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“Get up.”

Stiles spat out the blood pooling in his mouth. He hated its taste, never liked it, but he gritted his teeth. His body thrummed, every piece of skin felt like he’d been abused with a battering ram. He knew about the strength a werewolf possessed, the strength a chimera possessed. Still, it was different when this strength was directed at you. It didn’t even matter that the use of it was supposed to train him. Muttering a curse under his breath – Theo chuckled in amusement – Stiles forced himself to his feet again. He rolled his shoulders before tightening his grip around the trainings daggers in his hands. Although he could still taste blood in his mouth, he knew the wound was already healed.

“I thought kitsunes were naturally good fighters,” Tracy jeered walking in a cycle around Theo and Stiles, who didn’t look away from each other. Both were expecting the other to resume the training with another attack, but neither of them moved a muscle. “You don’t look like you could win anything.” It wasn’t exactly a secret that Tracy disliked him. She wore her aversion like a second skin, carried it as a shield and a weapon. Everybody knew the reason for her behaviour; and Stiles stopped being nice to her. It wasn’t his fault Theo showed favouritism; he simply was part of the original plan – the first choice, so to say.

It certainly wasn’t because Theo and Stiles had fucked in his truck bed during a stake out. Or that Theo had popped a knot; chimeras… seriously. The only redeeming thing was that Theo had been as confused as he had been; although he had appeared to be more irritated by Stiles’ being irritated. Listen, it had been a messy endeavour. But at least, Theo had been more bothered by taking care of Stiles than shit-talking Scott the whole night.

Stiles rolled his eyes, momentarily allowing a distraction. Theo instantly went for it. Stiles was quick enough to defend the attack by crossing his daggers and pinning his wrist between them. In a real fight, this could’ve been a nasty wound. But he was only using trainings daggers which were unable to do any real harm – unless you counted a blow to the head or any other body part. By far not enough to hurt a supernatural creature; especially not one as resilient as Theo Raeken.

Stiles muttered something under his breath while using his right foot to kick Theo away from him, whose grin turned into a small groan of pain. He stumbled back but quickly regained his footing.

Tracy made a sound of indignation. “I hate when he does that!” She snapped pointing at Stiles, who raised his daggers again for defence instead of going after Theo – he’d learned his lesson. Theo was harsh when it came to deflecting blows, and Stiles tended to leave an open spot for a counter-attack. “Make him stop.” It wasn’t the first time Stiles had insulted her in a different language. It was the easiest way to drive her up the wall and confuse her enough that she wouldn’t come up with a comeback which could make the situation escalate. His nogitsune was waiting for any opportunity to created chaos, strife and pain. She knew, of course, that Stiles had insulted her but since nobody spoke as many languages as Stiles did, she was unable to prove it – and Theo who had taken French as an elective for a couple of years never bothered to translate; either because he couldn’t, or he wouldn’t. He always told her to deal with the petty fights on her own – he was their alpha, not their babysitter.

“Ooooh.” Josh cackled, “Little Tracy needs papa’s help?”

“Shut up!” She snapped rounding on him with a snarl.

Theo rolled his eyes heavenward and lowered his arms. “Let’s call it for today.”

Stiles narrowed his eyes, watching the chimera shaking out his arms. It wouldn’t be the first time Theo screwed him over. They had been training for almost two weeks every evening in a row since his nogitsune powers had been kickstarted by Josh. After Stiles had agreed to Theo’s proposition, the guy had spent a tremendously amount helping him work through the changes in his body; physically as well as mentally. It still took a toll on him to feed on pain, and at first it had frustrated Theo that Stiles wouldn’t relent all that easily. In fact, he had told him to stop making a fuss about it. But Stiles didn’t; and the two had eventually come to a compromise that he would only feed on hospitalised people. Since he couldn’t walk in and out of the BHMH without people noticing, Corey helped him sneaking in and out by camouflaging them both.

“Wipe that blood from your nose,” Theo ordered turning around.

Stiles threw one of his trainings daggers at him, fairly missing his head. It scraped the shell of his ear instead. “Fuck,” he exclaimed as Josh burst into laughing.

Theo picked the dagger up. “You’ve gotten better at aiming,” he said not reprimanding him for the displayed behaviour, “One day you actually might be able to hit a non-moving target.”

Josh hiccupped with laughter, and it sounded like he was about to suffocate on it. In fact, as Stiles turned around, the guy was leaning against the wall. Basically wheezing, he wrapped an arm around his stomach. Corey, although guiltily, chuckled quietly. Tracy didn’t seem to find the whole thing particularly funny. She curled her lips as she met Stiles’ eyes before spinning around. Hayden was currently on duty with Liam, so he was spared her haughty response.

Theo zipped up his hoodie tossing Stiles his trainings dagger. “How's your dad doing?”

“He is allowed to go back to work tomorrow,” Stiles answered wiping the blood off his face with his sleeve. It was already dirty anyway. Maybe Theo wasn’t fighting shirtless to show off his muscles but to protect his clothes. Well, this safety measure at least told him that Theo actually thought Stiles could be capable of doing something more to him than pushing him away and blocking his attacks. “But he isn’t allowed to leave the station – which is going to be hell for the deputies. We Stilinskis aren’t good at doing nothing.”

Stiles carefully felt his nose. It was still odd to heal this fast; that there wasn’t any wound were the blood could have come from. It would definitively take a lot of time to get used to this supernatural healing speed – as well as his new strength. Stiles was thankful that kitsunes didn’t possess the same senses as werecreatures; heightened smell and hearing would not fare well with his ADHD. He couldn’t even smell strife or pain or chaos. At least, not like Derek had described. He just knew it was there, mostly because he felt surprisingly content without any particular reason.

Theo nodded slowly. “Need help checking in on him?”

“No,” Stiles said after a pause. “Lydia and I are visiting him during our free periods.” His timetable might not be as empty as hers, but Stiles still had more downtime than classes.

“Lydia?” Theo echoed with an odd undertone. The rest of the pack seemed to have picked up on it because the laughter suddenly died, although Josh tried his hardest not to make it too obvious. It failed horribly, by the way, and after Theo had sent a look in his direction that was particularly terrifying, he shuffled around the operation lair. Perhaps he wasn’t a proper alpha, but that didn’t mean Theo couldn’t control his pack. They listened to him for different reasons; Hayden because she felt gratitude towards him for bringing her back to life, Josh because he wanted to be a cool kid, Tracy because she had the biggest crush on him this side of the universe and Corey because he was simply afraid. None of these were good reasons. But for now, they worked. They also were worried he’d break their bones if they refused to do something. It was a fleeting punishment, yet, it appeared to be effective.

“So,” Josh asked clearing his throat, “Mexican?”

Stiles crossed his arms in front of his chest. Theo mirrored him.

“Mexican sounds great,” Corey agreed, relief evident in his voice.

“Mexican?” Tracy asked bemused.

Yes.” Josh linked arms with her and, together with Corey, pulled her out of the operation theatre – and out of harms way. Stiles and Theo didn’t fight often. When they did, however, it left the chimera in a horrible moor; one he took out on his pack sometimes. Stiles had never seen him do it, and he had never found any evidence for it other than a small flinch of his betas when he snapped at them.

They stayed silent. Theo was most likely waiting until he couldn’t hear his pack’s footfalls any longer – or until he heard their car, making sure that they were far enough away, so, nobody could hear the conversation. They didn’t want anybody to know anything about what happened between them, especially since they couldn’t tell whether there were going to be any consequences. Stiles had refused to do research but decided to go old-school with ignoring the problem until it quietly vanished into the night and, hopefully, drowned somewhere. He hadn’t broken ties with his old pack yet. He kept his distance, that’s for sure. Theo, however, had argued that staying in touch with them was safer. With the beast roaming around, Stiles couldn’t exactly argue – but he was done playing nice.

“You’re not going to stop me from seeing Lydia.”

Theo narrowed his eyes. “I wasn’t implying that.”

“You’re not my alpha,” Stiles replied, shoulders a rigid line, “you never will be; and just because your weird chimera cock popped a knot doesn’t mean you have any say in what I do or who I see.”  

“Stiles,” Theo chided crossing the distance within a second, “I said, I wasn’t implying that.”

“What were you implying then?”

“Nothing. I wasn’t trying to imply anything.”

Stiles bit the inside of his cheek. Theo didn’t usually lie to him, but that didn’t mean he told him everything. Although some people considered omitting certain truths was lying as well, Stiles didn’t belong to them. He respected privacy of thoughts – until it made someone act irrationally. “I’m going to tell her everything.” Including that he and Theo had fucked, including that he was a chimera now, including what Scott had used him for. Because Lydia hadn’t known. She’d reacted surprised after learning about them taking shifts to watch the beasts possible living quarters.

Theo ran a hand through his hair, sighing. “We talked about this.”

“I can’t stand to look at his face a day longer.” Stiles pushed Theo away, who, without regarding the behaviour in any way, stepped back. They both knew it was safer not to appease the nogitsune's constant hunger for strife; which was part of the reason Stiles had decided never to give Tracy a chance to get really angry with him. But Stiles could deal with jealousy. He couldn’t, however, live with being nice to Scott any longer or dodge the questions as to why he had broken up with Malia. For them, the breakup had come out of the blue. Stiles couldn’t quite fathom why. They hadn’t acted like a couple since their conversation about Donovan’s death; he had thought it would be better if he drew a clear line. Obviously, that had been the right decision.

