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i'll be right beside you

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The wires are moving, wriggling, snaking under his skin. Every movement leaves behind an agonising burn, both where his skin has been torn open, and inside where the cables are crawling into his muscles. He would describe the pain as unbearable, intolerable, except he can bear it because he’s had so much worse before. It’s something else he can’t bear; the thought that he’s been forgotten. Finally he had found a boyfriend, a group of friends (kind of – half of the pack seemed to have accepted him, the other half not so much), and was only invisible when he made himself that way.

 

What Corey couldn’t suffer through was the fact that he had been forgotten again.

 

A rhythmic beeping pulls him from the last vestiges of sleep. Opening his eyes brings a wave of nausea and pain, and he’s greeted with a white ceiling and light blue walls, and a scent he recognises immediately as hospital, antiseptic and despair. The beeping is coming from a heart monitor to his right, and it speeds up slightly now as he watches. There’s a needle in his arm, too, and a nearly empty bag hanging from a stand. The little liquid left in it is a weird, gelatinous dark green, and truth be told does not look like something he wants going into his body.

 

Weirdly, this doesn’t feel like another hallucination. This feels more tangible, more like he’s just woken up from a deep sleep and is still coming round so everything is a little foggy. It can’t be, though – Corey can’t let himself fall into that hope, or he’ll never get through this.

 

“Corey?”

 

Damn it. Corey squeezes his eyes shut again. He can’t see Mason or he’ll lose his resolve. The Ghost Riders are cruel; when they shoved all the wires into him they sent him into some kind of fugue state, where he spends half the time sentient and aware and the other half in a confusing spiral of dreams. It leaves him confused and dazed, which he guesses is the point. He can’t exactly focus on escape when his mind is clouded with thoughts of Mason, happiness, safe, then hurt, pain, alone. It’s always worse when he imagines Mason, though, because it gives him a rush of everything good before the illusion shatters and he’s left with everything bad.

 

“Corey!”

 

He wants to lift his hands up to cover his ears but when he tries they won’t move, too heavy for the rest of his body. He begins to shake a little, a tear slipping out from underneath his eyelashes. Just a little longer and this will disappear, and stop tormenting him.

 

“You’re not real,” Corey rasps, against his better judgement. He shouldn’t talk, it will just get him more attached to the hallucinations and then it’ll be harder to detach himself from them when they get ripped away from him.

 

“Corey, listen to me. I am real. I am here.

 

Corey wants to believe him. He’s about to roll over, damn the pain, and ignore him completely when a hand grasps his, an achingly familiar hand that he would know in a heartbeat. He stops breathing for a second. Never before has one of the dreams touched him…in fact, they’ve always shied away when he’s tried to touch them. Corey can’t let himself hope, but perhaps…

 

“This is real.”

 

 “Promise?” Corey whispers, another tear escaping from under his eyelids against his will.

 

“Promise.” Mason’s voice cracks, and Corey opens his eyes again. Painstakingly slowly, he tilts his head to the left, ignoring the dull, throbbing ache that screams at him in response to the movement.

 

He sees his boyfriend, his wonderful, amazing, perfect boyfriend, sitting in a chair next to the hospital bed he’s in, holding his hand, tear tracks down his face, clothes rumpled, bags under his eyes, exhaustion written in his face. It doesn’t matter to Corey what state he’s in, because it’s still Mason. He gasps, can’t help it, and it comes out as a pained croak that gets stuck in his windpipe because seeing him makes him lose his breath, he’s so happy. The love that blossoms in his chest can’t be because of a hallucination; this has to be real. “Mason,” he whimpers, and the floodgates open. He weeps openly, and Mason immediately jumps off the chair and onto the side of the bed, cradling Corey’s head in his arms and pressing him against his chest so he can hear his heartbeat easier, so careful and gentle with his movements that it makes Corey want to cry more.

 

Mason pets at his short hair, whispering nonsensical phrases under his breath to soothe him, muttering apologies too for reasons Corey can’t ascertain, and after a few minutes Corey manages to get a hold of himself and wipes his eyes, trying to push himself into a sitting position. He hasn’t prepared himself for the searing pain, though, so he falls back with a bitten-off cursed word and can’t hold back the yelp when Mason grabs him too quickly.

 

“Sorry! Sorry,” Mason gasps, hands hovering as he tries to figure out what to do, and looks close to tears himself at seeing Corey in so much pain.

 

“Not your fault,” Corey manages, ignoring the shrieking agony as he shuffles into a more comfortable position. Mason retreats back to the chair so they’re at eye-level again, and as soon as Corey has settled himself back against the cushions he seeks out his hand, which Mason is only too happy to offer. They sit in silence for a few more minutes, Mason sensing that Corey has something resting on his tongue but not wanting to push him. Finally, he says, “You were there.”

 

Mason squeezes his hand a little bit tighter, the pressure comforting rather than suffocating. “When you were in the train station?” he guesses, knowing he’s right when Corey swallows, hard. “How was I there?”

 

Corey swallows again, bile rising in his oesophagus. Thinking about the hallucinations makes his vision spin but he can see Mason’s earnest expression in his peripheral so he tries again, for his sake. “In my head,” he whispers, and he’s starting to feel nauseous again and his head is pounding from the memory. “I kept having these hallucinations, and when they were happening I couldn’t tell if they were real or not. It was always you.” Corey breaks himself off but then hurries on again, wanting to get it all out before he chokes on the words. “You – he – talked to me. It always started off sweet so I thought it was real, but then he would change. Say horrible things.”

 

“Like?” Mason presses gently. He needs Corey to tell him everything that’s bothering him before he retreats back into his shell.

