Tyler had been tense lately, in the days following what had happened with Caleb, but things had been quiet. He’d wanted to make sure that Caleb was alright, but was too afraid that Chase would hurt him more. That was the same reason he held back from visiting Pogue; he didn’t want Chase to hurt him again. Otherwise, Tyler would have been with either of them-both of them-in a heartbeat. Instead, he hung around the house, followed Chase’s lead whenever they went out, and avoided the other two warlocks.
Until one day.
“You’ve been good lately; I think you deserve a surprise.” The grin that he said it with made Tyler uneasy.
“A surprise?” he repeated, skeptical.
“Yeah.” But Chase didn’t elaborate on that more, he just blindfolded Tyler and began to lead him upstairs.
“Did you really have to blindfold me?” Tyler asked. The last time, Chase had tortured him, after all.
“Relax,” Chase said, though he didn’t sound very reassuring.
Tyler didn’t say anything more after that, just focused on safely navigating the stairs in his currently blind state. Then it was down the hall before Tyler was pushed into a room and Chase closed the door behind him. Tyler stood there for a moment before sighing and starting to reach up to get rid of the blindfold. It was then that he heard movement in the room and froze. Someone-or something-was in there with him.
“It’s just me, baby boy.”
The sound of that voice made him forget to breathe for a moment and his pulse started racing. No. He was just imagining it, or it was another trick. Chase had done it before, why wouldn’t he do it again? Maybe he was still upset about Tyler seeing Caleb and this was more punishment.
“You’re not really here,” he said, trying to sound more sure than he felt, “This isn’t funny, Chase.”
“I am really here. It’s really me this time, Ty.”
But how did he know about the other time if it was really him? It didn’t make sense. Tyler’s hands shook as he reached up to take off the blindfold, but he was shaking so bad that he kept fumbling with it.
“Let me get that.”
He stepped closer-god, so close, right in front of Tyler, close enough to feel his body heat-and then gently pushed Tyler’s hands aside. He got the blindfold off easily and Tyler had to blink a few times before he could focus. There was Reid, standing right there, impossibly close-impossibly real. He was dead though, and it had been months, so how could he be standing there right now? Tyler almost forgot to breathe again as he looked Reid over, took everything in. He looked just like Tyler remembered-well, on second thought, no, not quite. Something wasn’t entirely right, but he couldn’t quite put his finger on what it was.
“Reid?” Hands still shaking, Tyler reached out to touch him, resting his hands on his shoulders first, fingers twisting in the material of his hoodie. “But you…”
“Not exactly. I mean, yeah, I guess I technically died for a little while, but it wasn’t really that long,” Reid shrugged casually, like they were discussing the weather instead of his death.
It didn’t make sense. Why was he so calm about it? Why wasn’t he angry about everything that Chase had done and ready to go kick his ass? Something wasn’t right, and yet right now, Tyler didn’t care.
He wrapped his arms tightly around Reid and clung to him, lowering his head to the crook of his neck. Then Tyler started to cry. If this was really Reid and not another trick, then it had been so long and Tyler had missed him so much. Things had been so difficult without him.
Reid held him close, not saying anything just yet, just letting him cry. The silence didn’t exactly surprise Tyler; it was common for Reid, when he didn’t know what to say to help. Either way it didn’t matter, because he was there and that was comfort enough for Tyler.
“I missed you so much,” he managed in between sobs. This was the kind of thing that Reid would tease him for normally, going all weepy and soft. Given the circumstances though, Tyler figured that would be overlooked this time. “It was so hard without you.”
“I know, baby boy,” Reid said, rubbing his back, “I know it’s been hard, and I missed you too, but you’ve done good; you’ve been strong.”
Tyler wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry more than he already was. He’d been strong? If he’d been strong, then he wouldn’t have given into Chase, and he would have been able to protect Caleb. He didn’t say any of that though, just clung tighter to Reid. He was afraid to let go, worried that if he did, the blond would vanish.
“You’re not going anywhere, right? You’re here to stay?” the words were shaky and muffled, but he managed to get them out.
“I’m here to stay,” Reid confirmed, and pressed a kiss against the side of Tyler’s head.
Tyler’s mind was racing; he had so many questions he wanted to ask, but he was afraid of what the answers would be. He pulled back just enough to kiss Reid, holding it for a long moment. It was a salty kiss, wet from his tears, but to Tyler at least, it was perfect. For so long he’d wanted the chance just to hold Reid again, to kiss him, to hear his voice.
“I love you,” Tyler said.
“I love you too, Ty.” Reid smiled.
Tyler leaned his forehead against Reid’s, closing his eyes and taking a deep breath. He felt like he could start crying again at any second, but he was trying to pull himself together. Where had Reid been this whole time, what had he been doing? Did he know about the things that Chase had done to Tyler?
Reid tugged Tyler over to the bed, lying down with him and pulling him close. Tyler was grateful for it, especially since his legs felt weak and rubbery right now. The blond wiped the tears from Tyler’s face before cupping his cheek in one hand and leaning in to kiss him again. It was drier this time, and less salty too.