“Stiles, I know-“

“You don’t know,” Stiles spat, pushing Theo again. Both their tempers were slowly rising, he could see it in the way Theo’s jaw tightened – as if he had to bite down to keep his composure. Maybe he had to lock up his anger the same way Stiles tended to lock up his screams. “You have no fucking idea how it is to watch their faces day in, day out, pretending everything is peachy when it isn't. I mean, does Scott really think everything is A-Okay? After what he had done?” Theo didn’t reply anything, just looked at him in stubborn silence. “First, he believes your lies without even questioning them.” Stiles shoved Theo again, harder this time – his anger walloping just underneath his skin. It became harder to ignore the void’s hunger. “I was his best friend since kindergarten, but he just went along with it. No questions asked.” Theo couldn’t contain a smile at the past tense. Let’s be honest, Stiles. Was he really still your best friend? He shook his head at the memory, then directed his attention at the chimera again. “And then he sold me out to you. Like I was some princess he could marry off for a peace treaty.”

Theo raised his brows. “We’re married now?”

“Oh, please,” Stiles scoffed crossing his arms, “Don’t pretend like you didn’t think about it.”

“I didn’t bite you,” Theo explained in a tone that could’ve indicated a tad too many study sessions with Alan Deaton – at least, if Stiles hadn’t known that this particular instance was impossible. “During, I mean. So, the claim might be for naught anyway.”

Might be?”

Theo shrugged, but the movement didn’t look half as casual as he probably would’ve liked it to be. “No two sources were saying the same thing.”

Stiles blinked. “You were doing research.”

“Surprised you didn’t considering how freaked out you were.”

“Oh, that’s so sweet,” Stiles drawled putting a hand on Theo’s cheek – which he then used to shove him out of his way. “I’m still going to tell them. It’s time he learns his lesson.” He wasn't saying that Scott was a bad person through and through, but many ignored that Scott's proclivity to save everyone put others at risk – and that he obviously didn’t hesitate to use those close to him; it was time Scott learned how the terms affect and effect were really linked.

Theo had obviously trouble keep his composure now. “Aren’t you sure this isn’t your fox talking?” As Stiles raised his brows, the chimera continued with a roll of his eye, “Listen, I fully agree that Scott deserves what's coming for him – but you saw what the beast can do. We don’t exactly have time for personal vendettas.”

“Talk for yourself. I did what you asked for almost three weeks now.” Stiles cocked his head, curiously watching as Theo’s features relaxed into a smirk. “I’m done being the nice guy.”

Good.” Theo’s lips twitched into a smile. “Because you and I are going to meet Scotty tomorrow.”

 

Lydia had stalked past Scott and Kira like she had used to do until Allison had arrived in Beacon Hills. But she wasn’t meeting Jackson at the other end of the hallway this time. As she had come to a stop beside him, Stiles had marvelled in seeing Scott’s face fall. He really would’ve liked to know what had been going on in his head right then, what he had thought might be the reason for Lydia reverting back to pretending he didn’t exist in her world. After Stiles had finally set the record straight yesterday evening, not only with Lydia but his father, too, he felt a lot better than before. Well, of course he hadn’t exactly told his dad that he had had sex with Theo. Lydia, on the other hand, knew everything. Neither his dad nor she had taken it lightly that Stiles had chosen to hang out with the chimera pack instead of coming to them immediately, but they had understood his reasoning eventually. His father was considerably disappointed in Scott after learning that he not only had believed Theo over common sense, but he had also used his son to gain the upper hand. He had promised, however, to stay out of it.

Lydia was furious.

Neither had seemed particularly bothered about Stiles being a nogitsune. They had asked, of course, what had changed for him now, and Stiles had told them about going to the hospital with Corey and that he needed to be less impulsive to keep accidental fights and outbreaks of strife around him in check. Although he had expected his father to be quite disconcerted by his taking pain from patients, John had appeared to be rather relieved to have learned that his son could heal within seconds; especially with the life he was living for almost two years.

But Lydia wasn’t at his side while they were waiting for Scott to finally arrive at the locker rooms. She had gone home making him promise to call her as soon as the conversation had ended. Theo stood in front of him, eyes roaming over his face. Stiles assumed he tried to find something that might tell him how he truly felt about standing on the other side of the pitch. Since they hadn’t had any classes together, Scott and Stiles hadn't seen each other yet other than that one time in the hallway, when Lydia had linked arms with him before tugging him away. Stiles wondered if Scott had an inkling about what he was about to find out – or if he even had a hunch what his former best friend was thinking about him after everything that had happened. Theo had contemplated whether Hayden had snitched, but Stiles doubted that since she hated Scott more than him. Because of that, she wouldn’t give the alpha any kind of information that might give him an advantage.

“They're coming,” Theo said suddenly, destroying the silence that had been curling around them. His head was slightly cocked to the door, but his attention was on Stiles completely; still expecting an unexpected but bold move by Scott, perhaps because it might be the only thing that could cause Theo to lose his upper hand. As for now, he was clearly in the lead in their stupid little pissing contest. Scott had been pushed so far into the corner, he had seen no other way than to go to Theo and ask for help. Little did he know who waited for him together with the chimera.

Stiles put a hand somewhat awkwardly on Theo's neck. “Let them.” He wanted to reassure him that this was no well-thought-out scheme. But with his ability to lie to werewolves, Theo couldn’t shake the lingering doubts completely. Stiles coming here to demonstrate his new position on the playing board seemed the only way of knowing for sure that he had abandoned the McCall pack.

Theo nodded, pushing his hand away only a moment later. Although everybody knew about his obsession with Stiles, Theo hadn’t made clear how far it actually reached. They might have had sex, but that didn’t mean they necessarily had to like each other. Theo had said it himself, so, it could still be possible that all he wanted was Stiles’ void. After all, he had come back for him. The stupid naïve teenage boy somewhere inside him hoped that wasn’t the case.

The moment the door flew open, and Scott as well as Liam appeared in the locker room, Theo's posture completely changed. The tension left his body, and his tight-lipped expression gave way to a smirk. He moved and turned towards the door, positioning his body partly in front of Stiles, who crossed his arms in front of his chest.

Scott looked completely and utterly shook. His widened eyes flick from Stiles to Theo and back again while he was trying so hard to understand what he just witnessed. He had had no fucking idea. All these weeks, Scott had never suspected that something had been wrong, although Stiles hadn’t exactly been nice to him. Perhaps he thought Stiles had acted that way because of their fight. At first Stiles had hoped that Theo had been wrong, that he had simply tried to push the two friends even further apart; but Scott had been extremely curious about what Theo and he had talked about and never had a proper explanation for why he hadn't appeared for his shift.

“You’re late,” Stiles said in lieu of a greeting.

Liam blinked.

If Theo wasn’t convinced now, Stiles had no idea what he would have to do. But the chimera chuckled and stepped back, standing close enough that his shoulder brushed up against Stiles’ upper arm.

“Stiles, what-?” Scott began.

The door fell shut behind them, leaving the four people inside in complete and utter silence. Stiles moved past Theo, who looked at him over his shoulder and leaned against the same lockers he had leaned against as they had questioned the chimera for the first time. This decision appeared to amuse Theo, because his shoulders moved in a silent chuckle.

“I told you we end up on the same side,” Theo greeted the two confused werewolves.

Scott couldn’t stop staring at Stiles, but Liam’s anger was quick to push him back on his path. His gaze snapped from Stiles to Theo. “How about I punch you in the balls and remind you we’re not?”

Stiles raised his brows snorting out a laugh.

Scott looked at Liam in surprise.

Theo chuckled. “I love this kid.”

“He has his moments,” Stiles agreed crossing his ankles. His clear demonstration of affiliation threw his former pack members off their cause again. This entire conversation would get completely side-tracked by every single thing he said – and he was totally going to use it to their advantage; also, for his own amusement. For the first time since Josh’s electricity kickstarted his nogitsune, Stiles could enjoy using his newfound proclivity to create strife and perhaps a little chaos. He already relished the stress this situation caused for his former best mate.

Scott swallowed visibly. “We know you’re not on our side, Theo.” He looked at Stiles again, who curled his lips into a smirk – one he’d seen on the chimera more than enough. It left the correct impression. “But we know you’ve been to Eichen. We know you’ve found something that could help not only find the beast but also figure out who it is.” Although being eager about getting his answers, Scott never fully shifted his attention away from Stiles. Did he expect him to come out with the truth – like this was just some masterplan he had developed all on his lonesome? If so, then Scott had to confuse Stiles with himself, because he usually talked to everyone involved in the plan instead of fucking someone over.

“You mean the mask?” Theo asked glancing at Stiles for a second, probably noticing the way his heart had skipped by it being mentioned. “Are you worried about that?” The question was directed at Scott, that much was obvious, but he still contemplated Stiles. There was another reason Theo had asked him about triggering his nogitsune. Although he had always shown an interest in his powers, he had never brought the topic up – until the day he, Tracy and Corey had come back with the mask of a fourth Dread Doctor. Since it functioned with electromagnetism, they needed someone who was immune to electricity. Josh had refused with a horror-struck expression as Theo had mentioned that the chances of killing him were low to non-existent, but it would result in exorbitant amounts of pain. Both Stiles and Theo knew that kitsunes were immune as well. The only kitsunes they were aware of had been, during that time at least, Kira and Noshiko; neither was an option to chose from.