 

“He said that I was never getting out, and that everyone had forgotten me already,” he whispers, and against his will tears spill from his eyes again. Mason wipes them away with a touch so gentle Corey can’t imagine how he ever confused real Mason with the cruel imaginary Mason.

 

“Not true, at all,” Mason says certainly, and wipes at his own tears with the back of his hand. “I’m sorry I said that to you.”

 

Corey wants to laugh in disbelief. Only Mason would apologise for something a hallucination of him said in another dimension. “You didn’t,” he points out firmly. “And I should have realised it wasn’t you, not really. I did when they finished, but I missed you so much that I just kept hoping.”

 

“You had a lot on your mind,” Mason retorts, equally as firmly. “I can’t imagine what that was like, Corey, being there, so don’t play the blame game. Stiles described it, but it was so awful…and he wasn’t hooked up to all those wires like you were.” Mason swallows when he remembers the state that he found Corey in, even paler than he usually was, pools of bluey-green liquid leaking from the holes in his skin.  Even when they were all ripping those cables out of him, he was so stoic and brave, smiling at Mason wanly so he wouldn’t worry too much, but Mason saw the flickers of pain shudder across his face when it got too much for him to hide. He only passed out when they finally got him free and were about to leave, finally succumbing to everything he’d suffered.

 

The memory makes him frown, his eyebrows creasing together. Corey, though, is smiling, remembering a different memory. “You saved me. You came running in and held my hand and you saved me.” He smiles wider, cheeks aching.

 

Instead of smiling back like he usually does when Corey gets soppy and romantic, Mason shakes his head and clears his throat. Before he closes his eyes, Corey thinks he can see a glimmer of tears there. “I was too late,” he mutters. “I should have come sooner, found you sooner.”

 

“Hey,” Corey chides gently, using his elbows to prop himself up a little more. “I thought we weren’t playing the blame game.”

 

“Yeah, you’re right.” Mason runs his free hand over his face, resting his chin in his palm and propping his arm up on the side of the bed. The other hand brings Corey’s fist up to his lips and he kisses the knuckles there tenderly. “But seriously, Corey…I am, so, so sorry. I need you to know that.”

 

Corey’s eyes flutter closed at the feeling of Mason’s lips ghosting over his skin, but frowns when he hears him talk again. “What are you sorry for?” He honestly can’t think of anything that Mason has done wrong, ever, that he hasn’t already apologised for. Then again, Mason does have a history of apologising for things he’s done right, too. He drags his eyes open to meet Mason’s.

 

“For everything,” Mason sighs, and then suddenly explodes into a frenzy of guilt and remorse. “It was my fault you got taken! Mr Douglas was the guy in the tank, the one I got hooked up to when I was the Beast, and he was angry about it so he took you to hurt me! And then it took me ages to come get you, because we were trying to make a plan or whatever, but I just left you there to suffer! I should have found a way to get to you as soon as possible, not just left you there with those monsters!”

 

Out of the two of them, Mason is the calm one. Corey can easily fall into a spiral of emotion; not anger, so much, as anxiety and panic and despair, but Mason is the rock that grounds him whenever it happens. He’s never seen Mason so vehemently angry before; he always calms himself down with his common sense, and calms others down too with his compassion. Corey feels out of his depth here, their roles reversed, but Mason is visibly distressed and beating himself up and Corey will be damned if he doesn’t at least try to help.

 

“I’m not accepting your apology,” Corey says, voice calm despite how angry he’s feeling. Not at Mason, never at Mason; at the situation. “If it was your fault, then I would.”

 

“Corey…” Mason shakes his head, and then smiles. “Were.”

 

“Eh?”

 

“You used ‘if’, so you need to follow it with the subjunctive. ‘If it were your fault’.”

 

“You’re so adorable,” Corey breathes, because he loves it when Mason nerds out. He’s relieved when Mason grins at him, and pushes his luck. “So you admit it wasn’t your fault?”

 

That earns him an eye roll, but Corey knows him well enough to tell the difference between an affectionate eye roll and an exasperated one. This is definitely the former. “I am willing to admit that it was not totally my fault,” he hedges.

 

Not good enough. “Not at all your fault,” Corey insists, shifting closer so he’s nearly falling off the edge of the bed. “For one thing, the only way you could have gotten to me without dying was if you were taken by one of the Riders, and it wouldn’t have helped anyone, anyway. It would have just resulted in both of us being trapped there.”

 

Mason acquiesces with a nod, but still doesn’t look convinced, so Corey plunges on. “And you didn’t make Mr Douglas send me to the shadow realm.”

 

Mason butts in then. “Actually, it was. When I was the Beast, you remember I got hooked up to that weird tube thing in the Dread Doctors’ lab?” Corey nods, remembering it all too clearly. “The…thing…in that tube was Mr Douglas. He wanted revenge on me, I think, so he took you.”

 

Corey frowns at him. “I thought he took me to merge the worlds together.”

 

Mason shakes his head, then pauses, then shrugs. “I don’t know, Corey. Maybe it was a bit of both…but I can’t help that feel like it was because of me somehow.”

 

“It was probably more because Mr Douglas was a Nazi with psychopathic tendencies.” One of Corey’s more eloquent statements, if Mason’s startled expression is anything to go by. “So whatever happened to me wasn’t your fault,” he adds softly, meeting Mason’s gaze evenly. “It wasn’t your fault I got taken, and it wasn’t your fault that I happened to be the one that they needed to be the link between dimensions or whatever.”

 

“I know.” Mason’s voice is hoarse. “Deep down, I know that. But my heart won’t catch up with my brain. I just feel so…awful that you were there, in pain and alone, while I was here.”

