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Liam knows he has a bad temper. Of course he does - it’s brought him into bad situations often enough. Like last year when his lacrosse trainer hadn’t been happy with his way of playing and he’d-- come to think of it, this is the same bullshit all over again. Like literally. Dammit, he’ll get himself kicked out of school again.

Shit.

But really, what was he supposed to do? Have his social studies teacher go on and on about the bad (and almost even abusive) relationships between step-parents and their kids? Even after he said that it’s not always the case, that he and his step-father get along splendidly? And it’s not just that she’s been talking utter bullshit but that she ignored him. Acted like his opinion - his experiences - didn’t matter. And why? Because he’s a kid? Well, newsflash: Teenagers have been on this planet for a while, too. They know stuff as well. They’ve lived, too. So just shaking off what he’s been saying; it’s driven him up the wall.

He’s gotten angry and louder, of course, trying to get her to listen to him even when she didn’t wanna hear and then. And then she’s sent him to the principal.

He’s shoved his books into his backpack in response before storming outside - not just into the hall to get to Principal Thomas’ office because he knows what would have happened then, how he would have been punished for telling the truth while his teacher would’ve carried on with her lies - but out of the building. It’s not been a conscious choice, not by far since his mind is basically on autopilot at this point, like it always is when he’s angry. The only thing he does register as his feet carry him into the teachers’ parking lot is how his breathing speeds up, as does his heart beat, the anger coming out of him in fast pants.

He didn’t even know how sharp his keys are until he’s slamming one of them into Ms Monroe’s car’s tire. He only does it after punching his fists against the metal of the hood, leaving him only space for a few more hits until he gasps in pain - he’s not bleeding, thankfully, but it’s enough to snap him out of it and realize what the fuck he’s done.

It’s exactly the same shit he’s done the last time.

Fuck.

It’s not even so much that he fears the consequences - sure, being kicked out of yet another school for the same issues would suck and his parents certainly won’t be happy either - but he’s mad at himself. He’s promised people, himself, that he’d not fuck this up. That he’d manage to stay at BHHS, not just because they’re running out of schools close to them but because he likes this one. He has friends, he likes the people and even most of the teachers, and he’s in the lacrosse team making first team.

He fights the urge to throw another punch in frustration and scowls at himself. He couldn’t even make it through one term without flipping out - and despite everything, he knows his parents, and especially Todd, would say he’s blown things out of proportion, that he shouldn’t have gotten into it so much but--

He looks up as he takes a shaking breath and sees someone leaning against a tree, watching him and looking almost casual. A low groan escapes his lips as he realizes that of all people, it’s Theo Raeken who’s caught him trash a teacher’s car.

He doesn’t know Theo personally except for the fact they sit in the same English class, but from what he’s heard he’s an utter asshole. Of course, Scott keeps insisting that Stiles is exaggerating things, but the colourful language the latter would use whenever he get worked up about yet another thing Theo has done sticks with Liam. From what he’s gathered, Theo is someone who’d thoroughly enjoy telling on somebody and watch how their life shatters in front of them. And right now, it seems like this is about to happen to Liam.

Theo registers that Liam has noticed him, but instead of running off to call a teacher as soon as possible, he actually starts fucking smirking and pushes himself off the tree. It’s like Liam’s frozen in place in return, unable to do anything but watch him come closer - as if he was the prey to Theo’s hunt. Which, metaphorically, he probably is in some weird sense.

What surprises him, though, are the words that come out of Theo’s mouth. He would’ve expected a threat or maybe even a sarcastic remark (probably due to Scott insisting that Theo and Stiles are actually pretty similar) but instead - Instead, Theo frowns and says calmly, “I suggest you better go to where you’re supposed to be.”

Liam knows it’s stupid - he has the option of just running apparently, but his feet won’t listen. He keeps standing there, staring at Theo before looking down at the tire and fuck, why did he do that? Why doesn’t he ever think?

“Dunbar,” Theo says, his voice firm and somehow soft at the same time. His hand closes around Liam’s wrist - when did he even come closer? - and the touch makes him look up again. Theo looks tense, for some reason, a stark contrast to the almost-bored expression he usually wears. It’s strange, doesn’t fit to him and at the same time it does and Liam is so confused.

“Let me take care of this.”, Theo says - no, decides - and takes the keys out of Liam’s hand. And even though he was gripping them tightly, he doesn’t struggle for a second.

Still, Liam’s frozen in his spot, still worrying about what he’s just done. How would Theo want to fix this? Why would Theo want to fix this? They’ve never even talked before - honestly, it’s a surprise that he even knows Liam’s name. And from what he knows, it doesn’t seem like he’s someone who just goes around and helps people out of the messes they got themselves in.

But there he is, taking ahold not only of Liam’s keys but now of his wrist, too, to make him snap his head up again. He doesn’t look like he enjoys saving his ass but it’s not a rueful expression either; if anything, he’s annoyed. Probably by the fact that Liam just can’t move.

“Look, I don’t know whose tires you just slashed, but it will be noticed. Rather sooner than later.”, Theo presses. “You should get out of here if you don’t want any serious trouble.”

“But…”, Liam starts, still struggling to find something to focus on. There’s just so much: the tire he wrecked, his keys in Theo’s hand, the other one wrapped around his arm and - Theo looking at him in all seriousness and pulling him closer. “What about you?”

“Don’t worry,” Theo says and suddenly there’s a small smirk tugging at the corner of his lips. It doesn’t look outright amused, more like self-confident. “Teachers love me.”

Then he all but shoves Liam away, urging him to finally leave. Liam stumbles, but he does go and even manages to nod at him - whether in thanks or acknowledgement, he can’t tell.

He makes his way to the principal’s office, his brain overflowing with thought and simultaneously feeling like he’s on nothing but autopilot. Not just the confusion about Theo’s behaviour, about why he would help him, but worry about what will happen, as well. If he’d only talked back to a teacher, it could have been manageable - he would have gotten a few hours worth of detention and that would it be about it. But now that he’s once again broken property of someone else? There’s no way Theo could do anything to fix that, no matter what he thinks of doing.

It turns out that it didn’t even take as long as Liam had thought. If anyone were to check the times of when Ms Monroe sent him off and when he arrived at the principal’s, they’d only find a difference of 5 minutes. That’s a time you could excuse by saying you had to use the restroom ro something. How had he even done that?

 

-

 

Liam is in luck . It’s the last period of the day and he hasn’t had another round of being called to the principal - it appears that whatever Theo has done has worked and that nobody even has a clue about what he has done in his fit of anger. All he’s gotten was two weeks of detention starting tomorrow - and only that long because he’s free to go to training twice a week. It feels like he’s running on air, like a weight has been lifted off his shoulder, his chest, his feet, and it takes all his willpower not to whoop with every minute that it gets closer to the end of the day.

Mason throws him funny looks every few minutes, so his happiness is apparently pretty obvious. Maybe he should tune down on it before anyone gets any suspicions, maybe he should take to doodling into his notebook or actually concentrate on class.

And so he does - the former, anyway, and maybe his drawing has a bit of a resemblance to Theo because he’s still wondering just how he’s done it - until an announcement makes everyone snap up out of their trance.

“The holder of the following car, please come to the principal’s office,” the secretary announces before rattling off the initials on the license plate. It’s Ms Monroe’s car, he recognizes, and so do a few others. It’s always been a habit of students to memorize which cars their teachers drive, just to guess how much money they make, and remembering their license plate came with that hobby.

Liam tenses in his seat. If they’re only calling her now, it means they’ve only just discovered it. And Ms Monroe will know it was him, because he was basically fuming when he stormed out of the classroom. He’d hoped Theo had found a way to hide it, at least until school was over, but it appears he’s been too naive.

Hell, for all he knows Theo could have turned him in.

Class resumes once the announcement is over, but he can’t even make himself pretend that he pays attention. Any second now they’ll call for him, too, and then his parents and he’ll get to pack the stuff from his locker, leave the team behind and Mason and Hayden as well, even though he only just started attending the same school as them and it sucks.

Mason nudges his side after a few minutes - it must have been minutes even though it feels way longer - when he almost breaks his pencil. He’s gripping onto it in anticipation and he can feel his breath speed up. Looking over at Mason, though, who doesn’t just look weirded out but actually concerned somehow helps and increases it at the same time. Mason’s there, and having him close has always grounded him somewhat - not always, otherwise the number of his outbursts would be way smaller -  but right now he can’t do anything, can he?

“You okay?”, Mason mouths at him anyway and Liam wonders if there’s even an answer to that. He wouldn’t say he is but what can he do, really? If he were to get a pass for the restroom and he’d be called then, people would think he’s trying to run.

Would they call the police for something like this?

He does something that could come across as either a nod or a shrug in reply to Mason and twists his pencil once he looks back to the front again. Another glance at the clock tells him it’s been almost ten minutes since Ms Monroe has been called into the office - twelve more until the class is over. There’s no use in running, so he’ll have to keep sitting and hope - pray - that Theo’s actually managed to do something to keep suspicions off him.

He starts drawing again, this time something different, something that might look like an old-fashioned bomb, but it takes its time to get filled out completely. He even does each stroke at once rather than scribbling it out.

The minutes tick off, one by one and each of them feels longer than the last but then - then the bell rings, and the secretary hasn’t called for him, and their teacher lets them go and the secretary still hasn’t called for him.

She might not call for him at all.

It’s one less problem on his plate, the fact that he may only get in another round of trouble tomorrow. He’ll still have to tell his parents, actually do the detention and - he notices as he gets up from his seat - Theo still has his keys.

It’s not a big problem, actually. He goes to school with his bike and its lock is so broken it’s more to look its part than actually do something. His mom, however, has the afternoon shift and you never know when Todd is home so he won’t get into the house.

“Hey, man, I, uh-- I don’t have my keys.”, Liam tells Mason, patting his pocket for good measure. He’d tell him more about why exactly later when nobody can eavesdrop. “Think I could chill at yours until my mom's home?”

Mason squints at him as he leans over, collecting his own things from the table, but he doesn’t call him out on his weird behaviour. “Yeah, sure.”

“Thanks, dude. Just gotta get my bag.”, Liam announces when Mason puts his own on.

He can tell that Mason’s either worried or weirded out - maybe a healthy mix of both, considering Liam keeps tapping his fingers against his leg even while walking - but he still keeps ignoring that, as it appears. Well, as much as he can. Facial expressions are something that’s hard to suppress, Liam guesses.

Once he opens his locker, though, Mason just snorts. “Dude,” he starts and reaches inside it under Liam’s own arm that’s trying to put the notebook back, “here are your keys.”

Liam frowns as he watches him take them out. They are his keys, he notes when Mason holds them up in front of his face. How the hell did Theo get them inside of his locker? The vents aren’t big enough to push them through, so… How did he get his combination?

“Monroe really did get into your head, didn’t she?”, Mason continues. He’s smirking a bit and shakes his head. “You’re weird today.”

“Some days are just off.”, Liam muses and snatches the keys away. Today could have been way worse, though. “And I still gotta tell mom and Todd about having detention.”

Mason nods gravely. “So, you’re not coming over then?”

Liam shakes his head. “I can probably soothe them by cooking already or something.”

“Well, for that it would have to be good.”, Mason grins.