In fact, Stiles had mentioned it, but Theo hadn’t wanted him to change merely for something that could be done by somebody else without problem. That’s why he had continued to try and force Josh into it. Maybe it would have worked – after all, Theo could be very persuading – if Stiles hadn’t stepped in and took matter into his own hand.

“Did you put it on?”

Theo and Stiles looked at each other in silence. “No,” Theo said after a small silence, in which both Liam and Scott glanced back and forth between the two, “I didn’t put it on.”

“Who did?” Liam demanded.

Theo crossed his arms, then nodded in Stiles’ direction.

Scott blinked. “No, Stiles couldn’t have put it on- he wouldn’t have-“ His voice was shaking, his words tumbled over each other with how fast he was speaking. Then suddenly, his whole demeanour changed. “What did you do to him?” Scott stepped forward. Stiles pushed himself off the locker and moved in-between them. “Stiles-“

“I didn’t do anything to him,” Theo replied calmly. With a hand on his shoulder, he pulled Stiles away from both Scott and Liam. Under different circumstances, Stiles wouldn’t even have moved a muscle. But right now, everything he wanted was for his former best friend to suffer – to see the damage he had done, to see that, this time, he was not going to get away with what he had done without suffering the consequences.

“Stiles-“

“I didn’t see Mason, by the way.”

Liam widened his eyes looking from Scott to Stiles, before fixing his attention fully on the latter. “What does that mean?” He asked in a voice that was just as rushed as his alpha’s had been. “It’s not him?”

“Possibly,” Stiles agreed.

“Who did you see?” Scott asked slowly, drawing his eyebrows in.

“We all want the same thing,” Theo interrupted before Stiles could answer the question, “we want the beast to be gone.” His hand slipped down to Stiles’ bicep, where it rested until he tugged him a little further back and out of reach – like he expected Liam and Scott to snatch him away at their first chance.

Scott seemed to be desperate to save the city, because he put every question he had regarding the current situation aside and focused on Theo. “Yeah, but the difference is that we want the teenager underneath to stay alive.”

Stiles rolled his eyes. Here we go again.

Theo smiled. “Well, I’m open to compromise.” He stepped right into Scott’s personal space – and it was all too obvious who had the upper hand. Scott would do anything to protect the city while securing the teenager’s safety. “You still got the map with the telluric currents on it?” Theo's smile left his lips, Stiles could hear it in his voice. He meant business; he was dominant and self-assured. He brought chaos in the usually so clear order of the werewolf pack. “Bring it to the operation theatre in two hours.”

Scott clenched his teeth. His eyes flicked upwards again, over Theo’s heard to lock with Stiles’. It wasn’t easy at all to keep his expression in check. He managed to look back completely unfazed by the situation; although he would like to say a lot to everything that had been going on for quite some time. But he promised himself to stay in control – it would hurt more if he acted like he had accepted the situation than it would if he were still flipping his shit because of it. So, he cracked his neck and turned away from both Liam and Scott.

Stiles flinched as the door snapped shut.

“Sometimes, I really wonder who is grounding who,” Theo said crossing his arms in front of his chest. “You need to get your temper under control.”

There were a lot of possible replies to that question. Right now, there was only one that mattered – and it seemed to be everything he could focus on. Stiles leaned just enough forward that he could bury his fingers in the soft fabric of Theo’s black sweater. Ignoring the raised eyebrows, he tugged the chimera closer, flat against his body and moved them backwards until Stiles was leaning against the lockers again. Theo parted his lips but didn’t say anything. Stiles bit the inside of his bottom lip and moved his hands until they rested at the chimera’s neck, his thumbs tracing the line of his jaw. He swallowed dryly watching as Theo’s pupils dilated, and his hands found their place on his waist.

Stiles licked his lips.

Theo’s grip on his waist tightened.

“Fuck it,” Stiles muttered eventually and pressed his lips on Theo’s. A flash of instant satisfaction zapped through his body; not unlike the first bite after being hungry for too long. It made so much more sense now when people talked about being touch-starved.

For one single dreadful moment, however, Theo didn’t kiss him back. He was motionless against Stiles, who didn’t dare to open his eyes. He had no explanation for the reasoning behind the gnawing worry – and he forgot about it as Theo suddenly pulled him impossibly closer. Stiles made a noise somewhere in the back of his throat.

Finally.

But just as soon as he reciprocated the kiss, Theo leaned back again. Stiles chased his lips – seeing the smirk, he probably wouldn’t live that down ever – and groaned in frustration. “No,” Theo said softly. His grip around Stiles’ wrist was firm as he pulled them away from his neck.

“Scared to get caught?”

Theo chuckled. “No.” He pinned Stiles’ arms against the locker. “But I’d rather we continue that when it’s not your nogitsune leading your actions.”

“It’s not.” Stiles struggled, but Theo didn’t let go of him. Instead, as Stiles had gained a bit of leverage, he was smacked back into the locker.

“It is, believe me.” Theo’s lips curled into a smile, but his pupils were still dilated. He wanted him, too. Stiles just needed to convince him. It couldn’t need much. “The full moon makes us go loco. Sometimes a strong emotion is enough. You know that, Stiles.” He tsked at the clearly displayed ignorance. “This is just because of the strife and the pain you sensed.”

Stiles let out a low whine. “I don’t have this when I feed.”

“Because you feel too guilty to notice it.” The smirk on Theo’s lips broadened, and for a second, Stiles considered smacking it away might him feel at least a little better. “And maybe Corey just isn’t your type. Speaking of Corey-“ Theo let go of him and brought a reasonable amount of distance between them- “He’ll pick you up after school, so you can feed before we’re going after the beast.”

“You want to meet alone with Scott and Liam?”

Theo shook his head. “Tracy and Josh will be there.”

Stiles bit the outside of his pointing finger. Right. Even if they would find the beast in its human form, it will not take kindly on him; and that was probably an understatement. Considering his situation, Stiles felt incredibly lucky that he had even managed to convince Theo not to go alone. Because that had been the stupid idiots first idea.

The walk towards their destination was filled with passive-aggressive tension. Whatever had happened between them meeting each other in the locker room and now seemed to have changed Scott’s opinion about how he should approach the subject. Instead of letting his confusion show, Scott attempted to show interest in Stiles’ being supernatural. The conversation wasn’t particularly successful, however, since he didn’t get any kind of responses. Ignorance was the worst kind of scorn – and Scott should know that, as long as Stiles was screaming at someone, things had a decent chance of him just blowing of steam. When he stopped talking, the situation had taken a turn for the worse.

“What did you do to him?” Scott demanded. As per usual, he imitated Pontius Pilate and washed his hands of every little splatter that could be mistaken for fault.

Stiles curled his hands into tight fists. Despite feeding only a few hours ago, something deep inside him longed for a rather specific kind of pain. Locking his jaw, he marched on trying to ignore the itching in his fingers as the weight of his ring daggers grew more and more noticeable.

Theo upped his tempo to stick close to him. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Stiles,” Scott insisted, “What did you do to my best friend?”

Stiles felt his blunt nails digging into the palms of his hands.

“I didn’t do anything,” Theo said. Leaves crunched louder under his feet as he doubled his tempo to finally catch up to Stiles. He refrained from grabbing his arm to slow him down, although Stiles could tell he wanted to. His emotional state had to be clear for everyone around. In the middle of the woods with the beast nearby, though, it might not be the best moment to test a nogitsune's patience.

Scott’s voice was closer, too. “I’m not letting my best friend become a murderer.”

“Do you think if you repeat the phrase ‘best friend’ often enough, Stiles is going to come back to you?” Theo asked scoffing. “And I can’t believe you still think you’ll get through this without killing anyone.”

“I didn’t say that.”

“Stiles!” Liam’s call echoed through the woods. It was so full of despair, his nogitsune couldn’t resist but stopping him dead in his tracks. Theo, who hadn’t expected such a reaction, bumped into him. “Look at me!” Liam snapped, and Stiles turned around to face the young werewolf. For a moment, nobody moved and both parties appeared like they were just about to snap. Then Liam’s shoulders slumped, his whole posture deflated. “I just need you to tell me. Who is-“

“It’s not Mason.”

“I want to hear it from him!” Liam demanded pointing at Stiles.

“He’s right,” Stiles answered fidgeting with his fingers just to keep his hands occupied enough that he didn’t reach for his daggers. Allison wouldn’t want him to shed innocent blood with them; she wouldn’t want him to hurt Scott – this thought might be everything that stood between Stiles and giving in to his anger. “I didn’t see Mason.” He shook his head, crossed his arms. Restlessly, he was nudging a branch with his shoe. Everything to distract himself from the whispers urging him to give in.

“Who did you see when you put on the mask?”

Theo moved to his side. “He already told you, it wasn’t Mason.” The distinct pauses between the last three words told a lot about the chimera’s state of mind. Stiles noted how he curled his hands into fists as well. That would not help him at all. Anything that might make his nogitsune even more happy could result in Stiles losing control about it.

“Who was it?”

