Chapter 1: Flashbacks and Sticky Situations
He turned the corner quickly and started to jog down the hallway to his first class. He had failed to wake up for the first three alarms that he had set and by the time he did actually wake up, he had 15 minutes to make it to the school and have his ass in his seat before he got yet another marked absence. Coach told him he was three away from being benched for a couple games, not that he wanted to intentionally sit his team captain, but principle Martin was giving him no choice in the matter. With his focus solely on getting to the classroom, he almost completely missed the small cluster of football boys standing against the lockers outside of the class door.
“Late again huh Dunbar? Wonder how that bench is gonna treat you this season.” He stopped mid stride at the sound of the taunting voice that made his heart jump just a little… not that he’d ever admit to the weird effect it had on him. Liam turned to scowl at the well-built captain of the football team and his little, well not actually little as most them were double his size, football buddies. Theo fucking Raeken: aka enemy number one. How Theo knew about his absences he had no clue and that only fueled his aggravation as he leveled a menacing glare at his rival feeling his blood start to boil.
The two had been at each other’s throats ever since they both became captain of their respective teams. It started with small comments and jokes about whose team was better and more popular, but somehow twisted into an all-out feud that had taken over the school. You were either team lacrosse or team football. The two of them were known to be the starters of the arguments that occasionally morphed into fights, the ones always behind the pranks, and everyone including teachers knew it was never a good idea to have them in the same room very long. It didn’t used to be that way, Liam and Theo had actually been really good friends until high school. Their moms were best friends so naturally they grew up together. But everything had changed the summer before freshman year.
Liam had just gotten diagnosed with his IED and was really upset so he went to Theo’s to play video games, take his mind off of it, and get a break from his mom treating him with kid gloves. Everything had been going fine, they were laughing and having fun, until they heard a crash downstairs. Leaving the game behind they both ran down there only to come face to face with Theo’s very drunk, very angry dad.
“Ah there he is, the killer and his spastic friend.” Liam had flinched at the harsh words and looked over to Theo who looked mortified.
Liam knew his sister Tara was always an off limits topic. She had died tragically and Theo had been there to witness the whole thing. And as if things couldn’t have gotten any worse, Theo’s mom left a year later. He knew his friend had felt that it was all his fault but now he could see why, his dad had put it in his head that it was. Liam suddenly felt himself getting very angry at the drunk adult that was supposed to be caring for Theo, not emotionally abusing him.
“Back off, John.” Liam growled stepping in front of Theo as if to protect him. John quickly pushed him to the side and went to grab Theo. He pushed him against the wall and Theo just looked down, ready for the sharp words that were about to be thrown his way.
“You just couldn’t stop at your sister could you? You had to go and ruin this whole family. You’re the reason she left. She couldn’t bear to look at you anymore. Neither can I, you’ll never be anything or do anything. All you’ll ever be is a little piece of shit.”
Liam saw red, and before he knew what he was doing he punched the son of bitch right in the jaw. He stumbled back, blood trickling from his lip, and then surged forward coming at him. Theo grabbed his dad quickly before he could get to Liam even though Liam was ready. His rage knowing no bounds, he wanted to beat the shit out him, he craved it. Theo yelled at him to leave and it took everything in him to turn and run towards the door.
They stopped speaking after that. Liam’s parents had received a call informing them that he was never to step foot in Theo’s house again. Liam tried to talk to Theo when he saw him next but the boy just sadly shook his head at him and continued walking down the street.
“Theo, what does he look like when he snaps? Is it like the Hulk or does he zone out like a freak how he is right now.” Someone teased.
Tardiness and flashbacks forgotten, Liam snapped back to reality and refused to let the cocky assholes get to him and decided to knock Theo and his friends back down to earth. So he put a smug smile on his face matching the one he was receiving from Theo and met the hazel eyes looking down at him with his stormy blues. “At least we’re fun to watch. God I couldn’t imagine sitting through one of your games,” he cringed and then tilted his head to the side in mock confusion, “what was the score last week again? 45-3?”
He watched as Theo pushed off the lockers coming to stand right in front of him, jaw clenching, which Liam definitely didn’t pay attention to. Theo’s nostrils flared clearly trying to control his anger as he stared down at him due to the slight height difference. “That was one game.” Theo said through clenched teeth. Liam quirked his eyebrow tauntingly.
“Yeah, one game every week.” He joked. The football team wasn’t bad and Liam knew it but he couldn’t stop himself from pushing his competitor’s buttons. Secretly loving the reaction he got from Theo every time he was able to get under his skin. It was a good day when he could break through Theo’s icy demeanor, he felt accomplished. As if he was seeing a glimpse of the old, out of control Theo that used to be his friend.
“Easy Dunbar,” Theo growled at him and his friends stepped up closer silently backing their quarterback, “you might find yourself in a… sticky situation.” Theo’s teammates snorted.
Getting lost in the moment, glaring harshly into each other’s eyes and not saying a word, they both jumped in surprise when Coach Finstock’s voice boomed down the hallway. “LIAM!” Both Liam and Theo took a step back making the palpable tension in the air dissipate. Coach took the space for granted and inserted himself between Liam and the other captain. “Which part of the conversation that we had yesterday did you not understand? Get to class!” Liam shot one last glare at Theo before he turned towards the door to the classroom and quickly moved towards it.
“Yeah run along like a good puppy.” He heard Theo snicker. But before he had a chance to voice a comeback Coach was on him.
“And you, you freakishly manly teenager. Don’t you have somewhere to be?”
“Free period.” Liam could hear the smugness in Theo’s voice without even having to look at him.
“Then perhaps practicing an accurate pass route?” Coach shot back and it was Liam’s turn to laugh. He cut it off swiftly as all the players and coach snapped their heads to him. He ducked inside the classroom and quietly made it to his seat next to Mason.
“Nice of you to join us today Mr. Dunbar.” Mrs. Finch commented dryly making the class giggle and he put his head down trying to hide the blush that crept up his face. “Since you’re actually here, let’s make the most of your educational voyage. Please start reading the chapter on Cell Reproduction on page 54.” Liam blushed deeper as he reached in his bag only to come up empty handed. He had forgotten his book at home in his rush to get to school on time. Mason slowly sild his open book across the table in front of him, pointing to the spot where he needed to start reading, he looked over at his best friend and gave him an appreciative smile.
“Cell reproduction is the process by which…” he started with a sigh and kept reading through the words he didn’t understand until Mrs. Finch picked on someone else to start reading. Eventually the class was split into groups and made to look at some kind of cells under a microscope. Thankfully, he had Mason as his partner because he had no idea what in the hell he was supposed to be looking for. Mason tried to explain it to him but eventually just gave up in frustration at Liam’s lack of care for the subject and silently completed the assignment for the both them.
The rest of the day went on much of the same way. Teachers droning on about topics that he had no interest in, and occasionally calling on him to answer a question but his mind was elsewhere. Even in history, his favorite subject, Liam couldn’t seem to care about what was being discussed. Theo’s words from early came back to him and he couldn’t shake the feeling that there was more behind the initial threat. You might find yourself in a… sticky situation. The way Theo had said it, the way his eyes sparkled in silent laughter, and the way his teammates had laughed… something had been off. When the last bell finally rang, snapping him out of his thoughts, he leisurely stood up and collected his belongings before he made his way to the locker room to get changed for practice. Theo’s warning still echoing in his brain and it wasn’t until halfway through training when Theo’s ominous words finally had meaning.
Coach called for the first water break after a grueling 45 minutes of one-on-one drills. There was only one person to blame, Greenberg, he just couldn’t seem to get it right. So Coach made sure they did it over and over and over until it had finally set in. By the time they had finished, everyone was panting and slowly crawling towards the large water container on the side of the field. Two of the younger players went to rip their helmets off and groaned loudly as some of their hair was pulled along with it. A few more players tried it and had the same problem. After watching pretty much the whole team have their hair stuck in their helmet, Liam gently tried to pull at his but ended up just yanking it off as it seemed to hurt less the faster you went. Kind of like a Band-Aid, just rip it off.
Looking inside of the offending contraption that was his helmet and Liam saw the cause for all the pain. Clear double-sided adhesive tape. You might find yourself in a… sticky situation Theo’s voice popped in his head again. His head jerked up immediately looking across the lacrosse field to the neighboring football field and found Theo standing there with half of his team watching them struggle with wide smiles on their faces. He scrunched his face up in anger and threw his helmet to the ground. “THEO!” He thundered and took off running towards the pain in his ass ignoring Coach’s yell for him and the team to come back. When he reached the infuriating boy, Theo’s sweet voice almost sent him over the edge.
“You called? Trouble in lacrosse paradise?” Theo joked and wasn’t ready for the hard shove Liam gave him making him fall backwards into a few of his teammates. Before they knew it everyone was shoving someone from the opposite team and Liam and Theo had each other in headlocks. Coaches yelling and whistles blowing trying to get everyone to stop. Nearby students were filming every second of it and cheering for a particular person or team. Liam and Theo were finally hauled apart by two adults but were still trying to get to the other one to continue.
“This is far from over Dunbar!” Theo yelled as he was being carried backwards by one of his coaches.
Liam let out a humorless laugh. “You started a war, hope you’re ready.” He called out as one of his own coaches and an athletic trainer hauled him back to the lacrosse field. “This is just getting started.” He mumbled to himself and turned around to walk back on his own.
Chapter 2: The Climates of Hell
**Trigger Warning: Mentions of abuse**
Theo clenched his fist to keep from saying anything at hearing the word freak being thrown at Liam. No matter how much the two of them disliked each other now, he knew how insecure Liam was about his IED and would never harass him about it. The guilty feeling was gone just as quickly as it appeared when Liam hadn’t hesitated to tell him he played poorly. The slight remorse for the prank he and his teammates had set up and had gotten to school so early for this morning slipped away as well. Fuck Liam he thought, he was going to get what he deserved for comment! He already got it at home from his drunk ass dad and he sure as hell didn’t need to hear it again from his used to be friend.
He waited patiently on the adjoining field for the lacrosse players to take off, or rather try to take off, their helmets and was met with sweet satisfaction when the conceited players were allowed their first water break. Theo couldn’t help the smile that broke out on his face after hearing his name bellowed from Liam’s frustrated lips. His teammates expressed their pleasure as well by smacking him on the back for a successful mission and made snide comments behind him as they watched the lacrosse team hastily approach.
“You called? Trouble in lacrosse paradise?” Sarcasm dripping heavily from the permanent smirk he had etched on his face, not ready for the harsh shove Liam dished out. He bristled at being caught off guard and charged forward tackling Liam to the ground.
The bodies around them were moving and clashing as they stood up, both fighting for the dominant hold. Theo caught an elbow to the lip from someone and momentarily lost his hold on Liam, granting Liam the opportunity to wrap his arm around Theo’s neck. Theo looped his arm around the younger boy’s head as well putting them both in a bent over position fighting for the upper hand. Whistles and shouts were blaring from coaches trying to separate everyone. He caught Liam’s eyes and saw the pure fury rolling through the electric blues. He had only seen that look one other time and it had ruined everything.
“Figures you would let your pathetic little boyfriend fight all your battles for you.” His dad slurred after Liam ran out the door, leaving him in his constant living nightmare. “ ‘Least he’s got some balls and will accomplish things. More than I can say for you.” He sneered and stumbled off to find the half-empty bottles Theo had hidden last week.
At the memory Theo let rage boil up within him and threw an uppercut punch connecting with the side off Liam’s ribs. He was roughly pulled off Liam and vice versa, he struggled, trying to get back to the person who had made him feel inadequate that morning. He called out his wrath as his coach hauled him towards the locker rooms and heard Liam’s vengeful voice call back. Oh I’m ready, baby boy, I’ve never been more ready he thought to himself.
“Alright Raeken, cool it.” His coach growled out as he threw him down on a bench. “We can’t afford to have you hurt this week, not after last week’s game.” Theo let the sound of the quiet locker room and hum from the overhead fluorescents calm him. “Get your ass back on the field when you’re ready.” He nodded and watched as his coach walked back out the way they came in.
He wasn’t supposed to let people get to him, he wasn’t supposed to show how people and their words affected him. After his mom left he learned quickly at home, the more you react the worse it got. However, Liam had broken through his façade again. The walking distraction had managed to get under his skin, twice in one day. He stood up with a roar and kicked the metal bench over.
“Fuck!” He yelled running his hands through his slightly sweaty hair and down his face. His left hand came up with a trace of blood from the split lip he had gotten at some point. He let the pain fuel him; he had to play better, had to be better. With that thought he swiped the back of his hand over his mouth ridding it of the leftover blood, righted the tossed metal bench, and stormed back out to the field ready to prove his worth.
While everyone looked forward to the weekend, he hated it. It just meant two full days of being locked in the cage of hell he called home. This weekend had been no different.
Theo squirmed in his hard plastic seat. He was hot, the last of summer hanging on for dear life, and the long sleeve shirt he was wearing to cover the new bunch of bruises from the weekend was making him sweat. What was worse was that apparently Beacon Hills High didn’t believe in turning the air on anymore. So as Theo sat through his first class on Monday morning in the sweltering heat, he uncharacteristically couldn’t seem focus. Biology normally intrigued him, he wanted to to know how and why the body functioned so he would never have to watch someone die helplessly in front of him again. He shuddered at his thoughts and didn’t see the hand coming at his face before it was pressed to his forehead.
“Theo are you feeling alright? You’re burning up.” Mrs. Finch exclaimed. She moved her hand to his arm and squeezed lightly over one of the fresh contusions. He gritted his teeth and forced himself not to quickly pull out of her grasp. He pushed out a smile and nodded.
“May I go grab some water? I’m just a little thirsty.” He replied and stood at the concerned nod of her head. Quickly walking out the door and down the hall to the nearest drinking fountain, he sipped at the cool liquid bubbling out of the spout, letting it refresh his too warm body.
He heard a snort come from behind him and straightened to see Liam walking by in the empty hallway. He narrowed his eyes readying for the obvious taunt that was going to be thrown his way.
“Nice shirt, preparing your body for the climates of hell?” Liam said in passing. But Theo’s next words had him stopping short.
Throwing his trademark smirk on his face, burying how the comment actually affected him, he stepped towards the other captain. “Hell is quite cold, frozen actually. Some might say it’s comparable to your performance last Friday.” Theo smiled at the sharp gasp he heard come out of Liam. He had heard that Liam froze under the pressure to perform for the scouts that came to watch him. His nervousness even caused them to almost lose the game, which would have ended their undefeated record. Shame it didn’t… maybe it would have knocked the asshole off his high horse.
“I did not freeze!” Liam rumbled deeply, stepping closer to him so that their chests were almost touching.
Theo crossed his arms and chuckled, “That’s not what I heard puppy.”
He watched as Liam’s eyes flashed to the blue fury before returning to their normal state. “Don’t. Call. Me. That.” Liam huffed and then continued. “I did it for dramatic effect, made our game fun to watch.”
“Barely.” He retorted with a roll of his eyes. He tried not to notice the feel Liam’s angry breaths puffing against his chin as he stood toe to toe with him.
“Heard your game was like watching paint dry.” Liam said with a sinister smile. He opened his mouth to come back with something, anything, but Liam’s name was shouted from down the hall making them turn their heads towards oncoming the adult.
Coach Finstock irritably stomped towards them. “What is it with you two and personal space?!” He questioned as he grabbed both of their arms and pulled them apart. Theo hadn’t realized how close they had actually gotten, lost in the charged bubble that always seemed to encompass them. “Get to class, BOTH of you.” Coach finished, pushing them in opposite directions. Throughout the rest of the day heat never died down and Theo was dreading having to wear a long sleeve during practice.
Theo had kept his guard up ever since the fight on the field last week but so far nothing had been done in retaliation. He and his teammates checked and rechecked their equipment before practice and found nothing to be wrong so they got dressed and headed out to the field. Before starting any drills, they were told to run a few laps around both the football and lacrosse fields. Theo groaned on the second lap when sweat was pouring down his overheated face. On the third and fourth laps, he felt like he was going to have a heat stroke and was never as happy to hear the sound of the whistle than he was at that moment.
They all got water and then coach declared it was time for up-downs before they all split up and worked on their perspective routes. Theo rolled the sleeves up to his elbows, knowing there were no visible bruises on his forearms. After the short break the team got in place on the field and coach blew the whistle from his spot on the sideline signaling from them to drop to the ground in push up position. It felt wet but Theo chalked it up to the school having the sprinklers on earlier. Only when the team sprung up on the second whistle he realized he was sorely mistaken.
Their white practice uniforms, arms, and hands were completely green. Everyone including the coaches stood there shell-shocked, not understanding what they were seeing. Theo heard a roar of laughter coming from his left and saw the lacrosse team rolling around on the ground in hysterics. “Like watching paint dry” Liam’s words echoed eerily in his head from their earlier confrontation in the hallway.
He thought he was hot before, but the temperature only seemed to climb higher now that he was seething. Before he even knew what he was doing he was running, with his team hot on his heels.
Gabe, being the running back that he was, beat Theo to a cackling Liam. “Now who looks like the Hulk.” Liam shot at the running back who had made fun of his IED the previous week. Gabe cocked his arm back about to throw a nasty punch but Theo caught it before it hit Liam. Gabe looked at him furiously for stopping him.
“He’s mine.” Theo pushed out, throwing Gabe’s hand to his side and stepped in front of him facing Liam.
“I think my girlfriend would have to disagree with that. But I’m flattered.” Liam said mockingly raising a hand to his chest. Something twisted inside him and he didn’t like it whatever it was.
His hand shot out and gripped Liam’s jersey collar while his other hand grabbed the metal on the front of his helmet pulling it off. He was about to throw the first blow but it seemed the constant strain his body went through from the heat had finally caught up with him. The edges of his vision started to blur and his grip on Liam’s jersey began slipping as he swayed.
“Theo?” He heard Liam ask cautiously, all humor and maliciousness gone from his voice, but he could no longer see Liam or bring himself to respond. He felt himself go down despite Liam’s strong hands grabbing his sensitive arms in attempt to catch him. And then everything went black.
Chapter 3: Buzz Kill
Liam couldn’t explain why it happened but his heart stopped when Theo started to sway. He watched as Theo’s eyes clouded over and then rolled to the back of his head before his knees gave out. He reached out and grabbed his arms trying to soften the blow his body would take from the hard ground but he wasn’t fast enough. He quickly followed him down and kneeled over him shaking his shoulders to try to wake him up.
“Theo.” He shook the limp body, feeling everyone crowd around them. “Theo! Wake up!” He started shaking harder. Theo’s eyes fluttered and he moaned softly, a sound that definitely did not have a blush coloring his cheeks. “Somebody get some water!” He roared. When no one moved around him he looked up to find shocked faces gawking down at him.
“What?” He growled, “Why is no one getting water?” But his question went unanswered, swallowed by the stunned silence of everyone around him, until a hand with a cup of water was suddenly thrusted in his face.
“Here Dunbar.” Coach Finstock said. “Since none of these IDIOTS seem to understand the gravity of the situation.” He accused and all the players from both teams looked down with guilt.
Liam took the cup hastily and lifted Theo’s head, placing the cup gently at his lips and poured some of the cool liquid down his throat. Theo coughed against it, turned his head to the side, and spit most of it out. “Drink it T.” He barked using his old nickname for him before he tipped the cup again emptying more water into the boy’s mouth. Thankfully, he didn’t fight it any longer and was soon greedily sucking it all down.
The coaches canceled the rest of both practices due to the heat and made the players disperse to give Theo some room to breathe. So the only people left on the field to take care of him were Gabe, Coach Finstock, and himself. He pushed Theo’s sticky hair off of his sweaty forehead as he looked down at the rest of him and spotted the stupid long sleeve shirt when strong realization hit him.
“He overheated. Help me get his gear off.” He looked up expectantly at Gabe who was still standing close by and was relieved when the green dumbass actually decided to help this time. The two of them, with the help from Coach sitting Theo up, tugged off his jersey and heavy shoulder pads first. Liam and Gabe then reached for the hem of his sweat soaked long sleeve shirt to pull it off when Theo showed the first real signs of life, gripping both of their wrists tightly and halting their progress.
“Leave it.” Theo said breathlessly. Gabe just shrugged and pulled his hand from Theo’s grasp. Liam scowled in annoyance at Gabe’s easy retreat.
“You’re too hot.” He responded and went to reach for the shirt again.
Theo smiled weakly, “Good thing your girlfriend isn’t around. She might have discovered your secret love for me.”
“Well that makes a lot of sense.” Coach muttered under his breath as he stood and walked away deeming the situation no longer problematic, therefore no longer requiring his assistance.
Gabe snorted. “Now that you mention it Theo, he is kind of obsessed with you.” Liam snatched his wrist out of Theo’s hand and pushed himself up.
“Screw you! You’re welcome for taking care of you while your teammates were all busy standing around with their thumbs up their asses.” He snapped at Gabe and then finished with Theo.
Theo chuckled softly as he reached his hand out for Gabe to help him up. Once he was standing he swayed and Liam twitched on instinct almost reaching out to stable him. “I think we hit a nerve G.” Liam balled his hands at his sides, feeling his embarrassment morph in to anger as it started to simmer inside him. But he was still too shaken at watching Theo drop in front of him that he didn’t have the energy to take a swing at one, let alone both of them.
“Whatever Hulk 1 and 2.” He smirked at both of them reminding them of the grass green paint they were currently covered in. Both of their smiles dropped and their faces, well mostly just Gabe’s as Theo’s was already red from his heat exhaustion, turned a deep red in rage. They both took a step towards him and he shook his head.
“Go take a cold shower, you’re both so red you could pass for the Kool-Aid man.” He turned and walked towards his own locker room, not feeling bad at all for the second prank they were about to walk right in to. He was thinking about sparing Theo from anymore duress but the asshole had humiliated him in front of Gabe and Coach and now they both thought that he obsessed with Theo.
He looked over his shoulder and saw the two of them walking back towards their own locker room, Theo slightly leaning on Gabe for support. He heard Gabe ask if Theo was going to Tracy’s party this Friday but annoyingly couldn’t hear the captain’s response due to their distance. He spun his head forward and pushed through the side door leading directly to the locker room, so he didn’t see when Theo had twisted slightly to look back at him eyes swirling in silent confusion.
Liam finished his shower quickly since he didn’t have to share the space with his whole team for once. He had just finished tying his towel around his waist when the door burst open making him jump back in shock. But he quickly burst out in laughter upon seeing a slightly pink faced Theo, with pinkish hair, and pink water dripping off of him on to the white tile floor. Theo stalked angrily towards him until his back was up against the far wall.
“What. The. Fuck. Is. This?” Theo seethed through clenched teeth. Liam, even with his back against the wall, still couldn’t contain the laughter that bubbled up from his throat causing Theo to glare and then glance down at his lips.
He couldn’t fight the magnetic pull, couldn’t stop himself from reaching out and wiping a pink droplet from Theo’s cheek as it leaked from his damp hair and smirking at the boy towering over him. “Looks like the Kool-Aid man decided to visit after all.” He joked. He had known Theo was a creature of habit, he had always loved routines and plans even when they were kids it was something he and his mom had in common, and that included the using the same shower head every time. So it had been extremely easy for Liam to unscrew it, pour a couple packets of the powdered red juice in, and wait for the added water to work its magic. Which it clearly had proven by the rosy color that covered Theo.
Theo seized Liam’s hand off his face and slammed it against the wall beside his head. And then his red stained lips were on Liam’s. He should have pushed him off, should have escaped from his hold, but he didn’t. Liam stayed unmoving against the wall as Theo glued their faces together. Unhurriedly, they both started moving their lips. Theo’s strong grip lessened on his wrist and Liam brought his free hand up to Theo’s arm. The kiss deepened, their tongues brushing tentatively, and Liam squeezed Theo’s arm in encouragement but that small movement made Theo jerk almost as if in pain.
Theo pushed off him aggressively leaving him panting against the wall. “What’s your deal?!” Theo yelled at him heatedly as he turned away from him and pulled at his wet hair roughly.
“My deal?” Liam asked indignantly, still kind of in a daze from what had just happened.
Theo whipped around to face him again, “Yes, your deal! You started all of this!” Theo yelled throwing his arms in the air.
Liam pushed off the wall coming face to face with the irritating rival captain in front of him. “Excuse me?” He asked raising his voice in return. “YOU kissed ME.” He emphasized while poking Theo’s chest and then turning his finger on himself. “YOU started all of this with the tape.” Liam shoved him hard, letting his anger roll over his body like a blanket. Angrier at the fact that he let the slight sting of rejection and disappointment hit him when Theo pushed away. It was the same exact feeling he told himself he would never let anyone make him feel again after Theo ignored him on the street the day following the worst night of his life.
Theo shoved him in return but then they were back in each other’s faces as if they were two magnets. One end pushing but the other end pulling, keeping them near one another. The two of them stood there, so close sharing the air between them, breathing heavily. Lost in their charged bubble, both pairs of livid eyes drifted to the other’s mouth occasionally. And then it was broken, both springing apart at the sound of another voice joining the conversation.
“And I’m ending it, you two little shits go home! Save up the weird tension thing you have going on for next week during spirit week.” Coach said, immediately cutting the tension in the room. Theo and Liam shared one more heated glare before Theo turned and stormed out of the room.
“For Christ’s sake, put some clothes on Dunbar.” Coach scoffed and darted back in to his office. Mortified that his coach might have seen what happened… what did happen? Theo had kissed him and he had… kissed him back? He had a girlfriend. He shook his head and got dressed quickly leaving the room that currently held too many emotions for his brain to handle.
Liam ignored the incessant vibrating of his phone on the nightstand. He had multiple missed texts and calls from his girlfriend Hayden, he best friend Mason, and his assistant captain Nolan. But none of them were the person that he wanted to hear from. He couldn’t sleep that night. He just laid awake on his bed remembering the terrifying moment that Theo had dropped in front of him, the feel of Theo’s lips against his, the intense spark that crackled between them while they glared at each other. What in the absolute hell was wrong with him he thought as he punched his pillow again.
The next day at school, he and Theo had shared a heated look but both boys didn’t dare go near each other. Probably both scared at the intensity that seemed to engulf them whenever they were close. Wednesday had followed in much of the same fashion, one or two heated looks, but otherwise no contact. Liam could feel his IED pushing at his skin from the lack of sleep and constant state of unease he had been living in for the past 2 days.
For the past 48 hours Hayden, Mason, and Nolan all tried to convince him to attend Tracy’s party after the game on Friday and he had continually said no. He planned to keep saying no, until he turned the corner in the hallway on Thursday afternoon and came face to face with something that he hadn’t been ready to see. Tracy had her arms and legs wrapped around Theo, giggling and promising to reward him if he won his game tomorrow. And just like that, he changed his mind.
At second glance, standing across from them was Hayden and a few of her friends standing VERY close to Gabe and a few other football guys. Liam quickly approached the group and wrapped his arm possessively around Hayden even though he was looking at Tracy’s proximity to Theo.
“Is Liam coming to the party with you Hayden?” Gabe asked while eyeing her up and down. Liam snapped his eyes to the tall running back and scowled.
Hayden rolled her eyes up at him. “No he said he can’t make it.” She pouted.
“Aw don’t be such a buzz kill Liam.” Gabe snickered.
Liam clenched his jaw a few times before allowing himself to answer, very aware of the familiar set of eyes on him from across the hall. “I was actually on my way to tell you that I can make it now. My parents are going out of town.”
“Yay!” Hayden squealed as she jumped up to kiss his lips. But it felt nothing like a certain kiss from the other night, a certain kiss that he couldn’t seem get off his mind no matter how hard he tried. He swore he heard someone mumble under their breath to get a room but he brushed it off.
“Doesn’t matter,” Gabe said breaking them out of the bland kiss, “He’s still a buzz kill.” A few of the other boys snorted and then all the football boys sauntered off, Theo included. He stayed with Hayden for a few minutes, making up for all the time he had ignored her on Tuesday and Wednesday, until he had to run and get changed for practice.
He should have known, should have felt the warning buzz in the air, but he opened the locker room door anyway. What greeted him as he stepped inside was something he always had to be prepared for. Ever since he and Theo discovered the bee hive behind Theo’s house one summer that is. The only problem was; his EPI pen was nowhere near him.
Chapter 4: Two Needles and A Nickname
Theo couldn’t refrain from wrinkling his nose in annoyance when he watched Hayden reach up to plant a kiss on Liam’s lips. When the kiss lasted longer than he was comfortable with, he may or may not have grumbled something about getting room while he simultaneously tightened his grip on Tracy’s waist in anger. Tracy noticed the pressure increase on her body and thought he was showing her affection, so she took it upon herself to return the favor. She wrapped her legs tighter around him and pulled his face back to hers for a very aggressive sloppy kiss that he was forced to feign interest in. But he still managed hear the slightly off tone of Gabe’s voice before he pulled away, wiping his salvia covered mouth in the process. Annoyed with the whole situation, he glanced down at his phone and realized that practice would be starting soon. Signaling it was time for his team to head towards the locker room to change he noticed that Gabe, Josh, and Donovan were all walking a little awkwardly. Almost as if they didn’t know how to use their limbs.
When they reached the football locker room and the three of them couldn’t stop giggling like children, Theo decided he had had enough. He stepped around the row of lockers that separated them and came face to face with his barely dressed, very red eyed, snickering teammates.
“Are you high?” He asked in disbelief.
All three of them laughed even harder. “As a kite.” Donovan forced out through bursts of laughter. Which ended up making them all snort and lose their shit again over the strange noises that were coming out of their mouths.
“Are you guys serious? Practice starts in 15 minutes!” Theo yelled, not being able to keep the annoyance out of his voice. His whole future depended on this season, if he continued playing well and kept his grades up he would finally be able to leave this hell hole and never look back.
“Why so serious Captain?” Josh said clapping a hand on his shoulder. “It’s not like the world is going to come crashing down.” Yeah… yours won’t, your dad owns the the largest electricity company on the West coast. He thought miserably before the third musketeer spoke again. “You should be proud of us, wait until you see what we did.”
“What did you do?” Theo’s voice dropped along with his stomach, he was actually scared of what the three idiots in front of him were capable of. Which is why, up until this point, he had been the one to come up with all the pranks.
“It’s called a prank?” Gabe finally spoke up after his chuckle had died down. “And there was no way in hell I was walking in to the Entomology lab sober.” He said with a sharp nod. “All those creepy crawlies.” He shuddered and started to put on his shoulder pads backwards.
Theo’s brows furrowed. Entomology lab? Like the bug classroom? “What in the hell would you need from there?”
“Oh you know… just a little something to make the BUZZ kill feel at home.” Donovan supplied and the three of them lost it again in fits of amusement.
“Buzz buzz.” Josh pushed out and then he was rolling on the floor at his own joke soon joined by Donovan.
It took Theo a second to understand what they were saying and when he finally got it his heart stopped and he felt like he was going to throw up. He pushed Gabe over the bench and out of his way as he sprinted as fast as he could towards the door. He heard a muffled “Ow” and a “Hey look who decided to join us” before he practically ripped the door off its hinges and was running down the hall to the neighboring locker room like a bullet out of a gun.
Theo skidded to a halt before the lacrosse room and threw open the door. Or at least he tried to but it was being blocked by something. He looked down and realized it wasn’t something, rather someone. He knew those boots; Liam. He pushed against the door hard which had Liam sliding across the floor until Theo was able to fit his body through the opening.
Most of the team was standing in the shower with their clothes sopping wet using the water as a deterrent for the small swarm of bees that were flying around. He looked back down at Liam and could see a few welts already forming on his hands as well as one on his neck. He scooped the hyperventilating boy up and quickly placed him out in the hallway and away from the bees before he rushed back in towards the showers.
“Which one is his locker?” He asked frantically. All he got in return was confused looks and blank faces while a few others were too busy swatting at the bees that had braved the water. He spotted a boy that hung around with Liam a lot, Nathan or maybe Nolan… didn’t matter, he sprung forward and violently shook the kid.
“WHICH ONE IS HIS FUCKING LOCKER?!” Theo shouted letting his panic seep into his voice. What didn’t these assholes understand?
Nolan pointed and stuttered, obviously scared of the larger angry football captain. “T- t-third one on the l-left.” Theo had dropped his hands was moving towards the metal lockers before the kid even finished.
He yanked it open and pulled out the red duffle bag sitting at the bottom. Zippers were broken and pockets were ripped before he finally found what he was looking for. As soon as he had the black padded case in his fingers he was on his feet and back at Liam’s quivering side.
“Hang on Liam.” He croaked as he took the EPI pen out and peeled the cap off. “Sorry.” He said apologetically before he stabbed the needled end through Liam’s thick jeans and into his thigh. Liam winced and whimpered at the force at which the needle pierced his skin, but almost no sound escaped him because his throat was closing and soon he was gasping for air.
Theo reached for his phone that was in his pocket but had forgotten that he changed into his football gear and no longer had it. His head whipped up to the small, soaking wet, group of lacrosse players that had followed him out of the locker room.
“Someone call 911!” He called out.
“My phone got wet in the shower.” Someone behind Nolan squeaked out and that was followed by nods of agreement from all of them.
“Fucking helpless, all of you.” He spat venomously as he immediately started searching Liam’s pockets for his phone. He found it and hastily dialed 911, told them what was happening to Liam and they told him to stay on the line while they sent the paramedics. But that wasn’t good enough. Liam’s breathing was getting worse, worse than it had that day they found the hive on his back porch.
He hung up and quickly searched through Liam’s contacts locating the person he needed to talk to and luckily he answered on the third ring.
“Liam, don’t you have prac-”
“Dr. Geyer its Theo! Listen-”
“Theo?” Liam’s stepdad questioned.
“Yes! I don’t have time to explain.” He rushed out. “Liam was stung a bunch of times. I already called 911 and gave him one dose of the epinephrine but his breathing is getting worse. What do I do?” He asked letting his worried voice ring out in the hallway.
“How many times?” The Dr. asked seriously, going full medical mode.
“At least six that I can see of.” Theo lightly pulled the collar of Liam’s t-shirt down, spotted a few more heated red welts on his chest, and cringed.
“Give him the second dose now!” Theo clicked the phone on speaker setting it on floor beside him and jerked the second pen out of the case flicking its cap off quickly. He speared it into Liam’s other thigh making the poor boy jolt at the force. Liam brought his hands up to his throat as he clawed at it showing that it was hard to breathe, his eyes frantically darting around.
“Theo, listen to me, this is very important.” Dr. Geyer’s voice sounded through the speaker, reminding Theo that he was still there. “You need to get him to calm down. His throat is closing and if he continues to panic, it will make it worse. You have to keep him calm.”
Theo’s shaking hands reached for Liam’s that were still grasping at his neck. He held them firmly and pulled them away while trying to get Liam to make eye contact with him. “Liam calm down. Did you hear your dad? You need to relax, you freaking out is only making it worse.” Liam continued to fidget against Theo’s hold and began panting shallowly. He watched as Liam’s eyes went to the crowd of people that was now circling them and Theo got angry.
“LEAVE!” The shouted. “You’re making him nervous, GO!” And the lacrosse team scattered. Some TEAM he had Theo thought as he rolled his eyes. The only one that hesitated was Nolan. “Go!” Theo growled again and Nolan looked down at him sadly, nodded and then walked away.
Theo pulled Liam up in a sitting position and sat himself against the lockers so that Liam’s head was resting on his chest as he positioned him between his legs and wrapped his arms around him. His wheezing had mellowed some but was still scarily too shallow for Theo’s liking. He slowly lifted his hand and dragged it through Liam’s sweaty hair exactly how he used to do when Liam would have a rough come down after an outburst.
“Come on little wolf,” He murmured using the old nick name he used to call Liam when they were kids and were obsessed with werewolves and other creatures of the night, “I need you to calm down.” Theo heard the faint sound of sirens and sighed in relief. He honestly wasn’t sure what he would do if Liam were to stop breathing. Would he have frozen like he did with Tara? He squeezed his eyes tightly shut at the thought of having to go through that again.
“Liam, they’re coming and they’re gonna help you.” He whispered as he held the still gasping boy in his arms. “You just… you gotta breathe! I’ll do it with you, little wolf. Breathe with me.”
Theo took a deep breath in through his nose and slowly let it out. Feeling the anxiety leave him as he slowed his own breathing. “In.” He said inhaling deeply again, hearing Liam sputter trying to pull the oxygen in to his constricted lungs. “Out.” He whispered on a long exhale that inadvertently made wisps of Liam’s hair tickle his chin. Liam’s exhale was rough and choppy but at least the panting was gone.
If it was up to Theo, he never wanted to hear those strangled noises coming from Liam ever again. Twice in a lifetime was two times too many for his liking. “In.” He repeated, pulling air into his body and Liam tried to mimic him the best he could given the situation. The hallway doors burst open and two paramedics came running towards the two of them with a gurney.
Theo noticed the slight increase in Liam’s breath again as the two men quickly loaded him on the stretcher and strapped him in. Liam grabbed at Theo’s hand desperately and Theo hung on until they started wheeling him away, then he let his fingers slip out of Liam’s grasp. He then watched the only real friend he ever had be rolled away to the place he vowed never to go again unless it was on his own terms.
He heard a muffled “Theo! THEO!” and looked down at Liam’s forgotten cell phone on the floor.
Picking it up and realizing that Dr. Geyer was still on the phone.
“Sorry Dr. Geyer, I forgot about the phone.” He said apologetically.
“Where’s Liam?” The older man asked, worry evident in his voice.
Theo leaned against the lockers tiredly, all of his energy had been drained throughout the whole ordeal. “He’s in the ambulance headed your way.”
“Theo, you did really good. You just saved my son.” The amount of gratefulness and kindness that seeped through the phone surprised Theo. It had been so long since an adult had spoken kindly to him. He gave up on his dad long ago, his coaches well it was their job to yell at him and push him, and his teachers had just pitied him knowing what happened to his family. So he had forgotten what it felt like to be praised, to be acknowledged.
“Son, I think you may have found your future career path. If you’re interested, you could come down to the hospital later this evening when it quiets down… There’s something I would like to show you.” He didn’t know what to think. Sure he loved biology and had vowed he never wanted to watch someone die helplessly again, but he didn’t know if he could make himself go to the hospital. To the place where he had learned that he could have prevented it. He would still have a sister and a mother if he had prevented it. But maybe, just maybe this was his second chance.
“Theo…?” Dr. Geyer called out, breaking him out of his inner monologue.
He sighed and with that breath decided to let his fear of the hospital go. “What time?” He asked softly, ignoring the chills that spread their way across his skin.
Chapter 5: A Trip Down Little Wolf Lane
Liam hated being tied down. It made every hair on his body stand up. Maybe it was the fact that he was super close to not being able to breathe at all, but to him it was definitely being tied down that felt worse. Didn’t these people know that tying someone down only makes them panic more? His breaths had gone back to quick wheezes as soon as Theo let go of his hand, taking the steadying calm he felt away.
His eyes danced around the small enclosed space of the ambulance and tried to keep from panicking any further but was failing miserably. The EMT sitting next to him noticed and reached for a small needle on the bench beside him. Liam tried to pull away from it, but was quickly reminded that he couldn’t move as the restraints cut into his arms and chest. The sharp point pierced his skin and moved into his muscle making him wince. It didn’t take long before his breaths began to even out and an oxygen mask was placed over his face. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t seem to keep his eyes open.
The last thoughts he had before he gave in to the warm embrace of sleep was: Thank god Theo knew he was allergic to bees… Thank god Theo knew how to use an EPI pen… Thank god for Theo… and then he was out.
“Hi I’m Liam!” “Theo.” “Cool. Want to be my friend?” “Uh, sure.” “Come on! I just got a trampoline!” *Drags little boy to backyard*
“You know what would be so cool?” “Shhh Liam, if my mom comes in here one more time and we’re not sleeping we’re going to get in trouble!” “If we were werewolves we wouldn’t have to worry about that! We could stay up all night and run around and howl at the moon.” “I guess that would be pretty cool!” “AAAAoooooooo.” “Liam!” “Boys I told you to go to sleep 2 hours ago!”
“If you could be any animal what would you be?” “Can I pick two and just switch between them?” “Uh, I mean, I guess?” “Why what would you pick?” “A wolf duh. What two would you pick then?” “Well a wolf for one of them. Maybe a coyote or something for the other.” “Aren’t they like the same thing?” “No they are different!” “Are not!” “Are too!” *Both boys stick their tongues out*
“Come on little wolf! You’ve got to keep up!” “Why do I always have to be the little wolf?” “Uh because you’re smaller than me duhh.” “Boys! It’s time for Theo to go.” “Race you back!” “You’re on.”
“You. Cheated.” “Quit being such a baby. Oooo that’s a new one! Baby wolf!” “Don’t call me that.” “Aww baby wolf doesn’t like called being a baby?” “QUIT!”
“Remember, Theo and his family have gone through something really sad. He may not want to play like normal okay honey?” “Theo?” *Sounds of crying* “Theo I know you’re sad and my mom told me that you probably wouldn’t want to play and that’s okay but please don’t cry.” *Sniffles* “You can call me little wolf, even baby wolf, I won’t get mad I promise!” “Come on Liam, Theo isn’t up for visitors yet.”
“Not now, baby wolf, not now.” “Theo it wasn’t your fault.” “Yes it was.” “Sometimes I really want to hit you.” “Do it, I deserve it.” “Stop it! You’re my best friend and I would never hit you…well not hard.” *Small smile*
“Little wolf you need to calm down.” “Why? How could she just leave you? What kind of bitch does that to her own child?” *Punches wall* “CALM. DOWN.”
“I-I didn’t mean to.” “Shhhhh, I know little wolf.” *Rocks crying Liam back and forth* “They called me a freak, a-and I just couldn’t stop.” “It will be okay.” “What’s wrong with me?”
“Hey.” “Hey. Mind if I come over?” “Nope.” “Cool.”
“IED?” “Intermittent Explosive Disorder.” *Chuckles* “So, a baby wolf with an anger problem, fitting.” “Shut up and watch me kick your ass at Halo.”
“You son of a bitch!” *Throws punch* “Liam go! Run!”
“Don’t.” “Theo just let me talk.” “No little wolf, it’s done. You can’t fix this one.”
“I heard that Liam kid made captain for the lacrosse team.” “Scott chose the puppy on the team to take his place? Interesting.” “Didn’t you used to be friends with him?” “Kind of.”
“Heard you made captain little pup.” “It’s been two years; you don’t have the right to call me by a nickname anymore.” “Ooo someone’s a little sour wolf today.” *Enter football player he didn’t know* “If you want to be a real captain kid you should watch how Theo does it.” “I’ll be better than him.”
“Season of losses under your belt as captain pup… doesn’t look too good. But hey, maybe next year!” “How about you try to throw an accurate pass once in a while to relieve your kicker? But hey, maybe next year!”
“Theo how could you be friends with that kid? He’s mental.” “What happened?” “I heard he beat the shit out of Scott.” *Walks towards group of people* “Yeah well at least I can stand up for myself, isn’t that right Theo?”
“Late again huh Dunbar? Wonder how that bench is gonna treat you this season.”
“Yeah run along like a good puppy.”
“This is far from over Dunbar!” “You started a war, hope you’re ready.”
“He’s mine.” “Theo? Theo! Wake up!”
“Yes, your deal! You started all of this!” “YOU kissed ME!”
“Come on little wolf, I need you to breath.” BEEP. “Liam, they’re coming and they’re gonna help you.” BEEP. “You just… you gotta breathe! I’ll do it with you, little wolf. Breathe with me.” BEEP. In, Out, BEEP, In, BEEP, Out, BEEP, In, BEEP, BEEP, BEEP.
His eyes fluttered open and he tried to breath but something was choking him and he started to freak out. BEEP BEEP BEEPBEEPBEEPBEEP. A nurse flew in the room and pushed at his shoulders to get him to lay still.
