’t get rid of it he knew it would destroy him.

The shift was painful, it felt like his flesh was being ripped off. He had only managed this kind of transformation once before, and it had nearly killed him. But it was the only way he would be fast enough, strong enough. Human features twisted and elongated, teeth became fangs, nails became claws. Instead of the four legs of a full shift, he stayed on two, wolf blending with human.

His roar was deafening—burning white eyes found the figure of the juggernaut, now slightly smaller in size. He leapt, landing in front of Leo as the hammer came down. He met its force with a clawed hand, the pavement buckling beneath his paws. The juggernaut took it in stride, bringing the hammer around again, slamming it into Theo’s side. The werewolf flinched. He could feel the extra power ease the wound and repair it immediately.

The hammer came down again. This time Theo was ready, claws sweeping through the air and knocking it away. He leapt forward, clenching his fangs down on the metal helmet of the juggernaut. It was meant to make them invulnerable, to protect them from attacks similar to the one Theo was using. He felt his fangs crack and break against the metal, healing in a single breath, and then biting down again. The metal began to give, crushing the head that was beneath it.

The juggernaut flailed—the scent of fear was in the air. The human inside knew that he had been abandoned by his faith and now all the remained were he jaws of a giant wolf bearing down on him.

The taste of blood brought Theo back to reality—Leo was watching. How would he be able to face the boy after this? How would he be able to continue after he killed his man in front of a child? Was he a monster?

The juggernaut took the opening Theo’s hesitation created, freeing the knife every member carried and drove it into Theo’s ribs. The wolf howled in pain, reeling back and clearing a line of sight to Leo, standing frozen in fright.

Theo saw the events play out before his eyes. The juggernaut held his second knife by the blade, intending to throw it. Aiming at Theo’s face, then tilting slightly towards the boy. Leo was going to die.

‘Dad!’ The boy yelled.

Theo opened his mouth as the juggernaut let fly, blade sinking into the roof of his maw before he bit down, breaking the blade and several teeth.

No hesitation. No mercy. Theo tore at the metal with his claws until it revealed pink flesh. His fangs had been restored by then, and he bit down as hard as he could—his own blood mixing with the blood of the fanatic in the suit of armour. The muffled screams from inside told him he’d gotten a vital part. Armoured gauntlets pounded down on his snout. Instead of reeling away Theo bit down harder, harder, as hard as he could until he felt the flow of blood increase, and the movements of the juggernaut slow, then stop.

He released the man’s neck, letting his huge body drop to the pavement. His mouth was full of blood and pain. The power continued to course through him. He opened his hand, releasing the shell. As soon as it hit the ground Theo felt the power drain out of him, body returning to normal. It was hard to see, hard to hear. Leo was there, holding his hand. Hot tears hit Theo’s skin. He tried to reach out to comfort the boy, smearing blood on his face. Theo’s last thought was that Liam was going to be upset that he’d let Leo get so dirty.

###

Liam sat beside the hospital bed, gripping Theo’s hand. Will alerted them as soon as he’d spotted the Hammer begin the attack. Theo was right—they were ruthless and efficient killers. One scout had escaped and the two that Will had managed to subdue had taken their own lives before they were able to question them.

Worse of all, Leo had been shaken to his core. There was no way they could go back from this—the war had landed on their doorstep. If Theo hadn’t been there to protect them Liam had no doubt that Will and Leo would be among the other nine bodies in the parking lot.

The steady beep of the monitor told Liam that Theo was alive and alright. Years ago they’d gotten the hospital to set aside a handful of beds for supernatural-related emergencies. Melissa had been in to check on Theo several times. They didn’t know what was wrong exactly, but his condition was stable. Will hadn’t seen much of the fight, busy trying to keep up with the scouts he had been dealing with. The sounds he heard sounded brutal. Animalistic. Liam asked Leo about what had happened but the boy was in shock, still to frightened to speak.

Liam watched Theo’s sleeping face—he looked so peaceful. After everything he had been through he deserved to rest. After everything Theo had been through in his whole life he deserved so much more. He couldn’t die like this. And he wouldn’t die sacrificing himself to the nemeton—Liam wouldn’t let that happen.

‘Don’t die, you stupid asshole.’ Liam whispered, leaning down to touch his forehead to Theo’s. He held the werewolf’s hand tight, trying to take any pain he might feel, but nothing came.

‘Fuck, Cujo—look at us. We’re a god damn mess.’ Liam laughed. A black line snaked down Theo’s chest beneath his teal hospital gown. Liam reached down, afraid it was some strange wound. Instead he found himself pulling on his old leather cord, golden bands coming into sight. He assumed Theo probably tossed them in the river or the forest—he could be overly dramatic like that sometimes. Liam never expected him to keep them, let alone wear them.

Liam tucked them back under the hospital gown, smoothing Theo’s hair back from his face.

‘We’re going to have a talk when you wake up. I’m tired of all this, Cujo. Like you said, no more running.’

Liam felt Theo’s hand respond with a gentle squeeze.

Chapter Text


When Theo opened his eyes he wasn’t in the hospital anymore. Sunlight streamed through the curtains, lighting up small particles of dust floating in the air. He felt warmth everywhere. And something heavy on his left side pressing into him, along with something lighter nestled against his right.

Forcing his eyes to open all the way was a feat. Leo was asleep, curled up against his chest, little hands gripping Theo’s shirt tightly. Theo didn’t have to turn to know Liam was holding him from his other side—scent told him everything. The alpha’s arms crossed Theo’s body. He could hear Liam’s breathing, felt the gentle touch of it across his exposed skin. Theo could feel the soothing beat of Liam’s heart where their bodies touched. He exhaled, embarrassed he’d forgotten to breathe for a moment.

When was the last time he was this close to Liam, not counting fists. So long. Theo felt tears well up in the corners of his eyes, a sharp pang of guilt and regret stabbing his heart. Was it so selfish to miss these moments? Was it so terrible to want to be held, to be close?

He felt Leo bush the tears from his eyes before burying his face in Theo’s chest again. The wetness on his shit told Theo that Leo was crying too. He wasn’t surprised. He knew he’d frightened the boy. There was no way Leo had kept his eyes closed during the attack. Theo’s transformation was a brutal thing to witness, and the battle that followed had been pure rage and desperation. He had killed a man in front of an innocent, that was sure to leave a lasting mark on Leo.

The boy muttered something against Theo’s chest. The older werewolf strained to lift his hand—all of his muscles ached. He rested his palm on the back of Leo’s head, pulling him as close as his limited strength would allow.

‘I’m sorry.’ Leo said, tears flowing freely.

‘What for, pup?’ Theo’s voice was a rasping croak.

‘You told me not to look.’

Theo chuckled.

‘It’s alright. I’m glad you’re safe.’

Leo snuggled against his chest as Theo stroked his hair.

‘I’m sorry I scared you.’ The boy squeezed Theo’s shirt in a tighter grip, ‘I didn’t mean for you to see me turn into a monster.’

‘Not a monster.’ Leo whispered. ‘You’re like me. You saved me.’

Theo’s hand felt heavy. Leo’s words sunk in, settling inside of Theo’s heart. How could a single child have such an impact on him? He found himself smiling as Leo drifted off to sleep, mumbling. The words were barely audible, but Theo was sure he caught the word ‘dad’ in there. His memory was foggy, but he remembered the look on the boy’s face—the fear and worry when Leo called him dad. Part of him swelled with pride at the title. The other part was mired in worry. What would Liam think?

Leo snuggled against him again. Theo tried to remember the details of the fight. He’d taken out juggernauts before, with teams of three wolves. It was suicide to challenge one to single combat. Theo had seen them wipe out entire packs on their own before. If it hadn’t been for the seed… He thought back—what had he done with it? What if someone had picked it up? If one of the scouts picked it up they were doomed. He’d been stupid to use it. Desperate. It had been to save Leo. Theo sighed—this was the kind of situation Scott had always put them in.

Except Theo had done this. He’d cut all ties. He’d walked away. Maybe if he had kept in touch, let them know what was going on, they could have been more prepared. He stroked Leo’s hair. If he’d done that then Leo would have grown up in the shadow of constant threat. It would have taken the trust that Scott had worked so hard to build up between them all and smashed it beyond repair.

No, he had made the right choice then, as much as it had hurt.

‘Hey.’ Liam’s voice was thick with sleep. He touched Theo’s cheek, feeling the drying tears, concerned colouring his scent.

‘It’s okay.’ Theo whispered, ‘I was just talking to the pup.’

Suddenly Liam squeezed him tight.

‘Ribs.’ Theo squeaked out, making Liam release him.

‘I’m so mad at you. At them. At everyone.’ Liam said, rage just beneath his every day scent. He looked into Theo’s eyes, expression softening, ‘What if you hadn’t been there? You protected him. You kept him safe. Thank you.’

Theo smiled, stroking the back of Liam’s hand with his thumb.

‘Remember when you were a teenager with a death wish?’ He asked.

‘I didn’t have a death wish.’

‘Could’ve fooled me. It was a full time job keeping your ass safe.’ Theo said.

‘I wasn’t that bad. I took care of you, too.’

’80/20 split, White Fang.’ Liam scoffed. ‘My point is this little pup falls into the job description of looking out for you. No question. You’re both pack.’

‘I remember how many years it took to convince you that you were pack, and now you’re the one telling me.’ Liam chuckled.

Theo felt Leo shift in his sleep. The older wolves lapsed into silence, watching the boy settle, breathing returning to a normal, steady pace.

‘He had nightmares for two days until we started sleeping here.’ Liam said.

‘How long have I been out?’

‘Four days.’ Liam said, ‘Things have gotten worse. The Hammer has started to kill anyone that leaves the town. They’re set up detours miles outside of town to keep everyone out.’

‘They’re cutting us off.’ Theo said.

‘They’ve cut us off.’ Liam said, showing Theo his phone—no bars, no connection of any kind. ‘David has been helping us fortify and come up with a way to defend the entire town, but it’s hard.'

Theo reached for his pockets, looking for the seed. They must have but him in new clothes. The thought of Liam dressing him made his cheeks flush, confirming his reduced strength—normal Theo would have made sure never to blush in front of Liam of all people.

He paused, then grabbed at the collar of his shirt, frowning.

‘What are you doing?’

‘Looking for something.’

‘Something important?’

‘Kinda.’

Liam frowned.

‘Ouch!’ Theo pushed Liam’s hand away from the nipple he was twisting. ‘What was that for?’

‘All this secretive Theo business stops now, okay? We’re in this together. And it’s starting to look bad, Cujo. So you better spill everything while there’s still time for all of us to help. While there’s still time we can make it out of this alive.’

‘You didn’t have to pinch me.’

‘Theo—yes I did.’

‘I have to talk to David.’ Theo tried to push himself up in bed, but his arms didn’t have enough strength, leaving him to topple over onto Liam.

‘Sorry.’ he said, face pressed into Liam’s hair. The alpha took Theo by the sides, moving him with little effort.

‘Why don’t you guys rest for a little while longer. I’ll wake you up in a few hours.’

Theo looked at the sleeping boy beside him, worry clear on his face.

‘Don’t worry—Derek is on guard outside. No one’s getting in. Now sleep.’ Liam said.

‘If you insist.’ Theo said, knowing his body was still too drained to protest.

‘Don’t think this gets you off the hook. We’re having a long talk later.’ Liam looked over at Leo’s sleeping face. ‘A private talk. Where sensitive ears and puppy dog eyes can’t save you.’

Theo tried to swallow the lump in his throat before giving Liam a nod. He’d rather face an anuk-ite than speak with his ex, but it wasn’t like he was going to be able to put it off any longer.

###

Mason leaned over the huge book, jotting down notes in the margins of his writing pad. The information Theo had found was cursory at best—clues that were meant to be understood by someone with an advanced knowledge of supernatural creatures. He’d been combing through all of the old tomes with Peter in hopes of finding more concrete information. Unfortunately they were all in ancient languages and there was a distinct lack of pictures. Mason’s complaining amused Peter at first, then it started to get on his nerves.

‘Not every dusty tome has pictures in it, Mason.’ Peter glared at him.

‘But it would be so much easier if they did.’

‘But they don’t, and complaining about it doesn’t make this whole process go any faster.’ Peter slammed his book shut, moving on to the next one. He’d read all of these books once or twice before, looking for clues or hints to getting more power, or for something he could use to his advantage. Those days were gone, and he’d forgotten most of the things not directly related to moving his position ahead, but he still had a good idea of which books might be useful and which ones weren’t. Still, narrowing thing down to twenty ancient books instead of a hundred didn’t give them much time to rest.

After the attack in the parking lot they redoubled their efforts—nine more werewolves had been killed, and several humans. The town could sense something was wrong, but they didn’t understand the depth of it yet. Two of Peter’s small pack had tried to leave Beacon Hills. He’d found their bodies on pikes deep in the forest, rage waking up old memories. He’d fought hard to rebuild his power, his pack, after everything that had happened with Scott McCall. He hated to admit that the young wolf had rubbed off on him in any way, but privately he knew it was true. So when two members of his small but loyal pack were murdered, Peter was determined to strike a blow to the Order of the Hammer in any way possible.

‘How’s the hunt going?’ Corey asked, setting coffee down on the table. Peter took his with a grumble, watching the chimera knead the knots out of Mason’s shoulders.

‘Faster if you didn’t pop in here every twenty minutes.’ Peter said.

‘Ignore him. He’s old. An jealous.’ Mason said, giving his husband a quick kiss.

‘How’s Will?’ He asked as Corey sat down.

‘Coming out of it. He was pretty shaken up, but now he’s… He’s a lot like we used to be at his age.’ Corey said.

‘It’s his first taste of danger. Of battle. It changes you.’ Peter said absently, flipping through pages.

‘Well, he’s helping David now.’

Peter grunted. He didn’t like outsiders. Especially when they were Theo’s friends. The strange wolf was direct and efficient, though, both qualities Peter held in high regard.

‘I’ve never met a werewolf from Canada before.’ Mason said. Because he’d been buried in the books he hadn’t crossed paths with David.

‘He’s a bit touchy about that.’

‘What, being from Canada?’

‘Well, his people were there for like, ten thousand years before it became Canada.’ Corey said, recalling the discussion he had with David.

‘What, werewolves?’ Mason asked.

‘The Dene, you idiot.’ Peter shook his head.

Mason held up his hands, ‘Saving the entire world here, no need to bite my head off.’

‘If I bit your head off you’d know, because the peace and quiet that would result from it would make everyone weep with joy.’ Peter said.

‘Here.’ Corey shoved an extra coffee into Peter’s hand. Peter wasn’t always around but he dropped in on them often enough that they knew his posturing was more about menace than actual threat.

‘What do you have for this part?’ Mason asked, passing Peter a sheet of paper as the wolf sipped his coffee.

Peter frowned at looked over the sheet before going through his own work and pulling out a torn piece of paper with frantic handwriting. He placed them side-by-side. Mason saw the overlap right away, making connections with his pen.

‘That’s it. It’s a cipher.’

‘And that’s good?’ Corey asked.

‘We need the book from the clinic. With the key we can decipher the page Theo found.’

‘Let’s go.’ Corey said.

‘I’ll drive.’ Peter snatched away the keys. ‘You might be adults but you still drive like teenagers.’

###

Theo woke up later that afternoon. He felt stronger—healing finally kicking in to restore strength. His legs were still la bit wobbly as he made his way to the stairs. He heard voices talking as he slowly made his way down, pausing to listen.

‘…He could have seriously gotten hurt.’

‘But he didn’t. And Theo is fine. Two points for us.’

‘This isn’t a game.’ Liam said.

‘And what about the other guy, Theo’s friend?’ Alec’s voice.

‘Without him we would have lost Jasmine, maybe a few of the others that showed up last week looking for shelter.’ Liam said.

‘You’re sure he’s legit?’ Nolan asked.

‘As legit as Theo.’ Theo could hear the anger simmer in Liam’s voice. Apparently Nolan and Alec did as well, because they let the conversation drop.

Theo made his was down three more steps before the sound of his movements gave him away.

‘Theo?’ Liam came to the landing, looking up the stairs.

‘Present.’

‘Glad to see your sense of humor is intact.’ Liam shook his head, ducking under the werewolf’s arm to support him the rest of the way down the stairs.

Theo his his surprise when he saw Lydia and Derek sitting at the table with Nolan and Alec. They’d been silent for the entire exchange.

‘Where’s Leo?’

‘With Will in the backyard.’ Liam said. Theo glanced over his shoulder, catching sight of the boy playing with the teenager, running in circles.

‘Hungry?’

Theo shook his head, sitting down in the empty chair beside Liam.

‘They can’t keep this many people blacked out forever.’

‘They only need a week or so.’ Theo said, cradling the glass of water Liam handed him. ‘They have enough resources and connections to keep things off the grid until they complete their mission, then there’s some bullshit cover up that they feed to everyone once they move on.’

‘People are going to panic.’ Nolan said.

‘They’re already panicking.’ Derek said, ‘Where do you think they keep getting heads to put on pikes? Every night some desperate person tries to sneak past their line and gets killed.’

‘Do we know where the perimeter is?’ Theo asked. Liam grabbed some maps off the counter and unrolled them.

‘Will, Alec, Derek, and I have been running the boundaries. They keep a keen watch all along the outskirts of the town and the wildlife sanctuary.’ Liam said.

‘We can see them. Smell them.’ Alec said, ‘But they never advance. They either hold their positions or try to lure us away from the others. It feels like they’ve taken all the territory around the town.’

‘But not at the edge of the sanctuary.’ Theo studied the red marks on the map they had made, along with the circled areas that were safe zones.

‘What about here?’ He asked, tapping a spot close to the heart of the wildlife sanctuary.

‘That’s nemeton territory. As far as we can tell no Hammer scouts have made it out of there alive. Probably due to your giant man-eating buddy lurking in there.’ Alec said.

‘Speaking of that.’ Mason opened the door, a huge grin on his face. ‘We may have an answer. Or at least something.’

He set a pile of books on the table and pulled out a laminated copy of the page Theo had found several days ago.

‘The entire thing is in code made up an ancient Greek, latin, Hebrew, and coptic script.’

‘Okay.’ Alec blinked.

‘Once me and Peter figured out the cipher we were able to take a look at the page again. Whoever wrote it must have kept more detailed notes somewhere else, since this is kind of a short hand about the creature.’

‘Great. So we got the cliff notes version of what this thing is.’ Nolan said.

‘It’s called an Oathwight.’

‘Oath white?’

‘It’s a type of wight—you know, like an undead type thing. They’re kind of like vengeful spirits. Usually they have a single purpose—beyond that they’re not allowed to act.’

‘Which explains why it hasn’t roamed into town and eaten everyone.’ Everyone looked at Alec. ‘What? It could happen. Sometimes it happens!’

‘So is it like a banshee thing?’ Nolan asked, looking at Lydia. She raised a single eyebrow.

‘It’s fair to say it might be connected somehow. Maybe even hellhound related.’ Mason said.

‘Where’s Parrish?’ Lydia asked.

‘With Argent, keeping the peace.’ Derek said, ‘For now.’

‘So if we assume this thing is protecting the nemeton, as long as we don’t mess with it, we’re fine.’ Liam said.

‘Which is kind of a kink in our plans.’ Theo said. ‘I need to get close to it in order to perform the ritual. Or David, if he was successful.’

What do you mean?’ Lydia asked.

Theo tried to pull his shirt over his head, getting caught halfway. His arms refused to give him the range of motion needed to finished.

‘Little help here, boss wolf?’ Theo asked from behind the shirt. Liam shook his head as he helped Theo strip. He turned his back to the table. A series of tattoos ran across the skin of his back.

‘Each of the symbols is a nemeton grove. There were seven of us when we started. Me, David, Kali, Ryo, Emily, Tenoch, and Adam.’ Theo said.

‘One for each nemeton.’ Mason said.

‘We were supposed to stay together, but as the Hammer pressed their forces on us we had to split up. Kali and Ryo… They completed their rituals but they died to I could get here.’

‘And the others?’ Nolan asked.

Theo shook his head.

‘The only nemeton I’m missing is the one here in Beacon Hills. If David was successful then he can complete the ritual, too.’ Theo said, catching the look on Liam’s face. He knew what the alpha was thinking—let David sacrifice himself in Theo’s place.

‘It means,’ Theo clarified, ‘That is one of us fails, or dies, then there’s a second chance.’

‘Like a backup hard drive.’ Nolan muttered. All eyes turned to him ‘What?’

‘That doesn’t begin to address our problems.’ Theo said, trying to pull on his shirt with Liam’s help.

‘What do you mean? We distract the oathwight thing, get you and David in there, get you out and everything goes back to normal.’ Alec said.

‘It’s kind of complicated.’ Theo said, head nodding.

‘Okay, let’s take a break.’ Liam said.

‘I’m fine.’ Theo said, but everyone had moved away from the table.

‘Mason can you and Lydia keep going over things at the clinic? Try and find a way around that thing in the woods. Everyone else good with your patrols?’ Liam spoke with solid confidence. There were muttered agreements as the pack headed out to make sure the town remained safe.

###

Leo followed Will into the house as the sun started to set. The teenager went for the fridge, taking a deep drink out of the milk carton as Leo tried to catch his breath.

‘You’re gonna get in trouble.’ Leo said.

‘Only if I get caught.’ Will winked and put the milk back.

‘Come on.’ Leo grabbed Will’s hand, trying to drag him off.

‘Why?’

‘I wanna play Xbox.’

‘I’m too tired.’ Will said. ‘Leave me behind. Go on without me!’

Leo giggled and tried to jump on the werewolf’s back. Will let out a grunt as Leo managed to climb up and secure a spot. He carried the boy to the living room, dumping him on the couch. At the last second he realized Liam was sound asleep on the cushions. He moaned in pain as Leo fell on him. Will took a step back, keeping his eyes on the floor as Liam pieced together what had happened.

‘I’m sorry. We were just playing. I didn’t realize.’ Will said.

‘It’s fine.’ Liam rubbed his head. He tucked the wedding bands into his pocket, taken from Theo’s neck when they moved him into the bedroom. He’d been turning them over in his hands, thinking of the first time he’d met Theo Raeken. The cocky smile. The sarcastic jokes. The eyes that hid every ounce of pain and vulnerability he’d accumulated in his life. Theo’s change had been slow after Liam had resurrected him. Even after the anuk-ite, the few years they’d had together afterwards seemed otherworldly they were so warm and easy. Liam half thought they hadn’t actually happened. Then he remembered their awkward first kiss. Their stolen moments before the pack knew they were dating. Theo’s desperate, subversive, attempts to prove he was worth being in the pack. Theo helping him study and being a complete distraction. Theo dropping the rings into Liam’s lap without any ceremony or context. All of that was gone.

Liam stretched, watching the boys settle in to watch TV. He’d asked Will to come over and keep Leo company—school had been the first thing that had been closed in their state of emergency. Liam wanted to keep an eye on the teenager at the same time as he was watching Leo. Theo’s presence had stabilized Leo. It was strange how quickly he took to the older wolf, but right now Liam was thankful for anything that brought them a sense of normalcy.

Will was a different case. He lived with his foster mom on the other side of town. She was good at hiding her habits—drinking too much, staying out too late. But there was always food for Will. Always a warm, safe space to live. Just no parental guidance or support. At thirteen the boy had been a wild force of nature and spite. He’d wandered into the woods, intending to break into one of the abounded buildings that we falling apart in the trees when he was attacked by a wendigo. He was lucky Liam had been there to fight it off, but the only way to save him had been the bite. Liam was reluctant to turn a boy so young, but the choice was the bite or watch him die. So Liam made his first beta. That had been three years ago—and after a rough first year Will had grown into their family like he naturally belonged there. He was still rough around the edges, still defiant. But that was all a part of being a teenager. Liam shook his head, wondering how Scott ever managed to keep him in line.

The attack in the parking lot had taken a toll on Will. He’d withdrawn and isolated himself. Playing with Leo had drawn some of his usual self back to the surface, though Liam could still feel a hesitation, a fear inside of the teen.

‘Who’s hungry?’

‘Pizza!’

‘Spaghetti and meatballs, tonight lion.’

‘Daaaaad.’

‘I like spaghetti.’ Will said.

‘Me too.’ Leo didn’t miss a beat as he turned his attention back to the TV.

Liam almost felt normal as he strained the noodles over the sink. As the steam climbed up the window he saw two pinpoints of blue looking in from a distance. Even now, she was watching over them.

###

Theo opened his eyes to darkness. His feet were bare and the hallways was cold. He looked around, a feeling of dread creeping up inside of him as he passed row after row of locked doors. He hadn’t had this dream in a long time.

His feet felt heavy, like he wouldn’t be able to run if he wanted to. He kept walking, the sounds of his footsteps echoing in the large, empty space.

He didn’t think when he found the right door—he reached out and pushed it open. He knew what was inside. He knew what he deserved, even after all these years.

The morgue was cold. The lights were dim, making pools of deep shadow. One of the units had been opened, small steel door pushed back against the others. She was sitting on the steel slab that was meant to hold a body, chest cavity wide open for the world to see. Her hair hung down in her face, skin bloated and blue.

Theo felt the air rush out of his lungs as the door closed. In the past the tables had been turned. Wake up on the slab, escape the morgue, run through the halls. Watch as Tara tore the heart out his chest. Her heart. Gasp in agony as he slowly died and everything went black. Wake up, repeat for eternity.

She made to move towards him, she sat on the edge of the slab looking at him, studying him.

Theo didn’t know what to say. He’d imagined what he might say, the way he might say it, but now, in front of her it all seemed to cheap and meaningless. She was waiting for something though.

He leaned against the wall, sliding down to rest on the floor. He knew her eyes were following his every movement.

‘I don’t know if this is real or all in my head.’ Theo said without looking up. ‘I know that where I was before, with you. That was real. What happened was real. But this… Maybe it doesn’t matter if it’s a dream or not.’

He looked up at her, fighting the urge to flinch. Her eyes, expressionless, waiting. They tore through everything and made Theo feel like he was nine years old again. A frightened child.

He calmed himself, looking at the palms of his hands.

‘I’ve missed you.’ He said. Tara, of whatever she had become, tilted her head, listening.

‘All of the good things in my life, all of the memories and the fights and the questions. I think that’s all because of you.’ Theo said, touching his chest. ‘I know there’s no excuse for what I did. There’s no way to justify it. i don’t care if I was some misguided kid. I should have trusted you. i should have cared more about you than… than some stupid dream of being special. But this, the heart inside of me, the part of you that I carry with me… that’s the only thing that’s let me go on.’

‘I’m not a good person. I dunno. Bad heart.’ He chuckled. ‘Not like you. Whenever I looked at Liam or Scott they reminded me of you. Liam, he tries to convince me I’m good. But I’m not. I’m a monster. I can do things other people can’t. I can cross lines they won’t. And that’s okay, because I have this heart. That belonged to you. And you were good. You were better than me. It’s the only thing that makes me human.’

Theo wiped his eyes on the back of his arm.

‘Take it back. Right now, take it. If it will change things. If it will make it right.’

She was next to him, a few inches away, cold eyes weighing his words without mercy or compassion. Tara reached out, touching his face. She drew her hand back and Theo shut his eyes—the memory of the pain was excruciating and it was the only thing he had to prepare himself for when her hand plunged into his chest, cracking the ribs to rip out the life he stole from her.

There was no pain. Instead her arms drew him close, pressing their foreheads together. Theo opened his eyes to see Tara staring back at him, no smile, not forgiveness, but lighter. Like a weight had been lifted. Her skin was warm and suddenly he was a little boy again, curled up against her after hurting himself running away from the other kids that called him a freak. She stroked his hair and said soothing words that calmed him. The anger and urge to lash out and hurt the other kids he felt died. He wrapped his arms around her, holding her tight.

‘Wake up.’ The first words he’d heard from her since she’d died. ‘Theo, wake up. It’s going to be alright.’

When he opened his eyes the sound of the TV drifted into the room. His claws had come out, digging into his sides while he slept. He wiped the tears away, then the blood.

The shower was hot. His strength has returned, but he felt hollow, empty. Like he’d been cut free from a tether that had bound him for two decades. Like his hands were suddenly free and his didn’t know what to do with them. What was a dream? What was real?

The water washed everything away. There was a thick lump in the back of his throat he couldn’t swallow, so he let it sit there until it dissolved into a vague sense of loss and liberation. What was left inside of him now?

Liam. The wounded look on the alpha’s face came back to him. Leo. The bright eyes and mischievous smile. Scott. The pain on his face as he smiled through all of the blood at the end. The promise he had made. Stiles. The wounded one, so far away. His pack. His family. They were a part of him, too.