 

“Not your fault,” Corey says, voice equally strained. “But, Mason, there’s a limit, okay? There’s a limit to how much you’re meant to do to protect someone. And I think you crossed that limit a long time ago.”

 

“There isn’t a limit with you,” Mason snaps, sounding peeved all of a sudden. Corey flinches back automatically at the tone of his voice, and Mason’s eyes immediately soften and he takes in a deep breath. “Sorry, Corey. Sorry. But…there isn’t a limit with you, Corey. Nothing is too much when it comes to you.”

 

Time freezes around them. There’s a bubble with just the two of them in it, and nothing is moving, least of all them. Corey can’t speak because there are too many and not enough words to reply to that adequately. In the end, he settles for leaning over and kissing him, ignoring the lump in his throat that makes it harder to breathe. He doesn’t need oxygen when he has Mason.

 

When they eventually pull away, after seconds or minutes or hours, Corey whispers, “It’s never too much for you either,” but then he ruins the moment slightly when an agonising cramp hits his stomach and he flinches slightly, groaning as it grows and bending over in on himself. “Crap, sorry.”

 

“No, no, don’t be sorry.” Mason tentatively puts a hand on his stomach and massages gently. “Stupid question, but are you okay?”

 

“Yeah, I’m good.” It’s not totally untrue; he’s definitely not good, but he knows that he will be. And he can tolerate this, he’s had worse.

 

Mason regards him with a raised eyebrow. “Could you maybe not lie when I ask you how you’re feeling?”

 

Corey huffs out a laugh and buries his face into Mason’s shoulder. “Yeah. Okay. Sorry.”

 

Mason repeats his question. “Are you okay?” He drops Corey’s hand in favour of stroking up and down his back.

 

Corey inhales deeply. “No. It hurts, Mason.” His voice cracks and he hates himself a bit for it. “It hurts everywhere. Inside, too.” He finds Mason’s warm brown eyes and begs him to understand what he means.

 

Mason’s hand settles on the small of his back, the other still rubbing gentle circles into his stomach, which is actually helping somewhat. “I can get you some morphine. Melissa said she could bring some as soon as you work up. As for inside…you could try talking to me.”

 

Corey sniffs, and curls his fingers into the back of Mason’s shirt. “I don’t want to play the blame game,” he says plaintively. “And I’m worried this will sound like I’m blaming you.”

 

“I’ll bear that in mind,” Mason says easily. “Do your worst.”

 

Corey leans back just a little, looking at him sceptically. He doesn’t want to sound accusatory, so he keeps his voice emotionless as he says, “I got turned into a chimera, but it wasn’t into anything in particular. I took on the abilities of the creature that reflected me. It’s why I can turn invisible.”

 

“Because you always felt invisible.”

 

“Yeah.” Corey shrugs, trying to hide how much he hates talking about this. Mason can’t hear his heartbeat, or smell his emotions, but the human can always tell exactly what’s up with him somehow anyway. “Since then, I haven’t been invisible unless I chose to be. But now…I was forgotten. Like before. And I thought I would be used to it so it wouldn’t bother me, but it did.” He takes in a shuddering, heaving breath.

 

Mason’s hand stills for a second before he resumes the soothing motion. “You weren’t forgotten,” he says quietly. “It wasn’t like Stiles. I have a million theories why, but nobody forgot you. I think it was partly because I found your phone in the forest, your relic, and that made everyone else remember you. But I didn’t forget you for a second before that, Corey.”

 

“You never forgot me?” Corey sounds so small and broken in those four words, and Mason gives into the urge to wrap him up in a bear hug.

 

“Not for a millisecond,” he murmurs into Corey’s hair. “I never will, Corey, you’ll never be forgotten ever again, I promise.”

 

Corey sniffs and pulls back a little so he can wipe at his eyes. He clearly isn’t comfortable talking about this anymore, so Mason lets him change the subject without challenge. “Looks like you have another power,” he jokes. “Remembering me when I get transported to a ghost train station.”

 

Mason smiles at him. “My powers all revolve around you.” Predictably, Corey blushes and ducks his head shyly, but seeks out his hand anyway and clutches onto it like it’s a lifeline.

 

“Can we get out of here?” Corey asks after a few seconds, burying his face into Mason’s shirt so his next words come out a little muffled. “I hate hospitals.”

 

“Yeah, I know.” Mason would probably hate them too if he’d gone through everything that Corey had. “You can discharge yourself whenever you want to. We used some herbs to help your healing kick in, so you should be fine from now on. You’ll heal like normal.”

 

“Good.” Corey sighs. “I want normal.”

 


 

Normal turns out to be Mason pushing him out of the hospital in a wheelchair while his phone blows up with notifications. Apparently Mason told the rest of the pack about his return to consciousness because he has more texts in five minutes than he usually gets in a month. He expects most of them to be perfunctory ‘glad to hear you’re better’ messages, and is pleasantly surprised and touched to see that actually, all of them are personal and pretty long. He reads them while Mason talks to Melissa at the nurses’ station, waiting for his discharge forms to be printed off. Stiles sends a predictably rambling message that spans several scrolls, and Lydia’s is much shorter but still very sweet, telling him that she’ll come visit when he’s up to it. Scott’s message is littered with text talk and typos but Corey manages to make out what he’s saying anyway. Malia’s is by far the shortest of everyone’s, gruff and to the point. It still makes him smile. Liam sends a gif of a polar bear dancing, for whatever reason, along with a strongly-worded rant against Mr Douglas and a promise to come over to chat some time soon. Hayden’s text is similar in content but less sweary, and has fewer polar bear gifs. He even gets a message from Theo, and he can practically feel how awkward his former alpha must have felt as he typed it because it’s only two lines long and written like a formal speech.