In return, Liam sticks his tongue out at him. He can tell Mason’s not buying it completely but right now, he’s having other things on his mind: What did Theo do and how did he do it? Several parts of what have happened just don’t make sense. Why wouldn’t Ms Monroe think that Liam’s been the one to trash her car? How did Theo give him back his keys?

And then he’s really a bit concerned about his parents. He doesn’t think they’ll be mad. But disappointed, that’s for sure. And when it comes to parents, disappointment always feels heavier. How exactly they do that, he doesn’t understand, but it’s a fact.

“If your mom kills you, I might even put some flowers on your grave.”

“Thanks, man.”, Liam laughs. “Give your mom my love.”

At that, Mason grimaces. “Ew! So weird, dude.”

Chapter Text

Liam isn't as much as a nerd as Mason is. Hell, he doubts that even is possible. Mason likes to stay awake reading about one thing, click on a random link in the Wikipedia article and then read through that one, too, and continue the line like that. Honestly, Liam's lost count about how many times he's found him engrossed in his laptop at 7 in the morning when he crashed at his place.

But sometimes, Liam can take studying seriously, too. Like when he has a math exam next lesson and still needs to understand what the fuck is going on. Then he'll sit in the cafeteria and devour not only his lunch but his textbook as well. Mason's learnt early to leave him to it rather than talk to him, and Corey's never done anything but give him a raised eyebrow at it, so it's fine.

And whoever's just decided to sink down across from him - he's only seen a shadow from the corner of his eye, actually, but the sound of a chair scraping the floor makes him guess they did sit down - may be talking, he doesn't know. The words are a gibberish and even the low voice is nothing but a blur. Let Mason deal with them, he decides. There's more important things to deal with than, like, the next lacrosse game which is only up in a few days rather than the bare minutes he has until math class.

So he just huffs to himself and keeps his head down, trying to understand the explanations to the most ridiculous problems nobody will ever have to deal with in real life.

 

-

 

Liam doesn’t even remember that anyone sat down with them until later that day, when he’s in the locker room changing for lacrosse. He’d been so occupied with his test and then the other lessons of the day, such a small thing didn’t even come up to his mind. Until Stiles barrels into the room, of course.

“Dude, care to explain why Theo Raeken would sit down with you and your friends?”

The shove Stiles gives him is softer than the words would let on, but that may just be the lack of his strength. Sometimes, just guessing by the looks he shoots him, Liam would dare say his mere existence is offensive to him. He's yet to figure out what exactly he's done to gain that, but then there are times where he and Scott basically act like his dads. It's really confusing.

Just like what Stiles is saying right now. What is he talking about Theo? Hell, last he's really seen the guy was yesterday in the parking lot, if you don't count his presence in the classroom. And even there it wasn't like they've suddenly become friends just because Theo's saved his ass.

“Stiles,” Scott says, in that way he has where his voice is soft but determined. Come to think of it, he seems to use it for Stiles more often than anyone else. “I told you he didn't even notice. Liam was studying the whole break.”

Liam frowns in response, lifting his gaze to look at Scott who offers him a small smile and a shrug. “Do you… watch me while I eat?”

“We watch everyone.”, Stiles says decidedly, lifting his chin. He actually seems to think it's normal, like he's been chosen to make sure everything goes the right way in school, simply because his dad’s the sheriff, or something. Liam guesses he's just playing it up or something and if something really did happen, Scott would be the one who make sure the people at alright. He seems like such a guy.

“Okay,” Liam says slowly, nodding at Stiles. “Stalking’s totally normal, I've heard.”

Stiles rolls his eyes at him. “Not stalking when you're in an open environment.” Liam opens his mouth to argue about that because really ? but Stiles cuts him off immediately again, “Anyway, we just so happened to notice that Theo decided to chill with you today. Care to explain?”

Before he answers, Liam shoots another look at Scott to ask whether he really needs to answer. Again, he gets a shrug. Even Scott can't help how weird his best friend is, he guesses. “Man, even if he did sit down, I didn't talk to him. I was scramming for that math exam I had.”

He remembers, though, the shadow he'd registered during lunch. Has that been Theo? Why hadn't Mason said anything about that?

“Told you so,” Scott tells Stiles, shoving a hand against his head in a good-natured manner.

Stiles squints in reply. “Yeah, well. He did sit down at your table, though.”

“No idea what you're talking about.”, Liam says, even though the gears in his mind are running. Did Theo want to have something in return at last? Damn, did he fuck up by ignoring him? Shit, the guy might turn him in after all. “I basically only know him from your rambling, man.”

Whatever Stiles wants to go on about (and Liam would bet his most expensive DVD sets that it's a warning about how dangerous Theo is) is interrupted by Coach Finstock’s voice. “Do I pay you for gossiping or what? Get your butts out on the field!”

Stiles groans while Scott looks confused as he mumbles, “But he doesn't pay us…”

 

-

 

hey who sat with us during lunch? , Liam texts Mason as soon as practice is over and they're getting ahold of their clothes again.

He almost wishes that Corey still were on the team, just so he could ask him in person, just by the way, rather than start a whole conversation about it. But he knows it's better for him since he's got those weak bones or whatever. Seriously, the guy injured himself more when he was on the field. So, yeah, he actually has to talk to his own best friend about his problems rather than said guy's boyfriend.

Naturally, Mason doesn't respond immediately, but it bothers him a little when there's still no response as he leaves the locker room. Sure, he hasn't told him about what Theo's done, or what he's done for the matter - besides, he doesn't know what Theo has done - but shouldn't it be some kind of supernatural best friend power to sense when to help your bud? He could swear he's sensed Mason's crush on Corey before he'd even realized it himself. So yeah, if he's jeopardized his school career once again he'd very much like some attention from Mason on that matter.

It causes him to close his car’s door a little fiercer than he’d needed to but that’s a whole different matter.

He almost feels the tension drop off his shoulders as he pulls up in front of his house. He won’t be able to talk to his parents about the whole thing - of course not, they’d flip out if they knew what he’s done. It’s already been bad enough to admit to them he’s got detention for most of the week because he talked back to a teacher. But still, his mother has always had some kind of calming effect on him, which might be embarrassing and useless, seeing how he’d probably need it in any place that isn’t home, but it’s nice enough.

And sure enough, there’s the sound of someone stirring something in a pot, accompanied with the smell of one of Todd’s favourite meals filling the house.

“Hey, mom,” Liam says as he enters the kitchen, placing his keys in the bowl on the counter.

“Hey yourself,” his mom smiles in response, looking up briefly to send him a smile. “How’s your day been?”

For some reason, it’s easy to stop thinking about his whole Theo-Raeken-drama at that. “Strangely, I think I did well on my exam?”, he starts instead. “Like, for me .”

Jenna nods at that. “You did study.”, she reminds him. “Detention today?”

“No,” Liam shakes his head, “practice. It was fine, nobody hurt anyone. Well, Stiles still looks like he’ll collapse as soon as the ball comes in his direction, but yeah.”

He gets a small chuckle in return. His mom may not understand a lot about the sport, but she’d seen enough matches - and a few where they did have to send Stiles on the field - to know he’s not exaggerating. “I love that High Schools still put their sports above everything. In which I mean, I hate it because of the bullying it ensures and all that but-- some things don’t change.”

Liam raises his brows. “I don’t think any of that made sense, but sure.”

“Hush you, it makes sense in a mother’s brain.”, Jenna scolds him, a hint of humour in her voice.

“Sure thing.”, Liam grins and fishes out his phone as it vibrates. He knows his mom finds it incredibly rude if someone’s on their phone during a conversation, but she’s also keeping most of her attention on the stove right now, so it’s touché or whatever. Plus, he would really like to know Mason’s answer.

so u DID notice? lmao

Liam fights the urge to roll his eyes at that and types out a response: yes obvsly, man. saw a shadow but idk who

theo raeken? wanted to talk to u but decided to just chill when u were busy

Now Liam does frown at least. If Theo wanted to threaten him, ask for his payment, then why would something as trivial as him studying prevent him from doing so? Of course, it could be that he’s just been staking out to see what else he could use to get back at Liam, like how much he sucks at math or something, that would make sense.

hm ok weird

When he gets no response after that, it’s clear that either Mason’s with Corey or his dad has roped him into another conversation about his future (which still makes no sense at all since they’re sophomores ) like he tends to. Liam’s had to suffer through one of those himself once and Mr Hewitt had basically sent him into an identity crisis. He’d rather avoid those conversations - at least for now.

“So,” his mother asks when he pockets his phone again. She must have turned off the stove earlier, seeing as she’s already facing him when he looks up. “Any plans for this weekend?”

Liam shrugs. There’s plenty he could do - a new exhibit in the museum opened last week and there’s this comic book based movie he’s been waiting for for, like, half a year but neither of those seem particularly funny to do on your own. He supposes he could ask Mason to tag along to one of those, especially the museum, but he’d rather not take away the time he could spend with Corey otherwise. And inviting both of them to tag along would ensure that he’s the third wheel, so that’s a no. “Play some games, I guess.”

His mom looks like she can’t decide whether to pout at that response or to smile, so in the end she settles for resting her chin on her hands and looking at him. “Living up the typical teenage boy this week, are you? First that detention and now this…”

He knows that she means it more in teasing than anything, but Liam can’t help but feel a bit guilty, too. After all, he really did fuck up only days prior, and she doesn’t even know the full extend. Still, he knows that bringing it up again wouldn’t help at all. “When’s Todd coming home today?”

“His shift should be over at seven,” Jenna says thoughtfully, sending a glance up at the clock. “I think he’s got tomorrow off, maybe you could do something together?”

Ms Monroe, Liam thinks grimly, would probably see this as a fruitless attempt to force them to spend time together. She probably wouldn’t even consider that he and Todd actually get along - even though that’s the case. His mom didn’t even have to suggest it, actually, he would have asked him himself even, because he likes spending time with his step-father, thank you very much.

“Yeah, sounds cool.”, he agrees with a nod. He grants her a soft smile of his own before huffing. “You need any help with dinner? I don’t have much homework.”

Jenna eyes the stove out from the corner of her eyes before replying. “Nah, it’s only got to cook some more right now. Enough time for me to kick your ass in Mario Kart.”

Liam laughs. “Do the Rainbow Road and we’re on.”

Chapter Text

Monday morning comes way too early, if you ask Liam. Not that his weekend has been particularly exciting or anything, but it has been a weekend. Lying around in the living room is much more fun than dragging yourselves to classes. Seriously, there must be some international law against forcing kids out of bed after way too little sleep.

He yawns heavily as he picks his books out of his locker, barely able to keep his eyes open. Honestly, how is he supposed to pass English if all his thoughts are centered about how soft his bed is?

It’s no surprise that he basically jumps out of his skin when there’s someone right next to him when he shuts the door, leaning against the row next to his locker like they’re supposed to stand just there . His eyes must widen almost comically as they make their way up to Theo’s face because there’s a smirk on it.

“Oh, come on,” Liam groans before he can stop himself, leaning his head against the locker door, “it’s too early for this shit.”

Theo actually lets out a low chuckle at that, one that makes the hairs on Liam’s neck stand up. What has he planned to actually wait for him at school, to seek him out in the hallway, this early in the morning?

“Not a morning person?”, Theo muses, like it’s the most normal thing for them to have a chat.