Stiles grabbed Theo’s wrist. “We’re close.” The electric currents underneath the ground grew more distinct. Although he wasn’t a thunder kitsune, who could accidentally disrupt them, Stiles was still capable of sensing them. They became stronger the further they went into the preserve. A couple metres forward and they would have to turn left. It couldn’t be far now; neither from the truth nor the place it was hidden. He could tell them, but every time he thought about it, his throat closed.

It’s his fault.

And he would sort it out.

“Theo-“

“But why using Mason as a distraction?” Liam was grasping for answers.

“You just said it,” Theo jeered, “to distract you goody-two-shoes.”

“Where is he?” Liam screamed, and Scott needed to restrain him. “Your pack member took him away! Where-“

“He was with me,” Stiles interrupted loudly, “and now he is with the others. He’s safe, Liam.” Mason had been more than surprised as Corey had first snatched him away and then brought him to the operation theatre. He had calmed after seeing Stiles, but he had asked a lot of questions – most of them hadn't exactly been easy to answer. Still, Stiles had needed Mason to trust him, so, he was as honest as possible. Otherwise he might not have stayed with the chimeras while they were out looking for the beast. “We’re close,” he repeated tugging on Theo’s wrist. “Let’s go.”

Scott stared at his hand in disbelief.

Stiles yanked the chimera after him, and Theo finally budged. Although he couldn’t understand what they were speaking about, Stiles heard Scott and Liam conversing quietly. He wouldn’t be surprised if at the very least Liam wondered why they were here when Mason was perfectly safe. Scott’s answer wouldn’t be hard to figure out.

They saw the hut not too long after. Theo rushed after him as Stiles took off. He smacked into the wooden door to stop, then tore it open. “Wait,” Theo hissed, but Stiles was already inside. The hut had enough room for everything the Dread Doctors needed for their last experiment. That didn’t make it necessarily big. Connected to a giant tube filled with green liquid and something that seemed to be way past its expiration date was the last chimera.

“Hold on,” Scott breathed in utter disbelief, “isn’t that-?”

Pale and fragile looking, barely able to move, the boy with the black curls looked up.

“Donovan,” Stiles whispered.

“I thought you killed him?!” Liam questioned drawing his eyebrows in. “How is he still alive?”

Whatever Donovan was seemed like a pathetic excuse of being alive – and it’s not going to stay that way for much longer. The weight of the daggers became unbearable. This might be their one and only shot. This might be their only chance. Stiles straightened his shoulders and pulled one of the daggers out of its sheath.

“No!” Scott grabbed him by the wrist. “Stiles, you cannot kill him.”

“I can and I will.” Training with Theo seemed useful for the first time. Without a flicker of hesitation, Stiles slammed the side of his hand against Scott’s temple. Always go for the face, if you have the chance. That had been his first lesson; something Theo had gone by even during his sparring sessions. His fist connected fiercely. Scott’s head flew to the side. He let go of Stiles’ wrist.

Liam, who wanted to continue his alpha’s work, was viciously stopped by Theo.

“Do it.”

“Stiles!” Scott yelled, “Stiles, don't listen to him. There’s another way.”

Stiles.”

He didn’t need any kind of convincing. This thing had been settled as soon as Stiles had figured out who the beast was. He tightened his grip around the dagger and almost reached Donovan when he heard it. The distinct sound of grating frequencies.

Stiles turned around. Theo almost bumped into him again in his haste to get to him or away from the Dread Doctors. Scott, as well as Liam, clambered for distance. “They wanted us here,” Theo whispered breathlessly.

“Why?” Liam asked in a high-pitched voice.

If Theo was right, they most likely would not want them to destroy their little pet.

“Theo.” The voice was distorted. “Theo Raeken.”

“We're going to kill him!”

“Failure.” The same voice continued completely unfazed by the outburst. “Theo Raeken.”

Stiles grabbed him by the arm as Theo took a step forward. “I’m not-“ He stepped back again, close to Stiles this time. His voice almost cracked, and the nogitsune inside him rejoiced at the sudden pain radiating off him. “I’m not a failure.”

Liam and Scott exchanged a confused look.

“Not a complete failure.” Stiles tightened his grip around Theo's arm as the leader finally stopped opposite them. “We learned from you.” His attempt to pull Theo away from them failed. The chimera shoved him away, and Stiles stumbled over Donovan's legs at the force behind it.

“He’s trying to get to you,” Scott warned, “This is what they want. Don’t give it to them. We can’t beat them.”

Donovan inclined his head just enough that he could see Stiles out of the corner of his eyes. They were silver, like they had been just before he had fallen to his death.

They wanted us here.

“The mark of a true failure,” the doctor continued as if nobody else in the room was worth acknowledging, as if nobody aside from Theo was even present, “repeating the same mistake again and again.”

Theo’s posture grew rigid. His pain became anger. He turned to look over his shoulder directly at Stiles. There was no apology in his eyes, only white hot rage. “We’re killing Donovan,” he snarled, yellow bleeding into his irises. Stiles nodded and jumped to his feet. “After I’ve taken what's mine.”

He walked back to Theo’s side, both daggers in his hand. The two other Dread Doctors followed his movements attentively, their leader didn’t even acknowledge his presence. “You have the entitlement and narcissism typical of your generation. In that, you are a profound success.”

A sudden scream distracted both Theo and Stiles from the problem right in front of them. Liam and Scott had crouched down beside Donovan and tried to disconnect him from the tube. Stiles turned towards them, but got distracted by the doctor continuing his monologue, “But your failure taught us one thing.” Theo snarled at him. “The banality of evil. That you were and will always be and ordinary evil.”

“You think I’m ordinary?” Stiles quickly glanced at Theo at these words. But he couldn’t read the expression from his profile.

“We believed that to create the perfect killer, we had to start with the perfect evil.” The doctor turned his head a fraction, but it was enough for Stiles to understand that he played some kind of role in this whole disaster. “But from you we learned that true evil can only be generated when the subject’s driven by one thing.” He made a pause, then inclined his head even further. “Rage.”

They wanted us here.

Stiles drew in a sharp breath. Theo went rigid at his side. That's why they wanted them to find this place. It should have been obvious by how easy it had been for Theo to get a hold of the mask. It should have been obvious after Stiles had seen Donovan. Rage. This was a trap. It was a fucking trap and they had stepped right into it.

Donovan was at the last stage of his transformation; and Stiles was here to trigger it.

Too late Stiles took notice of the doctor to his left. Before he could react, he wrapped an arm around his throat and pulled him away from Theo.

“No!” Theo lunged at the doctor holding Stiles, but the third stepped in his way. They collided brutally, and Theo fought just as viciously – but he couldn’t get past the doctor to reach Stiles, who was slowly dragged towards Donovan.

Liam and Scott stepped in their way.

Stiles was thrown away like yesterday’s trash. His daggers went flying as he sprawled. He slammed against something hard with his head – and the world darkened and quieted around him. It came back only a few seconds later. The pain from the impact left. He blinked a couple of times to clear his vision. Stiles groaned.

Liam and Scott had been smacked into some barrels only a couple of meters away from him. Theo was the only one still fighting against the leader.

The doctor, who had secured him before, wrenched Stiles to his feet again. With ease, he dragged him in front of Donovan. “No,” Stiles breathed pressing his heels against the stone floor to get away. But the doctor didn’t even budge a little. “Let me go,” he pleaded struggling against the grip, “Let me go. You don’t know what you’re doing, please.”

Theo slammed to the ground somewhere to his left. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the leader stomping his foot down. There was a cry of pain, then silence; one that dragged on and on and was only interrupted by Stiles’ pleas for reason. He slammed his elbows back, pushed himself off the ground. He did everything Theo had taught him to break free from a headlock. Nothing worked. Nothing at all.

A growl stopped him dead in his tracks. Donovan raised to his feet. His eyes weren't silver anymore. Instead they burned a distinct blue. The line, which had connected him to the tube, dangled beside it. The growl grew louder with each passing second as shadows curled around him, ever darkening.

Stiles finally managed to push the doctor away, who seemed too awestruck to care what was happening around him any longer. The same seemed to hold true for the one who hold Theo down, because the chimera freed himself and grabbed Stiles by the arm. They grabbed onto each other for a few seconds, contemplating if running was even an option. The beast had proven to be fast. Stiles could make it, maybe, but Theo didn’t have a flying chance – with that, running was out of the question.

“Transformation without frequency.”

Stiles watched Donovan take the shape and form of the gigantic black beast.

“Success.”

Donovan roared, and Stiles covered his ears.

A second later, the first doctor had his throat torn open. Instantly dead, he dropped to the floor to Stiles’ left.

“Oh god.”

Theo pushed Stiles behind him, slowly walking them backwards and away from Donovan, who busied himself with ripping the head off another doctor’s shoulders. Yeah. No. They were dead. They were completely and utterly dead. There was no way they could survive this beast – not without Jordan; and it didn’t matter whether a nogitsune could control creatures of the darkness when he had been the key to this success in the first place.

Donovan walked over to them. With a single swipe of his claws, he ripped Theo's chest open like it was nothing more than parchment. He cried out as the attack pushed him against Stiles, who struggled to keep them in a standing position. Adrenaline and panic forced him to try and get away despite his chances being horrendously tiny. He moved his arms to get a better grip on Theo and pulled him away from Donovan, who was more interested in the third doctor anyway. His claws went right through the metal and sunk deep into his stomach.