 

Corey types out his replies while Mason delivers him to the car. He replies to Theo first, partly because there’s still a bit of unwavering loyalty there – the guy did literally give him a second chance at life, after all – and partly because he thinks Theo had changed, become human again after his stint in Hell, and he wants to make amends. Hayden next, because she’s been a good friend to him ever since they were in the chimera pack together. Liam after that, because they’ve had their differences before but he thinks they’re on their way to friendship now. Lydia after him, then Stiles, then Malia, all of them getting fairly simple and short replies. He doesn’t know them as well as the others, and doesn’t know how genuine their words are, but Corey thinks that they do actually care about him. Then finally Scott. He can’t think what to say, because he hasn’t actually truly accepted Scott yet. He’ll call him his alpha, and listen to his orders, but he can’t quite forgive him for what he did. Mason understands, and doesn’t push Corey to do anything else, and when they arrive at the car Corey silently hands his phone over and Mason types out a suitably polite reply for him.

 

“Thank you,” Corey says quietly, climbing into the passenger seat by himself. Mason looks scandalised when he hauls himself out of the chair without asking for help, which Corey objects to slightly. His legs are a little weak, sure, but he’s not completely useless. He swats Mason away when he tries to do his seatbelt for him, pretending to be irritated but actually thrilled that he’s being cared for so much.

 

“Where are we going?” he asks once Mason has returned the wheelchair to the hospital and slid into the driver’s seat.

 

Mason doesn’t answer for a second, focused on reversing out, but as soon as he’s driving forwards and out of the parking lot he answers, “Back to mine. I told my parents you got beaten up by some homophobes and you aren’t a hundred percent just yet. They said you should stay the night.”

 

Mason hasn’t told his parents everything about Corey’s home situation, because his boyfriend is notoriously private about it. Mason is the only one who knows everything, with the rest of the pack only aware of whatever they’ve deduced for themselves. He has, however, told his mom and dad that Corey’s parents are never there, but that’s better for everyone involved, especially Corey himself. They figured enough out from that themselves.

 

“Do I have to socialise?”

 

“No, you can go straight up my room if you want.” Mason stifles a laugh at Corey’s happy expression. He knows that Corey loves his parents and vice versa (because how could anyone not love those three people, honestly) but he also knows that his boyfriend is possibly the most antisocial person he’s ever met. He tolerates people up to a point, is quite happy to hang out with his friends, but he gets in moods where he wants to be with one person and one person only sometimes. Usually that person is Mason.

 

Mason has no problem with that.

 


 

 

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Corey hears Liam’s heartbeat from outside the Hewitts’ house long before Beacon Hill’s shortest werewolf appears in the bedroom doorframe. If he had to hazard a guess, he’d say ten minutes passed before Liam actually opened the door and stepped in the house, and another five before he stomped up the stairs. From there, it’s another two minutes until he appears around Mason’s bedroom door. Too long blonde hair appears first, as Liam slinks around the wooden frame slowly. Corey watches in bemusement as the rest of Liam appears, back to him, body part by body part, until Liam is about a foot into the room and nods, then shuts the door. He turns on the spot, looking slightly terrified, and jumps backwards when he sees Corey looking at him, slamming into the door with a wince. He looks almost shocked to see Corey there, for some reason.

 

His expression changes quickly, morphing into a pleading face, like Liam wants Corey to speak first and break this awkward silence that’s sprung up between them, but hell no. Corey doesn’t particularly mind Liam – he’s Mason’s best friend, for one thing, and he respects him for that, and personally he has no problem with him; it’s Liam who’s caused the majority of the animosity between them, really - but there’s a history between them that can’t just be brushed over. So, no, he’s not speaking first. Liam can deal with the uncomfortable situation he’s created by entering the room so weirdly.

 

Liam shifts from foot to foot, stretching his back out a little, and then clears his throat three times in a row. “I, uh…” He trails off and gestures around the room, looking lost. His phone chimes, and he checks it, and then like a flash of lightning a determined look takes over his face. He crosses the room to Corey’s bedside in a few quick strides, grabs the chair that Mason put there (for when he got a visitor, he’d said that morning, and had then left before Corey could ask him who was visiting) and throws himself into it.

 

“I’m here to talk,” he announces, and must pick up that Corey’s heart suddenly goes into overdrive, because the determined look fades into apologetic. “I’m here to say sorry,” he expands, in a much softer tone.

 

That throws Corey off. He blinks, then squints at Liam. “Huh?” He wants to sit up, but an ill-advised make-out session with Mason that morning has left him feeling a little worse again, so he doesn’t risk it in case he throws up all over Liam and ruins this possible friendship that might be happening right now.

 

Liam shifts uncomfortably in the chair, fingers tapping on his leg. But he doesn’t look away from Corey once. “I’ve been a shitty person to you,” he says. “I’ve been acting like a dick, and I need to apologise for that. I didn’t trust you after…everything, and I’m sorry for that.”

 

Corey smiles half-heartedly. He knows Liam is being genuine, but he doesn’t deserve forgiveness from someone who doesn’t even know half the story – namely, Corey’s half. “You had every reason not to trust me. I was with Theo for ages.”

 

Liam flinches, but unlike a month ago when Liam would start reeking of anger and hatred at the name, he just smells of confusion and slight…affection? Happiness at the least. That’s a discussion for another time, and Corey is distracted from that train of thought when Liam starts speaking again. “He was a manipulative asshole back then. I knew he treated you badly, but I didn’t realise just how awful he was to you. I thought you being with him made you like him, made you evil, but recently I figured out that the world doesn’t work like that. You were scared. You’re not bad, you’re just…” Liam spreads his arms wide as he struggles to find the correct words.