“Honey you have a breathing tube in, try to relax I’m going to take it out.” Liam coughed and gagged as the piece of plastic was slowly pulled from his mouth and throat, scratching at the sensitive tissues. When it was finally completely out, he coughed roughly and gasped for air, but inhaled the first full breaths he had since before he walked into the locker room. “I’ll get your dad sweetheart.” The nurse spoke softly before turning and exiting his hospital room.
He continued taking deep breaths loving the feel of his lungs fully filling and exhaling as he took in his surroundings. It was dark outside now, how long had he been out?
“Hey kiddo.” The familiar voice of his dad sounded from the doorway and he twisted his head to look at the man. Liam just smiled weakly. “How are you feeling?”
“Fi- *cough* fine.” He rasped, throat still raw from long tube that had just been tugged out of him. Dr. Geyer brushed a hand over his hair softly and picked up a cup of water from the stand next to the bed and handed it to him. Liam gratefully took the cup and swallowed down the first gulp greedily, causing him to cough.
“Easy, easy. Go slow Liam.” He listened and slowed his pace, sipping down the soothing liquid until the cup was empty.
He smiled up at the man that had changed both his and his mom’s life so long ago. “Thank you.” His dad nodded.
“We’re lucky that Theo was near you when it happened. Sounds like he saved your life!”
“Yeah.” Except that was the thing… Theo had been nowhere near him. In fact, he had been clear across the school. Not to mention that his team was most likely the cause of what happened to him. Was Theo a part of it? He knows that they weren’t exactly the best of friends anymore but Theo wouldn’t try to kill him would he?
And even though he had just slept for a while he felt his eyes start to droop closed, the exhaustion from the day covering him like a heavy blanket. “I’ll let you rest. We’re going to keep you overnight for observation.” He rubbed his hand over Liam’s shoulder. “Your mom left for her 2 day trip this morning, she was going to come back but no other flight attendants could cover on such short notice. I assured her that I would take care of you.”
Liam’s eyes closed and did not open again, but he somehow found the strength to respond. “Good, I’m fine and she needs to *yawn* finish out this year with no absences so she can finally retire.”
His dad chuckled. “She could have retired years ago kid, she’s just too stubborn. Just like you.” With one final squeeze on his shoulder, he heard his dad quietly leave the room. The dreams from earlier repeating themselves, and soon he was lulled to sleep by the sound of a honeyed voice calling him little wolf. The smile on his sleeping face shining brightly in the dim room.
Chapter 6: SAVED or LOST
Theo leaned against the doorway listening to the hum of the monitors and steady beeping ringing throughout the room that was Liam’s heart. He had made it. He was pretty sure he stood outside of the hospital doors for a good hour, and was just about to turn around to walk away when someone accidentally bumped into him causing him to step forward over the threshold. His heart began to beat frantically even though he told himself he wouldn’t be scared of this place anymore. Again he almost turned and bolted out of the doors when a small hand touched his arm lightly.
“Theo how are you sweetheart? I’m assuming you’re here to see Liam?” The sweet voice of Melissa McCall sang out.
He remembered her. She had been the nurse that sat with him while the police notified his parents. She had been the one that hugged him when he couldn’t stop the tears from streaming down his face and his parents wouldn’t look at him. She had been the one that wrapped his abdomen, in the parking lot because he refused to go inside, when he had his first set of bruised ribs from a “really bad tackle.”
Not being able to speak just yet, he nodded and she smiled kindly at him as she squeezed his arm and turned saying “follow me.” Theo trailed behind her feeling the tension build inside him with each step he took. He almost couldn’t take it anymore when she abruptly turned in to an open room. He stayed in the doorway but could hear the constant beep from the machine signaling that the person’s heart was beating steadily, the sound distracting him from the thick anxiety that had been settling in his stomach.
He watched as Melissa tucked the blanket tighter around a sleeping Liam before checking the bag of fluid hanging at his side.
“Is-” he rasped but cleared his throat and started again, “Is he okay?” He said very close to a whisper. Surprised she even heard him.
“Yes, he’s fine. Just overtired from everything his body went through today. He’ll probably be out for a while.” She came to stand in front of him. “It’s really nice of you to come see him, you’re the only one besides his dad.” She smiled again and then made her way back to the front nurses station where she was supposed to be, leaving Theo in the shadowy doorway listening to Liam’s heartbeat. He lost track of time again, just standing there watching the boy breath. Occasionally a smile would spread across his sleeping face and it made Theo wonder what he could be dreaming about that made him so happy. Just as another lighthearted smile graced Liam’s face nearly drawing him further in to the room from the want to be near him, a voice sounded behind him making him jump slightly.
“I figured I’d find you here.” Dr. Geyer said. “I know you guys haven’t been the best of friends for a while but, thank you again for saving him.” Dr. Geyer put a hand on his shoulder in a fatherly gesture of being proud. Theo nodded and looked back towards Liam before he spoke.
“Anyone would have done it.” He lied thinking back to how Liam’s whole team stood there helplessly in the showers as Liam laid on the floor in front of them fighting to breathe. The anxiety in his stomach soured and slowly morphed into anger all over again thinking about the situation.
“Yes, but no one would have been able to calm him down like you did.” Dr. Geyer said, giving him an expressive look that made Theo suddenly feel like Dr. Geyer knew more than he was letting on. “Are you ready to see what I wanted to show you?” He added quickly changing the subject for which Theo was grateful.
“Lead the way.” He replied with a small smile on his face. Actually kind of eager to see what the good doctor wanted to show him.
“Just a lit bit further.” The older man said over his shoulder as he led Theo deeper and deeper in to the hospital. Theo thought he would feel the anxiety rise in him once he left Liam’s room but to his surprise, it never came. The rhythm of Liam’s sturdy heartbeat still echoing in his brain from standing in the room so long.
Dr. Geyer stopped in front of a door that read his name and he looked at Theo. “I’ve never shown anyone this… not even Liam or my wife.” He said seriously before slowly opening the door to a plain office that held a desk and a couch that looked like it had been used as a bed more often than not. But it was what was hanging over the couch that immediately caught Theo’s attention.
A big whiteboard that was split down the middle with tallies on either side of the line. The left side of the board that was labeled “SAVED” was almost full of the little black marks, while the right side labeled “LOST” was only a third of the way full. Theo stepped further into the small room, gravitating in front of the board. For every LOST tally there was at least two making up for it under the SAVED side. Redemption. The word fired through his brain at an alarming rate. Redemption!
“Every time I have a bad day, or lose hope for a patient, I come down here and sit in my chair and just stare at this board.” Theo heard him say, but was too engrossed at what was in front of him to turn to look at him. “I remind myself that there is always something that I can do until there’s nothing I can do anymore.” It sounded like a riddle but Theo understood it. Dr. Geyer continued, “I remind myself that no matter how bleak or sad the outcome is for one person, that there are always more people that I CAN help. And so I promise myself to do just that, I promise myself to help in any way that I can.” He finished.
Theo felt the tear slip from his eye and he kept his back towards the older man so he wouldn’t see it. But the doctor knew what he was thinking, his next words proving it.
“Theo… you did all that you could for your sister. You were there with her, comforting her and that’s all that she needed from you.”
Theo broke. “I could have saved her, the doctor even said it. I could have saved her and then my family would still be together.” A broken sob left his throat and then he was being wrapped up in strong arms. He couldn’t remember the last time he was hugged, maybe the night before his mom left? It felt strange at first, he wasn’t sure what to do anymore, but slowly he wrapped his arms around Dr. Geyer and began to squeeze back.
“That doctor was an idiot, there was nothing you could have done. I read her file Theo. There was nothing even I could have done.” He said softly as Theo cried against his shoulder, finally letting out all the emotions that had been running through him since that night. His parents had brought him home and locked themselves away in their room for days, leaving him to wallow in his thoughts and fend for himself.
Tara was their favorite child, the little golden girl that could do no wrong, and Theo didn’t mind. He loved his sister just as his parents had and she loved him back. That’s why when the car came flying around the corner and Theo hadn’t been paying attention to where he was skate boarding next to her, her little arms pushed him out of the way only for her to become the new target.
Dr. Geyer pulled back and Theo almost didn’t let him go, too deprived of positive human touch. “You have to stop blaming yourself son, you have to let it go. You couldn’t save her, but there are so many others that you CAN save.” Theo stopped caring that the man in front of him was watching him cry, this man wasn’t his father, he wasn’t going to taunt or punish him for being weak. “Just look at what you did for Liam today, what you did for him when he would have an episode. You’re meant to be a healer Theo… you just have to believe it yourself. Believe that you can make a difference.”
A fresh wave of tears threatened to spill over but Theo started to pull himself together. This is what he had been looking for. This is how he was going to be better, he was going to redeem himself and prove that he was worthy. He used the sleeves of his shirt to wipe at the wetness on his face. “Thank you.” He whispered as Dr. Geyer led him back through the door and up the stairs returning to Liam’s floor.
They stopped by his door and Dr. Geyer went in to check on him, righting the blankets that Liam had tossed off in his sleep. The kid never could lay still, Theo smirked at the memories of being kicked and punched whenever Liam slept over. He sometimes would have to wrap himself tightly around Liam just to keep him from hurting him, which usually made Liam calm down enough to let Theo get some sleep. Dr. Geyer walked back out of the room and with one last look at Liam, Theo followed closely behind.
When they got to the doors, Dr. Geyer put his hand back on Theo’s shoulder in the fatherly manner. “We’re not so different kid. I used to be a lot like you.” He said and Theo averted his eyes. “Theo…” He called, making Theo pick his head back up and look at him. And then the doctor dropped a bombshell that Theo would have never been ready for.
“Whenever you’re ready to stop wearing long sleeve shirts in summer and wrapping your ribs from all the rough tackles, you know where we live and our guest room is always open.”
Theo blanched. He knew.
Chapter 7: Forgotten Meds, Broken Friendships, and A Party
*Note part of this chapter was inspired by @da-smiley99 (tumblr) and an edit that she made*
Liam was pissed, he understood why, but that still didn’t change the fact that he was sitting on the bench watching his team play without him. Even though he was fully rested and hydrated from his stay at the hospital the previous night, his dad and told him that his body and his mind might not be able to handle the stress from the game. So here he sat, permanent scowl on his face, as he observed his team struggling to keep their one goal lead. Pathetic. He glanced quickly over to the tall football scoreboard and saw that Theo’s team was winning by a large margin.
“Oh come on! You call that illegal? The kid is fine; look he’s barely even bleeding!” Coach yelled at the ref as he gave one of the freshman a red card for slashing. Liam slowly watched the seconds tick away until the final buzzer sounded, calling the game to an end and allowing his team to hang on to yet another victory. On his way back to the locker room, he heard the crowd erupt from the football field and saw Theo throw a long pass to Gabe who ended up scoring a touchdown right before their own ending buzzer went off. Good for him, he thought.
Ms. McCall had told him on his way out that Theo had stopped by to see him and it was later confirmed by his dad. Liam didn’t know what to think. Four days ago they still hated each other, four days ago Theo kissed him, and then yesterday Theo had called him by his old nickname and visited him at the hospital. He wasn’t sure what changed, but he wasn’t complaining.
Some of the allergic reaction was a blur, like how long he laid on the locker room floor for or who pulled him out of the bee-ridden locker room. But he did remember Theo injecting his EPI pens although not too gently, he did remember Theo holding him and calling him little wolf, and he did remember the feeling of sheer panic when he was tied down to the stretcher and Theo let go of his hand.
He listened half-heartedly to coach’s “that game was shit, you need to play better even though you won” speech, and walked out of the locker room when everyone else busied themselves with getting changed and showering, preparing to head to Tracy’s.
He was leaning against the wall of lockers waiting for Nolan to finish as they were driving together, when he saw Theo turn the corner down the hall coming from his own locker room. His heart jumped a little at the sight of him freshly showered and in a fitted sweater, jeans, and boots. Theo didn’t notice him right away, lost in something on his phone so he continued staring at him, trying to memorize how peaceful he was when he wasn’t around his awful friends. Theo looked up from his phone and his feet slowed a little upon seeing him. Liam let out a little smile encouraging the other boy to come closer, both getting lost in intense eye contact, and when he was almost in front of him their moment was broken as Hayden launched herself into him and wrapped her arms around his neck.
“Are you ready?” She asked and lightly pecked his lips. He lifted his eyes over her head and caught eyes with a pair of hazel ones swirling with annoyance before Theo snapped his head forward and breezed past them. Liam felt disappointment flood through him, he wanted to thank Theo for everything before they went back to hating each other. Seeing as Theo was never alone, Liam realized how important this opportunity had been and now he had missed it.
“Yeah,” he sighed returning his gaze to his girlfriend, “just waiting for-” his words were cut off by Nolan busting through the locker room door with a wide grin on his face.
“You two ready?!” He questioned as he looped his arms around both of their necks pulling them towards the parking lot. “Mase and Corey are meeting us there.”
They pulled up to Tracy’s gigantic house and parked next to the line of other cars. Tracy lived in the same neighborhood as Lydia Martin, an older girl that had always thrown large parties, Liam shook his head… must be a rich people thing. The three of them trekked up the well-manicured lawn and around the house towards the blasting music coming from the backyard.
There were people everywhere; in the pool, dancing on the tables, moving in and out of the house. Hayden grabbed his hand dragging him towards a group of her friends and they lost Nolan to the keg located near the garage. Liam stood there as Hayden spoke animatedly with her friends, he looked around trying to locate the one person he shouldn’t want to see but did anyway.
“Liam will you get us some drinks?” Hayden asked sweetly. He nodded and went to move away but not before he heard “I’ve trained him so well.” He scowled. He knew Hayden was only with him because he was the captain of the lacrosse team but she had been getting unbearable these last couple of weeks. Maybe it was time to finally let her go and just focus on lacrosse and school. He had just finished that thought, and pouring the cup of spiked punch for Hayden and a cup of water for himself because alcohol didn’t mix well with his meds, when he finally found who he was looking for in the middle of the living room. He froze with cups in hand as he watched Theo move to the beat with Tracy grinding all over him making his scowl return.
Theo looked up and caught eyes with him and smirked as he wrapped his arms around the barely dressed girl and pulled her head back for a kiss with the hand that wasn’t holding a beer bottle. Holding Liam’s eyes hostage for a few seconds before he finally shut them and continued kissing Tracy. Liam not knowing why he was suddenly so angry, he took his meds this morning didn’t he… oh shit he had been at the hospital so he couldn’t have, marched from the kitchen back outside towards Hayden. When he reached her, he grabbed her wrist pulling her away from her friends and towards the living room full of dancing bodies. He handed Hayden her cup, downed his wishing it was alcohol, and pulled her tightly against him as he moved them to the beat.
A few songs in and Hayden spun around, wrapping her arms around his neck as she took his lips in a sloppy drunken kiss. He kissed back but moved his eyes across the room where he was met with the sight of Theo in a similar position with Tracy, hazel eyes on him and Hayden. They continued to watch each other through the kisses they were receiving. But the eye contact broke as Hayden pulled back looking up at him so he averted his blue eyes down to her instead.
“Why didn’t you play today.” She whined. “It was just a few bee stings, nothing fatal.”
Liam untangled her arms from around him and pushed back from her. “Are you kidding me? Those few bee stings put me in the hospital overnight. Speaking of which,” He said crossing his arms over his chest, “why didn’t you come see me?”
Her eyes darted around, he thought it was because she was drunk. “I was busy.”
“So busy that you couldn’t come see your boyfriend in the fucking hospital?” He growled.
“Why are you making such a big deal out this?” She pouted.
He pinched the bridge of his nose, “You’re right, it’s not worth the argument. We’re done.” He turned to walk away, shoving sweaty bodies out of his path ignoring the annoyed groans of teens who’s make out sessions had been interrupted.
“You play a bullshit sport anyway! Now I’ll finally be able to go to the football games!” He heard her annoying voice yell over the music. He just raised his hand saying bye without turning to look at her. Fucking football, he seethed. He hadn’t realized that his hands started shaking like they did before he had an outburst until he was out of the crowd and in a long quiet hallway. He needed to find somewhere to calm down before he really couldn’t control himself.
So when he came across a staircase, he bounded up two steps at a time, until he came to the third floor with a small hallway and only one door. He opened it slowly, making sure he wasn’t walking in on anyone, and when he saw that the coast was clear he made his way over to the windows that were letting in the light from the full moon. He noticed that there was a small piece of roof extended beneath the window and without second thought climbed through it and perched himself on the flat surface, letting the cool air and bright moon light bathe his body and mind in calmness and feeling the shaking in his hands lessen.
But his serenity was short lived. “Following me now huh?” The honeyed voice he knew so well made him jump as he whipped his head around to look at the owner of the voice who emerged from the shadows from another piece of roof.
“Get over yourself.” He scoffed and tried to hide his hands that had started to shake again. He had been startled but since you could only feel one emotion at a time, his fear had morphed into the anger that was already bubbling inside him. He knew this because Theo had enlightened him one day after he had been scared and lashed out in anger. Theo explained that a person could only feel one emotion at a time, and usually if others were present they would just fuel the most dominant emotion, which for him was always anger.
“I will if you will.” Theo retorted making his way slowly over to him and lazily plopping down next to him on the hard roof.
“Taking after dear old dad huh?” He said nodding towards the almost empty bottle in the boy’s hands. He couldn’t help the insult that flew from his lips, but immediately regretted it when he saw Theo cringe. “I’m sorry.” He whispered and looked down at at his hands, trying to keep the noticeable quake to a minimum.
Theo was quiet for moment, letting the silence stretch between them, which made Liam’s hands tremble worse from the anxiety and anticipation. “It’s water.” He said quietly swirling the liquid around in the bottle. Liam looked up from his lap and over to the bottle Theo seemed to be so engrossed in. And then he watched as Theo launched the glass at a tree far away, hitting it dead center and making it rain in the empty forest with brown shiny pieces.
“Still have trouble controlling your anger?” Theo asked him glancing down to his lap where his clenched, unsteady hands were fidgeting.
He nodded. “Only when there’s a lot going on around me.”
Theo laughed. “Then a party is the best place for you to be.” He said sarcastically. Liam stayed quiet, not wanting to give in to the anger he was feeling at the joke he had become. He felt Theo’s hand rest lightly on top of his and he looked up. “It was a joke, I’m sorry.” Theo commented apologetically. He remained silent and moved his eyes back down to his lap where his hands now sat covered with Theo’s warm one.
“I didn’t take my meds this morning and I’m having a really hard time focusing.” He said sounding defeated. He was embarrassed, he hated feeling out of control, hated feeling like he was a freak. He felt Theo’s hand squeeze his a little more tightly.
“Do you remember that time your mom tried to teach us how to make French toast?” He asked and Liam could hear the smile in his voice. He did remember it, vividly, but he wanted to hear it from Theo’s perspective so he shook his head no. “Oh little wolf,” He chuckled and Liam felt a wave of calm brush over him at the name, “how could you forget?! You got to crack all the eggs, which I was pissed about because I wanted to do that, and you got so many shell pieces in there but your mom didn’t want to hurt your feelings so she left them.” He continued. “I had no idea that cinnamon and cinnamon sugar were two different things so I poured half the canister in there thinking it would be delicious. Still your mom said nothing, only smiled in encouragement as I mixed everything, spilling at least a third of it in my excitement.” Liam looked over at Theo and saw him lost in the memory, a relaxed happy expression on his face, and the serene feeling continued to run through him making his hands shake less and less.
“By the time we added the bread, the kitchen was a disaster and your mom was close to tears. I’ll never forget the look on your dad’s face when he came home and saw the mess we had made.” He laughed, and Liam couldn’t stop the smile that spread across his own face recalling the look of utter terror. “But still they sat down at the table and let us serve the, very very burnt, French toast and thanked us for making them breakfast.” Liam’s hands had completely stopped shaking but Theo’s hand still rested atop them, his thumbing running back and forth smoothly, almost as if he didn’t know it he was doing it.
“Your dad took the first bite and gagged from all the cinnamon, and then pretended to wipe his mouth while he spit it in his napkin. Your mom crunched on straight eggshells and did then did the same. When we took our bites we weren’t as subtle. You spit yours clear across the table and chugged your orange juice while I choked on mine before your dad smacked my back hard enough to get it out of me.” Theo was laughing so hard that tears had rolled down his cheeks making him remove his hand to wipe them away.
Liam felt the loss from his touch immediately and had to clench his fist in order to keep himself from reaching out and taking his hand back. He laid back on the roof to distract himself, looking up at the bright moon and twinkling stars, voicing the first thought that popped into his head without thinking. “What happened to us?”
Theo sighed, all laughter gone, and let himself fall back so that he was lying next to Liam and looking up at the sky. “Life.” Came his pained answer. He felt Theo’s fingers brush against his and he shyly hooked his pinky around Theo’s. They stayed like that, quietly looking up at the night sky just enjoying the presence of the other, for a long while. Completely forgetting about the party and people below them. Completely lost in their own world exactly how it used to be when they were kids. Liam didn’t know when but at some point their hand holding had progressed from just pinky fingers to full hands clasped tightly together. Neither of them wanting to let go.
Liam turned his head to look at Theo’s profile, remembering what he wanted to say to him earlier in the hall. As if Theo could feel him staring at him, he let his head fall to the side, leaving their faces only a few inches apart. Liam looked deeply into the eyes gazing back at him and watched as Theo’s eyes dropped to his lips a few times before returning to his eyes.
“Thank you for yesterday.” He whispered. “But… but I need to know if you had anything to do with it.”
Theo closed his eyes and let out an angry breath, when he opened them again Liam saw irritation swirling deep within and he immediately thought it was directed at him and tried to pull his hand away. Theo refused to let go though, keeping his hand hostage.
“I’m no angel, Liam, but I would NEVER put your life in danger. NEVER.” He said forcefully, looking intensely into his eyes trying to make him see that he was being truthful. Liam relaxed and squeezed Theo’s hand, silently telling him that he believed him and that he wasn’t going to pull away again.
They continued to lay there looking at each other, breaths slowly increasing, as their faces ever so slowly inched closer together. Liam could feel Theo’s soft breath against his lips and Theo’s unoccupied hand came to rest softly against his jaw, Liam brought his other hand up as well placing it on top of Theo’s holding it in place. And just as their lips brushed together softly, barely even touching, a loud crash sounded from below making them both bolt upright. The noise from the party carried up, reminding them where they were, as they heard shouting and another crash.
They both stood up hastily still holding hands but quickly dropped them as they climbed back through the window and rushed down the stairs to the forgotten party. What they found was like a scene out of a gang movie or West Side Story, two very distinct teams standing opposite each other with furious faces. Liam could feel the wrath radiating through him again, hands beginning to tremble now that he had been taken away from his calm bubble. He and Theo separated and went to stand on their perspective sides, facing off next to their teammates.
“What’s going on?” Theo asked smarmily, and Liam narrowed his eyes at the version of Theo he had come to hate, the Theo from the roof nowhere in sight.
“Your boyfriend over here,” Nolan sneered making both Liam and Theo’s eye widen in horror before Nolan pointed to Gabe, “decided he could make out with Liam’s girlfriend.”
Gabe smirked. “Not his girlfriend.” He commented slyly.
“Uh, yeah she is, tell him Li.” Nolan said deferring to his captain.
Liam looked at the girl in question standing next to the running back as a look of disgust crossed his face. “Not my girlfriend anymore.” He spat.
Gabe laughed and Liam prepared himself for some kind of insult, but he wasn’t ready for he got. “Yeah she said she needed a real athlete, or at least that’s what she said last night when she was moaning beneath me while buzz kill was in the hospital.” Liam felt the haze of anger wash over him and he clenched his fists tightly. His breathing became sporadic and everything in the room besides Gabe became a blur.
“Liam… don’t-” He heard Theo say as calmly as possible but Liam was a goner. With his meds not helping him stay in control, he felt himself snap and then he was on top of Gabe and blood was flying while he heard screams and felt hands trying to pull him off the kid.
He felt himself finally pulled off his target and heard Theo’s voice shouting commands at every one around them. “EVERYONE GO HOME. NOW.” He couldn’t see, but he felt people bumping into him and whoever was holding him back from attacking Gabe. “Get him out of here!” Theo yelled again and Liam narrowed his eyes as a bloody Gabe was hauled further and further away from him and he snarled at the thought of losing his personal punching bag.
“What’s happening to him?” He heard Nolan ask worriedly.
“He’s having an episode, Nathan-”
“Whatever, I need you to find a quiet room quickly.” Liam’s whole body was shaking now and Theo grabbed both wrists from behind and wrapped them around Liam so that they were both hugging his trembling body. Liam’s anger quickly switched to anger at himself and anger at the boy now holding him.
“Let. Go.” He said icily.
“No Li,” He said using Nolan’s nick name for him which only made him angrier, “you need to calm down.” He tried using a stern voice but Liam wasn’t having it. He ripped out of Theo’s hold, using the rage to make him stronger, and spun to face him.
Theo reached for him again and he jerked away. “Don’t touch me!” Theo let his arm drop to his side and Liam kept going. “Just leave me the fuck alone!” He yelled and saw Theo flinch as if he had hit him. But in his current state couldn’t bring himself to care. “You’ve done such a good fucking job of it for the past three years, shouldn’t be a problem now!” He mocked and again Theo flinched at his words.
Nolan entered the room and surprisingly came to Theo’s defense. “Hey, Liam man calm down. He was only trying to help.”
“Oh fuck off Nolan. Next time you want to take your frustration out on your closeted boyfriend,” and at Nolan’s surprised look he continued, “Yeah I know all about you and Gabe. So next time you want to call him out or he hurts your feelings… leave me and my life the fuck out of it!”
He turned and stomped angrily out of the house, out to the street where the cool night air began to dry his sweat and clear his overheated mind. He had gotten about halfway home when the haze of fury started to dissipate and he was left feeling guilty, empty, and depressed. He had gone three years without a major outburst, he had promised himself never to let it get that far after the last one had cost him his best friend. He hung his head and let the tears fall freely, thinking about how he had just got Theo back and now he had ruined it all over again.
Chapter 8: Gabe’s Closet and A Trip to The ER
“You’re an idiot.” Theo said as he walked in the room where Josh and Donovan had dragged Gabe’s stupid ass. “You just had to add the part about fucking her didn’t you?” Gabe scowled at him as he held the blood soaked towel up to definitely broken nose.
“Whatever, the freak deserved it.” Gabe spat out, immediately making Theo’s blood boil.
“Oh yeah? Like he deserved to almost die from your little bee prank?” He fired back, this time looking at all three of his teammates with murderous eyes.
“Hey we tried to tell you but you went MIA on us all week. Speaking of, where were you tonight? Don’t think I didn’t notice that you and the little freak came back at the same time.” Gabe snarled at him making Josh and Donovan avert their eyes, finding the carpet and their shoes suddenly very interesting.
“Donny... Josh… Out. Now.” The two boys wasted no time and shuffled out upon hearing their captain’s order, happy to be away from the palpable tension between their two friends. He walked over and sat on the bed next to his bleeding “friend”. “Let me tell you something G; what I do, when I do it, and who I do it with will never be any of your business. And before you want to come at me again with snarky comments, you might want to check yourself before I accidentally show up with the team to your Thursday night pre-game ritual. As a matter of fact, I think it’s become a daily thing if my memory serves me correctly...” Gabe’s eyes widened as he let out a cough that he choked on.
“How did you know?”
“I stayed late to study a couple of weeks ago, saw you guys come out of our locker room when I was leaving. Left my phone there last Thursday and when I came to get it, you had him pinned against your car. Monday, I was late leaving because all of the fucking paint and saw him waiting for you in the parking lot.” He conveniently left out the part where he and Liam had kissed right before that. “Wednesday, well I’m sure we both know why there were grass stains on both of your team shirts on Thursday… and just now by how shitty he looked when you said you fucked Hayden.” He finished, raising an eyebrow daring Gabe to deny everything.
If Theo had learned anything from his father it was to be aware of your surroundings, to be able to read the people around you and judge by their facial expressions or body language if anything was off. That’s why he hadn’t been shocked when he heard Liam call Nolan out, because he had known. Even before he caught them, he noticed the longing stares and casual glances back and forth in the hallway and during confrontations between the teams. He took notice that the two never directly insulted each other, or went for one another when the teams fought. They actually did the opposite; they went out of their way to avoid the other even if that meant getting it worse from someone else.
“Now I was going to talk to you about your little bee prank, but I’m guessing that’s why you and Nolan fought resulting in you sleeping with Hayden.” Gabe only nodded in response, finally looking somewhat remorseful. He felt bad for him, he really did, as Theo knew the struggle all too well. “Why did you rub it in his face?” He asked softly, changing the tone of his voice so that his idiot of a friend knew that he was done being in captain mode.
Gabe shrugged. “I was just so mad.” He pulled the bloody towel away from his broken nose and rested it in his lap, fiddling idly with the tag. “He was furious with me for hurting the weirdo,” Theo had to clench his fist to keep from saying anything further about how he felt about what happened, “I went to reach for him and he told me not to touch him. Like I was going to hurt him and it pissed me off because I would never.” Theo nodded, again he knew the exact feeling. He felt that way when Liam had asked him if he was a part of the prank that almost killed him. “And then he told me it wouldn’t be a problem considering how he was my dirty little secret and that I was just using him to sort out my confused sexuality.” Gabe’s voice sounded pained and Theo knew it wasn’t from the bone that was currently fractured. “He doesn’t understand; I can’t be that guy… my dad would lose it. So when Hayden and I ran into each other after he kicked me out of his house, I did the first thing I could think of to get back at him.”
“You’re an idiot.” He repeated the words from before but this time with less hostility. “You need to talk to him.”
“I’ve been a little busy.” He said dryly, gesturing to his face that had started to bruise under his eyes already and a wicked bump pointing to the left on his nose clearly showing it was broken.
“Well lucky for you the hospital is twenty minutes away.” Theo said standing up.
Gabe sighed, “And why does that make me lucky?”
“Because that’s twenty minutes of uninterrupted groveling, and you can play the 'I’m hurt and need you' card.”
“God you’re scary sometimes.” Gabe commented looking astonished at the way Theo’s brain worked, which is exactly why he was supposed to be in charge of the pranks. “But I’m not going to the hospital.”
“Oh yes you are, you’ll be in and out in no time, trust me.” He didn’t say why he had to trust him but Theo knew that they would just quickly set the nose and give him some pain meds before they sent him on his way. Or at least that’s what Melissa had done with his ribs…
He opened the door and found Nolan leaning against the wall where he left him and nodded towards him, signaling that he was ready for him. Nolan poked his head around Theo’s body to check Gabe’s condition. Once he deemed that he was fine he narrowed his eyes at the boy.
“Let’s go.” He stated impatiently, crossing his arms and standing next to Theo as they waited for Gabe to stand and make his way over.
“I think I’ve lost too much blood to be walking unassisted.” Gabe murmured and Theo had to hide the smirk at his awful acting. He had to try even harder to disguise the burst of laughter that left his throat as a coughing fit at Nolan’s response.
“Thought you were a real athlete?” He said throwing Gabe’s words from earlier back in his face. “Guess all that vagina made you weak.” And then Nolan was walking off towards Theo’s truck.
Theo put his hand on Gabe’s shoulder and squeezed. “Maybe you need more than twenty minutes?” He shrugged and dragged him out to the truck, helping him get in the backseat before hopping up front and starting the truck. Nolan sat beside him in the passenger seat and stared blankly out of the windshield. He pulled out of the driveway and could immediately feel the tension in the car.
“Nolan…” Gabe said from the backseat which Nolan ignored. Theo caught eyes with Gabe in the rearview mirror, watching as a sheepish look crossed his face before he opened his mouth again.
“Little bear…” he said quietly and Theo immediately gripped the steering wheel tightly at hearing the similar endearment. An image of his own little wolf popping into his head, quickly reminding him of everything that had just happened. He bit the inside of his cheek hoping the pain would help him keep his emotions in check until he was alone and could process everything.
“Don’t.” Nolan spat out. “You don’t get to call me that anymore.” He whispered sadly. Gabe gave up after that and the rest of the ride was filled with silence and tension. He was hoping that they would have talked, hoping that they would have created a distraction for him so that he wouldn’t replay what happened over and over.
He wanted to talk to Liam in the hallway when he saw him, but then that bitch had launched herself at him so he kept walking. Wanting to forget about everything he let Tracy pull him in to the living room packed with other couples and began to dance with her. When he saw Liam staring at them, he decided to give him the same show that he had gotten earlier, pulling Tracy in for a kiss that she happily returned. He couldn’t help but lock eyes with him across the room as they were both making out with the girls they had been dating. Theo wished he could be anywhere else other than watching Liam be with his stuck up girlfriend. So when he saw Hayden throw her arms around Liam’s neck breaking their eye contact, he stepped away from Tracy stating he needed another drink and made his way up the stairs to the roof he had found a few parties ago.
He had been leaning against a wall in the shadows provided by another piece of angled roof when the window opened and he saw Liam poor out of it sitting down roughly and breathing heavily. Theo decided it would be best to reveal himself before too long, scared of why the little wolf was on the roof after he had been drinking.
He started with sarcasm, it was the only way he knew how to greet the boy anymore. “Following me now huh?”
“Get over yourself.” The snarky comment flew at him.
“I will if you will.” He replied. He was just sitting down when Liam’s harsh next words punched him in the gut.
“Taking after dear old dad huh?” Theo clenched his jaw and dropped his head looking at the bottle in his hands. “I’m sorry.” He heard whispered but he still felt the sting cutting through him. Everyone knew that his dad was the town drunk, no one ever said anything about it, but leave it to Liam to be the only one to remind him. He picked at the label for a minute, wondering if the boy would care or even believe him if he told him it was water. He always dumped the beer out and filled it with water to make it look like he was drinking when he really wasn’t. He couldn’t stand the idea of letting the poison inside him after he saw first-hand everyday what it did to someone.
“It’s water.” He said looking angrily at the bottle that had been responsible for all of the hateful words and bruises he had received over the years. He cocked his arm back and threw it, hitting the tree a few hundred yards away, and feeling a bit better as he watched it smash in to a million tiny pieces.
He glanced over at Liam after noticing him jump from the sound of glass shattering and saw his shaking hands. He sighed, he knew what that meant.
“Still have trouble controlling your anger?”
Liam nodded sadly. “Only when there’s a lot going on around me.”
He couldn’t help but chuckle. “Then a party is the best place for you to be.” When Liam didn’t laugh or look at him, Theo knew that it had probably made him feel worse and silently cursed himself. “It was a joke, I’m sorry.” He said as he placed his left hand over the trembling ones in Liam’s lap hoping to help steady them.
Liam finally spoke again after a few minutes. “I didn’t take my meds this morning and I’m having a really hard time focusing.” Theo squeezed his hand gently and remembered that the best way to get Liam’s mind off it was to talk about something completely different. He didn’t know why, but the first thing that popped in to his head was hands down the best memory he had since the accident and his mom leaving. He recalled making the awful French toast and lazily swiped his thumb over Liam’s skin, remembering the utter love and happiness he felt that day. No one had yelled at him for making a mess or too much noise, only smiled and encouraged him throughout the whole ordeal. He’ll never forget that even though the bread had looked like black bricks with white eggshells plastered all over them, that Liam’s parents had still tried to eat it.
By the time he was done, there were tears from laughing so hard streaming down his face. He pulled his hand away from Liam’s now still ones to mop up the wetness and then followed Liam down to his back so that they were looking up at the star spotted sky.
“What happened to us?” Liam asked miserably.
He sighed, “Life.” The hand that had been resting over Liam’s felt cold and so he moved it slightly, brushing it against Liam’s warm one. He was surprised when Liam hooked his pinky around his and he wanted more than just a pinky but didn’t dare to move in case he scared him away. After a while he became confident that Liam wouldn’t pull back so he threaded his hand fully into the boy’s next to him, tightening his grip ever so slightly because he missed this, he missed his best friend. He felt Liam turn to look at him and waited a few seconds before turning his head to stare back. Finding it utterly impossible to not look down at his lips that he knew tasted like sweet mint and he watched as Liam’s tongue darted out wetting them before he spoke.
“Thank you for yesterday.” He whispered and Theo smiled at him. “But… but I need to know if you had anything to do with it.” And then his smile dropped and he closed his eyes to keep from crying. How could he think that he would hurt him? He may have said hurtful things, and threatened to hurt him, but he could never bring himself to actually cause his little wolf pain for it would only end up causing him pain. Liam tried to pull his hand away but he refused to let it go.
“I’m no angel, Liam, but I would NEVER put your life in danger. NEVER.” He pushed out, staring deeply into Liam’s blue eyes hoping he could see the sincerity in his. When Liam stopped trying to get his hand back Theo knew that he believed him and relaxed a little. But now more than ever, he felt the pull towards him. Theo slowly inched forward and turned on his side bringing his right hand up to hold Liam’s face. Liam turned as well, facing him and placed his hand on top of Theo’s before he closed the distance between them, very lightly brushing his lips over Theo’s. Theo was about to kiss back when the chaos below them erupted ruining everything and then all hell broke loose.
He finally had pulled Liam off a battered Gabe and got everyone to leave when Liam turned on him, his words like the fists his father had.
“Don’t touch me!” “Just leave me the fuck alone!” “You’ve done such a good fucking job of it for the past three years, shouldn’t be a problem now!” Were hurled at him like he was a human knife board, each statement cutting into him deeper. He knew that Liam didn’t mean it, he knew that it was just the anger talking, but that didn’t make it hurt any less. Theo steeled himself from feeling, another lesson he learned from living with his dad, and watched as Liam stormed out of the house leaving him behind for what felt like the hundredth time.
He turned into the hospital parking lot and helped Gabe get out before they both followed Nolan in. Even though he had just been there, he still tripped over his feet when walking through the doors, feeling the familiar anxiety settle in the pit of his stomach.
“Theo! Are you okay honey?” Ms. McCall asked as she approached, voice full of worry because she knew that Theo only visited on Sundays if it was a bad weekend. For once he was happy to report that he wasn’t the one in need of medical attention and waved a hand towards Gabe who was now being held up by an angry but concerned looking Nolan.
“Could you tell Dr. Geyer I’m here?” He asked his favorite nurse as she finished settling Gabe up in a room and assigning him a resident to fix his nose.
“Sure.” She smiled before picking up the phone on the wall and quietly talking to someone. “He’ll be right up.” She said before heading back to her desk in the front of the hospital.
It didn’t take long; Dr. Geyer was walking towards where he was leaning on the wall in the doorway to Gabe’s room a few minutes later.
“Theo what’s wrong?” He asked, scanning him from head to toe searching for an injury that wasn’t there. He couldn’t help but feel a little happiness at the thought that Dr. Geyer was worried about his well-being but he had other things he had to focus on.
“Liam snapped.” He whispered looking down and then returning his eyes back to the doctor. “I haven’t seen him like that since… since…”
“Your dad.” The older man finished for him and he nodded.
“I tried to calm him down but then he freaked out on me. I don’t know where he went, I had to bring Gabe here to get his nose fixed.”
Dr. Geyer sighed sadly. “Okay, I’ll make sure Gabe is okay and then I’ll head home. Thank you for telling me Theo. You did good kid.” Theo smiled at the praise, something about the man comforted him in a way that he didn’t know he needed until he got it.
“Dr. Geyer?” He asked, stopping his progression into Gabe’s room. “He didn’t take his meds this morning. He’s… he’s going to be really upset when he calms down. And I know it’s not my place, but just try to refrain from saying it’s not his fault. He hates it.” The doctor just smiled and nodded at him before he turned and approached a tired looking Gabe and a scowling but hovering Nolan that was holding Gabe’s hand begrudgingly.
Now there was nothing to save him from his thoughts and emotions, and boy did they fuck with his head for the rest of the weekend.
Chapter 9: Shattered
This chapter is kind of dark, please skip it and come back to it later if you aren't in a good headspace atm.
He sat on the cold hard floor of his room leaning back against the thick wooden bed frame. His knees were bent and his head hung heavy in his hands stabilized by his elbows that were resting on top of his knees, eyes raw and red from the tears that had sprung free during his long trek home. The lights were off and the only thing that could be heard in the dark room was the bitter sound of his harsh breathing mixed with the occasional choked sob. He couldn’t stop the onslaught of insults his brain was firing at itself. Weak. Hopeless. Stupid. Monster. They came in rapid succession, increasing the overall feeling of despair that was pulsing through his veins.
But sadly, that wasn’t even what was currently breaking him in two. The demeaning thoughts only added to the hostility rippling through him. He had been humiliated, he had been used, he had lost control and displayed to everyone what they had been blindly whispering about since the start of high school. And as if all of that wasn’t enough, he had watched as Theo flinched away from him, scared and hurt, like he was every bit of the monster that he had been accused of being before. Watched as his favorite pair of hazel eyes turned dead and cold when he couldn’t contain the hurtful words that spilled out of his incensed mouth.
A broken sound escaped his throat and he let another one roll out as he gripped his hair tightly, punishing himself. He welcomed the pain, hoping it would ease the feeling of profound sadness eating him from the inside out.
Liam didn’t know how long he sat there, replaying every punch and word in his head, sinking further and further into himself and his despair. He hadn’t heard when the garage door opened and closed, hadn’t heard the slow thud of hesitant footsteps on the stairs, hadn’t even seen his stepfather enter his room until he was sitting down next to him with a soft sigh.
Still he remained, locked in his own version of the fetal position, as he felt a large hand settle on his back and begin to rub softly in small circles. Without realizing it he slowly started to arch his back, trying to escape the feeling of gentle touches, because it actually felt like shards of glass being pushed into his skin. He didn’t deserve to be soothed, he didn’t WANT to be soothed. Thankfully, Dr. Geyer must have noticed the subtle movement and gracefully pulled his hand away.
“It’s okay to be upset, little man.” Had it been any other circumstance, Liam would have smiled fondly at the nickname he had been given upon meeting Dr. Geyer the first time. But this wasn’t one of those times. It wasn’t okay. What he did wasn’t and would never be okay. He had hurt people, physically made them bleed, but that wasn’t the real damage he had done. Physical pain is fleeting and could be healed over time, emotional pain however could not. It stuck with you like the remnants of a bad dream. Constantly haunting your conscious and subconscious; looking for the tiny holes in your resolve hoping to tear them wide open. The proof was found in the lifeless glaze that iced over Theo’s normally vibrant earthy eyes after he had sneered the unforgivable words.
He closed his eyes and all he could see was dull green orbs staring back at him instead of the effervescent emerald that usually sparkled with sarcasm and strength. Another one of the traumatized noises escaped Liam’s mouth at the image. The sting on his scalp from the tugging of his fingers no longer enough to ground him.
“Liam breathe.” Dr. Geyer ordered. A strangled breath passed through his lips and he could taste the salt from fresh tears as they spilled from his eyes and down passed his nose. He could feel his lips cracking open with each pull of air he took in, over dry from the endless tears and night air on the walk home. The metallic tang of blood mixed with the concentrated salt leaving a thick bitter taste in his mouth, mirroring the current state of his psyche. He tried to swallow it down, but his throat raw with emotion wouldn’t let it happen so he ended up coughing a few times, choking on the traitorous salvia.
“Breathe, little wolf.” His dad murmured tentatively and Liam’s head shot up. His face a collage of emotions staring at the man that had raised him, the man that dared to use the name that only one person had ever called him. The one person that had the power to make it alright but couldn’t because Liam ruined it all three years ago and then again tonight.
He blinked at Dr. Geyer, confusion marring his face at how the older man knew about the endearment. His stepfather turned, and upon seeing his face with what little light peaked through the doorway from the hall, gasped.