After he dried himself off he changed into some of Liam’s too-small clothes and made his way downstairs. Liam was carrying Leo into his room, motioning for Theo to keep quiet. The older wolf watched Liam place the boy in his bed and pull his blankets over him. Will was fast asleep in the spare bed on the other side of the room. From the lingering scent Theo could tell this wasn’t the first time the teenager had slept over. Liam smiled, smoothing Leo’s messy hair before giving him a gentle kiss on the forehead. He looked over at Will, sliding the teenager’s phone out of his hands and placing it on the dresser before heading to the door.

Liam motioned for Theo to join him in the living room where a very quiet western was playing on the TV.

‘You slept all day.’

‘Sorry.’

‘It’s fine. You look better.’

‘Yeah.’

‘What’s wrong?’ Liam asked, pressing his hand to Theo’s forehead. ‘You’re burning up.’

Theo smiled, ‘Werewolf, remember?’

Liam blushed, pulling his hand back.

‘But thank you. For checking.’ Theo said.

Liam sat beside Theo on the couch. Silence stretched out between them, and Theo split his attention between his ex and the film. Liam kept his head down, and Theo thought maybe the alpha had fallen asleep until he head the faint clink of metal come from Liam’s hands.

Theo watched Liam toy with the gold bands.

‘Did you ever think about me? When you were gone.’ Liam asked.

‘All the time. Every day.’

‘Did you… did you meet anyone else?’ Liam looked at him. Theo couldn’t gauge the emotion behind the question, but there was no point in hiding it.

‘Yes. Kinda of. I tried a few times, to not be lonely. But even when I found someone, they were never you.’

‘You and David never got together?’

‘David has like twelve kids. I mean… he did.’ Theo squeezed his eyes shut before sighing.

‘So you didn’t…’ Liam fumbled for the words.

Theo shook his head then held up his hand, wiggling his fingers.

‘Ugh, you perv.’ Liam laughed.

‘Hey’s it’s perfectly natural. Besides, I always imagined it was you.’

‘Flattering.’ Liam said. ‘All that shit you said when you left, that was fucking bullshit by the way.’

‘I know.’

‘It was shitty, Theo. I fucking loved you and you just stomped all over me.’

‘I thought it would be easier if you hated me.’

‘I could never hate you, Cujo. And you’re a fucking idiot if you thought it was ever possible.’

‘I just… I don’t know how to fix this, Liam. I don’t know what to do. I wish I had the answers. I wish I could go back and change the way things happened. I wish… I wish I didn’t say those things to you. I wish none of this was happening. But I didn’t have a choice.’ Theo said.

‘What do you mean?’

‘Do you remember when Monroe came back ten years ago?’

‘Scott took her on, one-on-one in the forest.’

‘Then what?’

‘He disappeared.’

‘And Monroe?’

Liam was silent, gathering his thoughts, ‘He killed her maybe.’

Theo shook his head, raising his claws. ‘I would never let him do something like that. Just like I won’t let any of you.’

‘You killed her? You killed Monroe. You were there when everything happened?’ Liam asked.

Theo nodded. Liam chewed his lip.

‘So you know what happened to them?’

‘When I left to get the rest of the pack Monroe was dead and Scott was bleeding and riddled with yellow wolfsbane. I don’t know where their bodies went, or who would take them.’ Theo said, rubbing his knees.

‘Before I left, Scott made me promise to take care of you. Of all of you. We didn’t know much about the Hammer then, just what Monroe had threatened us with. After Scott disappeared and I found out about the nemetons… I knew I couldn’t stay in Beacon Hills.’

‘You could have said something. You could have told us!’

‘Promised, Liam. I promised our alpha. After everything Scott did for me, after all the chances he gave me, I couldn’t turn my back on him. Even though every part of me felt like it was being torn apart when I left.’

Liam grabbed Theo’s hand, claws and all, squeezing tight.

‘It worked, for a few months. I was so angry at you. Everyone else was broken. It was all falling apart. Scott was gone. Malia was gone. Stiles left. You left. I was alone, Theo. Then one day I saw how things were, that I could either take everything on and make it heal, or let it all fall apart.’

‘I’m sorry.’ Theo said, leaning into Liam. The alpha chuckled resting his head on Theo’s shoulder.

‘We have to stop meeting like this.’

‘What, when the entire world is about to end?’

‘It’s definitely a repeating pattern.’

‘Then let’s break it.’ Liam said, touching Theo’s jaw.

‘Liam, things might not end well for me. I’m already on borrowed time.’

‘I don’t care. I’ll find a way to fix it. I’ll find a way to fix everything.’

‘There’s Scott McCall’s stubborn beta.’ Theo smiled. ‘I’ve missed you so much.’

Liam pulled Theo tight, burying his face in the older wolf’s neck.

‘We’ll face this together, all of us. And we’ll win. It’ll be alright.’ Liam said. Theo could feel his hot tears running down his neck as he pulled Liam close, wishing he could believe those words.

Chapter Text


Liam glanced over his shoulder. Theo was crouched on the roof of the school, watching carefully. Derek was around the corner behind him, and David was on the roof of the library, claws at the ready. Liam caught Alec’s eye and gave him the signal. The lanky werewolf nodded and bolted around the corner, drawing the attention of the three Hammer scouts. Even though it was pouring rain they moved with precision, training their sights on Alec who led them into the courtyard.

Liam rushed to get into position. The Hammer had been moving into the town aggressively over the past few days. Theo and David had taken on the roles of tactical advisors—marshalling every supernatural creature and human that was able to fight back and putting them on the defence. Theo had become more relaxed around Liam, but there was still a sense of hesitation there. When they made tactical plans Liam was often paired with David, even though he knew he’d make a better team with Theo.

As the scouts came around the corner ready to take Alec down, Theo and David dropped from the roof, claws raking through bullet-proof armour and flesh. Before the third scout could react Theo lunged for his neck, dropping him to the ground. Liam watched as Theo closed his eyes, letting the rain wash the blood from his face and hands. It was clear that Theo didn’t enjoy killing, but he was definitely good at it. Where Liam knew if he was forced to kill there would be a hesitation to it, a reluctance. Theo became focused—intent. In the brief seconds before making the kill it seemed like Theo was capable of anything, like he turned off all of his feelings. It made Liam shiver. Those moments reminded him of Theo when he had first met him—his face had been a mask. A facade to lure them into trusting him. Theo himself told Liam that in those days he felt numb. No remorse. No feelings. At least not until he clawed his way out of the ground with Liam’s help.

Liam slowed his pace, heading to the werewolf. Theo turned away before Liam could get close—David intercepting him.

‘Two more on the south side.’ The Dene man pushed his wet hair out of his face. If David hadn’t been straight Liam would have found him attractive. The alpha looked at the werewolf’s strong jaw and solid shoulders, guessing it didn’t matter that David was straight—he was still handsome.

Liam looked around David, searching for Theo, but he was already gone to the south side of the school to deal with the other cell of Hammer scouts with Derek.

David and Alec helped move the bodies of the scouts off the main road way. Parrish was adamant about having all of the bodies put into cold storage—insisting that after it was all over they could be identified. Even Liam thought that was being optimistic. Lately they had been struggling to keep up with the influx of Hammer presence in the town. Three other juggernauts had ventured in and it took all of them to bring them down at once.

Gun fire echoed from the other side of the school. Liam bolted before he had time to think about what was happening, rain pelting his face as he moved. David and Alec were on his heels, rounding the corner with him.

Theo and Derek were in the middle of several Hammer scouts, ducking behind a dumpster when they unleashed a hail of bullets towards them.

Derek moved with a speed that Liam envied, weaving between the two nearest scouts, forcing them to abandon their rifles and draw their knives. Alec roared, claws seeking the nearest scout, but she raised a long shield attached to the bracer of her arm, deflecting his claws. The upgraded armour was something they’d started to encounter a few days ago—it made subduing them much harder. Even Theo and David had trouble brining down the scouts with shields. The only other among them that had no qualms about killing was Peter, and he was holding the west side of the town with his small, but vicious pack.

Liam saw Theo’s face twist in anger, pausing briefly before looking over his shoulder. As soon as he saw Liam Theo’s body stiffened, narrowly avoiding the blade of the scout he was engaged with. Liam wondered why the werewolf didn’t change and make short work of the scout in front of him, not that Liam approved of the killing. But if it was kill or be killed he would rather have Theo alive.

In the distance at the edge of the forest he could see a small group of scouts driving a metal spike in the ground. Their gruesome habit of impaling the bodies of supernatural beings on them had frightened the entire town. Liam glanced down at the body laying at their feet, bloody and unmoving. From the size it wasn’t anyone that he recognized but he was going to be damned if he’d let the Hammer kill any more of their kind.

As they took the scouts out one after the other more advanced. Liam roared as a bullet hit him in the shoulder. He ducked behind the dumpster and used his claws to pull the slug out. Whatever was in the bullets slowed their healing and stung like a dozen wasps drilling in all at once. Liam glanced at David, slashing open his own abdomen to get at several bullets. As soon as the bloody slugs hit the ground the other wolf healed instantly—a by product of the nemeton ritual that Theo described as “burning bright but short”.

More gun fire pelted the dumpster as Derek and Theo ducked behind it. Theo reached back, dragging Alec around with him.

Theo chest heaved, eyes finding Liam’s.

‘Got any alpha mojo left, White Fang?’

Liam closed his eyes, hand reaching out. He felt Theo’s hand take his own as he concentrated on the spark of power at the core of his being.

They waited until the bullets stopped, whipping around the corner of the dumpster. Liam roared, the scouts that were nearest covering their ears and staggering backwards. He heard Theo roar with him, and knew exactly the move the older wolf was about to make.

They moved together through the battle field completely in sync. Liam’s attacks were non-lethal—Theo’s were deadly. They got close enough to force the scouts to engage in hand to hand combat or unsheathe their blades. The few that got distance and shot at them were taken care of directly, right after Theo shielded Liam’s body with his own.

Theo snarled, snapping the arm of the last scout to take away his weapon. A quick swipe of claws ended the threat and Alec ran to the werewolf that was about to be impaled, leaving David to wade through the bodies, confirming the kills.

Liam looked at Theo’s back—shirt torn to tatters from knives and bullet holes. Theo’s shoulders heaved with deep breaths as he calmed himself. Liam touched his back and felt him nearly jerk away. The alpha turned Theo around to face him. Theo’s eyes were screwed shut. Liam pulled him down so their foreheads touched, wiping the blood off Theo’s face.

‘You don’t have to hide.’ Liam said, ‘I don’t care what color your eyes are.’

Theo’s face twitched and softened, but his eyes remained closed.

‘Liam!’ Alec’s voice startled them, causing Theo to open his eyes, now their normal color.

Liam searched Theo’s face for a brief second before Alec yelled again. He ran over to where Alec was bent down, holding the bloody werewolf the Hammer was about to finish off.

‘He said he’s looking for Scott.’ Alec said. The strange werewolf grinned, wheezy breath slowly clearing up as he healed. To make it through the perimeter the Hammer made was something that hadn’t happened in the past week since things had turned dire. The werewolf was either a brute or stealthy.

As Alec helped him to his feet Derek slowly approached, arms folding.

‘Hello Isaac.’ Derek said.

‘Derek.’ The new werewolf managed to stand on his own, puffing his chest out.

‘You know him?’ Liam asked.

‘He’s my beta.’ Derek said. ‘Was my beta.’

‘Still your beta.’ Isaac said, wiping the blood off his hands, looking at Liam,’ It’s more of a long distance relationship type thing.’

‘What the hell are you doing here?’ Derek asked.

‘I ran into some trouble up in the rockies. These freaks came hunting me. I managed to squeeze one enough to speak. The only thing he said was “Beacon Hills”. Figured I’d come warn Scotty before things got heated but it looks like I was a little late.’

‘So you just decided to come back after what…’ Liam asked.

‘Twenty years?’ Derek raised an eyebrow.

‘Twenty years.’

‘Something like that.’ Isaac looked at Derek, ‘Who’s this?’

‘Liam was Scott’s first beta.’ Derek said.

‘No shit! I can’t imagine old principals himself giving anyone the bite. Go figure.’

Liam felt his hackles rise. Theo’s hand slid across his shoulders to the back of Liam’s neck, giving a gentle squeeze. The move wasn’t lost on Isaac, who narrowed his eyes.

‘Who’s he?’

‘Theo is pack.’ Liam said, taking the man’s hand. Isaac looked at Derek. The evolved werewolf kept his arms folded, a stern look on his face.

Isaac lowered his eyes, holding up his hands, ‘Cool, just asking. No harm intended, really.’

Liam relaxed a little at the gesture.

‘Where’s Scott?’

Liam gave Derek a look—Isaac was his beta. His responsibility. Let Derek tell him.

‘Scott’s been missing for fifteen years.’ Derek said. ‘Where have you been?’

Isaac paused a moment, taking in the news of Scott’s disappearance before exhaling. ‘The mountains. Alone. Thinking.’

‘For nearly twenty years?’

‘I was very confused.’

Derek raised an eyebrow.

‘Okay, so maybe I fell in with a pack and got into some trouble. So what?’ Isaac said. ‘I came back.’

‘Show us your eyes.’ Liam said, earning a defiant glare from Isaac. A low growl started in Liam’s throat.

‘Show us.’ Derek’s voice cut through the air with authority. Liam backed off—Isaac was Derek’s problem.

Isaac shoved his hands into his pockets, angling his body half away from Derek in an act of defiance.

Derek unfolded his arms.

‘Show us.’ The second time was quieter, and the evolved werewolf’s voice held an edge of menace and command. Liam felt Theo bristle beside him.

Isaac’s head dipped down. He glance up at them, eyes bright blue.

‘We can use another killer.’ David said, slapping Isaac’s back and holding out his hand.

‘Not what I was expecting.’ He said, shaking David’s hand.

‘The Hammer has us in a corner. I’m surprised you managed to get past them.’

‘There was a small opening. I thought I could slip through without them noticing. Look what that got me.’ Isaac poked a hole through the tears in his shirt.

Derek clasped a hand on Isaac’s shoulder, making the smaller man stiffen. They glared at each other briefly, an acknowledgement of a shared history. Derek smiled and pulled Isaac into a firm hug.

‘You picked a hell of a time to come back, kid.’

‘Couldn’t leave you guys hanging out here all on your own.’ Isaac muttered.

Thunder cracked the sky, rain fall starting again as they ran for cover.

###

Theo sat in the basement, listening to the rain as he focused on healing his wounds. The bullets hurt but the would would close as soon as the metal was removed—there were just so many of them it was taking time for his healing to get to them all.

He heard the steps creak. Judging from the weight it wasn’t Liam.

‘David.’ Theo said as the Dene man leaned against the wall, watching Theo.

‘They don’t have it.’ He said.

‘How can you be sure?’

‘If they did they wouldn’t be so hesitant about sending in these small groups.’

‘Where did it go then? There was no one else in the parking lot when I used it.’

‘I’m not sure but if we don’t find it soon…’

‘It’s only a matter of time until they start to push in. They’re already starting to test our defences. They’ll send vanguards any day, and you know when that happens it’s over for all of us.’ David said.

‘We need that seed.’

‘We need to get to the nemeton, too.’ David said. ‘From what you told me it might be hard to get around the beast living there.’

‘Mason and Peter think it’ll leave us alone as long as we don’t threaten the nemeton.’

‘We don’t exactly have time to test the theory.’

‘At least there’s two of us.’ Theo said, ‘If I fail…’

‘About that,’ David pushed off the wall, digging out the last few slugs from Theo’s shoulder. ‘I was thinking it only makes sense I finish the ritual.’

‘Why?’

‘Don’t play stupid, Theo. Look around you. You have a home here. A pack. Someone who loves you. Everything I have is gone.’

‘David, you’re the last of your family. You can’t die here.’

‘You said it yourself, we’re on borrowed time. If I survive I have a handful of years, what will I do in that time? Even if I’m not the last by the time I find any of my cousins it’ll be too late. You know we don’t pass on our strength through the bite like you do. But if you live, you’ll at least have a few years here. Maybe you could even be happy.’

‘David—‘

‘Shut up and listen, Theo. You shoot your mouth off more than one person should.’ David sat down behind him, leaning his back against the taller wolf.

‘Either way you know what happens if we don’t find that seed. There’s only one left in the entire world. Too many of us died to get it for things to end here. The Hammer has to be stopped. Right now we’re the only ones that have a chance to doing anything to turn the tide.’

‘Liam thinks he can fix all of this.’ Theo muttered. He felt David chuckle.

‘I can see why you love him. He reminds me of Anne.’

‘I’m sorry.’ Theo said.

‘I thought we were going to make it. Clint was only four…’

Theo turned, wrapping his arms around David as he tried to hold his tears in.

‘I’m tired.’ David said.

‘You can take my bed in the guest room.’

‘No, Theo. I’m tired.’ David said, searching Theo’s eyes.

‘I know… So am I.’

‘Theo!’ Leo’s voice came from the front door as they came home from the clinic.

‘Be right there, pup.’ Theo called up. David took his hand and squeezed it. The other wolf’s body language said the words he couldn’t. Urging him to reach out and hold on to the family forming around him, to protect them with everything could. To succeed where David couldn’t.

Theo nodded before helping David up.

‘We’re not done yet, friend. Let’s get something to eat.’

Liam watched Theo help David up the basement stairs and to the kitchen table. Leo talked a mile a minute, oblivious to the heavy mood in the room, or actively ignoring it. After they ate Leo was intent on dragging David to his room to show off his comic book collection. The Dene man smiled, glad for the distraction.

As Theo put the dishes in the sink Liam listened in on Leo explaining every comic he had to David.

‘Is he alright?’ Liam asked.

Theo shook his head. ‘He’d holding it together.’

‘What about Isaac?’ Theo asked, handing Liam a plate to dry off.

‘We told him as much as we knew. He’s with Derek now. I think the grumpy old wolf is happy to have some company.’

‘Why doesn’t Derek have a pack like Peter?’

Liam put the dishes away, tossing the towel onto his shoulder and leaning against the sink.

‘Derek doesn’t talk much. But from what I guess he has some family issues. A lot of family issues. All the family issues.’

‘Rough.’

‘Says the guy raised by evil paranormal scientists.’

‘Walked into that one.’

‘Isaac said his pack was wiped out by the Hammer. All of the packs in his area. The survivors scattered and were picked off one at a time. I think Isaac only survived because he headed here.’

‘He’s lucky.’ Theo said, mulling it over. Isaac was lucky, but it was a luck that came with a few more weeks instead of having made it out on the other side of a terrible ordeal. Instead he was in the middle of it now. At least he wasn’t alone.

‘Isaac and Scott..’ Theo tried to find the words. Liam frowned, waiting for Theo to finish. His eyes went wide, leaning in close.

‘Were they together you mean?’

‘Yeah. I guess. Just, thats a long time to be away and the first person he asks for…’ Theo shrugged.

‘Maybe he just has a sense of loyalty. Maybe he just cares about his friends.’

‘Sure. I just… Never mind.’

Liam put his hand on Theo’s shoulder. The older wolf hesitated before leaning into the touch. Liam pulled him close, wrapping his arms around Theo, who craned his neck down to bury his face in Liam’s hair.

‘What’s wrong?’ Liam asked.

‘I’m afraid. The days are numbered. We don’t have the seed, and who knows where Deaton is. And Stiles… he’s on the other side of all this, who knows what he’s going through.’

Liam rubbed Theo’s back. Years of battle had made him broad and solid, but Theo had always been in good shape.

Liam felt Theo’s smile. ‘Are you feeling me up, White Fang?’

‘What if I am?’

‘I missed you.’

‘Well I’m here now.’

‘It doesn’t feel real.’

‘I’ll make it real.’ Liam said, moving back to make space between them. He looked into Theo’s eyes, taking his chin and tilting it down slightly before leaning in close, lips pressing together in a soft kiss.

Theo’s rough hands ran through Liam’s hair as the kiss deepened. Theo pushed against him, knocking him into the cupboard.

‘Ow.’

‘Sorry.’

‘Shut up.’ Liam grabbed Theo’s shirt, pulling him into another kiss. When they pulled away the soft shuffle of feet shifting caught their attention. They turned to see Leo looking at them with wide eyes, holding several comics. David smirked at them from the bottom of the stairs, but even with the smile there was a sadness lingering on his face, like seeing the sun peek through an overcast day.

‘Leo. Theo and I were just… We were…’

Leo’s look of astonishment slowly grew into a grin that took up his entire face. He lunged forward, hugging Theo and Liam around their waist with his skinny arms.

Liam looked at Theo, trying to apologize, but the werewolf just chuckled and messed up Leo’s hair. Seeing how comfortable Theo was put Liam at ease. The boy looked up at them, excitement colouring his scent.

‘Does this mean Theo can be my other dad for real?’

‘For real?’ Lima asked, frowning.

‘I knew you liked him!’ Leo said, squishing his face into Liam’s chest, hugging him tight. Liam felt the blush bloom on his cheeks.

‘Is that true, Dunbar? Do you like me?’ Theo asked.

‘Shut up.’

Theo looked down at Leo, ‘When your dad says “shut up” he means “I love you”.’

‘Wow he must love you lots!’ Leo said.

‘Okay, why don’t you explain the thing about Spiderman’s pal to me again?’ David said, pulling Leo away from the two werewolves. ‘And try to talk at normal speed this time.’

‘Well you see after Peter Parker gets bitten by a radioactive spider…’ Leo made his way back upstairs, now completely focused on his comics. David gave Theo and Liam a small nod before following the boy, mentally preparing for a crash course in Spiderman history.

‘Was that okay?’ Theo asked.

‘Leo can get pretty chatty when he’s hyper.’ Liam said, ‘It’s normal.’

‘No, not that. The other thing.’

‘The kiss?’

‘What? No. Wait, I mean yes—was that okay. But the other thing Leo said. The dad thing.’

Liam crossed his arms, fingers tapping his elbow.

‘I dunno. It might screw him up.’

Theo sighed. He knew he was pushing it, and now everything would come crashing down. At least if Liam sent him away he’d still be close enough to protect them both.

‘Yeah. I guess.’ Theo said.

‘Sure, I mean, any kid with a Theo for a dad is going to have challenges.’

‘What?’

‘I mean, I can barely keep tabs on you. One second you’re here and the next you’re saying you never loved me and you disappear. That’s pretty messed up. And don’t even get me started on the brooding complex of yours.’

‘I… I’m what?’ Theo blinked.

‘Then again, you did come back and you’re trying to save everyone, even if you’re being stupid and secretive about it.’

‘I’m confused.’ Theo said.

‘At least you’re consistent.’ Liam said, patting his arm. Theo frowned.

‘Wait, you’re saying you’re okay with… with this?’ Theo gestured between them.

‘Theo, I didn’t save myself for ten years just to kick you out of the house after you make a move on me.’

‘You made the move!’

‘That’s not important. I’m saying I wouldn’t toss you out.’

‘You punched me as soon as you saw me!’

‘You were being an asshole! You’re being an asshole now!’

‘You! …You just…’ Theo’s face twisted from a look of anger to one of genuine affection. He pushed a lock of stray hair from Liam’s face, causing his blush to return. Theo leaned in and inhaled Liam’s scent before kissing him on the cheek.

‘Hey. I was trying to be mad at you.’

‘Sorry.’

‘And stop apologizing so much.’

‘Sorry.’

‘Theo…’

‘Sorry! Okay, that time was reflex. You used the scary voice. I don’t like the scary voice.’ Theo said.

David trotted downstairs, eyeing the two werewolves clearly comfortable sharing personal space.

‘Uhh, he’s re-sorting his comics according to story lines or something. Probably take him all night. I’ll crash downstairs.’

‘You want to watch a movie with us until patrol time?’ Liam asked.

‘I don’t want to interrupt.’ David looked between the two men.

‘C’mon. There’s some old action movies.’ Theo said, rubbing David’s back, leading him to the couch.

‘No action. We get enough of that out there.’ David said as they sat on the couch, leaving little space between them.

‘Comedy it is.’ Theo said, setting it up. As they watched the movie Liam leaned towards Theo, David between them. The Dene werewolf didn’t feel like he was in the way—Liam was coaxing Theo closer, sandwiching David between them in a warm tangle of physical contact that calmed David down, tension draining from his body. To be accepted into a pack and share the closeness of it was something he hadn’t realized he missed. He’d spent every day of his life in contact with his family members and friends—a gentle touch, leaning on a shoulder, an encouraging nudge. All of it vital to a werewolf’s mental health. Liam and Theo didn’t speak, they could see what David needed without him asking.

Half way though the movie Leo ran down the stairs. He stood for a few seconds, studying the adults before Liam lifted and arm, making space. Leo dove into the warm spot between his dad and David, snuggling into the pile to watch as much of the film as he could before falling asleep. For a few hours there was nothing else in the world except for the warm sense of family and welcoming. It was a gift David treasured more than any other—likely the last one he’d ever get.

###

Derek sat in the arm chair, watching Isaac eat. He hadn’t heard from Cora since she disappeared in Brazil. Judging from what Theo and David told them it was likely she was dead, though she could also be deep in the forest. Hales did have a history of being hard to find. Still the last person Derek had ever thought would show up on his door step was Isaac. He stilled remembered the quiet confession the beta gave before cutting ties and heading off into the world. The tryst with Allison Argent. His admiration of Scott McCall on the verge of becoming something more, of turning into something Isaac wasn’t prepared to deal with or understand.

So he did what any teenager without parents and the strength of ten men would do—he ran. Derek wasn’t a good alpha the first time around. Now that he’d evolved and gotten a bit more experience and regained his alpha status he didn’t know if he’d be much better. Besides, Isaac was older now. Able to take care of himself. Still, Derek looked at the man and couldn’t help but see the lost boy that Isaac had been. The defiance, the burning need to prove himself. It was still there, haunting him. How much had the beta changed over the years? A little longer in tooth and broader in shoulder, but still as lost as he had been when he ran away.

‘Seconds?’ Derek asked as Isaac finished off his plate. The man nodded without pausing from his meal.

Derek dished out more food—he kept his place minimal but well stocked. A hungry werewolf could eat through several plates of food. One that had been on the run fighting for his life every step of the way was likely to polish off a dozen.

‘Did you find whatever you were looking for?’ Derek asked.

Isaac swallowed his last mouthful and tapped his fork against the edge of the plate. ‘I’m not sure.’

‘Everyone was worried when you left.’

‘Did you tell them? All the things I said to you?’

Derek shook his head. Isaac nodded.

‘Thanks.’

‘I might have been a shitty alpha back then, but I wasn’t a dick. Or at least not that big of one.’ Derek smiled, setting the new plate in front of Isaac.

‘So it’s true that Scott is missing?’

‘We don’t know what happened to him. Monroe attacked again when we weren’t expecting it. She hit us pretty hard. Scott managed to stop her.’

‘Not surprising.’ Isaac chuckled.

‘After that… We looked for a few years, hoping he’d gone into hiding. Or gotten lost. Liam is pretty insistent that he’s alive, and the bond between an alpha and his beta is pretty strong. Especially with McCall.’

‘But Liam is an alpha now.’

‘Just because he’s stronger doesn’t mean he leaves behind his connection to Scott.’ Derek said.

Isaac nodded. ‘I felt it. When you died. Did you know?’

‘I thought you might have. But it was hard to tell since you disappeared.’

‘You could have found me if you wanted to.’

‘I thought you needed you own space.’

‘I felt when you became an alpha again, too.’ Isaac said, ‘My mates didn’t understand. We were a pack of vagabonds. No one in the world but each other. To feel the pull of an alpha was against everything we lived for. Maybe if I had listened to them we’d still be together.’

‘I’m sorry.’ Derek said.

‘It’s not your fault. I knew I’d end up back here. There was no way around it. I mean, I tried to avoid it as long as I could, but there’s no escaping this place. It’s cursed.’

‘Maybe it’s not something that dark. Maybe it’s just your home.’

‘There’s nothing here but bad memories.’ Isaac said, leaning back in his seat.

‘What about Allison? And Scott.’

Isaac sighed. ‘I wish I was normal, you know? Like my dad didn’t fuck me up so bad. Like I could have just told Scott how I felt, or that I could see you were trying to help me.’

‘That’s part of life, Isaac. We all have our own paths, our own pain. It’s our choice to carry it alone or to share it with others to make it bearable, at least until it heals.’

‘I don’t think I’ve healed much.’

‘It can take a long, long time.’ Derek offered, ‘Sometimes a whole life time.’

‘What do you do with it? All of your pain? All the things you wish you could have done differently? Do you share them with everyone else?’

‘No. As close as we are, we’re not pack.’

‘But we’re pack.’ Isaac said.

‘We are.’

‘And I’m your beta.’

‘You are.’

‘So…you can share your pain with me.’ Isaac said it like it was a simple fact. Derek studied the younger man’s face.

‘Or is there no place for me with eyes like these?’