“No,” Liam groans, slowly pulling himself back so that he stands like a normal person. There's still that teasing smirk on Theo, making him look like he's not tired at all and Liam thinks it's unfair . “So can we please postpone this until later?”

To his surprise, Theo agrees. “Sure.”, he says, pushing himself forward as well. In the same motion he crosses his arms but does nothing to indicate that he'll leave. The surprise and confusion must have been visible on Liam's face because he adds, “We do have class together now.”

Liam frowns and thinks he should probably argue with something , but he really is too tired right now for a fight. So he just sighs, deciding that he'll apparently walk to class with Theo Raeken this morning. Whatever, really.

If Theo is surprised by how easily he agrees, he hides it well. His smirk only seems to grow a bit wider as he watches Liam pick up his backpack before they start moving.

It's a good thing that Theo knows better than to strike up a conversation as they make their way through the hallway. Not just because Liam's tired, but - what would they even talk about? Sure, they've had homework, but that's a topic that only last for five sentences max. There's no hobbies they share (or at least none Liam knows about).

What does he even know about Theo? Mostly things he's heard from Stiles during his rants, spiced a little by Scott saying he's exaggerating. Apparently they've been best friends back in elementary school before Theo moved away. He's heard rumours about that, too, during the first week that Theo came back to Beacon Hills, about something so dark nobody actually said what it's been. But he has no idea if any of that is true - he's never been one for gossip, so it didn't even really catch his interest. Now he wonders if he should ask Scott about that.

Other than that, there's basically nothing. He barely even registers him in class, primarily because Theo sits in the back row, keeping quiet most of the time. If it wasn't for the few times that their teacher decides to call random people, he wouldn't have known Theo even is there.

That's why it feels so strange now to actually walk next to him.

Theo's stride is sure, and somehow easy at the same time. He doesn't bump into anyone, keeps his eyes to the front with a neutral expression on them. And yet, he doesn't stand out. It's the perfect mixture of self-esteem and subtlety to make him ease into the crowd when he wants to. It’s like he’s sure of himself but doesn’t want anyone else to be.

And, of course, this is awkward as hell. Like, normally if you walk with someone to class, you have something to discuss at least. Or maybe you don’t, but then it would be a comfortable silence because you’re friends with said person. Now there’s this tension about whether to say something, whether to act like they know each other and-- And they’re arriving in the classroom.

Liam would have thought it would raise more attention to have them enter the room at the same time, but pretty much nobody even looks up. Well, it is a Monday morning, after all.

It’s pretty unceremoniously how Theo just keeps walking, not even turning to look back at him as he says, “See you at lunch.” He’s pretty much already at his seat before Liam can wonder what the fuck that is about.

 

-

 

“Hey,” Mason greets as he sinks down in his seat in bio. “Got some news for you! Hayden’s back in town.”

Liam almost knocks over his bottle of water in response. “Hayden? I thought she was only coming back on Wednesday!”

Mason gives him a smile in return, accompanied with a roll of his eyes. Seriously, he can’t help the effect Hayden has on him - it’s not that he has a crush on her any more (he thinks), or that he ever had one (that’s quite a weird topic, actually), but she has been his first kiss and if there’s one thing you don’t want to do it’s look stupid in front of said person. Not that he’s never embarrassed himself in front of her, hell, they’ve known each other since first grade of Middle School.

It’s just his luck that they don’t have any classes together, because he’s advanced where she isn’t and the other way around, plus Hayden really hates history so she didn’t take it at all. But they are friends, even though there seems to be this tension between them where neither wants to overstep a line, so she belongs to their group. At least so much that she sits with them during lunch.

He groans at that thought, throwing his head back. “Lunch.”

“Lunch?”, Mason repeats. “You hungry or what?”

Liam glares at him. “ No . And I think I might never be. Again, that is.”

“I… Dude, what are you talking about?”

Hell, if there’s anyone he could tell how much he fucked up, it’s Mason. Maybe he’d even come up with a plan on how to get rid off Theo efficiently. He’s clever like that.

“Theo’s joining us for lunch.”, he says in a way of explanation. “It’s… a long story.”, he adds at Mason’s confused face.

“So long that you can’t explain before class starts?”, he wants to know.

Liam can’t help but smile at him at that. That’s Mason - never annoyed by what he gets himself into. “Well, in short he saved my ass and demands some sort of payment. I have no idea what, but he’ll probably tell me at lunch.”

Mason looks pretty unfazed. “Do I want to know the details?”

“Maybe not in the classroom?”, Liam offers. He doesn’t think that anyone would actually aim to eavesdrop, but it does happen. He’d rather not have to be kicked out tomorrow after all.

“Okay,” Mason nods. “You think they’d clash? Wouldn’t be the first time the cafeteria faced a showdown.”

“Yeah, but I feel like it’ll be blamed on me and I really can’t afford this at the moment.”, Liam replies.

Mason laughs. “Probably. But it would be entertaining.”

“I think Hayden can do entertainment all by herself.”, Liam sighs. “After all, she’s been out of town for, like, a week. Way more action.”

“You just need to get out more, dude. Beacon Hills is plenty intere--”, Mason has to cut himself off when Mrs Finch enters the room.

Liam can’t help but feel a little thankful about that. It’s not the first time that Mason urges him to go out more - Liam thinks he does as much of that as he can: he joins Mason and/or Corey often enough for movies or pizza or something, he does his best to jog around the block at least three times a week and he joins post-match celebrations. He knows that Mason usually means actually going out, like teenagers are supposed to do, but most of the time he’s glad when he can have some time to himself. It gives his brain less of an opportunity to have a short circuit about whatever and, frankly, there are times when he feels knackered already after a normal day at school.

Most of the time, he looks at his friend and wonders where he’s got all that energy from. Which is weird, because he’s quite a restless person himself - but it doesn’t feel like his body is tired, he always fidgets about the same amount. Just… sometimes he needs to be alone as he runs in circles. Figuratively speaking, most of the time.

He can’t quite put it into words, so that’s why he doesn’t even bother explaining it to Mason. More often than not, he nods along to what he’s suggesting and either Mason drops it at the empty promises or a few days later he’ll find himself be dragged to one of the surprisingly many clubs that Beacon Hills has. He never enjoys it too much himself - too many people, touching and sweating - but Mason likes it, so he doesn’t argue about it.

His life doesn’t necessarily need any more excitement; and especially not in the form of the guy who saved his ass and the girl he’s… well, he doesn’t know exactly what kind of relationship they even have, but anyway, those two fighting in public does seem like the wrong kind of entertainment.

He lets out a silent sigh and looks for his essay on foxed and their behaviour during the winter. Right now, biology is the thing he should direct his attention at.

 

-

 

At lunch, it feels like everyone’s eyes are on Liam. Hayden keeps looking back and forth between him and Theo, Theo watches him intently because apparently that’s his modus operandi, Mason seems curious about when everything blows up and he’s sure if he were to turn around, he’d find Stiles fuming at him as well. All that attention, which isn’t even openly directed at him, makes Liam wonder if enough willpower would give him the ability to grow invisible.

Speaking of, someone’s missing at their table.

“Hey, where’s Corey?”, Liam speaks up, making everyone snap out of that kind-of trance that they were in.

“He had to talk to Tracy about something, I don’t know.”, Mason states, although he doesn’t sound too happy about not knowing any more. It’s not that he wants to know every little detail about Corey, but Liam can imagine that they’re both certain Corey could act as a buffer right now.

“They’re probably cramming for that physics test later.”

Liam guesses that from the outside it must look quite funny how they all simultaneously turn their heads towards Theo at that. It’s not just that it’s the first time that Theo has even spoken up, but the fact that he even knows who Corey is? Let alone about his test schedule?

“Right,” Mason mutters. “I forgot about that.”

Liam keeps his eyes fixed on Theo even when Hayden turns away again, too, frowning slightly. So far Theo has only kept sitting there, nursing tetra pak in front of him every now and then, and not spoken up at all. He would have guessed that Theo would remind him of his debt as soon as possible, no matter whether someone else is present but no. And now he finally does say something and it’s pretty much trivial?

Theo shrugs at him. “I’m in the same class.”

“So wouldn’t you have to study, too?”

“Nah,” Theo says and if it weren’t for his smirk, that word alone would seem uncharacteristic for him. “I’m good enough.”

Liam snorts at that. “You’d think so.”

The look that Theo gives him in return sends a shiver down his spine. There’s no hint of any teasing in it, the smirk completely gone and replaced with something he can’t quite name. It’s not nothing , there is something written in his face like he’s about to frown any moment. It can only last a short moment because before he knows it, Theo sneers down at him like before.

It’s enough to make Liam remember that he still doesn’t know for certain what the hell Theo wants. He pushes his chair back and as he gets up, he gets ahold of Theo’s wrist. Mason and Hayden send him looks, the latter probably more confused than anything, as he practically drags Theo after him, but he ignores them.

And Theo even chuckles as Liam pulls him out of the cafeteria and to the next restroom to ensure they’re left alone. It’s probably what would fall under the category of causing a scene, but there weren’t any teachers to follow them and, well, students he can scare off if necessary.

“What, intelligence turns you on?”, Theo asks, still chuckling softly when Liam pushes him against the row of sinks. The detail he seems to miss is how there’s at least a meter of distance between them again.

Liam rolls his eyes. “What do you want?”

The amusement disappears from Theo’s face immediately, much to Liam’s irritation. He would have thought he’d continue teasing him, just to drive him crazy, but apparently the other wants to get this over with after all. “Well, a thank you would be nice, for starters.”

Oh damn, he really didn’t thank him yet, did he? Liam mentally curses himself for that. Whatever Theo’s done has earned him a meeting with the principal of his own and Liam didn’t even think about it. He’s only been wondering about what he could want in exchange, not what he’s risked. He flushes at the realization and stammers, “I-- you’re right. Thank you.”

Theo raises an eyebrow at him as if he can’t believe how easily Liam admitted to his own mistake, but he says nothing. His mouth’s a little open, he notices, like he wants to add something, but then he closes it and licks over his lips shortly.

“What did you even do?”, Liam presses, looking up into his eyes again.

There’s a moment of silence as Theo shifts, once again crossing his arms in front of himself. Liam wonders - he wouldn’t have done anything that’s really troublesome, would he? No, he can’t have. Then he would have been expelled, that’s for sure.

“Nothing,” Theo decides then. “I’d just lost my keys and Ms Monroe was unlucky enough to drive over them, as it seems.”

He sounds so serious that, for a moment, even Liam believes him. It’s no surprise he didn’t get any problems with that sober performance. In the next second, Liam starts laughing. And when he stops, there’s an honest smile playing on Theo’s lips.

“Jesus, that’s brilliant .”, Liam breathes. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.”, Theo says carefully, as if he’s never uttered those words before. Then, in a normal tone, he adds, “You just have to pay my lunch.”

Liam raises his eyebrow. That sounds like little to ask in return, actually. “You mean, this week or what?”

“Rest of the school year.”, Theo offers.

In return, Liam blinks at him. He'd have thought maybe a month or so, but it's only February and school's until June. It's not much, of course, and he'd be able to pay it even without his parents noticing - if he cuts back on his own expenses, that is. He answers, “Do you need a fake boyfriend, too, while we're at it?”

Theo doesn't even bat an eye. “Not at the moment, no.”

“So I pay your lunch.”, Liam summarizes. “Until summer. And you won’t rat me out.”