Their silent deaths were horrifying.

Stiles’ feet caught on something on the floor. He stumbled and fell, pulling Theo down with him. Scrambling frantically, he moved the two of them as far away from the beast as possible. But Donovan merely locked at Stiles as he passed him, dragging the doctor along like it was nothing more than a puppet.

It left.

Donovan left.

But that didn’t make any kind of sense. He turned because of his hatred for Stiles. His rage was the key – and now he did nothing about it?

“Stiles!” Liam and Scott flew to his side as soon as Donovan had left the hut.

A blood trail marked the path it had gone.

The thing Stiles had stumbled over was a torn off head.

Because of his presence, Donovan was a successful experiment. The perfect killer.

Theo grunted in pain. He wasn’t healing. He wasn’t healing at all. Instead his body grew heavier against Stiles’. His hands were shaking as he checked the wounds. A sudden realisation kicked in. Theo wasn’t unbreakable. He wasn’t invincible.

“Are you okay?” Liam asked knitting his brows.

I’m fine,” Stiles replied curtly. But he had to speak around a lump in his throat. He had to get Theo through the woods and back to his car. That was at walk that had taken half an hour with them going fast. It would take much longer if he had to drag Theo. He needed help. He had to call for help.

Shots from the outside drew his attention away. But shots meant help.

Scott and Liam jumped to their feet at the commotion and burst outside. Stiles wrapped Theo’s arm around his shoulders. It took him two attempts to get them both in a standing position, but that was only half the job. The adrenaline still pumping through his veins made him shaky. His hands were sweating – and it went against every single instinct inside of him to go towards the threat instead of running away from it.

Donovan was already bolting when Stiles managed to get Theo outside. Chris Argent’s shooting didn’t seem to bother the beast at all. Every bullet that slammed into him, seemed to be nothing more than a ball thrown against a stonewall. Without Parrish, that thing couldn’t be killed.

Parrish was there, too, kneeling on the floor. Stiles’ approach pulled his attention away from Donovan. Although it didn’t appear that anything inside him recognised Stiles – his blank but intense stare felt somewhat uncomfortable – yet he still eyed his body for injuries after noticing the blood on his hands. Before jumping to his feet, Parrish threw something at him – then he turned and rushed after Donovan. Chris followed immediately.

Stiles blinked. There at his feet laid a set of keys.

Thank god.

 

Stiles had driven back to the operation lair as fast as possible. It was sheer form of will that he managed to drag the chimera through the tunnels before his knees gave way. Theo collapsed, almost slipping from his grasp. His fingers curled around the side of the staircase, knuckles turning white and smearing blood onto everything he touched. In a shared effort, they managed to help Theo sit down without him braining himself on anything in the room.

The rest of the pack, as well as Mason, piled around them.

“What happened?” Tracy inquired kneeling down at Theo’s side.

Stiles squeezed his eyes shut as the memories of Donovan tearing the Dread Doctors apart resurfaced. That could’ve been Theo. Donovan might as well could’ve chosen to tear Theo apart. But he didn’t. Stiles needed to remind himself that this was only something his imagination forced upon him. Theo was alive. He was hurt. It would just take some time – but he had to be in so much pain. It was so thick in the air that Stiles sensed it without touching his skin. The taste on his tongue made him nauseous.

“I asked you what happened!” Tracy snapped.

“Shut it!” Josh hissed pulling his packmate away.

“Okay,” Stiles whispered through the haze of his own mind’s trap, the disgust and the anxiety, “it’s going to be okay, right?” He didn’t want to add anything. He didn’t want to sound unsure, but his insecurity slipped past his lips without a chance to stop it. Of course, he knew that the wounds of an alpha, for example, took a lot more time to heal – but what about the wounds of a creature like Donovan? “Oh god,” Stiles breathed as he pulled at Theo’s shirt to get a better look at the damage, “This looks bad.”

Theo scoffed. “I’ll be fine.”

Not with this amount of pain. Not with this much blood everywhere. He couldn’t lose him. Not now. Not like this. It would be his fault. It would be his very own fault that Theo was bleeding out right in front of him. He killed Donovan. He was responsible for the rage that had been the last step to a successful experiment. Stiles stared at his bloodied hand, heart hammering against his chest like it wanted to break through his ribs. His chest felt too tight. Everything was-

“Hey.” Theo put his hand at Stiles’ cheek. “I’ll be fine.” He smiled; a smile that softened his expression and reached his eyes. A smile that Stiles hadn’t really seen like this before.

It scared the crap out of him. “You’re not healing.”

“I will,” Theo replied trying to lean forward but had to lean back again. A quiet laugh filled with pain escaped his lips.

Stiles bit his bottom lip. “I don’t see the joke.”

Theo moved his hand a little. His thumb traced the outline of his mouth, nudging his bottom lip until Stiles released it again – and the stupid idiot still smiled. Why was he- oh. Stiles looked away from the soft smile and locked eyes with Theo. Oh. He knew the last few weeks had left their mark on him; seeing Theo like he really was, seeing his true self behind the mask – the shattered pieces of what was left of the boy he had used to know. But if someone asked him, he couldn’t tell if that’s when it started. Perhaps it happened a lot earlier. Perhaps it happened just a few minutes ago. But it didn’t really matter to him. All he knew, all he could think about, was that right now, his world would come crashing down around him if something were to happen to Theo; if he were to lose him somehow.

And Theo knew.

Theo had understood that long before them.

The risk was high, and there was a quiet voice in the back of his mind scolding him not to be dead from the neck up. But it’s not like he had ever fallen in love with the person he was supposed to fall in love with. Lydia, Derek, Malia; all of them had been better choices, but not half as perfect as they would appear at first glance. Theo was the bottom of this list. Theo was the last person he should have any feelings for.

Theo angled his face up just the smallest bit. Stiles swallowed around a lump in his throat. He hadn’t realised how close their faces had moved until breath cradled his chin.

“You’re hurt,” Stiles whispered.

“I’ll be fine,” Theo insisted, the same smile still ghosting around his lips.

And then they kissed. Stiles couldn’t tell who crossed the last bit of distance. He didn’t know who decided that nothing mattered but the two of them in midst of their pack. Against all reason, against everything Stiles had believed three weeks ago, they were kissing. It was different than the few times he had kissed him before. The world around them silenced; it shrunk until everything that existed was just them. There was desperation in this kiss; a secret Theo had hidden for so long and for which he didn’t have any means to explain other than this.

But the taste on his tongue changed. His lips started to tingle like his skin did when he was feeding.

Stiles stiffened and pushed himself away from Theo, who kept holding him close. “It’s okay. It’s okay, Stiles.” He places feathery kisses on his lips, still smiling like everything truly was okay.

But it wasn’t.

Stiles shoved himself away. This time, Theo had no other choice than to let go. Stiles couldn’t do this. Not right now. Not with all this pain his nogitsune wanted to take. Before he had turned, Stiles had sworn to himself that he would never feed on those close to him. The thought alone made him feel sick. He couldn’t relish in something so horrible, not even when they thought it okay. Theo couldn’t differentiate right from wrong when they did the limbo in front of him.

“I can take it.” Hayden appeared at his side, her hand hovered over his shoulder. “His pain, I mean. I can take it. Liam taught me how.”  

Stiles nodded and pushed to his feet, away from Theo, who grated his teeth as he couldn’t get up on his own. The pain was still too intense. The pain he had fed on. “I have to-“ A sudden wave of nausea hit him square in the gut. He turned on his heels and rushed out of the operation theatre. Stiles barely made it into the tunnels as he fell to his knees and retched. His fingers pressed against the floor, knuckles turning white. For a second, he debated if he should put a finger down his throat – but the vivid image of his mother doing the same thing to get rid of her pills during an episode stopped him.

Footsteps alerted him to somebody’s presence. It wasn’t Theo who crouched down beside him.

It was Mason.

“It's not going to help,” he explained quietly.

Stiles knew that. What he had taken from Theo didn’t need to go through his stomach. It had sunken into his skin. He dry-heaved again, his throat worked around nothing. Tears burned in the corners of his eyes.

Mason awkwardly put a hand on his shoulder. “I know accepting something this big isn’t easy. But with fri-“

“That’s not what this is about,” Stiles interrupted the younger, wrapping an arm around his stomach. He heaved again, his nails dug into the cracked floor. “I’m bi, Mason. I thought-“ Stiles coughed and sat back on his heels. “I thought that’s a given.” Shivering, he leaned his shoulder and the side of his face against the cool wall. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, then pressed his wrist against his lips trying to fight the nausea.

Mason watched him quietly.

Stiles closed his eyes for a second. “You read up on kistunes, didn’t you?”

“Yeah.”

“Did you,” Stiles continued squinting at the boy next to him, “did you by any chance stumble over nogitsunes?” He lowered his hand and started fidgeting with the hem of his shirt. He didn’t even know why Stiles wanted to tell him. He’d gone over this whole thing with his dad and Lydia already. But somehow, he wanted to talk about what was going on in his head right now – and Mason seemed like the best option. “So, you know, they feed on chaos, strife and pain.”