‘Your eyes don’t matter. If I lost my alpha status tomorrow my eyes would be the same color as yours.’

‘Do you think Scott would be mad at me?’

‘He’d be disappointed, yes. But you have to remember, Scott’s morals and convictions are strong. That’s what makes him unique. But he’s not rigid. He would understand after he had time to think it over.’

‘How do you know?’

‘Because Scott judges people by what’s inside. Look at Theo—he nearly killed everyone, Scott included. After Monroe Scott gave him a small bit of trust here and there, watching him change. Watching Liam draw him out of his shell until he trusted Theo enough to give him the bite.’

‘He gave Theo the bite?’

‘Scott offered it as a sort of compromise—it connected Theo to him, but it also forced him to obey the same supernatural laws as the rest of us. Once that was done, there was no going back. That’s how it is with Scott. You know that.’

‘Now he’s gone.’

Derek rested a hand on Isaac’s shoulder.

‘Why don’t you get some rest. I’m on patrol in twenty minutes—you can crash here. It’s safe.’

‘Thanks.’

‘Just be here when I get back, okay?’

Isaac looked surprised Derek was interested in having him around.

‘Don’t look at me like that.’ Derek said, pulling his coat on. ‘And try not to shred the sheets.’

‘No promises.’ Isaac said.

‘Isaac… If Scott is out there, he’ll come back.’

‘How do you know?’ The beta asked.

‘Because if there was ever a time we needed Scott McCall, it’s now.’

Chapter Text

She tore at the throat of the man in armour, fangs finding soft flesh. In a quick rip the threat of him was ended. Malia’s head lifted, taking in the sight of the three other feral wolves and coyotes around her. They had removed another three threats from the armoured ones. The crows would eat well, and the leftovers would be reclaimed by the forest. The roots of the ancient one ran deep here.

A bright flash lit the night followed by a mournful roar. Malia broke into a run, heading over the hill. She knew the others were behind her. Anything that got too close to the ancient one would be killed. It was the only thing that they understood—the call for protection, the bloodlust.

Malia caught the scent and knew one of the mountains had made it past them. The massive armoured human brought the hammer down on the body of the oathwight, crushing muscle and bone that knitted together instantly. The burning pits of red that were the creature’s eye flared, leaving a trail of crimson light in the air as it moved faster than Malia’s senses could track. She heard the crunch of metal and bone, then a violent movement that told her to move fast. She darted aside as half of the mountain’s great metal body was tossed where she had been standing. The scent of blood told her that the mountain was human, just like the others.

The oathwight lingered, blood running down the bones of its face. Its burning gaze flickered towards Malia, lingering, studying, finally tuning away when it was clear she and her pack were servants of the ancient one and not intruders. In the distance several berserkers roamed, forming a protective barrier on the far side. No one could enter without paying the price.

As the oathwight disappeared into the shadows, returning to the body of the ancient one, her pack feasted on the fresh kills that were available. Malia watched as the oathwight’s tail snaked around a tree. She sank to her haunches, a howl of sorrow tearing from her throat. Everyone in the forest would hear her, but the one she longed to respond never answered.

###

‘Dude, I’m destroying you.’ Will said, focusing on the screen, tilting the controller as he went around a corner. Liam and Theo were off at a pack meeting down the road and Will was assigned to watch Leo. Before the Hammer came and people started to die Will would have complained at being left out, but for once he did as he was told without question. He was tired of trying to deal with everything. He didn’t understand why any of it was happening, why they were all being hunted down like they were dangerous animals. He just wanted to be a normal teenager for a few hours and play video games with his pack brother. Except Leo wasn’t paying attention.

‘Leo.’ Will paused the game. The boy was looking down at the ground, fingers twisted in knots. ‘Leo?’

Will rubbed the boy’s shoulder. Leo looked up, tears in his eyes. Will felt his heart lurch at the sight, pulling the boy close.

‘What’s wrong?’ He asked. Will kept his arms tight, rocking gently. Leo didn’t answer—the dam broke and his crying turned into heaving sobs as he clutched Will’s shirt in his hands, fighting back his claws.

They sat on the floor, leaning against Will’s bed lit by the faint glow of the television. There were no other noises in the house except for Leo’s sobs. Will raised a hand, hesitating before putting it down on Leo’s head, stroking his hair gently like he’d seen Liam do when the boy got too wound up. Leo melted into the touch, tension leaving in a big exhale. He nuzzled into the teenager’s neck, curling up in his lap, causing Will to smirk.

‘Getting kind of big for this.’ Will said.

‘Not too big.’ Leo said, closing his eyes. Will’s scent was familiar, closest in the pack to Liam’s. The teenager’s heartbeat was steady and soothing. His careful hands lulled Leo into calm contentment.
‘Gonna tell me what this is all about, or do you plan to leave me in the dark?’ Will asked. He had an idea of what was wrong—there was no way they could shield the boy from what was going on completely. It was foolish to think he hadn’t picked up on things, hadn’t sensed something was wrong. Even the human children were feeling the tension. It took regular meetings with the town folk to keep them calm. And Leo had faced down a juggernaut with Theo. Will knew the boy didn’t fully believe it when they tried to tell him it was an isolated incident.

In the past few days the Hammer had gotten more persistent. Peter and Argent had played a pivotal role in holding them back. With Isaac at Derek’s side they were able to gain a small amount of territory back, but Will felt like there was a dark cloud looming over them. It felt like hope was slipping away. He saw it in the faces of the humans around him, in the face of werewolves and other supernaturals. Only their alphas—their mothers and fathers, held that burning spark that kept despair from crushing them. And out of them all, Liam—heir to Scott McCall’s principals and beliefs, and strangely enough Theo, who had a similar presence to Liam, but with shadows of his own.

Leo caught his breath, wiping his tears away with his arm.

‘I heard them talking.’

‘Who?’

‘My dads.’

‘Leo…’ Will rubbed his palms on his knees. Theo had intrigued him at first, a mysterious outsider with a cocky attitude. Will found himself thinking about the older wolf a lot until one day Jasmine taunted him for having a crush. Which was ridiculous, because Will was straight. Mostly. He thought. Except when Theo was hanging around, then he didn’t know what to do with himself. Then he found out that Liam and Theo used to be together and from what he could tell, were kind of together now. The confusion mixed with guilt and frustration—he saw Liam as a dad, so what did that make Theo?

‘I didn’t mean to hear. I was outside and they were talking next to the window.’

‘You don’t have to be afraid, I’ll protect you. All of us will protect you.’

‘I’m not afraid.’ Leo said, breathing returning to normal. Will studied the boy’s eyes. His heart was steady. He was telling the truth. ‘My dads are strong. We can save everyone.’

Will forced a smile. Though Leo had courage he hadn’t experienced how the world could turn in a single instant like a cruel viper with poison fangs.

‘What are you afraid of then?’

Leo looked at him, eyes unsure. He glanced at the door. Will could tell he was listening. There was no one else around to hear their conversation except David, who was asleep in the basement. The boy stood and closed the door carefully, then pulled an old tin from under the bed, buried in a heap of dirty socks that made Will wrinkle his nose.

Leo sat across from him, opening the tin and cradling something in his hands. He leaned in close, keeping his voice a whisper only audible to Will.

‘I won’t let Theo die.’

Leo opened his hands. The first thing to hit Will was the smell—life and death all wrapped into one. Then power. The smell of ozone and dirt and darkness. The seed looked huge in Leo’s hands. Will felt his tongue thicken in his mouth. Sweat started to pour from his skin as his vision clouded.

‘Will?’ Leo’s voice was distant but full of concern.

‘Back..’ Will’s voice croaked.

‘What? Will, what’s happening?!’

‘Put it…back!’ Will waved at the tin. Leo scrambled to put the seed away, pushing the tin back under his bed.

Will felt the pressure fade and his breath returned like his lungs were being freed from a strangling grip. He felt Leo’s hands on his face as tears squeezed from the corners of his eyes. Leo hugged him as his vision and hearing came rushing back.

‘—rry! I’m sorry! I’m sorry!’ The boy had his face buried in Will’s neck. The teen forced his arm to obey, rubbing Leo’s back as gently as he could. Every muscle screamed. he coughed, lungs settling.

‘What the hell was that?!’ Will gasped.

‘It never done that to me before. I didn't know!’ Leo begged.

‘Leo, where did you get that?’

The boy sat on the edge of the bed.

‘Theo left it in the parking lot after the suit of armour hurt us. It looked important so I took it.’

‘And it didn’t… didn’t do anything to you? You don’t feel anything when you touch it?’ Will asked, an ache settling into his bones. The sheer power of the seed was something he’d never come close to experiencing in his life until now.

‘No. But if I listen real close it talks to me.’ Leo said, looking away from Will. The teenager felt the hair on his neck stand up. He didn’t know why but he felt like that was a bad thing.

‘We have to give it to Theo.’

‘No!’ Leo shot to his feet. The sudden movement made Will nauseous as his eyes followed the boy.

‘We can’t! Theo wants to use it to make everyone go away and if he does then he could die!’

‘That’s what you heard them talking about?’

Leo bit his lip and nodded. Will struggled to his feet.

‘Then it sounds important. We should definitely give it back.’

‘But Theo…’

Will shook his head, ‘Liam would never let anything happen to him.’

Leo stared at his feet, not fully convinced.

‘Leo, we can’t keep this a secret. I know that you’re smart enough to figure out what’s been going on. We’re all in danger.’

Leo nodded. Will rubbed his arm, trying to sooth the boy.

‘This can help a lot of people. It can save us, Leo. Do you understand?’

‘It’s not fair.’ Leo said, scowling.

‘What’s not fair?’

‘Dad loves Theo. He should be happy. Theo loves Dad. He loves me. Why does it have to all go away? Why don’t we get to be happy?’ Leo asked, fists clenched.

Will searched for the words that would help but there was nothing. Leo was right. He knew that Liam had sacrificed for the pack, for all of Beacon Hills countless times since Will first met the alpha. And before that he’d given up things Will didn’t understand but sensed—Theo had been one of them. Will had trouble imagining ten years of loving someone, waiting for them, even though they’d hurt him. Liam shouldered that pain. He shouldered the pain of each of them. Scott wasn’t mentioned often, at least not when Will was around, but he had a feeling that a lot of the Liam’s pain came from that name. Strength, too.

‘I don’t know.’ Will said.

‘They’re happy now.’

‘Leo… this can’t last.’

The boy frowned, hackles raising. Will held the boy’s gaze. He was older than Leo, stronger than Leo. He was above him in the order of the pack.

Then why was he able to handle all that raw power in his hands without flinching?

Will was about to falter, doubt creeping in, but Leo broke eye contact first. The boy’s shoulders dropped and Will could smell the tears before he saw them.

They sat on the edge of the bed together, listening to the sound of nothing in the house. Will wished he could explain to Leo why the world was the way it was. Why some things were snuffed out before they had a chance to fully bloom. Why bad things thrived unchecked. But he wanted the answers to those questions himself. Instead they leaned against each other, and Will knew that Leo had seen how uncaring the world could be.

###

‘Patrol on the Westside of town has withdrawn.’ Isaac said.

‘East as well.’ Argent said, unfastening his tactical armour.

Theo frowned—withdrawing made no sense. ‘Are there openings in their front line?’

‘No,’ Derek said, ‘But their numbers are thin enough that we could probably get through with a good fight.’

‘What do you think?’ Theo turned to Liam. The alpha’s face was drawn in thought. Theo knew the situation was dire, but he felt his heart leap when Liam glanced up at him.

‘We don’t know how long they’ll be like this. By the time we’re ready the window might be gone.’

‘How fast can we get everyone together?’ Theo asked.

‘A few hours if we evacuate and leave everything behind.’ Argent said. ‘But the real issue is protecting everyone. A lot of werewolves and supernaturals are dead, and there’s only so much we can do if they swarm us.’

Liam folded his arms.

‘This is a bad idea.’ Mason said.

‘He’s right.’ Lydia said, ‘We need to stay here where we know it’s safe.’

‘There are too many to protect either way. If we don’t get out of here while we can it’s only a matter of time until we’re all impaled on pikes.’ Peter said.

‘Theo?’ Liam rubbed his temples. Werewolves weren’t supposed to get headaches.

‘It’s a trap for sure. But that doesn’t mean we can’t use it to our advantage.’ Theo said, meeting Liam’s eyes briefly before looking for David in the corner. He gave Theo a nod, no doubt thinking the same thing.

‘We get the elderly and the children together and work in team to get them to the other side.’ Theo said.

‘If we launch an attack on the Hammer forces near the high school it should draw their attention away long enough for people to escape.’

‘Unless they’re expecting us to do that.’ Mason said.

‘That’s always a possibility.’

‘In which case we’re sending our most vulnerable to the slaughter.’

‘Then some of us need to go with them to make sure they’re safe.’

‘Will is more than capable. Jasmine too. And Isaac.’ Liam said.

‘Count me out. I’m staying here.’ Isaac said, leaning against the door.

‘Liam, anyone we send might die.’ Mason said.

‘If they stay here they’ll die, too. It’s only a matter of time. I know it’s something no one wants to talk about, but without restoring the nemeton we have no chance of survival.’ Theo said.

‘Isaac, you got through once when the Hammer was on full patrol. We need you to guide everyone out as safely as possible. You’re the only one that’s managed to get through so far.’ Liam said.

‘We need to keep looking for the seed.’ David said.

‘We’ve looked for the seed—it’s gone.’ Corey said.

‘We should still head to the Nemeton and see what can be done.’ Theo said.

‘Like what? Get eaten by that huge creature lurking in the trees?’ Mason asked.

‘You said it wouldn’t hurt us as long as we don’t bother the Nemeton.’

‘That’s a theory. We haven’t had the chance to prove it yet.’ Peter said.

‘Maybe we should.’ Theo narrowed his eyes.

‘This is going nowhere.’ Liam said. ‘We need to get as many to safety as possible, and we need to find Malia. And we need to get the seed and find the Nemeton.’ Liam said. he felt their eyes on him, waiting. He knew they were looking to him for answers. Even Argent and Derek were waiting for him to make a decision. These were the kind of situations Scott excelled in—thinking on his feet with his heart. But for Liam it was hard. The pressure of other people’s expectations, the ease with which they put their lives in his hands never sat well with him. One mistakes meant someone might die. Many might die, and though Theo insisted on being the claws and fangs for the pack, Liam knew the blood of every friend and foe was on his hands.

‘Are you alright?’ Theo asked.

‘I need a minute.’ Liam said heading outside.

Theo hung back, watching Liam’s broad shoulders as the alpha pulled on a coat. The door closed and all eyes fell to Theo.

‘What?’

‘Go after him you idiot.’ Lydia said, unimpressed.

‘He doesn’t—‘

David threw Theo a coat.

‘But I—‘

‘He needs you right now. And we don’t have time for mopey Liam.’ Mason said.

Theo nodded, pulling on the coat.

###

Liam leaned against the deck. Mason and Corey had built it last summer to accommodate the growing pack numbers. They’d christened it with a huge barbecue party where Corey had ended up burning most of the hamburgers. Liam had grumbled the whole time but ate them anyway.

He remembered when they were kids, running around in the woods. Everything seemed possible then. It had been easy to believe that they would pull through, that they would overcome anything in front of them. People rarely died. Now Liam was faced with a growing body count every day. He’d stopped sleeping, trying to think of any way that he could get them all out of Beacon Hills in one piece. The Hammer scouts they’d captured all took cyanid pills before they could be questioned. It shook Liam to the core that the enemy they were facing was willing to go to such extreme lengths, that they were so human. That they hated them so much.

‘Hey.’ Theo’s voice was thick with worry. ‘You doing okay?’

‘No.’ Liam said, rubbing his face with his hands, ‘My pack, my friend and family, we’re being picked off one at a time and displayed in the open on pikes. I am not doing well, Theo.’

‘I’m sorry.’

‘No, stop. Don’t.’ Liam sighed, ‘Sorry. It’s… I just don’t know what to do. Nothing is clear. Any choice I make means someone will die. Scott would know what to do.’

‘Hey,’ Theo said, taking Liam’s hand. ‘Scott never faced anything like this. Even with Monroe. This is a whole other level. This isn’t easy for any one, Liam. Everyone trusts your decisions. You need to trust your judgement more. And know whatever you decide I’ll be there to back you up.’

‘Even if I don’t go with your plan?’

‘I mean, it is the best plan. But yes, even if you decide something else. I trust you.’

‘Why?’

‘This.’ Theo said, resting his hand on Liam’s chest.

‘My swole physique?’ Liam asked. Theo nudged him, scowling.

‘Your heart, Dunbar. Because you have a good heart.’

‘So do you.’

‘Doesn’t belong to me, technically.’

‘That’s all in the past.’

‘That’s not what I was talking about.’ Theo said smirking.

‘I swear to god, Cujo, if you’re going to lay on a line about your heart belonging to me I’ll punch you just like old times.’

‘In that case my lips are sealed.’ Theo held up his hands. Liam shook his head, leaning into the older wolf, wrapping his arms around him. He’d missed the stupid banter, the cheesy jokes, the cocky swagger of Theo Raeken so much.

‘You better not disappear on me again.’

‘Liam…’

‘Just tell me you won’t leave.’

‘I can’t.’

‘Then lie. Just… just say it.’

Theo squeezed the alpha tight to his chest. He could feel the beat of Liam’s heart through his chest.

‘I’ll never leave you again.’ Theo said. The false words turned sour on his tongue. It wasn’t something that was his to promise.

Liam inhaled Theo’s scent. The world was chaos, but Theo’s scent, his voice, they kept him anchored just like when they were teenagers. Theo kept him sane.

‘Feel better?’ Theo asked.

‘A bit.’

‘You’re worried about Leo.’

‘And Will. And everyone else.’

‘Let David handle the evacuation. I know we can get the humans and the kids to safety. This is going to be our only chance, and we’re lucky we’ve pressed them so hard we have this chance. Even if it is a trap, as long as we’re prepared we’ll survive.’

‘Then what?’

‘Then we need to get to the Nemeton.’

‘We need Stiles.’ Liam said. ‘He’d know what to do.’

‘Stiles’ plans always counted on Scott. Neither of them are here.’ Theo said, ‘But I am.’

Liam nodded. Theo watched as his face took on the look of deep thinking, half pout, half frown. He ached at the sighed, all of Liam’s looks and habits waking up the feelings he had tried to numb in order to complete his mission. The alpha was making it very difficult to stay focused—Theo was daily torn between the grim reality they were in and his desire to be as close to Liam as he could.

‘Alright.’ The alpha said, ‘Let’s make this happen as fast as we can.’

###

Leo sat in his room, staring at the small tin that contained the seed. He knew it was important. He knew that he should give it to Theo. He’d taken it out of its hiding place and put it on the bed, intending to take it downstairs to the two werewolves that he could hear talking and giggling like puppies. He bit his lip, running fingertips along the surface of the tin. It had frightened Will. Overwhelmed him. What if it did the same thing to Liam? Will knew that Theo cold handle it. It did belong to him. He was protecting Liam by not handing it over. Maybe later when Theo was alone… No. He was lying to himself. He knew Liam would be able to endure whatever it was that Will couldn’t. It was rare to see his dad smile, and now he had two dads. He saw them look at each other from across the room when they thought people weren’t paying attention. Leo didn’t understand what love was exactly, but he knew that whatever it was Liam felt it for Theo. It had been so hard after his aunt had died and other pack members moving on over the years, it was only fair that they had some time to be happy together. Liam would find a way without the seed. Then Theo would be okay and they would all live together.

Leo tucked the tin back into the backpack and slid it under his bed.

The third stair from the top creaked. Leo was careful to step over it on his way down. He was careful to keep his breathing to a minimum as he got to the landing, peeking around the corner into the kitchen.

His dad stood leaning back against the counter, with his new dad in front of him, arms wrapped loosely around each other, looking into each other’s eyes, whispering.

Leo grinned, trying to focus on the words they were saying.

‘…worry so much.’ Liam said.

‘Isaac said he can pull it off. You made the right choice.’

‘David is risking a lot heading up the attack. It should be me.’ Liam said.

‘You need to be with the others when the evacuation starts. You’re the pillar holding us all up, White Fang. If people see you there they’ll stay calm.’ Theo ran his hands along Liam’s sides, comforting.

‘Leo won’t be happy.’ Liam said.

‘It’s not safe here anymore.’ Theo said, regret running through his voice.

Leo frowned. He watched Liam lean forward, burying his face in Theo’s neck. Theo’s strong arms wrapping around the alpha.

‘If I had the power I’d take you and Leo out of here in the blink of an eye.’ Theo’s voice was barely audible with his face hidden in Liam’s hair. Leo could guess the rest of what Theo would have said. It was something his dad did all time—“Leo if I had to power to make all the mean kids nice I’d make it happen. But I can’t you have to learn how to deal with things as they are.” Theo couldn’t whisk them away to safety, but Leo knew that he would use the seed to get as close to that goal as possible, like he did in the parking lot. But the price of his success was his own life, and Leo wasn’t going to let that happen.

###

Isaac had gone over the few maps they had of the area along with the intel of the Hammer, plotting out the best course for evacuation. They’d gathered the children and teenagers, along with as many humans as possible. There were a few that insisted on staying behind to support the pack in order to repay the protection they’d provided over the years. The rest were moved into four groups, each with three supernaturals to defend them. While Isaac was leading them through the forest David, Derek, and Peter’s pack would attack the strongest line of Hammer defence to draw their attention away.

Liam watched as the first group huddled behind the corner of a building—waiting for the signal. He scanned the darkness with his eyes. Their scouts were watching the Hammer respond to the commotion David and the others were creating. Jasmine waved in Liam’s direction and he gave a nod to Isaac.

The evacuees moved quickly and kept low to the ground, covered in camouflage blankets they’d found in Argent’s weapon storage. Liam leaped off the roof, careful to land and keep a close eye on the movement of the Hammer scouts. If there was any change in their direction they would need to respond immediately and abort the evacuation.

Liam let his claws and fangs out—there was no time to waste if anything went wrong. He looked at the werewolves around him, the ones that weren’t going. No one mentioned it, but every one was hoping that this small window would be open long enough that they could all escape safely and regroup somewhere else. Liam knew that wasn’t likely, and even if it did happen there was no way Theo was going to leave, and if Theo stayed, Liam stayed.

Leo was in the third group. He’d expected the boy to protest but he simply nodded, clutching his backpack to his chest. Liam made sure to put Will in the same group as Leo. Extra eyes on his son put him at ease, or as much as he could afford under the conditions. He hated to send Leo and Will away, but things were getting desperate—it was better if only the core members of the pack remained to deal with the treat. If they didn’t survive, the others would be safe.

Liam strained to hear as the first group made their way through the forest. They’d tried to work out signals to let the others know they’d safely made it across, but in the end it was too much of a risk. Instead they were reduced to waiting, listening for any sound of things gone wrong. After twenty long minutes Liam heard a heartbeat approach. Isaac emerged from the trees gesturing for the second group. Liam could feel spirits lift immediately. The second group moved at a fast face than the first, disappearing in the the trees.

Gunfire from the south caught his attention. He glanced towards the library where Theo was watching the evacuation. The other wolf nodded and leaped down from the roof, running for David and the others to give back up.

The Hammer was ruthless. They had no mercy, no regard for the lives of any one in Beacon Hills, human or supernatural. This opportunity wouldn’t come along twice. They needed to keep the window open as long as they could. Theo’s support would hopefully buy them a bit more time, but if they kept up their attack in a single place it was likely the Hammer would suspect they were up to something.

Liam hung back. The fighting intensified as Isaac returned for the third group. Liam glanced down at Leo, Will beside him, ready to depart. He gave his son a nod and tried to smile. The boy looked about to burst into tears. Will dragged him away towards to forest. He looked up at Liam, a look of determination barely masking the fear. He would protect Leo at any cost.

The alpha watched as they disappeared into the woods. He felt the pressure of time looming over them. Either David and the others would be soon pressed to their limit or the Hammer would send more scouts to their location to hold the line. Either way Liam was prepared.

###

The half moon hung in the sky, obscured by the occasional cloud. The forest was quiet, even the night animals were silent. Isaac’s eyes darted across the land, assessing potential threats or traps. The Hammer had left a few behind when they moved position. Isaac spotted them quickly on the first run, careful to lead everyone around them. If he disabled them the scouts would know when they came back. Since stealth was key and time was a factor Isaac plotted the best route possible. So far they’d been lucky—it was impossible to asses all of the factors of the forest to know the path without any danger. The first two groups got through without issue, crossing the river.

Isaac waved to the group behind them. He picked out Liam’s son easily—one of the only werewolf children in the evacuation. The boy moved with ease. Isaac could tell he was going to grow up to be a strong leader.

Halfway through the forest Isaac held his hands up, stopping everyone in their tracks. There was a hint of something in the air, a new smell that hadn’t been there before. Or rather it had been but Isaac had taken it as a natural part of the forest. Now that it was slightly stronger he could sort the scent out from the background of the forest. The smell of bruised leaves and sap. Like something large had been moving through the area fast, crushing the plants.

As Isaac turned he caught another scent—sharp metal and burnt ash. Several children screamed as the large figure swooped down, hitting Isaac in the chest with a staff tipped with a hammer. He slammed into a tree, bones in his sternum snapping. He coughed up blood as he tried to catch his breath. Three of the werewolves guarding the group leapt toward the figure only to be swept out of the air by a second figure. Isaac had seen them before—vanguards were tall and covered in golden armour, wielding metal staves that could crack a large bolder in two if they worked up enough momentum. They’d wiped out the small misfit pack he’d been living with before he escaped back to Beacon Hills. There was no way four of them could take on two vanguards at once.

‘Run!’ Isaac said when his breath came back. They wouldn’t be able to take the vanguards down but four of them could at least buy enough time for the others to escape. The group scattered into the woods as the three werewolves stood to join Isaac, letting out their claws and fangs. Isaac roared, eyes blazing blue. He felt the strength of his alpha add to his own—he’d make sure there was enough time for the others to escape safely into the forest.

###

‘Leo!’ Will yelled eyes darting from face to face as people ran past into the thick of the trees. Up ahead Isaac, Jasmine, and two other wolves were facing off against two tall, golden figures. One second Leo’s hand was in his and the next it was gone. People were running in every direction, desperate to escape.

‘Leo!!’ Will ran into the forest, trying to catch a scent. He had to be somewhere, there was no way he could vanish so quickly without a trace. Will turned. He was alone, deep in the forest. He turned around, trying to get his bearings.

‘Leo.’ He hissed.

A twig snapped. Will spun around. He wasn’t alone. If could scent his way back the way he came a bit he might be able to at least catch up with some of the others. Every sense he had screamed at him suddenly and he dropped to the ground, feeling a woosh of air on his face as a staff swept past. He was barely able to stand and get a fix on the figure before it lunged again, smashing into his shoulder.

Will screamed in pain as he fell backward. The vanguard loomed over him, raising the staff with both hands, ornate hammer at the end ready to come down and smash his skull. His mind flashed to Leo, somewhere alone in the forest, possibly facing one of these madmen.

The staff rushed down and Will leapt forward, underneath. He came up, claws at the ready. The vanguard was unable to stop the momentum of the swing, leaving their body open for attack. Will drove his hands into the seams of the armour—the left glanced off, but the right hit home, sliding through the plates and sinking into soft flesh. The vanguard’s scream was muffled by their armour. Before Will could react a heavily armoured gauntlet backhanded him, sending him through the air. The vanguard turned, hefting the staff. Will turned, back hitting the rough bark of a tree. There was no where left to go.

Suddenly the vanguard jerked, body going stiff. The staff dropped and the vanguard followed. Will scrambled to his feet, eyes on the armoured figure. From the shadows a man in black emerged, an unamused look on his face.

‘Where’s Theo?’ Deaton asked, pulling the knife out of the vanguard’s back.

Will caught his breath, glancing back towards Beacon Hills. ‘He’s with the others at the library. We were… we were trying to evacuate.’

Deaton sheathed his knife as a figure draped in a cloak stepped out of the shadows to stand beside him.

‘We need to get to him before he gets to the nemeton. Or else we’re all doomed.’ Deaton said.

Chapter Text

Dark clouds rolled across the sky, muffling the light of the sun. The compound was spartan—made for quick set up and break down as they hunted the abominations where ever they hid across the world.

The armour of the Dreadnaught was pitch black, burnt and rubbed in the ashes of wolfsbane and belladonna. The ornate carvings on the metal harkened back thousands of years when the first of their Order began their righteous quest to rid the world of tainted creatures that had no place as human beings and no place as animals. Other hunters treated them like vermin to be caught and killed, but the Dreadnaught knew the truth—they were twisted mockeries of nature. Living examples of the world gone wrong. To treat them like animals to be hunted was giving them too much dignity. They were a cancer—aggressive and dangerous. For the human race to thrive they would have to be wiped out.