“Oh, Liam.” He said dejectedly. Liam watched as he closed his eyes briefly and then opened them slowly showing a raw emotion that Liam rarely saw. His stepfather was a man of strength and stability, only ever seeing him truly upset on two occasions. The first had been when he held Liam’s crying mother after his was diagnosed with his IED, and the second after the ordeal with Theo’s dad. He broke when he saw the two people under his care struggling to keep it together, this time was no different. Except for the fact that Liam couldn’t feel his compassion this time, his body and mind becoming numb to everything around him.
“I think it’s time for us to go back to the cabin.” He heard his stepfather say quietly, as his eyes roamed Liam’s face. Liam remained on the floor as he stood up and began assembling a bag for him. He remained on the floor as the doctor left the room, returning his head to his hands and his elbow to his knees, hearing the shuffle coming from the hallway closet where the extra bedding was kept. He closed his eyes and listened to the soft sounds floating around him from the shuffling of his stepfather to the steady drip of water from the sink faucet that needed to be fixed.
Minutes, maybe hours later, Liam felt warm hands gently tugging his to stand up. He obliged and silently followed his stepfather down the stairs and sinking into the car when the passenger door was opened for him. Before the door was shut two small pills were placed in his left hand and bottle of water in the other. He recognized the small blue on as his anger medication, but not the white one. He stared down at the two dots resting on his palm, unmoving.
“It’s a mild sedative, it’s going to help you sleep for a little bit.” The serious but soft voice sounded from above him. He lifted his head to look at him, and with a small nod of encouragement from him, Liam raised his hand to his mouth and swallowed the pills down with a gulp of water. Dr. Geyer placed the water bottle in the cup holder beside him and walked around the car to get in the driver’s seat.
They had barely made it out of the neighborhood when Liam felt a subtle tingle in his fingers and toes and then it slowly spread throughout his body, encompassing him in a mellow cloud. His eyelids felt heavy and began to droop down in effort to meet their bottom half. And who was Liam to fight it? Hell, everyone was safer when he was unconscious… he was safer when he was unconscious.
His dad had walked out the door one morning and had still had yet to return. It had been 3 months but his mom kept assuring him that he was just away on business with a weak smile. But he didn’t care if the man came back or not. Every time he had heard his mom crying after one of the man’s scary yelling tantrums or came across a new hole in the wall from his fists he was reminded who the man was, and Liam was fine with him being gone.
He had heard his mom on the phone one night with her best friend, Sarah. She was asking if it was better to live with someone with an IED that you loved or better to carry on with a healthy life alone but emotionally stable environment for a child. IED, what in the heck is an IED. Liam brushed it off, his 4-year-old self not quite old enough to understand yet. She continued on and being the little shit that he was, he continued eavesdropping. She started crying when she mentioned his name.
“Liam doesn’t have a father anymore, Sarah. A boy should have a father.” Liam felt his little body huff, they didn’t need a man in the house. They had him. He tiptoed back down the hall towards his room, determined to prove that to his mom.
The next morning, he got up without having to be woken and ran his little legs out to the kitchen. He pulled the fridge door open and heaved the large container of orange juice out. He climbed his way up the cabinets like a monkey, his mom would disapprove if she saw claiming he could hurt himself, and got out two plastic cups. He placed them on the floor and poured the juice in each one. The only problem was the plastic container was kind of heavy and so a lot of the juice ended up on the floor, rather than in the cups.
He sloshed his was down the small hallway of their new apartment and pushed into her room.
“Mommy.” He called out softly. She rustled under her blankets and he could tell by her eyes that she had been crying all night. He furrowed his brows, suddenly wanting to kick his stupid dad in the shin for making his mommy sad.
“Hey baby, why are you up so early?” He saw her glance at the clock and she bolted up once she realized it was past their normal rising time. “Oh Liam, I’m so sorry! You’re probably so hungry!” She glanced down at him and saw the cups that by this point were only a third full and smiled. She took one sticky cup out of his hand and slowly drank the liquid before pulling him close and peppering his face with kisses making him giggle.
“Come on bud, how about some pancakes?” She asked and Liam nodded eagerly. She scooped him up, settling him on her hip and began walking towards their small kitchen/dining area. “Goodness you’re getting too big, before I know it I won’t even be able to carry-” but the rest of her sentence was cut off as she saw the large orange puddle in the middle of the floor. Liam buried his face in her hair and hid. “Well, I guess we better clean this up before we get ants.” She said setting him down. They worked together to get the mess cleaned up and then made pancakes together, she even let him help flip them! That’s when they became a team, a force to be reckoned with and nobody, especially his stupid dad, was going to ruin that.
But it had been a tough year for them, financially and mentally. Liam’s mom had to pick up extra trips to keep up with bills which meant he had to stay across the hall at Mrs. Hale’s. She was a sweet older lady that had lost her family in a fire. The only thing Liam liked about going over there was her seriously cool collection of wolf stuff. She even let him take a little glass figure of the most beautiful black wolf after she noticed that he always went straight to it when he visited.
And as for him, well he was having a weird problem. Liam didn’t know why but whenever something would happen, whether it was something that upset his mom or was just plain silly, he would get this itching feeling to break something. Most of the time he was good and held back, because he knew how precious every little thing was in their lives. But sometimes he just couldn’t help it. He would slam his foot down on one of his toys, or slam his door really hard, only to feel really bad about it after. He tried to hide the evidence of his broken toys under his bed but his mom had found them one day when she had been cleaning his room, that he swore magically got messy again as soon as it was clean.
“Liam what is this?” She asked sternly, broken cars and other toys spilling out of her hands. He looked down at the floor and ran his foot along the crack in the hard wood and shrugged. “Liam.” She said again kneeling down in front of him and tipping his chin up so that he would look at her.
Tears began to flood his eyes as he looked into his mother’s matching blue ones. “I got mad.” He whispered and upon seeing the shocked look on her face let the tears spill over his cheeks.
“Oh, baby.” She exclaimed dropping the toys to floor and wrapped him in her arms. She was shaking and Liam knew she was scared. That night when he was supposed to be sleeping, he scooted out to the hallway to listen to his mother on the phone in the kitchen.
“Sarah I can’t do this again, not by myself. I can’t watch my baby turn in to him.” She cried. Liam sat down on the floor devastated that he had made his mom sad.
“Lisa, everything will be okay. Maybe you just need to get him out of that town, maybe he’s just acting how his father did because that’s what he knows. Bring him to Beacon Hills, this town is perfect and quiet! Maybe it will help him to be in a new place away from all those memories.” He heard a muffled voice say.
And so they moved. He turned five that Saturday and by Sunday they were all packed up and driving north. He sat with his black wolf the whole way, running his fingers over the cool glass, trying to stay calm because they were going far away. Far away from their apartment where he knew where everything was, far away from Mrs. Hale, far away from their life.
Surprisingly, they both seemed to enjoy they first few days there. The new town, Beacon Hills, was more quiet than L.A. and Liam was even allowed to play outside by himself! There was grass, trees, fresh air, and suddenly all of his nervousness about being somewhere new was gone! Until he accidently heard a startling crunch when walking in his small room one day. He cringed picking up his little sneakered foot and lifting the pile of clothes he had stepped on. What he saw had the itching feeling appear immediately. There on the floor sat his black wolf, or what used to be his black wolf, in tiny little black pieces. He didn’t know what came over him but he shouted angrily and then punched the wall like his dad used to. Only, his little fist hadn’t gone through like his dad’s did, instead he heard some sickly popping and then pain was setting his hand and arm on fire.
They were supposed to meet Sarah and her son, Theodore, today but instead they sat in the hospital getting his arm casted. He kept his head down the whole time, tears streaming down his face, not from the pain but he knew his mom was upset about his outburst and choice of anger expression. He could see it on her face… even through the reassuring smile that she kept giving him as she talked with the nice man that was wrapped his arm. He listened quietly as they made small talk, finding out that they were both new to town. The two of them from L.A. and Dr. Geyer from New York. They talked about big city living versus smaller towns like Beacon Hills. By the time his arm was done, the doctor and his mom had scheduled a time to get coffee. Liam felt a little bit better after seeing the real smile his mom had on her face, he hadn’t seen it in so long.
“Alright little man, you’re all set!” The friendly doctor exclaimed.
And before he knew it, Liam and his mom were moving out of their tiny apartment above the Chinese restaurant and in to a comfortable sized home on the edge of town.
Things from then on got better for both him and his mom. He didn’t have any problems as frequently and she seemed to be genuinely happy which made Liam happy. He forgot all about meeting his mom’s friend until one day when Dr. Geyer arrived home with a trampoline, much to his mom’s dismay because he had just gotten his cast off, and a car he didn’t recognize was pulling in to the driveway. A lady with sandy blonde hair got out and helped a little boy that was a little bigger than him out of the back seat. His mom raced out of the front door and hugged the woman fiercely.
“See I told you this town would be good for you!” The lady, Sarah, said happily. The little boy stood next to the car shyly and Liam decided that he wanted to play on his new trampoline. So he ran up to the boy in excitement, ready to get out back to play.
“Hi I’m Liam!” He said eagerly.
“Theo.” The other boy quietly murmured, but Liam heard him nonetheless.
“Cool. Want to be my friend?” He asked excitedly, happy to finally know someone his age.
“Come on! My da- or um Dr. Geyer just got me a trampoline!” He grabbed Theo’s hand and ignored the small spark he felt, too thrilled to have a new friend AND a new trampoline.
He let the smell of smoke pull him from his drug induced slumber, trying to separate his dry sticky tongue from the roof of his mouth resulting in a weird smacking noise echoing around him, and forced himself to open his eyes. He was lying in a bed still in the same clothes that he had been wearing since before the lacrosse game. He slowly looked towards the window, attempting to gauge what time of day it was but the bright light from the sun hurt his eyes. If he was in the bed that meant that he had slept through the 5-hour car ride and probably most of the morning.
He groaned as he tried to sit up; his body sore from the the night in the hospital, the fight, the long walk home, the hours spent on a hardwood floor, and cramped in the passenger side of a car. No matter how much sleep he had gotten, his eyes still felt raw and he just felt drained. Like he was a tank of gas that was way past empty and was sputtering it’s way forward with no hope of reaching the final destination.
He heard the creak of the door opening and slowly turned his head away from the window where he had spaced out seeing his father walk in with a small plate of food. His stomach cramped at the sight and smell but the thought of eating was repulsive to him.
“Hey kiddo.” Dr. Geyer said softly, moving further into the room and sitting on the edge of the bed next to him. He smiled lightly at him and Liam looked away from the food and over to the window once again. “You have to eat Liam. You know you can’t take your pill on an empty stomach.” Liam’s blank stare returned to the man in front of him and he nodded once, reaching out and opting for the small yogurt instead of the sandwich and bowl of soup that also sat on the tray.
The thick substance oozed down his throat and it took everything in him not to cough it back up. His throat still raw, but this time from not being used in a while. He swallowed dutifully earning a small smile and nod of encouragement from his stepfather. He finished the offending substance, his stomach thanked him, much to his dismay. He popped the blue pill that was handed to him in his mouth and consumed the tall glass of water after, his gaze returning to the bright window upon finishing.
“It’s about 5:30pm.” His dad informed him. Meaning he had actually slept through the whole day. “Would you like to take a walk? Get some fresh air?” He shook his head and kept his eyes on the window, hearing a sad sigh break from the older man. “Maybe a shower then.” He urged and again Liam went to shake his head but his father had more to say on the subject.
“Bud, you’ve uh… you’ve got some blood on your hands and neck.” Liam’s head fell and his eyes closed tightly before he opened them and looked at the knuckles in question and sighed, a small pained noise escaping his lips.
“Liam, it’s not your-” he tensed immediately, waiting to hear the rest of the sentence to play out, already knowing what he was going to hear. His hands clenched into fists preparing to hear the one statement that had the power to make his anger return… because it was his fault and nothing that anyone said to him would make him believe otherwise. But the doctor seemed to read his body language and let the rest of the sentence float away, too bad he couldn’t do the same with the tension that had returned to his shoulders.
A strong hand covered his clenched ones in his lap, similar to how Theo’s had, but it didn’t have the same calming effect. His stepfather rose and walked over to the bathroom starting the shower and then he left the room taking the tray of uneaten food with him.
Liam stood slowly, testing his weight on both legs, before he stumbled his stiff body into the smaller room off to the side. The sight that greeted him in the mirror made him gasp before he averted his eyes quickly. His skin looked sunken in, hollow, against his cheek bones. Eyes were bloodshot and pupils almost nonexistent, lost in the stormy blue sea of his irises. His lips were cracked and angry looking which only matched Gabe’s dried blood spotting his throat.
Liam mechanically stripped out of his clothes and climbed into the shower under the hot spray, letting the heat permeate his skin and sink into his tight muscles. He didn’t do anything other than stand under the water, didn’t move, until the warmth faded away and cold water began to drip out. He turned the faucet off and climbed out barely towel drying himself before he slipped on the sweats his dad had left sitting on the toilet for him.
He crawled back into his bed and stared blankly at the small fire dancing in the fireplace to the side of his bed. Some time later he heard the door crack open again and then shut softly as his dad saw him resting in bed and had decided to leave him alone thankfully. A light snapped him out of his void, he traced the silvery beam out the window to the glowing moon staring at him. He slipped out of bed and walked out of his room, out of the cabin, feeling the pull of the white orbiting satellite.
He made his way down to the wooden dock that sat atop the glittering lake taking a seat at the end of it. He turned his face up basking in the light illuminating the shadowy earth around him. The moon was so much like him, bright and confident some nights but dark and lost others. He tracked the moon as it swept across the sky moving towards its inevitable slumber until the next night. A blanket had been wrapped around him at some point.
During the in between phase of the moon and sun fighting for dominance in the sky, the ominous blue dyed the atmosphere with no telling what the new day would bring, Liam stood and took a deep steadying breath of the last of the night air. On his exhale, the sun’s light painted the sky light oranges and pinks marking the start of a new day.
He turned and sauntered stiffly back to the cabin, back towards the smell of fire and promise of warmth. Warmth for his body, for his soul was shattered in tiny black shards, exactly like his favorite black wolf figurine.
Sleep wasn’t something that blessed him last night after he got home from the hospital, his brain was on overdrive and the synapses wouldn’t stop firing. He switched between laying in his too small bed staring up at his plain white ceiling and pacing back and forth over the hardwood floors in his room when he could no longer sit still. The sharpness from Liam’s voice echoing through his head were like pins and needles over his skin, and the only way to make it stop was to move. Which is what he would do, until the exhaustion from being awake for over 24 hours and not having eaten since before his game became too much, and he had to lay down again before his legs gave out.
At some point he must have fallen asleep for a few minutes because he was suddenly jolting awake after hearing Liam yell in his ear. “Don’t touch me!” “Just leave me the fuck alone!” “You’ve done such a good fucking job of it for the past three years, shouldn’t be a problem now!” Only he found it wasn’t Liam standing over him… it was his dad.
His dad never came in his room unless he was in a particularly bad mood and those were usually the nights when he ended up having to go visit his favorite nurse. Theo clenched his eyes shut and took a deep breath, steeling himself for whatever version of hell was to come at him this time. When no pain came, he slowly cracked open his eyes finding his dad still standing over him breathing heavily, his black eyes glaring down at him. Theo repressed the shiver of fear that threatened to run through him, knowing that any movement at all might be the thing that set his father off. So instead he stayed stock still, barely breathing, looking up into the dark eyes that held his fate.
Five minutes passed, then ten, and twenty. Theo had counted each second, waiting for the one that would signal go-time for the drunk man above him. The one where his weekend would turn into that like so many before it, a nightmare. He hit twenty-seven minutes and forty-two seconds when his father finally moved. Theo flinched expecting a blow but let out a shaky breath of relief as he watched his dad turn and stumble out of his room. But the relief was short lived when the man’s shoulder clipped the doorframe. Theo quickly stopped breathing ready for his dad to return and take his anger out on him but silently thanked any and every god available when he instead called it a ‘motherfucking piece of shit’ and then put his fist into the wall beside it. The inhibiting tension that had built in his body like a rope being pulled from both ends, fraying the thin strands, finally released in the form of tear sliding down Theo’s expressionless cheek when he heard heavy footsteps going down the stairs.
As soon as he could unlock his stiff muscles from tensing them so long, Theo bolted out of bed and rushed to put any clothes on that he could find, not caring if they were dirty or clean. He grabbed his keys from his desk and slowly crept down the stairs careful to not make a sound and alert his dad to his presence. He just couldn’t sit in his cage of a room anymore, waiting for his dad to return or continue being locked in his head with lost thoughts and an overwhelming emptiness swirling in his heart. But as if it was straight out of the Matilda movie, he tripped over an empty bottle his dad had drunkenly left in the middle of the stairs and watched as his keys hit every single step before landing with a deafening thud at the bottom followed by the clinkclink of glass bouncing around until it settled.
He froze, holding his breath, every hair on his body standing up. The second he heard movement in the kitchen he jumped, scooping his keys up from the floor and flying out of the house to his truck before his dad could drag him back to hell. He drove around aimlessly for a little while because he had no place to go. He couldn’t go to Gabe’s, his friend had texted him last night saying he was in deep shit for the broken nose and for being seen holding Nolan’s hand when his dad came charging in the hospital. He definitely wasn’t going back to Tracy’s, he would never be able to feel the same there after what happened on the roof and in the living room, nor could he stomach the thought of having anyone’s hands on him right now after his close call this morning. He could never step foot in Josh and Donovan’s house… after Josh’s dad adopted Donovan the two seemed to agree on everything, including the fact that their dad still hated Theo’s dad for punching him in the face at the bar one night.
That left two places, one of which he wouldn’t go to, not now… not after last night. So Theo drove to the only other place that he had a connection to. He pulled into the parking lot and sat in his truck for a few minutes trying to shake the feeling of unease that had yet to leave him from when he woke up an hour ago. It lessened slightly, allowing him to take a deep breath, exit his truck, and saunter over the the hospital entrance.
He didn’t get the usual overwhelming sense of panic when he stepped over the threshold, he chalked it up to being overtired and already being under duress. When he saw Mrs. McCall he couldn’t help but let out a small breath of relief and accompanied it with a shaky smile. But at the same time it made him a little sad, she was always here, a kindhearted woman like her should be allowed a break from such a melancholy place. He walked over to her normal spot at the front nurses station where she had her head down, buried in someone’s paperwork.
“Hi Mrs. McCall.” He called out softly as to not startle her, but she jumped anyways.
“Theo! What are you doing here?” She asked standing up and quickly closing the patient folder, eyebrows pulled down in a frown as she assessed his face and clothed body looking for any signs of injury. She walked around the desk and came to stand in front of him brushing his messy unkempt hair off of his forehead and out of his eyes, he did his best not to flinch under her unannounced touch but he ended up leaning in to the soothing light caress. Before he could answer, her face softened in concern and she spoke. “Honey you look like you haven’t slept in days.”
He let his eyes drop to the floor, telling her everything she needed to know, silently communicating with her in the way he had been doing for the past few years. She sighed sadly. When he wouldn’t look at her she knew that there was fucked up things happening in his head and wouldn’t question anything further. If he kept eye contact with her it meant that he was in pain and she would do her best to help fix him with as few questions as possible.
He cautiously raised his forest green eyes when her hand left his hair and gently cupped his cheek. But before she could ask anything, Theo opened his mouth and blurted out the real reason he was here.
“Is Dr. Geyer here?” he asked on a whisper. She smiled sorrowfully and shook her head no. Theo felt his heart drop, along with his eyes again.
“Sorry hon, his next shift isn’t until Tuesday night.” Theo nodded, trying to rack his brain to come up with where he was going to go now. “But before he left he told me that if you were ever to come when he wasn’t here, to tell you that you are always welcome in his office.” His head snapped up, eyes glimmering with shock. Melissa must have seen the silent longing in his eyes for the safe space and moved behind her desk to retrieve something and then began walking down the hall. “You coming?” She asked over her shoulder snapping him out of his daze.
He followed her down the mostly quiet hallway to the basement where he knew Dr. Geyer’s office to be. She unlocked the door and stepped back so he could walk inside. He nodded, eyes never leaving the mesmerizing board just above the couch, when she told him that her shift was over in two hours and would be back to lock the door then. The door shut with a soft click and Theo collapsed on to the couch, releasing all of the tension that had been fostered in his body since the fight. Tears rolled down his cheeks similarly to how they did when he was last in the small room. He felt safe here, safe to be vulnerable, safe to just let go of the control he so desperately needed to have when he was out in the world, safe to be Theo; the boy he never had a chance to be.
He cried for his sister and broken family, cried for his lost childhood and lost friend, cried for the way Liam had made him feel with his razor sharp words, cried out of the fear he had for his father, cried for the kindness that Melissa and Dr. Geyer had showed him. He just cried, until he couldn’t cry anymore. Cried until his eyes had fallen shut, ending the barrage of salty tears, and his soft sobs turned into the deep heavy breathing that came with sleep. And sleep he did, because this was the first time in years that he didn’t have to fear waking up with a drunk angry father standing over him.
Theo didn’t know it but after Melissa closed the door, shutting him in the room, she sank to the floor just outside the door and cried with him. Her shift had actually been over 30 minutes before he walked through the doors, but she knew how bad he needed a safe place, so there she sat just outside of the door listening to his agony that eventually gave way to silence when he had fallen asleep. He didn’t dream, his subconscious entirely too tired to come up with anything to show him.
He woke to soft knocks and jumped up from the couch, momentarily forgetting where he was. His eyes blinked rapidly trying to clear the grit and swollenness that comes after crying and slowly took in his surroundings. Dr. Geyer’s office. He let the rigidness leave his body and sank back into the couch just as the knocking returned.
“Theo, sweetie, it’s Melissa. I have to lock the office now.”
“One-” he coughed trying to clear the rasp from his throat, “One minute.” He called out and rubbed his puffy eyes hoping it would look like he had just been sleeping and not balling his eyes out. He got to his feet slowly and walked towards the door, pulling it open and stepping in to the brightly lit hall.
“Thank you.” He whispered and watched as she turned the key in to the handle locking away the sanctuary. And that’s when he noticed the small McDonald’s bag in her free hand.
“It’s a little after 5 and I thought you might be hungry.” She said handing him the bag when she noticed him staring and began to walk back towards the front of the hospital. But if it was passed 5 then that meant he had actually been sleeping for 5 hours and not 2… which meant that Melissa had stayed 3 extra hours after her shift.
“I thought you said your shift finished at 2?” He questioned, gripping the paper bag tightly in his hand.
She glanced at him from the side and just smiled. “I can always use overtime and the hospital can always use me.” She said nonchalantly. She had stayed for him AND gotten him food. Theo wanted to start crying again but he was back in the real world and that wasn’t something that Theo Raeken did. So instead he just mumbled a thank you and kept his head down as the two of them walked out of the hospital together towards their cars.
“Take care Theo, you know you’re always welcome here. It may be a place for the hurt but it’s also a place to heal.” She said before veering off towards the employee parking lot leaving him standing in front of his truck to think about what she said. Eventually, he got in and opened the bag finding 2 burgers and a small thing of fries. The smell hit him immediately and his stomach growled loudly reminding him that it had been a full day since he had actually eaten anything.
He ate so quickly that he was actually in physical pain on the drive home. He laughed at himself for being such a child and basically inhaling his meal. His family used to tease him about his bad habit until one day Liam had spoken up for him. Did you know that wolves eat their food super fast because they want to make sure that it doesn’t get stolen from other animals?
That thought sobered him quickly. Had he been that relaxed that he just freely thought of his past now? But he didn’t have time to analyze it because he was pulling into his driveway. He felt the kiss of tension on his shoulders before it was rolling its way down his back and throughout the rest of his body. The house was eerily dark which meant one of two things; his dad was passed out somewhere in the house or he was out at his favorite watering hole downtown. Theo, atheist or not, sent a silent prayer to all that was holy that it was the latter of the two.
He shut his truck off and carefully made his way up the wooden steps of his front porch, twisting the unlocked door knob quietly hoping to just slip in unnoticed in case his dad was in fact there.
When he finally made it to his room unscathed he let out a breath that he didn’t know he had been holding. The tension he felt was different than normal… usually it was just there and it felt awkward. But something in his dad’s eyes had changed as he stared down at him this morning. Their usual dark bloodshot full annoyance and contempt had morphed into a menacing look of pure evil and it set him on edge. Minutes after being in his room he felt like he couldn’t breathe. All of the calm and peace he had gained from being in Dr. Geyer’s office was nowhere to be found and was replaced by the feeling of suffocating in endless terror. He fumbled with the safety locks on his window and then threw it open, embracing the cool night air as it filled his panicked lungs. He needed more though, so he popped the screen out of the frame and carefully climbed out dropping to the sloped patch of shingles.
Theo sat on the small perch of roof that hung off of his house right under his window facing the preserve taking in more of the brisk night air. Feeling as it brushed against his skin, wrapping him in a cool embrace and then he laid down, letting his back hit the hard surface and he put his hands behind his head. His eyes had been closed for a few minutes in his attempts to get rid of the thick smothering feeling whirling inside him. When he opened his eyes he was met with a darkening sky, the ice blue slowly fading to indigo and then eventually the sky was blanketed in a soft black. Spotted with twinkling stars and and the sun’s long lost love: the moon.
Theo watched as it inched its way across the sky, becoming jealous at the simplicity of it. It was on a set course, to appear every night only receiving a break every 28 or so days. Never changing, never pretending, all in all… unwavering. He never understood why people were so obsessed with the moon, why Liam was so obsessed with the moon. He used to always drag him outside if they were together for the full moon and make him watch it. Theo never understood, until his own moon had been taken away from him.
The light that guided him through his darkest hours, steady and strong, always there. Theo, in his naivety, had cast his moon away thinking it would be better for everyone involved. But in reality all it did was turn the world dark. He had tried to bring it back, with taunts and pranks, trying to coax his moon to return to his world and sometimes it worked. The bright orb brightened the darkness temporarily until it went on its own path again.
And then finally, finally, he got his moon back. Lying on a roof at some stupid party while the real moon was bathing them both in its light. But the real moon illuminated something he wasn’t ready to see, the beams of light showed the cracks and chips that had spread across his own moon. He saw his own version of humpty dumpty laying across from him, being every bit as fragile as he looked, fragile like a baby wolf. And then it hit him. He should have seen it sooner, should have known that by sending the little wolf away he was sending his moon away too. For the wolf followed the moon and the moon showed the wolf the way. They were one.
He broke his moon and the wolf lashed out. He deserved it. What his little wolf had said was only the truth.
“Don’t touch me!” – Theo had broken him, left him covered in cracks with only scotch tape to keep him together, of course he didn’t want to be touched.
“Just leave me the fuck alone!” – Theo had severed their bond, his little wolf no longer wanted him.
“You’ve done such a good fucking job of it for the past three years, shouldn’t be a problem now!” – And then the most painful words of all, his little wolf no longer needed him. And it was all his fault.
I’m not really a fan of how this chapter turned out tbh. But Liam had a dark one and so Theo couldn’t have a normal happy one… it would have just been weird. I know this story kind of took a turn down Knockturn Alley, but I promise better things are coming!
Chapter 11: Interlude
A short break in which to show you the importance of the moon scenes written in both Liam and Theo's chapters.
Please listen to Moonlight Sonata by Beethoven while reading these quotes.
“Tell me the story...
About how the sun loved the moon so much...
That s(he) died every night...
Just to let him breathe...”
― Hanako Ishii
“I ignored your aura but it grabbed me by the hand, like the moon pulled the tide, and the tide pulled the sand.”
― Talib Kweli
“The moon is the reflection of your heart and moonlight is the twinkle of your love.”
― Debasish Mridha
“I feel a little like the moon who took possession of you for a moment and then returned your soul to you. You should not love me. One ought not to love the moon. If you come too near me, I will hurt you.”
― Anaïs Nin, Delta of Venus
“Everybody has a little bit of the sun and moon in them. Everybody has a little bit of man, woman, and animal in them. Darks and lights in them. Everyone is part of a connected cosmic system. Part earth and sea, wind and fire, with some salt and dust swimming in them. We have a universe within ourselves that mimics the universe outside. None of us are just black or white, or never wrong and always right. No one. No one exists without polarities. Everybody has good and bad forces working with them, against them, and within them.
― Suzy Kassem, Rise Up and Salute the Sun: The Writings of Suzy Kassem
“The moon is a loyal companion.
It never leaves. It’s always there, watching, steadfast, knowing us in our light and dark moments, changing forever just as we do. Every day it’s a different version of itself. Sometimes weak and wan, sometimes strong and full of light. The moon understands what it means to be human.
Uncertain. Alone. Cratered by imperfections.”
― Tahereh Mafi, Shatter Me
“The moon does not fight. It attacks no one. It does not worry. It does not try to crush others. It keeps to its course, but by its very nature, it gently influences. What other body could pull an entire ocean from shore to shore? The moon is faithful to its nature and its power is never diminished.”
― Ming-Dao Deng, Everyday Tao: Living with Balance and Harmony
“Please, help me. Young werewolves in love. I turned to walk into the house, moving carefully.
I had never much believed in God. Well, that's not quite true. I believed that there was a God, or something close enough to it to warrant the name if there were demons, there had to be angels, right? If there was a Devil, somewhere, there had to be a God. But He & I had never really seen things in quite the same terms.
All the same. I flashed a look up at the ceiling. I didn't say or think any words, but if God was listening, I hoped he got the message nonetheless. I didn't want of these children getting themselves killed.”
― Jim Butcher, Fool Moon
“Before you examine the body of a patient,
Be patient to learn his story.
For once you learn his story,
You will also come to know
Before you diagnose any sickness,
Make sure there is no sickness in the mind or heart.
For the emotions in a man’s moon or sun,
Can point to the sickness in
Any one of his other parts.
Before you treat a man with a condition,
Know that not all cures can heal all people.
For the chemistry that works on one patient,
May not work for the next,
Because even medicine has its own
Before asserting a prognosis on any patient,
Always be objective and never subjective.
For telling a man that he will win the treasure of life,
But then later discovering that he will lose,
Will harm him more than by telling him
That he may lose,
But then he wins.”
― Suzy Kassem, Rise Up and Salute the Sun: The Writings of Suzy Kassem
Chapter 12: Welcome Back
Liam woke again well into the day judging by how brightly the sun was shining through the window. He sat up in bed and rubbed at his still gritty eyes. He looked down at the clothes he could feel scratching against his skin, which was an improvement in its own right… he could feel again. Pushing the covers off, he stood up and stretched his aching muscles, wincing as he felt them pull and shift from where they had been locked since his tense walk home in the rain. He slowly peeled the offending pieces of clothing off his skin, ignoring the prickle that he felt from the material as it slid against him. He next found himself in the bathroom dissecting his bloodshot eyes and over dry lips, shaking his head at his neglected state and smeared chap stick over the desert like cracks, caking them with the soothing nectar.
He turned away from the mirror, no longer able to look at the pathetic shell he had become. Fiddling instead with the knobs in the shower trying to find the right temperature. Liam normally loved hot showers, the hotter the better actually, but right now he settled for a luke-warm spray not wanting to upset his tingling skin more than it already was.
Ripples of water washed over him and caused goosebumps to lick over the white skin mixed with pink splotches. This was always the worst part after a big come down, when his senses seemed to overload him from his previous numb state. Everything was just a degree too much, even the smell of coffee wafting through his room when he had woken had the ability to make his stomach churn.
He took his time. Pushing and pulling at the strands of his hair as he massaged shampoo into the matted locks, closing his eyes in silent satisfaction. Delicately dragging his fingers in sweeping circles across his body, washing away the last of the tingling sensation that accompanied the dead limbs. Blood rushed everywhere connecting the small pink patches and fully covering him in a light pink blush. Only he wasn’t as beautiful as Theo had looked after the Kool-Aid shower. He slapped his hand against the shower wall and let out a shaky breath. Theo. But he shook his head quickly. He couldn’t go back, he had just gotten out, he just couldn’t go back there yet… not yet. So he pushed all thoughts of the emerald eyed boy out of his mind and focused on finishing his shower.
His skin was better, not quite as sensitive, but he still felt some sharp prickles as he brushed the towel over the droplets of water clinging to him. Liam walked passed the mirror without so much as a glance towards it, not wanting a visual reminder of the void that he let himself slip into. He dressed quickly in some loose fitting clothes and slowly padded his way out to the kitchen following the scent of stale coffee.
The closer he got to the main room the better he could hear a low muffled voice, his step father’s voice, having a conversation with someone on the phone from the sounds of it. The man’s back was to him as he was facing one of the windows that overlooked the forest to the side of them. Liam leaned a hip against the counter and winced when his skin bristled at strong contact so he straightened, opting to sit in a padded chair instead.
“Lisa I know,” his father whispered sounding exasperated, “he needs to be here, and he needs to come back to us on his own.” He paused and sighed, dropping his head and nodding at whatever his mother was saying. “Baby you know I love you, but I don’t think-” although he didn’t seem to be allowed to finish his sentence before his mother decided she had more to say.
“Yes I’m aware that it’s Monday and yes I know that it’s been 3 days. Just give me one more day with him here and then… Lisa I have to go he’s up!” Liam tensed as his dad spun around quickly and walked towards him with a smile on his face.
“Hey little man.” Dr. Geyer exclaimed quietly but still let his excitement shine through. He sat gingerly in the chair next to him and rotated his body so that he was facing Liam square on.
“Hi.” He croaked and they both winced. His raw voice sounded how running your nails down a chalkboard felt… rough and cringe worthy.
Dr. Geyer put his hand on his shoulder and gave it a soft squeeze reassuringly. “How about some tea?” Liam nodded, not trusting his voice again until his throat was properly lubricated. He was left to stare out of the window next to him, watching as the sun’s rays danced and freckled across the seemingly black water. His father made quick work of the tea and soon was handing him a black mug with swirls of steam painting the air in front of him. He wrapped his hands around the heated clay and let the warmth seep into him, causing him to shiver as it licked its way throughout his body.
His first sip was no different, another tremor racked through him and he hummed, loving the feeling. He returned his gaze to the water and continued to sip slowly, both he and Dr. Geyer completely okay with the silence that allowed them to be with their own thoughts. That’s what he loved about the man next to him… he didn’t mind not talking. He seemed to always be able to sense when he needed to say something and when he didn’t. Like now, how even though Liam knew he was dying to ask Liam how he was feeling, he refrained and let Liam have his time to slowly ease back into the world of the living.
Liam’s tea was nearly finished and the heat had subsided leaving his hands feeling clammy against the heavy ceramic. He sat the cup down on the table in front of him and cleared his throat in preparation to use it again.
“Thank you.” He said plainly, just wanting to test the simple words before he went for more.
“You’re welcome bud.”
Liam looked down at his hands lazily swiping his right thumb across his left palm. “Is it really Monday?” He asked and dug his nail in to the meaty flesh when his dad confirmed it. He had no concept of time during his blackout. He remembered sitting by the lake and then going back to sleep but how he had slept for over 24 hours he had no idea.
“I woke you up a few times to make you eat and drink but otherwise you were out.” His father answered the question he hadn’t voiced. He nodded his head a few times now vaguely recalling a piece of toast and maybe a glass of orange juice.
He started to get itchy again and stood, his muscles aching to move. Again, his stepfather knew what he needed without being prompted.
“How about we take that walk now?” He asked, joining Liam and standing. The two of them moved towards the French doors that lead out of the cabin. Go right and it would take them down to the lake, left and it would take them along the path that winded through the tall northern California trees. They veered left after stepping off the last stair of the deck, dirt and twigs crunching beneath their heavy steps.
They walked about a mile in comfortable silence just taking in the breathtaking simplicity of the nature around them. Liam felt light, the previous weight and heaviness from his IED episode lifting off of him with each step that took him deeper into the woods. He hadn’t realized that he stopped walking and had his face tilted up, embracing the few rays of sun that had broken through high tree tops, and closed his eyes as fresh air expanded in his lungs.
“Everything okay?” His father’s voice sounded from a little in front of him. Liam dropped his head back down and met the older man’s eyes before nodding and then taking long strides to close the distance between them. They continued on, keeping a steady pace, even though the soft ground floor had begun to slope up and they walked on an incline. Liam was about to tell Dr. Geyer that he needed to take a break when they reached the top of the hill and were faced with a beautiful view from the other side of the lake.
The water was still sparkling despite the sun’s slow descend and he could see the smoke billowing from the chimney on their log cabin.
“Beautiful isn’t it?” The man beside him inquired, also sounding a little out of breath.
“I forgot about this spot.” Liam replied in awe. Liam felt a warm hand settle on the back of his neck.
“Reminds you that there’s so much more than just you in the world.” Dr. Geyer said turning to look at Liam. “The world keeps spinning and you keep learning and growing with it. You’re like a tree Liam; you can’t let one cut keep you from growing… no matter how much that gash may have hurt. You have to accept that it’s a part of you now and move on.” Liam twisted his head so that he met his father’s gaze.
“What happened little man?” He asked softly. Liam sighed, he really didn’t think he was ready to talk about it yet but now was as good a time as any he supposed. He moved to sit on a fallen tree, Dr. Geyer joined him, and he returned his eyes to the fading glimmer of the water.
“Well after being at the hospital I kind of forgot to take my meds.” He started slowly, not exactly sure how to continue. “I could feel it throughout the day, the subtle tingle beneath my skin, ready to push to the surface if anything happened to set me off. But it was okay, it wasn’t too intense and I was handling it fine. Then being on the bench it started to get a little stronger like a mild annoyance and the tingle turned into a burn and all I wanted to do was be out on the field hitting people. I went to the party and the annoyance really started to push at me… and then Hayden… she actually asked me why I didn’t play as if I hadn’t been in the hospital all night and kept pushing all my buttons and so we broke up.” He clenched his jaw at the memory. “She said some things as I was walking away and I could feel myself losing it so I went to find some place quiet to calm down.” He paused knowing what was coming next and didn’t know how much to actually say.
“Theo… Theo found me… or rather I found him kind of. He almost made it worse but then he was making it better. Calming me down and grounding me like he used to do.” Liam blinked, and then blinked again but this time let his eyes stay shut. Remembering the roof like it was a movie playing in his head.
“He distracted me by telling me the story about how we made French toast for you and mom that one day. How we made an absolute mess and even worse food.” Liam’s hands clasped together, thumb slowly running over his knuckles exactly how Theo’s had that night. “We laid there and talked and just watched the moon. It was easy, exactly how it used to be.” Liam’s sad voice whispered out. He opened his eyes, watching the last of the sun slip below the trees. “And then we heard fighting. We found our teams facing off and it was like the time we had just spent together hadn’t happened. Both of us glaring and ready to beat the shit out of each other like usual. Then I found out that Hayden cheated on me with one of them and I just couldn’t control it anymore.” Liam’s hands started to shake, not in anger like before, but in overwhelming tension.
“Theo finally got me off the kid and… and… I just snapped. I lost it completely. Dad you should have seen his face when I yelled at him, it was like I hit him.” Liam froze and slowly turned to look at Dr. Geyer. That was the first time he ever called him dad. The man just smiled at him and pulled him into a small hug before releasing him and nodding, silently telling him what he did was okay and to continue his story. “I left and on the walk home, when the rage subsided and I was left feeling cold and empty, I realized that I did it again. I lost my best friend again even though we weren’t even friends anymore. I… I… oh god it hurt more this time. It was like something inside me shattered so I just shut down. Numbed myself so that I would stop feeling the sharp stabbing happening inside me.”
Liam felt them now, the slippery wet tears that were sliding down his face. “It’s all my fault. It was all my fault then and it’s all my fault now.”
His dad pulled him back into the tight embrace he had just been in and rubbed his back soothingly. “It will sort itself out Liam. Theo doesn’t hate you, he wouldn’t have told me to come find you if he did.” Liam pulled back, face marred in confusion.
His dad nodded. “He brought his friend to the hospital and had someone page me. Told me that you had an episode and that you would probably need me.” He stood, pulling Liam up with him. “Now we should probably start heading back and make some dinner.”
Liam trailed behind him blindly, back in his own world. Theo had told his dad that Liam needed him? Why? He looked up at the rising waning moon, the white sphere full of promise. Maybe there was still hope, maybe just maybe, Theo didn’t hate him.
Chapter 13: The Best of Both Worlds
“I'll make up the guest room for Theo."
Theo recoiled, NO. He instantly froze, dropping the controller to his side, dreading the thought of being left alone to drown in his own nightmares with no reprieve. It may not have startled him so much any other time, but not now. Not this close to the anniversary. His heart started beating faster and he could feel beads of sweat manifesting in his hairline.
“No!” Liam yelled from next to him, allowing him to take a deep breath in of solid relief. “We always sleep in my room …” He added a little softer this time upon Mrs. Geyer's halt on the stairs at his harsh shout.
He felt Liam's quick glance on his face but his eyes remained locked on the back of the woman that held his fate. He felt Liam ’s pinky brush against his where his hand had fallen to the floor, still holding the game controller he had been using when Mrs. Geyer dropped the bomb, in attempt to soothe him.
The lady that had been more of mom to him than anything the past few years turned around with a quirked brow.
“Aren’t you two getting a bit old to share a full bed?” She asked. Theo didn’t say a word, just continued to stare and hold his breath waiting for the verdict. Liam’s pinky hooked around his and Theo looked down at it pulling in a shaky inhale before returning his eyes to Mrs. Geyer.
“Hence me asking for a new bed for my birthday.” Liam replied with a roll of his eyes and Mrs. Geyer just sighed.
“I don’t know how anyone even manages to get any sleep with you, you ’re the worst wiggle worm. Theo didn’t he give you a bloody nose a few months ago?” Theo could only smile lightly and nod for now, his mind still slightly panicked.
Liam scoffed. “I was fighting these creepy leather faced men okay, Theo just happened to be in the way of my fist." He said and then smiled over at him bumping their shoulders together playfully. Theo smiled wider and shook his head at the ridiculous dreaming idiot next to him.
Mrs. Geyer just looked at them and shook her own in head in response. “I will take great pleasure in telling both of your wives that you still shared a bed in to your teen years.” Liam barked out a laugh and he chuckled for a moment until something inside him soured. He shook it off, assuming it was just the anxiety from the anniversary of his sister's death weighing down on him.
“Not too late boys. Liam has his appointment tomorrow.” And now he was the one gripping Liam’s slacke ned little finger giving support. Once a month Liam went to psychologist to work on a little anger problem that he had. Liam hated it, and he always came back angrier than was probably healthy for him.
Liam squeezed back tightly, letting his frustration flow through his almost too painful grip. Theo tried to ignore the discomfort that came with losing circulation and the bone beginning to bend farther back than it should. But he took the pain, because he knew Liam needed him to and it was the least he could for the boy that just covered for him and his night terrors.
Mrs. Geyer had long since disappeared back up the stairs to the main floor and they had yet to move. Until Liam’s phone started beeping signaling a few incoming texts. They released each other’s fingers, Liam’s began tapping away on his phone aggressively while Theo gently massaged his aching one, his eyes locked on the paused game on the tv in front of them.
“Sorry.” Liam whispered looking down at the soft ministrations Theo had been pressing into his tingling skin.
Theo just smiled and bumped his shoulder into Liam’s, mimicking how he had done it earlier. “Maybe now you’ll actually have a chance at beating me Little Wolf. ” He taunted.
“Oh you’re on!”
They played a few more games and Theo had forgotten all about his impending nighttime horror. Liam still hadn’t managed to beat Theo even with his bum finger and grumbled about it the whole time they got ready for bed. Theo even ended up with toothpaste flicked at him from the end of Liam’s toothbrush when he went on yet another tirade about Theo somehow cheating.
It wasn’t until they were laying, cramped, on the small bed surrounded by silence and Liam’s soft snores when Theo remembered why he had been scared to sleep by himself. He had closed his eyes for less than a few minutes when the first image of her mangled body flashed through his mind making him whimper.