 

“A raging ball of neuroses?” Corey asks, a faint smile on his face.

 

Liam’s lips quirk up into a similar expression, and then a full-on grin takes over. “That’s one way to put it – did Mason come up with that?”

 

Corey’s eyes soften at his boyfriend’s name. “Yeah,” he says fondly. “It’s a Masonism.”

 

“Intense,” Liam says, in a scarily good impression. “Well, it’s true, you are the most nervous person I ever met,” he continues a little more sombrely, and stares out of the window. “I really am sorry. I didn’t just get you wrong…I ignored how you felt. I ignored how scared you must have been, how anxious.”

 

Corey shakes his head, and forgets about lying down. He tries to prop himself up on his elbows but falls back with a gasp, and immediately Liam springs from the chair and grabs his wrist. Black veins leech down his arm before Corey can pull away. He does anyway after Liam’s taken the pain, mainly because he doesn’t have the strength to free himself from a werewolf’s grip, and scowls at him. “You didn’t have to do that,” he reprimands, fumbling for an extra pillow and shoving it behind himself. Liam helps him to gently push himself up.

 

“I didn’t,” Liam agrees. “But I wanted to. Shit, Corey, I thought you’d healed loads by now?”

 

“I have. The herbs Melissa used sped it up loads, it’s just a bit painful still sometimes.” Corey grabs the water glass and takes a few tentative sips. Swallowing hurts his throat, but the dull ache of the dryness hurts more.

 

“Do you know how long it’s going to hurt?” Liam asks softly, looking at the barely-visible wounds on his arms. “I mean, I didn’t even take all of your pain just then, and it hurt like a son of a bitch.”

 

Corey shrugs, setting the glass back down on the bedside table. “Who knows? I can deal with it, it’s fine.” Liam is looking at him with a mixture of concern, sorrow and pity, so Corey changes the subject. He loves Mason, and he enjoys being looked after by him, but it’s been a tad smothering lately. Corey can’t bring himself to say anything about it; Mason had clearly been distraught about Corey going missing and then being hurt. But the break from the constant worried glances is kind of refreshing, and he doesn’t want Liam to start where Mason had left off. “I didn’t fight Theo with the rest of you. That’s a pretty big reason not to trust someone.”

 

Liam takes the bait. “Dude! No, I said, I get it! You don’t have claws and fangs and everything, nobody expects you to fight! Like Mason and Stiles, you have other talents, and they’re useful in different situations. And even if you didn’t, you’d still be pack.”

 

Corey looks down at his hands. “Still doesn’t mean I had to stay with Theo.”

 

Liam exhales sharply. “Well, I guess not. But that doesn’t mean that you didn’t have other reasons.” It’s not phrased as such, but it’s clearly a question. Not one that Corey particularly wants to answer either.

 

Finally he thinks he’s worked up to it, but his voice still cracks a little when he begins. “Theo acted like he cared about me. I hadn’t really had that before, not as much as he did. Um…I know that he didn’t actually care about me, eventually, but he was technically my alpha by then? And he brought me back from the dead, you know, so I felt loyal to him even though actually he probably didn’t deserve it. And…” He glances up to see Liam’s reaction. The werewolf’s face is calm, but attentive, and when he sees Corey’s worried glance he smiles and nods for him to continue. “I felt sorry for him. His parents were kind of like mine, and then the Dread Doctors manipulated him, so I couldn’t really blame him for what he became. I mean, if they had told me I could escape all of it and become superhuman when I was a kid, I probably would have done the same thing.” He takes in a shuddering breath. “I think Hell changed him, Liam. I think he’s human again now. But he definitely wasn’t then.”

 

“I think you’re smarter than people give you credit for,” Liam says softly. “I never even thought about his parents before.”

 

Corey shrugs. “Why would you? It’s not something that naturally occurs to most people.”

 

Liam bites his lip. “Mason said your parents were shitty,” he mumbles. “I’m sorry, Corey. I should have treated you better.”

 

Corey rolls his eyes at him. “Not everything I say is a guilt trip, Liam,” he chides him gently.

 

“Just some things?”

 

“Of course,” Corey says smugly. “In front of Mason. Then I get sympathy kisses.”

 

Liam pretends to gag, and both of them laugh, breaking any of the lasting tension in the room. “Can I ask you something?” Liam asks when their giggles trail off.

 

“Sure.” His heart stutters for a second but this time, Corey makes an effort to keep his heartbeat slow and natural, so he doesn’t alarm Liam again.

 

“When you realised what was happening – with Theo, I mean – why didn’t you switch packs? I know you felt loyal to Theo, but Scott would have looked after you.”

 

Corey laughs, a short and harsh bark, before he can stop himself. “No offence, but your pack wasn’t the most stable then,” he offers as an explanation when Liam looks confused, and slightly annoyed. “And even if it was just an act, I could at least pretend that Theo cared.”

 

“Scott cares.”

 

It’s too much. “Not about me, clearly,” Corey snaps, then his brain catches up with his mouth and he clams it shut, looking away from Liam and at the wall. Way to go, Corey. You’re just starting to make amends with a guy and then you insult his alpha. “Sorry. I didn’t mean that.”

 

“What do you mean?” Liam doesn’t sound reproachful at all, just confused, like a kicked puppy. “It’s fine, I just don’t understand.”

 

Corey relents. “He doesn’t care about me, Liam. He shoved his claws into my neck without asking me or even telling me what was going to happen.”

 

“He shouldn’t have done that.” Liam’s good at controlling his IED now, but that doesn’t mean he can’t get angry. Corey can hear it in his voice now, and just hopes it’s not directed at him. “He feels bad about it, and so do the rest of the pack. He only did it because he felt like he had to.”