The sea of loyal Hammers parted as the Dreadnaught walked among them. There were seven in total, each leading a different arm of the Order. This one was the youngest, but also the most passionate and dedicated. To serve the Black Dreadnaught was a matter of pride that attracted only the most zealous of Hammers. The Dreadnaught’s words were laws. The Dreadnaught’s vision was prophecy. Singlehandedly the Black Dreadnaught had breathed life back into their most ambitious campaign. There had been Purges in the past, most of them successful. But nothing of this scale, nothing of this magnitude. Already they had culled the numbers of the unclean creatures by the thousands. After the final push at this nemeton their victory would be certain.

‘Report.’ The Dreadnaught’s voice was muffled and distorted by the thick armour and padding beneath.

‘A few hundred escaped through the flank during the assault.’ A vanguard bowed her head.

‘The wolfling?’ The voice was displeased. The vanguard hesitated.

‘Two vanguards dead. We found evidence of a poison, and two other. Adult males, purity uncertain. The wolfling wasn’t with them.’

The Dreadnaught turned, looking down at the vanguard. Black gauntlet reaching out, lifting her chin.

‘I have seen a vision of the future free from the fear these freakish beasts breed. The wolfling is the key to that future. Bring him to me, alive.’

‘If he remains in the forest we will find him.’ The vanguard said, tapping her breastplate twice before turning to the scouts behind her. In the distance smoke rose. Beacon Hills and the filthy creatures that it harboured would soon be wiped from the skin of the earth, leaving nothing but a faded scar.

The Dreadnaught looked off into the distance, towards the trees. The nemeton was some where in there. So far they’d failed to access it. It was the only unprotected of its kind left, and that meant they were pushed to a point of desperation, even though they had the upper hand. This was a tipping point of war—each piece on the board suddenly increased in value, though it was hard to believe that a small boy could have the power to turn the tide so dramatically.

It didn’t matter. The Order had several hundred loyal members here, all ready to lay down their lives. Though it was surprising when so many of them fell in battle, given the dominant pack’s principals. Maybe they had finally embraced there true nature. It was always only a matter of time until feral beasts attacked. It only strengthened the resolve of the Order. Soon the world would be free of monsters.

###

Fire raged around them as Theo yelled for the others to get back. There were two scouts left, and judging by how long they held out they were veterans. Theo growled, eyes scanning the smoke and rubble for any sign that would give them away. They’d pressed their attack into a frenzy to draw attention away from the evacuation, but the Hammer had come down on them harder than they’d anticipated, which only meant that they were preparing the Purge. The evacuation had come at the perfect time. Theo could fight easier knowing Leo and the others were safe.

A flicker of movement caught his eye—a small reflection from the flames reflecting off the goggles the scout wore. Theo dropped low, launching himself forward, claws out. He roared as he came down on the scout, claws tearing through the weak parts of his armour. Theo felt a cold iron knife plunge into his abdomen before snapping the scout’s neck. A second blade sank into his back. He roared, spinning around to face the enemy. Before he could move Derek drove his claws into the scout from behind, tossing the body aside.

Theo struggled to stay on his feet, pulling the knife out of his belly and tossing it away. Derek leaned down, supporting Theo on his shoulder. The younger wolf looked away, hiding his eyes.

‘Already saw.’ Derek said. Theo looked at him with red eyes. Derek studied him before giving a sad smile. Theo’s heart skipped a beat.

He knows.

Derek said nothing, reaching out to take the pain of Theo’s wound and encourage healing. Even with his nemeton-accelerated powers it was hard to heal from the Hammer’s weapons quickly.

‘You need to rest.’

‘The next wave…’ Theo shook his head.

‘They’ve pulled back.’ Derek said, ‘Let’s hope Isaac got everyone through safely.’

Theo grunted as they hobbled out of the burning debris. A dozens houses had been torched along with some of the bigger businesses centres. They’d done well considering the size of the force they were up against—fourteen dead versus a good fifty on the Hammer’s side. Still, those fourteen were too high of a price to pay, but the situation demanded it. That, or pay with the lives of hundreds. It left a bitter taste in Theo’s mouth. If he could he would set his life in place of all those lost. But that’s not how the world worked.

By the time Derek got him to the hospital the place was overrun. Melissa McCall was giving orders on healing the supernaturals as best as possible, while the other doctors had their hands full with the remaining humans in town. Melissa lifted Theo’s shirt to inspect the damage that was healing, then looked at his eyes, shining a bright light quickly to check pupil dilation.

‘He’s exhausted. That room has a cot.’ She said before two werecoyotes stumbled through the door covered in blood and black bile. Derek guided Theo to the room, closing the door. The frantic sounds of the hospital bled through, though it was quieter. As Theo settled onto the cot a familiar voice called out.

‘You look like shit.’ David grinned, looking down from the hospital bed he was resting in.

Theo looked at his friend, bandages wrapped around his torso, red seeping into the gauze where his left arm used to be.

‘Not as bad as you.’ Theo lifted his shirt to show his healing wound.

‘You’ve used up too much energy.’ David said, turning to sit on the edge of the bed.

‘I’m guessing there’s a limit both of you will reach.’ Derek said.

David nodded, ‘It happened in Greenland. One of our friends tapped into all of his power before he could become a Guardian. A lot of us died, but we managed to secure that nemeton.’

‘And Theo is at his limit?’

‘I’m fine.’

‘He’ll be fine after he rests. But the more he pushes himself—‘

‘I said i’m fine.’ Theo folded his arms.

‘Where’s Liam?’ David asked. Theo glared at him, shoulders relaxing. David knew that Liam wouldn’t tolerate any of Theo’s antics, especially if it meant sacrificing himself to save everyone else. The notion that everyone could be saved was strong in the alpha, but Theo was sure that Liam would be more than willing to let him die if he ever found out what he’d done.

‘Try not to wander off.’ Derek said, closing the door.

Theo looked at David’s arm. He’d never lost a limb before, though he knew some wolves were able to heal over a long period of time.

‘How do you like my new look?’ David asked.

‘What happened?’

‘One of our new friends wasn’t as fond of her hammer as her knife. Got myself into a bit of a pinch and it was me or old lefty.’

‘How long will it take to heal?’

David smiled.

‘David?’ Theo asked.

‘I’m not going to let it.’

‘Why? That doesn’t make any sense.’

‘It’ll take weeks, even with help from the nemeton. And that’s energy that we can’t afford to lose right now.’ David said. ‘Besides, it’s just an arm. It doesn’t make me any less of a fighter.’

Theo leaned back onto the cot, closing his eyes. The mattress wasn’t that comfortable but to Theo it felt like the softest thing in the world.

‘Did we do this right?’ He asked.

‘The evacuation or the war?’ David asked.

‘Both.’

‘Theo, you knew this would happen. We all knew this would happen. My home, Ryo’s home. Kali’s home… you were there when we faced the Hammer. I know they would be here if they could. And I don’t mean just their claws, because I know you keep that around.’

‘They wanted to see things to the end. I told them I’d bury them under the nemeton.’ Theo muttered. David slid out of bed, settling in beside Theo.

‘There’s nothing you could have done to change this.’

‘You don’t know that.’

‘Yes, Theo, I do. Just like there was nothing I could do to save my family. My entire family, Theo. Do you think I held back? That I didn’t use all the power I had? It wasn’t enough, Theo. Sometimes that’s how life is. Sometimes everything you have, it’s just not enough. But here, this place, Beacon Hills. Everyone is fighting to turn the tide. They’re fighting for their lives and the lives of the ones they love. You gave them a chance. They’re still alive because you came back.’

David leaned back, slapping Theo on the back of the head.

‘Ow.’

‘That’s for not coming back sooner, by the way. This pack cares about you. Liam cares about you.’

‘For now.’

‘There’s nothing you can do that will make him hate you.’

‘There’s one thing.’ Theo muttered, eyelids heavy. The last thing he saw was David pulling a blanket over him.

###

‘In here!’ Corey yelled, waving to Nolan and Alec. They dragged Isaac, bloody and beaten into the room. Mason pushed everything off the table, making a place for them to set the werewolf. Isaac’s head rolled from side to side as he moved in and out of consciousness. Mason ripped his shirt off, looking at the wounds. Stab wounds were easier for werewolf bodies to heal. Trauma from the huge sledge hammers their enemies wielded caused huge amounts of damage to muscle and bone, sometimes puncturing internal organs and causing internal bleeding.

Corey was quick, mixing the herbs he had learned from Deaton to help stabilize Isaac and let his healing kick in. He got the tincture down Isaac’s throat after some struggle and the werewolf began to stabilize.

Liam burst through the door, eyes blazing red and claws flexing. ‘Where’s Leo?!’

‘Liam, calm down!’ Mason grabbed him by the shoulders. For a second Mason caught sight of the untamed teenager Liam used to be, anger boiling in his eyes. He flinched, causing Liam’s face to calm. After a second the alpha had collected himself.

‘Isaac, I need to know what happened to Leo. Did you make it to the other side?’ Liam asked. The other wolf struggled to get to his elbows, pain clear on his face.

‘We were ambushed. Everyone ran. Not sure who made it. I’m sorry.’ Isaac managed before collapsing back onto the table in pain. Liam’s face hardened.

‘Liam, I’m sure he’s okay.’ Nolan offered. The alpha just looked at his friend, face blank. He turned, heading for the door. Corey hovered over Isaac, glancing up at his husband. Mason gave a nod before heading after Liam.

The alpha’s face was a wall of stone. He walked through the animal clinic, spotting a handgun and a rifle. He stopped to check to see if they worked before shoving the handgun in his belt and the rifle over his shoulder.

‘Liam, what are you doing?’ Mason watched as he went through the discard pile of weapons they’d collected from injured people.

‘I’m going to find my son.’ He said, picking out two other guns.

‘Liam, stop for a minute and think about what you’re doing.’

‘Mace, I love you, but if you tell me there’s nothing I can do right now I’m gonna be really pissed off.’

‘There is something you can do. Just, not this.’ Mason said, reaching out for the rifle Liam held in his hands. ‘Not this, Liam.’

The alpha hesitated. Leo was somewhere out there, wandering the forest. Or maybe he managed to get safely though the front line and was out of danger. There was no way of knowing for sure. He clutched the rifle, barrel buckling under the strength of his grip before letting Mason take it.

‘If he’s hurt…’ Liam held in hot tears. If Leo was hurt then he didn’t think he would be able to keep his vow to Scott. He knew there would be no turning back.

‘We don’t know anything yet.’ Mason said, taking the rest of the weapons away from Liam. ‘You’re our leader. Everyone looks up to you. I know it’s a lot, but you’re what’s keeping us all together, Liam. If you take off now, everyone dies.’

‘So that’s it? Just… leave him? Give up? I already lost Theo once, I can’t lose him too, Mace. I can’t. I’m not strong enough.’

Mason pulled Liam’s head close, wrapping his arms around the alpha. ‘We’ll find him. But we need a plan. Call a pack meeting.’

Liam chuckled through his tears, remembering when pack meetings were tedious and long winded get togethers. How he wished they could go back to that.

‘We’ll work on getting Isaac healed—maybe he’ll remember more. Get everyone together and we’ll figure out what to do.’ Mason said. ‘Derek said that Theo is resting at the hospital.’

Liam nodded. He looked down at his hands, flexing his fingers to fists then releasing them. He hadn’t done it in years, but he felt like it might help.

‘The sun. The moon. The truth.’ He closed his eyes. Images rose to the surface of his mind like creatures from the bottom of a deep pond. Scott’s smile. Theo’s pessimism giving way to a kind but wounded heart. Malia’s brash comments. Lydia’s insights. Hayden’s teasing. Stiles’ misguided advice. Leo beaming after hitting his first baseball.

‘The sun. The moon.’ Liam exhaled. The anger was gone. The tears remained. The warmth of the sun on their skin as they laid in bed together. Holding up golden rings. Stolen kisses. Bad dreams. Fitful nightmares. Empty bed.

‘The truth.’ Liam felt his emotions settle, eyes closed. He a second it felt like Scott was with him, beside him, waiting. When Liam opened his eyes he was ready. They’d gather and figure out what to do next as a pack. They’d make sure Leo was safe. They’re pushed the Order of The Hammer back to whatever tomb they’d crawled out of. They’d save everyone, just like Scott would.

###

Theo set David down in an armchair. Liam’s place had been throughly trashed in one of the scrimmages against the Hammer, but after they’d picked things up and made some room it was useable for a gathering.

Theo nodded at Nolan and Alec. He heard Lydia talk to David as the climbed the stairs, following Liam’s scent. He walked past Liam’s room, door wide open and empty. The scent took him to Leo’s room. He found Liam there, sitting on Leo’s bed.

‘Hey.’ Theo said, sitting beside Liam. The alpha stared off into space, taking Theo’s hand in his own before sighing.

‘We didn’t finish the evacuation fully. Isaac and the others were ambushed by some sort of advanced Hammer soldiers.’

‘Vanguards.’ Theo said, rubbing the back of Liam’s hand with his thumb. ‘What about Leo and Will?’

Liam shook his head, ‘We don’t know if they got through or not. Corey and Mason are bringing Isaac here now. He’s healed enough to talk. Hopefully he can remember what happened.’

Theo felt a lump in his throat. He knew better than to ignore it. Words didn’t matter at this point—Liam was in pain. There was nothing he could say that would make things better. Logic and reasoning wouldn’t ease the worry and fear the alpha felt. Instead Theo wrapped his arms around Liam. He felt the werewolf relax as Theo’s scent surrounded him.

‘I don’t know what to do.’

‘When did any of us ever?’ Theo asked, burying his face in the crook of Liam’s neck, mirror the alpha’s position.

‘It seemed easier when we were kids.’

‘It just seems like that. We knew even less then.’

‘Especially you.’ Liam said.

‘Hey, raised by evil paranormal scientists here. Like to think I had at least a leg up.’

‘In some things.’ Liam said, pulling back so he could see Theo’s face. The years had marched on for both of them, but Theo was a beautiful as ever. As strong as ever. Stronger.

‘Do you remember how long it took for us to get together?’ Liam asked.

‘Don’t remind me.’

‘Definitely not a leg up in that area.’

‘You’re one to talk, White Fang. You had to get Mason to grill me with a million questions before you’d even think about asking me out.’ Theo poked Liam in the ribs, making the alpha squirm.

Liam sighed. ‘I wish we could go back.’

‘We can’t.’ Theo dropped his gaze.

‘You never think about it?’

‘I miss those days, sure. I regret… I regret a lot of things I did. Before I met you. After I met you. I regret leaving. But it wouldn’t matter for me. I’d still be like this, still a monster.’

Liam jabbed Theo’s side, making the wolf wince. ‘Hey, stab wound right next to your boney finger there.’

‘Fucking cut it out with all that monster shit, Theo. I hate it. I hate when you say it.’

‘It’s true.’

‘Seriously, Cujo.’

‘Cujo was a monster too.’ Theo pointed out. Liam bit his lip. He’d been the one to give the nickname after a long night of bad movies. For some reason it stuck.

‘You have a pack. A family. We love you. And I don’t think you’re that bad, either.’ Liam said.

‘I know. Believe me, I know. It’s the only thing that’s gotten me this far. But Liam, loving someone isn’t enough to fix everything that’s wrong.’

‘Why not? I don’t understand.’

‘I’m bad, Liam. I don’t mean like, evil. I mean like… I’m broken. Inside.’ Theo said. He flicked his hand, exposing his claws, ‘This is not what makes me a monster. Being a killer isn’t what makes me a monster. It’s the ability to do it without a second thought. The thing you have, that Scott had… the part that wants to save people. I don’t have that.’

‘That… that’s nothing.’ Liam wet his lips, trying to figure out a way to explain away everything. He stopped when Theo took his hands.

‘You can’t make this go away, Liam. Just like I can’t make you stop worrying about Leo.’

‘Theo, you’re not a monster.’

Theo smiled, ‘It’s taken me a long time to understand that it’s not a bad thing. Being a monster. I’m happy to bear the burden of being the claws and fangs for a pack that’s worth being with. This is how I can save everyone. It’s my path. Scott’s way isn’t the only way.’

‘Liam?’ Mason knocked on the open door to find Liam looking away, collecting himself and Theo rubbing his back. ‘Isaac is downstairs.’

‘Right. Be there in a second.’ Liam said, waiting until Mason was gone to turn around and pull Theo into a kiss. Theo felt it—everything Liam felt pressed into his lips and beyond. The anger, the fear, the frustration—all eclipsed by something that felt similar to the spark of power an alpha had. Except it wasn’t that. It was something deeper, more fundamental.

‘Fuck I love you, you messed up idiot.’ Liam whispered.

###

They sat in a circle, going over what had happened in the forest. Isaac played things out again and again. More than once Derek’s hand rested on the beta’s shoulder, steadying him, siphoning off his pain as he continued to heal from his wounds. They’d tried to get in touch with any of the townsfolk and supernaturals that had escaped. At the beginning of the meeting Lydia told them that a flare was set off, indicating that at least some of them had made it to safety, but they had no way to know if Leo or the others were among them.

‘They hit us hard.’ Derek said, ‘If we hadn’t been as strong or as experienced we’d all be dead by now.’

The evolved wolf looked over to Theo, bristling in his seat beside Liam.

‘There was no way to know they had that many soldiers. The juggernauts and vanguards took us by surprise.’ Alec said.

Theo looked across the room at David, lost in thought. His brown eyes found Theo, shaking off whatever was on his mind before clearing his throat.

‘If vanguards are here it means they’re going to start the Purge.’ David said.

‘The Purge?’ Lydia said, ‘That doesn’t sound like something we want to be around for.’

‘It’s not.’ Theo said.

‘The Hammer has launched full-scale assaults at every other nemeton in an attempt to gain control and destroy it, and all the creatures like us that it protects. Hundreds of years ago they’d carry out similar, methodical hunts to kill supernaturals in towns and cities. They call them Purges. They’ll wipe out anything supernatural.’ David said.

‘And they’re getting ready to do it here.’ Lydia said, lost in thought.

‘We’re probably delayed them a few hours with our attack.’

‘What do we do?’ Corey asked, looking at Liam then Theo.

‘Get to the nemeton.’ Deaton said, walking in. ‘Soon it’ll be the only safe place left.’

Half the room was on their feet, claws at the ready, settling down when they recognized Deaton’s face.

Will limped in behind him, along with a third figure.

‘Will!’ Liam pulled the teen into a hug before looking him over. ‘Where’s Leo? Is he with you?’

‘I’m sorry.’ Will kept his eyes on his feet. ‘Everyone was yelling. I was holding his hand, then he was gone. I looked for him everywhere! I… they…’

Liam pulled him into another hug. Deaton rested a hand on his shoulder.

‘He’s as crazy as you were at his age. Took on a vanguard by himself. Managed to get a few licks in.’

‘It’s okay, Will. We’ll find him. Let Corey look you over.’ Liam said. The boy nodded, limping across the room.

‘Hell of a time to show up.’ Derek folded his arms, glaring at Deaton.

‘I was preoccupied trying to convince our friend here to come back.’ Deaton said, gesturing to the figure behind him.

Theo got to his feet, recognizing the scent before seeing his face.

Stiles unbuttoned the cloak and tossed it aside. His face was gaunt and there were bags under his eyes. ‘Glad to ditch that thing. It was clashing with my finely tuned fashion sense.’

Before any of them could move Lydia was in his arms, squeezing and swearing at him. Stiles held back a look of pain but it was clear to every supernatural in the room that there was something wrong.

‘You’re hurt.’ Lydia leaned back to look at Stiles, ‘You’re all bone!’

‘Yeah, long days at the office will do that.’ Stiles said, earning a tap on the side of his head.

‘I thought you went looking for Scott.’ Corey said, looking up from helping Will. He nearly clapped his hands over his mouth when he realized what he’d said. Deaton levelled his gaze at his apprentice.

‘I did. Unfortunately Scott’s whereabouts were just one rumour after another. But while I was sorting them out I ran into a fellow truth seeker.’ Deaton said.

‘Hi.’ Stiles raised his hand. He’d grown older, like the rest of them, but it was clear there was something else wrong with him. The way he moved, the sound of his voice seemed strained, like he was carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders.

‘Before I could finish following my leads Stiles and I got word of the Order targeting the nemeton here. I thought they would have started with this place, since the nemeton is the weakest of the seven. I naively assumed they decided not to bother with it. We got here as fast as we could.’ Deaton said.

Stiles reached out, pulling a chair close before collapsing into it. Lydia grabbed his head, smoothing his hair back.

‘What’s wrong with him?’ She asked.

‘A long time ago three foolish teenagers tied themselves to the nemeton. I told them then that there would be lasting consequences.’

‘The nogitsune got into his mind through the crack the nemeton opened. I thought we were done with that.’ Lydia said.

‘Yes and no. While Stiles isn’t going to fall prey to spirits any time soon, the fact that he acted as a surrogate for the nemeton ritual links him to it, along with Allison and Scott.’

‘But Allison…’

‘When she died the burden of that connection was spread between the two remaining sacrifices. When Scott… disappeared, whatever happened made Stiles the final living sacrifice. Since he’s only human its sapping his life force. The closer he gets to it, the worse it will become.’

‘Only human, he says.’ Stiles gave a chuckle that turned into a hacking cough.

‘Is this why you left?’ Lydia asked. Stiles nodded, earning another bat upside the head.

‘Hey, slowly dying here. Can we lay off the violence?’

Derek marched over to Stiles, looming over him.

‘Oh, hey Derek.’ Stiles looked up. Age had refined Derek’s looks, making him a palpable force in the room. A force that now had all of its attention on Stiles, who leaned back when Derek dropped to his knee in front of him.

‘Uhh, it’s a little late for a proposal.’ He tried to smile as Derek’s frown grew. The wolf took Stile’s head in his hands, closing his eyes. He started to draw as much pain as he could from the human, wincing as the black veins snaked across his skin. Stile’s seemed to relax. His eyes were still tired but much clearer. Derek gasp and nearly crumpled to the floor.

‘We need… that annoying brain. No more… stupid quips.’ Derek said as Nolan and Alec helped him to his feet. Stiles gave a smile.

‘Why did you bring him here if it’s killing him?’ Lydia asked Deaton.

‘Because of Theo.’ Deaton said, all eyes turning to Theo. ‘You’ve gone through similar rituals to the ones Stiles endured at the other nemetons. Those ones didn’t already have surrogates linked to them. If you want to do the same here you’ll need Stiles close by. And from the looks of the forces gathering, we’ll want to do that as soon as we can.’

Theo looked at David. ‘If that’s true then it was something we overlooked in our research. Even so, we’re at a stand still. The nemeton seed we brought is missing. As there’s something called an oathwight guarding the nemeton.’

Deaton frowned in thought.

‘Then we fight it, get to the nemeton, and go from there.’ Stiles said.

‘That’s your plan?’ Nolan asked.

‘Told you.’ Theo said. Stiles eyes narrowed.

‘Told him what?’

‘Most of your plans were built on just winging it.’

‘It’s called improvising, Raeken. And looking around the room I feel pretty good about our chances.’ Stiles said, some of his original strength seeping back into his bones. ‘Scott and I have faced down how many different evil, immortal terrors over the years?’

‘Except these are people.’ Liam said, ‘Humans that want us dead. All of us. When they shoot us we don’t disappear into another dimension. We don’t go into comas. We die. And then they put our bodies on pikes.’

Liam looked at Theo, ‘Can you finish your ritual without the seed?’

‘Maybe.’ Theo said, ‘but there’s a chance it won’t work. Or if it does it might not last very long.’

‘It will kill him either way.’ Deaton said.

‘I’m fine with that.’ Theo said. One day of safety, or several years—if there was any chance to protect them he’d take it.

‘I’m fucking not.’ Liam said, eyes finding Theo’s. Screams and echoes of gunfire outside drew their attention.

Peter kicked the door in, blood covering his claws and fangs, ‘They’re attacking! More than we’ve seen before!’

‘The Purge.’ Theo said.

‘Leave everything but medical supplies and weapons. Get everyone you can to the nemeton!’ Liam told Peter. The older wolf nodded and bolted out the door. They scrambled to get themselves together, heading for the back roads that led into the wildlife preserve as the Hammer started to burn everything in their path.

###

Leo was cold. He tugged his hoodie, pulling it closer as it it would yield more warmth. He’d lost Will when Isaac had started to yell. The gold people were swinging their big hammers, hurting everyone. Some of them fell and didn’t get back up. Leo crawled into the briar patch, running as fast as he could as soon as he was out of sight. He tried to remember the way back to his dads, but there were too many confusing smells. Instead he’d found a small patch of leaves and moss under a tree and cured up, trying to sleep until morning.

Now that the sun had risen he had a better look at where he was. The forest wasn’t any less threatening in the day. He knew that he was somewhere in the wildlife preserve, but he wasn’t sure where.

Leo shivered. His emergency cell phone Liam had given him wasn’t working, so he did the next best thing he could think of—he howled.

No answer.

Leo stood up, setting his backpack on the ground. He did it once with Theo, he could do it again. He closed his eyes, looking deep inside of himself where it was warm. Reaching deeper and deeper until it felt like the middle of him was burning hot, then he grabbed ahold.

Leo opened his eyes, now burning red, fangs and claws at the ready. He howled, feeling the sound rip from his throat. He howled again, louder.

A dark shape moved in the distance, rising from the shadows. It was bigger than a school bus—dark hide covering its body with a skull for a face. In the pit of empty eye sockets burned two red coals that made up its eyes. The oathwight opened its mouth, fangs dripping with saliva as it moved towards Leo.

The boy’s breathing sped up, but he held his ground as the beast bore down, jaws opening. In the last few few before the beast closed in a huge coyote leapt between them, snarling and barking. The oathwight paused as if it was listening. It closed its mouth as the coyote calmed, taking in Leo’s scent. Leo relaxed, letting the warm feeling inside fade away. He reached out, watching the creature’s face. It was impossible to tell what it was thinking, but he felt his fingers brush against the hard bone of its muzzle—its teeth were as long as his forearm.

In the distance explosions echoed. The oathwight’s head snapped up, honing in on the sound before bolting through the forest, movements faster and more fluid than something of its size should be capable of.

Leo stood watching the coyote with blue eyes. She circled around him then took a small trot. He frowned when she did it again. He wasn’t stupid, but it was strange to see someone stuck as a coyote. Uncle Derek could be a wolf if he wanted to, so he guessed whoever this was maybe forgot how to turn back into a person.

Leo didn’t think much beyond that. He grabbed his backpack and followed the coyote into the forest, hoping that his dads and everyone else were alright.

Chapter Text

Theo ran, following the rest of the pack as they headed to the edge of the forest. Behind them four ranks of Hammer scouts and juggernauts marched, picking off anyone within sight. A woman stumbled—a werewolf that had been helping at the hospital. Theo leaned down, helping her up. She opened her mouth to thank him, but all that came out was a spatter of blood as a scout shot her. He body slid from his arms and Theo scanned the chaos around him.

Liam had stopped behind him, fangs out and roaring as a juggernaut fell on a small group of humans who had fallen behind. Theo whipped around, sprinting to provide support. He caught the juggernaut’s hammer as it came down, pushing back with all of his strength, roar tearing from his throat as he tipped the armoured giant over.

‘Run!’ Theo said, sending the humans scattering behind the group once more. Theo’s chest heaved, glancing over at Liam. Blood and dirt covered his face, shoulder’s squared. Liam’s red eyes finally focused on Theo. The horde of soldiers was barring down on them now, and they would be in range of the front lines in seconds. Theo tried to read the look on the alpha’s face—Liam was still torn up about Leo, rage guiding his actions. Theo’s breath caught in his throat when Liam faced the oncoming wave and let loose a powerful roar that made his knees feel weak. He could see the first line of scouts slow for a moment at the sound of a true alpha’s roar, then they picked up their regular pace. It took Theo a second to shake off the effects of the roar. When his mind cleared he saw Liam, claws at the ready.

‘Liam! We can’t fight them here!’ Theo yelled. The alpha ignored him.

‘Liam!’ Theo grabbed Liam’s shoulder but the wolf snuggled him off, knocking Theo back. There was no time for anything else. Theo’s body remembered the motions from fifteen years ago when Liam’s rivalry was at its peak. He slammed his fist into the alpha’s jaw with as much normal force as he could muster. The dazed look on Liam’s face told him that it had worked, at least enough to bend down and scoop the alpha up onto his shoulder.

Liam came to as they ran, scouts bearing down on them as they approached the edge of the forest.

‘What the hell are you doing?!’ Liam shouted from Theo’s shoulder.

‘I’m not gonna let you die for me!’ Theo gritted his teeth as a bullet found his left side, nearly causing him to stumble. He felt the blood surge from the wound before it slowed, healing. The sting of the bullet was a small distraction compared to the squirming werewolf on his shoulder.