Then another came, and another, and he couldn’t contain the small sob that ripped out of him when he remembered all the blood that had been on his hands. Liam’s little arms were around him instantly, pulling him into his chest.
“T it’s okay. It’s okay, please stop crying.” Liam whispered in to his hair. Theo latched himself onto Liam. Gripping the shirt he was wearing tightly in his fists as he burrowed his tear soaked face in between his best friend ’s pillow and neck.
He fell asleep like that. Enveloped in his little wolf ’s embrace while he whispered comforting nothings into his hair and drew gentle patterns on his back as he cried silently.
Unfortunately, locked safely in the same hug how he woke up that next morning was not how he woke up this morning. No, this morning he woke to the loud crash of a door slamming against a wall and heavy footsteps stomping around angrily. He woke on the cold roof that he had accidentally fallen asleep on while watching the moon, clothes clinging to his skin from the morning dew, and neck aching from the uncomfortable position it had been resting in against the hard shingles. He woke up back in the cold world he’d grown accustom too. Far, far away from the warm embrace of his past.
Theo closed his eyes against the unforgiving morning sun beating down on him and focused on staying calm. His father couldn’t get him out here, he could quickly shimmy down the drain pipe if it actually came to it. The door slammed again, this time signaling his father’s departure and he sat up, feeling all of his muscles scream at him one by one.
It was Sunday, which meant that his dad was now headed to the bar to drink and do whatever it was that he did. He loved Sundays. It was the one day he could roam the house freely without the choking fear of his father lurking in one of the rooms, waiting for him.
He heard the distant sound of yet another door crashing and stood, haphazardly, on legs that were tingling from being asleep and made his way back through the window to his room. Stripping off his slightly damp clothes and striding towards the small bathroom attached to his room, he hopped into the shower and washed away the cool night full of emotions and memories with piping hot water.
Theo shuffled out of the shower and quickly fell into his normal Sunday routine. He spent a few hours completing homework and preparing for the week as much as he could, knowing that it was spirit week and the biggest game of the year was on Friday so he wouldn’t have much time to study. He gathered his dirty clothes from the wicker basket that stood tall next to the bathroom entrance and made his way down to the basement where the washing machine and dryer were housed. He put them on the appropriate cycle and went up to the main floor and into the kitchen.
He riffled through the bare cupboards and practically empty fridge, making note of the items he would need to pick up in order to feed himself for the week. He briefly watched the top college football plays recapped on ESPN before switching his laundry over to the dryer and leaving for the grocery store. He stood patiently in line during the crazy Sunday grocery rush, riffling through his stack of precut coupons making sure everything was accounted for. He smiled at older staff member that was scanning his items and wished her a good week like always after she wished him luck for his upcoming game and then stopped by his favorite diner to grab the weekly treat he allowed himself.
Only this time he did something a little different. He looked down at the two white foam cups sitting snuggly in the cup holder settled next to the gearshift in his truck. The vanilla milkshake already half gone as he couldn’t wait for the sweet goodness. The strawberry one however, sat untouched. He wasn’t sure what made him get it, what made him order the favorite of his little wolf. Maybe it was the dream or maybe it had been his thoughts from last night on the roof. All he knew was that he found himself craving a little piece of the past, a little piece of his broken moon and wolf.
Both milkshakes had been finished by the time he reached his driveway. Theo put the groceries away with a small smile on his face. The taste of both strawberry and vanilla on his tongue, mixing to create the best of both worlds.
His Sunday continued on, full of small chores and housekeeping that he wouldn’t dare do during the week and then retired to his room when the sun began to fade away. He opted to sleep on the roof again, knowing it was safe from his drunken father and hoping his unconsciousness would bring the past back to him again.
“I don’t get how you like vanilla… it’s so plain.” Liam grunted at him.
Theo snorted. “Says the person who eats a PLAIN hamburger… as in just meat and bread.”
Liam narrowed his eyes. “ The bread gets soggy when there are other things on it and it grosses me out. ” He snarled. Theo just rolled his eyes, used to his best friend’s weird antics at this point.
“Seriously though, how do you like just plain vanilla?”
He shrugged. “It was her favorite. ” He whispered, looking intently at the thick frozen liquid in his cup. Liam sighed and set his own cup down on the carpet in between them.
“You’re allowed to like things for yourself Theo.” He didn’t respond, just picked at the rim of foam cup pulling little pieces off and discarding them in the lid at his side.
“Will you at least try mine? Just to see if you like it?” Liam asked tentatively and he nodded.
Liam picked up his cup and held it out for him to take. Theo wrapped his hand around it, accidentally brushing Liam ’s fingers in the process. He sipped at the pink drink and let his eyes fall shut as the fruity goodness spread across his taste buds. His eyes popped open and he turned to face Liam who had a bright smile on his face.
“Good right? ”
He smiled back and nodded. Liam hastily grabbed both cups and dumped them back and forth, mixing the two while Theo just watched wide eyed.
“There. Now you get the best of both worlds.” Liam said handing his cup back, his icy blue eyes twinkling in d elight.
Theo jolted awake. Fondly remembering the days when those blue irises looked at him happily, and not the raging stormy blue he was used to seeing now. Again his clothes were stuck to his skin as well as the thin blanket and pillow he had brought out on the roof this time.
The sun was just rising meaning it was time for him to get up and head to school so he could get a workout in before class. He hastily grabbed his gym bag that had been packed the previous day, ready for easy access and a speedy exit so that he wouldn’t make too much noise alerting John to his presence.
Theo’s truck was the only one in the parking lot this early and he smiled knowing that he would have the school gym to himself.
The morning passed by surprisingly quick. Maybe it was the fact that for once he wasn’t sweating to death dreading every minute that the ticked by on the clock. Gabe’s face looked much worse than it had when he last saw him and he winced upon seeing it. Liam may be small but damn he was ferocious and then Theo shook his head to keep from chuckling at the damage his little wolf had managed on the much taller football player.
He whistled as he reached Gabe and the others. “You look like you went ten rounds with Rocky.”
“Ha. Ha.” Gabe said dryly while their other friends snorted. “Short stuff has it coming whenever I see him next.”
“Don’t you have classes with him?” Theo questioned, almost positive that the two of them had a very similar morning schedule.
Gabe picked up his backpack from the floor and threw it over his shoulder. “The little shit wasn’t in any of our classes this morning.” Theo’s brow furrowed as he stared into his locker pretending to look for something.
The sound of the schoolwide speaker abruptly burst throughout the hallways. “This is Principle Martin. Would the captains of the football and lacrosse teams please meet me in my office? Thank you.”
“Shit.” Theo spat and Gabe clapped a hand on his shoulder.
“It’s probably just about spirit week.” He said while shrugging, trying to make Theo feel better when actually it made him feel worse because it reminded him of the big game on Friday. The big game where there would be scouts from every major college in the country in attendance… watching him.
Theo and Gabe slowly trudged towards the main office, running into Nolan just as they reached the door. The three of them entered the small space and were quickly ushered into the windowed office to the side of the main desk, plopping down into three of the four chairs set out for them. Gabe on the far left looking down into his lap sadly, Theo next to him bouncing his right knee up and down in silent nervousness, and Nolan to his right who glanced left every few seconds staring at Gabe with angry eyes.
Ms. Martin swept in and shut the door behind her, gracefully coming to a rest in her large leather desk chair.
“Okay boys. As I’m sure you are aware there have been some pranks pulled recently, one of which cost the school quite a bit of money in order to replace the sprinkler systems and the other resulting in someone going to the hospital.” She looked between all three of them with menacing eyes.
“It ends now. There will be no more pranks between your two teams or else there will be some serious consequences. I don’t care who started it, I don’t care how they came to pass or why they did for that matter. Just know that it is done. No more.” All three of their heads bobbed up and down in unison indicating their compliance.
“Now, as for spirit week, I’ve spoken with your coaches and we have all decided that it might be a good idea for you all to bond a little bit. To embrace school spirit together and act as one big team, because that’s what we really are. One big team that is going to face the same rival that we’ve had for many, many years.” She stood and moved to the door, opening it and standing to the side.
“Your coaches will fill you in on the details at practice. I hope the next time you are in my office it’s not for disciplinary action.” She finished in dismissal. The three of them stood and promptly exited, happy to be free of any more lecturing.
“Nolan…” Gabe murmured as the passed through the next doorway leading to the hallway. But the boy ignored him, turned his back towards the both of them, and walked away.
“Keep trying G.” Theo encouraged before he took off after Nolan.
“Hey!” He called catching up to him. When he didn’t acknowledge his presence or stop walking Theo grabbed his arm bringing him to a halt.
“Nolan!” He said loudly finally gaining his eyes. Nolan raised an eyebrow expectantly, asking Theo what he wanted without words.
Theo looked down momentarily before raising his head again, letting the vulnerability he usually kept hidden show through on his face.
“Where is he?” He questioned quietly.
“Why do you care?” Was fired back at him and he almost couldn’t contain the low growl that threatened to spill past his lips.
He eyed Nolan intently. “I’ve always cared.” He admitted.
Nolan scoffed and tilted his head to the side. “You have a funny way of showing it. You’re just like him aren’t you, just like Gabe, you two want the best of both worlds… you want us but don’t want the responsibility of having us.” Nolan shook his head in disgust and went to move away again.
Theo grabbed him harder this time and pushed him against the nearby lockers. “You know nothing about my world, or Liam’s, so don’t you dare put that bullshit on us.” He sneered. “Where. Is. He.” He ground out, emphasizing each word so that Nolan knew he wasn’t leaving until he had an answer.
Nolan sighed and closed his eyes for a second before fluttering them back open. “I don’t know.”
Theo dropped his head and pushed off of the lockers that he had caged Nolan in against. He ran his hands through his hair roughly, he knew Liam’s come downs were bad but maybe they had gotten worse. Why else would he skip school, hell practice, before his big game this week.
“His phone is off and when I went to his house… his mom was crying and said that he was away with his stepdad.” Nolan’s voice sounded between them and Theo nodded dejectedly before picking up his previously discarded bag and was walking back towards his next class.
“Theo…” Nolan called out softly in the empty hallway making Theo pause his forward path and glance over his shoulder at him. “For what it’s worth, unlike Gabe, I think you actually want the responsibility… you just need to figure out how to achieve it.”
Chapter 14: Back to Reality
Shout out to Alicia aka Extrasteps for giving me encouragement and help. Lyrics from Losing Myself by State Champs are used throughout.
Liam woke before the sun, his body apparently deeming it had had enough sleep. The green numbers on the stove clock read 4:37 by the time he had padded out into the main living space, no longer being able to lay down comfortably. He started the old coffee pot, the one that he and his mom had brought with them from L.A., and shook his head remembering the fight his mother had put up over keeping the dumb thing. It groaned to life after a few seconds and began sputtering as the water filtered through, touching the coffee grounds and eventually dripping out the black life nectar.
“You’re up early today.” He heard rumbled from behind him. He turned and gave a few small nods accompanied by an upturn of his lips that would be the closest thing to a smile that he had done in days.
He leaned his hip against the counter waiting for the stupid pot to disperse enough for him to quickly steal a cup and watched as his dad moved about the kitchen yawning and pulling items out of the fridge.
“Breakfast sandwiches sound good?” The man questioned.
He croaked out a ‘yeah’ and returned his attention to the dark liquid slowly filling the glass carafe. The two of them enjoyed the easy morning silence. The only noises filling the quiet cabin being the gurgling of the slowest coffee maker on the planet and the simple sizzle of eggs frying in the skillet.
Liam placed two mugs of steaming coffee on the table in front of their usual seats just as his dad finished compiling the bagel, eggs, cheese, and turkey into a delicious looking bagel sandwich. They ate in silence, observing the lake through the windows in front of them as the sun began to rise. It was Tuesday and they had to leave today, had to go back to reality, and Liam wasn’t quite sure he wanted to.
As always his dad seemed to know what he was thinking. He gripped his shoulder gently and squeezed, “I would stay all week with you little man, if that’s what you wanted, but we both know your mom would kill us.” Liam did smile then, knowing exactly what would happen if his mom had to come up here and get them. The car ride home would be full of lectures about leaving her and how much she had worried about her men.
“You have a phone for a reason, use it.” He mimicked in his best Lisa Dunbar-Geyer voice, having his dad chuckling at the attempt.
“I didn’t marry you to never see you.” His dad followed suit.
“What happened to my sweet baby who would bring me orange juice?”
They both looked at each other and grinned before opening their mouths to say the last one at the same time, “I love you like the moon loves the stars.” She was their rock, the thing that glued them together and always kept them moving forward. She was the strongest woman he knew and he was positive that his dad felt the same way.
“Well since we’re up we might as well start packing up. I’ll clean all of this, you go ahead and start loading the car.” Dr. Geyer said before he gathered their empty plates and mugs and carried them to the kitchen sink.
Liam took his time. Slowly gathering all of the blankets, pillows, and other things that they had brought from home. He shoved his small pile of clothes in the duffle his dad had packed and walked into the bathroom to grab his toothbrush and other toiletries when he came across the bloody clothes from the fight. He exhaled shakily and bent down to grab them, scowling at the reminder of what he had done and gone through the past couple of days. He gripped them tightly in his hand and stormed out to the kitchen where the trash bin stood, ready to be taken out to the car, and shoved them in. His dad had stopped cleaning the communal space upon his arrival and just nodded with a smile before he went back to work.
The sun was brightly shining overhead by the time he had gotten everything into their car. Dr. Geyer was doing one final check to make sure they hadn’t missed anything as well as locking up the place so Liam decided to make one last trip down to the dock.
He stood at the edge, looking down in to the glassy water at his reflection. The dark circles and hollowness were gone, he looked relaxed, unbothered probably for the first time in a long time. He tried to commit the look to memory, tried to school it on his face to make it seem like he had always looked like that. Tried to perfect the mask he knew he would need as soon as he stepped foot back on school grounds and the whispers of what he did would echo through the hallways. Liam stared back the rippled version of himself and promised to stay strong. Promised to stay in control, no matter what. And with that he turned and hastily made his way up the wooden dock and stairs to the car where his father was leaning against the hood waiting for him.
“All good?” The older man asked, concern crinkling in the creases of his eyes.
“Yeah dad, all good.” He smiled and then so did Dr. Geyer.
The first couple hours of the car ride home was filled with random songs that were playing on the radio and multiple phone calls taken by his dad from the hospital and a few from his mom. He had forgotten how important the man was, that other people relied on him and it made Liam look at him fondly. He had chosen Liam over his other responsibilities. No one had ever chosen him when it came down to it, other than his mom of course, and he felt so lucky to have someone like that in his life.
He was so zoned out, so lost in thought, that he almost missed that Dr. Geyer was talking to him.
“What?” He asked a slight blush covering his cheeks in embarrassment at being caught staring absent mindedly.
His dad chuckled. “I asked if you were hungry, we’re close to Argent’s.” The best little diner that they had found randomly on a trip back because his mom had to use the bathroom.
His mouth watered at the thought of onion rings and a milkshake so he nodded vigorously, and pushed out an excited “I can eat.” Even though he wasn’t that hungry… one does not just pass up Argent’s, big no no.
So twenty minutes later there they sat, in the red leather booth that had white fleur de lis stitched on it, staring at the menus that hadn’t changed since the last time they were there. A girl about his age, maybe older, with her hair swept up in some bun looking thing held together by a clip with a large arrow on it and a nametag that read ‘Allison’ was their waitress and was standing at the edge of their table patiently waiting.
“I’ll have a cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato, and onion.” His dad murmured, eyes still flicking over the laminated sheet of paper.
“Fries?” Allison questioned with a smile.
“Of course.” He returned with a wink before taking a sip of his water.
“And you?” She asked turning to him.
“I uh, just some onion rings and a shake please.” He ordered sounding unsure even though he had his mind made up in the car.
“What flavor shake? We only have vanilla and strawberry at the moment.”
His heart skipped a beat. Memories slipping into his brain and coiling around his already fragile state of mind. He swallowed trying to buy time, and he wasn’t quite sure what came over him when he answered.
“Can you mix them?” His voice sounded quiet, so quiet he was surprised she even heard him.
“Sure can! I’ll be back when it’s all ready.” She said before walking away to put their order in. His eyes tracked her until he couldn’t see her anymore, mind racing a mile a minute at what he had just done.
“Vanilla huh?” He dad asked in a knowing tone, making him bring his eyes over to him. He shrugged not knowing what else to say since he didn’t even really know what he was doing ordering it in the first place.
“Liam for as long as I’ve known you have only ever ordered one flavor of milkshake.” Shit now he was going to have to explain himself and he honestly didn’t know if he would be able to. His heart had reacted before his brain and mouth could catch up. “But I also know that somewhere in Beacon Hills there is a boy that only ever ordered the other flavor.” Liam’s eyes widened. How did this man seem to know everything? He averted his gaze, trying to compose his face back to the mask of indifference that he had so badly wanted to master before he had to return to school.
His dad just sighed. “What happened to you two?” Liam brought his eyes back up to his dad’s face, hoping he looked unaffected. Hoping he didn’t know about how Liam’s heart raced every time he saw Theo lately and hoping that he couldn’t somehow tell what had happened in the locker room after the kool aid incident. Just plain hoping that it wasn’t obvious that he was having a serious internal struggle with anything that had to do with Theo at that moment, as if he wasn’t the reason that Liam had just gone numb… again.
“Life.” He whispered mimicking Theo’s answer for that very same question.
“You know it’s okay to still think about him, you two were really close.”
He played with the rolled silver wear in his hands, picking at the red paper band holding it all together in the tight bundle. “We’re not the same kids we used to be.” His fingers continued pulling and pushing at the thin paper, finally tearing it watching the roll dismantle and allowing the knife and fork that were wrapped inside to tumble to the table with loud clanks.
His dad’s hand covered his, stilling them. “But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t remember the good times.”
“Oh I wouldn’t trade it for anything! But, but remembering it hurts sometimes. So I try to live in the moment.” He said with a sad shrug. He did miss his best friend but they were just so different now, the people that they were just didn’t exist anymore.
“Liam have you ever heard the saying ‘We accept the love we think we deserve’?” He shook his head, not at all familiar with it. “Well there’s a saying that’s quite similar and I find it to be true more often than not.” Liam waited for him to continue but when he didn’t he noticed it was because Allison had returned with their orders and was placing the food down in front of them. They thanked her and told her everything looked great before she moved away to let them eat.
Liam had just picked up an onion ring when his dad finished what he was saying.
“We attract what we’re ready for.”
He bit into the onion ring finding it excruciatingly hot so he gulped down some of the shake. Sighing as the cool sweet liquid caressed his burnt tongue. Best of both worlds bouncing around in his head as the strawberry and vanilla flavors complimented each other perfectly.
“And what,” he brought his hands up to his head because it was suddenly pulsing with the familiar feeling of a brain freeze, “what exactly does that mean?” He finished once his head stopped feeling like it was being lobotomized.
Dr. Geyer took a rather large bite of his burger and chewed before he answered. “Exactly what I said. We attract what we’re ready for.”
Liam narrowed his eyes and scoffed, popping another hot fried ring in his mouth. “Okay Deaton.” He teased, making fun of his dad’s cryptic friend.
“We attract what we’re ready for.” He repeated shoving a fry into mouth. “Just think about it okay?”
Liam nodded in compliance. They finished the rest of their food in comfortable silence, he savored every sip of the unsuspected milkshake, letting each swallow bring up a different memory that he usually kept locked away.
Like the time Theo had taught him how to swim, of course it was from throwing him in and then making him flail until he supported Liam’s body with his arms, only to push him back in again. Or the time Liam’s mom had let them sleep in the backyard in a tent. They stayed up all night watching the full moon, Theo just listened as he went on and on about stupid things he could no longer remember. The time when Liam found out why Theo got vanilla milkshakes and couldn’t stand to see him sad so he mixed theirs even though he hated vanilla at the time.
They got back on the road shortly after, eating at the pace they loved when Lisa wasn’t around to scold them for being animals. When they were only an hour away from home, Liam decided it was time to finally turn his phone back on. He groaned when the thing started going of like crazy, alerting him to multiple missed calls, voicemails, and texts.
“Back to reality huh little man?” The somber voice rumbled from beside him and he just hummed in response scrolling through everything.
The voicemails were all from his mom. Various forms of her telling him she loved him and that she couldn’t wait until he got home and to be strong like she knew he was. He called her back and spent the next thirty minutes convincing her that he was okay and that he just needed some time away from everything. He apologized for worrying her and told her how great it was to have his dad with him. She started crying, loudly, when he called Dr. Geyer dad which had also earned him a loving hair ruffle from the man to his left. He told her how much better he felt and that it might be good for him to go up there more often just to clear his head. She told him that it sounded like a wonderful idea and that they should make it a family thing since she had finally decided to retire. He was shocked but she quickly told him not to say anything yet because she wanted to surprise his father. The said their goodbyes after that with the promise of seeing each other shortly and the big hug that was going to take place.
Next were texts from his friends. A bunch from Nolan and Mason asking where he was and if he was okay. A few from other teammates congratulating him for beating the shit of Gabe which he promptly deleted. And one from Hayden telling him how sorry she was but it was for the best that they weren’t together anymore, which he deleted as well.
He texted Mason back first. Assuring him that everything was good and that he just needed to be alone for a bit. Mason responded speedily and said that he was glad he was back and feeling better and if he needed anything to come over and hang out with him and Corey.
Nolan’s texts were a little bit harder to respond to. The younger boy he had taken under his wing after he noticed him having a hard time had become more like a best friend to him and he felt so bad for the way he had spoken to him that night.
~~~~ Saturday 25th August ~~~~
- Where did you go? 12:17am
- Dude I’m not mad, just want to make sure you’re okay. 12:25am
- On my way to the hospital with Gabe, he’s fine and he deserved it so don’t feel bad. 1:14am
- Shit his dad saw me holding his hand, Liam… I … fuck where are you. 2:02am
- Liam I’m getting worried. Please just let me know you’re good. 3:45am
- Seriously Liam, are you okay??? 10:36am
- I’m coming over. 2:15pm
- Well you’re either not home or ignoring the doorbell, so I’ll just try again later. 2:31pm
- Still not home? 6:04pm
~~~~ Sunday 26th August ~~~~
- Just talked to your mom… hope you’re all good wherever you are. 11:25am
- I know you aren’t going to answer and probably don’t want to hear about him but I really just need to talk to someone about Gabe. 10:13pm
- He won’t stop calling and texting saying sorry, tell me to be strong Li, tell me I’m better than this. 10:14pm
~~~~ Monday 27th August ~~~~
- Principle Martin told us no more pranks, we have to do something with the football team to promote a united front for spirit week. I’ll keep you updated. 9:43am
- Theo is looking for you. He seemed sad… it was weird. 9:52am
~~~~ Tuesday 28th August ~~~~
- So spirit week stuff… you’re not going to be happy. Hope you’re back soon because I can’t do this shit by myself. 3:30pm
Fuck. So many emotions were running through him again but this is exactly what he had been preparing himself for all day. He let his fingers hover over the illuminated keyboard for a few seconds before sighing and then tapping away.
- I’m back, I’m sorry. Another day I was selfish. We’ll talk about Gabe another time bud… I don’t have it in me right now. Why was Theo looking for me? And what exactly is going on with spirit week? 4:28pm
The reply was instantaneous.
- Oh thank fuck! You weren’t selfish bro you had shit going on. It’s all good on the Gabe front, I’ve got this. I don’t know but he was kinda scary, but not in a bad way if that makes sense… and well there’s a lot can I come over later so we can talk through it? 4:29pm
He rolled his eyes.
- Noley you never make any sense. Sure, I should probably spend some time with my mom first but I’ll text you when its good. 4:31pm
And then they were pulling into his driveway, being met by his mother who rushed to hug him and his dad as soon as they stepped out of the car. As he was ushered into the house with promises of his favorite pie and movie, his dad’s words from the diner wouldn’t stop playing on repeat: We attract what we’re ready for. Still having zero fucking idea what it meant.
Chapter 15: Distractions, Lunch Dates, and A Pinky
Theo arrived at school early again Wednesday morning needing to get some of his pent up energy out before the first day of planned amicable existence with the pain in his ass lacrosse team. He stepped out of his truck into the empty parking lot completely lost in thought as he made his way across the dark parking lot. Liam hadn’t been at school again yesterday and something in his stomach had been steadily souring. It didn’t help that the whispers in the hallway had grown to full out conversation and speculation as to where the ‘hot-headed, freak, out of control, scary’ Liam was and why he hadn’t come back yet. He had caught eyes with Nolan a few times in passing, they both shared a knowing look that was sometimes followed by a nod if they weren’t too surrounded by their teammates.
He was almost to the side entrance of the gym when he heard the steady swoosh of balls soaring through the morning air and hitting a net. He paused to look over his shoulder, wondering who would be up that early especially since there had been no other cars in the lot. Just a lacrosse player he thought as he went to take another step forward but froze and immediately did a double-take. It wasn’t just any lacrosse player. He knew that shorter frame, those broad shoulders, strong arms, and hair that was just long enough to run fingers through. He was back. The uneasy feeling in his stomach that had become a constant slowly faded away and it flipped for a different reason this time.
Without even knowing it, his feet had carried him closer to the edge of the pitch, where he stood just watching as Liam hurled ball after ball into the small goal in front of him. Now that he was closer he could see that Liam had headphones in, silently shaking his head to the beat between each heave of his stick. He itched to go talk to him, to ask him how he was, but he already knew the answer to that based on his absence. What would he even say anyways? Theo shook his head and watched as Liam lobbed a few more shots before he spun on his heel and made his way back towards the gym.
He didn’t want to interfere with his practice either considering he seemed to be in the zone and had missed two team practices already this week. Liam needed this time to focus and Theo needed time to collect himself before he approached him. Right now he was too caught off guard at seeing him… he wasn’t sure if he would be able to keep his composure. So he would wait. Go and push himself through a grueling workout to remind him of his ultimate focus for this week; the game. He’d see Liam later and a lot throughout the rest of the week considering the new ‘team bonding’ they were required to participate in starting at lunch today.
Theo made it through his workout… barely. Huffing and puffing more than usual as his mind seemed to keep drifting elsewhere, he called it quits when he lost count of his reps for the fifth time and decided it was time to shower. Which was another thing that he couldn’t seem to focus on. He leaned his head against the cool tile in front of him as the warm spray beat down on his back and sighed bringing his hand up to the back of his neck. This is exactly what he couldn’t have happen, not this week, he already had so many other things to worry about. His attention and focus couldn’t be one of them.
By the time he had dried off and dressed, Theo could hear life budding in the school. People walking up and down hallways, low conversations between teachers as they made their way from the parking lot to their classrooms, and the clinks from lockers being opened and closed. He made his way out into the slowly populating halls and collected what he needed for his free period that he used as a study hall, and then entered the library claiming his usual spot at the small desk in the back corner.
The morning had passed by relatively quickly and Theo was on his way to the last class before lunch when the atmosphere in the hallway had shifted. The normally loud and full of chatter students had quieted to eerie dull whispers. He looked up from his phone where he had been reading through the latest scout reports on himself and immediately saw the cause for the change. Liam was moving down the hall towards him with his head down and headphones in, eyes locked on the floor in front of him noticeably trying to ignore the stares that were directed at him.
Liam passed by him, would have run into him had he taken just one step left, without even looking up. Theo’s heart dropped and he scowled at people surrounding them, completely forgetting the important words on his phone in favor for watching the scene in front of him. Upon noticing his putout expression, the students either scattered in search for their classes or quickly jumped back into conversation with those around them. Theo closed the distance between where he stood and his next class, plopping down heavily in the plastic chair and stormily throwing himself into the bio lab that Mrs. Finch had pre-set out on their tables.
The bell signaling the end of the period and the beginning of lunch sounded loudly, ripping Theo out of his examination of the different stages of cell division. Theo packed up his papers and books, stopping only to place his completed assignment on Mrs. Finch’s desk, before making his way out to his locker where Gabe, Donny, and Josh were already waiting for him.
“You ready for this?” Josh questioned with a hint of annoyance in his voice.
To which he responded evenly. “We don’t really have a choice… it’s either this or don’t play.” Josh and Donny grumbled incoherently behind them while Gabe was uncharacteristically quiet beside him as they moved towards the cafeteria. Theo glanced to the side inspecting Gabe’s face. Except for the nasty bruises that made him look scary and were just beginning to fade, he looked rather nervous and lost. Which only Theo would be able to spot because he knew what the slightly pursed lips and small crease between his brows meant. He clapped him on the shoulder, gave him a weak reassuring smile because that’s all he could muster, and then pushed through the double doors leading to the large lunchroom.
They stopped just inside the doors, scanning the room for their intended party. Theo spotted them quickly, filling a few tables to the far left, leaving half the seats empty at each table like their coaches requested. He took one last deep breath before weaving through tables and chairs on his way to the table where Nolan sat quietly talking to Liam who had his head down, nodding at whatever Nolan had been saying. Nolan noticed them, lifted his chin in greeting, whispered something to Liam, and then gave a scathing look to Gabe warning him off from sitting next to him.
Corey came out of nowhere, literally, one minute the chair next to Liam was open and then it wasn’t. Theo blinked in confusion and then quickly made his way to sit next to Nolan. Gabe on his right followed by Donny and then Josh who was next to Corey. The cafeteria stilled upon seeing the seating arrangement. The tables now filling with players trickling in, half football and half lacrosse.
“So… how was everyone’s morning?” Corey asked in a sing-song voice breaking the uncomfortable silence that had seemed to stretch on for too long. Liam and Nolan turned to face him, quickly giving him a raised eyebrow and then turned back towards their untouched food in front of them.
“Just peachy.” Josh bit out before shoving a big bite of sandwich in his mouth showing that he didn’t care to say anymore.
“Looks like someone forgot to pull the stick out of their ass when they woke up this morning.” Corey mumbled.
The three boys to his right snorted and he closed his eyes already knowing what was coming. “You would know, wouldn’t you?” Donny said mockingly.
He sighed and opened his eyes, watching as Liam’s head snapped up making eye contact with someone other than Nolan for the first time. Nolan’s eyes went wide and despite the smile on Gabe’s face his fist was clenched tightly on his thigh. Josh was snickering beside his adopted brother.
“I wouldn’t actually, since I’m a top but thanks for asking.” Corey said with a smile that effectively wiped the ones that Josh and Donny were sporting right off of their faces. Nolan’s face had turned a shade of pink and Liam’s eyes were swirling with an all too familiar look. Okay this situation needed to be diffused and now.
“Alright let’s everyone get this straight right now. We’re doing this. We are going to play nice and get through this week so that we can all play in Friday’s games, beat the shit out of Devenford, and get scouted so that we can get the hell out of this fucking place. If anyone isn’t down to do that please get up and get the fuck out of here before you ruin it for the rest of us.” He said icily, staring down Josh and Donovan during the last sentence. They both put their hands up in surrender, Gabe nodded his agreement next to him, while Corey just laughed and Nolan murmured something like ‘oh captain my captain’ in mock salute.
He looked to Liam last, locking eyes with the other captain. The glittering electric blues held his bland green eyes captive. He heard the two idiots to his right pick up a light conversation with someone at the table next to them but he couldn’t be bothered to break the eye contact to see who it was. Liam blinked a few times and then nodded twice in his agreeance to Theo’s decree, eventually dropping his eyes back to his phone and popping a headphone in one ear before he started to pick at his food. Theo chanced a glance at Gabe who seemed to be locked in his own staring contest with the boy to his left and he couldn’t help but shake his head at the situation they all had found themselves in. Corey’s eyes were flitting between the four them with an amused twinkle in eyes paired with a devilish smirk that honestly terrified Theo.
He quickly kicked Gabe’s foot under the table making him look down and then over to table behind them trying to get lost in another conversation as he knew he had been caught, while Nolan’s blush returned and he picked up Liam’s other headphone and put it in his ear. The silence was comfortable after that. Everyone just agreeing to stay out of each other’s hair and put on the show that principle Martin had requested. The students around them eased back into their familiar banter but they all kept sneaking looks to see if anyone was close to exploding per usual whenever the two teams crossed paths.
When the bell finally rang, ending lunch, they all stood abruptly ready to bolt back to their common dwellings and friends with the rest of the student body following suit. The captain’s table was the last in now empty space walking two by two as another boy, presumably Corey’s boyfriend as they were holding hands, joined them. Corey and Mason were leading the way happily, hands swinging as they walked and made heart eyes at each other. Quickly followed by Gabe and Nolan who looked far less happy to be standing next to each other as Nolan cut off whatever Gabe was trying to say with harsh eyes and a few hushed words. And bringing up the rear was him and Liam.
Liam still had one headphone in, tensing more and more as they approached the doors leading to the hallway.
“Where were you?” He asked quietly to keep their conversation private. Liam looked up at him briefly before returning his eyes to his new favorite view which consisted of white square tiles speckled with flakes of black and beige.
He was almost sure that he wasn’t going to get an answer but then Liam spoke. “My dad’s cabin.” Corey and Mason stopped in front of them giving each other a quick kiss before splitting and going in opposite directions. Nolan had started to walk away when Gabe took a step to follow.
“Gabriel so help me god if you follow me right now.” Nolan warned lowly making Gabe spew out a frustrated noise as he stomped in the other direction mumbling a whole slew of curses and scaring people out of his way.
Theo turned back to study Liam who was still standing next to him. “Are you okay?”
Liam lifted his eyes and opened his mouth to say something but closed it and shrugged instead. Theo was going to inquire further when a pack of girls walked by them speaking loud enough for them both to hear.
“I heard he got arrested.” An annoying voice droned haughtily.
“No, no I swear someone told me he was committed.” One whisper yelled.
“It was kinda hot, I wonder if him and Theo would ever go at it… god could you imagine?” Another swooned.
Theo caught eyes with them and glared, one of them squeaked and then they all were moving quickly down the hall.
“Liam,” He started, wanting to tell him not to listen to them but upon looking at him saw nothing but an emotionless face with blank eyes.
“I have to get to class.” And then he was gone. He would gladly take asshole, quick wit, prank pulling Liam over quiet dejected Liam any day.
Theo sighed, fuck this was going to be harder than he thought.
The rest of the day did not pass as quickly as the morning, actually it dragged on, each second lasting longer than the previous one. When the last chime of the bell rang Theo was tired and definitely second guessing his decision to wake up early to work out. Now he was fighting to muster up the energy he needed to walk to the locker room to get ready for practice let alone what he would need while he was out on the field.
Luckily practice had been a short one and nothing too taxing, mostly just going over plays that he already knew so it only required half of his attention. When coach had ended it he had just barely made it to the edge of the field when his coach called him and Gabe back. The two shared a look hoping it was just a pep talk.
It was not a pep talk. Nope, in fact it was just another beautiful addition to the already shitty day the two of them seemed to be having. Because now they were expected to attend some bake sale that the alumni association was putting on and guess who else had to be there? The two lacrosse captains, the two boys that currently wanted nothing to do with them. Perfect, Theo thought as he made his way to the showers.
His second shower wasn’t much better than the first. His mind kept wandering, to the point where he had shampooed his hair for the third time when Gabe finally called him out for it.
“Mind your own fucking business.” He snapped at his friend, too tired to pull punches at this point.
“I would but my business is currently closed for construction.” Gabe joked trying to keep it light. He just grunted in response and shut the shower off. By the time both of them finished dressing they still had an hour to kill before they had to be at the local dinner for the bake sale.
They decided to go early and grab some food before they were put to work but didn’t make it far when they saw Liam and Nolan still on their field running through drills even though the rest of their team was gone. They perched against the empty bleachers, watching. Both had their shirts off and were dripping sweat as they took turns shoving passed each other trying to get to the goal in some kind of one-on-one drill.
“You’re letting your anger get to you, Li.” Theo heard Nolan say as he beat Liam for the third time. Liam was bent over panting with his hands on his knees. “Breathe, let it out but don’t let it control you.” Nolan patted his back and Liam nodded.
“Again.” He grunted out standing up and scooping a ball with his stick only to toss it to Nolan. Liam closed his eyes for a few seconds, took a deep breath, and then nodded to Nolan telling him he was ready. Nolan went to make a move around him, spun half-way and would have had it but Liam pivoted at the last second leveling his shoulder and knocking Nolan off balance. He then swiped his stick down knocking the ball out of the younger’s hold. Nolan fell back with a thunk that looked like it hurt but he just laughed instead. Liam reached down with a smile on his face, one that made Theo’s heart stutter, and hauled Nolan up but his eyes shot up to where he and Gabe were standing.
“Well looks like we’ve been spotted.” Gabe muttered.
Liam mouthed some words and Nolan’s head shot over to them, a scowl marring his face.
“Yep.” He said popping the P.
“We’ll meet you guys there.” Nolan called across the field and that was Theo’s cue to leave which he did, pulling a sulking Gabe behind him. Once in the truck and Gabe’s pout will still full force on his face Theo decided he couldn’t take it anymore.
“God you look pathetic.” The look Gabe gave him would have made him laugh if he wasn’t forced to slam on the breaks as some little shit cut in front of him. “Well you do…” He continued glancing to the side.
“Fuck off.” Gabe grumbled and then continued to mope the whole way to the diner.
They walked into the diner and immediately spotted the table set up for them and greeted the few alumni present before sitting in two of the four seats set out. They made small talk about football and other safe topics far from what they both should be talking about and waited for the two boys that they wanted to be talking about.
Liam and Nolan breezed in twenty minutes later and plopped down in the remaining chairs. Liam next to Theo and Nolan and Gabe on the ends. They had sold almost everything that had been in front of them. Most to older patrons that happened to be frequenting the diner, a few girls from school that came just to see them, and then some alumni families there to support the cause.
They were about fifteen minutes away from being finished when it happened. A little girl with dark brown hair, bright eyes, and a small shy smile approached the table with a dollar bill in hand. Theo couldn’t help but compare the two in his head. They were too close, too similar. His body tensed, jaw clenching so tight that his teeth began to ache. And then a mother’s voice had the breath whooshing out of him as if he had been punched.
“Taryn! What did I say about wandering away with telling me!?” The mother squeaked.
Theo still had yet to start breathing again. His lungs were burning in protest and his eyes began to water. He pulled in his first breath when he felt a strong pinky wrap around his under the table. It squeezed his and he slowly took his eyes away from the little girl in front of him and directed them towards the owner of the finger currently holding his. Liam’s face was serious but his eyes were full of sympathy. Liam’s leg pushed up against his offering as much contact as he could give at the moment and he gave a small shake of his head. Theo knew it was his way of saying ‘It’s not her T, it’s okay. It’s not her.’
Theo squeezed the smaller finger back but quickly stood, pulling away from Liam and bolted out of the diner to his truck. He couldn’t be in there anymore no matter how comforting it was to be next to Liam. He braced himself against the tailgate. He heard the door chime somewhere behind him but honestly couldn’t bring himself to look at who it was in case it was the little girl. The one that looked like Tara, the one that had such a similar name, the one who’s face haunted him. He felt the hand on his shoulder but still didn’t move… he couldn’t.
“Come on dude, let’s go play some videos games.” Theo nodded and moved to go to the driver’s side.
“I’ll drive.” Gabe said stopping him and reaching for the keys. Again he just nodded and dropped them into his friend’s palm. Their fingers touched briefly and it was cold, nothing like the warm solidarity of Liam’s.
Chapter 16: Head Down, Pinky Up
Just keep your head down.
That’s what his plan was for the day. Just keep your head down, ignore the stares and whispers. Liam left the house early to escape the sympathetic looks he knew his parents would have given him had he stayed for breakfast and to escape the busiest time of the day in the halls. He also just had a lot of energy to work off from all the sleeping he had done, so he decided to go super early to get a short practice in to make up for the two team practices he had missed. He walked the few miles that separated the school from his house, welcoming the easy silence of the still sleeping world around him. Enjoying the calm before the storm that were petty gossiping high school kids.
As soon as hit feet hit the field, he popped his headphones in and quickly got to work. Throwing ball after ball into the net, letting the steady rhythm of scooping and hurling lacrosse balls calm his anxiety ridden body. Sweat had started to bead on his skin even in the early morning air, but he couldn’t escape the chill that ran up his spine not caused by the briskness. His skin prickled and the hairs rose up on the back of his neck, someone was staring at him… watching him. He refused to turn and see who it was, probably just one of the teachers observing him to make sure he wasn’t a liability. With a deep inhale he shook the tenseness from his muscles and continued on with his practice hoping that whoever it was would leave soon.
When the sun rose, followed by more and more cars filing into the parking lot, Liam decided it was time to head to the locker room to shower quickly and scoot along to his first class. He was the first student in the quiet bio classroom, sliding into his seat without a noise and silently pulling out his book and pencils.
“Good to see you, Mr. Dunbar.” Mrs. Finch’s voice rang out as she breezed in and began writing on the board.
Liam intended on responding but it died in his throat when the first few classmates had strolled in the room, pausing when they saw him with wide eyes, before shuffling to their seats around him not bothering to hide their stares. He sighed, and so it begins. Just keep your head down he repeated to himself.
Mason plopped down next to him with an easy smile and a nod, which he returned. The nod not the smile.
“Everything good?” The boy next to him asked.
“Yeah, just taking it day by day for now.” He murmured, keeping his voice quiet so he didn’t attract any more unwanted attention.
Mason bobbed his head up and down. “Good plan, good plan. Let me know if you need anything, yeah?” Liam kept his head down but shook it once in affirmation.
The bell rang signaling the beginning of class and he took a deep breath. Only seven more hours between him and freedom.
His first few classes went much the same way. Gawking and whispers before the bell and just stares after it. His knee had started to bounce under all of the different desks, his body itching under all of the not subtle attention. His teachers weren’t much better either, they usually called on him at least once a class but they were avoiding it today. Most likely scared to accidentally set him off or make him uncomfortable enough to snap. He ignored it the best he could, tried to focus on running through different lacrosse plays and scenarios in his head to make the time pass more quickly.
The hallways were the worst. By the last class before lunch word had spread that he was back and so all of the students were now waiting to catch a glimpse of him, waiting to see the “freak” who lost his shit and beat the hell out of Gabe and then disappeared for days.
Just keep your head down.
He shoved his headphones in and kept his eyes on the floor, shuffling through the bodies in the crowded hallway. It didn’t seem to be too difficult to get through as people parted when they saw him coming, giving him all the room he needed to make it to his next class. He had to turn the volume up on his music twice just to avoid the harsh words of his classmates.
“Do you think he has some kind of psychosis?”
“Did you see the way his eyes glazed over before he lost it… dude it was scary.”
“You think he’ll teach me how to fight?”
Liam just kept walking. Kept his head down and kept walking until he finally reached his last class and sank down in his seat. Unfortunately for Liam, this class seemed to fly by. Propelling him towards the inevitable, more than awkward, lunch he was going to have to endure. Nolan had filled him in on everything that was required of the two teams when he had come by the previous night and to say Liam was sick to his stomach about it was the understatement of the year.
The bell rang loudly, echoing in his brain, and sending him towards his impending nerve-wracking encounter. As promised, Nolan met him halfway to the large cafeteria where they both walked the plank to the promising disaster that would no doubt be their lunch break. Liam followed blindly behind Nolan as the kid picked his way through all the tables, choosing the few all the way to the left and away from others, probably to give Liam a reprieve from being surrounded by assholes. Liam was thankful for his friend in that moment.
That sat down gingerly, throwing their brown paper bags on the table in front of them and watched as the room quickly began to fill. Football players and lacrosse players strategically filling the tables around them and leaving spaces to be occupied. Liam put a headphone in hoping to drown out the buzz off the student body around him that had noticed the odd seating choices of the two enemy teams.