“Exactly.”, Theo nods. Somehow, he looks like a judge rather than a smug lawyer like Liam would have expected.

It’s probably what makes him agree. He holds out his hand. “Okay. Deal.”

Now, Theo does crack a smile again. “Deal.”, he agrees and closes his hand around Liam’s. It’s firm and rough, but somehow he doesn’t feel like he just made a pact with the devil, so it’s fine.

And just like it’s been ordered to, the bell rings after a few more heartbeats. Liam almost curses about only having picked at his food, but then he remembers Theo didn’t even have any, so his whining would be ignored anyways. Come to think of it, if he always eats as little as today, Liam might not have to pay that much money after all.

“I’ll see you tomorrow.”, Theo offers curtly as he drops Liam’s hand. Then he turns and walks out of the bathroom.

Chapter Text

If there’s one thing that Liam probably won’t ever be used to, it’s how well his mom and Mason get along. Sometimes it’s like they’re best friends, too. Of course, they’ve known each other as long as he and Mason have, and they’re both more of morning persons than he is, so they chilled together at an early hour pretty often, so he guesses that’s stuff to make weird friendships out of.

So it shouldn’t surprise him that Mason’s already at his place when he comes home after detention, legs tucked up while he nurses something to drink and talks to Jenna, but it kind of does. His mom’s gesturing animatedly while she talks, probably telling him about that one customer she’s had a couple days ago that was crazy as hell. Like Liam hasn’t already told him about that.

“Hey,” he greets as he walks over to the kitchen. Placing his keys in the bowl, he hears them chorus their own welcome, and he moves over to grab something to drink before walking back into the living room.

“How’s detention, darling?”, Jenna asks with a sadistic smile. She knows exactly just how boring it is to just sit there while Mrs Martin is flipping through a magazine. But hey, he’s got himself into that mess and he deserves it, so let her have her fun.

“Boring.”, he shrugs. He takes a sip of his drink before asking, “What are you two talking about?”

Mason grins. “Your mom’s just told me about how you almost knocked out Todd the other day.”

Liam splutters in response. Okay, so maybe he did almost hit Todd in the head with a water bottle, but that was entirely his fault for not catching. “Lies and slander!”

Both his mom and Mason laugh at that, causing him to join. It is quite funny, in retrospective, and it’s not like either of them means any harm even if it’s kept him awake for some time at night. He’d been replaying the whole thing for half the night, wondering what could have happened and how he could have done anything differently, even if Todd had laughed it off right away.

But they are laughing, too, and it’s been days ago and Todd’s fine. So he can laugh as well.

“Speaking of,” Mason starts once he’s recovered, “half the school’s convinced you’re hooking up with Theo, you know.”

Liam’s glad he’s put down his glass already, or else it would’ve greeted the floor in that moment. Not just that the whole idea is random and weird , his mom’s also in the room. She doesn’t flip out, which he should have expected because she does know he’s bi, but she’s getting this weird look in her eyes like Christmas came early.

“Theo?”, Jenna repeats. “Who’s Theo?”

“Theo Rae--”

“Nobody,” Liam shuts them both up. “And I’m not sleeping with him!”

“Somehow I doubt that he’s--”

Liam cuts her off again before she can get anything into her head. It might be too late already, but hearing her go on about who Theo could be and how come she’s never met him, he’d rather leave before she gets this far. “ Nobody . Mason, come, we’re gonna play something.”

For a split second Mason looks utterly confused, but when Liam grabs into his shirt he complied and gets up from his seat. He doesn’t even have to drag him up the stairs, so maybe they can talk about things rationally. Mason still doesn’t even know what exactly connects him to Theo, so that’s something he should change first of all.

It’s a good thing that Mason’s used to his antics - and that he knows that despite his lack of anger management there’s certain lines he won’t crush. Like hurting people he cares about. If he wasn’t he would probably be scared right now. As it is, he looks only confused. And maybe even amused.

“Hey, man, sorry. Shouldn’t have dropped this while your mom was there.”, he offers while Liam closes the door once they’re in the room. “I didn’t think…”

“She probably won’t shut up about that for a while.”, Liam shrugs. “But it’s fine.”

Mason’s thrown himself onto the bed by now, propping himself up on an elbow. “Still, the school does think you and Theo went at it in the bathroom. Did you?”

Liam flushes. “What? No!”

“Well,” Mason grins. “You did say something about having to pay him and then you pull him away like a dog. Hell, even I was almost believing those rumours.”

“You’re awful.”, Liam states, looking at him disbelievingly. He would’ve understood strangers believing something like that, but his own best friend who knows that he is a virgin? “He wants me to pay his lunch, by the way. And, apparently, provide entertainment during that hour.”

“Entertainment?”

“Wants to sit with us, don’t ask me.”, Liam shrugs. Finally he lets himself fall down on the bed as well, only barely avoiding collapsing with Mason’s hip. He wonders if Mason should just stay over tonight so that they won’t have to move at all until tomorrow - it’s their sleeping positions anyway and somehow he’d rather stay in bed as long as he can. But neither of their parents are fans of sleepovers on school nights, so that won’t be possible.

“Oooookay,” Mason says slowly. They’re facing different ways but Liam can practically feel him nod. “So what did he do for you?”

Surprisingly, Liam doesn't even feel remotely guilty or embarrassed as he tells him about what has happened. Mason knows about his argument with Ms Monroe, of course, but the part about her car is new. For a moment he looks almost furious about it, which Liam can't really blame him for. After all, he should know better than to flip out like this again. But it's gone in an instant, almost like it's never been there, and Liam goes on and tells him what Theo's done.

“That actually seems like quite a cheap deal.”, Mason muses once he’s finished. “Like, he could’ve gone for anything .”

“I know. I keep thinking he might jump a bigger gun at me at some point.”, Liam admits. It might just be caused by Stiles’ conspiracy theories, he supposes, and the fact that he doesn’t even know Theo. He can’t tell if he’d be someone who keeps asking for more and more just because he can .

“Well, for what it’s worth, he seems to talk to Corey, right?”, Mason remembers. “I could ask him if Theo’s really like… well, like that.”

“Huh, that’s an idea.”, Liam agrees. Actually, he doubts that casual chatter before or during class is comparable to this, but it might be better to know at least a bit about him. “He should write a manual or something.”

Mason laughs. “Sounds like an idea. I’ll tell him to have it ready by the end of the week.”

“The best friend.”, Liam nods exaggeratedly. Not that the words aren’t true, but anyway. “Shouldn’t you be coming up with theories on how to get me out of this one?”

“My mind’s working, man.”, Mason shoots back, pulling his leg up a little until it collides with Liam’s thigh. It’s a gentle shove, so Liam snickers. “Did you try bribing him back? Just offer him, like, a hundred bucks or something, who knows.”

“Well, for that I’d have to have so much money at once.”

“Then I don’t know either.” Mason rolls around and sits up. He’s grinning, so he doesn’t expect the whole deal with Theo to be actually that bad, Liam guesses. “That problem needs a Slytherin, not a Ravenclaw.”

“I feel like Theo is a Slytherin,” Liam answers, “that’s why he even came up with that. It’s thought through, I tell you.”

“I guess we’ll have to wait and see then, huh?”

“Yeah, looks like it.”, Liam decides. He puts his hands under his head. “For now, though, do you want to read through my paper for Ms Monroe? She’ll probably hate it anyway, but you could soften the blow.”

Mason lets out a breath, smiling as he does so. “Give it here.”

“You’re a goddamn hero, Mason Hewitt.”

Chapter Text

Theo is already in his seat when Liam enters their classroom. His arms are crossed, like they seemingly always are, and he’s staring down at his desk. Eyes open, but somehow still absent like he’s thinking about something and at the same time not. Like he’s tired but doesn’t want to close his eyes for some reason.

“Here’s your lunch money.”, Liam says, stepping up to his desk and holding out his hand. He’s talking quietly so that nobody suspects anything - not that this class would particularly care, as far as he knows. He’s also already counted the money before he even left the house in the morning and put it into his jeans pockets so that he could easily access it. He’s even counted it a few times on the way from his bike to here.

Theo snaps out of whatever trance he’s been in, eyeing him carefully. Then he shakes his head slowly. “Uh-uh.”, he makes. “ You have to pay for it. We’ll stand in the line together, you’ll pay and then we’ll sit with your friends.”

Liam bites down a scowl. He should’ve known something would actually be awful about this deal but - what would Theo get out of that, other than taunting him during lunch? “Why?”

“Because this school is awful with rumours.”, Theo says and leans forward, placing his elbows on the desk. Liam rolls his eyes because yeah , he’s noticed, so how would that help in any way? He continues before he can open his mouth, though, “People would think I’m selling you drugs.”

Liam lets out a dry laugh. “Because you get so many drugs with 3.50$.”

For some reason, Theo looks almost… shocked at that. Maybe he’d thought he’d get more expensive food out of this or something. He presses his lips together for a moment before replying, “Josh Diaz got expelled because of drugs.”

“Josh Diaz did do drugs.”, Liam replies instantly.

“Do you even know Josh?”

“No,” Liam admits. “But when people were talking about it, Scott just told them to shut up. If Josh didn’t do drugs, he would have said so.”

There’s a tug at the corner of Theo’s mouth, but he can’t quite tell in which way it goes. He’s got to step aside a bit when the girl sitting in front of Theo wants to sit down, but he feels like the conversation isn’t over.

“Got a lot of trust in Scott, huh?”, Theo asks, sounding a bit amused.

It feels like a challenge, somehow. That’s something Liam can work with. “Yes.”

There’s something in Theo’s eyes at that - he looks away shortly, eyes a bit more narrow than just a second ago like he’s fighting down anger. Liam knows that Theo has history with Scott - and Stiles, of course, that’s why he never shuts up about his conspiracy theories  -, but he can’t imagine a reason why someone would be pissed at him. If Theo were on the team, okay, then he could, like, argue that he’s jealous of Scott’s position as captain or something. But just like this?

“I’ll see you at lunch.”, Theo says. He crosses his arms again and Liam knows the conversation is over.

There's no point in asking him what it's about - they've had their first real conversation only yesterday and given its nature, there's no way Theo would give away something personal. He feels like in general he doesn't. So he turns around and drags himself over to his own seat, sitting down heavily.

 

-

 

Theo’s already standing in front of the cafeteria when Liam and Mason get out of class. The fact that he seems to be able to teleport or something makes its way onto Liam’s list of weird talents that he seems to have (joining Can-Manipulate-Teachers and Either-Really-Good-At-Guessing-Locker-Combinations-Or-Able-To-Dematerialize-Metal) because that? Actually impossible. They’re usually at the front of the line because they always rush to get food and their usual seats. But there he is, leaning against the wall next to the doors like he’s been there for hours already. Not that he looks impatient or anything. Just his good old expression of boredom.

“Well, that will be pleasant.”, Mason mumbles. Come to think of it, Liam doesn’t even know if those two share any classes because up to yesterday, Theo has never been a topic. Still, judging by what he’s seem so far, he could be right.

Liam takes a deep breath and puts on a smile. There’d be no use in making the mood worse than it already is. “Hi,” he says as he steps forward.

“Hi,” Theo nods and pushes himself off the wall. He looks over Liam’s shoulder and adds, “Hello, Mason.”