‘Put me down! I can hold them off!’

‘They’ll kill you, you idiot!’

Liam tried to twist free, but Theo squeezed his sides with his arm, digging his claws into Liam’s side. The alpha roared in pain.

‘Theo what the fuck!’

‘If you stay, I stay.’ Theo said, dodging another bullet. They were almost to the trees. At least then they would have some cover.

Liam went quiet after Theo threatened he’d stay to face down the Hammer. Theo put all of his energy into running, dodging bullets and rocks. He’d always been fast, but a whole extra person slowed him down significantly.

Argent was a welcome sight, stepping out from the tree line, giving them cover fire. Theo glanced behind to see a small break in the front line. That would be enough for him to make a final press to safety.

Liam kept a tight grip on Theo’s claws that were embedded in his side, wincing with each jostle. It was hard to see what was going on behind them, but Liam caught sight of a vanguard pulling their staff apart to reveal a long, golden blade, hefting it in one hand.

‘Theo!’

It was too late to avoid, launching towards them like a javelin. Liam grabbed Theo’s side, trying to pull him to the ground. It happened fast—the blade was suddenly there beside his face, jutting out of Theo’s shoulder and through his chest.

‘Theo!’ Liam grunted as they fell over. He scrambled to his feet, assessing the damage. Argent and his hunters increased their fire, glancing down at the pair.

‘Cujo. Hey. Hey!’ Liam leaned down, looking at Theo’s face, eyes glassy and blinking. All the Hammer weapons were laced with wolfsbane or some other herb that was poison to them. The vanguard’s blade stuck out of Theo’s chest, right above his heart.

‘Oh god.’

‘How bad?’ Argent fell in beside him, looking at the blood pouring from Theo’s chest.

‘It’s right through his heart.’ Liam said, face desperate. Theo chuckled, coughing up some blood.

‘You never did pay attention in biology. Dunbar.’ Theo grabbed the blade, pushing it out of his body with an agonizing roar. Liam stood back, shocked. He swooped down to support Theo’s weight on his shoulder as Theo tapped his chest.

‘Heart.’

He raised his finger to the slowly healing wound, ‘Lungs.’

A racking cough shook his body.

‘Argent!’ Melissa yelled from the trees, firing a handgun towards the advancing scouts.

‘C’mon.’ Argent got under Theo’s other arm. Together they dragged him into wildlife preserve.

###

Nolan wiped the sweat and blood from his face. He was working as fast as he could, assisting Mason and Melissa with the wounded. They’d managed to get deep enough into the forest to gain a small reprieve from the Purge. The Hammer had a hard time moving their forces through the forest, but it was only a matter of time until they were picked off one at a time.

Nolan tried his best to follow Melissa’s instructions. He kept a tight grip on himself as he worked to bandage a girl Leo’s age. These were students he was supposed to be teaching in school, not bleeding on a battle field. Most of them were human, but all equally guilty in the Hammer’s eyes. Many of them had fallen at the edge of the forest, unprepared for the full press of the Hammer’s forces. Besides the few hundred that had escaped in he evacuation there were only fifty or so of them left—a handful of supernaturals huddled with their human kin, teetering on the verge of total annihilation. Nolan had never seen anything like this. When he’d been a stupid kid, full of fear and mistrust he’d been drawn into the war with Scott’s pack by Monroe and Gabe. That was a pale shadow in comparison to the carnage and death that surrounded him now. No matter that the Hammer said or did Nolan knew in his heart that they were the monsters—not his friends and family.

‘There. You’ll feel better soon.’ Nolan said, smoothing out the girl’s hair. Mason had already told him that without proper medical treatment most of the injured would die. The Hammer took shots that weren’t always immediately fatal, but always ended in death after hours of agony. If their victims were human at least.

Nolan glanced up, trying to find Alec in the frenzy of people that were running around. He caught sight of him helping Argent, taking a bleeding Theo off his shoulders. Liam’s face was pale, pressing his hands to Theo’s face. Theo blinking and muttered something, reassuring the alpha enough that Alec took him to Melissa. It was hard to believe that they were constantly at each other’s throats as teenagers.

Liam spotted him and came over, looking down at the little girl with tears in her eyes, bandages all over his arm and torso.

‘This is Stacy.’ Nolan said. Liam leaned down, giving a small smile.

‘Hey. Your older sister must be Dawn.’ Liam said. The girl nodded. ‘She’s in my history class. You look just like her.’

Liam looked at the blood soaking through the bandages, eyes flicking to Nolan. The face told him everything he needed to know.

‘Stacy, are you in pain?’ Liam asked. She nodded.

Liam reached down to taker her small hand. She gripped it tight as soon as it was within range. Liam closed his eyes, drawing the pain of her wounds into his body. Her breathing relaxed, eye lids fluttering. When Liam finished she was deep asleep.

‘Thanks.’ Nolan said. Liam couldn’t speak. His eyes were still on Stacy. She was in Leo’s class. One of the girls that he liked to draw pictures with at lunch.

‘Liam.’ Nolan rubbed the alpha’s back, ‘I’m sure Leo is okay.’

Liam gave a half-hearted smile.

‘What happened to Theo?’

‘He… I… I wasn’t thinking. He got hurt trying to protect me.’

‘But he’s alright?’

‘He’ll be fine after he heals.’

‘What are we going to do?’ Nolan asked. He tried to keep the fear out of his voice. Years of living with Alec had given him a good idea of how to hide his emotions from werewolves, but this time there was nothing he could do. The fear and desperation in his voice were loud and clear to Liam. The alpha tore his eyes away from Nolan taking in the sight of the wounded and the perimeter Argent had worked to set up. Several armed men and supernaturals kept their eyes trained on the area.

‘We get to the nemeton.’

‘People are dead, Liam.’

‘What do you want, Nolan? Do you want me to undo all this? Turn back time?’ Liam asked looking at the blood beside his feet. ‘What do you want, Nolan? Because if you have a plan or any idea at all I’m fucking game.’

‘Sorry.’ Nolan said, looking away from Liam’s fierce eyes.

The alpha exhaled, reaching out to pull Nolan into a hug. He felt the exhaustion and fear in the human. How were they going to survive such a brutal assault?

‘I didn’t mean—‘

‘It’s fine, Nolan. I get it.’ Liam pushed his hair out of his eyes. ‘We need to have a pack meeting.’

Ten minutes later the last of them stood in a circle—Theo, David, Liam, Nolan, Alec, Lydia, Stiles, Deaton, Corey, Isaac, and Derek. Melissa, Parrish, Mason, and Argent were too busy keeping the area safe and secure to join. Peter stood at the front line, face hard and bloody.

‘This is too much.’ Lydia said. Stiles pulls her close. He’ seen some awful things in his career, but this was one of the most brutal and harrowing. He never thought he’d see something on this scale in his own backyard.

‘We’re not going to last long here.’ David said. ‘Argent has everyone organized enough to fend off one more direct attack, but we need to get moving.’

‘To where? There’s no place left to go!’ Alec said.

‘We need to get to the nemeton.’ Theo’s voice was a raspy whisper as his lungs continued to heal.

‘In case you haven’t noticed the nemeton isn’t exactly on a map.’ Stiles said.

‘We don’t need a map.’ Corey said.

Lydia looked up at Stiles, ‘We have you. Deaton said you’re tied to the nemeton.’

Stiles blinked, ‘Yeah but we don’t exactly have time to stumble through the forest and find it.’

‘We might not have to.’ Deaton said. ‘Your connection to the nemeton should be strong enough for you to find it on your own now.’

‘You said the closer he gets the more life it drains from him.’ Lydia said, ‘This is a bad idea.’

‘If we can get to the nemeton we can at least perform the last ritual.’ Theo said.

‘And if it only works for a day or two without the seed, what then?’ Derek asked, folding his arms.

Theo glanced over at Liam. ‘There are two of us—I’ll buy us some time if that’s all we have. Once Deaton and Corey figure out what to do, David can complete the ritual.’

Theo looked at David. The werewolf gave a slight nod.

‘Fuck that.’ Liam said, standing up.

‘Liam…’ Theo coughed, clutching his chest as his breath left for a moment.

‘There has to be a better way. There has to be.’ Liam searched the faces of his friends. One by one they looked away, no answers or suggestions to be found.

‘Liam. Listen…’ Theo turned him around, pulling him into a gentle embrace. ‘Why don’t we worry about getting everyone to the nemeton safely first. We can figure it out after we get there, okay?’

Theo looked at Stiles—if he wasn’t willing to lead them then they’d have to stay here. Stiles searched Theo’s eyes. Though they had a difficult history riddled with mistrust and bad blood, all of that fell away. This decision was up to Stiles, but Theo knew exactly what he would decide under pressure. It was the same decision that Scott would make.

Stiles gave him a nod, closing his eyes. His whole body looked tired. Theo knew from Deaton’s explanation that it might kill him getting too close to the nemeton. Derek put a hand on Stiles’ shoulder, siphoning off some of his pain, allowing the human to manage a smile.

‘Liam, we have to get to the nemeton.’ Theo said, straightening his back. The alpha wouldn’t meet his eyes, looking into the distance with a frown. Theo hesitated, pulling Liam close, his ear beside Theo’s lips.

‘I promise I will never leave you.’ The lie hurt more the second time, but it was the only way to get the alpha to budge.

Liam leaned back, eyes desperately searching for something, anything, in Theo’s expression that would cement that promise. It killed Theo to force the emotions onto his face. He gave Liam what he was looking for, and as soon as the alpha’s shoulders sagged in relief Theo felt like the blade that pierced his lung had been driven right into his guts.

###

The coyote was bossy. Leo trailed behind her at a distance, but when he fell behind too far she would growl at him. He’d pick up the pace for a bit, but it was hard to concentrate with all of the smells and sounds around them. Smoke was coming from the direction of town and the smell of blood was on the wind. Leo’s backpack felt heavy in his arms.

The giant beast that nearly ate him hadn’t come back, though now and again another coyote would howl and approach the one with blue eyes before dashing off somewhere.

Leo was hungry and his jacket wasn’t thick enough to keep the cold out. It was Wednesday, or he thought it was Wednesday. That meant they would have pork chops for supper. Will would eat four and Dad would yell at him. Maybe even Theo would be there with them, having pork chops too, sitting in the chair that was always empty.

Leo fought back his tears—he was afraid but there wasn’t time to cry. He had to follow the coyote somewhere. He didn’t know where. He hand’t thought to ask.

‘Umm, where are we going?’ He asked. The coyote’s ears flicked backwards before pointing forward again. She kept walking.

Leo came to a stop, ‘Where are you taking me?’

The coyote turned around, growling. Leo stood his ground, making direct eye contact. There was no way he was going to let her dominate. Her hackles rose, fur puffing up as her gums pulled back in a snarl, exposing fangs.

Leo felt the growl start in his chest then rise to his throat. The coyote didn’t like that. She flattened to the ground, ready to pounce. Leo’s eyes flicked over her body—he had crossed a line and she was going to tear him apart if he stopped now.

The pain was minor as his canine’s lengthened and his claws came out. He knew his eyes were red—the same color as both of his dads’ eyes. The snarl came without trying, and he saw the coyote hesitate.

She nipped the air between them, giving a dire warning. Leo dropped his backpack and readied his claws—if she came at him he would defend himself.

She lunged forward, testing. He dove forward, intruding into her space with a vicious roar. She hesitated, then dropped to the ground, rolling over.

Leo hesitated—instinct told him she had submitted but the fearful part of his mind was reluctant to stand down. He forced his muscles to relax, letting go of his claws. The coyote stayed on her back, waiting. Leo hesitated, then leaned down, running his hand through the fur on her belly and the ruff of her neck.

As soon as he stepped back, she got to her feet, watching him. In the distance an explosion echoed from the town, making Leo jump. The coyote whined and pushed her head into his hand before trotting up the hill. Leo looked over his shoulder. Will might be in trouble. His dads might be in trouble.

He clutched the backpack to his chest. He should go back. The coyote whined again, desperate for him to follow. He knew she wasn’t leading him some place dangerous, but he was worried about everyone he left behind. The backpack was heavy and warm. Leo opened it and felt the tin—it was pulsing with warmth. A faint hum growing inside.

Leo placed the tin on the ground and opened it slowly, looking inside. The seed sat inside, safe, but a soft white light was coming from the cracks in the surface. It felt like a magnet, drawing him in. He reached out to touch it, warmth spilling onto his skin. Before he could touch it sharp fangs sank into his leg.

‘Ow!’ he yelled, kicking her away. She gave a low growl, looking at the tin. Leo looked down at his torn pants, then closed the tin. The coyote looked at him, heading up the hill. Leo didn’t know what it was, but he had a feeling that he should follow her, that even though this was farther away from Beacon Hills, it was the fastest way to get to his dads.

###

Stiles swayed on his feet. Derek and Lydia steadied him. They’d been walking for the past hour and a half—Derek taking as much of Stiles’ pain as he could manage every few minutes. The effect was that Stiles’ mind was clear, allowing him to follow the pull of the nemeton while at the same time feeling the strength bleed out of his body. Every step of the way he could feel Lydia’s disapproval and worry, and Derek’s concern. He didn’t know what was going to happen when he got there, if he would die or if they would figure something out in time. From the look on Theo’s face he could tell that the wolf was lying to Liam—he fully intended on sacrificing himself if it came down to it. That was the kind of thing he would never have expected from Theo Raeken when he walked back into their lives all those years ago. It was the kind of stupid, reckless thing Scott would do, and if Theo was willing to pay that price so was he.

Stiles felt his knees give out. Derek caught him before he hit the ground.

‘Think we’re here. Up over the hill.’ Stiles said. He felt like he’d been awake for a week. Sleep was a growing temptation.

‘Stiles, stay with us. Keep you eyes open.’ Derek said, lifting his in his arms. Lydia walked beside them, holding his hand.

Suddenly Derek stopped in his tracks, the others behind them waiting to see what was going on. Dozens of berserkers, wendigo, and other dangerous supernaturals were moving towards them slowly.

‘Liam.’ Derek said over his shoulder. The alpha was already making his way to their side, Theo in tow.

Liam growled, claws at the ready until Theo put a hand on his shoulder, calming him down. He nodded at the berserkers, scanning them and moving on. Under the leaves, tangled in the roots of the trees were the armoured bodies of Hammer soldiers.

‘They’re protecting the nemeton.’ Theo said.

‘Everyone, keep your eyes down. Don’t engage. Just keep moving forward slowly.’ Liam said, voice cutting through the hushed whispers.

They moved up the hill with care, wendigo and berserkers giving them space, focused on what would be following them. Liam felt strange bypassing the dangerous creatures—there were enough here to wipe them all out at a moment’s notice if they made one wrong move.

They crested the hill, coming to a grove of trees. In the centre rested the nemeton—an enormous stump with tangled roots digging deep into the soil. Theo knew from working with the other nemetons that the roots extended beneath the entire forest, linking the tree to all of the others. The forest was simultaneously the safest and most dangerous place in Beacon Hills.

He glanced at Stiles—his skin was sallow and his cheeks were gaunt. Corey finished mixing something in a flask and brought it to Stiles’ lips.

‘Ugh, what is that?’ Stiles wrinkled his nose.

‘It’ll give you a boost. Drink it all.’

He took the flask, struggling to drink it down. After Corey took the flash back Stiles perked up, color coming back to his cheeks.

‘Where was that stuff when I was in college?’ He asked, coughing a little. Derek put him back on his feet—wobbly but manageable.

Theo and David headed towards the nemeton, stopping when a low rumble of thunder came from the ground. The oathwight emerged from the far side of the grove, red eyes assessing the intruders.

‘Stiles.’ Deaton whispered. The man’s eyes were glued to the giant creature.

‘Stiles!’ Deaton whispered again.

‘Yeah?’

‘You’re our in here.’

‘What?’

‘He’s saying we’re your plus one.’ Derek muttered.

‘Oh.’ Stiles blinked. He took a step forward. The oathwight turned its head, focusing on him.

‘Uh… they’re with me. All of them.’ Stiles said, gesturing. The creature leaned in, taking in his scent. It glanced up at the people standing at the edge of the grove.

‘They’re cool.’ Stiles said. The oathwight hovered, unmoving. After several seconds it turned, disappearing into the shadows once more.

‘Uh, I think that means were good.’ Stiles said. The survivors rushed into the grove, making space on the far side, away from the nemeton.

Deaton went to the edge of the stump, talking to David. Theo moved to join them, stopping when Liam caught his arm.

‘Theo… If something happens to me—‘

‘Nothing is going to happen, White Fang. Don’t worry.’

‘If something happens to me, take care of Leo and Will, okay?’ Liam said.

Theo swallowed the lump forming in his throat. He desperately wanted to be a part of that life, a part of the world in which he could live with Liam. Where he could help raise Leo. But he was past the point where he had the luxury of choosing, and it was Scott McCall’s fault. He knew that once this was over Liam’s heart was going to break. He’d probably never forgive him, but that was the price Theo had to pay to keep Liam safe, to keep all of the supernaturals in the world safe.

Theo nodded. Liam gave him a grim look, glancing at the nemeton.

‘This is where it happened. Where you and Scott fought Monroe for the last time.’

‘Where I killed her.’ Theo whispered.

Theo felt Liam take his hands, splaying their fingers out, then intertwining them.

‘Theo.’ David called them over. They stood at the edge of the stump.

‘We need to start the ritual before the Hammer gets here.’ David said, ‘Deaton is going to help.’

Theo nodded. David looked at him, jaw set. ‘I’m going to be the sacrifice.’

‘David…’

‘We already talked about this, Theo.’ David looked at Liam and smiled, ‘You have a pack to take care of.’

‘You’re the last of your line. If you die, everything dies with you.’ Theo said.

‘Sometimes you have to let go in order to survive. If the world needs the teachings my family held, they’ll find them again.’

‘David—‘

‘You can’t change my mind, Theo.’

Theo frowned. Before he could answer the sound of berserkers roaring and gunfire in the forest drew their attention. The survivors huddled at the far end of the grove. Argent, Peter, and Parrish readied their forces, prepared to defend the grove.

Theo and Liam went to the edge of the trees, Derek and Isaac joining them. All of them roaring, fangs and claws at the ready. Everyone except Theo, who looked over his shoulder at his friend as Deaton helped him on to the nemeton.

Below them the wendigo and berserkers clashed with the Hammer—tearing into the scouts and the juggernauts. The vanguards pressed in from the side, cutting into the supernatural forces, killing the ones that got into range and driving away the others. For every Hammer they killed three more poured in.

Liam looked over at his mate, face a fierce mask full of fear and determination. Theo glanced down the hill. The fighting had stopped. The Hammer scouts had their rifles trained on them but held off from firing. Theo saw a ripple go through the forces as they straightened their ranks, clearing a path for a figure in black, burnt armour carrying an ornate silver hammer and sword.

‘Dreadnaught.’ Theo hissed.

The Dreadnaught walked up the hill with ease, dismissing a compliment of vanguards that fell in behind. Theo wasn’t sure if it was overconfidence or stupidity but all they had to do was hold off the Dreadnaught until the ritual was complete. He glanced over his shoulder at David. His eyes were closed, bare chested and chanting the litany.

As the Dreadnaught closed in Isaac launched himself into an attack. The Dreadnaught brushed him aside as if he were a speck of dust. Derek growled as his beta got to his feet holding his ribs. The Dreadnaught’s suit was reenforced to give strength comparable to a werewolf or beyond.

Derek roared and Theo felt the hair on his neck stand up. The evolved wolf leapt at the Dreadnaught, keeping clear of the fists while searching for a weak spot. Every spot his skin made contact burnt him. Liam and Theo joined the fray, trying to overwhelm and press the Dreadnaught into a corner. So fat the rest of the Hammer stood watching. Theo guessed they had orders to stand down. Unless something happened to the Dreadnaught. He was guessing if that happened they’d launch a full scale attack. But by then David would be the Guardian of the nemeton and they’d be protected as long as they were in the grove.

They swarmed the Dreadnaught, trying to break through the thick armour, but the metal didn’t budge. Derek was the first to go down. The Dreadnaught caught him mid-air, crushing his throat with a gauntlet before dropping him. Derek gasped on the ground, clutching his throat. Isaac dropped to his side. Derek was healing at a greatly reduced rate. He propped the evolved wolf up against a tree before turning to the Dreadnaught, eyes flashing blue.

The Dreadnaught caught Isaac’s first, crushing it without effort then kicking him in the chest, sending him flying.

Liam roared, converging on the armoured figure the same time as Theo. The wove in and out of its attacks, making strikes of their own—claws rending small tears in the armour. The Dreadnaught went still, catching them both at the same time, slamming them into each other and sending them reeling.

Theo looked up from the ground, vision blurry. Liam was trying to stand, blood all over his face and hands, burns from the wolfsbane ash all over his skin.

The Dreadnaught stood in front of them. A slow laugh building into an echoing boom from inside the armour. It opened its arms, gesturing.

‘Behold! The impure fall before the righteous!’ The rest of the Hammer tapped their chests twice in succession and gave a rallying cheer. Theo looked out into the forest. There were so many of them.

‘Where is the wolfling?’ The Dreadnaught demanded.

Liam managed to get to his feet, a low growl starting in his throat. The Dreadnaught’s strike was quick and efficient, hitting Liam in the chest, leaving him gasping for breath. Theo gritted his teeth as he made his way to Liam. That could have been a killing blow if the Dreadnaught had wanted it to be.

‘The wolfling!’ The Dreadnaught’s voice hundred through the forest.

The air went still as it turned to face Theo. He could feel it watching him from behind the mask. From the corner of his eye, Theo saw the oathwight moving through the shadows, red eyes gleaming.

The Dreadnaught’s breathing filled the clearing. Theo strained to hear if David had finished the ritual, but he couldn’t hear anything. The Dreadnaught paused, then looked up hill, beyond Theo and Liam. It took a step forward, then another.

Theo watched as the oathwight lunged for the Dreadnaught, bone-covered face opening in a maw of razor-like fangs. The Dreadnaught swung the hammer, cracking the skull of the beast and sending it flying. The creature’s enormous body broke several trees. Black blood oozed from its wounds.

The Dreadnaught turned, approaching it with the hammer, ready to deliver the death stroke. A brown blur shot out of the leaves as a coyote latched onto the Dreadnaught’s arm.

‘Malia!’ Liam called.

The Dreadnaught tossed the coyote away. She growled, only to be replaced by four more feral werecoyotes, all lunging at the black armour with fangs and claws. Malia backed away, licking the oathwight’s muzzle until it turned, shambling up the hill to the nemeton to die.

‘Enough!’ The Dreadnaught grabbed the coyotes one by one, tossing them into the forest. Theo could hear bones break as they landed. Malia rushed in while the Dreadnaught was distracted, fangs aiming for a neck. Instead they found the bottom of the helmet. The Dreadnaught grabbed her body and pulled, but Malia was locked on, tearing with all her might. The Dreadnaught grunted, using all of its force to rip Malia off and toss her away.

Theo heard her crash into the leaves a few dozen feet away, along with the Dreadnaught’s helmet.

‘No.’ Liam said, getting to his feet as the Dreadnaught turned to face them. Liam looked at Theo, searching his face, not understanding.

Theo’s eyes narrowed. He wasn’t normally a believer in fate but this felt like it all fit together. Like it was meant to be.

The Dreadnaught pulled the breathing apparatus from her mouth, letting it fall to the forest floor. She stood in front of them, face wrapped in ugly scars that looked like they should have killed her. Were intended to kill her.

‘You survived.’ Theo said, claws flexing.

‘Not without some lasting damage.’ Monroe said. One eye was completely dead. Theo would be surprised if the other one worked at full capacity.

‘How?’ Liam asked.

Monroe looked between Liam and Theo, a smile growing on her face, twisted and broken by the scars.

‘You didn’t tell them.’ She laughed.

‘Theo, what is she talking about?’

Theo didn’t answer, his entire being focused on Monroe. If he could just get one single opening he could finish what he failed to do all those years ago. He felt his fangs and claws grow to their maximum length.

‘Have you seen his eyes? The eyes of Theo Raeken?’ Monroe asked, amusement playing across her face.

‘Theo… what’s going on?’ Liam pleaded. Theo couldn’t help it. He knew his eyes had changed with the rest of him. There was no way he could call on his full strength without them changing. He could keep them shut, use his other senses to take Monroe out.

‘Show him.’ She goaded.

‘Shut up!’ Theo roared. Face twisted into a snarl. He’d sacrificed so much, given so much, and she was going to unravel it with a breath. He couldn’t show Liam. Liam could never know.

‘Theo. Show me. Please.’ Liam’s voice was soft. Theo felt the alpha’s hands on his face, turning him around.

‘The night when Theo Raeken murdered me, he murdered someone else too. Though I think he did a better job than he did on me.’ Monroe said.

‘Theo, open your eyes.’ Liam said, hands trembling. Theo shook his head, hot tears running down his face.

‘There’s only one way to take a True Alpha’s power.’ Monroe said in a quiet voice, watching things unfold in front of her.

Theo heard Liam’s heart skip a beat. His hands were shaking. Theo grabbed them, steadying them with his own.

‘It’s not true.’ Liam said. ‘It can’t be true. Theo…’

‘I’m sorry.’ Theo said. ‘I’m so sorry, Liam.’

Theo opened his eyes, burning red peering into Liam’s face where all the hurt, all the pain from past wounds—the mistrust and the hatred were restored to life in the eyes of the one Theo loved more than anything.

‘Theo. Tell me—‘

‘It’s true.’ Theo whispered. ‘I killed Scott.’

Chapter Text

Clouds rolled in the sky, sun peeking out every few seconds to remind the world it was still there. The wind crashed through the tree tops making bare branches knock together, echoing through the forest.

Leo stumbled through the woods, following the sounds of shouting. The coyote had taken off with her friends, leaving him alone. The tin felt white hot in his hands, pulling him like a magnet to the smells and sounds of other people. There was something beyond that, something dark and deep and vast. It spoke in words Leo didn’t understand. It spoke without a voice, waiting, wanting, calling. Crying in pain to be healed. He felt his heart race as he got closer, moving through the trees. He could see shapes. Smelled people that were familiar, but something was wrong. The scent of fear was everywhere, followed by the scent of death. Bad things had happened here. Bad things were going to happen again.

Leo ducked behind a thick tree, the voice urging him to hide. He flattened himself to the rough bark, listening. He could hear his dads speaking, and someone else that sounded mean, like the kids that taunted him at school. He didn’t know what to do, eyes searching the side of the hill. A trail of black ichor caught his eye. In the distance laboured breathing filled the air.

Careful not to make any noise, Leo moved away from the conflict below, following the spilled black blood at the urging of the voice deep inside of his head. He came to a circle of stones, placed carefully and deliberately long ago, moss creeping up over their surface. In the middle the skull-faced beast was dying, heaving its chest as it struggled to breathe. The gashes of its skin and the fractures of the carapace around its muzzle brought tears to Leo’s eyes. He walked toward the creature. Burning eyes found him as the wind carried his scent to the creature. It heaved, maw open and ready to snap closed on the boy.

‘You’re hurt.’ He looked over the beast.

‘You need help.’

Leo reached out a hand, touching the bone around the creature’s nose. It snarled, snapping its teeth several times, unable to reach the boy. Blood welled up from its wounds, slowing its movement.

‘Stay still.’

Leo closed his eyes. He could feel the pain living in the creature, and something else. Something deeper. He tried to call it out, gasping as the pain rushed into his small body, knocking him down.

The creature wailed in pain. Leo fought to stay awake as his vision blurred. He shook off the crushing sensation. He had seen Liam take Will’s pain several times before, but he had no idea it took so much strength. He looked to the tin, warm to the touch. He was not strong enough. But he could be if he borrowed some strength.

The creature went quiet as Leo opened the tin, taking the seed in his hand. He felt a jolt of power course through him, forcing a shift. He narrowed his eyes, red like the creature. Red like Theo’s. The same eyes as his father. Leo placed his hand on the creature and reached inside of it, pulling as much pain into himself as he could, knees buckling. The wounds closed. The flesh healed. Still there was pain, unending pain. He wanted to stop, but the voice urged him to keep going, to push past the limit of what he could endure.

Leo barred his teeth, the effort was beginning to tear at his mind. He buckled down. His dads were strong. His pack was strong. He would save this creature no matter what.

###

‘No.’ Liam said. He shook his head. Theo looked away.

‘I’m sorry.’ Theo said. He felt their eyes on him, all of them.

‘I know you. I know you!’ Liam said, ‘And I know Scott. There had to be a reason, Theo. There had to be a reason.’