“They’re here.” Nolan whispered to him and he couldn’t help but tense. This was honestly the moment he had been dreading more so than anything else. “Don’t worry about talking, I’ve got it.” He finished and then gave his tight shoulder a squeeze. Corey appeared next to him before any of the other seats were filled, and he was grateful to be boxed in by friends. But then their table was full. He didn’t dare to look up at any of them, he rather hoped that if he didn’t make any sudden movements they would just forget he was there entirely. But then Corey opened his mouth in true happy Corey fashion, not caring about the tension that was riddling the table they were seated at.
“So… how was everyone’s morning?” Liam broke his gaze with the sandwich and banana that sat on the table in front of him, quickly turning to look at the boy to his left with an exasperated look on his face.
“Just peachy.” One of the football boys answered roughly, but again he didn’t dare to look at who spoke.
“Looks like someone forgot to pull the stick out of their ass when they woke up this morning.” Corey mumbled. He almost smiled, the corners of his lips starting to turn up, but then another voice spoke and the words had his head snapping up.
“You would know, wouldn’t you?” Donovan said jeeringly. Liam’s eyes burned into the cocky shit across from him, feeling the familiar heat spread through him even through the calm blanket that his medication laid over him. Teasing and insults were normal for them but this… this was too far. He clenched his jaw and ground his teeth together to keep from saying anything, which apparently wasn’t needed when Corey spoke again in the same cheery voice he always had.
“I wouldn’t actually, since I’m a top, but thanks for asking.” He calmed marginally at the cheeky comeback, and in any other situation probably would’ve choked on his spit or blushed at the thought of what the comment meant, but right now he was too caught up in staring at the dickhead down. Eyes burning into the player, flicking over to Gabe’s face taking in the damage he had done, and then rubbing his fingers over his still healing knuckles under the table before returning his eyes to the other idiots.
“Alright let’s everyone get this straight right now.” Theo’s voice smoldered and he couldn’t help but slowly drag his eyes over to the boy that haunted his existence for the past four days… let alone three years. “We’re doing this. We are going to play nice and get through this week so that we can all play in Friday’s games, beat the shit out of Devenford, and get scouted so that we can get the hell out of this fucking place.” Tingles ran up his spine recognizing the dark tone Theo’s voice had taken on, almost as if he was haunted by something too. “If anyone isn’t down to do that please get up and get the fuck out of here before you ruin it for the rest of us.”
He watched Theo’s menacing eyes glare at his teammates before snapping over to meet his, holding him captive, waiting for him to react in some way. He slipped the neutral void expression back on his face before he bobbed his head up and down a few times in his approval of the words and then reached down to put the headphone that had fallen out at some point back in. The cafeteria had picked back up after the pregnant pause in conversation, when they watched the two teams sit awkwardly with each other, wondering what the in the fuck was going on but rolling with it when it seemed to be a thing that was definitely happening.
Nolan grabbed the unoccupied earbud and popped it in, quietly chuckling at his choice of music. Good vibrations are exactly what he needed right now and Marky Mark was preaching. Conversation around them returned and Liam and Nolan picked at their food, swapping banana for apple, heads lightly moving to the beat. A couple songs had flown by and he was now picking at the chipped table, losing himself in the project, and startling when the bell’s shrill ring pierced the space around him.
They were the last to stand as they were the furthest from the doors, and by the time they had risen everyone had already rushed out into the hallways, ready to get back to their days.
Somehow on their way out he ended up walking next to Theo as Mason had showed up to escort his boyfriend out, and Nolan and Gabe seemed to be busy glaring at each other, well Nolan was glaring and Gabe looked like a kicked puppy. He was laughing internally, ‘cause fuck that guy. When the doors came into view he prepared himself to be assaulted by the stares and whispers again now that he was no longer hidden in a corner with large football players blocking him from view.
“Where were you?” Theo asked quietly, pulling him from his thoughts. He glanced up briefly before looking back down to the floor where he had gotten used to looking all morning.
He wanted to say so many different things, but the only words that ended up coming out were: “My dad’s cabin.” Corey and Mason stopped in front of them giving each other a quick kiss before splitting and going in opposite directions. Nolan had started to walk away when Gabe took a step to follow.
“Gabriel so help me god if you follow me right now.” Nolan said and Liam was honestly so proud of his tone, knowing that his friend was usually incapable of being rude. He watched happily as the large asshole stomped away grumbling to himself and scaring the shit out of the students in his way.
“Are you okay?”
Liam lifted his eyes and opened his mouth to say something but closed it and shrugged instead. How was he even supposed to answer that? And then some of Hayden’s friends walked towards them and he held his breath, knowing that at least one of them was going to say something.
“ I heard he got arrested. ”
“ No, no I swear someone told me he was committed. ”
“ It was kinda hot, I wonder if him and Theo would ever go at it … god could you imagine? ”
He dropped his head and bit his lip to hide the embarrassing blush that had crept up his neck and to his face.
“Liam,” Theo whispered and he picked his head up. Looking at him through glassy eyes, tears threatening to spill over. He had to go, like now, before he cried in front of the kid that had become the enemy. He had to remember that, this was Theo, not the friend from his childhood. The one that loved to rile him up and taunt him.
“I have to get to class.” He rushed and then quickly made his way down the hall. Happy that everyone was still stepping back to let him through, that was one plus side to it all… when people are scared of you they generally leave you alone.
“We’ve gained an audience.” Nolan said tightly after Liam helped him up from the ground. His smile dropped as his eyes searched for said spectators, coming to land on Gabe and Theo standing somewhat hidden by the bleachers. “We’ll meet you guys there.” Nolan called out dismissively, starting to gather the scattered lacrosse balls around them. They both had been pretty annoyed when coach told them about the added make-nice team bonding to their schedule, but got over it when it meant that it gave Liam more time to practice.
They quickly picked up the equipment around them and rushed through hasty showers before hopping in coach’s car to be driven down to the diner.
“How were the meatheads today?” Coach asked to which Liam just turned to look at him and Nolan raised an eyebrow from the backseat. “That good huh?”
“And what about the two annoying ones that you two can’t seem to keep away from?” Liam coughed and Nolan choked.
“What about them?” Liam growled, not being able to keep the edge out of his voice.
“Ohh touchy touchy, just wanted to know if they were behaving…”
“Well one can’t seem to keep his dick to himself.” Nolan mumbled.
“Speak up Holloway!"
“He said yes,” Liam turned to glare at Nolan, “but just as infuriating as usual.”
“Good. Now go and sell some overly baked goods.” Liam and Nolan exited the car and strode towards the doors.
“You good?” He questioned his friend, watching the look of hurt flicker across his face before it was gone and replaced by raw anger.
“Fine.” Was all he got back and then they pushed into the diner and made their way towards the table Theo and Gabe were already seated at.
He waffled back on forth on whether or not to sit next to Theo but the closer he got the more the empty chair called to him, even though he had renewed his sentiments on Theo being the enemy earlier at school. Something about the old diner made him feel relaxed and reminiscent. This was after all, their milkshake spot.
One minute everything was fine, well not fine since neither of them had said a word to the other, but as fine as it could be between them all considering everything they had been through… and then the next it was so far from fine that one could even say the world had started spinning in the opposite direction.
“Taryn! What did I say about wandering away with telling me!?” The little girl that was standing in front of them made Liam hold his breath as he waited for any form of movement from the boy next to him. When the mother had said her name, his eyes widened and shot over to Theo noticing that he actually wasn’t moving at all. Not even his chest was expanding from breathing. He reacted before he even thought it through. Wrapping his pinky up and around Theo’s clenched one on his thigh.
When he noticed air begin to pass through the older boy’s lungs again he squeezed in reassurance and pushed his leg out so it rested against Theo’s strong jean-clad one. Theo’s tortured eyes turned to him and his heart, what was left of it, broke. He forgot what they had looked like. Not having seen them since a particularly bad nightmare about a year before the incident with his dad that had ended their friendship.
It’s not her T, it’s not. Breathe. It’s not her. He said in his head hoping his eyes conveyed the message. Theo gave his finger a tight squeeze and then he was up and nearly running out of the diner. Nolan gave the girl the last of the cookies and placed her dollar in the cash box before turning and giving him a questioning look.
The second the girl and her mother were out of earshot he broke the silence. “Gabe go take Theo home, and not to his home.” He ordered.
Gabe scoffed and scowled at him. “And I should listen to you why?”
“Just. Do. It.” He snapped, looking out of the windows to see Theo leaning against his truck. “Now.”
“Yeah, and have you guys saying we left early, no thanks.” Gabe shot back settling deeper into his chair.
Liam closed his eyes, praying for the strength not to beat the shit out of him again… that or run out to Theo and wrap him in his arms how he used to when he woke up to the sounds of him crying.
“Gabe… please.” He pinched out, starting to sound desperate.
Gabe opened his mouth, probably to turn him down again when Nolan stepped in and Liam had never been so thankful for the kid in his life.
“I’ll talk to you.”
Gabe’s eyes widened. “What?”
“I’ll listen to what you have to say.” He reiterated.
“Just the two of us?” Gabe asked in disbelief and Nolan nodded. Liam was going to get whiplash from turning his head so fast to keep up.
“Just us, but only if you do what Liam asks right now.” Nolan said looking at him expectantly.
Gabe’s eyes snapped to him, eagerly waiting for his orders. “Take him to your house, don’t let him drive, distract him, and whatever you do… do NOT bring up his family, let him go home, or let him sleep in a room alone.” Gabe looked at him oddly, scrunching his face up at the weird request. “Don’t ask me how or why, please for just this once trust me.” He begged and then looked back out of the windows, finding Theo in the same tense position.
Nolan spoke then, but he continued to stare at Theo in case something worse happened. “Go Gabe, I’ll text you later.” Gabe left just as quickly as Theo and Liam’s heart clenched when he watched the other boy comfort Theo, jealousy snaking its way through his poor overused nervous system.
“Are you finally going to tell me what happened between you two?” Nolan asked quietly from beside him. Liam followed the truck as it pulled out of the lot and then slowly slid his eyes to his friend. Looking into the icy blue that was so similar to his own, finding them swirling with many different emotions. He nodded, he owed Nolan at least that much after what he had just given up for Liam.
So as they waited outside of the diner for Nolan’s mom to come and pick them up, he told his friend everything. Everything from trampolines to milkshakes, from glass wolfs to little wolfs, to disappearing moons, reoccurring nightmares, and rooftop kisses. By the end of it he was shaking. He blamed it on the cooling night air and his lack of jacket but both he and Nolan knew better. Nolan gave him a few words, but he could tell that the boy was silently processing everything. Stitching everything together and starting to understand the force that was Liam and Theo.
He was dropped off and said quiet goodbyes to Nolan and his sweet mother, Theresa, before bounding up the stairs to his room and closing his door. Shutting himself in and giving him time to finally decompress. He was ready to throw himself in bed when he saw the maroon jersey sitting neatly folded at the foot of the mattress. The one that had a large white “9” on the back directly under bold white letters that read “Raeken”, the one that he was supposed to wear all day tomorrow and to the pep rally after school. He traced his fingers over the letters, and let the day wash away from him as the promise of tomorrow filled his mind instead.
Chapter 17: Moving Forward
Theo jolted awake and found himself in an unfamiliar room and nervously glanced around until his eyes met a large sleeping form on the couch across from him. He let out a shaky breath, flopping back against the overused lumpy cushions. He was safe, in Gabe’s house, and Tara was gone. He repeated those three things over and over until he had finally calmed his racing heart. Sighing and allowing himself to close his eyes again now that his fears had subsided for the moment.
But instead of the peaceful blank slate of his eyelids he was expecting, all he saw was turquoise blue like the color of a certain someone’s eyes and the image of their thighs pressed together with pinky fingers wrapped tightly around each other. All he saw was Liam. All he saw was how his little wolf had comforted him in the only way he knew how.
Gabe stirred after a bit, sat up while rubbing the sleep from his eyes and giving Theo a chin lift in greeting.
“Morning.” He croaked, cringing internally at how his voice sounded which meant that he had screamed at least once at some point during the night. Gabe just looked at him, a mix between confusion and wariness crossed his face before he shook his head. Theo looked down in embarrassment. The only person who had known about the nightmares was Liam and he had gotten so used them over the years that he had stopped reacting other than to quietly soothe him during the night.
“So uh, nightmares happen often for you?” Gabe asked awkwardly. He shrugged not sure how much he trusted his voice at the moment. “No wonder he told me to not to let you out of my sight.” He whispered and Theo’s head shot back up.
“What?” He questioned, eyes searching Gabe’s figure as the other boy tapped away on his phone with a serious look on his face and his eyebrows pulled down.
Gabe sighed at whatever words he seemed to be carefully choosing and then tossed his phone to the side once he hit the send button. “Hmm? Oh, the little freak,” Theo prayed for the strength not leap across the room to punch his ‘friend’ in the face, “he told me not to let you go home, or sleep alone, and not to talk about your family.” Gabe finished as he stood from the couch, back popping as he stretched.
Theo sat there in disbelief. Even when Liam couldn’t comfort him he had made sure that Theo would be somewhat okay. All the air rushed out of him then. Were they finally getting back to the place they used to be all those years ago? God, he hoped so.
Gabe’s phone buzzed and he had never seen the asshole move so quickly. The screen illuminated the dimly lit room and Gabe inhaled sharply. “I have to go, you’re welcome to stay if you want to. I’ll see you at school mmkay?” And then he scurried off without waiting for a reply.
Theo stood gingerly, shifting and feeling his muscles pull and groan from being cramped in an uncomfortable position all night. He picked up his shirt and jeans from the floor quickly putting them back on before grabbing his keys and phone from where they rested next to his shoes by the end of the couch. He called out a goodbye and got a ‘see ya’ back and then he was walking out the front door towards his truck. He wouldn’t have stayed anyways… there was something at home that he needed to grab. Something at home that he itched to put on to show his support after everything the owner of the item had done for him last night.
Theo had showered speedily, clearing the last of the sweat and negative feelings from the incident at the diner and his nightmares. Rushed through grabbing the things he would need for the day, although quietly as to not wake his father who was currently passed out on the couch downstairs, and took his time admiring the whole reason he had risked coming home.
The maroon jersey was a little snug on him but it fit all the same. What excited him was the bold number five one the front and back, the number five that he had been tracking and teasing since the number had been given to him. The same number five that also had ‘DUNBAR’ printed across the back.
He painted a scowl on his face for appearances once he reached school grounds, but what no one would ever know was how he had grinned like an idiot the whole way there. Feeling strangely happy that he had a piece of Liam to carry with him all day.
The halls were full of students lingering as usual, a few athletes spotted the crowd wearing the jersey that was delegated to them by their respective coaches. He nodded at a few of his teammates on his way to his normal spot in the library. Eyes scanning the filled hallways the entire way there in search for a shorter boy wearing his number nine. Sadly, he never spotted him and tried not to let the disappointment get to him. He’d see him at lunch and then again later at the joint pep rally that the school was putting on.
The morning flew by and before he knew it the bell droned signaling lunch. Theo found he was first to reach their table this time, having his pick of the empty seats and decided to slot himself in the same one he had occupied the previous day. Not wanting to upset their delicate truce.
Nolan was next to file in, looking like he had been crying and something pulled at Theo’s heartstrings. The kid was so soft and fragile looking, his protective instincts that had died with his sister and then again when he had to push Liam away to protect him, perked up and he found himself smiling softly at the boy.
“Hi.” Theo said softly when Nolan sank heavily into the chair next to him. The doe-eyes looked up at him and something in him snapped, making him instantly mad at whoever had hurt the kid. Nolan gave him a watery smile and then dropped his eyes to fiddle with the jersey that was a little big on him. “Are you okay?” He asked softly.
Nolan was about to answer when Gabe dropped down on his other side making him shut his mouth and then close off completely. Theo looked up at his ‘friend’ and saw that he didn’t look much better but was definitely fairing quite differently than Nolan and he didn’t know why but he wanted to punch him in that moment. He watched Nolan tense as Gabe brushed their hands together. Theo scowled, not liking how uncomfortable Gabe seemed to be making Nolan.
He hooked his foot around the boy’s chair and pulled him closer to his side, daring Gabe to protest with a menacing glare in his direction to which the asshole just pouted but let it go. Theo drew Nolan into a meaningless conversation about videos games which improved the kid’s mood but only a bit. He had completely missed when the other chairs at their table filled, save for the one on his right. And that’s when the number nine jersey he had been looking for all morning happened to appear in his sightline.
He saw the moment Liam realized there was only one seat left at the table, the on next to him. Something flashed in his eyes, something old and familiar, and it excited him for a moment before Liam locked it down and schooled his face to indifference. Surely he had seen it right? The excitement and happiness that had bloomed across his face as he saw Theo… he hadn’t just projected his own feelings right?
Liam plopped down next to him, giving him a nod before frowning upon seeing Nolan. His eyes flicked to Theo in silent question and Theo clenched his jaw and glanced at Gabe before shaking his head telling him to leave it for now. When Liam nodded and then looked away he couldn’t help that small smile that crept onto his face. They had done what they used to do; held a whole conversation without speaking a single word.
Had they spoken, it probably would have gone a lot like:
“What’s wrong with Nolan.”
“Gabe is a dick.”
“Do I need to do something?”
“Nah, best to just leave it. Nolan isn’t really up for talking… I’ll handle Gabe later.”
“Yeah, I got it.”
“Okay I trust you.”
Things were shifting and Theo had hope. And then Gabe had to go and spit on it.
“Alright who drugged your oatmeal this morning.” The dick snarled, obviously not happy that not everyone around him wasn’t as miserable as he was.
Theo lifted a brow and cocked his head to the side. He thought he had reminded Gabe of where he stood the night he got the shit beat out of him but apparently the kid forgot way too easily.
“When you left this morning you were shaking and scared and now you’re smiling like you’re on top of the world. Happy to be sitting next your little freak?” He spat obviously looking for a fight, needing something to take his mind off of whatever fucked up shit he was going through. Too bad he was picking on the wrong person for it because Theo would gladly put him in his place and give him a bruise to match the fading one. He went to open his mouth only to be caught completely off guard by someone else’s declaration.
“Leave.” Nolan’s voice sounded icy around the word.
“What?” Gabe scoffed, looking down at the boy next to him. Theo watched as Nolan steeled himself, his blue eyes darkened, and his face tightened. He looked scary in that moment and Theo was honestly impressed.
“I said leave.” He quiet voice rang out, only loud enough for the people at their table to hear but still forceful nonetheless. “You’re moving anyway, no need to sit here and fuck with our heads anymore.” Theo’s eyes snapped to Gabe. He was moving? Oh hell, that’s probably why Nolan had been crying. Well that and no doubt Gabe had said some shit to upset him.
When Gabe still had yet to move Theo finally found his words again. “You heard him, leave.” He said just as coldly as Nolan had.
“Leave Gabe. He doesn’t want you here therefore I don’t want you here, and I doubt anyone else at this table does considering your current mood.”
“You’re picking him over me?” Gabe asked, voice high in disbelief.
Theo looked to Nolan, noticing his wide eyes looking at him in shock and smiled at him. “Yep.” He said popping the ‘p’. Throwing his arm on the back of Nolan’s chair, showing his allegiance. And he was rewarded.
He felt Liam’s leg push against his in solidarity at the same time that Gabe shot of of his chair, making it fall back loudly and drawing the attention of almost every student in the cafeteria.
“Fuck all of you!” He thundered and a collective gasp echoed throughout the large space.
“Sorry wrong table, might want to try,” and Theo peered around searching for someone in particular and upon finding her smiled, “that table over there.” He finished pointing in Hayden’s direction.
Nolan snorted but Liam’s leg immediately left his. He watched Gabe sputter and then storm off, not taking his eyes off of his ex-co-captain in case he decided to do something stupid like come back. Another valuable lesson from life with an abusive father, he learned to always keep track of someone, make sure that they were actually gone before you let your guard down.
Once Gabe was gone from the lunch room, Nolan turned to him and whispered a quiet thanks to which he just nodded. His teammates around him seemed tense but he wasn’t too concerned especially since Gabe was apparently moving. He did however become concerned when he glanced over at Liam, noticing him playing with a frayed string on the hem of his jersey.
He leaned forward to cover up the movement of his hand, placing it over Liam’s to stop his fidgeting. Again they had a conversation with their eyes. Theo asked if he was okay and Liam just blinked at him. His telltale sign for ‘No but I will be’. When everyone around them had settled down after Gabe’s outburst and returned to their conversations, Theo leaned back again taking his hand with him as he kept his gaze forward.
“I’m sorry.” He murmured. “I shouldn’t have brought Hayden up like that.”
“S’okay.” Liam quietly mumbled over a bite of apple. His one earbud hanging down on the jersey as the other was wedged snugly in his ear. Theo wanted so bad to reach out and put it in his ear, like Nolan had the other day, and see what his little wolf was listening to. But he refrained, deciding that physical contact and speaking was definitely enough for one day, not wanting to push the re-establishing friendship.
The rest of lunch passed by uneventfully and Theo was happy to see that the two teams were actually talking to one another today, finally getting passed the initial awkwardness between them. Maybe after this they would be able to get along… okay maybe not get along but hopefully at least not want to kill each other all the time.
They were the last to leave again, Corey leading the way with his boyfriend. Nolan and another lacrosse player in front of them with Liam and him bringing up the rear.
You look good in my jersey he thought as he walked just a step behind Liam into the hall. But judging by look on Liam’s face he had said it out loud. He smirked to play it off, hoping he didn’t look as far gone as he felt in that moment. But something about seeing his name on Liam made him feel things he hadn’t felt in a long time.
The blush that painted Liam’s cheeks was worth the embarrassing slip up though. And then Liam bit his bottom lip, yeah okay he needed to go. Right now before he did something stupid like grab him, throw him into the lockers, and kiss him in front of the whole school.
He reached up and quickly tugged the plump lip from between Liam’s teeth, licking across his own in the process. “Catch ya later little wolf.” He spoke, praying his voice sounded a lot less effected than he actually was.
Theo could think of nothing else for the rest of the day. Liam’s breathtaking blush, the way his lip colored from being bitten, how his hands and leg felt against Theo, and his mesmerizing eyes letting him in enough to have one of their famous wordless conversations. He sat through all of his classes completely smitten, nothing was going to ruin his mood today. Not even Gabe who was waiting for him in the locker room before the short practice that was scheduled to take place before the pep rally.
“So you’re with them now huh?” Gabe sneered as he walked passed him.
Theo sighed. “Considering you didn’t notice how uncomfortable you were making Nolan, yeah. I’m ‘with’ them.” He shot right back, remembering how upset Nolan looked and channeled the protectiveness he had felt earlier into his words. “Seriously, dude what the fuck is your problem. You’re so miserable that you have to make everyone around you miserable too?”
“You don’t understand, how could you Mr. perfect?” Gabe mocked and Theo almost snapped.
“Hah, funny.” He took a deep breath as he riffled through his equipment. “But this isn’t about me, it’s about you and your attitude. You’re done dude… you’re off the team.”
“What the fuck ever, I’m leaving anyways, this team is a piece of shit just like their piece of shit captain.”
Theo grabbed him and threw him up against the metal lockers roughly.
He put his face very very close to Gabe’s, enjoying the small look of fear that took hold in his eyes. “I’ve let it go for a long time, too long, because you were my teammate and my friend kind of, but now I want you to listen and listen closely.” Theo spoke lowly, making sure that the threatening tone carried through his voice ominously, letting Gabe have a glimpse of the dark side of him that very few people had ever seen. “If I ever hear you talk shit about me or this team, make comments about Liam, or you contact Nolan in any way and fuck with his head more… you’re going to wish for the basic beating that the ‘little freak’ gave you. Because Gabe, while he was brutal, I am absolutely ruthless. And I will not stand for anyone fucking with what’s mine.” Gabe swallowed and Theo shoved him back against the hard metal one more time for good measure. “Are we clear?”
The boy in front of him nodded vigorously with wide eyes and then quickly collected his things from his locker and left. Theo let his inner monster surface for a few more minutes before he closed his eyes and took deep breaths, trying to return to the happy state he had been in before he entered the locker room. When he managed to calm enough he made his way over to his coach’s office and rapped his knuckles against the glass.
With Gabe gone they were going to need to figure out what to do for tomorrow’s game, Theo got a headache just thinking about the less than adequate second and third string running backs and wide receivers.
“Come in!” Was shouted and he turned the knob, pushing into the small room coming to stand in front of his coach’s desk where one seat was already taken. “Raeken! I was just about to come looking for you and Gabe!” The man gestured to the kid seated in front of him and the tall boy turned, setting his crystal blues eyes on him. And god damn, if he wasn’t already obsessed with a different pair of blue eyes then this guy would have probably brought him to his knees.
“Theo this is Brett Talbot, he just transferred in and from what I hear is an outstanding wide receiver. Brett this is Theo, your quarterback and one of your captains.”
“Nice to meet you.” He said sticking his hand out to shake Brett’s, his long fingers brushing against Theo’s. Theo’s earlier headache dissipated and grew excited to see if his long legs would be able to keep up with Theo’s passing routes.
“Can you grab Gabe; I want Brett to shadow him during practice so he can get a feel for the kind of plays we run here.”
“Uh, yeah that’s what I came to talk to you about…” Theo said bringing his eyes back to his coach. “Gabe is off the team, he uh no longer wanted to be a part of the direction we’re heading in.” His coach frowned but then sighed and nodded in understanding.
“Well then Brett, stick with Theo. He’ll teach you everything you need to know before tomorrow’s game. See you both on the field.” He said in dismissal.
Theo showed Brett to his new locker, Gabe’s recently vacated one next to his, and they made small talk about football and their experience. Theo found he was really quite easy to get along with and actually enjoyed talking to him, unlike the other idiots he called friends. Maybe everything was starting to look up for him.
Theo became even more impressed with the kid’s skill. He was insane, and it was exactly what the team needed. Brett and Theo seemed to click and ran play after play, chatting excitedly about the ones that worked and the ones that need some fine tuning. Both of them taking note of how the other thought and acted on it. Before he knew it, it was time to shower and head to the pep rally.
He pulled Liam’s jersey back over his head and smiled at the faint scent of mint and citrus.
“So,” Brett asked with a knowing smirk, “Who’s Dunbar and what did he do to put that stupid smile on your face.” The taller boy teased and Theo blanched. Not realizing that he had been so obvious about it until he was being called out. “Dude chill, I’m just kidding. I’m bi anyways so no judgement here.” Theo smiled at him, finding it refreshing for someone to be so sure with who they were. He wished he could be the same way.
“It’s a long story but I guess you could say we’re friends. He’s on the lacrosse team, we all had to switch jerseys for the rally.” Theo finally got out and Brett raised a brow at him.
“Friends friends or friends?” He questioned. Theo thought about it for a minute, his brow furrowing trying to come up with an accurate description for the enigma that was Theo and Liam. ‘If you have to think about it that hard then you’re definitely more than just friends.”
Theo shook it off. “Like I said, it’s complicated.” And Brett just laughed.
“So should I just wear a football jersey since I wasn’t here when they handed out lacrosse ones?” Theo spotted a maroon jersey out of the corner of his eye and scooped it up, turning it inside out and restoring it back to its original state. He smiled as he read the name on the back and thrust it toward Brett.
“Found one.” He cheered happily.
Brett narrowed his eyes, “Okay why do I get the feeling I’m missing something?” He asked spinning the jersey around and looking at the back. “Who’s Holloway?”
“Just come on, we’re going to be late.”
The receiver tugged the pullover on his body, smirking at the tight fit and by the looks of it, Theo guessed he liked to show off his body. “Yes, don’t want to keep your non-boyfriend waiting.” He teased again and Theo shoved him towards the door. Yeah, he liked this kid a hell of a lot better than Gabe.
They made their way out to the parking lot where a large fire had been started and Theo led the way as he weaved through the horde of students surrounding it, trying to get to the front where the rest of the players were standing. He finally made it through, not without a lot of shoving and glares as people pushed back thinking he was attempting to start a mosh pit, and came face to face with Liam. Again, not being able to contain his smile at seeing him in his jersey.
“Finally Jesus,” Liam exhaled, calming upon seeing him and something inside Theo flipped, “coach we can start now!” He bellowed up to the stage and the loud pulsing music abruptly cut off. He went to pull Brett next to him but when he looked back the new kid was nowhere to be found. Instantly feeling bad for losing him, he frantically searched the crowd for one tall ass person and then did a double take when he finally located him.
There he stood, towering over Nolan, with the strangest look on his face. Something between infatuation and bewilderment, and he would have intervened if Nolan hadn’t looked at Brett the exact same way. The flickering light from the fire making him look soft and innocent, erasing all signs of his previous distress. The dancing light licking across his freckles and revealing them. He smirked, he was hoping the two would hit it off but he wasn’t expecting it to happen that quick.
Their coaches were on the stage behind them, taking turns talking about how they were going to rip, tear, and using other aggressive verbs to describe what they were going to do to Devenford the next day. He glanced over at Liam, the little wolf that fascinated and bewildered him, and noticed him taking in short choppy breaths and instantly remembered how much he hated large crowds. Not to mention large crowds of people that were staring at him after he had been whispered about for the past two days. Now he understood why Liam had seemed so stressed when he got there.
He stepped closer to him, and if anyone would have asked it was because there so many people smushing them together, and brought his hand up to the middle of Liam’s back and rubbed soothingly. Nudging him with his shoulder in an attempt to get his attention, he frowned when Liam didn’t react.
“Breathe.” He whispered only for Liam to hear. “We’re almost done.” He felt Liam take in a few steadying breaths and continued to rub small circles on his back. When really all he wanted to do was pull him into a tight hug and take him away, shelter him and make sure that he was okay. But for now, for now this is all he could do.
Chapter 18: A New Perspective
He had never had anyone pick him before. When it came to his parents, they were kind and cordial but they picked each other or their jobs over paying attention to him. His teammates all had their other friends or significant others. Even Liam, though he loved the kid and would always stick by him no matter what, had other things that required his attention meaning that Nolan would again get put in last place.
But then Theo had sided with him. Had picked him over his own teammate, his own friend. Nolan sat there wide eyed as Theo stuck up for him, as he chose him with a kind smile. Nolan didn’t know what to make of it and judging by the look on Liam’s face, he didn’t either. But Nolan didn’t miss the subtle touch of Liam’s leg against Theo’s in silent thanks. Nor did he miss Gabe’s outburst followed by Theo’s rebuttal which made him choke out a laugh and then flinch at the look on his best friend’s face.
And then Gabe was gone. He breathed a sigh of relief, the fucker had stolen the life from him when they met for their short chat this morning and then didn’t give Nolan any space to process. Which he needed. He needed time to think everything through, just needed a moment to collect himself. But he wasn’t given it and was instead overwhelmed with Gabe’s final words.
“It doesn’t even matter anymore! I’m moving. Can’t you just get over it so we can have one last time together?”
Nolan winced again. Remembering how it had felt like someone had punched him when Gabe said that. Like he was just some toy that Gabe had been playing with and wanted one more turn before he took him to a pawn shop.
He glanced sideways at the kid who had put him first for the first time in a long time, the last time being when Liam had stood up to some stupid senior making fun of him and calling him slow during his freshman year. He looked over at both of the people that had chosen him, seeing them in some kind of quiet discussion. Half of it taking place just between their eyes like usual. If he didn’t now know their history, he would have sworn the two were either telepathic or just really creepy and had staring problems.
The rest of lunch passed in easy silence and Nolan allowed himself to get distracted in picking at his food in between peeks at Theo and Liam. They were so much alike and yet so different. Both were caring and protective but yet where one was friendly and mostly outgoing, when he wasn’t recovering from an IED episode, the other was brooding and intense. But he got it, he got why they worked so well. Liam made Theo lighter, he brought out something in the football captain that made him better and Theo, well Theo was Liam’s escape. Always there, even if from a distance, ready to put himself between whatever was causing Liam harm… even if that meant letting Liam hurt him in the process. Because the growing moon illuminated the dark night and the shadowy night provided a place of rest for those enveloped in it.
Nolan hadn’t seen it at first. But after Liam’s confession the other night, and a lot of analyzing after, he saw it. Clear as day. They were like the ocean and sand, thunder and lightning, the moon and earth… you can’t have one without the other. And god did he wish he had something like that. There was a point in time where he thought it could have been Gabe but that was laughable now. Gabe and him didn’t even come close to being Theo and Liam. He needed someone that was totally lost in him, someone that wanted to pick him over everything else, someone that wouldn’t want to hide him in the shadows but rather let him and his freckles flourish in the sun.
Being completely honest he knew he’d never find what Liam and Theo had, but he at least wanted a person that wanted him… and more than just in bed.
The bell sliced through his thoughts and he sighed, tossing his mostly uneaten food in the trashcan to their left as they all stood to leave. He found himself in the middle of the walking train to class, sandwiched in between and mostly forgotten by those around him. When they all stepped into the hall he waited off to the side for Liam as they had the same class and he didn’t have to run away from Gabe today. Watching as Theo said something and then quickly, so quickly he almost didn’t catch it, pull on Liam’s chin before stalking away in the other direction leaving Liam dumbfounded.
Suddenly, the hairs on the back of his neck prickled and he could feel eyes on him. He glanced around but didn’t see any other the students looking at him. He frowned and then fell into step beside Liam who was blushing and chewing on his lower lip.
“Do I want to know or…?” He teased, trying to lighten the mood even though he still felt as if someone had sucker punched him.
Liam glanced at him and gnawed on his lip some more. “He told me that he liked me in his jersey.”
“That’s a good thing Li!” He exclaimed. “Wait that’s a good thing right?” He asked, double checking because the look on Liam’s face looked about as confused as a wolf during a solar eclipse.
“I… I don’t know what to think honestly.” Liam quietly sighed and shook his head and then looked over to him. Nolan tensed under the studious look, it was as if Liam was looking passed the innocent façade he had learned to school on his face day after day.
“Are you okay? I was going to ask at lunch but Theo told me to leave it.” Nolan frowned, is that what the staring was? So they were telepathic, interesting. He shrugged, letting his mask slip for a second and the sadness to take over. Tears welled in his eyes for the tenth time that day.
“Fine.” He mumbled. Then the feeling was back, the one that made his hair stand on end, the one that told him someone was looking at him. His head whirled around in search for the person that was giving him the weird feeling but again found no one. He shook it off and blamed his stupid emotions before he and Liam filed into their class and sat down.
He had made it half way through class when he realized he was still wearing Gabe’s jersey and suddenly became itchy. He needed it off him, like now, just the thought of letting Gabe touch him at the moment had him ready to throw up. He quickly excused himself to the bathroom and ran down to the lacrosse locker room, pulling the offending material off of him as soon as the door clicked shut behind him.
Since the football team had more players than the lacrosse team, there were some unused jerseys so he tried to calm his breathing while he rummaged through the basket of leftovers. Picking one at random that was his size, enjoying the snugness of the tight jersey instead of the loose one he had been wearing earlier. This one also smelled different and it was refreshing. Lahey was stitched across the back and he tried to remember which one he was, an image of a thin upper classman came to mind and he just shrugged. If he couldn’t remember the kid, then that meant he had never had an altercation with him which was reassuring.
He made his way back to class and ignored the question in Liam’s head tilt upon noticing his jersey change. Sometimes his friend couldn’t find his way out of a hole with only one opening, other times he was so perceptive that it was somewhat off-putting. Nolan supposed he learned that from Theo because that kid noticed everything, as in he could probably tell you what you ate for lunch three days ago.
As the afternoon ticked on, Nolan noticed Liam getting more and more fidgety. Only calming during the short practice they had before returning to his nervous state. Which got increasingly worse as they marched towards the parking lot that held the large pile of wood that was soon to be set on fire.
“Li,” he whispered when they were standing in front of the stage watching the amount of students arriving grow, “what’s wrong?”
Liam continued to fiddle with a loose string on the front of Theo’s jersey, keeping his eyes down the whole time. “I can’t handle everyone looking at me.” The pained voice spoke and Nolan cringed. He had momentarily forgotten that Liam was still at the center of all the gossip and the pep rally would give everyone a good chance to watch him like an animal in a zoo.
Nolan stepped in front of him, angling his body to cover half of Liam’s from the crowd. His friend nudged him in thanks but kept his head down so Nolan engaged Corey, who had appeared out of thin air, in a conversation in an attempt to make it seem like Liam wasn’t even there.
About fifteen minutes later, the fire had been started and music was blasting but there was still no sign of Theo or Gabe. Not that he minded the latter being absent but Theo missing was more concerning. Liam was seconds away from a full blown panic attack and Nolan couldn’t blame him. The amount of eyes on them was enough to make even his skin crawl. He was about to turn and try to calm his best friend when the feeling from earlier returned, the one where he knew a special pair of eyes were on him. Which was weird considering he had been stared at by at least two hundred people for that last thirty minutes.
“Finally Jesus, coach we can start now!” Liam choked out.
Nolan turned, expecting to see Theo and Gabe approaching but instead saw Theo and someone he had never seen before. Someone who was staring intently at him making him shiver under the penetrating gaze. Judging by the liquid heat now running through his body upon making eye contact, these were the eyes that had been looking at him during the day.
The warm hues of the fire burned brightly behind the tall guy serving as a stark contrast for the glacier blue eyes glimmering at him. The orbs held him captive, he couldn’t move even if he wanted to. It felt like they were looking straight through him into his soul and he shivered again despite the heat rippling off of the large fire in front of him.
The boy came to stand next to him, looking down at him with a bemused smile. Nolan looked down, finally able to drop his gaze but felt heat rush to his face, a blush spreading across his freckled skin that would probably be embarrassing if the sun hadn’t gone down.
“Please don’t hide from me.” The tall boy whispered deeply and Nolan’s head shot back up. Earning a small grin that made his heart skip a beat. His eyes surveyed the new kid, taking in each features as if he were committing them to memory for some unknown reason. His hair was styled but it looked effortless and hot. Dazzling eyes gave way to strong cheek bones and pouty lips that screamed sass and begged to be kissed.
Nolan’s eyes trailed further down and when he caught sight of the number on the jersey at eye level his breath stopped completely. This beautiful mysterious boy was wearing his jersey. The one that Gabe had been wearing. It was like a sign from the gods, the very ones he had wished to earlier when asking for something like Theo and Liam had, out with the old in with the new. Nolan blinked and then choked for air once his lungs started to burn.
They boy in front of him furrowed his brow and brought his hand up to Nolan’s shoulder. “Are you okay?” He shouted over the loud returning noise of the music and students cheering, bringing Nolan back to where they were.
Not trusting his mouth at the moment he just nodded shakily before turning to look for Liam, only to find him being whisked away by Theo.
“I’m guessing that was Dunbar?” Gorgeous boy spoke and Nolan scrunched his brows, instantly going on defense and ready to put the new kid in his place should he talk any shit about Liam.
“Yeah, why?” He let his voice carry his protectiveness and the kid put his hands up in mock surrender and chuckled.
“Easy Freckles,” the honeyed voice soothed and Nolan’s blush deepened at the nickname, “just wanted to know if that was the kid that had Theo completely consumed.”
Well, he wasn’t wrong.
At Nolan’s quirked brow he smirked and something inside of Nolan fluttered. Jesus this boy was going to be dangerous. “Brett.” He said sticking out his hand in introduction. Nolan looked at for a few moments before finally slipping his much smaller hand into the large paw.
“Nolan.” He responded breathily as Brett swiped his fingers back and forth over the smooth skin of his wrist, crystal eyes twinkling at him.
Brett. Nolan repeated in his head. So this angel had a name.
Chapter 19: Hunter’s
Where in the hell was Theo!? Liam tried to control the tremors rolling up and down his spine that had eventually worked their way to his hands from the feeling of multiple sets of eyes on him. He twisted his shaking fingers in the jersey that was like a warm hug against his skin in an attempt to hide his discomfort, trying to think of the jersey as an extension of Theo himself, blissfully ignoring the fact that he allowed himself to need the other boy so much. He stood partially blocked from view, and not so patiently waited for the stupid thing to start so he could get the hell out of there and away from all the prying eyes. He had been grateful when Nolan stepped in front of him, but his friend was really only blocking him from about 1/4 of the crowd since the kid was a freaking string bean.
Liam worried his bottom lip, that was another thing he’d have to make sure to keep an eye on moving forward. Nolan had a bad habit of not finishing his food, usually lost in thought or was just easily excitable when he got going on a topic he loved. The kid had been doing a lot better about it at the beginning of the year but must have regressed during the whole Gabe situation. That asshole just had to ruin everything didn’t he?
He sighed. He should have been paying better attention to his friend, his best friend other than Mason, but somehow he got so caught up in lacrosse, the rivalry, and Theo that he had missed it. His stomach soured even more and he vowed that if he made it through this fucking week in one piece, he was going to put in a lot more of an effort with his friends.
The word ‘head-case’ was voiced loudly, loud enough to be heard over the pulsing music, snapping him back to reality and he tensed. Yep, the whole chance of making it in one-piece thing was starting to plummet at an exponential rate.
Liam clenched and unclenched his jaw, wringing his hands in the jersey to try and keep from letting it get to him. He found the loose string at the hem of the Theo’s shirt and began toying with it like he had done at lunch.
He noticed a jarring movement in front of him and his head shot up, locking eyes with two brilliant green ones that the fire had made darker, more intense, and more alluring.
“Finally Jesus, coach we can start now!” He shouted, breathing a sigh of relief when the music cut off and his coach’s loud voice boomed through the speakers. Making everyone gasp and cry out when a high pitched noise assaulted everyone’s ears.
Both Coach Finstock and the football coach droned on, trying to pump up the crowd of students by using aggressive words but Liam was quickly crumbling under the pressure of people watching him… even if they weren’t looking directly at him.
He felt Theo looking at him and then felt warmth seep into his arm as the football captain stepped closer him, brushing against him. And then Theo’s hand was on his back petting over his shoulder blades firmly. The word 'conflicting' was laughable for what was taking place inside of him. Part of him was relieved and had calmed at Theo’s presence, the other part was excited and it frayed his nerves even more. The chances of him surviving had just dropped again as his heart sky rocketed in his chest.
“Breathe, we’re almost done.” Theo’s voice washed over him and the tremors returned but for an entirely different reason this time.
The strong fingers went from rubbing soothing circles to tracing the letters displayed boldly on his back. Etching the word RAEKEN into his skin, leaving a permanent mark across his shoulders in his mind. He shuddered at the thought.
He intricately wound, unwound, and then re-spun the thin frayed string around his pointer finger in an attempt to distract himself from the hot hand resting on his back in between his shoulder blades after the tracing stopped. The circulation in his finger was starting to slow, turning it purple, before he unwrapped the string, allowing blood to flow back in and leave sharp tingles in its wake.
He took a peek over at Nolan, wondering if he had noticed Theo touching him, and found him very preoccupied in a very tall boy’s presence. He frowned and tilted his head, watching the two interact… or rather stare at each other.
Liam was brought back to his own little world when Theo’s fingers began to move again. “He’s okay, that’s Brett, I trust him.” The raspy voice assured him. Jesus it should be illegal, when had his voice changed so much? It hadn’t been that enthralling when they were kids… or had it?
He glanced at Theo, looking up through his lashes, and finding dazzling emeralds already staring down at him. Theo’s eyes flashed with something and Liam swallowed. He remembered that look, he had seen it twice before… the first had been right before he found himself pushed against the wall in the locker room and the second took place on a rooftop under the full moon.
Liam’s tongue swiped over his lips, almost as if on instinct, and Theo’s eyes darted down and tracked the movement. Music blasted through the speakers again making him jump at the boisterous intrusion. Theo snatched his elbow and began leading him away from everyone and back towards the empty school.