“Hey,” Mason greets curtly.

It’s awkward as hell and Liam would rather have it be over sooner than later, so he decides to opt for smalltalk. “So, food. Anybody know what’s on today?”, he asks and continues for the door.

Theo just lifts his shoulders and walks past him without even so much as a thanks. Jerk.

“Think it was something with mushrooms.”, Mason says, clearly taking pity on him. He even grants him an apologetic smile when Liam sighs. It’s just his luck that on top of everything there’s food he doesn’t like.

Theo’s already in line when they step up to him, heaving things onto his plate which is just rude . It’ll totally bomb Liam’s budget and he won’t even be able to say anything about it because Theo can still point Ms Monroe at how the bent key of his bike’s lock fits into the slash in her tire. So yeah, he has no other choice but to bite his lip and get his own share of reheated stuff from yesterday plus some fresh vegetables.

He also has to do so quickly before Theo’s already at the cash register and will get pissed when he has to wait for his money to arrive - Liam feels like Theo won’t like the awkwardness that would arrive in that case.

As much as Theo loads on, he’s quick, almost like he doesn’t care what Liam has to pay for as long as he does. It makes him scowl a little. Does he think that Liam’s some rich kid who can do just anything with his money? Sure, Todd’s a doctor and his parents would never, like, let him go out without at least 10$ on him, but that doesn’t mean he can just throw it out the window. In fact, they’ll probably wonder when he keeps asking for more and that’s the opposite of what he needs so--

“2.79.”, an unfamiliar voice snaps him out of his thoughts. They’d kept moving and now Theo’s in front of the register and-- Did the lunch lady really only say 2.79?

Theo raises an eyebrow at him and Liam swallows.

“I’ll pay for him.”, he says quickly. “Just ring mine up, too.”

The woman looks between the two of them before shrugging. She pulls Liam’s tray closer and adds the food onto the bill. “5.68, then.”

Liam nods and digs two bills out of his pocket. Theo’s already gone before he’s even gotten the change. How the hell did his mountain of food cost less than what Liam got?

Mason’s quick with paying, so he bumps his shoulder against Liam’s only a few seconds later. “Do you think he already found a seat at another table?”

Liam shrugs even though he knows better. Theo had said he’d also stay for lunch and somehow he doubts that was an empty promise.

And sure enough, Theo’s already sitting at the table that their group always claims, the benches around the round table empty.

It goes unspoken that Liam takes a seat next to Theo (who has actually already started to devour his food) and for a second he’s thankful that Mason sat down on his other side - moral support and all that - before it dawns on him that Hayden will have to sit on Theo’s other side then. Because Corey will definitely want to sit next to his boyfriend rather than Theo Raeken . This could get bloody.

“Man,” Mason starts, “slow down! Could think you haven’t had anything in, like, weeks.”

Either Theo doesn’t realize that he’s talking to him or he ignores it. It’s almost weird how fast he’s eating without looking like a starved anime character. Not that it’s particularly graceful, but he doesn’t shove his face into the meal either.

Mason throws a look at Liam that he can’t quite decipher and works to open his bottle of cocoa first. In return, Liam starts trying to find something edible on his plate. They spend some time like this, in a pressed silence even though Theo’s soon only got his tetra pak left in front of him. It’s only when Corey shows up that there’s even any big movement among the three of them.

“Hey guys,” Corey says while sitting down. He leans over to give Mason a short kiss before actually looking at the others. “Oh, hi Theo.”

“Hey.”

“How’s physics been for you? Think you’ve passed? I think I will but, uh, barely.”, Corey continues like it’s completely normal that Theo’s sitting with them.

Theo tilts his head a little. “I’ve never really had a problem with physics.”

“Huh,” Corey makes. “You should, like, tutor people. I know about two who could need it.”

“I might take you up on that.”, Theo smirks a little. “Won’t take pity on you, though. It’ll be a boot camp.”

Liam looks at Mason in confusion. Why does it almost seem like they’re friends? Well, friendly, anyhow. Theo still seems a bit calculating and yet his voice sounds normal . With Liam it’s either been pressing or pissed off so far and somehow it doesn’t sit right with him.

“Please tell me Liam broke someone’s face again.”, Hayden announces as she steps up to the table. She flings herself down on the empty spot on the bench, looking somewhat sleepy.

“What?”, Liam sputters. “Why would I do that?”

“It’s the thing you do.”, Hayden shrugs. “Plus, I’m bored . I’ve been back for two days and I’m already bored of this town.”

“What does she mean ‘the thing you do’?”, Theo speaks up, shooting a glance at Liam.

And Mason, bless his soul, attempts to divert this conversation (fruitlessly). “Pretty sure that’s a movie with Tom Hanks.”

Apparently today’s the day where people just gloss over Theo sitting with them because the most Hayden does about that is to look at him weirdly for a moment . “Liam likes to break noses.”

“I broke one person’s nose in my entire life.”, Liam counters.

“Yeah, and it was mine!”

Years ago.”

“Besides, Liam’s more of a car trasher.”, Corey cuts in. Out of the corner of his eye Liam can see Theo tense a little. He bites down a groan because honestly ? That’s the one thing Theo can talk about, too. “It’s what brought him to this school, isn’t it?”

“Is it?”, Theo asks. He actually sounds intrigued and Liam remembers - Theo’s only come here after him, which makes him the one person who doesn’t know about his expulsion and isn’t a freshman either.

“I… took a bat to my old coach’s car.”, Liam admits slowly.

“Did you now?”, Theo lifts an eyebrow. More quietly he adds, “I sense a pattern here.”

“School expelled him.”, Hayden explains further. “Sometimes I wonder how you were allowed to come here.”

“Coach said he’d get the mischief out of me, whatever that means.”, Liam tells her.

“Doing a good job. Think of last week.”, Corey muses. “The old Liam would’ve completely flipped out, huh?”

Liam feels himself pale in response - especially since Theo’s chuckling at that. Yeah, it must seem pretty amusing to him that Liam keeps making the same mistakes over and over again.

“Hey, Hayden,” Mason says suddenly. “What exactly was so much more exciting about the suburbs of Lancaster ?”

And either she really has something exciting to say or maybe she thinks it’s enough of talking shit about Liam (is it shit if it’s true? He doesn’t know.) but this time Mason’s attempt at distraction works. Hayden launches directly into talking about her trip over to Pennsylvania where she and her sister visited some distant relatives.

Liam tunes her out, mostly, simply because Theo’s still looking at him with this smirk. He can imagine that the guy probably has a field day knowing that not only did Liam owe him for keeping him at this school, but that his friends don’t even know about it. But really, if he’d told Hayden - because he’s pretty sure Mason will actually tell Corey at some point, but Corey knows to keep a secret - he’ll never hear the end of it.

He mouths “Shut up!” at Theo and when the other’s smirk just grows wider, he nudges his elbow against his arm. He chuckles at the small yelp he gets in response.

Chapter Text

The rest of the week and the following, nothing special happens. The days carry on like they did before, the only change that Theo joins them for lunch and even that doesn’t feel completely weird after some time. Corey’s never batted an eye at Theo’s presence and Hayden only raised an eyebrow at him when he kept sitting at their table even after a week had gone by - Liam guesses she’d thought they had a project together or something and that’s why he’d joined them in the first place - but then she just accepted it as well.

Slowly Theo even starts actually joining conversations that have not been initiated just to have him say something (a method that Corey likes to practice, as it seems). He never starts one of his own, but he gives his own statements about teachers or even suggests topics for essays. But that’s it so far, actually. It’s like as soon as their minds leave school, Theo doesn’t tag along.

And it’s fine, really, if it wasn’t for the fact that a part of Liam feels a bit disappointed at that. It’s like, to Theo, they’re fine to be around to at school, but when it comes to real life he’s better than them. He doesn’t even say what he’s done the night before when they all discussed theirs and the one time they’d all planned to go to the movies as a group, he’s pulled himself out of it with what sounded like a generated excuse.

It’s a reminder of the fact that Theo isn’t really one of them, but that he’s just here because of a bargain they made. One that Liam starts forgetting about more and more, even though he does still pay for Theo’s food.

 

-

 

The randomest thing lately certainly is when Stiles stops him after practice one day, telling him to get to Scott’s place the following weekend. It’s not an invitation, at least from the sound of it. It’s an order. So, of course, he does go there even though he has no idea what it’s about.

Liam thinks that maybe this is supposed to be a movie night for the team - but then, half of it is missing and instead of them, random people have been added to the mix. For example, Nolan from his social studies class is seated on the floor next to one of the couches and he can’t even recall that that boy’s has ever even watched a match.

He frowns as he tries to find Stiles so that he can ask him what the whole thing even is about. It’s not even like a party because then there’d be more people, more music and more alcohol, so whatever he’s planned could turn out to be some kind of real life cluedo.

He makes his way through the living room, dodging conversations here and there. It’s not that he wouldn’t have anything to talk about - the mutual confusion is enough - but it’s already taken him enough energy to even come here. At the moment, he’d rather hide in his room as much as possible. It’s not that he’s terribly antisocial, but at the moment it’s like every person more that he spends time with drains him of more energy. It’s weird and he doesn’t like it, so that’s why he’s actually come here.

When he tries his luck in the kitchen, he still doesn’t find Stiles. There’s Scott and Isaac Lahey, though, the latter sitting on the counter and Scott standing between his knees and facing him (he’ll never catch up on who’s with whom in that friend group). It’s probably even better because while Stiles invited people over, those two actually do live in this house.

“Oh, hey, sorry to… interrupt?”, Liam starts when both of them look his way. “I just… uh, there’s like a dozen of people and nobody has a clue what’s going on.”

Scott chuckles. “Us all, man,” he shakes his head.

“He invites people to your house without telling you what for?”

“We think he conspired with Scott’s mom.”, Isaac says and leans one arm on Scott’s shoulder.

“True. She had us buy all the snacks.”, Scott agrees. “I think he’d actually wanted to do it at Derek’s loft, but can you imagine him with a horde of teenagers?”

Isaac laughs at that, clearly sharing his sentiment.

Liam doesn’t know who that Derek figure is - maybe Scott’s boss? He knows that Scott works at an animal clinic - so that part of the conversation doesn’t really help him. “Okay, uh, I’ll tell the others that you don’t know either?”

“Nah, hang on. Can I talk to you for a moment?”

Liam freezes and tries to think of an excuse. Not that he’s scared of Scott, how could he be?, but it’s always more of a heart-to-heart with him and he’s really not in the mood for one. But before he can even open his mouth Isaac’s hopped off the counter and announces that he’ll tell the others then.

“It’s, uh, nothing actually.”, Scott assures him and waves him a bit closer. “Just… you became friends with Theo, right?”

Liam frowns. He wouldn’t really say they’re friends , but it’s definitely not as awkward with him any more. They even have chats like normal people do. Of course, he can’t quite tell Scott the truth, so he nods slowly. “I mean, I know what Stiles keeps going on about but--”

Scott cuts him off with a shake of his head. “Listen, I love Stiles to bits but he’s… well, paranoid, I guess. Especially when it comes to Theo, for some reason. Wasn’t always that way but… yeah.”

“Oh, okay?”, Liam lifts his eyebrows.