‘Power.’ Monroe said, holding out her hands, ‘It’s always power. You’re all twisted, greedy creatures. Even the ones with principals like Scott McCall. You all give in eventually. You all turn into monsters.’

‘He didn’t raise a hand to you.’ Theo said, eyes still downcast.

‘Right there!’ Theo pointed up the hill, ‘Right there! He let you beat him within an inch of his life and he didn’t raise a hand to prove to you that he wasn’t what you call us.’

‘No.’ She said, eyes darkening, ‘But you are.’

‘I did what Scott couldn’t.’ Theo said, glancing towards Liam.

‘Is that why you killed him? Because he was weak? Because you had a better purpose for the power of a True Alpha? So you know how rare that is, Theo? I’ve travelled the world these past ten years and of all the thousands of things like you I have only ever seen two others like Scott McCall.’ Monroe smiled again, face twisting with the scars.

‘I would have felt it if he died.’ Liam said.

‘You would have felt if his power had been snuffed out.’ Monroe said, ‘It lives in Theo Raeken.’

‘I didn’t want this. I didn’t want any of this!’ Theo yelled. ‘He made me do it!’

Theo growled, fangs dripping saliva as he watched Monroe’s movements. There was no way he could get to her in time to strike a killing blow. There were too many Hammer soldiers covering her.

‘Theo…’ Liam was confused, frowning.

‘Do you really think I wanted to leave you? That I would run away like that? Scott made me promise, Liam. I swore and oath!’

‘He didn’t make you lie.’ Liam said.

‘How could I tell you the truth? After every thing I’ve done, how could I ever convince you?’ Theo asked. He saw the doubt in his mate’s eyes—just a grain of it, but enough to throw everything into question.

‘Monroe was going to kill Scott, so I killed her.’

‘Almost.’ She corrected.

‘When I was done with her I found him by the nemeton. He wasn’t healing. Monroe threatened us. All of us. I didn’t know she meant the Order then. Neither did Scott. But we knew the nemetons were the key. He made me take his power, Liam. He made me promise to find a way to save everyone.’

‘Enough with this charade.’ She said, taking a pull off of her breather. ‘You talk like people. Act like people. But you are corruption—a blight on the face of this earth. Three times you’ve tried to kill me and each time I rise stronger than the last. This is my army, my crusade. We don’t seek fame or glory. We only seek to be free of abomination and fear. Our names will go unspoken, our deeds will only be noticed in the triumph and unhindered growth of humankind. Your days are over—we have chased you from your caves. We have burnt your forests and cut down your holy trees. There’s no where left to run. The only destiny left for you is beneath the weight of my hammer.’

‘Theo.’ Liam searched the wolf’s face, jaw set. He held out his hand. ‘I meant it when I said no more running. No more lies.’

‘I know I can never—‘

‘Shut up, Cujo.’ Liam grabbed his hand. No hesitation. No uncertainty. The doubt he’d felt for a brief moment was dispelled. Theo looked into Liam’s eyes, nodding. They were together then, even after the truth came out. Together and strong, just like Scott wanted.

Monroe took her helmet from the hands of a vanguard, reattaching it. The scouts and soldiers behind her shifted restlessly—ready to attack. Theo wasn’t sure what was going on at the nemeton but he hadn’t felt any shift in power. He had to assume that David hadn’t finished the ritual, or possibly couldn’t.

Theo looked at his mate. Liam’s face was set—ready to fight. The alpha looked at him, nodding. They released their hands, claws breaking the skin. They would fight as long as they were standing, even if it meant dying together. Even if it meant buying the rest of the pack seconds.

Monroe raised her hand, giving the signal. Theo and Liam roared in unison, charging down the hill towards the impossible wall of soldiers. The scouts raised their weapons, taking aim.

The ground shook and the sun disappeared behind a shadow. Instinct told Theo to back off. He reached out, grabbing Liam’s chest and pulling him backwards as the oathwight landed between them and the Hammer. The creature was shimmering white with pure red eyes. It felt no pain as bullets and blades hit it, looking down at Theo, breath slow and steady before tossing its head back in a deafening roar.

‘Stay away from my dads!’ The voice called out from the top of the hill. Liam looked up to see Leo standing defiant with the red eyes of an alpha. He saw his dad looking and gave a small smile before turning his eyes to the oathwight as it barred into the front line, knocking back the soldiers. The remaining wendigo and berserkers slowly joined the fray, followed by cover fire from Argent and the others.

Theo grabbed Liam, dragging him up the hill. Liam pulled free, darting over to the tree where Malia’s body rested and took her in his arms. When they got to the grove several people with guns closed the gap, firing at the scattered forces as Monroe yelled, rallying them to push back.

Liam handed Malia over to Corey and Mason, pulling his son into a tight hug and ushering him away from the battle field as Theo rushed over to check on Deaton and David.

‘Are you hurt?’ Liam asked, looking him over. Leo shook his head and gave a small smile.

‘I was afraid when those gold people were hurting everyone, and I got worried because I couldn’t find my way home but I knew that if I walked this way I would find you.’

Liam pulled the boy into another hug. If anything happened to Leo he would never be able to forgive himself. At least he was with them. If need be Liam would fight to the death to protect him.

‘Stay by my side, okay? Don’t leave me for anything.’ Liam said, rubbing the boy’s arms. Leo gave a solemn nod.

Theo came to the edge of the nemeton where David was kneeling. His skin was pale and his alpha eyes were showing even without his fangs and claws. Theo looked at the nemeton seals etched into David’s skin—they’d gone silver white, possibly from the effort of the ritual. Theo looked at Deaton. The man shook his head.

‘Theo.’ David’s voice was barely a whisper.

‘What’s wrong?’ Theo asked, falling to his knees beside his friend.

‘We can’t complete the ritual.’ Deaton said.

‘We don’t have the seed.’

‘It might be that. Or it might be something else. The best we can do it put up a temporary barrier. If David is willing to do that.’ Deaton said.

‘You know I am.’

‘It might kill you.’

‘That’s okay. I didn’t have much planned to do tomorrow.’ The werewolf struggled to smile. The grasped Theo’s fist, pulling him close. ‘I told you he loved you.’

‘Thank you.’ Theo said. David nodded and turned to Deaton and Stiles as they made a small circle, completing the ritual. Theo felt the shift of power as the barrier snapped into place around the grove. The oathwight paced at the edge, separated from its prey.

David grimaced in pain, clenching his teeth. Theo reached out, ready to share some of the burden.

‘No.’ David managed to get a grip on the power flowing through him. ‘No. I can do this. Don’t worry about me.’

Theo nodded. Argent and the others had gathered at the edge of the grove, keeping their rifles aimed down at the Hammer forces. Theo heard a commotion and got to his feet to check. David grabbed his hand, stopping him.

‘If I can’t see this through…’

Theo squeezed his hand, feeling the rough callouses. His skin was oddly cold. ‘Any time you want to tag out, let me know.’

The Dene man chuckled, grip loosening as his hand hand fell to his lap—all of his concentration was going to maintaining the barrier now. He gave Theo a gentle wave.

Theo looked down the hill as the Hammer scouts fired at the barrier, bullets deflected harmlessly. As soon as one line ran out of ammo they stepped back, letting the ones behind them move forward so they could shoot. It was like watching a perfect machine try to brute force its way through, making little progress.

Monroe lifted her hand, making every scout cease firing. Theo could feel her one good eye on him, burning a hole through the barrier and straight into his soul. He should have double checked after he tore her to pieces. He clenched his fist, recalling how she brutally beat Scott’s face with the butt of her gun and heels over and over again, working into a frenzy. He knew Scott didn’t approve, but in the moment it was either kill Monroe or let her kill Scott, and McCall might have been willing to become a martyr but Theo wasn’t ready to accept that. Looking down at her now the only thing he regretted was not cutting deeper with his claws.

Monroe held out her hands, taking her ornamental hammer from the vanguards that presented it. She hefted her hammer, bringing it down on the invisible barrier. The white hot energy repelled the weapon, sending it flying and embedding it in a tree.

Monroe turned, whispering orders to the vanguard beside her. The tall figure bowed and ran off, most likely to get another weapon. It was only a matter of time until they got through, or David’s strength ran out.

###

Theo braced for a punch as Liam marched towards him. He was surprised when the alpha pulled him into a deep kiss. He barely managed to kiss back when Liam pushed him away. Then came the punch, but nothing nearly as hard as he’d been expecting.

‘We’re safe as long as David can maintain the barrier.’ Liam said. Theo rubbed his jaw as Liam’s face softened. ‘Listen—‘

Theo felt a dull pain as Leo latched onto his waist.

‘We were looking for you!’ The boy said.

‘We?’

‘Me and the bossy coyote.’ Leo said, pointing to Malia’s panting form as Corey stood over her, working to clear away the poison from the Hammer’s armour and weapons so she could heal. Stiles sat at her feet, stroking her fur—a pensive look on his gaunt face.

‘Will she be okay?’ Leo asked.

‘She’s starting to heal.’ Corey said, glancing up at them. Malia raised her head, panting as he body worked overtime to fix itself. She looked back at Stiles and whined. He muttered something to her, calming her down.

‘She took me here but then she ran away with her pack. I had to listen to the voice.’ Leo said.

‘What voice?’ Liam asked with concern. Leo shrugged.

‘Leo!’ Will spotted the boy, scooping him up in his arms. The boys beamed, squeezing each other tight. ‘Where did you go?! Are you hurt?’

Will nearly jumped out of his skin when he noticed Liam and Theo watching them. Liam gave them a smile, ruffling their hair.

‘Sorry. I just, I was worried about him.’ Will smiled.

‘Why don’t you go help aunt Lydia?’ Liam said, sending the boys off. He watched as they made their way to Lydia who was handing out food to the wounded and recovering supernaturals. The boys each took some from her, talking to the people they fed.

‘You punched me.’ Theo said.

‘You deserved it! Theo what the hell were you thinking? After all that shit why did you keep this from us?’

‘I was worried.’ Theo said, ‘I was afraid you wouldn’t believe me. Any of you. Stiles still doesn’t trust me.’

‘Stiles doesn’t trust his own shadow.’ Liam said, ‘Do you really think I wouldn’t believe you? After everything we went through to be together in the first place? After all those fucking broken noses?’

Theo smiled, looking down at his feet. ‘I know it’s not fair. I know I was stupid. I’m fucked up, White Fang. You know that. When I’m with you, I’m always afraid.’

Liam frowned.

‘Not like that. Like… This whole thing—Monroe, the Hammer… that doesn’t scare me, Liam. It frightens me that they would hurt you and Leo. The same way I’m frightened that you’ll change your mind about me.’

‘I’m not going to change me mind.’ Liam said.

‘I know that. But I don’t.’

‘What? Theo… that makes no sense.’

‘I’m sorry. I’m fucked up. Ten years chasing nemetons hasn’t been the best therapy.’

‘There’s always the next ten years.’ Liam said. Theo almost let it go, but he couldn’t bear to continue to ignore what had come up several times already.

‘Liam, I don’t know if I have ten years. Right now we don’t know if we even have a day.’

‘You’re right.’ Liam said, squaring up his shoulders.

‘I’m sorry, what?’

‘You’re right—one thing at a time. First we’ll find a way to fix the nemeton and send Monroe packing. Then we’ll figure out how to keep you alive. I’m thinking another fifty, sixty years.’

Theo broke into a grin, shaking his head. ‘Why not a hundred?’

‘Now you’re being greedy.’ Liam said, returning the smile. He pushed Theo’s hair out of his eyes, smoothing it back before stroking the wolf’s cheek with the back of his fingers.

‘We’re going to spend every single day together from now on, Cujo. Not a second apart.’

‘You’re serious.’

‘Does it look like I’m serious?’ Liam asked, leaning in close. Theo’s lips were chapped and rough and warm. The kiss was gentle at first, giving way to the urgency and desperation of their situation. Theo grazed Liam’s chin with his fangs before pulling back, flashing a smile. Liam could still see the hesitation, the weight of the world in Theo’s face. But he didn’t care, because as long as Theo was with him he could help work through it. No more secrets, no more deception.

‘Liam.’ Parrish waved them over to the edge of the grove. The alpha watched as the vanguard approached Monroe with an object covered in black cloth. The rest of the pack gathered, assessing the situation.

Monroe pulled back the cloth, gripping the blade by the handle. The sharp edge was copper in color, curving around to make a near half-circle. She raised it, striking the barrier. Instead of glancing off, the barrier wavered where the blade struck. Monroe looked up in their direction. Her Dreadnaught helmet hid her face but Liam knew she was taunting them.

‘What is that?’ Peter asked, leaning forward.

‘A sickle.’ Deaton said, ‘A ritual object used in druidic ceremonies. How she got ahold of it I do not know.’

‘Doesn’t look like much fun.’ Peter folded his arms.

‘Can she break through with it?’ Liam asked.

‘It looked like it’s disrupting the flow of the barrier’s energy. My guess is that eventually she’ll be able to tear a hole in it. That would be enough to break David’s concentration and lower the barrier.’

‘How long?’ Liam asked.

‘A few hours I’d say.’ Deaton frowned, ‘But it’s hard to say.’

‘So we have a few hours to figure out what we’re going to do. We’ve been in worse situations.’ Liam said.

‘Liam, I love you, but you’re a shitty liar.’ Theo said.

Theo looked up in time to catch sight of Stiles a few feet away and closing fast. The punch wasn’t hard but it caught Theo off guard, knocking him to the ground.

‘That’s for killing my best friend. I don’t care if he told you to or not.’ Stiles said before breaking into a coughing fit. Corey handed him another draught of tincture which he drank grudgingly.

Derek pulled Theo to his feet, a pissed off look on his face. In seconds Theo was surrounded by the pack, all of them looking at him with the same expressions he remembered when Liam had pulled him out of the ground fifteen years ago. Mistrust, hesitation, and fear. The only difference this time was a small hand holding his. Leo stood for a second, looking up at Theo with tears in his eyes before hugging him tightly. Liam was the next to join him. Then Mason and Corey, then everyone else. Stiles hung at the fringe, mumbling before opening his arms and joining in.

‘I told you—you’re pack. You belong.’

‘But Scott—‘

‘Scott’s here too.’ Leo said.

‘He’s always with us.’ Melissa said, causing the little boy to frown in confusion.

‘I hate to break up the group hug, but what’s the plan?’ Mason asked.

‘How much ammo do we have?’ Liam asked.

‘Maybe three hundred rounds.’ Argent said.

‘Is that a lot?’

‘Not in a situation like this.’

‘What else do we have?’

‘A giant ghostly creature?’ Stiles pointed down the hill.

‘As long as it’s on this side of the barrier it can’t do much. And when the barrier comes down there’s no way it can take all those soldiers out.’ Lydia said.

‘How fast can we dig?’ Isaac said, earning a glare from Derek. ‘What?’

‘What about the river? It runs some where along the southeast of here. If we could get to it we might be able to ride it right past them.’

‘The injured would never make it.’ Melissa said.

‘This would be a lot easier if we had that damn seed.’ Mason rubbed the back of his neck.

‘This?’ Leo asked, holding out the tin.

Theo frowned. ‘Where did you get it?’

‘In the parking lot. After the metal man attacked and you told me not to look.’ Leo said, glancing at Liam, not sure if he was allowed to tell everything.

‘You can tell him.’ Theo said.

‘It found it when I learned my eyes go the same color as dad’s. But they won’t go back to gold now so maybe I broke them.’ Leo held out the tin. Theo took it carefully.

‘Is that even possible?’ Liam asked. ‘A child as an alpha?’

‘It’s rare, but it’s possible.’ Derek had a thoughtful look on his face.

‘Leo, did you open this?’ Theo asked. The boy nodded. ‘Did it make you feel bad? Like sick?’

‘No, but it made Will feel awful.’

‘You knew about this?’ Liam asked, looking at the teen lingering on the edge of the group.

‘I told him to give it to you!’ Will said.

‘I tried to. But I was afraid that Theo would get hurt with it like when you were talking. And Theo’s my new dad and I don’t want him to go away.’

‘Oh my little lion.’ Liam hugged the boy close.

‘Daaad.’

Theo chuckled, pulling the boy and his mate into an embrace. This would turn the tide in their favour.

###

‘So how does it work?’ Mason asked. A few of them were gathered at the nemeton with David, looking at the tin.

‘This is a nemeton seed. There are only ever seven nemetons in the world at a time. If one is destroyed a different nemeton grows fruit with a single seed to restore the balance.’ David managed to speak slowly.

‘So we plant this here?’ Liam said, gesturing to the stump. David nodded.

‘We’ll need seven surrogates to stand in for the full ritual, using Stiles as a touchstone.’ Deaton said.

‘Touch what?’ Stiles asked.

‘I can do it alone.’ David spoke.

‘You’re too weak now.’ Deaton said.

Theo opened his mouth, only to close it when he caught sight of Liam’s glare.

‘The seed is potent. Usually only alphas can handle it.’

‘So we need seven alphas, plus stiles.’ Liam said.

‘Or vessels like David and Theo.’

‘But they’re already alphas so it doesn’t matter. And it’s not like we have a spare Theo kicking around.’

‘Peter, Derek, Liam, Theo, David, Stiles, and Leo.’ Deaton said.

‘Not Leo.’ Liam frowned.

‘Liam, he’s already touched the seed. Next to Theo and David he’s more experienced than any of us.’

Liam looked at his son, ‘Will he be in danger?’

‘Anything to do with the nemeton is dangerous,’ Deaton said, ‘But I believe that with the other six alphas to support him the risk will be minimal.’

‘What do you think, Leo?’

‘I want to help!’

Liam gave a small nod.

‘That makes six alphas. We need one more.’ Mason said.

‘What about Isaac?’ Derek asked. Deaton shook his head.

‘The power of the ritual would be uneven. It might even backlash and kill everyone here.’

‘Cross out that option.’ Stiles muttered.

‘We’re so close! After all of this there has to be a way. There has to be something we can do.’ Mason said.

‘Where are we going to find another alpha? Unless one of the betas here feels like suddenly evolving there’s nothing we can do.’ Stiles said.

‘Why don't we ask him?’ Leo said, pointing down the hill. The oathwight paced, clicking its jaws together, eager to get to its enemies.

Silence filled the grove.

‘Theo what happened to Scott’s body?’ Deaton asked, holding his chin in thought.

‘When I came back with help it was gone.’

‘And you left him here, at the nemeton after taking his power?’ Deaton asked. Theo nodded. ‘Corey, the bestiary, what did it say about oathwights?’

‘Well they’re spectres. Spirits. Kind of like undead creatures that exist for a single purpose.’

‘Theo, this is important—when you promised Scott, what did you say, where did you say it?’

‘Here,’ Theo gestured to the stump, ‘I promised to keep everyone safe. To keep the nemetons safe.’

Corey’s eye opened wide, ‘An oathwight is only created when a strong spirit makes an oath… usually for vengeance or—‘

‘Protection.’ Theo finished. He looked down at the creature, eyes narrowing as he got to his feet.

‘Theo what are you doing?’

‘Giving back something I borrowed.’

Theo broke into a run. He heard Liam call his name but he couldn’t stop, not if there was a chance for Scott to live, no matter how slim. They needed a seventh alpha, and Theo was more than willing to relinquish the strength and speed he’d been using for the past ten years.

The oathwight was too fixated on the Hammer trying to break the barrier to notice his approach. Theo glanced at the creature’s huge body. He had no idea what he was doing. He had no idea if it was even possible, but he had to try. He unsheathed his claws as the beast turned, catching his scent—red eyes meeting red eyes as Theo grave a roar and leaped onto its back.

It hissed, trying to buck him off. Theo held fast, claws digging into flesh that felt more ethereal than solid. He managed to climb the oathwight’s neck, faintly aware of Liam shouting. From the corner of his eye Theo saw Leo approach the creature’s maw, Malia in tow. Every instinct in him screaming to leap down and protect the boy, but as soon as Leo’s hand made contact the beast calmed. Malia rested her head on the oathwight’s foot, shallow breaths matching those of the beast’s.

Leo looked up at Theo and nodded—they were ready.

Theo took a deep breath, plunging his claws into the flesh of the creature’s neck. Whatever it was made of gave way easily, claws sinking into the brain stem. Theo wasn’t good at taking memories. He wasn’t good at anything a normal alpha could do—his power was never his own. He wasn’t sure what to do next. When he took pain it was a matter of letting the pain flow in, but the flow of that exchange was natural. It was like opening a dam. This was different, like forcing a river to run upstream back to a lake.

Theo gritted his teeth, roaring as the creature wailed in pain. He dug deep past everything he held inside, past his pain and regret, past happiness and hope until he came to the centre of his being where a roaring fire raged. He took it and pushed it with all the strength he could muster—forcing it back to the place it came from. At first there was resistance, like two magnets fighting each other. With one final shove Theo felt the power connect with its owner and suddenly it was draining out of him faster than he could control. The pain went with it. The sadness. The guilt. Theo struggled to pull his claws free—if he didn’t break the connection the nemeton power was going to follow the spark of the True Alpha he had willingly given up.

Strong hands grabbed him, yanking him off the back of the beast. He landed on top of Liam, lungs refusing to draw breath. Liam was on top of him in a flash, fists pounding Theo’s chest, as if he could beat the older wolf’s lungs into submission. Theo flailed, reaching for his mate’s arms to stop them as he finally took a breath. Liam looked down at Theo, still in full shift. Theo’s eyes were bright blue.

‘You did it.’ Liam said, but Theo didn’t hear him. He was staring past Liam at the naked figure of Scott McCall standing in the middle of the forest, looking down at his hands. He noticed Theo looking and turned to face them. Theo felt his breath catch in his throat. Liam made a soft whimper. Scott smiled, face un-aged since the day Theo took his power and he became an oathwight. A seventh alpha to complete the ritual and save them all.

Scott frowned, taking in the sight of them.

‘You guys got old.’

Chapter Text

‘Scott?’ Liam couldn’t believe his eyes. The alpha gave a lopsided smile.

‘Liam!’ Scott pulled him into a hug as Lydia approached with a blanket, eyes wide.

‘Lydia! Theo!’ Scott pulled them close as they got the blanket around him. They stepped back, the still air filling the spaces between. Scott looked down, spotting Leo gently petting Malia.

‘I remember you.’ Scott said, kneeling down to face the boy. ‘You helped me.’

Leo looked at the man, a low growl involuntary coming from his throat as he recognized the presence of another alpha.

‘Leo—‘ Liam started to step forward, stopping in his tracks as Scott shifted, fangs growing and eyes burning red. He let out a roar that seemed to shake the air itself. The survivors in the grove fell quiet. The Hammer on the other side of the barrier paused their effort, stunned.

Scott threw his head back, roaring again—calling to all of the supernaturals to rally. To gather. He looked down at Leo, alpha to alpha. The boy ducked his head, eyes falling in submission. Scott smiled, letting the tips of his claws rest on the back of Leo’s neck, accepting his submission.

‘Theo…’ Scott said, still looking down at Leo. He bend his knee, running his hand through Malia’s fur. The coyote stirred, licking Scott’s hand slowly.

‘I kept my promise.’ Theo said, blue eyes defiant. Scott took them in, glancing over the wolf’s tired body. He looked to Theo’s hand, entwined with Liam’s.

‘She never left me. The whole time, not for a single day.’ Scott stroked Malia’s head, a sad smile on his face. ‘I’ve taken so much from all of you. But you two more than anyone.’

Theo felt Liam bristle.

‘I’m sorry.’ Scott said, ‘It wasn’t my place to ask you to give up everything.’

‘It was my choice.’ Theo said.

‘No.’ Scott said, ‘I knew you would do it when I made you swear. I knew… I knew that it would end things between you and Liam. At least for awhile. If I could give you back those years I would. If I could have been standing in your place, I would.’

Theo nodded, unsure what to say. Scott held out his arm, waiting. Theo hesitated, looking to Liam. The alpha was pissed off but gave a grudging nod. Theo reached out, letting Scott pull him into a tight embrace.

‘Brother.’ Scott spoke low so only he could hear, ‘You’ve done more for me than I can ever repay you for.’

Theo had no words. He took in the scent of his alpha. A scent that brought back pain and regret along with pride and acceptance.

‘Monroe…’ Theo started to speak. How could he explain everything to Scott after a decade of fighting and struggle.

‘I smell her. In the black.’ Scott sighed.

‘I hate to break this up but we’re kind of pressed for time.’ Derek said, leaning in to hug Scott. ‘It’s good to see you, McCall.’

‘Zero hour as usual?’ Scott asked, lifting Malia in his arms and carrying her.

‘You’re late. Like way late.’ Stiles said, hugging his friend. Some color had come back to Stile’s cheeks as a few hot tears got past his attempt to hold everything in.

‘You know me.’ Scott beamed. As they stepped into the grove hushed whispers came from the survivors, all eager to see the return of Scott McCall. He took a moment to greet his mother and the others. Liam hung back, glaring at him. He relaxed as Theo rubbed his back.

‘You’re pissed.’ Theo said, earning a new glare from his mate. ‘I know the look.’

‘You could’ve been torn apart.’ Liam said.

‘But I didn’t. And I brought Scott back.’

Liam’s look was steady, fixed on his eyes—no longer red, but the blue that marked him a monster. Part of him knew Liam wouldn’t turn him away, but a deeper part always wondered, always questioned. Always doubted he would be able to stay at the alpha’s side.

Liam grabbed his shirt suddenly, holding him in a death grip. Theo’s eyes darted to Liam, trying to read the intense emotions beneath the stone surface that was the alpha’s face. Finally Theo looked away, unable to take the intensity of Liam’s stare.

Liam lifted his chin, continuing to glare. Theo tried to look away, but Liam wouldn’t let him.

‘I said it before, I don’t care what color your eyes are.’

‘I’m a killer.’ Theo rested his forehead against Liam’s.

‘Not anymore.’

Theo shook his head, burying his face in Liam’s mane. ‘I would gladly kill again to protect this family.’

‘That’s a pretty fucked up way to say I love you.’ Liam whispered.

‘I’d do anything for you. You know that, right?’

‘Then stop acting like an asshole every five seconds.’

‘Okay, almost anything.’ Theo grinned.

‘Theo.’ Deaton’s hand on the beta’s shoulder shook Liam and Theo from their reverie. The others were standing, speaking in whispers to Scott. ‘They’re near to breaking through the barrier.’

Liam looked down to Monroe, hacking at the barrier with the sickle—the barrier was scarring, a pale white patch hanging in mid-air. He couldn’t hear what was going on from this side of the barrier but the movement of her body suggested screaming. Rage.

‘What do we need to do?’ Scott asked.

‘With you we have enough to complete the ritual and regrow the nemeton.’ David said, voice weak.

‘Regrow the nemeton?’ Scott frowned.

‘Yeah, I thought it was pretty messed up to want to fix the evil tree, too.’ Stiles said, slapping his friend on the back.

‘The nemeton isn’t evil, or good. It’s a conduit—a balance of things. Pure power. If we’re able to direct that power we can make sure that it’s used to protect us.’ Theo said.

‘And what happens to them?’ Scott asked, looking at the Hammer soldiers rallying behind Monroe.

‘I’m not sure.’ Deaton said, ‘It might wipe out their memories. Or it could crush them all in an instant. Any creature with malice in its heart towards the supernatural here will be affected.’

‘They made their choice.’ Theo said.

‘It might kill them.’ Scott said.

‘You don’t get to show up out of nowhere and start telling us what we can do, Scott. Do you know how many of us died at their hands?’ Liam said, ‘How many of my pack are dead? Peter’s pack? Isaac’s?’

Scott’s eyes darted to Isaac, who glanced at the alpha with a wounded look. Derek’s hand rested on the beta’s shoulder. Scott looked down, confused.

‘If we do this and they die, how is it different from us killing them individually?’ Scott asked.

‘This is it, Scott. You can choose to help us or you can be merciful to them. Either way people die.’ Peter said.

‘Theo and David risked their lives to give us this chance. We’ve all given up so much. Too much to turn around now. There’s no stopping them, no reasoning with them. If the nemeton sees fit to wipe them off the face of the earth I say let it.’ Derek said.

‘This is our family, Scott. Our pack. More than that, this will protect people like us all over the world.’ Liam said. ‘I don’t want any one to die, but they’ve committed themselves to wiping us out. What we do here, it might kill them, it might not. But I do know it will save us.’

‘We all do this together.’ Theo said. Scott looked at Leo.

‘Even him?’

Leo gave a stern nod.

‘If I could spare him…’ Liam didn’t have any more words. He pulled Leo close, rubbing the boy’s back. The life they lived often tossed the youngest into danger. As long as he was around, or Theo was there, Leo would always have someone to watch over him.

Scott sighed. ‘How do we do this?’

###

David winced at every blow Monroe struck against the barrier. Everyone could feel it writhe and quiver, but David kept it in place as best he could without expending any extra energy. He looked at Theo, busy gazing at Liam with blue eyes. He collected himself. This was going to take everything he had left.