Once he felt the release of tension from being in a crowd dissipate, he gently pulled his arm out of Theo’s grasp but kept pace next to him. They were in a disserted hallway now, comforting quietness surrounding them, with only the dull thump of music from outside breaking it.
He leaned back against the cool lockers and closed his eyes, taking deep breaths while feeling normality return to him. Not just from the stressful pep rally but also from the things that Theo’s fingers and voice had done to him.
“You okay?” Theo questioned softly from beside him, making him open his eyes and turn his head to the side so he could look at him. He nodded.
“I am now.” He breathed.
Theo was in the same position as him, back against the lockers and head to the side, looking at him. Then Theo turned his body more fully, facing him with his shoulder propped up against the smooth metal. The slightly older boy leaned toward him and Liam quickly inhaled.
“You told Gabe to take care of me?” He whispered and Liam’s cheeks heated as he blinked in surprise.
“I didn’t want you to be alone.” He whispered back.
Theo smiled at him. “You could have done it, you know.” Voice slightly vulnerable but held an edge of the cockiness Liam had come to expect from Theo.
He raised a brow. “I wasn’t sure if you would have wanted me to, not after…” He trailed off and Theo’s smiled slowly faded.
“I’m not mad, Liam. Did the words hurt? Yes. But you weren’t wrong, I haven’t exactly been there for you the past few years.” Theo’s sparkling eyes were expressive, letting Liam see that he truly meant what he said.
He looked down. He didn’t want to think about it but if they were going to be cordial, if they were going to be something remotely close to friends again, he supposed they should probably talk about. “You should be mad.”
“Liam you should know, that me of all people, wouldn’t be mad.” He sighed.
But it was his fault, and he hated when people thought otherwise. “Theo, I literally beat the shit out someone and then blew up on you and Nolan.”
Theo shrugged. “I didn’t say it wasn’t shitty.” Liam looked down but his face was quickly brought back up at the nudging from Theo’s strong fingers, the very ones that were still ghosting over his back from earlier. “Hey.” He said softly and Liam met his eyes.
Theo opened his mouth to say something but didn’t, just brushed his thumb over his bottom lip instead.
His mouth opened on its own accord, parting as Theo’s rough finger scraped across the sensitive skin. Liam closed his lips when the pad of Theo’s thumb paused in the middle, right where his lip curved into a pout, kissing it.
He didn’t know what came over him, blame it on stress from the week, when his tongue flicked out, tasting the saltiness of Theo’s skin. A sound escaped Theo’s still open mouth and his eyes smoldered down at Liam.
The doors behind them burst open, bringing the loud music and a giggling group of students with it. Theo quickly pushed him into the nearest classroom and against the wall just inside of it. Bringing his forehead to rest on Liam’s shoulder, his warm breath puffing out and caressing his throat, keeping the heat that was swirling inside of Liam very alive.
“Can't catch a break.” The football captain who still had him trapped groaned.
Theo stayed there leaning into him, and Liam let him, relishing in the simple closeness that they apparently both had been craving. Liam closed his eyes and wrapped his arms around his old friend’s shoulders holding him tighter.
He felt the light brush of Theo’s nose coasting along his pulse point, which had been beating like crazy ever since Theo had first touched him outside, moving up towards his jaw before he gently rubbed their cheeks together. Nuzzling, Theo was nuzzling him?
Theo breathed into his ear and Liam shuddered. “Where were you?”
Liam’s arms loosened at the question but Theo wasn’t having that, pushing him harder against the wall and pinning him with his body. Which would have had Liam freaking out at the proximity were it not for the chilling thoughts reminding him of his mental state during the past weekend.
“I told you, my dad’s cabin.” He answered, voice devoid of emotion. Theo set his hands on his hips and pulled back, eyes searching his face.
“They’ve gotten worse.” It wasn’t a question, more a statement that was voiced unsurely, in which Theo received confirmation when Liam averted his eyes. Theo pinched out a rough, shaky breath. “Since when?” He asked quietly, already knowing the answer, but again needing confirmation.
Liam trailed his eyes back to him, taking in the grimace marring his face, knowing that his held a matching one. Theo’s eyes bore into his and he looked down briefly before bringing them back up. His silence giving the answer. Since the night that ruined everything.
Theo slammed his eyes shut and nodded curtly in understanding. As his childhood friend stood there in front of him silent in thought Liam looked at him, really looked at him, seeing him for the first time in three years.
He was taller, muscular but not bulky. And even though he looked healthy there was something off. Something that ran deeper than simple appearances.
He looked tired, hell, he looked exhausted. Dark circles rimming the thin skin under his eyes, which were also off but that was something that only he would be able to notice. Liam reached up and brushed his fingers over the hollow of his cheek.
“How long?” He asked and at Theo’s confused look he tried again. “How long has it been since you’ve slept?”
“I slept last night.”
He hardened his face at the evasiveness of Theo’s answer. “You know what I meant." He sighed. "When’s the last time you slept through the night?” Now it was Theo’s turn to look away. Liam sighed, fingers dancing down Theo’s face and neck reaching his jersey. He traced his number before fisting the material in his hand and pulling the boy back into him, hugging him tightly and Theo returned it, burying his face back in Liam’s neck.
“We’re a fucking mess.”
Theo snorted and then straightened. “Speak for yourself little wolf.” Ah, and there he was, despite the nickname, annoying cocky Theo was back. Liam narrowed his eyes and dropped his arms, somewhat sad that their moment was over but also slightly relieved to be done with the sensitive stuff.
“Come on asshole.” Liam growled, pushing at Theo’s chest and moving towards the door and out into the hallway not bothering to see if the other boy followed.
Theo caught up half way down the hallway, keeping stride easily due to his longer legs.
“Where are we going?” He asked somewhat nervously and Liam smiled at anxious Theo, it was a sight he hadn’t seen in a while and it meant that Theo still trusted him enough to be vulnerable around him.
Liam kept walking, avoiding the shortest route to the parking lot as it would take them by the ongoing pep rally, and eventually making his way to Theo’s truck.
“Liam…?” Theo proded.
“It’s Thursday.” He said deadpanning to Theo who was still next to him even though they had reached the truck.
The look of confusion on Theo’s face was comical, but Liam got nervous… worried that Theo wouldn’t remember. And then he felt stupid and started chewing on his lip. Kicking himself for assuming that Theo would want to remember his childhood.
“Hunter’s.” Theo whispered and Liam snapped his gaze over to Theo. He remembered! Liam grinned happily at him.
“All you can eat tacos.” He supplied and they locked eyes briefly. They both dove into the truck, suddenly in a hurry to get to the past.
Half way there his phone chimed.
~~~~ NEW MESSAGE: NOLAN H. ~~~~
- Saw you leave with Theo, you good? 7:45pm
- Saw you with tall boy… you good? 7:45pm
- I... 7:46pm
- Yeah, fine. 7:46pm
- Dude, he looked like he wanted to eat you. 7:47pm
- Big bad wolf style. 7:47pm
The three little dots that indicated typing appeared, disappeared, and then reappeared at least five times.
- See you tomorrow. 7:52pm
Liam chuckled earning a side cursory glance from Theo as he drove, one hand on the wheel and the other resting easily on the console between them. He looked calm, he looked happy. He looked back down at his phone, trying to come up with a way to phrase his next words so that they wouldn’t come off aggressively.
- Hey Noley? 7:55pm
- …yeah? 7:56pm
- Eat good tonight, big game tomorrow! 7:56pm
All he got back was a thumbs up emoji and spaghetti plate emoji, and for now, that would have to do.
Theo parked and they climbed out, striding into Hunter’s with purpose.
“Hey boys! Ready for the big games tomorrow?” The middle aged hostess questioned. He nodded while Theo responded with a big “Oh yeah!”
“Go ahead and sit wherever, I’ll send someone over as soon as you’re settled.” He was surprised when Theo stalked towards their old booth with purpose. The two of them and their moms used to come every Thursday before the accident, and then just them two with Liam’s mom sporadically after that.
Their waitress popped over and they were ready, they always got the same thing. Liam ordered the wolf platter which contained one of every kind of taco on the menu and Theo ordered the Kanima special which was just chicken and cheese tacos topped with guacamole. The green of the avocado dip being the thing that resembled the snake thing painted all over the walls in the restaurant.
“I don’t know how you eat that stuff.” Liam said wrinkling his nose making Theo snicker.
“Green things… vegetables… anything other than carbs, meat, and cheese are good for you… you should try it some time.” He teased.
He was going to reply, but their waitress returned with large plates of food and large waters. The mouthwatering aroma of fresh food hitting him hard. He dug in right away, not caring if he looked like he had never been fed before in his life.
Theo’s light laugh had him looking up, taco juice spilling down his chin. “I see some things never change.”
He swallowed, twice because he had just taken a really big bite, took a sip of water to wash it down, and then sighed looking at Theo’s untouched plate. “Don’t tell me I have to worry about your eating habits too.”
Theo cocked his head to the side, a frown pulling at his lips. “Too?”
Liam looked longingly at the half eaten taco in his hand and huffed when he set it down. Pouting.
“Nolan sometimes forgets to eat and usually I’m good at noticing and getting him to eat but I’ve been a little preoccupied recently.” Now Theo was frowning as well… interesting.
“What am I going to do with you two?” He asked in exasperation before reaching for one of his filled tortillas.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Liam snarled, not meaning for it to come out quite how it did.
“Nuffimg,” he mumbled around a mouth full and then swallowing, “eat.” When Liam didn’t move, the boy across from him smirked, the one that made his insides flip. “Eat Li, I know you hate it when the shell gets soggy.”
Well shit, he had him there. Liam dove back into his plate of deliciousness, only stopping when he felt like he was going to explode.
“You can still eat the whole thing, I’m impressed.” Theo praised.
Liam ignored the pink blush that he knew was now coloring his cheeks at the compliment. Saving the feeling and this happy memory for later.
Chapter 20: Promises
They joked, stuffed themselves, and talked about everything and anything apart from the obvious no-fly zones. It was almost as if they hadn’t been separated for three years. Picking back up right where they left off and if something had changed then they spent time learning the difference.
Long after the food had disappeared and the excited conversation had died down, Theo drove Liam home. An easy silence settling between them in the car. Theo snuck glances over at his passenger in between the bright oncoming headlights, trying to prove to himself that it was really happening and that it wasn’t all a dream this time. That his little wolf was actually sitting beside him… because he wanted to be.
Theo tensed as they turned the last corner on to Liam’s street, not ready for this to be over. Because the chances of them going back to normal, as in at each other’s throats or not talking, tomorrow at school were high and he just wasn’t ready to let go of Liam that easily this time. But as they neared the house, he realized he didn’t have choice.
The truck slowed to a halt in front of the familiar two story home. The one that held more pleasant childhood memories than his own place of living, the one that he could find his way to blindfolded, and the one where he always used to be welcome even if Liam wasn’t there.
No words were said as Liam gathered his stuff from the floor of the truck. Just a small smile and nod from each to the other and then Liam swung the door open and hopped out. Theo sighed and looked down at his hands that were gripping the steering wheel unusally tight.
“Hey, Theo?” Liam called softly from outside of the still open door. Theo’s head snapped back in his direction, not expecting him to still be standing there, to find him looking at Theo expectantly and continuing on once he had Theo’s attention. “Promise me something?”
Theo nodded, his heart running wild in his chest at what Liam could possibly want from him.
Liam’s icy eyes turned warm and open. “Promise me you’ll sleep tonight?”
He didn’t answer, instead just stared at the boy standing outside of his car. Did he know what he was asking? How difficult that would be for him?
“Theo.” Liam prodded, eyes and face turning serious.
“I promise.” He pushed out in a whisper, even though he had no idea how he was going to make it happen.
He had only felt safe in three places since the accident. One of which he was currently outside of and was about to leave. Liam smiled at him, staying just a second too long looking at him intently, Theo tried to smile back but it probably came off as more of a pained grin.
He wasn’t going to sleep at school. So that option was out. Meaning if he wanted to keep his promise to Liam… he had no other choice than to go to the place that he was still trying to come to terms with, the place that even though he tried to shake it off, still made his skin crawl.
Theo pulled up to the hospital and maneuvered his truck towards the overnight parking garage, pulling into a spot that was farther away from the other cars packed in there. Grabbing the bag that he kept tucked under his seat that held spare clothes, another driver’s license, and a small amount of cash in case he had to leave in a hurry. He had started being prepared after one particularly bad beating, storing the bag on the roof outside of his window for easy access until mother nature decided to strike and ruin everything inside. The bag had been promptly relocated as well as a set of spare keys that were stored in a secure lockbox under the truck bed.
He strode towards the double doors with the duffel bag in hand, taking a deep breath before crossing the threshold, it was getting easier but it still made his heart do some crazy things. He tried to shake the goosebumps threatening to ripple across his body reminding himself why he was there this time, it helped if he had a purpose, a reason to be there. You promised Liam, you promised him you’d sleep. And so he continued putting one foot in front of the other, carrying himself further into the imposing building and coming to stop in front of the welcoming desk where his favorite nurse sat.
“Theo!” She exclaimed happily, standing and coming around the counter to give him a hug but not before inspecting him first, eyes narrowing a bit upon seeing his bag.
“Hi Mrs.- Melissa.” He amended after she cut him a look. “Is Dr. Geyer here?”
She smiled and nodded. “Head on down, I’ll let him know you’re coming.”
“Thank you.” He said and accepted one more hug from the kind woman before making his way towards the office that had become an appreciated safe haven for him.
Once he reached the door, he stood just outside of it for a moment, not because he was nervous or scared, but because once he passed through this door his life was going to change again. Hopefully this time for the better.
With a squaring of his shoulders he took one last breath and turned the knob to enter the room.
Dr. Geyer had been leaning back in his chair, white coat hung loosely on the coat rack next to him in the corner, hands crossed in his lap. “I was wondering how long you would stand outside of the door.” He said with a knowing smile.
Theo turned to close the door before spinning back around and making his way to the couch. He set his bag down in the gap between the armrest and desk, tucking it neatly away as to not be a burden.
“I know I don’t have any right to ask…” Theo started hesitantly, eyes downcast, “but I made Liam a promise.”
Dr. Geyer came to sit on the couch next to him. “You and Liam spoke?” He asked eagerly.
Theo looked over to him with a light smile on his face and bobbed his head a few times. The doctor’s eyes flicked down to the jersey he was still wearing, a look of fondness lighting up his features.
“He told me about the episode.” He said making Theo cringe. “I never got to say thank you for telling me by the way... I got to him just in time, before he really shut down. You did good, Theo.” He praised with a few gentle pats on the back.
Theo shrugged, “I just wanted to make sure that he was okay.”
“He wasn’t, but he is now.” The man confirmed. “What did you promise him?” Theo looked down again but resumed eye contact after a few moments.
“I promised him I would sleep.” He whispered receiving a heavy sigh from Dr. Geyer.
“Does he know?”
Theo’s eyes widened and he shook his head aggressively. “And I’d like to keep it that way… please.”
The man pinched the bridge of his nose before bringing his eyes back to Theo. “Of course I’ll respect your decision and privacy. But I still stand by what I said, you don’t have to keep living through that Theo. You don’t have to punish yourself anymore.”
“It’s almost over.”
“Theo you have more time left there than I’m comfortable with, but you’re eighteen now and that’s only reason I haven’t sent Child Protective Services back to your house.” Theo recoiled as if he had been hit.
“You’re the one who sent them?” He almost shouted. Remembering what had happened last year after his father had threatened him with his eyes should he say anything incriminating. After the agents left, after his father had turned off his charm, things got dark… hence the packed emergency bag.
“I did.” Dr. Geyer confirmed. No regret or apology in his voice.
“Do you know what happened after that visit?” Theo asked coldly, trying not to get angry at the man that had been offering him refuge.
“I can only imagine.” He responded, eyes glazing over as if he was reliving his own version of what Theo had gone through that day.
At least one of his ribs had been broken along with serious deep bruising that covered the rest of his body. Probably a boot print or two. That had been the two-week period when Theo had gotten ‘mono’ and had to stay home from school… which was a whole other joy ride in itself.
Both of them stayed quiet, lost in their own versions of hell, until they both shuddered and then avoided each other’s gaze.
“So you promised him you would sleep?” Dr. Geyer’s strong voice broke the pained silence, expressive eyes returning to Theo’s face and scanning. He closed his eyes, trying to get the images of his out of his head if he was going to have any chance of falling asleep, and nodded. “And I’m guessing that won’t happen at your house?” Theo’s heart started racing upon remembering the last time he had found his dad standing over him.
“No.” He croaked, voice thick with fear.
“What about a friend’s house?” He was fishing now.
Theo looked at him, face conveying everything that needed to be said but still voiced it regardless. “I…” He frowned, “I really only have three options. Here and school were the most realistic and I won’t sleep at the school.”
“And the third?” Dr. Geyer asked with a questioning look.
“I haven’t been welcome there in a years.” The man next to him stared at him for a few moments, working through his cryptic answer.
“Well,” The doctor said while standing up, “the couch isn’t much but it beats a hospital bed and you other alternatives. There are staff showers down the hall if you want to use them.” He informed as he gathered his things from his desk. “Do you need anything from me before I let you get some rest?”
“No, this is perfect already.” He nodded and made his way to the door. “Dr. Geyer?” Theo called quietly, watching the older man turn to look at him from the doorway. “Thank you… for letting me stay here and for not telling Liam.”
A gentle smile touched his lips. “You’re welcome Theo. I was lucky enough to find someone to help me out of my situation, I only hope I can return the favor by doing it for you now.” He gave a pointed look, one that said ‘please let me help you, please tell your best friend what’s going on, please don’t just slip away like so many other kids” and then he was gone, shutting the door with a resounding click leaving Theo alone to attempt to fulfill the promise he had made.
He changed his jeans to comfy sweats, forgoing his normal naked chest to keep Liam’s jersey on, hoping it would aid him on his quest for a full night’s sleep. Since he couldn’t have his human dream catcher maybe something of his would work just the same.
Theo settled into the couch, pulling the blanket that rest on the back of it over him, and finding a comfortable enough spot on his back. Not quite tired yet, he went over the day in his head. Revisiting each moment because it had all happened so fast in real time.
Liam’s jersey had smelled like the detergent his mom used mixed with Liam at first, but the scent had slowly faded throughout the day. He had lost one ‘friend’ but seemingly gained two new ones. Brett and Nolan were going to be an interesting handful if their meeting earlier proved anything. Theo smiled when remembering how he panicked when he thought he lost the new kid, only to find him dazed and confused next to an equally star struck Nolan.
And then there had been the time spent with Liam. Lunch held reminiscent ways of communication and small encouraging touches. Which then led to his minor slip up in saying that he liked the way Liam looked in his jersey out loud and luckily conjuring his cocky demeanor to play it off and then almost losing it again when Liam bit his bottom lip.
The look of pure relief on Liam’s face when he had finally arrived to the pep rally and then tracing his fingers over his back for the whole thing. The look he received after was like a punch to the gut, Liam’s eyes staring up at him from under thick lashes was something he definitely hadn’t been ready for when he woke up this morning. Their almost kiss, which he had been craving ever since the first one in the locker room last week. Last week.
Crazy to think that just a week ago they had been ready to kill each other and now here they were. Holding hands kind of, near kisses, lots of touching, and silent reassurances. Eating at one of their favorite restaurants in their booth and making promises to each other. Landing him in the hospital, laying on a very used couch, and staring blankly up at the overhead lights in the ceiling.
He was going to turn the lights off but had decided against it. Even though the office felt safe, should he wake up in the unfamiliar darkness he might panic, so the soft yellow lights were still buzzing with electricity. A somewhat calming sound Theo determined after listening to it for a few minutes.
Behind the buzz from the lights, he could hear footsteps echoing off the tiled floor. Wheels from beds being pushed and chairs scraping across the floor from people moving them. Every now and again and ambulance would approach, the sirens shrieking into the evening like a banshee predicting the future.
But surprisingly enough, Theo fell asleep to it all.
“Look who I found on the main road, heading here.” Dr. Geyer announced as he entered the kitchen with Theo in tow.
“Theo honey,” Mrs. Geyer sniffled, “you know how I feel about you taking the bus by yourself.” He shrugged. More concerned about why she had been crying before they walked in, where was Liam?
The man that had picked him up, immediately walked up to her and wrapped her in a hug. “What happened?” He questioned quietly. Theo stood to the side awkwardly, not knowing what to do in this situation since he had never seen Liam’s mom upset.
“He’s never taken it out on me before.” She sobbed, tears returning in full strength and streaking down her face. “One minute everything was fine… and then it just wasn’t. I know he didn’t mean it.”
“What did he say?” She was asked, Theo started to get an itchy feeling under his skin. Something was very wrong, and it had to do with Liam, his best friend.
“He… he…” She took a deep breath and then started again, “he didn’t mean it.” She repeated sounding as if she was trying to convince herself of that. Theo searched his way through the house trying to find the “he”, kind of mad at Liam for making his mom cry. He was ready to tear into him when he found him, and upon seeing him all of the fight died out of him.
Liam sat in the corner of his room, curled into himself, just staring vacantly at the floor in front of him. Quite frankly, it was scary. Like one of those scary movies that Liam liked to watch, but not really watch because he would hide under the blankets for all the scary parts, when the person was sitting eerily still and then would jump out at you.
Theo very carefully made his way towards the Liam-like statue, wary to make any sudden movements. He made it to him and then sat on the floor next to him.
“Liam?” He tried quietly, so quiet that he could barely even hear it. Liam didn’t move or acknowledge him so he cleared his throat and tried again a little louder. “Liam?” But still nothing.
“Liam are-” “Go away.” His broken voice sounded around them, thick from emotion but cold and lifeless at the same time. Theo’s heart broke, Liam had never spoken to him like that before.
“What’s wrong, Liam?” He asked reaching out to touch him, flinching back when Liam recoiled away from him.
He was crying now. “I’m messed up.” Hot tears spilled on to his cheeks and then his legs. “Go away before I hurt you too.”
Theo scooted closer, stretching towards him again and sighing relief when Liam let him this time. “You didn’t mean it whatever you said, your mom said that you didn’t mean it.” A strangled sound escaped the boy in front of him and Theo broke. Is this what he sounded like when he woke up from nightmares?
He quickly tugged Liam into his small body, hugging him tightly and rocking back and forth until he calmed. “You didn’t mean it.” He repeated over and over. Sometimes switching it up and throwing in a ‘It’s going to be okay’ or ‘shhh’ in there.
Even after Liam grew quiet, he kept swaying, holding his head to his chest and running his fingers through his hair like Liam did for him when he needed it.
“Hey Theo?” His little voice spoke out of nowhere, almost startling Theo. He hummed in response. “Promise me something?”
“Anything little wolf. Anything.”
“Promise me that if I do something bad in the future… you won’t judge me. I can’t help it sometimes. Promise me that you won’t try to take what I did away from me either. It makes it worse. Promise me that you’ll always be there. After, when I start to calm down.”
Theo’s heart jumped in his chest, it felt like something more was happening than just a simple promise but he didn’t know what it was. It was like something was pulling on his heart, making it hard for him to breath.
“Theo?” Liam called from his position still pressed against him.
“I promise, Liam. I promise.” He whispered.
That was the first time Theo had felt something click inside of him when he made Liam a promise, and it was far from the last, it happened every time after that. Like an binding sense of duty to keep his word.
It was also the first time that Theo had slept through the night without waking up in way too long, probably because he had promised Liam that he would try. It was the best night sleep he could remember having in over three years.
Chapter 21: Familiar Ground
Liam walked away from the truck. Focusing on putting one foot in front of the other so he wouldn’t turn around and chase it down, just so he didn’t have to let go of the friend he had just gotten back.
When he reached his front door, he looked back over his shoulder to find the curbside empty. He sighed. He shouldn’t have made him promise… Liam knew how seriously he took promises. And honestly he had never seen Theo look that panicked at the idea of sleeping.
He unlocked the door with a shake of his head, pushing in and toeing off his shoes by the entrance.
“Hi baby, I was just about to go meet your father at Hunter’s. Want to join?” His mom asked as she moved in and out of the living room and kitchen, collecting things and throwing them in her purse.
Liam perched himself on the stairs watching his erratic, but lovable mother be herself. “I just came from there.”
“Oh? Who’d you go with, Nolan and the boys?” She questioned absent-mindedly as she continued her search for something, lifting up blankets and magazines, frowning each time she came up empty handed.
“No.” He replied. A small heated sensation beginning to run through him with the anticipation of saying his name to his mother. The woman who pestered him non-stop about where Theo was or why they stopped hanging out, until one day she noticed just how upset it actually made him and quit.
“Aha!” She exclaimed locating her phone on the tray where they kept all the remotes, having been buried beneath a few stray coasters.
“I went with Theo.” He whispered and then looked down at his hands. He heard the thunk of her phone hitting the floor and could tell she had stopped moving. And then she was stirring again, he snuck a look up at her to find her bending down to pick up her phone and shoving it in her bag.
She came to sit on the step two below him, so that he would have to look at her instead of the floor. “That’s nice, how is he?” She said cautiously, like she was scared to brace the subject in case it made him sad. Liam shrugged.
Despite his want to tell her everything, the need to tell her that Theo obviously hadn’t been sleeping, that something was different about him… that he missed him so entirely much. He responded in the only way that would keep her from digging too deep, down to a place he wasn’t quite ready to go yet. “He’s good.” He answered nonchalantly. “Have a nice dinner with dad.” He said as he stood and finished climbing the rest of the stairs, taking a left and entering his room so he could throw himself on his bed.
What in the fuck had this day been? So many emotions and things that he had cataloged away for later because he just wasn’t ready to think about them all in the moment, and now they were all rushing forward. Begging to be processed. Liam wondered if this was how Nolan felt every day.
Theo. He had talked to Theo, been comforted by Theo, almost kissed by Theo, ate tacos with Theo. Four years ago it would have been a normal thing that he wouldn’t have even blinked at, except maybe the almost kissing, and a year ago he would have laughed so hard he cried if someone would have told him that was what was in store for them on this day. But today, today had been a dream.
Liam reached back and rubbed a hand over what he could reach on the jersey currently draped on his body. Feeling the strong fingers still ghosting over the letters between his shoulder blades, wishing he could actually touch them or feel them on his skin.
Goosebumps prickled the skin on his arms at the thought and he trailed his fingers down the limbs lightly, chasing the exciting tingles he felt, stirring something inside of him.
His phone vibrated and he jumped. Having gotten completely lost in the moment, completely lost in the way Theo made him feel. He shivered, grunted at himself, and stretched his arm around to his back pocket to grab the device. He brought it up to his face but didn’t open his eyes to read the notification yet, wondering if it was going to be the person he had been thinking about, and then frowning when he realized that they probably didn’t even have each other’s numbers anymore.
At first glance he saw that he had a snapchat from Nolan and swiped to open it. Smiling upon seeing the picture of two grilled ham and cheese sandwiches stacked on top of each other next to a big glass of milk.
He tapped the bright screen a few times to open imessage.
~~~~ NEW MESSAGE: NOLAN H. ~~~~
- Good job, baby boy. Those look bomb btw 9:45pm
- I’m not a baby boy -_- 9:46pm
- Put some meat on your bones then 9:46pm
Liam wasn’t surprised when Nolan left him on ‘read’, but he knew that Nolan loved his praise and that Liam was only pushing him to eat because he cared.
He found himself thinking about the day again, thinking about Theo again, and glanced over at his clock gasping upon seeing the time. He had let his mind go for three hours. Jesus. He wiped a hand down his face and propelled himself up towards his en-suite bathroom to ready himself for bed. He did so quickly, brushing his teeth and washing his face, before dragging himself back into his room.
He flopped onto the bed once he had finished, taking a few deep breaths and letting go of all the mind stimulating events from the day. Going from one real life dream occurrence during the day to the next as he floated into the real dreamland.
“Promise me that if I do something bad in the future… you won’t judge me. I can’t help it sometimes. Promise me that you won’t try to take what I did away from me either. It makes it worse. Promise me that you’ll always be there... After, when I start to calm down.”
“Theo?” Liam called from his position still pressed against him when the other boy didn’t answer right away, nervousness evident in his already shaky voice.
“I promise, Liam. I promise.” Theo whispered.
It was the first promise that Theo made to him, and he couldn’t explain why, but he felt anchored in that moment. Like everything was going to be okay because Theo had promised that he would always be there, would always look after him.
Every promise after that seemed to just make their bond stronger, made something run deeper within their connection. Because it appeared that whenever Liam made Theo promise something, another root took hold between them, attaching them further.
“Theo promise you won’t look?” “Yes Liam, I promise.”
“ Promise you won ’ t tell my mom? ” He asked wide eyed at the broken chair. “Promise.”
“Promise we’ll always be best friends no matter what?” A long pause ensued. “Theo?” “Yeah, I promise.”
“You won’t tell anyone about my problem right?” “Of course not!” “Promise?” “Yes, I promise.”
There was only one time when Theo didn’t promise him something, and it ended up being the thing that ended them. Sure the previous night didn’t help, but the declined verbal contract was the crater in the moon that just couldn’t be filled. Ripped up the roots of their bond and put them in the wood chipper. The unanswered promise shaking each of them to the core and allowing for the cold bitterness to enter their souls, which resulted in their behavior during their first three years of high school.
“Theo, please. Please just – fuck will you stop and look at me for five seconds!?” Theo did stop, did raise his eyes to Liam’s face, but as soon as he saw the lifeless eyes Liam wished he hadn’t asked for them. “Theo, promise me this won’t come between us. Promise me this will pass, that eventually we’ll be okay.” He begged, ignoring the nosey passersbys.
Theo clenched his jaw, released it, and then clenched it again. “I can’t Liam, not this time.” And then he was walking away from him. Leaving Liam standing on the sidewalk alone as he watched his best friend leave him in the dust.
Liam refrained from making promises from that day on, scared of the significance and weight that they could carry.
He hadn’t asked for anyone to promise him anything either, knowing that there was a chance that he could be rejected again or disappointed. Well, he hadn’t until earlier.
“Hey, Theo? Promise me something? Promise me you’ll sleep tonight?” Liam held his breath after the words left his lips. Counted to ten and then started to freak out, not even aware that Theo’s name fell from his lips in a desperate attempt to get an answer.
His heart slammed against his ribcage as he waited. “I promise.” Theo whispered and he shivered as he felt something spark inside of him. The feeling vaguely familiar and exuberating.
A twin shiver ran through him, waking him. He ran a hand through the slight damp hair at his temple, tugging at the strands gently. He had been dreaming of Theo and their past a lot lately, all of the memories that had been locked away for so long, now pushing their way through his crafted barriers and appearing while his mind was lax with sleep.
Promise me you’ll sleep tonight. I promise. The words replaying through his mind like a broken record.
I promise too, Theo. He thought. I promise I’ll sleep tonight along with you. I’ll keep the nightmares away.
Chapter 22: Trifecta
Theo woke slowly unlike every other morning. He woke feeling safe and content, not feeling the need to jolt up to make sure he wasn’t in some kind of precarious situation. He stretched languidly, both arms thrown above his head, shifting from side to side until his back popped satisfyingly. He reached for his phone and scrolled through a few social media sites before he ventured to the sports websites looking for any mention of the game tonight and what scouts were planning on coming.
His search was nearly finished when a soft knock rapped against the office door. He blinked a few times, forgetting that people actually knocked to ask permission to be let in, so used to his father just barging in whenever he pleased.
“Come in.” He rasped, voice still thick with sleep. He glanced down to make sure he was clothed properly and smiled at the sight of the jersey still on his body. It had ridden up a little bit throughout the night, so he quickly pulled it down to cover his abs and belly button.
Melissa poked her head through the door with a bright smile. “Hey kiddo! I just wanted to make sure that you got up.”
He returned her light smile and nodded. Assuming she saw that he was dressed decently, even though she had a son and was probably used to seeing bare chests, Theo was still grateful for her regard for his privacy… it was refreshing. But upon inspecting her he frowned.
“You didn’t leave, did you?” He asked. She had worked all night and no doubt had been at the hospital most of the day yesterday. She was always here, and for some reason it made Theo sad.
“Of course I did, what makes you say that?” She asked skeptically, her voice a little too high to be considered normal.
He shrugged, fiddling with the string on his sweatpants. “You’re wearing the same scrubs.”
Melissa’s eyes narrowed. “How do you know that I don’t own two of the same color?”
“They both have the same coffee stain on the right collar?” He quizzed, raising a brow. He felt at ease with her and loved every second of it.
She chuckled, “You’re too observant for you own good.” She ruffled his hair and he leaned into the touch.
“I have to be.” He said without thinking, immediately regretting it when sadness flashed through her features. “For football.” He amended but the damage had been done. He chewed on his lip. He didn’t want her to pity him, all he wanted was her normal kind warmth.
“Well,” she sighed, “since I haven’t eaten anything close to real food in hours and you need a good breakfast, want to come to my house and I’ll whip us up something? You can shower there too if you’d like.”
Theo’s eyes lit up at the invitation and a warm fuzzy feeling spread through him. Today was going to be a good day he decided as he nodded eagerly in response.
“Okay, go ahead and get changed. I’ll go clock out and meet you upstairs.” She said before spinning on her heal and sauntering out of the room.
Theo quickly threw on his fresh pair of briefs, jeans, and his football hoodie over Liam’s jersey not quite ready to take it off just yet. He tidied the couch as best he could and made sure he hadn’t left anything behind before he navigated his way back to the hospital entrance where Melissa was waiting for him.
“I usually take the bus…” She trailed off as he approached her, noticing how tired she actually looked.
He held up his keys and grinned. “I can drive us, just let me know where I’m going.” She sighed in relief and Theo took note of it. She must not like the bus. He filed that away for later.
It was still quite early and the darkness of night was just beginning to fade around them. The sun slowly brightening the world as Melissa directed him the whole way, which actually wasn’t too far from where he lived. Just a few neighborhoods over, sitting between his and Liam’s house. He used to walk by it all the time when he made his way to his best friend’s.
She told him to park in the driveway, next to a beaten down car that looked like it had seen better days. Probably why she had been working so much he assumed. He followed her dutifully into the house where she then showed him where the guest room was and told him to shower while she got breakfast started. He did so quickly, not wanting to be a burden and run up her water bill. Making sure to get all the basics like his hair and body but skipping the fifteen-ish minutes where he normally just stood under the warm spray lost in thought.
He pulled his fresh clothes back on after towel drying, leaving Liam’s jersey off this time around, and made his way back downstairs and into the kitchen. He stopped short and smiled softly when entered the room and took in the sight in front of him. Melissa had taken a few things out but was now fast asleep sitting on a bar stool with her head resting on her arms on top of the counter.
He moved silently about the kitchen, in the way he had taught himself to do over the past few years, cracking eggs into a bowl and beating them until they were frothy and silken.
He wasn’t surprised when even the sizzling of the frozen potatoes snapping and crackling in the pan didn’t wake the exhausted woman still deep in sleep. She was over worked and over tired. He shook his head; he knew the feeling.
He continued to work as soundlessly as possible, checking each item cooking until he was satisfied with it. He assembled the plates, after it took him a few minutes to find the damn things… because who put plates in the bottom cupboards… and set a steaming plate full of eggs, hash browns, and toast in front of Melissa.
Theo shook her shoulder lightly and she sat up rather fast, blinking at him in surprise and then looking around to take in her surroundings. “Oh Theo, honey, I was supposed to cook for you!” She said with a grimace but looked up at him gratefully.
“I like cooking.” He told her as he set his plate on the counter next to her and plopped down on the stool. They ate in comfortable silence, both just content in having good food and enjoyable companionship. Theo looked up at the clock on top of the stove once he finished eating, noting the time and realizing he should probably make his way to school. Not that he had class since he had a free period for first hour, but he had his routine and he didn’t want to break it on a game day. Call him superstitious.
Melissa hummed as she took her last bite. “That was delicious, thank you Theo.” She said kindly and stacked their plates taking them over to the sink to rinse before placing them in the dishwasher.
“I need to get to school.” He said plainly, unsure of what to do now. Should he hug her? Shake her hand? Say see you later even if he wouldn’t necessarily?
She wiped her hands on a towel and walked around the bar, patting his cheek gently and taking the decision away from him thankfully. “Have a great day bud.” Theo smiled and nodded, bending down to scoop up his duffle and spun towards the front door where he had hung his keys on the key rack.
Theo had just made it to the door when her soft voice made him turn back around. “Hey Theo?” She called. “Would you mind if I came to your game today?”
Theo had to keep himself from running and hugging her, it was normal for people to want to watch the rivalry match, but he hasn’t had anyone come to watch him, just him not his skills, in forever. “Not at all.” He answered with a large smile instead.
“Great, see ya later kiddo. Good luck!” And then she went back into the kitchen, leaving Theo standing at the front door with his heart in his throat and tears threatening to spill from his eyes.
By the time he arrived at school he had calmed down significantly, but was sporting a very happy grin, everyone around him assuming he was excited for the game and wishing him luck as he strutted down the hallway to his spot in the library.
He spread his books out, taking up as much space as possible, not wanting to give anyone the chance to fuck his day up. Not when this was the best day he had experienced in a long time. Not including yesterday. His smile grew as he remembered the pep rally, what followed, and then the result of keeping his promise leading to this morning with Melissa.
“Thinking about Dunbar again?” Brett asked, pulling him from his thoughts, as he tossed himself in the chair across from Theo.
Theo smirked. “Oh you can see me now?” He searched the library animatedly. “Probably because Nolan isn’t here.” He teased and then laughed as Brett’s smile faltered for a few seconds.
“I haven’t seen him yet today.” Brett pouted and Theo took pity on his new friend before he planned on threatening him should he hurt the little nugget.
“He usually runs late on game days; he won’t be here for another twenty minutes at least.” Brett sighed but then tensed and narrowed his eyes a little.
“How do you know that?” He questioned, almost as if he was wary of Theo’s interest and knowledge of Nolan’s whereabouts.
Theo swept his hand towards the window next to them, “I’m an observant person.” He supplied. Too observant he remembered Melissa calling him. Brett relaxed again and hummed, eyes sweeping the parking lot as if he were looking for the kid already. Hmm, someone was keen.
“Not that I care, but you should go easy on him.” He said as looked down at his books, feigning interest in the conversation, but glanced up every few seconds to study Brett’s body language and facial expressions.
The taller boy frowned. “What do you mean?” He asked leaning forward and placing his arms on the table so he was closer to Theo, showing just how interested he was in what Theo had to say.
“Just… be careful with him.” Theo warned, eyes now boring into Brett’s relaying the message there loud and clear.
Brett sat back, his own eyes scanning Theo’s face, reading him exactly how Theo was him. “You’re a bit protective, huh?” He questioned with a tilt of his head to which Theo gave a sharp nod. “Good, me too.” Brett said, a smile pulling at his lips.
Theo returned the smile, the tense air around them having dissipated and returned to normal. They spent the rest of the hour joking quietly and ignoring their school work to talk about football plays and the impending game. Quickly losing track of time and jumping at the sound of the bell signaling for the change of classes.
“See ya at lunch!” He called as they split in the hallway, heading in different directions.
Because of his good mood, his classes passed by surprisingly fast. Putting him at lunch sooner than he anticipated. He had to keep himself from shoving people out of the way so he could get there sooner.
He heard a chuckle and then someone was sidled up next to him, brushing his shoulder as they both squeezed through the throng of students milling about. “Someone’s eager to get to lunch.” Brett goaded, probably his way of getting back at Theo for this morning.
“Oh fuck off.” He shot back with humor in his voice. “Tell me Brett, how many seconds in between second period and lunch, only asking because I know you counted all of them.” Brett just murmured a ‘whatever’ but kept pace beside him, entering the large room littered with tables and kids starting to eat at them.
He filed behind Theo, letting him take the lead, to which Theo had no problem doing. Once he reached their table he motioned to the seat on the left of him, clearly keeping the one his right open, ignoring the smug smirk Brett gave him upon noticing.
They picked up their conversation from earlier with ease, waving and nodding in greeting to a few of their teammates, and introducing Brett to the few he hadn’t met yet. By the time the cafeteria had filled, every seat had been taken except the designated lacrosse seats leaving both Brett and him fidgety. The feeling didn’t last long though as the whole lot of them burst through the doors, drawing the attention from everyone momentarily, until they all turned back to their food and conversations.
Liam, Nolan, and Corey occupied the remaining seats at their table looking annoyed.
“I swear if I have to hear one more time about how coach plans on killing us if we lose, I’m going to lose my shit.” Corey commented and Nolan nodded in agreeance, eyes dancing over to Brett shyly from his seat across the table.
Liam huffed, drawing his attention away from the surprisingly entertaining Nolan-Brett stare fest.
He snickered, “You good lit-” he cut the nickname short, blanching at how freely his tongue seemed to have gotten over the course of the morning. Liam’s eyes bore into his and he swallowed, looking around the table to see if anyone had noticed. Brett and Nolan were still taking turns looking at the other while one of them was conveniently not looking, Josh and Donny were talking quietly to themselves not that he cared since he had only really been friends with them because of Gabe, but that brought him to Corey who had one eyebrow raised while he bit into his sandwich, watching their interaction like it was his favorite tv show. He cleared his throat and tried again, “You good Dunbar?”
The other boy just nodded and opened his brown paper bag pulling out chips, and apple, and three sandwiches. One of which he passed to Nolan with a pointed look earning an eye roll in return and then a small smile. Theo smiled internally at the interaction. Maybe his little wolf wasn’t so little anymore?
He kicked Brett’s chair breaking him out of his staring turn and introduced him to the three lacrosse players. Laughing when Corey made a suggestive joke and his boyfriend Mason popped out of nowhere, eyeing Brett and then nodding in approval before whispering something in Corey’s ear. Nolan, continued to do what he did best when it came to Brett, he just stared and Brett heatedly informed the table that they had already met. When it came to Liam, the two boys just looked at each other, almost as if they were appraising the other and looking to see if each was worthy. Worthy of what Theo would never know, eyebrows furrowing as he whipped his head back and forth between the two.
And then, like their standoff in the library this morning, Brett nodded at Liam in acceptance and Liam did the same. The pressure between them slipping away as if it had never happened, leaving Theo with some serious whiplash.
Lunch carried on smoothly from there. The two idiots leaving eventually to go sit with some other football people, their seats quickly being filled by Mason and a girl that he recognized but wasn’t familiar with, Cora Hale he thought.
Theo eventually laid his arms on the table in front of him, hands dangling off on both sides, and then rested his chin down on his arms. Happily watching everyone be friendly and cordial, laughing and smiling, like all the negativity had moved away with Gabe.
Liam shifted his chair closer to the table, the movement catching his attention from the corner of his eye, and then he felt the reason why Liam had scooted closer. Liam began playing with his fingers gently, their hands hidden from view from the rest of their friends. He shifted his head slightly so that he could look at him but not so much that it would like like he was focusing on him.
“Did you sleep?” Liam asked quietly so that only he could hear.
He bobbed his head up and down as best as he could in his position. Catching Liam’s fingers in his own and holding them there for a few seconds before squeezing and then letting them go. His eyes scanned the people sitting around them, trying to see if any of them knew, but they all seemed to be blissfully oblivious.
He turned more fully to Liam now, laying his head on its side and looking up at his face, a soft smile pulling at his lips as he did so. “Did you?” He rumbled, pawing at Liam’s strong fingers as they twirled around his.
“Mhmm.” Liam hummed. Eyes drawn to where they were touching. “Nightmares?” He whispered as if he was afraid to hear the answer.
“None.” He responded, breath hitching when Liam’s eyes shot up to his, twinkling beautifully.
Theo turned his head back to center, chin sitting atop his folded arms, hand still dangling allowing Liam to continue his exploration. Brett and Cora seemed to have hit it off, both enjoying that fact that they were relatively new. Nolan, Corey, and Mason were talking about some video game and their high scores which ended up in loud challenges to be played out over the weekend. Theo suddenly understood what Liam meant when Nolan forgot to eat. The kid had only gotten halfway through his food when the game conversation had started, and then it was long forgotten as he got more and more animated with his words.