“What I meant to say is: good that you’re befriending him. I guess he hasn’t had any friends since he moved away and… he did lose his sister around that time, too.”, Scott muses. “Honestly, if I wasn’t so sure Theo’d be overwhelmed with my friends, I would’ve tried my best to include him. So good that you’re doing it.”

“I…”, Liam starts. There’s so much information in that sentence, he doesn’t know where to begin. “It just so happened, I mean-- his sister’s dead ?”

“Yeah,” Scott says softly, his face sad. “She-- uh, she drowned in the creek. His parents decided to move away soon after that. Not to be reminded of her every day, I guess.”

“I didn’t know.”, Liam says, his voice hollow.

“I don’t think he likes talking about it, so don’t feel bad.”, Scott tells him. “But like I said, he could probably need friends. And really, if he’s anything like he used to be like, Theo’s not even bad.”

Liam’s not quite sure if he should argue with that. Theo’s not the most pleasant person to be around with, but Scott’s right - he’s not that bad either. He could have used the whole situation to his advantage, but not once has he changed his demands. Hell, they might actually be on their way to a weird kind of friendship.

Instead, he gives him a small smile. “You’re really the mom friend, aren’t you?”

Scott laughs at that, in a way that almost sounds like a bark. “I guess so.”, he tells him and puts his hands on Liam’s shoulders. “And now I’m making sure that we aren’t late to whatever Stiles’ plans are.”

He manoeuvers him out of the kitchen and back into the living room. The people have started to chat with one another and from the sounds of it, Isaac telling them that nobody has an idea has made them stop wondering aloud.

Scott squeezes Liam’s shoulder and gives him a nod before trailing over to where Isaac’s standing, talking to someone who looks like he’s in their grade. Liam stares after him for a while before frowning, trying to find out where he should go.

Nolan’s still sitting where he’s been before, but he’s pulled out his phone now. From the looks of it he scrolls through it absent-mindedly so Liam guesses it’ll be cool for him to sit down with him. They’re not actually friends, but they do talk from time to time during training or before class, and he seems nice enough.

“Hey,” Liam makes, standing in front of him. “Mind if I sit?”

Nolan looks up. “Uh, no! Sit down,” he says and pockets his phone. There’s a small, polite smile on his lips. “So, Stiles roped in half the school?”

“Yeah,” Liam agrees and sinks on the floor as well. “Still don’t know what for, though. Not even Scott does.”

“Yeah, Isaac said so earlier.”

“I still think he wants to, like, play a game or something and needs more players or whatever.”, Liam shrugs.

Nolan laughs. “Dungeons & Dragons? I have no idea about that, actually. Can I be, like, a bounty hunter? Always thought that seems nice.”

“I’ve never played it either.”, Liam tells him. “I think I’d like to be something supernatural? Like a werewolf or something. They’re cool.”

“They’re scary .”, Nolan says sternly. “You’d have to, like, play a bad guy and I’ll come fight you.”

“Plot twist,” Liam grins, “It turns out that you are the bad guy.”

“See? Already figured the game out.”, Nolan says after a giggle fit. “We should, like, run our own. With our own rules, it’ll probably be better anyways.”

“A spin-off, so to speak.”

“Right.”, Nolan agrees. “Speaking of bad guys, though. How’s things been with Ms Monroe? I swear, she always looks at you like you personally planned to kill her.”

Liam scoffs at that. It’s true, the glares that Ms Monroe sends him make it pretty impossible to forget about the argument they’ve had, even after detention about it ended. Sometimes he starts smirking to himself, enjoying that he’s still one-upped her with the tire.It grants him one ounce of satisfaction about that, at least. “I don’t know, you’d think she’d know that there’s not one single way to look at things. Like, humans experience all kinds of things differently, right?”

“I guess so. She’s stubborn.”, Nolan agrees. “Also pushy. You notice how she keeps on calling random people?”

Liam nods. He’s seen more often than not how people - most of all Nolan himself - tense up whenever she starts a conversation. It’s probably her way of helping people out with their shyness or whatever to just make them speak up. Judging from what he’s seen, she does about the opposite.

“Well, anyway, the things she sometimes says--”

But whatever Nolan’s opinion on that is will wait for later as he is interrupted by a loud noise coming from the hall.

“Can we have one fucking time where you do not smash the door against the wall?”, Isaac says loudly, glancing towards where the noise has come from. Liam notes that he and Scott have found their places on the floor as well, although Scott is sprawled out on the ground with one arm leaning on Isaac’s lap. It looks both comfortable and not.

“Sorry!”, Stiles answers as he rushes inside the room. “I’m just-- okay, this is huge. Life-changing, man!”

What is life-changing, dude?”, someone asks.

“Wait. First,” Stiles says, holding up a hand. He’s standing in front of the TV, getting all the attention to himself. “Name roll!”

“What the hell.”, Nolan breathes, shaking his head.

True to his word, Stiles pulls out a somewhat-battered piece of paper and starts calling out random names, crossing them off when someone says they’re present. It takes a while until he’s finished and a few people have started talking again.

When Stiles puts the paper back into his pocket, though, they all grow quiet again, safe for Scott. “Dude, what is this about ?”

“Well, it has come to my attention that a number of students at our school has a serious lack of education.”, Stiles says seriously. “And I thought it my responsible to change that before we graduate.”

Liam raises his brows at that. Okay, he’s not the best student and he knows that Stiles is really intelligent (although from the sounds of it, he puts that everywhere but school stuff) but he doubts that such a big study group would help anyone. Plus, does that mean they all suck at the same subject? He always thought people not knowing math was a myth.

Most of the others must be thinking the same because Stiles is met with nothing but stunned silence.

“We’re watching Star Wars!”, he finally adds, a huge grin on his face. “Seriously, none of you have ever watched it and that’s a damn shame. How do you guys even live?”

“You can’t be serious.”, someone answers loudly so that she’s audible about the general sounds of confusion. Liam agrees with her only half-heartedly because if Stiles made a list of people who haven’t watched it...

“Oh, you bet I’m serious about Star Wars.”, Stiles says firmly.

“Hey, didn’t you plan a Star Wars marathon with Kira?”, Scott wants to know.
Stiles glares at him. “Do not speak that name.”, he says decidedly. “She’s one of those people who prefer the prequels . I can’t have that amount of cheese for people who watch for the first time .”

“So you… uninvited her?”

“Nah, she said she’d gonna watch something with the girls. Probably porn or something, don’t ask me.”

There’s laughter coming from all sides of the room, but judging from the stern nods Isaac and Scott give Liam guesses it’s actually probable. Honestly, Scott’s friends are so weird .

“So we’re here to watch Star Wars .”, Nolan says quietly, almost sounding like he’s asking Liam.

“Yeah, seems so.”, Liam mumbles back. “Stiles really loves it.”

Some others must have been talking as well because in the next second Stiles is glaring in the round and making a hissing sound. It’s probably meant to be a shush. “Some of you will probably know memes of this, how could you not, but there will be no talking . Absolutely none. You will pay attention to these masterworks and appreciate them.”

Someone from the other side of the room speaks up, clearly suppressing a chuckle. “So, I didn’t listen to a single word you said but did anyone ever tell you you have fantastic blowjob lips?”

Stiles doesn’t even blush in response, he just rolls his eyes. “Yes, thank you, Brett, I know. Any other relevant questions?” When nobody says anything else, he clasps his hands shortly. “Okay, so let’s get on with this.”

Chapter Text

Mason laughs when Liam tells him what Stiles’ plan has been about the next day. He’d already meant to text him last night, after they finished the movies but as it turns out, when Stiles talks about a Star Wars marathon, he means it. They’ve spent almost the whole night in the McCall’s living room - apparently because Scott’s mom had a night shift anyways - and were explicitly prohibited to use their phone. Liam’s pretty sure that most of them missed at least half a movie because they fell asleep. He’d managed to stay up for all of it but when Scott offered he could crash in his room, he gladly accepted it without even thinking about the fact he’s gonna be sleeping in his bed. He was tired .

The movies were okay, in his opinion. He guesses he liked the storyline, especially since it’s actually more than what it’s usually boiled down to (aka Darth Vader being Luke’s father and Leia his sister), but he doesn’t get the hype. Maybe it’s been revolutionary when it first came out which still doesn’t explain why Stiles is obsessed with it now . Plus, there’s been no reason to make everything happen so slowly. If they’d watched only one movie, he’d have been disappointed by the lack of things to happen . They take their time.

But well, he’s watched it now and Stiles will stop glaring at him, so that’s that. And he’s spent his morning wrapped into the sweet smell of Scott’s bed which may sound crazy out of context, but he’ll take it.

He’s gone over to Mason’s after waking up - there’d still been people sleeping everywhere in the living room and he guesses Scott, Isaac and Stiles must have gone to Isaac’s room or whatever to get their own few hours of sleep - after texting his mom that he’s still alive. Mason hasn’t looked extremely awake either, but Liam guesses that’s because he was out partying with Corey or something so it’s his own fault.

“All that for Star Wars ?”, Mason asks, wiping away a tear. “That dude is crazy .”

“I know, right? Like half the team was there and then even more people. We must’ve been about 30 or something.”, Liam nods. “He even had an attendance list.”

“Jesus. So, serious big bro night?”

“Including girls.”, Liam laughs. “I mostly kept to Nolan, though. He didn’t seem to really know anyone besides maybe two people or so and well…”

“Yeah.”, Mason answers, aware of Nolan’s shy character. “Anything else, though?”

Liam thinks about it. He’s halfway through deciding to say that they might start a roleplay game because honestly, he would love to go through with that idea, even if Nolan was only joking. But then he remembers something else, “Oh yeah. Uh, Scott kinda thanked me for befriending Theo?”

Mason looks at him weirdly. “Why’d he thank you for that?”

“Dunno.”, Liam shrugs. He’s wondering if he should tell Mason about what’s apparently happened to Theo’s sister, to his family , but is it his thing to tell? He supposes it’s different for Scott, because he’s been there - he’s been friends with Theo when it happened. Them, however, they’re new to everything. It’s like passing on a rumour. “Apparently he’s a lone wolf?”

“You know, wolves are actually pretty sociable. Something like, I don’t know, coyote is more fitting.”, Mason replies. “But yeah, it’s not like that’s news.”

“I suppose.”, Liam says. “Anyway, I couldn’t really tell him what happened, right? I mean, Scott’s cool and all and he probably wouldn’t go and tell people but…”

“Don’t want to disappoint the dad.”, Mason nods.

Liam glares at him. It’s become a current method of teasing him to claim that ever since he joined the lacrosse team, Scott and Stiles have decided to adopt him - with Stiles being the stern dad while Scott’s the more understanding one. It embarrasses him greatly every time, so naturally Mason won’t stop.

“I probably shouldn’t disappoint my actual parents.”, he reasons after a moment. He’s pretty sure that despite wishing him a lovely night his mom hasn’t taken it upon herself to take out the trash - what’s his task stays his task until it’s done. It’s always been like this. Plus, he has half a book to read for English class still because he’s an idiot and hasn’t done so during the week. “Should get going.”

“Yeah, I should probably do something, too. Corey and Brett are coming over later to study.”, Mason agrees.

“Well, if Brett’s awake already. He’s been there yesterday, too.”, Liam says. “Even complimented Stiles’ lips. I mean, I guess it was a compliment.”

“What’d he say?”

“That he’s got blowjob lips. Can’t argue with that, right?”