‘We should hurry.’ David said, earning a nod from everyone.

They stood around the nemeton, the barrier buckling and shuddering all around them. Theo opened the tin, the raw power of the nemeton seed washing over them all at once. Liam clenched his teeth, feeling the power inside respond in turn, drawing out a full shift. He looked around the circle—everyone of them with the red eyes of an alpha except Theo.

‘Theo, your eyes.’ Liam said. The older wolf looked at his mate, eyes silver-white. Theo grinned. He crushed the outer shell of the seed, exposing the small seed within. It burned white-hot in Theo’s hand, floating up into the air of its own power. Liam’s knees buckled. He felt Theo’s hand catch his, then Leo’s grabbing the other, each of them reaching out until a circle was formed, making a net to contain the awesome force of the nemeton.

Scott looked up as the seed hovered over the torn stump, shimmering in the air. It was beautiful, but the crackle of power that radiated from it felt deadly. He felt like it would have been impossible for any one living creature to wield the power. Even with seven of them the force of it barely felt contained.

Liam looked at Theo and David as all the sound bled away from the clearing. The tattoos on their bodies glowing with the same light as the seed. He felt Theo’s hand slip and reached back out to get a better grip. Before his fingers could close Theo was gone.

###

Theo was blind. Everything burned white—there was nothing else. No scents, no sounds. He fought to find purchase on ground that didn’t exist. Gradually the light dimmed, letting his eyes adjust until he could see his feet were resting in a white field that looked like snow, but wasn’t cold.

He reached down, scooping up a handful of white flower petals before letting them flutter to the ground. Beneath the petals were bones bleached white in the sun. Theo looked up to the horizon—it went on forever.

He felt something behind him, a tug on the tattoos etched into his skin. He turned. The stump of the old nemeton was easy to see—a black, gnarled mess in the otherwise bright landscape. Someone sat on its edge, waiting. Theo made his way towards them, bones shattering to dust beneath his feet.

He came to a stop a dozen feet away. He couldn’t remember seeing her like this it had been so long. Tara sat, humming quietly. Something their mother used to do, he vaguely remembered. Her hair was straight, her skin was bright. She looked up at him with a gentle smile.

‘I’ve been waiting for you, Theo.’

‘I’m dead.’ He said, hand instinctively going to his chest. Her smile saddened when she saw the gesture, shaking her head.

‘No, Theo. This is a place between life and death. The razor’s edge between two worlds. This is the precipice of choice.’ She stood, walking around the stump slowly.

‘The others…’ He watched her move.

‘They’re safe. But there’s one you worry about more, isn’t there?’

‘Liam.’

‘And Leo.’

Theo nodded.

‘Are they alright?’

‘Yes.’ She said, ‘They’re safe. They will be safe no matter what you decide here because of everything you’ve given up, Theo.’

His shoulders sagged with relief. She was there suddenly, in front of him. Part of him wanted to jump back, waiting for the sharp plunge of her hand into his chest. Instead she laid a hand over his heart.

‘I forgive you, Theo. I forgave you a long time ago.’

‘But the skin walkers…’

‘The prison the skin walkers have is nothing more than a mirror. It draws out the darkest, most shameful regrets and gives them life. You are punished by what’s inside. A truly virtuous person would experience nothing there. You experienced what you thought you deserved.’

Theo blinked, trying to understand. Surly he didn’t hate himself that much that his mind would create that hell for him to experience over and over. But he did remember accepting it, embracing it even, because he knew he deserved it. That he was a monster.

‘You can be a monster if that’s what you wish.’ Tara said.

‘I don’t understand.’ Theo said.

‘Just like the punishment the skin walkers gave, you’ve picked the path you feel you deserve. An instrument of death with blood-stained hands. A weapon. But there’s something else to it. I know you see it, feel it. It’s there when you look at your mate. It’s there in the small moments when you smile. You say you’re a monster with a purpose, but in reality it’s just a mask you wear.’

‘You’re not Tara.’ He said, frowning. She smiled.

‘Part of me is Tara, because part of her is in you. And part of me is the nemeton, because that too is part of you right now.’

‘What do you want?’ Theo asked.

‘Right now, out there, you and your friends have been pushed to the brink. The Order of The Hammer will fall on you and you will all die. They will snuff out the seed and throw the wold into chaos. What you call supernatural and normal are both part of the same thing—they cannot be separated any more than day and night. One blends into the next, and on and on, forever. To remove one is to destroy both.’

‘We completed the ritual.’ Theo said. Tara shook her head. With a snap of her fingers they stood in the grove, walking through frozen time. Theo could see Liam’s desperate face looking at his frozen body, their hands gripped firmly together.

The rest of the grove was in chaos—faces frozen in snarls, guns raised, claws in the air. The barrier flicked and hummed, torn open my Monroe who marched towards them, an army at her heels, frozen in time.

Theo studied them carefully.

‘You can’t interfere. They can’t see you. This is an instant, stretched out to forever.’ She said.

‘Why?’

‘The precipice of choice.’ Tara said sadly. Theo looked at the circle of alphas—his friends, his pack. His mate.

‘You want me to choose who will die.’ Theo said.

‘Not quite.’ Tara closed her eyes.

‘In the forest beyond here there are hundreds of bodies—fallen soldiers of the Order. The creatures here have been gathering sacrifices for weeks. There are enough here to fully regrow the nemeton. But every fire needs a spark of power to ignite it.’

‘Take me.’ Theo said, eyes darting to Liam—his mate would never forgive him.

Tara came to Theo, taking his head in her hands. He looked into her eyes, recognizing the look she used to make when she was trying to explain something to him.

‘You are not enough. I’m sorry.’

‘You’re asking me to kill one of my friends!’

‘They would become human if they survive. The spark of power is all that’s needed.’ Tara said.

‘If they survive.’

‘Nothing in life is without risk, Theo. You know this.’

‘It’s wrong. You can’t ask me to do this.’

‘A price has to be paid. Normally the nemeton would follow the path of least resistance, taking the weakest to the strongest until it’s sated. But you were in a rush, and things were cobbled together. You have to choose.’

‘What if I don’t? What if I refuse?’

‘Then we stay here, like this, forever. Not moving forward or backward. A single moment for all eternity. Nothing bad will happen, but life will stop. You’ll rob Leo of every mistake he will make. You’ll rob Liam of your smile. Your laugh. You’ll deny Mason and Corey to each other. Deny the world the chance to exist. Perfect stasis.’

Theo looked at the circle of alphas.

‘I can’t do it. I can’t choose. I should be enough.’ Theo whispered.

‘I’m sorry little brother.’ Tara’s arms wrapped around him. ‘Despite what you think you didn’t deserve any of this. You deserve to be happy, like anyone else.’

Theo didn’t know what to do as he embraced Tara.

‘You’ve sacrificed so much, Theo. Let some one else pay. Scott—who said he would trade places with you if he was able. David—who was as ready to do this as you. Derek or Peter—both have lived full lives. You shouldn’t have to bear this burden on your own. You’ve redeemed yourself ten times over, Theo. You can stop running.’

‘If I pick any of them then I’m exactly what I say I am.’ He said.

‘You said it yourself, the nemeton is not good or evil. It’s a force of nature. This is simply the path that nature has taken’

‘What if you take everything. I mean, more than the spark of power. What if you take the spark of life.’

‘Theo…’ Tara paused, looking over at Liam.

‘You would do that to him?’

‘It’s not just about us.’ Theo said, ‘It’s for the balance. For the world.’

Theo looked at the face of his mate. He heart ached that he would never get to kiss him again, never get to see him smile. That Liam would never forgive him for sacrificing himself. But there was no way he could let any of them take this on without knowing what was happening. There was no way he could live and bear the knowledge that he had made such a choice. It had to be him. If he had to die so everyone could be safe, then he would do it.

He looked at Tara and gave a nod. She shook her head, touching his face. Her hands were warm and he felt calm.

‘Theo, remember—you were loved. You are loved.’ She said. He nodded, closing his eyes as the warmth from her hands spread through him. His body relaxed, feeling all of the hard battles, all the weary years fade away and vanish. There was no pain. There was no peace. There was only warmth.

Then it was ripped away.

###

Theo screamed as claws dug into his forearms. Liam’s face greeted him, fury in his eyes. Wind and light ripped around them. Theo had been pulled out of the place between two worlds. He looked to his other arm—David’s claws holding him in place. The alpha’s eyes told him everything. David had been in his own version of the same place.

The wind roared, pushing everyone away, ally and Hammer alike. David lunged forward, tearing his claws from Theo’s arm and extending them. Liam’s eyes widened as he watched the alpha roar, going in for the killing stroke aimed directly at Theo. He tried to move but the force of the nemeton kept him in place.

Theo met David’s eyes—he didn’t blame the man for choosing him. He watched the sharp claws sink into his heart, blood running down his chest. David grinned up at him and gave a wink.

You know we don’t share our power with the bite like you do.

Theo felt his lungs struggle to draw breath as the tips of David’s claws sank into his beating heart.

David leaned against Theo, chest heaving ‘Whatever I have left is yours. I give it freely. My final gift. Use the years wisely.’

Theo grabbed David’s wrist, looking at his missing arm, recalling his words.

‘It’ll take weeks to heal, even with help from the nemeton. And that’s energy that we can’t afford to lose right now.’

‘You knew this would happen. You were preserving power.’

David smiled.

‘You have a more important job.’ David looked at Liam and Leo, buffeted by the windows around the nemeton.

‘Take it.’ David said and Theo felt his heart jolt as David pushed his spark of power into Theo, red eyes fading to silver-white. ‘I give this power and all the responsibility that comes wth it freely.’

David pulled his claws free before stepping back to the centre of the stump, tattoos flaring white.

‘Goodbye my friend.’ David said. Before Theo could answer and thundering boom cracked down from the sky as the shining light from the seed dove into the earth. The ground shook and heaved. Theo reached out, grabbing Liam and Leo, keeping them safe. The roots of the nemeton snaked through the soil, sinking into every fallen body nearby, drawing strength from the sacrifices. A high pitched noise deafened them.

Liam dug his claws deeper into Theo, pulling him close as a small seedling took root in the centre of the nemeton stump. Theo’s tattoos burnt off, the wolf screaming in pain as whatever power the nemeton had granted him was stripped away to fuel the growth of the tree in front of them. Theo grabbed Liam, pulling Leo between their bodies to protect him. Theo struggled to stay upright, body weak from accepting David’s power and then having the nemeton take back what he had borrowed. Liam supported him, drawing him close. Leo wrapped his arms around Theo’s waist to keep him from falling back. Liam turned their bodies, wind and pure power tearing the skin from his back as he shielded his mate and son.

Monroe yelled, forcing her gaze up from where the nemeton had forced them to the ground, wind too strong to fight. She gripped the sickle in her hand—Scott was too far to get too but Liam was within her reach.

She forced herself to her feet, chunks of her armour torn away by the gale circling the grove. She gritted her teeth and pressed forward. Even if this was the end she could do this one thing. One last act in defiance of these twisted creatures.

Theo saw her first, looming over them. The inner strength needed to fight the forces swirling around them would have to be nearly supernatural itself. Monroe sneered down at them—a face twisted by scars and numerous surgeries. The curved blade was raised above her head, aimed directly at Liam. It came down as the other alpha turned his head, eye widening.

Theo roared with pain as the blade drove into his palm. He blood leaked down, covering Liam and Leo. Theo struggled to his feet, using the leverage to push Monroe to her knees, blade still embedded in Theo’s hand.

‘This isn’t over. More will come.’ She said. Theo had to strain to hear her words over the whip of the branches and leaves.

‘No.’ Theo shook his head. ‘This is the end.’

‘Kill me then, like the monster you are.’ She sneered. Theo pulled the sickle free from his hand, holding it in a bloody fist.

Liam clutched Leo. He watched as Theo raised the blade over his head. With his new strength a single swipe would tear through Monroe like tissue paper.

Theo tossed the blade as far as he could throw it, launching it outside of the grove and beyond Monroe’s grasp. He leaned in close, grabbing her hand and hold it out, putting his claws next to hers.

‘Claws and fangs don’t make a monster.’ Theo said. Monroe grabbed his throat, trying to use what little strength she had to kill him. Theo remained perfectly still, he could feel the moment beneath him as the tree rapidly grew, branches extending. He didn’t flinch when the roots shot out of the soil into Monroe’s body. She chocked, blood flowing down her face as she released Theo. He stepped back, watching the roots emerge from her mouth and drive back into the ground.

Liam’s hand found his as the sound behind them changed. They turned to face the nemeton, now nearly a hundred feet tall, new but ancient. Behind them the roots of the tree found every Hammer solider, the body of every hunter and fallen body in the forest,—drawing power from the sacrifice of life to grow strong.

The wind died down slowly, a small breeze settling in the grove. The survivors stood, wounds healed. They all came to the base of the great tree, protected by its shadow.

Scott collapsed, grabbing a thick root at the nemeton’s base. He caught Isaac’s scent, coloured with concern and hesitation. Tears were running down Scott’s face. He wiped them away as he stood.

‘I saw her.’ He said. ‘In the place beyond here. I saw Allison.’

Isaac stiffened. Scott pulled him closer. It made sense that she would be there—they had tired part of themselves to the nemeton all those years ago. The small part of her that remained had not spoken, but she’d smiled at him. Embraced him. Sent him back to the world.

Isaac held Scott in a tight embrace, sharing the pangs of regret and joy that coursed through the alpha.

Scott exhaled, spotting the carnage the nemeton wrought on the Hammer. He knelt down by Monroe’s body, nothing more than a dried out husk slowly being pulled into the earth. He’d tried more than once to turn her away from the path of war. There was nothing he could have done to prevent this turn of events, but the guilt still weighed on him. He felt a hand wrap around him, turning to see Malia smiling at him. Had he been the only one to escape age the past ten years? It didn’t matter. He drew her close as he felt another presence hovering to his side.

He smiled at Isaac, catching the beta’s heart speeding up. He held out an arm, pulling the other man close once more. He was well aware of the reasons Isaac left. Maybe now they would be able to sort things out, or at least start to.

Theo rested a hand on the trunk of the nemeton. David had become a Guardian of the grove—he could feel his presence everywhere and nowhere.

Liam came from behind, pulling Theo to his chest. Theo relaxed into his mate’s grip.

‘It was supposed to be me.’ He said, touching his chest, ‘Now I have two things that don’t belong to me in here.’

Liam’s hand folded over top of his, resting his head in the crook of Theo’s neck. ‘Everything that’s here belongs to you, Cujo. Theo. It’s yours.’

Theo nodded. ‘Thank you.’

‘Thank you? Are you sure you’re okay?’ Liam smiled, pressing his free hand to the werewolf’s forehead.

‘Better than you.’ Theo said, turning to face Liam. ‘I’m sorr—‘

Liam covered his mouth, smiling. ‘No more, Theo. We’re all out of “sorry” here. Okay?’

Theo nodded, grinning. He leaned in, gently bringing Liam’s mouth to his in a tender kiss. Liam pulled back, looking in his mate’s eyes before going in for another kiss, deeper and more intense.

Leo giggled beside them. Will rolled his eyes, trying to keep the blush off his face as he folded his arms.

Theo ended the kiss, a smile spreading across his face.

‘What now?’

‘This isn’t the end. Things are going to keep happening.’

‘You know all the right things to say, White Fang.’ Theo said. He wasn’t sure how many extra years David had given him along with his power. But he was more than happy to spend them in Beacon Hills with the man he loved.

‘See?’ Liam said, nuzzling into Theo’s neck, ‘One problem at a time. All worked out.’

‘You have no idea how lucky we are.’ Theo said.

‘Trust me, I have a pretty good idea.’ Liam said. ‘And speaking of one thing at a time…’

Liam patted his chest, frowning as he couldn’t find what he was looking for.

‘You need these?’ Leo asked, holding up the gold bands by a leather strip around his neck. He slipped it off, handing it to Liam. ‘I found it in the leaves. I thought you’d be mad if you lost it.’

Liam beamed, ruffling the boy’s hair. He snapped the rawhide that held the rings together and let them fall into his open palm. The sunlight peeked though the nemeton’s leaves, giving the rings a warm glow.

Liam gestured for Theo’s hand. The wolf rolled his eyes and held out his finger with a deep chuckle. Liam slid the ring home, releasing it as Theo gave a sharp inhale. He hadn’t expected the small gesture to hit him so hard.

Theo took the other ring from Liam’s finger, finding his mate’s hand and lifting it up. He winked at Liam, causing him to blush as Theo slid the ring on his finger, settling at the base.

Liam smiled, pressing their hands together, stealing a small kiss.

‘Dad I’m hungry.’ Leo said.

‘Wait a minute.’ Both Theo and Liam said in unison, making the boy beam. Theo shook his head as they got ready to leave.

Liam supported him, legs still wobbly. They walked away from the nemeton, following the others. Theo stopped, looking up at the tree. He’d come back later and bury the claws of his friends at its roots. David would watch over them. The nemeton was awake and alive, watching them as much as they were watching it.

Liam waited for Theo to finish before they continued on their way, Leo and Will beside them.

Ahead of them Derek and Peter were arguing with Lydia. Stiles was talking Scott’s ear off—Malia and Isaac at his side. Melissa and Argent were near Scott as well, whispering to each other. Parrish helped Nolan and Alec corral some of the smaller kids to stay together as they walked along the foot path back to Beacon Hills. Corey and Mason leaned on each other, smiling and chatting with Deaton as they walked.

A light smile played at the corner of Theo’s lips. This was his pack. This was his home. He pulled Liam closer, earning a small grunt and a flick to the ear.

This was where he belonged.

Chapter Text

Theo set the plate down on the counter, glaring at the hamburgers. When did using a barbecue become so difficult? He’d looked away for one minute and all the meat had burnt. He knew anyone with a good sense of smell would avoid them, but there were a few humans at the party that might pick away at them. He wrapped the plate in tinfoil as Mason and Corey came in, whispering to each other.
Corey winked at Theo as they got close. Theo smiled and shook his head.

‘What is that?’ Mason narrowed his eyes, Corey at his side.

‘It’s supposed to be Liam and me.’ Theo said, looking at the picture on the fridge of two wobbly figures in tuxedos.

‘What are you doing exactly?’ Corey said, studying it.

‘Uh, getting married.’

‘I’m surprised he didn’t draw Spiderman in there.’ Mason said.

‘Huh?’ Theo tilted his head.

‘Leo.’ Mason nodded at the drawing as Will ran through the kitchen to the backyard.

‘Hey you saw my drawing!’ Will said, sliding to a stop.

Mason glanced at Corey, then Theo. The werewolf gave a small shrug.

‘I let Leo color it. He did his best but he’s just a kid.’ Will grabbed a bag of ice from the freezer.

‘Will! Ice!’ Liam yelled from outside.

The teenager’s goofy grin was directed at Theo. The tall wolf rubbed his arm.

They all watched Will bolt outside, a bundle of energy.

‘He has a huge crush.’ Corey said.

‘He has the biggest crush.’ Mason laughed as Theo’s cheeks burned.

‘It’s not funny. We’ve talked to him three times about it and he still looks at me like I’m some kind of—‘

‘Superhero?’

‘Meat market?’

Theo frowned at the couple as they burst out laughing. Mason patted him on the shoulder.

‘I never thought I’d see the day Theo Raeken was embarrassed enough he turned red.’

‘He’s sixteen.’ Corey said, looking at Will standing next to Liam, staring at the barbecue. ‘He’ll get over it.’

‘How’s Leo doing?’ Mason asked. Over the past few months they’d been busy rebuilding the town. Unable to explain what had happened the official reports had details about a vigilante group taking over the town and trying to occupy the wildlife preserve. People had been slow to return, and half of Beacon Hills had been razed to the ground, leaving piles of rubble and splintered wood where houses once were. Several of the main roads and been destroyed, and it had taken them weeks to recover all of the bodies. The supernaturals without families were buried next to the nemeton grove. The Hammer’s attack had resulted in supernaturals and the humans of the town coming together stronger than ever. One of the first things to be built was a temporary school. Nolan had resumed teaching, and the fact that Leo was a werewolf made him more popular than ever.

‘He’s over the moon.’ Theo smiled. ‘Liam, Scott, and the other alphas nearby are meeting with the mayor to work out how these new relationships are going to work. I don’t envy them.’

‘I thought you were an alpha, too.’ Corey said, leaning against the fridge.

‘I’m retired.’ Theo gave a sad smile. The unspoken words hung in the air—Theo’s time was limited. Deaton had discussed it and gone over the rituals Theo and David had performed at each nemeton. While it was had to say exactly how long Theo had, Deaton was guessing his life span matched a normal human’s more than a werewolf. Theo didn’t want the power that had come with David’s gift, and he pledged only to use it to help the pack, deferring to Liam’s leadership.

Scott was still adjusting to the world. He didn’t remember most of his time roaming the forest protecting the nemeton, and he was ten years behind all of them. His return re-forged the bonds they had been missing, and the old pack assembled to support Liam and Derek’s new pack. Peter was gruff as usual, retreating to the fringes of the city with the few pack members he found had survived. Isaac was spending a lot of time with the McCall pack, catching up with Scott and trying to find a way to bridge the gaps in their relationship.

Malia was a big help, constantly corralling them together. She hadn’t been able to take human form again in the months that followed the end of the final battle. Deaton wasn’t optimistic that she would ever be able to regain her human form, not after she’d spent so much of her life as a coyote. Scott held out hope that she would figure it out. She’d taken to sleeping in a pile on Scott and Isaac, growling if anyone came over to disturb her boys.

‘Any progress with finding the rest of the Hammer?’ Theo asked.

‘Deaton and Alec are working with Stiles to pinpoint all of their safe houses and strongholds. There aren’t many left. Most of them prefer to die in battle though.’ Corey said.

‘What about the other nemetons?’ Mason asked, looking at Theo.

‘As soon as David finished the ritual they all woke.’

‘Like completing a supernatural circuit.’ Mason mused. ‘So that means they’re protecting us.’

‘It also means the supernatural world is going to go into hyperdrive.’ Theo said.

‘Hyperdrive.’ Mason raised an eyebrow.

‘What?’

‘Liam’s making you watch Star Wars.’ Mason beamed. Corey rolled his eyes.

‘Liam’s not making me do anything. I wanted to watch it.’ Theo frowned.

‘Basically,’ Corey interrupted, ‘things are gonna be cranked up here from now on.’

‘Not just here. Everywhere.’ Theo said.

‘So much for sticking it out until I retire in peace.’ Mason said. Corey nudged him.

‘You’d die of boredom.’

‘Me? I’m so low key. Super low key.’ Mason held up his hands.

‘You thrive on the drama of everything falling apart and the desperate plans that save us.’ Corey said.

‘Okay, fine. But it keeps me on my toes.’ Mason said, ‘Can’t deny that.’

It was true that in the aftermath of the chaos they’d all fallen into the roles that best suited them—each one of their strengths complementing everyone around them, like a true pack. Or a few true packs.

Argent and Deaton were off cleaning up every trace of the Hammer they could find. Melissa and Parrish had doubled down in order to fix as much of Beacon Hills as fast as possible. There were a lot of reports and investigations, but so far they’d been managing everything well.

‘Hey.’ Liam said, wiping his hands off on his apron as he came inside. He leaned over, kissing his mate as Theo snaked an arm around Liam’s waist.

‘We’ve been yelling for you for like ten minutes. Food’s done.’ Liam said.

Corey and Mason headed for the barbecue. Theo followed but was stopped by Liam’s grip on his hand.

‘What’s wrong?’ Theo asked.

‘For the first time in a long time, nothing.’ Liam smiled and pulled Theo close, pressing their foreheads together and wrapping his arms behind Theo’s neck.

Theo closed his eyes. Liam’s scent was everywhere. The scent of his mate and his pack. He listened to the kids running around, play fighting. The sound of his pack laughing and teasing. The warmth of the sun on his skin. He felt Liam’s thumb caress his cheek. Felt his lips press gently to his own.

Liam started to open his mouth. Theo used a finger to close it, burying his face into the crook of Liam’s neck.

‘No talking. You always ruin it with your talking.’

‘Ruin what?’ Liam asked.

‘These little moments, where everything is quiet and happy. And I feel good. And I have the strongest, most beautiful mate. Everything is perfect.’ Theo said, ‘Then you speak.’

‘Hey!’ Liam batted him upside the head. Theo laughed, raising his hands to protect himself.

‘Calm down.’ Theo wrapped his arms around Liam, holding him in a bear hug. He kissed Liam on the nose, ‘Never could take a joke.’

‘Dick.’

‘You love me.’

‘Shut up.’ Liam smirked.

Theo pulled away, heading for the food when Liam slapped him on the ass. Theo stopped and turned.

‘Mr. Dunbar!’

Liam instantly turned red, ‘Do not call me that.’

‘Is that what your students call you?’ Theo asked, mischief in his eyes.

‘No they call me Liam,’ The alpha frowned. ‘Yes, that’s what they call me!’

‘If I’m bad will you send me to detention?’

‘Theo, there are people here!’

‘So?’

‘People that are werewolves and have super hearing.’ Liam hissed, looking over Theo’s shoulder. The adults all smirking and watching Liam’s discomfort.

‘Good.’ Theo said, leaning in to gently bite Liam’s ear lobe. ‘Now they all know you’re mine.’

Theo winked, leaving Liam flustered.

‘You make it look easy.’ Nolan said, handing Theo a hot dog.

‘What?’

‘Riling him up like that. I think you’re the only one left besides Leo that can get to him. With the rest of us he goes all “stern dad mode”.’ Nolan made a frown, mimicking Liam as best he could.

‘Why do you look like Derek?’ Stiles asked, following Scott over with drinks.

‘He was doing a Liam impression. But now that I look at him there’s definitely Derek vibes.’ Theo smiled. Nolan kept his face pulled into a frown, turning around slowly until he noted Derek looking at him, frown matching the one on Nolan’s face slowly melting away into embarrassment.

‘He’s going to kill me.’

‘He’s not going to kill you.’ Scott said.

‘There was murder in his eyes.’ Nolan said.

‘Murder in who’s eyes?’ Alec asked pulling Nolan close.

‘Nolan thinks Derek wants to murder him because he was making Liam’s dad face and we said it looked like Derek’s normal face and then Derek caught him making that face.’ Stiles said.

Alec tilted his head in confusion.

‘Protect me.’ Nolan said, kissing Alec. Stiles rolled his eyes.

‘Werewolves.’

‘Hey, human here.’ Nolan said.

‘You’re giving us a bad name. Cut it out.’ Stiles said.

‘No I think he’s being pretty consistent.’ Lydia smiled, joining the group.

‘That hurts.’ Stiles held a hand over his chest.

‘So what’s the plan now?’ She asked. ‘Everyone goes their separate ways again?’

‘I’m not leaving.’ Theo said, ‘Ever again.’

He felt Liam’s weight on his back as the alpha leaned against him, listening to the conversation.

‘I don’t know about you guys,’ Scott said, ‘But I never want to be apart like that again.’

‘Oh thank god.’ Stiles said.

‘Liam.’ Derek walked over, ‘There are rumours you’re getting married to some dork and I haven’t gotten an invitation yet.’

‘Me either.’ Mason said.

‘Well we haven’t set a date or anything.’ Liam said.

‘Next Monday.’ Theo said then took a drink as all eyes turned to him.

‘Dude.’ Scott laughed.

‘What? I got to lock this down.’ Theo said, spinning around so his arms were wrapped around Liam.

‘Oh god. They’ve reverted to love struck teen mode.’ Stiles said.

‘Who says I’m marrying you?’ Liam asked chuckling.

‘You’re wearing the ring.’ Theo said.

‘Maybe I just like the look of it.’

‘Will already drew a picture.’ Theo said, ‘It kind of has to happen now.’

Scott smiled, watching the two wolves banter.

‘So…’ He said, ‘Theo Dunbar, or Liam Raeken?’

‘Liam Raeken sounds nice.’ Theo mused, getting an elbow in his gut.

‘I’m not going to go around being Liam Raeken.’

‘Well I refuse to be Theo Dunbar. It ruins the charm. Raeken. Sounds mysterious.’

‘Sounds douche-y.’ Stiles muttered, earning a slap upside the head from Lydia.

‘What about Raeken-Dunbar? Or Dunbar-Raeken?’ Mason met Scott’s eyes, adding fuel to the fire the alpha had started.

‘Hmmm, I’d be willing to go Raeken-Dunbar.’

‘No way,’ Liam said, ‘I have like two hundred students that say my name all the time. It’s only fair we tack your name on the end of mine to make it less confusing.’

‘How is Dunbar-Raeken less confusing? It sounds like some crack pot law office!’