 

“Yeah, I know.” Corey tugs at the bed covers. He feels warm suddenly, a flush in his cheeks and neck. He’s beginning to regret his outburst. “I would have agreed to it. It’s more that he didn’t ask. That’s what bothers me.”

 

Liam nods. “I get that – wait. Bothers you? It still does?”

 

“Well, yeah. I guess so.”

 

“You mean…Scott hasn’t apologised?” Liam suddenly looks ten times more pissed off.

 

“Uh, no. I haven’t really ever talked to him.”

 

Liam nods, and closes his glowing yellow eyes. Corey waits while he breathes and counts, and when Liam opens his eyes again they’re back to their normal blue. “I thought he’d talked to you,” he mutters, rubbing at his forehead. “But I didn’t talk to you, did I, so maybe we’re all just pieces of shit.”

 

“Liam—”

 

“I’m back!” Mason slams the front door behind him and leaps up the stairs two at a time, like he always does, and Corey starts worrying that he’s going to trip, like he always does, until Mason appears and bounds over to greet Corey with a kiss, like he always does. Liam looks away, apparently disgusted, until Mason clambers onto the bed carefully and starts pulling snacks out of the carrier bag.

 

With his usual brutal honesty, Mason hands Corey a punnet of raspberries and asks Liam, “What’s pissed you off now?” Corey sniggers and munches on the fruit happily, watching the scene like a soap opera.

 

Liam glares at Mason. “Scott never apologised for the whole claws incident,” he growls. “I thought he had. He should have done.”

 

Mason hesitates. “Yeah, he should have,” he says carefully. “But it happened at a bad time in his life. He probably doesn’t want to bring it up because he associates it with that.” Corey nods in agreement. He’s pissed off about it, sure, but he knows why Scott did it, and he knows why the alpha avoids him still. Doesn’t mean he’s happy about it, but he’s made his peace.

 

Liam shakes his head. “Corey’s pack. He needs to talk to him,” he argues.

 

“Pack ally,” Corey corrects through a mouthful of raspberries.

 

“You’re pack, Corey,” Liam insists, then suddenly looks guilty. “Unless you don’t want to be, because the alpha did that. That’s fair.”

 

Mason looks between the two of them like he’s spectating a tennis match, and then frowns at Corey when he’s about to shove more berries in his mouth before answering Liam.

 

Corey refrains, answers, “I wouldn’t mind being in the pack, I just don’t think I am yet. I only really feel like an ally because Mason’s in the pack,” and then starts eating the raspberries, raising his eyebrows at Mason. His boyfriend just looks back at him, unimpressed, before smirking, and wipes a bit of juice from his lip.

 

“That’s my cue to leave,” Liam says loudly, when Corey watches Mason bring the stained thumb to his lips and lick the juice off. Corey waves a hand in his general direction and puts the punnet on the bedside table, and Mason tosses the carrier bag onto the floor. A packet of cookies rolls across the floor and hides itself under the desk.

 

“Bye, Liam,” Mason says absently, as Liam scurries out of the room, looking traumatised. “See you later.” He gets an answering squeak as Liam rushes down the stairs and out of the door.

 

They barely get five minutes into making out until there’s a knock on the bedroom door that Liam closed behind him, and Mason groans and jumps off the bed to answer it. Corey sits up again, pissed off that he’s been interrupted before they could get to anything good, and grabs a cushion to put over his lap. Mason sees the movement out of the corner of his eye and smirks at him before grabbing the door handle.

 

He opens it to allow Scott in, who looks exceedingly sheepish and nervous, and then embarrassed when he takes in Corey’s mussed hair and Mason’s swollen lips (Corey likes to bite a little, sue him) and no doubt the arousal that’s permeating the air of the room.

 

“Oh, I can come back later,” he offers awkwardly, flailing wildly to gesture leaving, but Mason opens his mouth before he can even finish that sentence. He likes Scott, but he loves Corey, and he’s been wanting the alpha to apologise for what he’s done to him for months now.

 

“No, you should talk to Corey,” he insists, giving Scott a meaningful glance, and then shooting Corey a reassuring one. He gets a bright smile in response, and his heart skips a beat at it. Out of his peripheral he sees Scott smile slightly at the stutter. He turns to go out of the room with one last grin at Corey, and then adopts a more serious expression to look at Scott. “He’s the centre of my universe. Don’t mess this up.”

 

He stores Scott’s shocked face away in his memory to laugh at later, and heads downstairs to make lunch while Scott and Corey talk. Sandwiches sound good.


 

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Chapter Text

“Hey, Scott.” Corey aims for warm, falls just short of casual, and lands somewhere around hostile.

 

Scott swallows and shifts his weight from one foot to the other. Something about the mighty True Alpha looking so disconcerted beaks a dam in Corey’s current emotional chaos, and he sighs and pats the bed next to him.

 

A ridiculous puppy-like expression comes over Scott’s face and he bounds over to the edge of the bed and flops down into the chair that Liam has just vacated. “How are you feeling?” he asks earnestly, eyeing the faint wounds dotted over Corey’s arms.

 

“Fine,” Corey answers, curtly, because Scott isn’t getting off the hook that easily. He realises a tad too late that Scott can smell his chemosignals, he can smell the faint waft of pain that Corey’s been able to hide from Mason, but more importantly, he’s able to smell the confusion rolling off the chimera in spades, the hurt, the betrayal, the anger, but most of the all the fear. His words might say one thing, but his body can’t help but say another.