Mason was a smart kid. His instincts were good, and he connected the dots in ways Stiles would do himself. “Oh.”

“That’s not the worst thing. I like it,” Stiles confessed miserably, “I really like it, and I want it all the time.” He caught sight on the blood on his hands. Another wave of nausea slammed into him, and he gritted his teeth forcing himself to breathe through it. “It’s like the best trip you could possibly imagine.” Shuddering, Stiles rubbed his hand on his jeans. “And I hate it.” His movements became more frantic, faster. He needed to get it off his skin. “But I need to feed.” The fabric of his jeans was sticky and disgusting, drenched in the blood covering his hands. “Or I’ll starve.”

Mason grabbed his wrists, but he had a hard time stopping the movements, “Stiles. Hey, hey, Stiles.” He had to use a great deal of force to pause the frantic attempts to clean the blood away. “I’ve been with you today, and I saw the toll this is taking on you.” His voice was soft, even, and he looked Stiles straight in the eye while talking. “But you’re still easing the pain for all these people in the hospital.” Mason smiled at him. “Maybe if you approach the whole thing with that in mind, you feel a little better in the end.”

Stiles chewed on his bottom lip.

A sigh made him flinch. “He’s right, you know?” Tracy stood a few feet away from him, arms crossed and frowning. Stiles raised his brows. “Listen,” she sighed running her fingers through her long hair, “I know when I’ve lost a fight, and I was stupid to get my hopes up in the first place, but I’m not a sore loser.” Tracy came closer and crouched down beside him. “That’s why- god, you should’ve seen his face as you bolted. I’ve never seen someone look so devastated before. The thing is-“ She didn’t exactly look what Stiles would call exhilarated – or like someone who was about to give a motivational speech. He still gave her credit for the effort. “you’re a good guy, and I can’t let you be disgusted with yourself even if I tried; that doesn’t mean I like you, though.” She raised a brow. Stiles scoffed. “But you’re helping these people. Three were discharged after you turned, did you know that? The reduction of their pain helped them heal faster.” Tracy paused. “Theo made us keep record of it. I guess, he expected something like this.” Vaguely, she gestured in Stiles’ general direction.

Mason let go of his wrists. “Also,” he added quietly, “Corey said that the pack is- it’s better since you’re here.”

Tracy let out the sigh of the defeated. “He’s right. Again.” Her face said more than a thousand words could ever do. “Theo’s a lot less… aggressive, and he’s more like a leader than a slave-driver. I mean, we’re not the McCall pack, but-“

“It’s better that way,” Stiles muttered forcing himself to his feet with the help of the wall behind him. His knees felt weak, and he didn’t exactly trust himself to walk on his own yet. “Pack members are sold for benefit there.”

Mason frowned. Knowing Scott like he did, this statement most likely didn’t make a lot of sense. But Stiles had seen his former best friend do some questionable things since he had been turned, his view was a little more refined. “Wait,” Mason muttered suddenly, “Scott sorted you into teams. He paired you with Theo.”

Tracy didn’t look any less surprised. “Are you shitting me?”

“Theo didn’t tell you?”

“No,” she replied just as puzzled about it as Stiles was. He fully expected that Theo hadn’t made a big secret out of the whole thing. “As Josh asked why you’re with us now, he said you’re acting as an intermediary.” With a sigh, she rubbed her forehead. “Jesus,” she muttered then, “come on. Let’s go back.” Although still looking considerably annoyed by the whole situation, Tracy offered him her hand. Stiles took it. This was most likely going to be as peaceful as it could possibly get between the two of them. At least for now. “Can you walk?” The question seemed to be more of a logistical problem than concern.

“I’m fine.”

They moved back in silence. Hayden, Corey and Josh were huddled together. They stood close to where Theo was leaning against the staircase. A distance because of respect; like it had used to be with Derek. That wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. But there was only a thin line between respect and fear – Josh and Corey turned around, their faces lighting up as if someone flipped on a switch. Even on Hayden’s face appeared a small smile.

Theo’s expression was stony. Stiles wasn’t sure if that’s because of his sudden elopement or because of what he had overheard. Eavesdropping wasn’t exactly something Stiles would put past him. “Slave-driver?” He asked then, answering the unasked question.

“Well,” Josh started quietly, “you used to be kind of a dick.”

Theo raised his eyebrows.

“I mean- uh, it’s… we’re like… friends, y’know? You bossed us around before, and we were just kind of… headless chickens. But now, we’re eating together and doing homework and shit,” Josh admitted quietly. “You’ve started making jokes, dude.”

Stiles put a hand on Theo’s shoulder. The chimera frowned at him for a few seconds, then he curled his fingers into Stiles’ shirt and tugged him close. Relaxing instantly, he fell against him closing his eyes. Theo kissed the corner of his mouth, unabashed by the affection in front of his pack. That’s most likely what the others were talking about – and what Stiles had noticed himself. Theo was a lot more connected to his humanity. “Guess we have a good emissary,” he said more to Stiles then to the rest of the pack.

“I don’t think a nogitsune would make a good emissary,” Stiles muttered wrapping his arms around Theo’s shoulders.

“We’re a pack of chimeras,” Tracy reminded him with a distinct frown in her voice, “Nothing here is ordinary.”

“Ordinary is boring anyway,” Josh commented.

Theo chuckled, his body moving gently against Stiles. “Don’t run off like that again,” he asked in a quiet whisper.

“Never.”

 

The following week had been quiet. Donovan hadn’t made it out alive. Jordan and Chris Argent had struck him down. He had been so badly burnt, that he hadn’t been recognisable. This made it a lot easier to dispose of his body. The beast was gone now, and Donovan would, hopefully, stay dead forever this time. One nightmare down. His trauma to go. Lydia and he had started hanging out with the chimera pack on a regular basis. They still had to work through a lot of issues, especially Theo had a very long way to go. He was getting better slowly; Josh wouldn’t stop making comments about his progress – a risky manoeuvre yet exceptionally funny.

It was Saturday now, and Stiles had been waiting for Theo to pick him up for the bonfire. Lydia had thought it a good idea for the pack to go to a party together; to establish friendship, to bond. Stiles liked the idea, but as Theo hadn’t come, gnawing worry had curled its fingers around his insides. Call him paranoid, call him overprotective; as Theo had been half an hour late, Stiles had tracked his location via his phone – it was tremendously helpful to be the sheriff’s kid – and he’d found him at the water treatment plant.

That’s not where Theo should be right now.

Stiles had run faster than he thought possible. He had pushed his body further and further, had forced it past its limits. His muscled had been burning with every step he took – but he didn’t care. He flew through the tunnels, now more guided by some sort of invisible line than the red dot blinking on his phone.

“I came here to make peace for Stiles’ sake,” Theo snapped, his voice was carried by the pipes in the underground.

He’s close. So, close.

Metal grated over the ground. “The skin walkers have a message for you, Theo.” Kira? What the hell was Kira doing here with Theo? And what kind of message would the skin walkers have for him? “Your sister wants to see you.”

Stiles skittered around a corner. His left arm and side smacked into a wall, but he barely registered it. Theo was right in front of him. He just needed to get to him. Grinding his teeth, he pushed himself away from the wall and bolted down the short tunnel. A tremor shook the floor. Stiles almost sprawled. There was a crack in the floor right at Theo’s feet.

Stiles lunged at the chimera. At this speed, hurtling into Theo was like running smack into a stone wall. As a human every bone in his body would have been broken. As a chimera, the impact only knocked the air out of his lungs, and Theo off his feet. He hit the pipes with his shoulders and head before going down eventually. Stiles landed on top of him with a groan.

“What the-“ Malia sounded completely befuddled. “Stiles!”

“Get away from there!” Scott yelled.

Theo blinked once, twice. Then he snapped back into motion. Without hesitating any longer, he shoved Stiles off him only to then pull him to his feet and away from the circular crack in the floor. His movements were off, too hectic, almost frantic. That wasn’t how Theo usually operated. He tended to be calm and deliberate. But something had thrown him completely off his game.

Only a second later, Stiles saw what.

Accompanied by a grating voice, a girl clawed its way out of the hole in the floor. Although he hadn't seen her for years, Stiles recognised her instantly.

Theo hurled himself away from his sister, grabbing Stiles by the upper arm to pull him with him. His blind panic made him inattentive. There was something in his path fucking with his balance. Stiles couldn’t see what. He couldn’t keep the two of them upright either. They toppled to the floor with a yelp. Theo, who couldn’t look away from Tara, scrambled backwards. Stiles didn’t have a choice but follow with how tight Theo held onto him.

But Tara, once out of the hole, was suddenly right in front of them. Up close, he could see her rotting skin and teeth. Her dirty, streaky hair. The gaping hole in her chest. The nauseous scent of death and blood and decay.

In a heap of panic, Stiles kicked at her. But the outcome was exactly as pointless as expected. The bones in her shoulders cracked, then snapped back into place like nothing had happened. His fingers curled into Theo’s sweater. Theo tightened his grip around Stiles’ arm.

Tara smiled at her brother, teeth blackened and broken. Her breath nauseating.

“No.” Theo’s voice was nothing more than a croak.

Stiles kicked at Tara a second time. Again, his attempt was in vain. Instead of reacting to him, she grabbed Theo’s ankles and, with an extraordinary amount of strength, wrenched him away. Stiles almost lost his grip on him.