He sighed. They’d have to work on it. Liam’s fingers were at his palm now, drawing lazy patterns and tracing the grooves and callouses from so much use. He could only imagine how it would feel if he was playing with his hair instead. He let his eyes flutter closed as he pictured it, matching it with the sensation Liam was creating at his wrist now. Pulling at the strands and scraping along his scalp and down the back of his neck. Shivers threatened to wrack his body but he held them back, not wanting to deter Liam from continuing his work on his wrist.
He was almost asleep, practically purring, when the bell rang loudly ending his euphoria. His fingers, hand, and wrist were all tingling and not from his arm being asleep now. Maybe tingling wasn’t the right way to put it, they were on fire, burning where Liam had touched him so tenderly.
And even though Liam’s fingers were gone now, he could still feel them, dancing over his skin and branding him.
He walked out of the cafeteria in a daze, the last one in their train with the three video game obsessed boys up front followed by Liam and behind him were Brett and Cora. They got to the hallway where they all normally split up but instead they all stood there. Finishing their conversations and for once in no hurry to leave each other’s company… it was nice.
Brett and Cora exchanged numbers after finding out they actually had a lot of similar classes and that they lived in the same neighborhood. The gauntlet had been thrown between Corey, Mason, and Nolan who were all now glaring at each other like they were each enemy number one, and he was leaning up against a set of lockers with a dumb smile on his face. The same one that he’d been sporting all day, and the same one that didn’t look like it was going to leave anytime soon.
Liam took the spot next to him, standing close enough to almost brush their shoulders together, but leaving a few inches of space while shaking his head at his friends in exasperation. Theo turned his head to the side and so did Liam, putting them in the exact same position as last night only this time they were surrounded by people.
“Right!” Cora clapped her hands together, seamlessly breaking him and Liam out of eye contact and it looks like Nolan and Brett along with Mason and Corey too. “I’m going to walk to class,” she said with a tone that Theo couldn’t place but it sounded irritated, “you all should probably do the same.” She looked at all of them and wrinkled her nose before spinning on her heel and stalking off.
Mason and Corey snicker before give each other a quick kiss and separating. Brett and Nolan do what has turned into the “Brett and Nolan” until Nolan blushes and then dashes off, leaving Brett looking adoringly after him.
“Good luck today.” Liam murmurs from beside him, suddenly looking shy. Theo wants to grab his hand, wants to pull him into a hug, but knows that he can’t… not here, not with all the eyes watching them.
Brett put a hand on his shoulder and Theo glanced up at him before turning back to Liam. “Knock ‘em dead little wolf.” He says, allowing himself to complete the nickname this time, not caring if Brett hears anymore.
If breakfast and memories were enough to make the morning speed by, then lunch was enough to get him through a whole week delightfully. Which is why when the final bell rang for the day, Theo was shocked. Not having remembered a single thing his teachers taught. Super unlike him.
The halls were full of energy, all of the boisterous students buzzing about and getting ready for the two big games about to take place. Theo made it to the locker room and before opening the door gave himself a mental shake. He had to be focused now, no more zoning out or day dreaming, no more anything until after the game. They had to win, he had to win.
With his game face now on he walked into the room, passing by teammates as they sat on benches or stood around in various stages of undress. They all nod or slap his back as he passed, a few yelling some ‘encouraging’ words to pump him up. But he needed none of those things.
He got to his stall, lifting his hand in hello to Brett before going about his game day ritual. No one bothering to break him from it once he started.
Theo popped his headphones in, put his phone on do not disturb, and pressed shuffle on his pump-up playlist. Starting with Back to Back by Drake, rapping along in his head as he stripped out of his clothes making sure to leave the thin gold necklace on. The one Tara had given him for his last birthday that she was alive for.
HUMBLE by Kendrick Lamar was next. He pulled the bottom half of his uniform on, lacing up his cleats, always starting with the left and then moving to the right. He tugged a tight under armour tank on and tucked his phone in the tight waistband of his pants before he stalked out to the field for warmups.
He and the backup QB, Garrett, threw back and forth warming up their arms before a couple running backs and receivers jogged over to run a few quick passing routes. Theo lost himself in his music and warmup, completing each pass with practiced efficiency. When he was covered in a thin layer of sweat he decided he was good to go and signaled to his teammates that he was done, lobbing one more long pass about fifty yards down the field. Nodding upon completion and then heading back to the locker room to finish his routine.
He sat on the bench in the empty locker room. Staring blankly at the painted metal locker stall in front of him. He blinked once, touched the necklace at his chest, and then let his eyes fall closed.
He talked to her. To Tara. Telling her everything that had taken place since the last time he had talked to her. About Liam and everything that had been going through his mind. About dad and his scary last encounter. How Dr. Geyer had been the one that called social services but he forgives him because he was only trying to help. He mentioned Melissa, and how he was fond of her, telling Tara that he wished he could have had a mother like her. All the while calming his breathing and letting all emotions flow out of him, keeping the only one he needed for the game; determination.
And this time, on the day where everything had already been going so right for him, it was like she spoke back. The last shuffled song on his playlist began and his eyes shot open. I Got the Juice by John Givez started pouring into his ears. The rapper preaching to Theo about how he came through on top. Encouraging him let himself have better, encouraging him to make his life better.
“Mother lover you gon' love this
Graduated from a rebel to a revolutionary
In my area they love this
I'mma wreck it, like, I'm revving the engine
Give me attention
Look at my soul
Look at my heart
Look at my hope
Got the world on my back, but, I carry it, though
Tell them God got my hand - I ain't letting it go ”
Theo looked up at the ceiling, not seeing the tiles, looking up towards his sister where he knew she was watching over him. He touched his necklace one more time. Okay, Tara. I’ll do this, I’ll live better. For you.
He dropped his head back down and finished the song. Ripping the buds out of his ears when the song finished. Noticing that the locker room was full now, everyone huddled around coach towards the middle of the room and waiting for him. No one dared to break him out of his routine now, the last time they did they had lost.
Coach’s pump up speech did nothing for him, he was ready. This game was his and he was going to make sure that everyone knew that by the time the final buzzer sounded.
The first quarter flew by, Devenford’s defense only allowing for one touchdown which had Theo severely pissed off. Beacon Hills’ defense was holding on but barely. Devenford was close to scoring, Theo could feel it. And just like that, he watched as the other team ran a trick play and slipped past the defensive line to run in and score. He swore as the visiting side of the stands erupted.
The second quarter was much like the first only brutal. Both teams hitting full force now, eager to be the ones that came out on top. They had only managed to score twice more which were both responded to by Devenford getting it right back. The BH stands cheered as their kicker made the ball soar through the two golden posts, referees stepping forward signaling the field goal was good, and putting BH hills in the lead now at 24-21.
Theo took a rough hit late in the third when his offensive lineman failed to block a tackle, and Dennford’s linebacker slipped through bringing him to the ground harshly. He could hear the crowd gasp as pain radiated up his side. It took him a minute to get up, but through practiced breathing and a big mental shove, he got to his feet and staggered to the sidelines.
He walked carefully behind the benches, ripped his helmet off, and leaned over to wheeze through the pain. “Raeken! You good?” His coach called, pushing a trainer towards him. He waved both men off and stood back to full height.
“Fine, just need to catch my breath!” He lied through his teeth. It was a pain he’d experienced before and nothing he couldn’t live with. Normally he’d have his ribs wrapped tightly, the pressure keeping him from hurting too much but if he told anyone he would be out for the rest of the game, maybe even the month. Which was not an option for him.
So instead he started pacing, trying to pull in deep breaths of air, willing the pain to subside. He had fumbled the ball when he got hit so his defense was on the field buying him time at the moment but he needed a plan and he needed one fast. And then his angel was by his side.
“You cracked a rib didn’t you?” She asked angrily as she tugged at his jersey. He bit his lip debating on telling her the truth but gave in and nodded upon seeing the look on her face. “You have to tell them, Theo.”
“No!” He yelled before he could check himself and accidentally drew the attention of one of his coaches. “Mrs. McCall, please, I need to play. I have to play.” He cried, begging her to understand.
“Ma’am you can’t be down here.” The coach said once he had reached them.
Theo’s eyes widened at the scathing look she gave the man, who apparently knew what was good for him and took a step back. “I’m his guardian, and I’m checking to make sure that he’s okay. Is that going to be a problem Ron or do I have to call your wife and tell her about your little cholesterol issue.” She spat raising both brows and daring his coach to tell her to leave.
“You have until he needs to be back on the field.” The man grumbled before he hobbled back to the sidelines to yell at the players on the field.
“Guardian?” He asked through the biting pain.
She shook her head and stomped over to the trainer, ripping what she needed out of his bag as he stood there dumbfounded, and then yanked Theo, roughly might he add, towards the tunnel to give them some cover.
She lifted his jersey so she could get to work wrapping him up. He hissed and gasped the whole time, letting out jagged breaths each time she pulled the binding tighter. “You promise to come see me after the game?”
“I promise I’ll come straight to you!” He panted.
Melissa clipped the last of the bandage and secured it before nodding. Theo let out all the air he had been holding and sighed minimally when it didn’t hurt as bad anymore. “Thank you.” He said and then leaned forward to kiss her forehead, all reservations he had from this morning on how to say goodbye to her now gone. He had promised Tara to live and he was going to start with the woman that had taken care of him for so long.
“Mhm.” She grunted. Not happy at all.
“Raeken! Where in the hell is Raeken! Raeken!” He heard his coach bellow and he took off.
The pain was near blinding but he played through it as if his life depended on it, because in reality it kind of did. If he could pull this off he would have at least a couple offers from colleges, hopefully some far far away from here.
It was the last drive, eight seconds left on the clock and they were down by six. One touch down, that’s all they needed. One more play, that’s all he had to make it happen.
Brett popped up next to him in the huddle, “remember the play we talked about this morning?” Their teammates looked at them in confusion but he nodded. “Let’s do it.”
He shook his head. “Dude, no. We haven’t practiced it.”
“Theo we have to. They know our plays, they know us, we can’t beat them unless we do something insane.” The rest of the team agreed, all looking at Theo for the final decision.
“Fine.” He said and called out the play that he and Brett had based their own trick play on. Everything would be the same for their teammates, the only difference was Brett would take the snap and then pitch it to Theo, who would then throw down the field back to Brett. Diversion was what they called it.
Brett called it, catching the ball as it was snapped into his hands perfectly, and then tossing it laterally to Theo who was more than ready. It looked like a scramble, no one on either team knew what was happening, everyone now just running around trying to find a different color jersey to cover while Brett streaked down the field breaking away from everyone.
Theo cocked his arm back, ignoring the numbing pain shooting through his body, and hurled the ball the best he could. Falling back with a thud, wincing, but immediately sitting up to watch the perfectly spiraled ball fall into Brett’s graceful hands as he crossed into the end zone.
He flopped back, again wincing, as everyone around him exploded. Screaming, cheering, rushing the field. A few of his teammates picked him up and he groaned. Fuck that hurt but he welcomed their hugs and joyous chants.
They won. He couldn’t believe it.
He looked over to the lacrosse field to find it empty, their game having finished before the football team’s ending which explained the student rush to the field upon scoring the winning touchdown. A glance at their scoreboard told him that Liam had won as well and he smiled, before he was being picked up and tossed in the air like some god damn rag doll.
By the time he convinced everyone to put him the fuck down he was close to tears and breathing raggedly. As much as he wanted to celebrate, he had to get away from everyone, and there was really only one person he wanted to celebrate with anyways. Apart from Melissa, who would be waiting for him in the parking lot.
He started making his way to the locker room slowly, trying not to jar himself any more than he already had. Biting down on his lip roughly when someone threw their arm around him.
“Where are you going?” Brett rushed, face bright in exuberance. Theo carefully shrugged out of his hold.
“Cracked a rib,” he choked out, beginning to feel the full effect of his decision not to call it quits when it had happened, “gotta go sit or something.”
“Jesus, and you played like that?” Brett scoffed, immediately wrapping his arm around him and assisting him to his destination. Theo shooed him away once he was seated on the bench in front of his stall.
“Go celebrate, have fun, I’ll call you tomorrow.” He groaned.
Brett frowned. “You sure?” He asked, looking like he was planning on doing the opposite and staying next to Theo.
“Yes.” He hissed, needing some time alone to collect himself. Brett put a light hand on his shoulder pads and then was gone.
Once he was alone he sighed in relief, letting a broken cough/sob escape him. He clenched his jaw tightly and used one arm, his good side, to very carefully undress. He didn’t want to undo the bindings, knowing full well what would happen when he did. But they were sweaty and disgusting and he’d much rather be in pain for a bit than have that sitting on his skin like some sort of wet blanket.
He showered, whimpering whenever he pushed himself too far, but getting the job done in only a few minutes more than normal. Theo dressed roughly, forgoing underwear as that meant bending over twice and just pulling his jeans over his bare skin and throwing a loose hoodie on over his naked chest. His boots were a little more difficult. He got them half laced before he said fuck it and left them open.
Theo pushed out of the locker room just as the rest of the team started spilling in, ready to shower and head to whoever was throwing the party’s house. He silently slipped away, happy to have been overlooked in their excitement.
He took the back hallways, hoping not to run in to anyone on his way to the parking lot. Slowing down as he saw the lacrosse locker room door open, spitting Liam and Nolan out. Nolan saw him first. His bright smile becoming bigger after spotting him and whispering something to Liam before shouting out a congrats and slinking away down the hall and out of sight.
Liam stood there with a light expression on his face as Theo approached him.
“Congrats.” Theo said as pleasantly as possible given his circumstances. Liam let his head fall to the side a little, looking at him like he was a puzzle to be solved. Eyes narrowing a fraction before he righted himself.
“Thanks, you too.” Liam looked up at him then, through his lashes, the way that killed Theo every fucking time he did it. “Your last play was sick.”
“You watched?” He breathed, eyes flickering between Liam’s trying to read them.
Liam nodded and smiled. “You were amazing.” He couldn’t help it then. It was like the Kool-Aid incident all over again. He grabbed his shoulders and pushed him against the wall, mewling at the pain splintering within him, but pressing his lips against Liam’s despite it.
He slid his hands up his neck and held his head in place. Licking across the seam of Liam’s mouth, asking to be allowed entry. Liam let him in and their tongues met softly, caressing each other before locking their lips together. They repeated that a few times until Liam finally brought his hands up to Theo’s sides, fisting in his hoodie and pulling him closer.
Unfortunately, the jolting movement angered his cracked rib, making him sputter in pain. Theo dropped his head to Liam’s shoulder and tried to calm his breathing and listening to Liam pant in his ear was not helping.
“Did I do something wrong?” Liam asked nervously.
He picked his head up, smiled as softly as he could and shook his head. “No, no. Just took a bad hit is all. You were perfect.” He tried to keep his words even as best he could, not wanting Liam to know the full extent of his pain, not wanting to worry him. He placed a gentle kiss against his lips again. “I have to go.” He whispered as he dropped his forehead to Liam’s.
The light in his little wolf’s eyes dulled a fraction so he brushed their noses together and then like he did to Melissa, pressed a kiss to his forehead. Holding his lips there for longer than he did with Mrs. McCall only parting when Liam dropped his face down to Theo’s chest and sighed.
Theo squeezed his eyes shut and screwed his jaw tight as Liam leaned his weight into him and wrapped his arms around him in a hug. He held his breath but enfolded Liam in his arms, blinking passed the pain until he couldn’t take it anymore and pushed back.
He leaned forward one last time, closing the distance between them, and kissing Liam lingeringly before he stepped back. “See ya later, little wolf.”
He didn’t wait for Liam to respond. As much as he wanted to, he had to go see Melissa before he lost it. But that didn’t stop him from running his fingers over his lips the whole way out to the parking lot and the whole way to her house as he sat in the passenger seat grimacing every time his truck hit a bump.
He had kissed Liam, and Liam had kissed him back. He had won the biggest game of his high school career. And now, as he laid in the guest bed at Melissa’s house, he realized he might actually have a safe place to stay too. The high from this trifecta carried him into second night of peaceful sleep.
Chapter 23: I Kissed A Boy
This chapter is unedited but I just can't look at it anymore so please forgive me for all the mistakes.
Liam woke in a mess of limbs tangled in blankets and pillows, just like every morning. Only this one was different… he frowned at the time, he never woke up before his alarm, especially not this wide awake and ready to go. Interesting, he thought as he untangled the sheets from his legs and lifted himself into a sitting position against his headboard.
He shifted side to side sighing blissfully when his back and neck popped like Theo had taught him. Speaking of, he looked down at the maroon jersey he had decided to keep on just before falling asleep. It had stretched out over the course of yesterday and the previous night, leaving it just slightly too big, slipping off of one shoulder and dangling loosely at the top of his thighs.
“Liam?” His mother’s voice sounded as she opened his door, making him jump and pull the blankets up over his lower half. Not that he was indecent or she hadn’t seen him naked before, but this felt different… it felt… intimate? What the hell?
“Yeah?” He croaked out, not sure exactly what was going on with him today. First the alarm clock thing, then his strange protectiveness towards a freaking jersey, and now his mom checking on him which she never did unless he failed to get up for his alarm.
She poked her head in, found him sitting up, and walked in more confidently upon seeing him mostly awake. She made her way over to his blinds, opening them and letting the first rays of sunlight filter through. “I made breakfast, baby.” She said softly before planting a kiss to his head and walking back towards the hallway. “Get dressed and come down when you’re ready.”
He nodded even though she couldn’t see it, waiting for his door to click shut behind her before he stood and quickly pulled a pair of sweats on. He looked down at Theo’s jersey and frowned. He wanted to keep it on but knew he had a habit of being a messy eater so he swapped it out for one of the many tshirts laying on his floor.
Liam brushed his teeth even though he would brush them again after he ate, morning breath was a real thing and he didn’t feel like being a complete ogre this morning. He pounced down the stairs eagerly, in search for the mouthwatering smell of bacon and pancakes that had assaulted him as soon as his mom had opened his door.
“Where’s dad?” He inquired as he filled two glasses full with orange juice while his mom piled two plates high with food.
She smiled warmly at him for his use of ‘dad’, probably still not used to hearing it since it was a fairly recent development. “He got called in for a consult early this morning,” he was reaching for an extra strip of bacon when a spatula came down on his hand making him screech and cradle the poor limb, the woman always had eyes in the back of her head, “he wanted me to tell you good luck today and that he will be in the stands cheering you on. We both will.” She finished and shooed him away from the fresh batch of pancakes towards the table where his plate was already waiting for him.
Liam pouted, both at his dad’s absence on game day and for being turned away from food. His mother sighed with an eye roll and handed him a side plate of potatoes that she had been hiding from him. “But he also said that those words probably wouldn’t be enough and to tell you that he was going to call you before the game.” He smiled then. Happy because his dad knew him and because he got more food.
Their breakfast was full of light hearted banter and teasing like it always had been, even before David Geyer came into their lives, and it made Liam feel whole.
With a full stomach and a carefree attitude to start the day off, Liam pulled his jeans and favorite lacrosse shirt on before grabbing his backpack and boots and heading out the door to Mason’s waiting car.
His friend happily chatted away with Corey in the front seat, only looking for his input when the two remembered he was there. Liam didn’t mind, he was glad that his friend had found someone so special, he also was just content with enjoying their company and being left to his own thoughts. The two of them were self-sustainable and didn’t need him to entertain them.
When they got to school, Liam got out first, leaving the couple do whatever it was that they did before class. Liam moved about the halls more confidently than the past few days. Finally feeling a bit at ease and more normal as people smiled at him and wished him luck instead of cowering and staring.
And not that he’d admit it but his eyes kept filtering through the crowds, hunting for a certain green eyed football player, but not allowing himself to be upset when he didn’t see him. You’ll see him at lunch, he promised himself and worked his way through the full hallways to his first class.
Mason sat down next to him like always, his lips looking a little fuller than they did in the car. Liam just smirked and raised a brow to which Mason snickered and shook his head bashfully, averting his eyes and opening the textbook that Liam knew he had memorized at this point.
“So things are good then?” He asked, voice blending in with the thrum from the other students before the bell rang.
Mason looked up at him with a dopey smile on his face and nodded. “Very. You?” He questioned in return. Liam also smiled and nodded before turning to pick at a piece of skin hanging from one of his fingers. “You know it’s okay that you don’t want to tell me everything? I don’t mind that you’ve grown closer to Nolan and that Theo has made a somewhat comeback into your life, you know that right?” Mason added softly.
Liam looked up at him guilty, he knew that he and Mason hadn’t talked like they used to in a while… knew this conversation was coming. They weren’t freshman outcasts anymore. Mason had Corey, which is why he was so happy for his friend, and he had lacrosse and Nolan.
He breathed a sigh of relief. “I know. And you know that I’m so happy for you and Corey right?” Mason grinned, a toothy one that made his eyes light up.
“I love him.” He whispered and then looked Liam seriously. ‘You’ll always be one of my best friends you know, this changes nothing. Us separating at the end of this year changes nothing.” It was like a weight he didn’t know was there lifted off his chest.
He bobbed his head up and down, patted Mason on the back, and then shook his head. “Are we done being mushy now? I’m supposed to be getting in the zone.” He joked, laughing at Mason’s relieved expression.
“Yes, I love you dude… but being soft with you is weird.” Mason agreed. Liam just laughed some more. This was the Mason that he knew and he was happy to be back on familiar ground with him.
Class began and shocker, he was lost within the first five minutes, relying on Mason to carry him through the lab that they had to conduct. And per usual, Mason got annoyed with him quickly and insisted on doing the work himself, only asking him to hold something whenever Mrs. Finch made her rounds to make it look like Liam was participating.
The bell rang just as Mason was wrapping up their experiment, letting Liam quickly scribble down the same notes on his worksheet before they turned it in and filed out of the room.
In the hallway, Liam just rolled his eyes as Nolan breezed in, hair still wet from a fresh shower. “No first period today?” Liam called out already knowing that Nolan never made it to school on time, let alone on game days.
“Mr. Yukimura and I have an understanding.” Nolan said as he slowed to a stop in front of him. “I maintain an A in his class and he doesn’t comment on my tardiness.”
“Convenient.” He spoke before heading towards his next class, Nolan in tow because their next rooms were right next to each other. “I wish Mrs. Finch was the same.” Mason snorted next to them.
“That would mean you would actually have to try and pay attention.”
Liam deadpanned. “Now why would I do that when I have you?” Mason narrowed his eyes a fraction before silently shaking his head and veering off towards the other side of the building.
“Later!” He called earning just a dismissive hand wave from the boy.
“So what’d you do last night?” Nolan asked lightly with a hint of a knowing in his tone.
He side eyed his friend before answering. “Hunter’s and then bed.” He shrugged, “The usual.” Nolan snorted and Liam narrowed his eyes. Oh, he wanted to play this game? Liam felt the smirk growing on his face.
“How did you get home Nolan?” He asked, extremely pleased when Nolan squeaked and the blood drained from his face.
“Would you look at that, time for class.” His friend rushed and then shot off towards his class leaving Liam chuckling.
“That’s what I thought.” He mumbled to himself and then entered his own second period.
Before he knew it, it was time for lunch and he was jittery. Every fiber of his being ready to see if Theo had kept his promise. Only to be disappointed when Coach Finstock was waiting for him and the rest of the team at the doors to the lunch room, calling a mandatory meeting.
The crazed man was more eccentric than usual as he flung his arms about threatening dooms day should they lose tonight. Liam’s knee bounced up and down in rapid succession, his anxiety growing the longer he sat there waiting to be released. With a glance at Nolan he could see that the kid was in the same state, chewing his already torn up lips with the little fang-like teeth that he had. And Corey, well Corey just looked bored, expression blank as coach raged on.
Finally, finally, the nut job let them go. But only because one of his teammates said that if he didn’t eat that he was going to bench himself, earning a bunch of groans in hungry agreement.
The team hurried to the cafeteria, impatient to get to their food. Liam was eager for a whole different reason. His heart exploding in his chest and making his breath catch when he finally spotted Theo, laughing freely at something that Brett had said to him. A certain carefree air around him that Liam hadn’t seen in a while. He looked at ease… he looked happy.
Liam, Nolan, and Corey filled the remaining chairs at the table. All of them sinking into the hard seats, sighing in various states of relief. Corey groaned something about Coach and he just pushed a breath out, not wanting to think about that anymore. He had gotten plenty in the locker-room just minutes ago.
Next to him, Theo chuckled. “You good lit-” but the words cut off abruptly. Liam snapped his head towards Theo, locking eyes with him, not believing what had almost come out of his mouth in front of everyone. Theo had always reserved it for just them, except for his parents and the whole allergic reaction debacle that took place last week, and then again in the hallway when he got back from the cabin but that had been just them in their bubble. God that felt like a lifetime ago. Liam watched Theo’s eyes shift around the table, checking to see if anyone had noticed. He didn’t care, he just wanted to hear Theo call him that again. Craving the words and the feeling it brought him when he said it. “You good Dunbar?” Theo eventually broke out and he just nodded, sad that Theo wanted to cover it up.
He reached into his lunch bag and pulled out the contents, passing the extra sandwich he had packed to Nolan. Making sure to tell him to eat it with his eyes as to not embarrass him in front of everyone. Nolan scoffed but then gave him a small smile and the smallest nudge with his foot under the table before they boy’s eyes looked over to Brett under his lashes, shyly checking to see if he was still looking at him. He was. Liam rolled his eyes.
Theo broke the comfortable silence around them, introducing Brett to everyone. In true Corey fashion, he made a sexual joke that made everyone snort and Mason pop out of nowhere. Liam swore that those two had the ability to turn invisible. When it came to Nolan, he blushed when Brett mentioned that they already knew each other, making Liam hold back a laugh. He’d have to ask Nolan what really happened after the pep really, because it was obvious that something took place.
And then Brett was being introduced to him. He stared intently at the tall boy next to Theo. Studying him and trying to figure out if he was going to be another Gabe. Wondering if he was going to be a good friend to Theo, wondering if he was going to hurt Nolan, wondering if he could trust him around the people he would do anything for. Which he made sure to convey with his eyes, waiting until Theo was busy looking between them to let his gaze flicker to Theo and Nolan and then back to Brett in silent question.
Brett met his gaze dead on, not flinching away but not challenging him either. Studying him in return and then moving his eyes between Theo and Nolan returning back to him with a small smile. A comforting gesture, one that told him he had nothing to worry about. So he returned the grin and finally nodded in muted acceptance.
Everyone seemed to be having a peaceful lunch except for the other two football players at the table who everyone chose to ignore anyways. Thankfully, they both got up after a while but their seats weren’t left vacant for too long. Mason slid in next to Corey and Cora, a newer girl, plopped down in between Mason and Brett. He hadn’t really gotten to know her very well but she seemed nice and Mason had taken a liking to her so she couldn’t be too crazy.
Liam was mid conversation with Nolan about something stupid when Theo perched his head on his arms on the table in front of them. Looking completely at ease and just content to watch everyone around them getting along, like all of the animosity over the past few years had taken a toll on him. And maybe it had, Liam immediately felt a large sense of regret for contributing to it and itched to fix it.
He scooted his chair closer to the table, effectively hiding the lower half of his arms and ran his fingers over Theo’s. Gently at first, making sure the boy next to him wasn’t going to pull away, but then more confidently when he didn’t. He felt Theo look at him from the corner of his eye but didn’t dare meet his gaze, not yet.
Liam continued to pull at and caress Theo’s fingers as he spoke. “Did you sleep?” He asked, the question had been burning in his mind all day. Wondering if Theo would keep the promise he made like he used to.
Theo jerked his head up and down awkwardly from where it rested on his arms. Liam let go of a breath he didn’t know he had been holding. Warmth sliding through his veins at the thought of Theo doing something for him again.
Theo’s hand closed around his then, enveloping it in a comfortable hold momentarily before squeezing it and letting go, allowing Liam to continue his work on memorizing the dips and grooves that sat on each finger.
The raspy voice broke him out of his thoughts and made him glance up, finding Theo facing him and looking at him with sparkling eyes.
“Did you?” He returned. Liam let his eyes fall back down to watch their fingers and hands tangle together. The sight almost memorizing and giving him time to answer and prepare for his next question.
“Mhmm.” He hummed. Liam swallowed, nerves suddenly appearing and souring his stomach, hoping that his next inquiry wouldn’t make Theo upset. “Nightmares?” He whispered as if he was afraid to hear the answer.
“None.” He responded evenly and Liam couldn’t help but snap his eyes up to meet Theo’s. He wanted to hug him so bad. A nightmare free night was always something to celebrate with Theo. Or at least it used to be.
Theo looked away first, dragging his head off its side and placing his chin back down on his arms, openly watching the rest of their friends around them. But he left his hand dangling over the edge. A gesture that Liam took as an invitation to continue his examination, one in which he accepted happily. Allowing his fingers to slide higher, passed Theo’s rough fingers into his palm where he massaged the calloused skin.
Liam looked up periodically, checking to make sure that no one was watching him. Nolan had looked at him once, a smile tugging at his lips, before he turned and pulled Mason and Corey into a very deep conversation about some video game that they all had been playing. When he moved further up Theo’s limb to his wrist, he noticed that the football player had his eyes closed, a blissful look on his face and goosebumps prickling his skin every few minutes.
He was enthralled. Determined actually, to find out what made Theo shiver and what made him smile. He found that when he scratched his nails lightly across the delicate skin of Theo’s wrist, the boy practically purred and tilted his head slightly, almost as if he was asking for Liam to do it there. He wanted to, god did he want to run his fingers through Theo’s hair, but now wasn’t the time or place. It was longer than it used to be when they were kids, tendrils floating down and resting just to the side of his eyes, asking to be pushed back.
Liam jumped when the bell rang, breaking their moment of unexpected tenderness. He pouted briefly as he pulled his hand away. Making sure to scratch across the skin one last time before dropping his buzzing fingers to his side and gathering up the remains of his barely eaten lunch.
He wasn’t sure how exactly they had all ended up in the hall, mind completely racing with how lost he seemed to become in Theo… in public, but here they were. Brett and Cora in amicable conversation while his three friends bickered about high scores on a video game that he would no doubt be hearing about after the weekend. And then there was Theo, calmly leaning up against a set of lockers watching everyone just as he had during lunch.
Liam bit his tongue and sidled up next to Theo, leaning back to rest against the lockers close enough so that they were almost touching, and then turned to look at him. Theo must have sensed his stare because he turned his head to meet Liam’s gaze. They did it again, got lost in each other, forgetting they were in school surrounded by lots of people until Cora spoke.
“Right!” Cora clapped her hands together, seamlessly breaking him and Theo out of eye contact and it looks like Nolan and Brett along with Mason and Corey too. “I’m going to walk to class, you all should probably do the same.” She looked at all of them with a pointed look and then she was on her way down the hallway to her class.
Everyone did their own version of saying goodbye. For Mason and Corey, it was a kiss and for Nolan and Brett it was a long heated stare which Nolan ended up breaking and practically running away with a heavy blush. Liam pushed off the lockers and Theo followed suit, coming to stand in front of him.
“Good luck today.” He managed to get out, dropping his eyes briefly before looking up at Theo with a blush of his own creeping up on his face annoyingly.
Theo nodded and then his favorite smirk appeared. “Knock ‘em dead little wolf.” He said and Liam’s stomach flipped. He said it in front of someone, someone who wasn’t his parents. And then he watched as Theo walked away from him.
“He’s broken, and I may not have known him for very long… but if you make it worse consider yourself enemy number one.” Brett’s smile from earlier was gone when Liam whipped his head around at the threatening words.
Liam scowled. What the fuck did he know about Theo and what the fuck gave him the right? “Likewise, if you fuck up with Nolan.” He gritted out.
Brett and him continued their stare down from lunch for a few moments and then it was like the dark storm clouds drifted away and the bright airy smile was back on the taller boy’s face. “You’re feisty, I like it.” He teased and ruffled Liam’s hair.
He slapped at Brett’s hand. “Football players, you’re all the fucking same.” He grumbled before making his own way to class, ignoring Brett’s laugh behind him.
“Oh c’mon now Liam, don’t be like that, you know you love us!” Liam grunted and had to fight the urge to tense at the use of ‘L’ word. So instead he just hurried his ass faster down the hall, glaring at anyone who dared to stare too long.
They had won. They had fucking won. How, he had no idea.
The game had been scary intense. Each goal being answered quickly, leaving Beacon Hills and Devenford tied for the majority of the game. Nolan had scored the game winning goal after a hard pass from him, and then it had been time to play defense. He had never been so nervous in his life. Every second on the clock hanging over his head like an axe until the timer read 0:00 and the final alarm sounded.
The team was quickly enveloped in a throng of fans, hugs and laughter all around, until they heard the crowd from the football field erupt and they all rushed over to watch the last of their new found friends’ game.
Liam got there just in time to watch Brett take the snap, which was weird because he was pretty sure that that was Theo’s job… but then he watched in awe as the ball ended up in Theo’s hands and he pitched the ball into the air. Time seemed to crawl by as the football spiraled towards the opposite end of the field and then in slow motion land in Brett’s waiting hands returning to full speed as the kid ran into the end zone.
He smiled, Theo had done it. He had won them the game along with Brett. The lacrosse team all parted the mass of students and parents on their way to their locker room. Wanting to get cleaned up and to the party first. Liam let his teammates shower before him, he wasn’t going to the party and therefore in no hurry and didn’t feel like being rushed in the shower.
Nolan joined him, laying on the bench next to him and closing his eyes.
“You’re not in a hurry to get out of here?” Liam asked as he scrolled through his phone, briefly reading through texts the a few scouts had sent congratulating him on his team’s victory.
“You know I don’t really like parties.” Nolan said on a sigh, sitting up when half the team paraded out of the showers. “Finally.” He said before grabbing the towel he had used as a pillow and marched into the steamy side-room.
Liam put his phone down and followed him. He took his time in the warm spray. Washing away all of the sweat and grime and allowing himself to breathe deeply. The biggest game of his life was now over and he had to calm his body and mind down to keep him in a healthy place.
The two finished showering and padded out to dry off and get dressed, pleased to find the locker room empty and quiet. Nolan asked him if he wanted to come over and hang out but he had already promised his parents dinner after the game. He invited Nolan to join but the kid laughed and said that he had to get started on beating Mason and Corey’s game scores.
He teased him for being such a dork and Nolan just laughed as they left the locker room, spilling out into the hall where Nolan’s face brightened at the person walking towards them. Liam turned to look at who it was and had to bite his lip, Theo approached freshly showered and slightly brooding and it was enough to make his stomach drop but in the good way.
“Congrats.” Theo said after Nolan had said his goodbyes, but there was something off in his voice. Liam looked at him, his eyes weren’t as bright and he was slightly more pale than usual. Maybe he was just tired from the game, it was completely understandable since he felt drained as well. Liam looked down at the floor for a second.
“Thanks, you too.” And then he lifted his eyes, looking up at Theo shyly because they were alone now. “Your last play was sick.”
“You watched?” He breathed in surprise.
Liam nodded and smiled. “You were amazing.” And then he was being pushed against the lockers behind him. Theo pressed their lips together and Liam’s body was on fire.
Theo slid his hands up his neck and held his head in place. His warm tongue darting out across the seam of his mouth, asking to be allowed entry. Liam let him in and their tongues met softly, caressing each other before locking their lips together. Once his brain finally caught up he dropped his bag and fisted his hands in Theo’s sweatshirt, pulling him closer in attempt to keep him from pushing away like he did last time.
Theo made a small noise and broke the kiss, resting his head on Liam’s shoulder, leaving him panting and allowing time for dread to swirl within him.
“Did I do something wrong?” He asked nervously.
Theo picked his head up, smiled as softly as he could and shook his head. “No, no. Just took a bad hit is all. You were perfect.” He pressed a soft kiss to his lips and right when Liam went to deepen it, he pulled away again. “I have to go.” He whispered as he dropped his forehead to Liam’s.
Liam felt the fire within in him ebb, and he pouted. He must have done something wrong. Maybe kissing boys was different than kissing girls, maybe you had to do something different. Theo cut his thoughts short when he brushed their noses together a few times and then gently placed his lips to his forehead.
He closed his eyes and sighed. Liam dropped his head to Theo’s chest and removed his hands from the sweatshirt as he wrapped his arms around Theo, pulling him even closer. He shivered when Theo finally hugged him back and a rumble escaped his throat. But then he was pulling away again. Leaving Liam standing upright by himself.
Theo leaned forward one last time, closing the distance between them, and kissing Liam lingeringly before he stepped back. “See ya later, little wolf.” Liam held his breath as he watched the boy walk away from him again.
It took him a few minutes but Liam finally pulled himself together and walked out to the parking lot to his parents waiting car. He climbed in and sat silently in the back, running his fingers over his lips in effort to keep the warmth there, his parents chatting away happily in the front.
Before he knew it, they were sitting in a booth of some restaurant that he hadn’t paid attention to upon arriving, and his mom was snapping her fingers in front of his face.
“Liam, honey, are you okay? We’ve been trying to get your attention for the past few minutes…” Liam looked up to his parent’s faces reading the concern there and shook his head.
“Sorry, just a little tired.” He smiled as best as he could and they smiled back at him.
“Rightfully so little man, you played one hell of a game!” His dad complimented.
They talked about lacrosse and such until their food arrived, Liam had been halfway through his food when the words just came out. Not being able to hold it in anymore.
“I kissed a boy.”
Chapter 24: Heaven Sent
Shout out to Sofia for providing the gif inspo.
And Alicia and Ashlee for encouragement to finish this one.
Y’all the best :*
Nolan cleared the corner and then stopped his feet from carrying him any further. He knew he shouldn’t, he really shouldn’t snoop on what his best friend was doing, but he just couldn’t help himself. He had to know if they were finally going to drop the act and give in. Which is why when he peered back around the corner and proceeded to watch Theo and Liam talk quietly, he didn’t feel too bad. That was of course, until he was caught in the act.
“What are we looking at?” A honeyed voice sounded behind him at the same time as he felt a strong body press against his. Nolan jumped and had to contain the squeak that almost slipped passed his lips. Hands landed on his hips to steady him.
“Jesus!” He hissed turning halfway to look up at the tall beautiful boy that had scared him half to death and then quickly back down the hallway to make sure that he hadn’t disturbed Liam and Theo’s moment.
“You’re a skittish little thing aren’t you?” Brett murmured behind him just as he watched Theo push Liam against the lockers and pull him in for a kiss. Nolan turned quickly, a blush on his face, feeling like he had intruded in something even though it’s the whole reason he had been spying in the first place and glanced up at the angel before him.
He shrugged and dropped his eyes, pushing passed the large frame and walking towards the parking lot. Brett easily fell into step beside him, his long legs carrying him farther than Nolan’s quick steps could separate them.
Brett brushed their arms together as they approached the double doors leading outside. “You’re doing it again.” He commented, and Nolan could feel his eyes studying him.
“Doing what?” He breathed, pausing to look up at Brett, not sure what he was talking about.
“Hiding from me.”
Nolan opened his mouth to speak but found himself short on words. “No, I’m not.” He finally managed and slipped through the door with Brett hot on his heels.
Brett chuckled behind him before coming to stand next to him on the curb as he searched for his mom’s car.
“That’s why you will barely look at me and keep walking away from me like you did last night right?”
Nolan sighed, okay so maybe he had a point. He just wasn’t sure what someone like Brett wanted from him. And whatever is was… he didn’t know if he’d be able to give it without losing himself again.
“I’m sorry.” He whispered and looked up into Brett’s crystal irises, getting lost exactly how he had at the pep rally, finding himself smiling lightly to match the one on Brett’s face.
And then the moment was lost when Brett opened his mouth next. “Whoever hurt you seriously fucked up.”
Nolan dropped the smile and his eyes again, searching more intently for any car that looked familiar at this point. Not surprised that he didn’t find one, everyone was gone, on their way to a party, and here he was… forgotten yet again.
“Want a ride?” Brett offered.
He could walk home, he’d done it before, it wasn’t too far. But something in him balked at the idea. So he looked over to the boy next to him and nodded.
Brett gently placed his hand on Nolan’s lower back, a gesture so intimate that Nolan felt goosebumps immediately cover his flesh under the warm hand and he fought the urge to shiver. He led him to a newer jeep sitting in the corner of the parking lot. Removing his hand as he walked to the driver’s side and leaving Nolan to shake his head in attempt to regather himself.
The car ride to his house was mostly silent aside from him mumbling directions every few minutes and the barely audible music playing through the speakers. They pulled up into the driveway of his house; the windows dark and eerie signaling the lack of people inside. Meaning his parents probably stayed late at work again. He gazed at the empty house for a few seconds before reaching for the door handle hesitantly.
“Want to hangout for a little bit?” Brett asked quietly, breaking the tense silence.
“You’re not going to the party?” He inquired in return, and in response the boy just shook his head. Nolan chewed on his lip, well, no point in sitting in his room alone for the millionth time when he had someone offering to spend time with him. “Sure.”
Brett turned his car off and they both climbed out, making their way up the front steps where Nolan unlocked the door and pushed in, flicking on lights as he walked through the sullen home. He felt a wave of self-consciousness wash over him as he turned to find Brett studying the space, looking at the only two pictures of their family hanging on the wall and then over to him, he smiled at Nolan and Nolan felt himself warm up. The usual cold empty feeling of the house slinking away.
“They go out to celebrate your win?” Brett asked nodding to the wedding picture of his parents.
“They work a lot.” He said coldly, conveying his detachment from his parents in the single sentence. “What about yours, won’t they wonder where you are?”
Brett smiled weakly and looked back at the photo before moving away from it and coming to stand in front of him.
“They’re in a better place.” He said almost inaudibly.
Something in Nolan’s stomach soured. The look of pure grief on Brett’s face made him sick and he oddly felt the need to comfort the boy he barely knew. “I’m so sorry.”
“It’s okay, I have my sister and we’re good.” He said nonchalantly brushing it off even though his hurt was evident and then he changed the subject. “Wanna play video games or something? I vaguely remember hearing that you had a high score to beat at lunch.”
His sassy smile back on his face, calming Nolan, as they were back on familiar ground… or at least familiar to them. Looks like he wasn’t the only one that kept a mask on in front of others.
“Yeah come on, console is in my room.”
They trudged up the stairs to the small cozy bedroom that he spent most of his time in. Nolan immediately became self-conscious all over again of all of the things that currently littered his room. He opened the door coming face to face with everything that made him, him.
One wall was completely covered with a bookshelf that he had built by himself one weekend when his parents had gone away, full of books that he had read and still had yet to open. On the opposite wall his desk and dresser sat, the latter holding a decent sized tv on top along with a bunch of game cases and his game console. And then directly in front of them stood his bed, a dark wood queen sized bed, with a string of small lights shining and twinkling on top of the headboard. He didn’t care if they were ‘girly’, he liked the soft light and warmth they gave off.
“So this is it… it’s not much but its…” Nolan trailed off looking between his room and Brett’s face shyly.
“Warm. It’s warm.” Brett finished for him with a smile and brushed passed him to enter.
The self-conscious feeling quickly fled, and all Nolan felt was happiness that someone else understood what he was going for. He closed his door and then went to power up the game system as Brett trailed his fingers over some of the books, inspecting the titles and smirking every now and again.
Nolan kicked his shoes off, tossed his lacrosse bag and stick in the corner, and plopped down on his bed. The creaking from the old frame drew Brett’s attention and Nolan held up a controller to him in offering. Brett left the bookshelf and gingerly sat down next to him, thighs touching as they both settled in, trying to find comfortable positions to sit in for a while.