Mason laughs. “Right.”

 

-

 

Both his parents have been roped into taking afternoon shifts despite it being a Saturday, so Liam has the house to himself. He’s actually glad about that because it means he can concentrate on his book before answering questions about last night. Todd would probably be amused at the idea of what Stiles has done, and he supposes his mom would want to analyze the movies with him - she’s been trying to make him join her for them for a while, but whenever she’s had them on he’d been busy otherwise. And even without that interaction, he’ll have to fight off the urge to waste time on the internet. He’s glad he doesn’t have to spend lots of money on the book, but having it as a PDF means he’s always prone to clicking on a browser.

What he honestly did not expect is to see someone waiting for him on his porch. But sure enough, as he pedals towards his house, the figure of Theo gets more and more recognizable. He looks like always, both attentive and not, and dressed in the same jacket. He must really like it if it’s his go-to even on the weekend.

In comparison, Liam feels a bit… well, dirty. He’s still wearing the same clothes as yesterday and last night and he’s even slept in them - for a few hours, but still - and the only thing that keeps him from reeking is the deodorant he keeps in his bag. He should probably change once he’s inside.

Would it be weird to change while Theo’s there? What is he even doing here? It’s not like Liam said he’d pay his food on weekends, too.

“Uh, hi?”, Liam says as he climbs off his bike and puts it down. “Theo. What are you doing here?”

Like seemingly always when Liam starts a conversation, Theo suddenly blinks like he’s been buried in thoughts. “I rang the bell, but nobody opened.”

“Oh, yeah. My parents are working and I was… well, I was out.”, Liam says quickly, scratching the back of his neck. He isn’t actively looking for it, and yet he finds himself watching Theo more closely, like he can sense the tragedy that had caught him years ago. “Is everything alright?”

“Yeah, of course.”, Theo says curtly, sounding annoyed. He pulls out his phone as he gets up. “I’d just wanted to ask for a favour. My computer’s dead, so I need to pull the English book on my phone?”

Liam can’t help but stare at him for moment. Somehow it feels weird that Theo admits needing help with anything - it doesn’t fit to any side that he’s seen of him so far. And then he’d come to Liam’s home ? And even waited for him to show up? But still, he is there now. “Yeah, sure.”, he says and walks up the steps. “How long have you been waiting? Want something warm to drink?”, he adds. It’s March already but still relatively cold, so he can’t imagine Theo’s been too warm.

Come to think of it, did he walk here? Liam’s seen Theo’s beaten truck in the parking lot often enough that he’d be able to recognize it. And it’s been nowhere near his street. Does he live close enough that he can just randomly walk over? Then why didn’t he just go home and try again later?

“Not too long.”, Theo answers with a shrug, coming up to stand behind him. “But yeah, that would be nice?”

Liam unlocks the door and enters first, looking around to make sure everything’s guest-appropriate. It’s not at its tidiest, but it’s probably too late now to really clean up. Plus, as it is Theo will probably spend most of his time in the kitchen and Liam’s room. If the latter’s a bit untidy, that’s okay because he’s a teenage boy after all.

“I’ll put on a kettle for tea.”, Liam tells him. “I need to go change, so you can fix it yourself then? Mugs are in the cupboard above the sink and tea bags in the one next to it.”, he explains as they walk into the kitchen.

Theo nods, looking around a bit. He doesn’t look terribly disgusted, so Liam counts that as a win. He waits until the water has started to heat up, making sure he really remembered putting it on (so sometimes he forgets, sue him) before practically running up the stairs. There’s only so little time he can waste before Theo starts getting bored and poke around, guaranteeing that he’ll find something embarrassing. He’s not sure what exactly he’s even thinking of, but there’ll be something, he’s sure.

He steps into new pants and puts on a clean shirt before hurrying into the bathroom to put the dirty things away. And maybe he shoots a look at the mirror to make sure he doesn’t look too awful, but that’s just because he’s sure the bed hair look does not work that well for him.

When he comes back into the kitchen, Theo’s seated on one of the bar stools and nursing a mug. There’s a second one across from him and for a moment Liam wonders if his mom had forgotten to put away her coffee mug - but then he sees steam coming from it, so it must be fresh. Theo’s made a tea for him, too.

“Oh, thanks.”, he says quickly as he steps around him.

“Least I could do.”, Theo waves him off. “You spent the night out?”

Liam almost chokes on his drink. Did he look that awful when he arrived? “Uh, yeah. Friday night and all…”

“I guess,” Theo shrugs. “Dating’s not really on the table for me at the moment.”

“Oh! I wasn’t, uh-- I mean, I’m not dating anyone either.”, Liam quickly says. “There was just that thing at Scott’s house. Stiles decided that people need to watch Star Wars.”

Theo smirks a bit. It’s like he’s never able to hear Stiles’ name without being amused. And not even a good kind of amusement - it feels dangerous, in a way, like the next words he utters will be sharp like a knife. “He still on that? He’s had a crush on Carrie Fisher as long as I knew him.”

“Man, he even had a list of people who haven’t watched it.”, Liam chuckles.

“So he made you watch them? All of them?”

“The first three? No, the last three. I don’t know, I don’t understand the order. The ones with Luke.”

Theo nods. “Going by chronology they’re Episode 4 to 6.”, he explains. “But they’ve been filmed first, that’s why people keep being confused. Did you like them?”

“They were okay,” Liam says. “A bit slow for me.”

Theo laughs, one that seems honest from what Liam can tell. It’s a good look for him and for a moment he thinks he could see the boy Scott McCall’s been friends with. “Yeah, you’d think so.”

“What do you mean?”

“You’re short-tempered.”, Theo replies casually, like that explains everything. “Of course you wouldn’t have that much patience.” The way he says it could always be insulting but he’s not wrong , so Liam doesn’t say anything about that.

Instead, he takes another sip of his tea. “So, did you start the book already?”

“No,” Theo says immediately. “Figured I’d wait for the weekend. But then, well…”

“I was just lazy.”, Liam counters. “I’d rather play FIFA than read about soccer.”

There’s a change in Theo’s stance then. It’s subtle, but Liam can see how his shoulders tense up. “Sounds about right.”

“You wanna play a bit?”, Liam offers. He’s not sure why it feels like the right thing to do, but maybe a little time-out would help him.

“No, I shouldn’t keep you.”, Theo replies, shaking his head. There’s something in this eyes that’s both determined and not at all. One day he’ll figure out how he always has two emotions at the same time, as it seems. “Plus, if we both still need to read…”

“True.”, Liam admits. “Then we should go upstairs.”

“Taking me up to where the magic happens, huh?”, Theo drawls in a way that makes heat crawl up Liam’s neck.

“The magic of the internet? Yeah.”, he replies with a roll of his eyes. There’s no need for Theo to know that his… his teasing actually causes a reaction. “Come on,” he adds and reaches for his wrist then.

Theo easily lets himself be led upstairs, just like he’s followed him to the bathroom when they made their deal. Liam can’t tell if he never struggles or if it’s just because he can guess (or in this moment knows ) where he’d be led to. It’s not even really that he pulls him, their arms are pretty much hanging between them and it’s like the contact isn’t even needed. But still, now that he’s already got his hand wrapped around Theo’s wrist, it would be weird to just let go.

Theo has no obvious reaction to how his room looks. Liam would have expected something about the amount of posters, or maybe even how small it is - because let’s face it: Theo probably has a big room at his home with all the space for his ego.

But instead, he makes his way over to the bookshelf almost instantly. It’s only halfway filled and yet, he raises an eyebrow. “Wouldn’t have pegged you for an actual reader. You know, patience again.”

Liam watches him trace his index finger over the spines of the top row and waits for another comment. When there’s none, he explains, “Well, it’s mostly Greek history. Got me hooked.”

“Started with these ones?”, Theo wants to know and taps against one of his Percy Jackson-books.

“Well, yeah.”, Liam admits. “But most of the others are non-fiction. Really interesting, though.”

“Hm,” Theo makes, turning towards him. There’s a small smile on his lips. “I’ve always been more of an Native American guy.”

Liam looks at him for a moment, wondering if he’s kidding. Of course Theo must have hobbies and interests, but something like that… it’s strangely insightful. So different from what he’d guess by looking at him - because he does seem like an ignorant boy.

His surprise must be visible because Theo chuckles. “My grandfather was Penobscot. So, naturally, I’ve been interested.”

“Oh.”, Liam answers. Well, talk about prejudices. “That’s cool.”

He walks over to his desk and opens up his laptop while Theo seems to finally take a look of the room as a whole. When he shoots a look over his shoulder, he can see Theo glance up at one of the band posters above his bed, but he can’t quite make up what he thinks about them. It’s weird, but he’s just awaiting some kind of judgment. So far, though, Theo’s pretty much kept to himself.

“Mind if I sit down?”, he suddenly speaks up while the laptop’s still loading. “On the bed, I mean.”

Liam turns around to see him point at it like he needs to clarify where exactly he means. It makes him laugh because it’s so ridiculous . “Yeah, no, sure. Hey, you got a cable with you?”

“Always.”, Theo nods. He reaches into his pocket and retrieves both a cable and his phone. As he hands it over, their hands brush for a moment and Liam bites back a comment about how cold Theo’s hands are. He probably knows it already since he’s spent some time outside.

Instead, he plugs in the phone already. It lights up at the same time he’s asked to type in his password. “Your battery’s almost empty, just so you know.”

Theo huffs. “Good to know.”

“You could charge for a bit here. So it won’t die on your way home.”, Liam suggests. He clicks through his files to find the book file. “You want it in any specific folder?”

“Just put it there, it’ll find its place.”, Theo replies. “You want me to stay around, huh?”

Liam turns towards him again, letting the laptop do its work. “Well, better than you being killed because you couldn’t call for help.”

“Aw, you like me.”, Theo grins, leaning back onto his hands. He’s sitting on the edge of the bed and for a moment Liam wonders if that’s ever even happened. Normally people just throw themselves onto it.

On an instinct, Liam rolls his eyes but he can’t hide a smile either. Maybe he does start to like Theo. “You saved my ass, just repaying my debt.”

“School would be a worse place without your ass.”, Theo shoots back. He actually even lets his eyes trail down Liam’s body.

“Oh, shut up.”

“Cliché would have me reply ‘Make me’ but I’m not really feeling it today.”, Theo laughs. “So, what else does Liam Dunbar do to pass the time? Read about history, play video games, not watch Star Wars…”

“That’s about it, actually. Training, too, I guess.”, Liam shrugs. He rolls his chair closer to the bed. “What about you?”

“Wouldn’t you just like to know?”, Theo smirks. “I have people work for information, just a head’s up.”

Liam snorts. “Of course you would.”

Theo leans forward at that, mirroring how Liam sits with his elbows propped onto his thighs and making the distance between them smaller. “You’ve probably heard rumours, haven’t you?”

“Yeah,” Liam says seriously. “Heard you cook babies in your cauldron.”

“They taste good with the baby cats.”, Theo nods.

There’s a moment of silence before they both start to laugh. Joking with Theo, that’s something new in Liam’s life, considering most of their conversations were painted in an almost hostile way. There’s usually always their deal underlying in whatever comes up between them, but now as they sit in his bedroom it’s like that’s non-existent. Almost like they really are friends.