 

A pained look crosses Scott’s face at the smell, and he reaches out on impulse, but retracts his hand again when Corey’s fear spikes, and presumably his chemosignals with it. “Corey,” he murmurs, fiddling with his hands in his lap. “I don’t want you to be scared of me.” He tries again to reach out to him, presumably thinking that if he’s slower with his movements that Corey won’t be scared, like he’s a spooked animal huddled in a corner.

 

The anxiety that’s been curdling in his gut clenches in a sudden crescendo and he feels a writhing like a pit of snakes has been poured down his throat. Corey throws himself out of bed blindly, wincing when a sudden rush of nausea bursts, and pushes past Scott trying to help him. He doesn’t want to be touched by Scott, not again, he wants to go, he doesn’t want to be in the same room as him. He stumbles down the stairs, hanging onto the banister. His vision swims as he goes, a lump in his throat making it so hard to breathe, heart pumping so fast it’s a miracle it’s still going.

 

The momentum from racing down the stairs carries him forward a few paces before he can stop himself, and by now his breath is coming in short pants. He collapses against the wall, nails scrabbling uselessly at the wallpaper. He’s on the brink of a panic attack, teetering on the edge of the steep cliff-face, toes curling over thin air. Vaguely over the pounding of his blood and the whirrings of his mind he hears his name, and then Mason appears. At the same time he feels a strong hand wrap around the back of his neck, squeezing just enough that he can feel the pressure through the miasma of panic, and another one cups his cheek.

 

“Corey, Corey, listen to me. You need to calm down, you need to breathe,” Mason instructs him firmly, warm brown eyes piercing him intently. “We’ve done this before, in, then out. Come on, I’ll do it with you.” Mason inhales exaggeratedly, then exhales, and smiles when Corey does the same. “That’s it, good, again.” Once they’ve done it a few times, and Mason seems satisfied that he’s got the hang of it, he turns around and instructs Scott to get a glass of water.

 

The surge of anxiety is wearing off now and Corey just feels more embarrassed than anything, like he always does. The thought of being so not in control freaks him out, especially in front of other people, and overcome with emotion he buries his face into Mason’s chest. “You’re okay,” his boyfriend mutters, kissing the top of his head, and wraps his arms around his back, swaying gently. Footsteps pad towards them. “Mind waiting in the living room for a minute?” Mason asks Scott, voice perfectly polite but with an icy edge that cuts through his words like glass. Clearly the werewolf can hear it too, because he hurries into the next room without any hesitation.

 

“I can’t do this,” Corey mumbles, pulling away from Mason, but still gripping onto him, hands curled into fists in his shirt. “I can’t talk to him.”

 

“You can,” Mason says immediately. “You can, and I’m going to be there to help. But you can do it, Corey. I wouldn’t say you could if I didn’t think you could.” His words, his tone of voice is so earnest and pure and worried that Corey instantly feels a little better, nerves soothed.

 

“You’re the best boyfriend ever, you know?”

 

“I know,” Mason says smugly, and then laughs when Corey rolls his eyes. “Come on.” He gently pries Corey’s hands away from his shirt and grabs them with his own hands instead, doing a basterdized version of the waltz to spin them round and lead Corey into the living room.

 

Scott is perched on the edge of the armchair, hands folded in his lap. He springs to his feet when the other two come in, eyes darting between them. “Can I…” he says, obviously torn between trying to help and not wanting to make things worse.

 

Mason, surprisingly, snaps, “You can shut up for a minute,” which makes both Corey and Scott stare at him. Mason doesn’t notice, busy arranging cushions on the sofa so Corey can sit down comfortably. Now that the adrenaline of anxiety has gone Corey feels shaky again, small shoots of pain racketing through his body. Finally, Mason seems satisfied with his work, and helps Corey lower himself onto the couch. “How’s the pain?” he askes quietly, when he’s settled into a sitting position.

 

“Could be worse,” Corey replies, taking the glass of water that Scott had gotten from the side table and sipping carefully.

 

“Could be better then,” Mason mutters, clambering onto the couch next to him, and wrapping his arm around Corey’s shoulders. Corey leant into him, relaxing at the warmth where their bodies meet. “Scott, what happened?”

 

Scott sits back into the armchair, still on the edge. “My fault,” he says, with genuine guilt written over his face. “I thought a hug would make things better, but I moved too fast.” He shifts in the chair. “Corey, I’m sorry. I didn’t read the situation right.”

 

Corey shrugs, staring down at his glass. “You were trying to help,” he says honestly, if not a little begrudgingly, tapping his fingers along the side of the cup. The motion creates ripples for him to focus on so he doesn’t have to look at anyone. Mason squeezes his shoulder, a silent show of support.

 

“Trying isn’t enough,” Scott says earnestly. “It’s not enough to just try to be a better alpha, I want – need to be a better alpha. For everyone in my pack.”

 

“I get what you’re saying, Scott, but honestly…I don’t even feel like I’m part of the pack. Not after everything that’s happened.” Corey puts the glass back on the side table and buries his face in his hands for a second.

 

“I – I never wanted you to feel like that. I’ve always wanted everyone to feel like the pack is a safe place.”

 

Corey snorts derisively before he can help himself. Looking up, he sees the surprised expression on the alpha’s face, and for a vicious second he enjoys it, and says, “Maybe you should have thought of that before you shoved your claws into my spine.” He gets a brief second of satisfaction before he feels bad about it and ducks his head again. Mason knows exactly what he’s feeling and shifts a little closer, pulling Corey into his arms and kissing the top of his head. There’s something protective in the way he’s wrapped his arms around him, and Corey feels the tendrils of anxiety creeping away.

 

Scott sighs heavily, then gets up and crouches down in front of the sofa, a little distance away. “That was awful of me,” he admits. “It was probably the worst thing that I’ve ever done. And Corey – I am so, so sorry. I honestly cannot express how sorry I am.”