They had been playing for about two hours and Nolan decided he had never felt so comfortable in his own home. The sliver of awkwardness between them disintegrating the longer they sat there. The uncomfortable feeling being replaced by playful banter, friendly jokes, shoulder bumps, and smile-filled glances.
To be honest he had completely forgotten that he was at home, with someone he barely knew, until he heard the faint rumble of the garage door opening. Reality came rushing back to him and he sobered. Brett noticed immediately, shifting so that he was leaning against him reassuringly.
“You okay?” He questioned gently. Nolan looked over to him and smiled softly, nodding a few times before again getting lost in Brett’s eyes.
It was like gravity had shifted and instead of pulling him down to the ground, it was pulling him closer to Brett. He suddenly jerked away, remembering where he was, when a knock sounded at his door.
“Yeah?” He called out, voice breaking a little, and clearing his throat. Fiddling with the controller still in his hands.
“Hey Nolan.” His mom said coming to stand in the doorway. “Who’s your friend?”
Nolan looked over to Brett with a slight blush painting his cheeks. “This is Brett, he’s on the football team.”
“So he’s one of your teammates? That’s nice, nice to meet you Brett.”
From the corner of his eye he watched Brett frown, the facial expression very uncharacteristic for him, making Nolan nervous. Something had upset him and whatever it was Nolan hoped it wouldn’t ruin their newfound friendship.
Nolan dropped his eyes down to his hands in embarrassment. His mom didn’t even know what sport he played, god Brett must think his family was crazy. His hands were gently covered with a large one, heat seeping into his skin and calming him so easily.
“Actually, Nolan plays lacrosse.” Brett corrected, voice sharp with a hint of disapproval. Nolan’s eyes widened a fraction. Was he… mad at Nolan’s mom?
“Oh, sports.” She giggled half-heartedly with a shrug. “Just wanted to tell you that we’re home. Your father and I will be in court all day tomorrow so you’ll be on your own for food but I’ll leave some money in case you need it.” And then she was gone, taking the easy going mood left with her.
He could feel Brett’s eyes on him, his fingers burrowing between Nolan’s to intertwine them, latching on to him and grounding him.
“I’m sorry.” Nolan whispered out, as it was the only thing he could think of to say in the moment.
Brett made a grumbled sound beside him. “What in the hell are you sorry about?” He snapped and Nolan flinched. He didn’t mean to… he just wasn’t ready for how angry Brett sounded.
The boy next to him sighed and pressed his nose and mouth against his hair.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you.” He whispered softly. Nolan leaned into the touch and Brett nuzzled against the side of his head. “That just really pissed me off.”
“Why?” Nolan questioned, still trying to figure out why Brett acted the way he did around him.
Brett sighed again. Almost as if it was in attempt to calm himself. “Because I didn’t expect your parents to be so…” He trailed off searching for the word and Nolan waited patiently, “detached.”
Nolan smiled at his choice of word. Not that the observation made him happy, just that it was so spot on. Brett pulled his face away and Nolan looked over at him. Watching as Brett’s eyes swept over his room again seeing everything in a different light now.
A small smile danced across his face as he did so.
“Your room makes more even sense now.” He noted.
“Oh yeah?” He asked, again wanting to hear what Brett had to say.
Brett nodded, “Yeah. It’s warm, kind of like a den that an animal would make. Filling it with things that it happy and comfortable. This is your safe space.”
How? How did this kid, this boy, understand him so fully in a matter of minutes, when people he’d known for years had no idea why he was the way he was? Nolan stared at the angel next to him in unfiltered awe. Brett stopped perusing his room, his eyes caught on something over his shoulder.
Nolan followed his gaze expecting to see a spider or something and then frowned when all he saw was his desk covered in his sketch books and an empty plate or two.
“What?” He asked, turning his head back to look at Brett who was already looking down at him with a silent question in his eyes. Brett remained quiet so he repeated himself. “What?”
Brett shook his head, “Another time.”
“No tell me.” He urged, and then softly added a “please?” following the eager words.
“What did you eat for breakfast this morning?”
“A breakfast sandwich.” He replied and then furrowed his brow. “Why?” What a weird question.
“And have you eaten since then?” Brett continued. Nolan froze, tingles of awareness ran throughout his body, what was he getting at? He had been at lunch he knew Nolan had eaten.
“Yeah, I ate at lunch.”
“You barely touched your food at lunch.” He said with another shake of his head. Shit. He had noticed his quirk. “Have you eaten since then?” Brett repeated.
Now it was his turn to shake his head. Honestly, he had forgotten. Between classes and sketching in his few spare moments to settle his pregame jitters, he had lost track of time. Then Brett came over and distracted him further. Getting lost in his video games didn’t help the situation either.
He swears that he didn’t mean to skip out on food, and actually now that Brett had mentioned it, he was rather hungry. A fact made known to Brett as his stomach chose that moment to howl in its agreement.
“Why not?” Brett asked seriously, eyes boring into him intensely.
He shrugged sheepishly, “I forgot.”
“You forgot?” He said incredulously and then chuckled. “What am I going to do with you?” Nolan smiled lightly at him, usually people scolded him or looked at him like he was insane. But Brett, he was quickly learning, wasn’t like anyone he had ever met before.
“Come on freckles, let’s go see what we have to work with.” Brett offered his hand after rolling off the bed and coming to stand at the foot of Nolan’s side.
Nolan stood, placing his hand in the one waiting for him, and allowed himself to be dragged through his own house towards the kitchen.
Brett deposited him in a kitchen chair and then moved about the space expertly. Nolan watched him fondly. Eyes tracing his long frame as he went about opening the pantry and refrigerator, taking inventory of what they had in the house and then gathering what he needed.
Nolan again found himself feeling strangely at home, and it had nothing to do with the house he was sitting in. He lost track of time, forgetting how hungry he was, completely content on watching Brett do his thing with ease.
“Plates?” The deep voice asked, breaking him out of his daze where he had rested his head on his knee that he had pulled up on the chair at some point. He pointed to the cupboard to Brett’s left and then stood to grab a couple bottles of water out of the fridge. Coming back to a steaming plate of what looked like some sort of pasta.
“It’s risotto.” Brett provided with a smile from the chair right next to the one that he had been sitting in.
“Looks awesome!” He responded and rushed to sit down and try it. He moaned as the first bite hit his tongue. Holy fuck this was better than the mac and cheese or peanut butter and jelly that he would have made for himself eventually.
Brett just smirked at him, eyes darker than normal, and brought a forkful to his own mouth.
They ate in silence. Apparently just content to enjoy each other’s company. It was nice. He didn’t feel pressured to entertain Brett like he had with Gabe or sometimes even Liam. Happy to be left to his own thoughts and again that was something that Brett seemed to understand that he needed.
They washed the dishes together, hands brushing as they passed the plates and silver wear between soapy water and dry towels. When the last thing had been passed to him to dry, he polished it off quickly and then handed the towel to Brett so he could dry his hands off.
Everything seemed to move in slow motion after that. The towel was thrown on the counter as Brett stepped forward, crowding him back against the counter. Brett placed his hands on the ledge behind him, caging him in and lowered his head towards Nolan’s.
Their noses were touching as they looked back and forth between each other’s eyes and occasionally flicking down to glance at the mouth in front of them. His lips parted on instinct and his heart began to race in anticipation for whatever was coming.
Brett’s tongue darted out and licked across his own lips, wetting them, and Nolan swayed a bit making their noses brush together. He could feel Brett’s warm breath on his chin and he shivered. The air around them seemed charged. Never, never had a kiss felt like this and they hadn’t even kissed yet.
When Brett inched forward, Nolan closed his eyes for a split second before turning slightly to the side at the last second. Brett’s lips brushed across his cheek and stopped just at his ear. He dropped his head to Brett’s collarbone, burrowing as deep as possible, trying to hide there.
His angel nudged at his head with his own, silently asking him to look at him. He obliged hesitantly. Nervous to see Brett’s reaction to being denied.
Brett held his eyes captive when he finally was able to meet his gaze. He gave Nolan a soft sweet smile and nudged his chin up further with his hand.
“When you’re ready.” He said and pressed a gentle kiss to his forehead. He then turned and made his way towards the front room where Nolan could hear him putting on his shoes.
He looked up towards the sky through the kitchen ceiling. Wondering who sent him this angel and what he did to deserve him.
Nolan rushed to the front door in attempt not to miss saying goodbye and wrapped his arms around Brett’s torso from behind once he stood from tying his shoes. He rested his head on Brett’s strong back and felt Brett’s arms come to lay on top of his in front of him.
Nolan finally let up and Brett turned to face him.
“Come back tomorrow?” He found himself asking before he could even think the words through.
Brett smiled and nodded.
“Well someone has to feed you.” Nolan wrinkled his nose earning a laugh from Brett. “Yeah freckles, I’ll come back tomorrow.” He amended reaching down to squeeze Nolan’s hand.
“Bye.” He whispered.
“Bye, Nolan.” Brett rasped, his name on Brett’s lips doing things to his heart, and then he dropped Nolan’s hand and walked out the door towards his jeep.
He waved before he pulled out of the driveway and Nolan raised his hand in his own goodbye. Surprisingly he wasn’t sad to be left alone, he mused as he walked back to his room, his den as Brett called it, because his angel would be back tomorrow. Sent from heaven, just for him.
Chapter 25: New Beginnings
Even though his sleep was peaceful, and uneventful in the nightmare department, Theo woke with a start. Jumping and sitting up trying to gain an understanding for his unfamiliar surroundings in the darkness and then the previous day came flooding back to him and he slowly lowered himself back down. He was at Melissa’s, it was fine, everything was fine, he was fine.
Theo stared up at the ceiling, the time on his phone telling him it was still too early to get up and do anything. Thinking about what the results game would mean for him. College scouts were allowed to tell them they wanted him but he wasn’t allowed to pick for a few more months, not until early spring. Only two more games and winter separated him from that. He started to imagine where he would go, what he would do, what life would be like away from this place. But was surprised to find that something nagged at him from the back of his mind this time… something that usually wasn’t there.
He brought his fingertips up to his mouth and gently brushed them over his lips, recalling how it felt to have Liam’s tangled with his. Liam, his brain whispered and as if on cue a hushed spark ran through him. Where was Liam going to go? Would he stay and be close to his parents or did he want to get out like Theo did?
Theo’s brain began firing. Thinking up all of the possible scenarios, one repeatedly popping to the front of his mind demanding attention before being shoved away only to resurface again moments later. He shook his head, fate wouldn’t be that kind to him, so much had gone right he couldn’t possibly entertain the idea that it would allow him to have everything.
A soft knock sounded at the door and he glanced at his phone seeing that a few hours had passed.
“Theo?” The melodic voice called quietly.
“Come in.” He croaked in return and then cleared his throat, embarrassed by how raw it sounded.
Melissa slowly pushed the wooden door open and came to stand at the foot of his bed with a gentle smile.
“Morning kiddo. Breakfast is almost ready, why don’t you come on down so I can take a look at your ribs and then we need to talk about something before we go grocery shopping.”
All Theo could do was nod. Here she was acting like it was just a normal morning, making him breakfast and talking about running errands with him. She stepped closer and pushed a few stray locks of hair off his head, his eyes falling closed as she did so, the simplicity of it all becoming a little much for him.
“Don’t fall back asleep, you’ll find I’ve gotten pretty creative on getting people out of bed after my son Scott… he used to sleep like the dead.” She joked and then turned on her heel, leaving him time to get dressed and head downstairs.
Theo sat for a few more minutes in his blanket cocoon. Steeling himself for what the day might bring. Trying to amp himself up not to get too attached in case this wasn’t permanent. He knew what he promised Tara… and he was going to try, he really was. But at the same time he needed to make sure that he was still protecting himself.
He quickly washed his face, letting the cool water help him school some of his nerves and feelings behind his normal mask of indifference, pulled the clothes on he had worn the previous day and headed down the stairs towards the kitchen where he could smell food.
“Perfect timing.” Melissa stated as she placed two plates of pancakes down on the small dining room table instead of the bar they had eaten at the previous morning.
He smiled at her and moved to the coffee pot that was sputtering its last drops of black liquid indicating it was ready to be consumed. He reached up in to the cabinet above, grabbed two cups, and then placed them on the counter to fill them.
“I like mine black but if you need cream or sugar I’ll grab it.” Melissa spoke from behind him.
“No thank you, I take mine black as well.” He replied, his voice sounding less raspy and more like normal.
“My kind of kid.” She said with a smirk and took the steaming mug from his hand as he sat down next to her.
Like yesterday morning, they ate in companionable silence. The only noises between them the soft sipping sounds of coffee and forks and knives scraping against the plates.
When they had finished, Theo stood, gathering the empty plates and carrying them to the sink.
“Just leave those, we can do them later.”
Theo nodded and then braced himself against the counter, this was it, he could feel it. The conversation she wanted to have with him was coming and his heart began to race.
“Theo, can you come over here for a minute.” She called. “Please.”
He bit the inside of his cheek before turning to face her, finding her standing at the kitchen bar with a stack of papers in her hands. Theo walked hesitantly toward her, and looked down at her hands which were shaking. Oh god. He was going to throw up. Melissa shaking meant this was very serious.
“So, I may have done something yesterday after you went to school…” She trailed off. She opened and closed her mouth a few times and each time she did his heart pulsed a little faster before her words finally came out. “And if you aren’t comfortable with it, it’s okay and we can figure something out. But I just, yeah, read these.” She finally managed to say as she pushed the papers towards him.
He felt his eyes widen as he read the bold words at the top of the page.
California Temporary Guardian Legal Document
And then he gasped when he got to the bottom of the page, passed the listing of terms and conditions to his short term adoption since he would be turning eighteen in a few months, the sight of a messy scrawled signature above his father’s name and the neat script of Melissa’s name over the line of adopting parent.
Theo began shaking and hadn’t realized that he had started crying until his eyes blurred and fat drops plopped onto the crisp page.
“Oh Theo, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you. I was just so mad after I saw your escape bag and I have a bit of a bad temper you can ask my son, which usually means I act on my feelings and funnily enough I’ve had these papers for a while now and-”
Her rambling words stopped when Theo wrapped his arms around her. He knew he was squeezing her too hard but he just couldn’t help it. She didn’t complain either, just rubbed his back gently as he cried into her hair.
After at least ten minutes, and his sobs had died down, Melissa pulled back. Wiping the tears from his cheeks and pushing his hair back from his face.
“Alright bub, let’s check your ribs quick and then we should go get your things.” Theo shook his head and sniffled in response, swiping the back of his hand under his nose.
“I don’t want you there… with him.” He squawked seriously. And he didn’t. He didn’t want his dad anywhere Melissa, anywhere near the person that had been single handedly saving him for years.
She raised a brow and her eyes took on a ‘try me’ look. “How do you think I got his signature on those papers?”
“You didn’t.” He gasped in disbelief. He figured she had gotten lawyers or the police involved.
“I’m not as fragile as I look.” She shrugged and walked over to the counter to grab her purse and keys. “Now c’mon, we have to go grocery shopping as well and then I have to be at the hospital by three.”
Theo’s feet moved on their own, carrying him out to the driveway behind Melissa, and then he slipped into the small vehicle. Before he knew it the passing scenery slowed and they were pulling into the familiar driveway, the tall foreboding house looking as imposing as ever.
He felt Melissa’s hand on his face and he looked over at her, meeting her concerned eyes.
“Stay here.” He tried, grunting when she shook her head.
“Not a chance, sweetheart.” And then she was out of the car and walking up to the front porch.
Theo had never pulled a seatbelt off so fast in his life. Sprinting to catch up with her and put himself between her and the front door just in case his dad was in the type of mood to lash out at whoever dared to wake him.
He twisted the metal knob on the door deliberately and carefully, pushing it open and slowly stepping in to the foyer. Looking both ways between the family room and dining room as you would when crossing the street, checking for the truck that was his father.
They had made it half way up the stairs when a deep voice had him freezing on the spot and the hairs on the back of his neck standing up.
“Oh ho ho, what do we have ‘ere.” His dad chanted from above them.
Theo slowly raised his eyes to find the impending figure looming over them. Sweaty and beady eyed, the signs of him already being drunk. Theo exhaled and clenched his fists in anticipation for whatever was about to be thrown at him only to be caught off guard.
Melissa stepped around him and came face to face with the man that had tortured him the past few years.
“I told you we would be coming by to get his things, John.”
Theo’s eyes widened as he watched the fire blaze in his dad’s glassy eyes. He took the stairs two at a time and placed himself between his angel and the devil. His dad could degrade him, beat him, kill him… but if he harmed Melissa in anyway, Theo wasn’t sure what he could be held accountable for.
“Your favorite whiskey is under the sink behind the cleaning products.” He hissed, hoping, fuck, praying that his dad would take the bait that he had planted in case of emergencies to buy himself a few minutes.
He saw the raised hand and heard the gasp behind him when it patted roughly against his face a few times, leaving a slight sting behind, but it was nothing in comparison to what he was used to. He reached behind him and squeezed Melissa’s wrist, silently begging her to let it go.
“Good boy.” His father slithered out, practically shoving them both to the side and almost over the banister in his haste to get to the kitchen.
Theo wasted no time, pulling Melissa along with him to his room and quickly shutting the door.
“We have five minutes, tops.” He said, voice quivering with anxiousness.
“Theo…” She started and he swiftly cut her off.
“Later.” He said with a definitive shake of his head. “We don’t have much time before he finishes that.” He could see the tears welling in her eyes but she nodded.
He grabbed everything he could think of but it turns out it wasn’t much. Just a few sets of clothes, a picture or two, and the tattered shoe box hidden in the very back of his closet. All of it fitting nicely in an old hamper he’d used all his life.
“This is all…” She choked, “this is all you’re taking?”
Theo looked down at the small bin with a watery smile of his own. “I don’t need much.” He murmured as he lightly touched his chest where the necklace hanging from his neck sat. “I never did.” He said even more quietly, not sure if she heard him as he thought of everything that had true meaning in his life.
Of course there was the necklace, and the few trinkets in the shoebox, but what he really valued was the few people he could trust. Like the one standing in front of him with a sad bewildered look and the one he had kissed the night before. People, those people, had the power to give him everything he wanted, needed, and craved. He would choose those people over silly possessions every day for the rest of his life.
So as he turned back one last time to look at the room he had grown up in, the room that had become more of a jail cell than anything, he felt no quarrel leaving the meaningless things behind. Instead, turning to follow the woman that promised him a future, a positive healthy one, down the stairs.
He had one foot out the door when the voice returned. The one that sounded like broken glass or a gunshot. The one that fucked him up beyond all recognition.
“You’ll come back to me, you little shit. This bitch will see, I’ll make her see what a piece of shit you really are.”
Theo refused to turn around, refused to allow himself to be taunted and abused anymore.
“Goodbye dad.” He spat.
It wasn’t until they were turning the corner off his street did he take a deep breath. The air tasting like freedom and happiness, almost choking him with unfamiliarity.
I’m free. If only I could run wild with my little wolf.
Chapter 26: Can You Feel It
Liam checked and rechecked his phone at least a million times over the course of the weekend. He would have thought it was broken had Mason not eventually responded on Saturday night saying that he and Corey were not doing anything that weekend due to finally having Corey back from lacrosse madness. Nolan hadn’t answered any texts either but that was normal for him. Then there was the radio silence from the one person he actually really wanted to hear from.
He knew he shouldn’t expect anything different, that the kiss was… just that… a kiss. Even though it felt like the world tilting on its axis to him. Probably just happened because of all the built up tension between them. They were teenagers after all, most confrontations or pent up emotions usually ended up in one of three outcomes. Crying, fighting, or sexual intimacy of some sort. Liam and Theo had covered the first two time and time again. So maybe it was just time to try the latter.
Even though Theo had been the one to kiss him all two and a half times, Liam still wished he could have confirmation that it was something more than just teenage hormones. Confirmation that would have come in Theo contacting him... which he didn’t and the number that Liam had for him was no longer the correct one. He tried and got one of those generic messages back stating the the number he had reached was no longer in service.
He clicked the home button on his phone one more time, making sure that he hadn’t missed anything in the three minutes since he checked last, and sighed when it was just as blank as before.
Something that was not blank, was his mother’s facial expression every time she saw him now. She gave him the brightest most reassuring smile and to be honest it was the only thing keeping him sane at the moment. His parent’s reactions to his blurted confession at dinner on Friday had been eons better than he was expecting.
“I kissed a boy.”
Their forks barely faltered on the way to their mouths. His mom blew on the steamy bite of food in front of her and smiled.
“That’s nice honey.” She commented to which his dad grunted in agreeance as he began to chew.
His brow had furrowed and a frown appeared on his face. “That’s it?” He questioned, completely and utterly shocked. Both that the admission had flowed from his lips and and how un-phased his parents were by the words.
His dad swallowed and took a sip of his drink.
“What were you expecting?” He asked genuinely.
“Uh, um, I don’t know exactly. But not that?” His voice went up at the end making it sound like a question.
“Baby, did it make you happy?” His mother returned with a light smile accompanied with soft open eyes.
He thought about it for a second before biting his lip and nodding shyly with a stupid blush creeping up his face.
His mother reached across the table and placed her hand over his. “That’s all we care about.”
They all smiled at each other and then continued about eating their food. Liam was almost finished when his mom’s blurted question made him choke. Her eyes twinkling with mischief and the opportunity for gossip.
“So… who was it, the boy that you kissed?” She singsonged. Leaving him coughing with a blush spreading up his neck to his face and his dad cackling beside her.
In the end he was able to evade her determination to find out who it was, but he had a feeling he wouldn’t be able to keep her at bay for very long. Which she proved to be true at breakfast the in morning before he left for school.
There he was, eating his bagel in peace when she attacked again, causing him to jump and drop the last bite. He frowned down at his pants smeared with cream cheese that he’d now have to change.
“Was it Nolan?” She questioned as she plopped down next to him.
“He’s a cutie and you seem to hang around him a lot.” She deduced.
“It wasn’t Nolan.” He grumbled, getting up from the table and making his way upstairs to switch his jeans out for a fresh pair without a stain on the front, happy that she didn’t follow him.
He thought more and more about what she said during his short walk to school. Nolan was kind of pretty he guessed, but he shrugged and shook his head. Liam didn’t find himself to be attracted to Nolan… or Corey, or Mason, or any of the other countless boys he had gone through in his mind.
So it was Theo, just Theo. Which was weird and made him even more confused than he had started out. What was it about him? Maybe it was the way he calmed Liam down, maybe it was the way he looked at him, maybe it was the reassuring touches, or the unforgettable bond they had created as kids. Or maybe, just maybe, it was the way he made Liam feel alive whenever he was with him.
Liam shook his head in attempt to clear his thoughts. Walking up the front steps of the school and filing into the hallways with all of the other students arriving for their Monday morning classes.
He wasn’t surprised to see the students with less than pleased frowns for having to be up so early for yet another Monday full of dull classes, wasn’t surprised that most everyone had seemed to forget about his episode since both the football and lacrosse team had won. He was, however, surprised to see Nolan standing at his locker… before the first bell had rung let alone before second period.
He looked skeptically at him as he approached. Twisting the dial on his locker to match the combination he had memorized freshman year and yanking the annoyingly sticky metal door open once the lock had popped.
“You’re here early.” He commented, glancing over to see Nolan looking somehow different. More… alive.
Nolan shrugged and ducked his head. Ignoring the statement and choosing to change the subject.
“How was your weekend?”
“Fine.” He responded. “Thanks for answering my texts.” He joked as he closed the door to his locker and started walking to his class, Mrs. Finch always gave a pop quiz after games because she knew that most people opted to enjoy their weekend instead of do the required reading.
“Sorry! Brett came over and-”
“Brett, huh?” He smirked cutting the boy off and enjoying the blush that appeared on Nolan’s face immediately.
His friend lowered his head to hide it. He stopped and nudged Nolan with his shoulder.
“Hey I’m only teasing.” He reassured with a smile. “Did you have a good time with him?” Nolan nodded in response and Liam nudged him again. “Good, as long as you’re happy, that’s all I care about.”
“If I wasn’t… happy that is?” Nolan asked him as he kept stride with him down the school hallways.
They stopped just outside of his classroom door. “Then I wouldn’t be happy and Brett would have a real problem on his hands.”
Nolan just smiled at him, a true smile. One that shone with trust, appreciation, and loyalty. The same smile that he received a few years back when he stopped the kid from being picked on, the one that he vowed to make more present as he befriended him. He turned to walk in to his class only to be stopped by Nolan’s voice calling him back.
“I hope you had a good weekend.” He said, crystal eyes boring into his.
Liam opened his mouth to say something but closed it and settled on a nod when he saw a very familiar back entering the library down the hall. Nolan followed his distracted gaze and came back with a small smile after finding Brett following after Theo, looking over his shoulder and winking down at them.
“Looks like we both did.” He mumbled and spun on his heel.
As predicted, they had a pop quiz. Also as predicted, everyone in the class groaned when it was announced, including him. Because apparently he had read the wrong chapters. Stupidly thinking it was what they had been learning all week not what they were projected to learn… which just so happened to be sexual attraction and how animals picked mates.
The words ‘desire’, ‘lust’, and ‘erotic’ popping off the page in front of him and swirling in his already very confused brain. Reading sentences and questions about how mates choose their partner, the answer options being a variety of sexual preference to appealing similarities to laws of attraction.
Similarities. Attraction. The two words pulling at something deep, a feeling, no, an expression. “We attract what we’re ready for.”
His pencil froze over the list of answers where he was meant to circle his choice.
Maybe that was it, maybe his dad had been right. He and Theo were finally ready to rekindle their relationship. But they were different now, older, maybe the relationship that they had experienced when they were kids was only a small piece of what was to come for them. Maybe, just maybe, it was finally time to let themselves be happy. Which is why Theo had kissed him and why he had let him.
They needed each other and they were both finally ready to let go of past angst. Ready to rejoin the other’s life. Ready to be Liam and Theo again.
Liam jumped when the bell rang, signaling the end of class and the quiz. Most of his blank until he hurriedly circled a bunch of random answers, hoping at at least a few of them would be correct.
He spent the next few classes analyzing his earlier revelation until it was time for lunch. Time to see if everything would go back to how it was before spirit week, or if he was right and things were ready to move forward.
Holding his breath as he pried open the lunch room doors, not wanting to look up and see his world come crashing down.
“Dude are you going in or not?” Someone grumbled behind him. Liam shot the unknown person a glare and stepped through the threshold.
Liam’s eyes darted to the table, their table, immediately. Seeing all of the seats filled except for one, his. He couldn’t hide the smile on his face as he approached and then dropped down in the chair that had been left vacant for him. Mason and Corey were next to each other like always, flanked by Cora and Nolan with Brett next to Cora leaving him and Theo next to each other.
They all seemed oblivious to his arrival, as if it had just been another student, all too wrapped in in their easy carefree conversations. Mason and Corey goading Nolan for losing their bet about the video game high score. Apparently Nolan had ignored more than just him this weekend, he smirked. Brett and Cora grumbling about some teacher they both had decided to dislike. All apart from Theo, who once he finally got the nerve to look over at him found him already looking at him with inquisitive eyes. Eyes that looked more rested than his usual slightly bloodshot ones. He tilted his head.
“What’s going on in that head of yours, Dunbar?” Theo said light heartedly. Drawing everyone’s attention to him.
He shrugged and busied his hands with his lunch. “Nothing, the usual.”
A snort sounded from his right. “So food, lacrosse, and more lacrosse then.” Mason joked earning equal chuckles from everyone at the table except for Nolan, who just raised a knowing eyebrow at him. A gesture which he returned making the boy blush.
“Caught me.” He responded dryly, eyes darting to Theo quickly. If only everyone knew what was actually on his mind. Theo, Theo, and more Theo.
His phone vibrated in his pocket a few seconds later. Liam ignored it, assuming it was his mother with another guess as to who he had kissed. She had been sending random names throughout the morning, most of which were in alphabetical order from the team roster that she must have looked up online. Insert groan here, he should have just kept his mouth shut.
The phone went off again and he decided to check it just in case there was something actually important being sent to him. Like a scout asking him to visit, or his dad, or… a random number that had texted him twice.
~~~~ NEW MESSAGE ~~~~
- Lie. 11:45am
- What are you really thinking about, little wolf? 11:46am
Liam’s hands got sweaty instantly and he swallowed passed the thick saliva in his mouth. He had Theo’s number again. Theo wanted to talk to him outside of school. Theo had known that there was more on his mind… oh fuck what was he supposed to say now.
He looked up at Theo who just smirked at him and then back down to his phone. He bit the inside of his cheek debating on telling Theo the truth. Settling on a vague form of it.
- You. 11:49am
Theo didn’t reply and he peeked up shyly from under his lashes, not caring if everyone else at the table noticed the obvious change in his demeanor. Theo’s eyes were twinkling darkly at him.
“Dunbar! Football kid that doesn’t look like a kid!” Coach Finstock’s voice boomed across the space. Both of them whipped around looking to the older man with wide eyes. “You’re needed in the office.”
They stood and both walked out of the cafeteria not daring to look at any of the faces watching them as if they were walking the plank. Once outside of the lunch room Liam’s nerves started to kick in. What could they possibly be in trouble for? They hadn’t done anything… except making out in the locker room and against some lockers. Shit, what if they had cameras and had saw them. Liam looked up at the ceiling looking for them.
His hand was snagged and squeezed, bringing his eyes back down and to the strong fingers that were momentarily intertwined with his. Then they were gone just as quickly as they had latched on. He looked beside him to see Theo with his usual unreadable expression painted on his face, but his eyes, his eyes swirled with apprehension and longing. Liam bumped his shoulder against him, conveying his own physical message of comfort.
“Boys, please sit.” Mrs. Martin sang as they breezed into her doorway, both of their coaches standing against the back wall of her office. They shuffled to the chairs across from her large leather one and carefully sat down.
“First, congratulations on winning your matches last week! How exciting that both teams managed a win against our rivals!”
“Thank you.” Theo said politely, Liam nodded in agreeance.
“I also wanted to thank you both for making such an effort to bring your two teams together… I know that it was probably a little difficult given your history.” Mrs. Martin continued. If only she really knew everything they had to overcome. Their real history and the reason for all of the animosity between them. “With that being said, I would just like to make it clear that we all,” she said gesturing to their coaches behind them, “expect you to continue this behavior.”
She eyed them intently. “No pranks, no fights, no more negativity.”
Theo looked over at him and when their eyes met it was like a blanket of heat was laid over him. The boy next to him raised his brow then, silently telling him it was his turn to respond. So he broke the eye contact, cleared his throat, and did so.
“We understand Principle Martin; you don’t have anything to worry about.” He looked back to Theo when he spoke his next words. “We’re good now.”
“Wonderful!” The woman clapped her hands together and stood, making her way to the door and opening it. “Sorry to have taken you away from your lunch, but we needed to talk and I have meetings the rest of the day. Mr. Raeken, Ms. McCall is waiting for you in front of the school.”
Liam frowned as they stood, why was Scott’s mom here for him? He followed behind Theo, both of them nodding at Mrs. Martin as they passed her. Entering the empty hallway, Liam ended up practically running trying to keep up with Theo’s long strides.
“Hey.” He called just as they were approaching the front doors to the school, Theo just kept walking. “Theo!” He tried again growing agitated at being ignored. Liam grabbed his hand and yanked him into an empty classroom, pushing him up against the wall to the side of the door out of sight in case anyone happened to walk by and then he froze.
He was never the one that initiated things with Theo, it had always been the other way around, and now he wasn’t quite sure what to do. Liam hadn’t missed the twinge of pain that crossed Theo’s face when his back hit the wall from Liam’s manhandling.
“Sorry.” He whispered in the space between them, hands settling on Theo’s waist gently. The boy in front of him closed his eyes for a minute and took a deep breath before opening them again and staring at him with dark eyes like he had in the office a few minutes ago.
Liam’s brain decided to start working then, desperate for answers, eager to know if his revelation from this morning was in fact true.
“Tell me you feel this.” He breathed quietly. “Tell me it isn’t just me.” He urged, frantically looking between Theo’s eyes trying to read them. Theo’s face softened and a small look of relief flashed through his mesmerizing irises before he placed both hands on Liam’s shoulders.
“I feel it.” He confirmed. Liam leaned forward, leaving only a few centimeters between their mouths, wanting Theo to be the one that ultimately decided if they were going to kiss again.
Theo nuzzled their faces together before he bridged the gap, curling his fingers around the back of Liam’s neck and pulling him forward, sucking his bottom lip into his mouth. This kiss was different the previous two. Demanding, desperate, and messy. Both boys trying to get as close as possible as if they were both afraid the other would slip away at any moment.
They broke off briefly for air, hanging on to each other and pressing chaste kisses to cheeks, necks, hair, anything they could reach really. Theo chose those moments to walk him backwards until his legs hit a desk stopping his movement. One moment he was standing and the next he found himself on top of said desk with Theo between his legs.
Theo had one hand on either side of his face, cupping his jaw tenderly and sweeping his thumbs back and forth before slotting their lips together again, this time slow and unhurried. Gently flicking his tongue over Liam’s lips and then pressing a kiss to his forehead and stepping back. Giving them both time to mentally regroup.
“I have to go.” He murmured sadly, his eyes telling Liam that he would rather stay.
“Why?” Liam pouted, still somewhat out of breath.
“I have an appointment.” He said vaguely while trying to smooth the wrinkles out of his shirt from where Liam had gripped it. Liam hopped of the desk and came to stand in front of him.
Theo gripped his chin and pulled him in closer, giving him one last kiss. “Don’t worry about it, okay?” Then he was slipping out of the room and out of the front doors to the school.
“Theo!” He called after him, smiling shyly when Theo stopped and looked over his shoulder. “Text me later?” Theo smiled and nodded before continuing his exit from the building.
Liam watched him walk up to a woman with curly brown hair and hug her before they both walked to his truck. He sighed.
He was finally getting Theo back, but there was still so much he didn’t know. So much he felt like he needed to know, so much he was missing. But at least he knew one thing for sure; Theo felt the pull too. For now, that’s all the mattered.
Chapter 27: Things Missed
Sorry it's a short one...
“Theo? Theo, honey?” Melissa’s called out to him and he had to shake his head to refocus on the conversation he was supposed to be taking a part in. Liam’s kisses having distracted him for the millionth time now.
He smiled shyly, “Sorry… it’s been a long day.”
She smiled back at him and nodded with soft eyes before turning back to Dr. Geyer, the person who he should have been listening to this whole time. He shifted on the hospital bed and actively tried to listen.
“I don’t know Melissa,” He sighed looking at the x-rays again, the ones that Theo couldn’t make himself look at knowing he would see more than he cared to, “I just don’t know. It’s already going to heal a little crooked as is. I’m not sure if giving him the cortisone is a good idea… he could make it worse if he gets hit again.”
Dr. Geyer had his full attention now. “Dr. Geyer please, it’s the last game in my high school career. I have to play.” Liam’s dad just looked at him. “I promise if you give me this shot and let me play this Friday, I will not play any football or workout until I am fully healed and have your permission.”
Theo glanced at Melissa, saw the motherly concern swimming in her eyes, and then turned back to Dr. Geyer who was sporting a similar facial expression. He closed his eyes and dropped his head.
“Please.” He whispered. He felt a small hand on his thigh, silently trying to reassure him and he slowly looked up at Melissa.
“No physical activity at all and you stop at once during the game if you feel it getting worse.” She ordered and he nodded eagerly. She looked to Dr. Geyer and gave a single head nod. The man left the room briefly leaving them alone for a few minutes.
“Where’s your head at right now?” She asked when he had gotten lost in his own thoughts again. A blush painted his cheeks and he couldn’t help the smile that split his lips. “What’s their name?” She asked, already aware of what his silence meant.
He just shook his head. He couldn’t say, it was too early and he’d be damned if he somehow jinxed it.
“Fine,” she conceded, “just… you’re being… safe… right?” His blush deepened and he was about to open his mouth and protest about having the birds and the bees talk but luckily they were both saved from that awkwardness by Dr. Geyer coming back into the room with a small syringe.
He was motioned to take his shirt off and did so, tensing when two sets of eyes trailed over all of his scars and old bruises. Theo clenched his teeth and looked away to the far wall. Fighting off tears when he heard a small noise escape Melissa. He knew how bad it was and Melissa had only seen his torso… never his arms, shoulders, and back.
“Theo try to hold still okay? Deep breath in and then slow exhale through your mouth.” Dr. Geyer said calmly.
Theo did as he was told, inhaling deeply and then pushing the air out through his mouth. Breath stuttering when he felt a sharp needle slip in to his skin and then between his ribs. His grip on the flimsy mattress tightening as he could feel fluid being pushed into a very sensitive area.
“Okay, we’re done.” The doctor said pulling the needle out and stepping away to dispose of it. “Theo I need you hang tight, Melissa can you come with me for a moment?”
He stayed and carefully shimmied back into his shirt, trying and failing at ignoring the pain that had somewhat increased since having a needle full of shit shoved right into the problematic area.
Melissa came back in looking like she had seen a ghost and Theo’s blood ran cold. Something was wrong.
“What’s wrong?” He questioned and she just smiled weakly.
“Nothing, one of my favorite patients had a complication that’s all.” She was lying but Theo chose not to pry. She was obviously uncomfortable and he never wanted to push her too far. She’d already done so much for him. The last thing he wanted to do was overstep or become a burden. “Let’s get you home.”
He stood and followed her dutifully out of the hospital, dropping the keys to his truck in her outstretched hand. She got them back to her house in one piece… barely. To say that he wouldn’t be letting her drive the truck anytime soon was an understatement.
They decided to have grilled cheese and tomato soup for dinner, something easy and quick since Theo was feeling tired from the day and Melissa had to be back at the hospital for her shift. The two of them eating quietly. Melissa seemingly stuck in her thoughts and Theo day dreaming about soft lips, rough hands, and blue eyes.
When they parted ways, it was with a light hug and a promise to lock up after she left. He did and then trudged up the stairs to the guest room, rather his new room, shutting the door behind him and collapsing in bed. A small hiss escaping him from the jarring movement. He rolled his eyes at himself, for being weak but also for forgetting to take care with his injury.
Theo carefully turned and settled on to his back. Digging into his pocket and fishing around for his phone, locating it and then tugging it out and unlocking it. He pulled up his contacts and scrolled through the very few names he had bothered to store, a smile cracking his lips when he immediately saw ‘Baby Wolf’. He’d made sure to keep the number when he switched his own, couldn’t bare just getting rid of it.
He tapped the name and then the message button, eyes filling with their earlier conversation and spreading warmth through his body.
~~~~ NEW MESSAGE TO: Baby Wolf ~~~~
- Hey 9:45pm
- Hi :) 9:46pm
Theo’s fingers hovered over the keyboard for a few seconds… what should he say? He started typing, quickly erased it and then started over.
- How was the rest of your day? 9:48pm
- Dull. You left, 2 pop quizzes, and then coach was more erratic than ever at practice today. 9:49pm
- You? 9:50pm
He was just starting to type when the screen changed to Baby Wolf: Home with a green accept button and red decline button sitting at the bottom. He waited a few seconds, blinked, swallowed, and then hit the green one.
“Hello?” He rasped.
“Hi,” Liam started softly, almost timidly even though he’s the one that called, “sorry I’m really tired and my eyes hurt just from looking at the screen.”
Theo couldn’t keep the chuckle from rolling out of him. He believed that Liam was tired but… “What happened to them this time?”
Liam groaned. “I fell asleep with them on last weekend and kinda crushed them.”
He shook his head fondly. Liam had gotten glasses a couple years after they met and no matter how hard he tried, the kid just couldn’t keep a single pair alive for more than a few months at a time. He’d eventually switched to contacts but usually wore his glasses at night, the thin sticky lenses bugging his eyes after wearing them all day.
“We should get you those sports goggle ones, they’re made to stay on your head and take a beating.” He joked, laughing at the mental image of Liam in them. The band poofing his hair up and making him look like a mushroom or some kind of atomic explosion.
“Ha ha.” Liam returned dryly and Theo could practically see the scowl being thrown at him through the phone, which only made him laugh more. The action jerking his pained rib but he could care less at the moment because it was a rarity when he could laugh so freely, so openly.
He quieted down after a few minutes, only a few chuckles escaping here and there as he wiped a stray tear or two away from laughing so hard. Liam was silent on the other end and Theo began to think he might have fallen asleep.
“I’ve missed that laugh.” The boy said reverently. “I’ve missed a lot of things actually.”
Theo sobered immediately. “Oh yeah?” He asked, heart thundering in his chest.
“Yeah.” Liam breathed. He had probably looked down and would have looked up through his lashes as he responded had Theo been standing in front of him in that moment. Holding him captive with his stormy eyes.
“Like what?” The question fell from him breathlessly and he closed his eyes as he waited for Liam to begin speaking.
Liam hummed, the sound low and lethargic, making goosebumps rise on his skin like ripples across water.
“The soft smile you give when you’re feeling shy, the way your eyes used to twinkle when you’d get excited about something or you were just really happy. I’ve definitely missed being able to talk to you every day, miss the way you would always try to protect me from everything like it was the most important thing in the world to you. I’ve missed counting on you to be there for me when I have an episode. The way you would hold me and calm me down without even having to say anything. I’ve missed staying up all night talking quietly in my bed until we fell asleep. I don’t miss your nightmares because they always scared the shit out of me but I miss how vulnerable you were after them, trusting me to take care of you for once. I miss how you used to need me as much as I needed you. Fuck, Theo, I’ve just missed you.”
Theo took in a ragged breath. Throat tight with emotion and eyes screwed shut so that he wouldn’t let the tears fall that he knew were there. Neither of them said anything after that, both just breathing into the phone letting the weight of the other’s presence ground them.
“I’ve missed you too.” He finally managed to get out after a while. Liam made a small noise, something between a whine and sob, and it rocked Theo to his core. He was about to say more when a female voice floated through the speaker.
“Liam, who are you talking to? It’s late.”
“Just someone from school mom.”
“It’s him isn’t it?!”
Theo’s brow pulled down at the excited tone.
A heavy sigh came next from Liam before an annoyed “Yes.”
“Oh okay, well… don’t stay up too late I guess.” Theo could hear the distinct smile in her voice before a door was closed and then a loud smack sounded.
“What was that?” He asked carefully.
He could hear Liam chewing on his lip and he wanted to pull the flesh from in between his teeth before he could do any damage. “So I maybe kind of told my parents that I kissed you without telling them that it was you.”
“Oh.” Was all he could come up with before clearing his throat. “How did they take it?”
It was Liam’s turn to laugh. “I honestly think she’s happier with me kissing boys than she was when she found out I was dating Hayden…”
“Boy. You. No one else.” His little wolf promised, instantly calming the little green monster known as jealousy inside him. “Have you… I mean… I suppose I probably shouldn’t ask… are you…”
“I haven’t kissed anyone else since the rooftop.” He answered already knowing what Liam was attempting to say. He heard a little sigh a relief on the other end and it made him happy. He didn’t want to share Liam even though they had only kissed a few times and the fact that Liam didn’t want to share him either made something light bloom inside his chest.
He brought a hand up and rubbed at the spot between his pecs, just below his sternum, where he felt the slightly buzzing feeling. It was warm and he never wanted to lose it.
Again they were quiet, the only sounds going back and forth was their breathing that had eventually slowed and evened out on Liam’s side. Like always Theo had waited for him to fall asleep first before allowing himself the same solace.
“Goodnight, Little wolf.” He whispered drowsily before slipping under into dreamland.
Liam must have woken at some point in the night ending the call and when he woke in the morning it was to a text from the boy.
~~~~ NEW MESSAGE FROM: Baby Wolf ~~~~
- You have the cutest whimpers. See you at school :) 4:23am