‘And Raeken-Dunbar sounds like a crappy sports gear brand!’

Liam pushed Theo away. In the past it would have been enough to escalate into a full blown fistfight. Instead Theo reached out, touching the edge of Liam’s jaw with his finger tips and drawing him in close, kissing his nose.

The alpha melted into Theo, wrapping his arms around him with a contented sigh.

‘Wow.’ Corey said, ‘Theo can get away with so much right now.’

‘Grace period. I give it a week before he uses up all his good karma.’ Stiles pointed out.

A low growl caught their attention. Leo and Will were splashing in the small inflated pool, getting Malia wet.

‘Boys, don’t bug your aunt.’ Liam said. They stopped, looking away as Malia snarled. She shook off and trotted over to Isaac, resting on a lawn chair. She pressed her nose into his side, cold jolting him awake.

‘What?’ She looked over at Scott then sat, waiting. Isaac let the coyote walk him over to Scott, pressing into the alpha’s side as Malia squeezed between their legs, happy to be close.

‘I never knew coyotes were so touchy.’

‘She’s just catching up on lost time.’ Scott smiled, stroking Malia’s fur. He glanced up at Isaac who was shifting his weight. Scott straighter up and grabbed Isaac’s hand, calming him down. Isaac stared at Scott, who was busy laughing at Liam and Theo’s antics. Malia gave their hands several small licks, making Isaac relax.

They watched as Liam chased after Theo, running into the house.

Theo never meant to get away, but it was easier to ambush Liam in a smaller space. As he turned to surprise the other alpha he was surprised to find Liam lunging at him, tacking him over the back of the couch and rolling them both onto the rug.

Liam laughed as he sat up and Theo felt the warm feeling inside return. The feeling that only Liam could make happen. He smiled and leaned into his mate. This is what he had almost lost, almost given up. He knew now that he would never be strong enough to give any of this up again, not like he had before. Even if it meant saving the world. Maybe this was the same place Scott drew his convictions from. There was no other option but to save everyone. And for Theo there were no more options of protecting his family that involved him sacrificing himself.

Part of him felt guilty that David had given up his life in order to protect them. In order to give Theo a chance to be happy again. There was no way he could repay the werewolf’s sacrifice. He visited the nemeton all of the time. They all did. It wasn’t just that they were drawn to its power, but it bound them all together now, for better or worse.

Theo looked at Liam. The man’s eyes were closed, head resting against Theo’s shoulder. This Liam was the Liam he remembered. Every second they were together he could see the old sparkle returning to the alpha. There were still things to process and work though, both with their relationship and with the trauma they had all survived. They would do it together, all of them, and it would make them stronger than ever.

‘Dad can me an Will go play xbox?’ Leo asked, panting. Theo tilted his head and smiled.

‘It’s fine with me as long as it’s fine with Dad #2.’

‘Wait, why am I Dad #2?’ Liam frowned.

‘I’m clearly Dad #1. The only logical option for you is Dad #2.’ Theo said.

‘I have seniority.’

‘Not in age.’

‘Daaaaaaaaaaad.’ Leo put his hands on his hips. ‘Can we please?’

‘Did you pick up all the comics you guys were reading earlier?’ Liam asked.

‘Yes.’

‘Leo, you know I can tell when you’re lying.’

‘No we didn’t pick them up yet.’ Leo moped.

‘Do that first then come back and ask.’ Liam said.

‘Don’t worry—I’ll teach you how to lie to him later.’ Theo whispered, winking at the boy. Leo beamed and ran inside to clean up his comics. Theo looked up to find Liam glaring at him.

‘What?’

‘You are not teaching our son how to get away with lying.’

‘Hey, every kid needs to be able to get away with a small white lie now and again.’ Theo said.

‘In six years he’ll be as old as I was when we first met. Imagine if I was able to pull off even a half-convincing lie.’ Liam said.

‘What like “I’m not gonna die for you?”’ Theo smirked.

‘Shut up! How do you even remember that?’ Liam asked.

Theo tapped the side of his head, ‘Steel trap.’

‘You were the one that said it, mister steel trap. But it was the truth.’ Liam said, ‘Back then anyway.’

‘Are you sure?’ Theo moved close, taking up Liam’s personal space. He let his hands rest at the tilt of Liam’s hips, lips getting close enough to kiss but remaining just out of reach.

‘You’re evil.’ Liam said, tilting his head forward. Theo moved out of range, a smile breaking out on his face.

‘I’m reformed.’

‘And what made that happen?’

‘A little puppy with adorable eyes.’ Theo said. Liam snorted. ‘I now only use my awesome powers for good.’

‘And teasing me is good?’

‘The best.’ Theo kissed Liam, a gentle gesture growing deeper, speaking louder than words either of them could use. Liam felt his heart skip and he pulled Theo tight to him, as if holding him in place could prevent anything bad from ever happening again. Like he could anchor them to this single spot in time, a single happy moment forever.

Theo stroked Liam’s hair. He knew what the other wolf was feeling—Liam’s body language always gave him away.

‘You don’t have to worry, White Fang. I’m not going anywhere without you ever again. I promise.’ Theo said. The words were real. He meant them. He knew Liam could tell it wasn’t something he was saying to sooth wounded feelings, or to banish a sense of loss. It was a statement of truth. Conviction. There was no way Theo Raeken was even going to leave him behind again.

‘Be careful what you wish for.’ Theo laughed.

‘I have no idea how I ended up falling for you.’ Liam sighed.

‘Are you saying I’m ugly?’

‘Hideous.’ Liam said, ‘But I still love you.’

‘That’s big of you.’

‘I’m an upstanding guy.’

Theo shook his head, hopping to his feet before pulling Liam up. The alpha grew quiet. Theo rubbed his back.

‘What’s wrong?’

‘What does this feel like for you?’ Liam asked. ‘All this I mean.’

‘It feels like things were on pause. On hold. Disrupted. And now everything is falling back where it belongs.’ Theo said.

‘Things aren’t going to be quiet and uneventful, are they?’

‘In this place? Never.’ Theo chuckled. ‘But that’s okay, because we’re together. All of us. And we can handle anything that comes our way.’

‘Cheesy.’

Theo opened his arms and dropped Liam to the floor. The alpha sputtered, grabbing at Theo to brace himself. Theo swooped down and caught him just in time.

‘Still cheesy?’

‘Yes.’

Theo swatted Liam’s butt as they made their way back outside. Liam caught his hand, giving him and evil grin. He leaned close.

‘Behave, Cujo.’

Liam stepped outside, rejoining the rest of the pack. Theo lingered in the doorway, taking in the sight of his family. He knew things weren’t going to be easy. There was a lot of work to do, and there would be more enemies to face. But as long as he was with Liam, nothing else mattered.

‘Liam. The hamburgers are burnt.’ Stiles said, mouth half-full.

‘How’s that my fault? Theo was making them.’ Liam asked as Theo stepped outside to join them.

‘He’s your husband, that means you’re responsible for him’ Stiles finished his burnt hamburger.

Liam grabbed a hamburger and bit into it. Theo winced—the crunch was audible even to human ears. He wondered how Stiles had even managed to choke one down.

Liam finished his bite and struggled to swallow, barely getting it down. His eyes were watering.

‘See, it’s fine. They’re good.’

‘Liam, they’re basically charcoal.’ Theo said, taking the burger from his hands. ‘Even Malia wants nothing to do with them.’

Theo tossed the burger into the trash.

‘But the fact you tried to defend my gross, burnt hamburgers has made me realize something.’ Theo said.

‘What?’ Liam asked, finishing a huge glass of water.

‘You’re a keeper.’ Theo winked. Liam’s cheeks flushed.

‘C’mon, let’s get you something better to eat.’ Theo guided Liam by the shoulders towards the food.

‘No one should eat those.’ Liam mumbled.

‘Yeah they’re bad.’ Theo agreed.

‘No like, they’re seriously the worst thing I’ve ever tasted.’ Liam said.

‘Feel free to go easy on me any time now.’

‘Like, one hundred percent honest feels like I ate poison. And I’ve eaten poison before.’

‘Liam.’ Theo came to a stop, the other wold nearly running into him.

‘Yeah?’ Liam asked

‘Shut up.’ Theo smiled.

Chapter Text

Three glasses crashed into each other as Will flew through the air to catch the football Leo threw without looking. He hissed through his teeth as he got up, straightening the table as best he could. The glasses weren’t broken so that meant everything was fine. He glared at Leo—the boy gave him a wide grin. It wasn’t Will’s fault that Leo had to be the ring bearer. He was the youngest after all. Even after Theo had talked him into the importance of the role he still wasn’t happy. He wanted to be the best man. One of them at least.

‘You almost ruined one of the tables.’ Will squeezed the football with his claws, letting the air hiss out.

‘That was mine!’ Leo grabbed for it. Will spun around, holding the ball out of reach until it was deflated, then dropped it into Leo’s hands.

‘You suck.’ Leo pouted.

‘Boys.’ Liam’s voice made them straighten. Leo jumped on the football, hiding it with his feet as best he could. Liam walked over, trying to do up the buttons on his cuffs.

‘What are you up to?’ Liam asked, using his suspicious teacher voice.

‘Nothing. Just, making sure that everything is okay.’ Will said with a smile, nudging Leo. A matching grin was on the boy’s face in a flash. Liam’s eyes narrowed. He looked at the place settings on the table. Having everything outside felt like they were inviting trouble, but everyone insisted that it would be way better for clean up, and it would be easier to manage unruly werewolves and other supernaturals that would be showing up.

‘Why don’t you let Corey and Lydia handle this. Go get washed up.’ Liam said, shooing them away. ‘And take your football.’

Will stopped mid-stride and turned, grabbing the deflated ball with a sheepish grin.

Liam fussed with his cuffs again—the buttons didn’t even line up. He dropped his hands to his side and took a deep breath. This was a stupid idea. Theo was already his mate, they didn’t need to get married. Except Theo had really wanted to, even if he hadn’t said it in so many words. And Liam did think it was a sweet gesture, but he could do without the heaps of stress that came with it. Theo had been quiet after the barbecue as the topic of marriage came up again, listening to the many suggestions from every member of the pack about how to make it a perfect day. Liam was holding Theo’s hand—he could tell the wolf was excited even if he did his best to stay calm. His old chimera tricks might still work on the rest of the pack, but Liam could see through him with little effort. Hence the reason he was standing in a half-buttoned tuxedo swearing to himself out of sight of the rest of the pack.

‘Liam, what are you doing?’ Mason asked, spotting him.

‘Just, trying to get this done up right.’

‘Liam.’ Mason asked, eyes wide.

‘What?’

‘Claws.’ Mason pointed to Liam’s hands, both tipped with claws. He frowned. He hadn’t lost control for nearly fifteen years. Weddings were bad but they weren’t anuk-ite bad. Or Dread Doctor bad. Or maybe they were.

‘Here.’ Mason said, deftly slipping the buttons into place. He glanced at Liam with a worried look.

‘I’m fine.’

‘If you say so.’

‘I know that when you say that you really mean you don’t believe me.’

‘You’re right, I don’t believe you.’

‘Okay, so I’m a little stressed.’

‘Liam you’re wolfing out.’ Mason smirked, ‘On your wedding day. I mean, I’ve heard of people getting cold feet, not clawed feet.’

‘You are not helping.’ Liam growled.

‘Sit down.’ Mason smiled, rubbing Liam’s back. ‘There’s nothing to be worried about—but honestly I didn’t think you cared so much.’

‘Care? Me? I don’t care. Weddings are stupid. Weddings are…constructs of …heteronormative society. And they reenforce outdated paternalistic traditions! They’re like, so bad.’

‘Wow. Okay. Didn’t expect that.’ Mason said.

‘I just… I’m… Oh man.’ Liam buried his head in his hands, keeping the claws out of his hair.

Mason laughed. It was good to see Liam shedding the tough skin he’d developed over the years without Theo. This was closer to the real Liam Mason remembered. Sure, he’d grown and matured like the rest of them, but he still had moments of spontaneous outbursts and jumbled ideas all trying to be expressed at the same time. It made Mason happy to see the weight lifting from his best friend’s shoulders. Liam deserved to be happy.

‘Take it from someone who’s done this before, you’ll be fine.’ Mason said.

‘Take it from someone who’s done it two times,’ Melissa said, walking over, ‘You’re doing great, kid.’

‘How’s Theo?’ Liam asked as they stood. Melissa smoothed out Liam’s hair.

‘So handsome.’

Liam felt the blush creep across his face. He hated the fact he blushed so easily lately. It was hard to hide what he was feeling. Something Theo took great joy in teasing him about.

‘Theo’s pretty much ready.’ Melissa said. They’d insisted that the werewolves not see each other before the ceremony, the way a traditional wedding was held. Liam thought it was stupid, but Theo seemed to be taken with the idea, telling him it would be fun. But the longer he was away from Theo, the grumpier he got.

Leo sprinted over, his tux half open.

‘Leo!’ Liam frowned, ready to scold him for being careless with the white jacket. He didn’t know where Lydia managed to get all of their clothes but she hadn’t spared any expense from the look of it.

‘Leo honey, you have to keep this tucked in and done up.’ Melissa leaned down and tucked the boy’s shirt in, doing up the buttons of his jacket. He tried to squirm away as she started taming his hair but her other hand held him in place.

‘I need your ring!’ Leo said, panting. Liam fished in his pocket, stopping when he remembered he still had his claws out.

‘Mace, can you grab it?’ He asked. Mason reached in the small pocket of the tuxedo and pulled the ring out, passing it to Leo who was happy to escape Melissa’s attention.

‘Liam you should put those away.’ Melissa said looking at his claws.

‘Believe me, I would if I could.’ Liam said.

‘Wait, you’re stuck like that?’ Mason said.

‘Looks like it.’

‘Okay. Okay. This is fine. This is okay.’ Mason said.

‘Mason—not helping again.’

‘Right. Okay. I’ll be right back!’ He turned and ran towards the white banquet tent in the far corner of the field.

Melissa smiled, patting an empty chair next to her as she sat down. Liam joined her, flexing his claws.

‘I hope you know how much you and Leo mean to me.’ She said, ‘After Scott disappeared without you and Chris I wouldn’t have lasted. And then Leo came along. You’re all important to me. Royal pains in the ass sometimes, but I love you like you’re my own son. I hope that’s alight.’

‘Of course. Yes. I mean, me and Leo wouldn’t have been able to do anything without your help. And Theo…’

She rested her hand on top of his his, avoiding the claws.

‘I don’t care if you’re all grown up—you’re all still my kids. And I want you to be happy. Even Theo.’ Melissa said.

‘He’s completely different from—‘ Liam started.

‘I’d have to pretty slow not to notice that. I still think he could have handled it better when he left. Though that’s partly Scott’s fault, too. He’s going to get an earful after I get used to seeing him around every day again.’

Liam chuckled.

‘Thanks Melissa.’

‘I’m told there’s an emergency.’ Derek frowned as Mason dragged him towards them. Stiles followed on his heels, smirk barely contained.

They came to a stop, Mason still latched on to Derek’s arm. The were wolf glared at him until he let go.

‘Sorry.’

Derek snorted then saw Liam’s claws flexing. A grin broke out on his face.

‘What’s that? I don’t like that.’ Liam said.

‘That’s a smile. Derek’s smiling.’ Mason said, confused.

‘For the record it’s never good when he smiles like that.’ Stiles said.

‘Shut up.’ Derek said.

‘Good idea.’ Stiles muttered.

Derek grabbed Liam’s hand, turning it over so his palm was exposed.

‘Usually you’d do this for the reverse problem, but it should still work.’

‘What?’ Liam barely got the word out when Derek’s claw was driving into his palm, forcing his own to retract. ‘Oww!’

The alpha cradled his hand and growled at Derek.

‘You can face down an army of suicidal zealots but you can’t take a quick jab in the palm?’ Derek raised an eyebrow.

Liam glared, holding out his other hand as Derek repeated the process. The wounds were small and healed quickly, but left a sting behind.

‘Just make sure you don’t wolf out in the middle of the ceremony.’ Stiles said with a nod. ‘Or when you’re kissing. Pretty sure Theo does not want a mouthful of fangs.’

‘And how do you know what Theo likes?’ Derek raised an eyebrow.

‘What? Me? I don’t… I just… I’ll be quiet. This is me being quiet.’ Stiles said.

Liam gave Derek a worried look. The older alpha patted him on the shoulder.

‘You’ll be fine. if anything you’re probably getting anxious because Theo’s been out of sight and scent all day.’

‘Like the delicate bride he is.’ Stiles snorted, earning a glare from Derek. ‘Right. Me being quiet, take two.’

‘He’s not… in a dress is he?’ Liam asked. ‘I mean, if he wants to I don’t care. Hell, I don’t care if he’s naked. Well, I do care because of… reasons. And I’m going to shut up now.’

Derek shook his head.

‘C’mon, let’s go make sure the kids aren’t tearing the place apart.’

###

‘Scott, I don’t care if you spent ten years as an undead monster beast—if you try that again I’m going to hit you.’ Theo said.

Scott held in his laughter, watching Theo try to do up his bowtie. He’d tried to push Theo’s hands away several times to intervene but Theo was so wound up he couldn’t even manage to get past the first knot.

‘One more laugh and I swear you won’t be my best man anymore.’ Theo said.

Nolan snickered in the corner, watching them.

‘I don’t think you can do that.’ Scott said. ‘Pretty sure the rules of weddings are once a best man, always a best man.’

‘You’re thinking of “always a bridesmaid, never a bride”. Which is something completely different and very not helpful right now.’ Theo said.

‘Just let me do it.’ Scott said. Theo sighed and dropped his hands, letting Scott take over. He knew how to do up a tie. He really did. But he kept wondering how Liam was. What he was doing. If he was okay.

‘Did you hear me, Theo?’ Scott asked, frowning as he worked on getting the knots right.

‘What?’

‘He’s too busy thinking about Liam.’ Nolan said.

‘Nolan, can it.’ Theo glared at him through the mirror. Nolan held his hands up in peace.

‘I asked if you were the one that proposed.’ Scott said.

‘Oh. Kinda?’

‘How do you kind of propose?’ Scott asked.

‘Well I had to get his ring size, then I got the rings made, then I threw them at him.’ Theo said, remembering.

‘You threw the rings at him.’

‘Yeah.’

‘And that… he knew what you meant.’

Theo shrugged.

‘This is also from one half of the couple that could only express themselves with punching for like five dates.’ Nolan said.

‘Hey. It was only once and it was an accident.’ Theo said.

‘Yeah, if you don’t count all the times before you were going out.’

‘Nolan, you’re about to be un-groomsmaned.’ Theo said.

‘Not a real word.’ Nolan said.

‘And you’d know.’

‘Yes. Because I’m a teacher.’

Theo felt a low growl start in his throat, interrupted by Scott.

‘You know what? It makes perfect sense to me.’ Scott said.

‘It does?’

‘Yup.’ Scott said with a smile. ‘Liam’s always been better at figuring out actions more than words.’

Theo smiled back and nodded. Scott shot Nolan a glare. The human shrugged.

‘All done.’ Scott said, stepping back. Theo admired his work in the mirror. The bowtie completed the look. His hair was smoothed back and trimmed a bit, clean shaven, no massive scars or bags under his eyes.

‘Dad?’ Leo poked his head in the room.

‘What’s up pup?’ Theo asked.

‘Ring?’ He held out his hand and Theo went to the table to grab it. Scott leaned it, catching a scent.

‘My mom was helping you?’ Scott asked. Leo rolled his eyes, earning a chuckle from the alpha.

‘She missed a spot.’ Scott said, pushing a stray hair sticking up on Leo’s head down with the rest.

‘Not you, too!’ Leo complained as Theo gave him the ring.

Leo ran out the door, nearly slamming into Alec as he came into the room.

‘They’re ready.’ Alec said, looking at Theo. He gave a whistle of approval, earning a smack upside the head from Nolan. ‘Ow!’

‘I’m right here.’ Nolan hissed.

‘Yeah, and you’ve been staring since I got changed.’ Theo said.

‘You watched him get changed?’ Alec said, expression falling.

‘What? Not like that.’

‘He had to help me into my boxer briefs.’ Theo said, ‘Right Scott?’

Nolan gave the alpha a pleading look. Scott grinned.

‘Yeah I was going to do it but Nolan insisted.’

‘That’s a lie!’ Nolan said, looking at Alec, ‘He’s lying!’

Theo laughed and messed up Nolan’s hair before leaving with Scott.

Alec leaned down and kissed Nolan’s cheek, ‘I know he was lying, dummy. C’mon.’

Nolan tried to smooth his hair out, watching Alec follow Scott.

‘Werewolves.’

###

Liam rubbed his hands on his pants. He looked at all of the people sitting on the lawn—he hadn’t expected so many people to show up. Three out of state packs had shown up to pay their respects along with dozens of other supernaturals Liam had never even heard of. There was a huge mix of human as well, mingling seamlessly with everyone else. Peter and his slowly growing pack were there, and Derek sat with Isaac who kept his eyes fixed on Scott. Their relationship was developing at a steady rate. It had been hard to get them to come to the wedding with Malia lurking around them like a guard dog. Liam was guessing that she very much approved of them being together, since she hadn’t attacked Isaac at all. It was likely she knew she wouldn’t be able to return to her human form, and Scott would need a human companion even with her close by in coyote form.

Lydia’s keen eyes were on every part of the wedding, making sure people were where they needed to be and things were unfolding when they were supposed to. Corey was constantly at her side, assisting however he was able.

‘Liam, breathe.’ Deaton said. Liam nodded, breathing.

It was fitting for Deaton to b the one to marry them. As the pack emissary he was responsible for guiding them. It helped that he had the authority to legally marry them in a legal manner as well.

The talking slowly died down as Lydia worked whatever magic she had. Liam turned, catching his mate’s scent. Theo walked towards him, a nervous smirk on his face. Liam felt his breath stop. A lump formed in his throat and he felt like his heart was going to smash through his rib cage. Theo’s tux was a perfect fit. The wolf’s hair was carefully groomed and Liam could see the barely contained joy just beneath the surface of Theo’s calm demeanour.

All the other sounds fell away as Theo stood in front of him, smiling. His mate. Soon to be his husband. Theo pushed a stray lock of hair from Liam’s face, smoothing it back with the rest.

‘Hey.’

‘Hi.’ Liam said, voice strained. Theo chuckled. He entwined his fingers into Liam’s, as they looked into each other’s eyes. Neither of them heard the words Deaton was reciting—something from a traditional druidic ceremony. More appropriate for a werewolf marriage.

‘The rings.’ Deaton said.

Liam turned to see Leo holding up a gold band. Liam took it and slid it onto Theo’s finger. At first it seemed pointless that they had to take them off and put them on again, but as he looked at Theo’s beaming face he didn’t care about that.

Theo took his ring from Leo, giving the boy a quick wink before turning to Liam. He took the alpha’s hand in his own, sliding the ring back where it belonged. He wanted to say so much, his heart was skipping in his chest. Words didn’t feel right anyway. Instead he squeezed Liam’s hand and watched as Deaton wrapped a cored around their wrists, binding them together in an ancient tradition.

Liam chuckled, thinking back to the first time he’d seen Theo. He’d never be able to picture them together like this back then. He would never have been able to picture a fraction of the things that they’d been through. But even though it had been painful, they’d survived it all together.

‘Dad?’ Leo said with a frown.

‘Hm?’ Both Liam and Theo looked down at the boy.

‘He said you can kiss now.’ Leo said. They turned to Deaton who gave them a small nod.

Theo moved first, pulling Liam into a deep kiss, earning a cheer from everyone gathered around. Not the be outdone Liam poured everything he felt but couldn’t express with words into his part of the kiss. The crowd went silent as they watched the two werewolves embrace in passion.

‘Get a room!’ Stiles yelled after the kiss continued for several seconds.

‘We plan to!’ Theo yelled back, earning a few chuckles.

He looked down at Liam as the party cam to life around them. Liam rubbed the back of Theo’s hand with his thumb as Deaton got their attention to sign the marriage papers. As Deaton finished his portion with a flourish he smiled at them.

‘Now, by laws both old and new, supernatural and natural, you’re bound together in union.’ Deaton said.

Theo bent slightly, kissing Liam’s forehead.

‘Okay, you need to cut the cake now.’ Leo said.

‘I think there’s a whole meal first.’ Mason said, causing Leo to pout.

‘There’s meat.’ Will said. Leo beamed, pulling the teenager towards the banquet tent.

As the ceremony ended and things loosened up Liam began to understand why Lydia had insisted on holding the wedding outside—the sheer amount of space needed to host everyone made it easier, plus the werewolves got territorial when there were so many packs and so much food. Everyone was respectful besides a few minor growling incidents. Liam watched as Leo and Will made friends with the werewolf kids from the neighbouring packs. He knew Derek and Peter were keeping an eye on things so he didn’t worry. Through the evening and into the night Liam and Theo danced with each other, joined by Scott and Isaac, Corey and Mason, Lydia and Stiles. Alec and Nolan stayed close, and Melissa and Argent swayed to the music in a corner. Then to everyone’s surprise Derek and Stiles were blushing and dancing together, after Lydia insisted the big alpha take Stiles off her hands because he was being too difficult to handle. Lydia took the the microphone, using her banshee voice to enhance the song slightly as she sang, giving the song an extra depth none of them had ever experienced before.

The daylight faded into the golden hour of twilight, then to the cool, dark night. The party had started to wind down, people finding cozy places to sleep and keep warm. Above them the moon was full in the sky, her warm light borrowed from the sleeping sun.

Theo found Liam standing by himself under a tree. He came up behind him, wrapping his arms around the alpha. He inhaled Liam’s scent and smiled into his mate’s hair.

‘You’re thinking.’ Theo said, rubbing Liam’s chest.

‘You came back for me.’ Liam said, holding on to Theo’s hands.

‘Of course I did.’

‘I mean, you’ve always come back for me. Even when we were teenagers. You kept saying you’d leave. You’d run away. But you always came back. Always saved me. Even when everyone else treated you like shit.’

‘I do remember making a few bad choices, yeah.’ Theo chuckled. Liam nudged him in the stomach, causing them to rock gently.

‘Why?’ Liam asked, ‘Why did you come back for me?’

‘Liam, are you just fishing or have you really not put it together yet?’ Theo asked, turning the alpha to face him. Liam’s confused expression told Theo it was the latter.

‘I kept saving your ass because I loved you. Even back then. Even before… before the skinwalkers.’ Theo said, leaning in close.

‘Since when?’ Liam asked, feeling Theo’s breath on his neck.

‘Since the first time I laid eyes on you, you idiot.’ Theo said, ‘I thought you knew.’

Liam shook his head.

‘Well it’s true. And now you’re mine. And I’m yours.’

‘Me too.’ Liam squeaked out.

‘What?’

‘When I first saw you. I mean, I didn’t know really. Kinda. There were feelings. But there were lots of feelings going on. And feelings are hard. Especially back then.’

‘Because I’m a guy?’

‘No because… because it was different. With Hayden it was fun. And good. But when I looked at you I wanted you to see me so bad. Like I wanted to be close. If that makes sense. I’m just rambling. I’ll stop.’

Theo tilted his head down, kissing Liam gently.

‘I like it when you ramble. I mean, it’s confusing as hell. But also kind of adorable.’

Liam felt himself blushing again. Theo wrapped his arms around him and they stood together, taking in the sounds and the scent of the night.

‘Hey, husband.’

‘Hey, yourself.’ Liam said, ‘Husband.’

‘We never did decide.’ Liam said.

‘On what?’ Theo mumbled.

‘Raeken-Dunbar or Dunbar-Raeken.’

‘Honestly, the fact I got you into a tux is victory enough for me right now.’ Theo said, ‘We can officially pick Raeken-Dunbar later.’

Liam jabbed Theo in the ribs, making the werewolf grunt.

‘That’s going to bruise.’

‘For ten seconds.’

‘Then I guess you only have ten seconds to kiss it better.’ Theo smirked, pulling Liam towards the house. Liam tilted his head, a smile slowly spreading as he understood. Leo and Will were staying with Mason and Corey for the night.

‘Liam, if you don’t start moving your feet I’m going to assume you’re chickening out on our wedding night. Which is also technically our honeymoon.’

‘I’m not chicken.’ Liam said, marching.

Theo smirked. He grabbed Liam’s waist, pulling him to a stop. The werewolf leaned in close, lips hovering over Liam’s.

‘Sometimes you make it too easy, White Fang.’

‘M’not easy.’ Liam said, pressing his lips to Theo’s. They pulled apart, hands clasped as they made their was inside. Whatever the future held Liam knew that they would be more than ready to handle it together.

Deep in the woods, beneath the light of the full moon, Malia let out a howl that rang through the forest and the whole of Beacon Hills. The pack had been restored.