Theo yelped, grabbing his wrists and digging his nails into Stiles’ skin. It did not help. Although he dug his heel in, Stiles was pulled around as well. He cussed, frantically looking around for something to hold onto. Anything would do, really. But he was too far away from the walls. Under no circumstances could he grab onto pipe – or at the very least hook his foot around one – unless he let go of Theo. But that’s so not going to happen. He was not going to let go of him.

“Hold on,” Stiles ordered. He freed one of his hand to grab a ring dagger and slammed it into the ground. The abrupt stop in movement tore at his shoulder. He gritted his teeth to keep his cry inside. His joint screamed in pain – and there was no improvement in sight. Tara, already half back in the hole she had crawled out of, tugged and yanked on Theo’s ankles. She hissed and spat, pulling harder. 

“Stiles! Let go of him!” Scott called, but he stood rooted to the floor. He didn’t move. He wouldn’t come for help.

Theo tried his hardest to hold on to Stiles, sheer panic in his expression.

Stiles could feel the dagger move. His grip was unyielding. The ground, however, was not. He noticed the small crack around the dagger’s blade. “Tara, please,” Stiles begged turning his attention away from the asphalt and to their problem at hand. Tara bared her teeth again, snarling at him. Acknowledging him was more than Stiles had hoped for, to be honest. “This is your brother,” he continued, eyes flicking down to lock with Theo’s then back up again, “You love him, don’t you remember?” She gave a guttural sound, something that sounded like she would repeat love. It seemed as if she had once known what that word meant. “That’s your baby brother. Please, Tara. You told me, you wanted to protect him.” Stiles did not intend to deceive himself. He was grasping at straws. “You wanted him to be happy. I remember how you asked me if we were friends.” The dagger inched again. It was a matter of time until it gave way. “I remember how ecstatic you were when I said yes.”

Tara appeared to be hesitating. The tug and pull stopped, and her dull and white eyes focused on Stiles. He got her attention. Now it was time to convince her to let her brother go. For the flicker of a heartbeat, Stiles looked up at Scott, Malia and Kira. None of them was moving. They were just standing there, staring at them. He wondered if Scott was not only ready to sell him out to Theo in order to gain an advantage, but would also go so far as to risk Stiles being dragged down just to get his revenge on the chimera.

“I’m begging you,” he pleaded looking back at Tara, “Let him go. He is your little brother. You beat up that bully for him. Theo couldn’t stop talking about how glad he was to have you as his sister.” The palm of his hand was slick with sweat and blood. He barely noticed that he had cut himself. “He loves you.”

“He killed me!” Tara shrieked all of the sudden.

“He was manipulated!” Stiles called begging, pleading, hoping he would get through to her. “He was used. Just like you are being used now.”

But his moment was over. Tara hissed and yanked at her brother’s ankles again. Stiles screamed in agony as his upper arm bone was violently pulled out of its socket. His cry ricocheted off the walls. It was a miracle he still held on to Theo. But his grip was slipping, even though he forced his fingers to tighten. Tears stung in his eyes. His vision blurred. Everything around him was reduced to the agonising pain in his arm – until he noticed that it wasn’t his grip that loosened.

“No!” Stiles yelled, but his voice was nothing more than a wrecked whisper. “Don’t you dare. I swear to god, if you let go-“ Theo smiled at him, and he knew what it meant. “Please. Please, don’t.” But he didn’t listen. Still with that small smile on his lips, Theo completely let go of him. Stiles couldn’t hold him. Not with his dislocated shoulder. He could barely move his fingers without a new wave of pain immobilising him. “Theo!” Stiles let go of the dagger. But he had already lost his grip on the chimera.

One second he was there.

The next, he was gone.

And something was torn out of him.

Stiles used his good arm to get to his knees. Before he could move, however, the hole fixed itself, closed right in front of him. He froze where he was. No. That was a dream, right? He was stuck in a horrible nightmare. That’s it. That had to be it. But it wasn’t. Theo’s gone. He had let go although Stiles had told him not to. Why did he let go? He could’ve pulled him back. He just needed to change hands. His shoulder was already healing. He could have-

With trembling fingers, Stiles traced the ground where Theo had vanished. His blood stuck to the asphalt, marking the spot of his loss. If he had come sooner- if he had been stronger, perhaps he could’ve saved him. But Stiles had bitched about feeding the last week. He hadn’t wanted to because it hadn’t been necessary. Their threat was dead. They weren’t in any kind of mortal peril, so Stiles hadn’t thought about becoming stronger by feeding more than he needed to. Theo had tried to convince him, argued that in Beacon Hills, they couldn’t be too careful.

Better to be safe than sorry.

But who would’ve expected this to happen.

Stiles yanked his dagger out of the ground, slipping his pointing finger through the ring above the handle. After weeks of excessive training, it was an instinct, an automatic movement. Josh had started to joke about them being a detachable part or his body, because Stiles had gotten so used to them that he felt naked leaving the house without them.

The silence in the tunnel was excruciating. Nobody said a single word, but Stiles sensed their eyes on him while he was still staring at the blood on the ground. With the sensation of pain fading away, Stiles fell into a state of numbness. He remembered the feeling. He had been here before. He had gone here multiple times willingly. After his mother’s death. During his father’s dipsopathy. After Erica's death. After Boyd had been murdered. After his father’s abduction. During his possession. After losing Allison. After the nogitsune. After Derek leaving. After killing Donovan. During his father’s hospitalization.

He had been here so many times before that he found his way blind.

He found his way quick.

“Stiles.” Scott walked over to him, his shoes too lout in the tunnels. “I know, he got into your head.” His voice was soft, his words attempting to be comforting. “It’ll be hard for a while, but you’ll understand eventually that this had to be done.” Scott watched his expression for a few moments before carefully wrapping an arm around his shoulder for a hug. Stiles went rigid against him. His dagger grew heavy in his hand – and what Theo had called his temper so dismissively seethed with anger. “It wasn’t your fault. Theo knows how to manipulate people.”

His temper slowly unfolded, nudged against its cage – almost waiting for something to push it down, for someone to keep it grounded.

“He would’ve only dragged you down.”

“He let go.” Stiles looked over Scott’s shoulder at Kira and Malia. They smiled at him, but their smiles were unsure, careful; testing the waters. He pretended to smile back.

“What?” Scott asked quietly.

Slowly, his smile faded away. His expression hardened.

Sometimes, I really wonder who is grounding who.

Stiles turned his head just enough to press the corner of his mouth against the shell of Scott’s ear. His eyes stayed on Kira. “He let go of my hand,” Stiles whispered, and his fingers tightened around the dagger. “You remember that night you put me up for bait hoping Theo would fall for it?” Stiles put an arm around Scott’s shoulders stopping him from backing away as he must’ve sensed the change in behaviour. “You know what he did that night?” Stiles made a pause, not long enough to give anybody the chance to reply. Scott squirmed against him. “He fucked me,” he continued then watching Malia's expression change from confused to thunderstruck within seconds. “He fucked me real good, and then he brought me home and tucked me in. He slept on my chair to give me space.” Stiles angled his dagger upwards slightly, relishing in the shock and disbelief thickening the air. “Theo never forced me to do anything. He just took me the way I am.” Malia drew her eyebrows in. Scott struggled against his hold. “Something you couldn’t do. We all needed to change to fit into your perfect little pack of perfect little people; and if something went wrong you were quick to get rid of us. First me, then Kira. We’re tainted now, aren't we? We don’t fit your moral code anymore – and neither did Theo. But he did something worse, didn’t he? He tried killing you.”

Scott stopped struggling against Stiles, and, switching tactics again, he pulled him into a tighter hug. “He did kill me,” Scott reminded him. But his voice wasn't accusing, it was understanding. Like Stiles was a little kid that had been conditioned by a bad man.

“You look alive for a dead man,” Stiles commented icily. “Damn, Scotty, you put yourself in a rather awkward situation here. Then again, that shouldn’t be news to you. Your plans tend to suck.” Stiles watched Malia straighten, watched Kira raise her brows. “But I’ll give you a hint.” Without batting an eye, Stiles buried the dagger as deep into Scott’s gut as possible. He gave out a cry of pain and sagged against Stiles, who kept him upright, patting his shoulder. Malia and Kira both sprung into action. “I wouldn’t do that. This dagger is laced with wolfsbane, so we should probably keep this discussion short.” They staggered to a stop. Stiles smiled before turning his attention back to Scott again. “Do you remember this?” He twisted the blade around a little, enjoying the noises of agonising pain. “I guess you do. Then I suppose you remember what happened the last time someone pissed off a nogitsune.”

No,” Scott breathed.

“’No, you don’t remember’ or ‘No, that can't be?” Stiles inquired with a raised brow. He clicked his tongue then. “Well, it’s yes to both. You do remember, and I am a nogitsune; well, at least a chimera. I don’t have that fancy aura. Void just left a few little presents as it created a new body for me. But that’s beside the point now.” He twisted the dagger again, pushing it deeper. “You’re still in this awkward position. So-“ Stiles yanked the dagger out of Scott and shoved him away. He smacked into Malia, who barely managed to keep the two of them in an upright position. “Either you let him out or I will. Whatever you do, you’ll lose.”