“You’re alright?” Tyler asked, hoping that he hadn’t been hurt or put through the kinds of things that he had.
“Yeah. I’m just fine, got all my limbs attached and everything. I could show you,” he added with a teasing grin.
Tyler actually smiled at that. “Reid. I’m being serious.”
“So’m I.” Reid gave him a quick kiss.
“I’m glad you’re alright. I thought Chase might’ve…” Tyler didn’t finish, but he didn’t need to.
Reid shrugged. “Nothing to worry about. You know me, baby boy; I’m tough.”
“Yeah.” Tyler smiled a bit, reaching out to run a hand through Reid’s hair, just touching. Part of him was still worried that this was a trick, but it felt different from that time with Chase. This felt real. Couldn’t blame him for worrying though, all things considered.
He hesitated for a moment, but there were things that he had to ask. “Were you here the whole time?”
Reid shrugged a little. “Somewhere around here, yeah,” he said.
“And you just…never found me or said anything?” Tyler asked, unable to hide his hurt.
“It wasn’t that easy,” Reid said, ruffling Tyler’s hair affectionately, “Chase wouldn’t let me.”
“Oh. Right.” Tyler hadn’t thought that would really stop Reid though if he was determined enough, but. It was Chase, after all. “But why now?”
Reid shrugged again. “I dunno. Your guess is as good as mine.”
The younger warlock looked down. “I thought this was just another trick to hurt me, at first,” he confessed.
Reid smiled softly, tipping Tyler’s head back to kiss him gently. “No tricks.”
“I don’t want to lose you again,” Tyler said, at the risk of sounding weak again.
“You won’t. I promise.”
Tyler allowed himself to smile, just a little, and just for a moment, before it faded again. Something still didn’t seem right. “What are we going to do about him?”
“About who?” Reid seemed genuinely confused.
“About Chase,” Tyler clarified.
“There’s nothing we can do, Ty. Just go with it and everything’ll be alright,” Reid said with a shrug. He was so casual about it, calm and unbothered.
Tyler pulled away and sat up, brow furrowing as he frowned. “Just go with it? After everything he’s done? He tried to kill Caleb and put Pogue in the hospital. Then he killed you and he’s been torturing me ever since. What part of that am I supposed to be alright with?”
“The part where Chase hasn’t fucked up Caleb or Pogue beyond saving-which you know he could do. Also, the fact that I’m actually alive and you’re in one piece. If we let Chase have what he wants, everything will be fine.” Reid at up too, a little less calm than he had been before, a little angry now.
Tyler could only stare, trying to make sense of what Reid had just said. Now he knew what it was; he could tell what was wrong. It was the cold, hard edge in Reid’s eyes, the look that hadn’t been there before, so many months ago. Something in Reid had changed. He didn’t even respond to anything that Reid had said.
As soon as he realized what had happened, Tyler had stood from the bed and was already heading for the door. He found Chase downstairs and for once in a long time, Tyler was too angry to be afraid of him.
“What did you do to him?” he demanded.
Chase feigned innocence. “What did I do to who?”
Tyler punched him then, catching Chase square in the face. He only had the briefest moment to hope that he’d broken Chase’s nose before he found himself on the floor, crying out as Power shocked through his body. Of course, hitting Chase had been a very bad idea.
“Hey, don’t be too hard on him; he’s just upset. He’s been through a lot.”
Tyler was actually surprised that Reid seemed to be standing up for him. Not that he could do anything about it considering that he was currently curled up on the floor in pain.
“He’ll go through a lot more if he doesn’t learn.”
The pain nearly doubled, and Tyler could only groan pathetically, wishing it would stop.
“Come on, give him a break. If he starts anymore trouble, I’ll take care of him,” Reid said.
Tyler was almost certain that Chase was going to ignore him, that the pain would just keep getting worse, but then all at once, it stopped. He was left shaking and breathless, but physically uninjured. Chase grabbed him under the arm and hauled him to his feet, holding him up when Tyler stumbled, his legs weak still.
“He’s mine is what I’ve done to him,” Chase kept his voice low, just loud enough for Tyler alone to hear him, “And if you learn to behave, you’ll be just like him some day. Otherwise you’re going to suffer-and I don’t have to hurt you to make that happen.”
Tyler didn’t need any explanation for that; either he figured out how things worked or Chase was going to hurt the people that he cared about. Caleb and Pogue and who knew who else. Knowing that he was expected to answer, Tyler nodded numbly, mind still reeling. Chase seemed satisfied with that answer though and roughly shoved him towards Reid. The blond managed to catch him and then pulled him close, holding him up until Tyler could stand on his own. Tyler kept his head down, submissive-that was the proper thing to do right now, wasn’t it? To not piss Chase off any more than he already had.
After a moment, Reid pulled him back upstairs and into the bedroom, closing the door behind them. Tyler pulled away from him then and went over to sit on the bed. Even though he finally had Reid back, and Reid had stood up for him, Tyler wasn’t sure that he could trust him anymore. Chase had gotten to him, done who knew what to him. Maybe it wasn’t too late though, maybe Tyler could still fix things. He wasn’t going to just give up on Reid, not after everything that they’d been through.