 

Mason, perhaps sensing that Corey can’t find the words, answers. “Corey would have done it anyway, if you asked,” he says softly. “He would have wanted you to do it, if it helped.”

 

Corey nods. “It wasn’t the act itself, more the…” He trails off, trying to think of the best way to put it.

 

“Violation of your freedom and mental privacy?” Scott guesses.

 

“…Yeah.”

 

“If you can never forgive me for that, I understand.” Scott swallows, looking pained. “I did one of the worst things to you, Corey. And I know it must have hurt loads, too.”

 

Corey shakes his head. “I don’t care about that, Scott. And I can forgive you, you’ve said sorry and know that it was a bad thing to do so…you’re forgiven.”

 

Scott frowns at him, looking slightly confused for reasons Corey can’t ascertain. “Just like that?” he asks, an odd look on his face, and Mason sighs. “Corey, I caused you so much pain.”

 

“You were also going through a period of being systematically manipulated by Theo and, by extension, the Dread Doctors,” Corey points out smoothly. He’s had a lot of time to think this through, both by himself and with Mason. “Your pack wasn’t in the best place which meant neither were you, and while that doesn’t mean it was excusable, it means that you acknowledging how wrong it was and apologising is enough for me, because you are a different person to who you were then.”

 

 There’s a slight pause, where Scott stares at him with his mouth open, and Mason freezes for a second, before saying, “It amazes me how sometimes you’re so eloquent, and other times you can’t even string a sentence together.” There’s a slight hint of awe in his voice, but mostly just exasperation.

 

“I don’t usually have months to practice stringing together my sentences,” Corey points out with a slightly proud grin, and gets a kiss on the cheek from an adoring Mason.

 

Scott, meanwhile, is still crouched on the floor in front of them, shaking his head. “I don’t understand how you’re not bitter,” he says softly. “I mean, the first time I met you, I couldn’t even take a fraction of the pain you were feeling without nearly collapsing. If I had gone through that alone…”

 

“He also died and got brought back to life,” Mason chips in. “And set on fire.” He shrugs when Corey glares at him. “What? You did. Those aren’t small events, Corey.”

 

“Right!” Scott begins waving his arms around for maximum effect. “And then this thing, with the Ghost Riders! Liam told me how bad it was in that train station room thing!”

 

“And the herbs,” Mason interjects. “They hurt like a bitch.”

 

“Yeah! My Mom told me about that!” Scott flings his arm out and nearly hits the coffee table behind him. “Dude, seriously, you’ve been hurt so much. I’m sorry that I was one of the reasons you did.”

 

Between Scott looking so earnest and Mason looking so fond, Corey can feel his cheeks heating up in embarrassment. He wonders whether Theo would be able to get the ground to swallow him up, that would be nice right now. “It’s fine,” he murmurs. “No big deal.”

 

Scott looks like he’s going to continue, but Mason gets the message and changes the subject. “You know, the pack’s kind of weird,” he says in an off-hand kind of way. “You’ve got, like, two werewolves, a werecoyote, a werechameleon, a banshee, and two humans.”

 

“I like to think our differences make us stronger,” Scott says cheerily, ever the optimist. “I mean…Corey, if you want to be in the pack. There’s no pressure to be.”

 

“I don’t know if I should be,” Corey shrugs. “I mean, I’m not even really fully supernatural.” Mason and Scott share looks of bewilderment, so he explains. “I mean, I’m not human anymore, but I’m not really a full supernatural, because I can’t shift into anything or do anything, apart from turn invisible. So I’m just kind of in this useless middle ground,” he reasons.

 

“Corey,” Mason says, sounding pained.

 

“That’s so not true,” Scott says gently, glancing at Mason. “For one thing, the pack has non-supernaturals in it. And for another thing, it wouldn’t matter even if you were useless. Nobody is useless, not totally, and you are so far from it. Nobody thinks you’re useless.”

 

Corey chews his lip. Scott’s right, he guesses. For a while, Liam did probably, but he talked to him earlier and he’s pretty sure that if Liam could go back in time and take back his words he would. So it’s just himself thinking that now. “I’d like to be in the pack.”

 

Scott’s face breaks out into a stupidly happy grin. “Awesome!” he enthuses, clapping his hands together. “Thank you, Corey.”

 

Corey shrugs, feeling a grin work its way onto his own face, and immediately gets pulled into a hug by Mason. The werewolf laughs at the squeak Corey involuntary lets out, and at the way he starts to phase into invisibility in surprise. “So proud of you,” Mason whispers into his ear, and Corey knows he’s not just referring to joining the pack. He kisses his boyfriend on the cheek instead, and when they separate he can feel that’s turned about a hundred shades redder.

 

“Thanks for coming by,” he says to Scott, and struggles to get up but is stopped by the other two.

 

“Rest,” Scott instructs. “I’ll drop in tomorrow. I think the others want to come see you too, are you ready for them?”

 

“Yeah,” Corey says without hesitation. “I’m looking forward to it.”

 

Scott chuckles. “I’ll see you tomorrow then.” Mason gets up to walk him to the door. Just before they exit the living room, Scott turns around. “Hey – if I ever screw up again, please tell me straight away.”

 

“Of course,” Corey says, at the same time that Mason says, “Sure.”

 

“Thanks. See you later.” Scott puts one hand up in a wave and leaves. A few seconds later the front door opens and closes again.

 

Mason appears back in the doorway. “You’re amazing,” he informs him, then disappears again. “I made sandwiches!” he yells from the kitchen.

 

“How did you know I was hungry?”

 

Mason walks in holding two plates. “Corey, you’re literally always hungry.”

 

“You know me so well.”


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