Scott just stared at him. “Please.”

Stiles scoffed taking in the broken form of his best friend. “If I were you, I’d get that checked out.” Scott looked up at him, pale-faced and wide-eyed. Dark blood was seeping out of the wound, lined with streaks of black liquid. “Looks nasty.” Carelessly, he used his hoodie to wipe the blood off his dagger. “I’ll give you till sunrise to make a decision.”

“Listen to you,” Malia hissed staring up at him like she had never seen him before. “He drove you insane.”

Stiles shook his head. “No, I’m in perfect control.” His voice was cold as he started talking, his features re-arranged into perfect nothingness. “You don’t want to see me losing it.” He allowed his lips to twitch in a small smile, then pointed his dagger at Scott again. “Tic, toc, buddy. But I’m sure you’ll make the right decision.”

 

Stiles sat on the table in the operation theatre, one leg dangled from it, the other was bend. It was empty and silent, aside from the constant thud of the table being stabbed repeatedly. The pack had gone to the bonfire like they had planned, Stiles had told them Theo and he couldn’t make it. Though their complaints had been justified, they had accepted the decision. The place didn’t feel good alone in the dark. Something in the air sang about the nightmares that had been created here.

He interrupted his movements long enough to check his phone – there was a message from Josh begging him that they, please, fucked anywhere but the operation theatre; another one from Lydia saying that they would need to have a serious talk tomorrow; a third from Tracy telling him he sucked for ditching the bonfire – then he switched the display off again and resumed throwing his dagger down. He couldn’t chase away the image from Theo being swallowed whole or the way it felt as he slipped through his fingers. He couldn’t forget the smile playing around his lips.

There had been a time when Theo wouldn’t have let go. There had been a time where Theo would have been too invested with his own survival that he would have rather dragged Stiles down with him than to save his life by letting go. That didn’t make him a good person or a capable alpha. Theo was still far, far away from that. But he tried. Trivialities, which would usually send him over the edge, he accepted now – even if begrudgingly. He grinded his teeth over Josh’s stupid comments or Hayden’s bitching. He was more invested in his pack members’ lives, and tried very hard not to favour anybody. He even allowed Mason and Liam to see their significant others at the operation theatre without making a fuss about it. Although everyone had a home – Tracy lived with her aunt, Theo lived alone in the empty house his fake parents had left behind – this was somehow their common room. Lydia had noted it needed a bit of redecorating.

Stiles hurled his dagger away from him. It flashed through the air, forcing its way into solid stone until it was buried almost up to its handle. It wasn’t half as satisfying as Stiles hoped it would be.

“If you aimed at me, I’m sorry to inform you that you missed. Again. I’d also be deeply offended.”

Stiles spun around. Before he could see the body to the voice, the lights came alive in the theatre. Stiles squeezed his eyes shut against it, wincing at the burn. He blinked a couple of times, unsure if he possibly imagined everything. But as he could see again, it was Theo who stood at the top of the staircase; Stiles’ dagger was only a few inches left of his head. “They let you out,” Stiles realised, somewhat detached from his emotions still – or maybe he just couldn’t believe his eyes. He had expected Scott to tell him that they couldn’t risk it.

Or was he asleep perhaps? He’d been sitting here for hours, and lucid dreaming wasn't strictly unusual for him.

Theo yanked the dagger out of the wall. “Kira did,” he said walking down the stairs. His movements were stiff, and he glanced around the room before turning fully to Stiles. Something haunted glinted in his eyes. “She told me you were, well, convincing.” A smirk appeared on his lips.

Stiles stared at him. Covered in dirt and dust and god-knows-what, Theo came to a stop in front of him. Everything he needed to do was reach out. Did he really do it? Did it really work? His imagination tended to run explicably wild when he was inside his head, worrying about everything and nothing all at once. Like, what would he tell the pack had happened to their alpha? They're going to be so pissed when they found out Theo had been imprisoned with his sister somewhere deep underground, and that he knew about it but had kept it to himself.

“Stiles.” Theo snapped his fingers in front of his face. “Why are you panicking?”

Tentatively, Stiles reached out for Theo. His fingertips brushed against a muddy jacket. He nudged Theo with a little more enthusiasm, although still somewhat hesitant. His body felt pretty solid. Then again, that’s what his mind probably tried to make him believe – and he was something that could create pretty realistic illusions.

“For fucks sake,” Theo muttered exasperated.  He took Stiles’ hand in his, hesitated, then cut into his palm.

Stiles pulled his hand away. “Ow,” he complained kicking Theo’s chin in retribution. “You dick.”

“Quickest method to make sure you realise I’m real.” Theo dropped the dagger on the table. With a sly smile, he raised Stiles’ hand to his mouth. His lips were soft as he whispered kisses where he had cut him. “All better now?” The gesture made his heart speed up. Moments like this were rare. Theo barely expressed his feelings through gestures or words. Stiles didn’t demand it either. After all, he wasn't showering the other in constant affections either or would want it to happen to him. It made every single gesture a lot more special.

Hiding a smile, Stiles shoved him away. But since Theo held onto his hand, he was pulled from the table and into his arms. “You’re still a jackass,” he muttered falling into the embrace with a small sigh. “And now I have dirt everywhere.”

“Stop complaining,” Theo told him before pressing a fleeting kiss to Stiles’ lips. He leaned back then, ignoring the frown he was considered with, and drew his eyebrows in. “I’m not sure if I should be worried about what you’ve done or turned on.”

Stiles rolled his eyes. “I stabbed someone. That’s not something to get a hard on for.”

Right,” Theo drawled, then kissed Stiles again, harder this time, more demanding – and obviously blissfully ignorant to what he had been told just a second ago. Knowing that there was nothing to be done about now, Stiles reciprocated the kiss. His body responded to it immediately, settling against Theo's, yearning for his touch. He wanted him so bad that he sensed the fear only after a while. It was subtle, buried.

Theo noticed the shift immediately. He broke the kiss before Stiles could and kissed a trail down his neck, sucking and biting on the soft skin while his hands were fidgeting with his belt.

Stiles grabbed his wrists. “What did she do to you?”

Theo stilled, leaning his forehead against Stiles'. It was an intimate gesture, so full of trust and heavy emotions. Stiles turned his head slightly to press a quick kiss to Theo's temple before tugging the chimera closer to him. He ran his fingertips up and down the dirty jumper, noticing an almost suppressed shudder. “She…” Theo began eventually, “she tried to get into my head.”

“She tried to get into your head?” Stiles repeated quietly. Thinking about how violently and viciously Tara had torn at her brother, he had expected her to torment him.

Theo nodded. “I don’t react to physical torture,” he admitted quietly. “The Doctors saw to that.” His tone was grim. He knew that it wasn’t right to be completely unfazed by physical pain. “So, she went for another approach.” Theo hesitated, his fingertips pressed into Stiles’ lower back – it didn’t need much more than that to make him understand.

Stiles cupped Theo’s cheeks. “I’m here.”

Theo nodded avoiding his eyes.

“And I’m real,” Stiles continued, “Or do you need me to cut you, too.”

“You’re not going to let that go, aren’t you?”

“No.”

A small laugh escaped Theo's lips.

“And I’m not-“ Stiles took a deep breath- “Don’t let go of me ever again. I could've-“

“You couldn’t have,” Theo interrupted. “It was either me or us, and I’m not putting you at risk. I don’t give a fuck about who hurts me as long as I know you’re safe.”

Stiles pressed his lips in a thin line, but he didn’t reply anything. For now, he'd let the topic slip. They could talk about it sometime later, sometime better. Stiles could still sense his abject fear, and, to be fair, he was just glad to have him back. Everything else could come later. After running his fingers through Theo’s dusty hair, he sighed. “I excused us from the bonfire.”

Theo blinked at him for a few seconds, then he seemed to remember what Stiles was talking about. Perhaps the jump in topic had taken him by surprise. Or he had completely forgotten they were supposed to be somewhere else. Which would be more than understandable. Stiles kissed him again, soft and slow. His fingers slipped underneath Theo's jumper, who shuddered. “Josh asked us to fuck somewhere else.”

Theo hummed. “What if I don’t want to fuck?” He asked pulling back a little. A chuckle fell from his lips as Stiles frowned. “Maybe I want to make love to you.”

“Oh god,” Stiles snorted, trying his best not to break into uncontrollable laughter, “That was so cheesy.”

Theo smirked, but his expression became serious pretty quickly again. “I mean it,” he said then quietly, “I don’t want to fuck you.”

Stiles licked his lips. His body went hot and cold all over and he swallowed dryly. “I’m perfectly okay with that,” he breathed.

Theo pulled his jumper over his head, then yanked him down for a kiss that made Stiles’ head spin – and one that, at the same time, gave back what he thought he had lost. Perhaps they had accidentally mated. To be perfectly honest, it didn’t make that much of a difference. Something settled within Stiles, and it seemed content with what it had right now. For a moment, he wondered if this was exactly what had brought Jackson back to himself. Perhaps Lydia’s musings about soul mates weren't that much off.

But that were thoughts for another day.

There were only two things Stiles knew for sure right now, he cared a lot more about Theo than he had originally considered possible, and Josh would hate them tomorrow.

(He did. Theo simply told him to be more specific the next time.)