“Speaking of,” Liam says once they’ve recovered. “Are you hungry? I’ve left before any of the inhabitants of Scott’s house had been awake.”

“Melissa did not force-feed you?”

For a second, he’s confused that Theo uses Mrs McCall’s first name, but then he remembers that he and Scott and Stiles have been best friends years ago. They must have been so close that they were allowed to call each other’s mom by their first names. “She’d only come home at, like, 7am I think. Stepped over the teenagers and went to bed.”

Theo nods gravely. “Well, anyways. You are responsible for keeping me fed, after all.” It could be a reminder of their deal, but the way he says it - without narrowing his eyes but with a chuckle in his voice - it sounds more like a joke. An actual joke.

“Come on, I hope a sandwich will do.”

“Anything.”, Theo says. “Can’t be picky, can I?”

“You could try, but you’d fail.”, Liam agrees. He reaches for Theo’s wrist again while standing up, pulling him off the bed, too. This time he does let go once they’re both standing because Theo already knows the way to the kitchen and it would be weird to pull him there.

“So, what I have concluded so far is that a typical Saturday for Liam Dunbar looks like this: First, sneak out of the lacrosse captain’s house. Second, bike home and find a ridiculously attractive boy on your porch.”, Theo counts with his hands as he sits on the barstool again. Liam shakes his head at his words and opens the fridge. “Oh, cheese please. Third, change clothes. Fourth, take ridiculously attractive boy up to your room. Fifth, feed him. Sounds like a good day.”

“Sixth, wait for the poison to start working.”, Liam counters. “Seventh, hide ridiculously attractive boy’s body in the basement.”

Theo goes silent at his words, giving him a blank face.

Oh shit, Liam realizes. Theo’s sister has died. Joking about killing someone? The biggest mistake he could have done. How is it possible that he’s so awful at things like this? They’d started to become friends and he goes and proves that his fucking humour is the worst thing on this planet and--

“You just admitted you find me ridiculously attractive.”, Theo says then, breaking into a grin.

“I only quoted you!”, Liam sputters. Not that Theo isn’t attractive, that would be a lie, but that isn’t something you just say to someone’s face .

“Didn’t need to,” Theo says, raising his hands, “but you did . So you agreed.”

“Is that so important to you?”

“Yeah, it’s my biggest goal in life to have you say how hot you find me.”, Theo shoots back. When Liam puts down his plate in front of him, he adds, “Thanks.”

“Shouldn’t you be, like, aiming to get into college?”

“First things first.”, Theo shrugs. “I mean, that can be my biggest goal after I’ve achieved that. Still plenty of time before I gotta worry about my future.”

“Wait, you’re not a senior?”, Liam asks. He’d thought that him being former friends with Scott and Stiles would mean they’re in the same grade.

Theo shakes his head. “Junior. Got held back because… stuff.”

Stuff like his sister’s death , Liam’s mind offers. He takes a bite of his food rather than replying.

Despite that, it’s almost comfortable to sit there with Theo. It’s probably because he’s at his own home, at least. If he were at Theo’s, there’s no way he could just avoid any of it. But like this, he can feel almost normal.

“Next step in my daily planner is to play video games.”, Liam says when he’s finished his. Well, on a usual day it would be, anyway. He didn’t mean to play any today since he wanted to do school work, but his plans have been changed completely so far. What’s some more?

“I hope something exciting.”, Theo replies. He’s finished his sandwich before Liam, practically shoving it down his throat like always.

 

-

 

They’re in the middle of a match of Super Smash Bros Brawl when Todd comes home. As it’s turned out, Theo freaking sucks at video games, like he hasn’t played any in years. He’s resolved to just punching random buttons on the remote even though Liam keeps telling him which to press for which attack. And worst of all is that he’s not even losing too badly.

“Liam, what do you say to kebap?”, Todd calls as he closes the front door. It’s a bit redundant that he calls for him shortly before stepping into the living room, but that’s how they’re doing things in the house. “Oh, hey, you’ve got a friend over.”

Theo presses the pause button (hey, he got that figured out!) and stands up, extending a hand. “Hello Mr Dunbar, I’m Theo.”

“It’s, uh, Dr Geyer, actually. Or Todd.”, he replies, stepping closer and shaking his hand. “Wait, the Theo?”

“You’ve heard of me?”

Liam waves his hands to get Todd’s attention, shaking his head rapidly. There’s no way in hell that he would let Theo know about the rumours - and that Mason’s passed them onto his parents.

Todd sees him and raises an eyebrow. Then he focuses on Theo again, “Well, you’re friends with Liam, right?”

Liam can’t see what Theo’s reaction to that statement is because while that feeling has been on his mind the whole day, it’s not like they’re officially friends. Hell, today’s the first time they’ve even actually hung out.

“So, did you boys eat?”, Todd wants to know as Theo sits down again. “I was thinking of getting some kebap.”

“Actually, I should go probably.”, Theo tells him. “I feel like I’ve spent the whole day here and I should actually be studying.”

“Taking school serious, are you? That’s important.”, Todd says.

“Either that or one has nothing better to do.”, Theo jokes. He does get up again then, turning to Liam. “Thanks for having me.”

“Uh, sure, no big.”, Liam blinks. “Oh, wait! I’ll go get your phone.”

 

-

 

Ten minutes later, Theo’s been sent his way with both a fully charged phone and a promise that he can come over as often as he wants, uttered by Todd.

Liam glowers at his step-dad once they’re back inside. “Not a word to mom.”

“That you had a friend over? Why wouldn’t I tell her?”, Todd says, playing perfectly innocent.

“You know how she is about every friend that isn’t Mason.”, Liam reminds him. He’s pretty sure they both remember the time Stiles has driven him home when it was raining to hard for him to go by bike without catching a cold. Jenna had practically planned their wedding already, which was weird . “And, well, Theo’s… Theo.”

“I should hope he is himself.”, Todd nods. “But yeah, she’d been telling me you were... seeing him?”

“I’m not!”, Liam protests. “Honestly, we barely know each other. Today’s the first day we’ve hung out and only because he needed the book for English, so like… Barely friends.”

“Hm,” Todd makes. “He seems nice, though.”

Liam sighs. “Still trying to figure that out.”

Chapter Text

If a part of Liam had thought something would change after Theo’d visited him at home - well, it’s not like he visited him for the sake of seeing him, but it should still count -, then that part is severely disappointed. Not that he’s actively expected that Theo would come over more often, or that he’d even talk any differently than usually.

And Theo continues to show off his sparkling personality - he sounds grumpy most of the time, doesn’t join conversations on his own account (he does like to add his own comments whenever the topic is teasing Liam or when Corey complains, once again, about Physics) and devours his food in mere minutes.

Still, Liam becomes pretty much used to meeting up with Theo before lunch and the lunch lady doesn’t even ask Theo for money any more. It becomes almost comfortable and if he didn’t know better, Liam would say the smirks Theo throws his way as he makes a joke about isn’t arrogant any more. It feels friendly.

Theo isn’t an intruder any more after two weeks. It’s like he’s a part of the group, as if he’d always been, even if he’s not as prominent in the conversations. Still, it fits.

 

-

 

They’re sitting at their usual table, Theo already halfway through his plate while the rest of them have barely even had a bite yet. At the moment, listening to Mason’s rant is more interesting than the mac’n’cheese the school served today.

“I’m just saying,” Mason continues, “if Mr Yukimura gives me anything below a B, it’s because he’s being homophobic.”

Liam rolls his eyes. “I told you, I don’t think he’s homophobic when his daughter is making out with all of her friends, no matter their gender.”

“Who says he even knows about that?”, Mason wants to know.

To Liam’s left, Theo puts down his fork (he’s already finished? What ?) and leans forward to throw a glance over at Mason. “You do realize that if your paper on the Battle of Waterloo focuses on supposedly homoerotic soldiers rather than, like, Napoleon he can just fail you for not meeting the topic?”

Mason opens his mouth to reply something - and if he says he put a different focus, he’s gonna be a liar. Liam's read through Mason’s paper and told him that was not what it was supposed to be about, even though he was impressed Mason even found as much about two French soldiers who didn’t even have first names apparently. - but he gets interrupted.

“Hey, Raeken, since when do we harass Freshmen?”

Theo lets out a groan, accompanied with a roll of his eyes, while Liam turns around to look at Stiles. “We’re not Fresh--”

“Yeah, I know you’re not Freshmen.”, Stiles shrugs and circles the group. He squeezes himself down between Mason and Corey. Liam’s pretty sure he’d shoved one of them aside if Corey hadn’t moved already. “Anyway,” he says, resting his chin on his hands, “Raeken, why are you forcing yourself on the tiny ones?”

Being called tiny is enough to make Hayden speak up. “We’re not--”

Theo lifts a hand at her and she shuts her mouth again, even though there’s still fury directed at Stiles in her eyes. He narrows his own at him, “The way I see it, Stiles, you’re the one who’s intruding here.”

“Nah,” Stiles makes. “Just sitting with my teammates.” He nods at Corey once and then at Liam. “And their friends.”

“Well, then you’ll have to sit with Theo, too.”, Liam says before he can stop himself.

And everyone looks at him in surprise.

Liam doesn’t look back at anyone except for Stiles. It’s not that he doesn’t like the guy, because in his twisted way he’s funny - especially when he’s not talking shit about Theo and well, that’s literally trying to do right now. While Theo’s present. If he pays attention to his own words, Stiles should know what an asshole move that is.

Stiles raises his brows at him. “Dunbar, I don’t know what--”

“Not just Liam’s.”, Corey pipes up. If Liam didn’t know better he’d say the smile he directs at Stiles is sarcastically sweet.

Now Stiles is utterly confused. He even backs away from Corey like he’s personally offended by that statement. He’s so surprised that even the snicker Mason lets out when Stiles bumps into him doesn’t make him react any differently.

Other than that, they all keep silent as Stiles looks from one to the other. Liam still doesn’t know what Theo’s reaction to that is but he’s sure he didn’t expect for anyone but himself to stand up for him.

They all snap out of their stupor when a voice calls through the cafeteria.

“Stiles!”, Malia calls. Liam’s pretty sure he only recognizes her voice because it carries the same drawl it always has. “Leave the kids alone!”

“Why is everyone acting like we’re toddlers ?”, Hayden groans.

Stiles sighs, frowning for a moment as he looks from Liam to Theo and back again. “The lady calls,” he offers as he gets up. Then, he knocks his knuckles against the table, fixing his gaze on Liam once more. “Careful, Dunbar.”

When he’s gone, all of them release a deep breath.

Jesus ,” Mason makes, “that guy is so paranoid.”

Corey hums.

“Think the Sheriff lets him look too closely into his files.”, Hayden shrugs, picking up her fork again. “He’s at the station way too often. And not necessarily as a visitor.”

“Guess things work differently for you when your dad’s the boss.”

Liam tunes out the conversation to look at Theo instead. His jaw is clenched and he’s looking down at his empty plate - not in a sad way, but like he’s thinking about something. Without thinking, Liam reaches over to where his hands meet in front of the plate, placing one of his own on Theo’s wrist.

It catches his attention.

“You okay?”

Theo meets his eyes briefly. “Sure.”, he says firmly, sitting up straighter.

“Stiles is an idiot.”, Liam tells him quietly, pulling back again.

“Yeah, I knew that.”, Theo shrugs a bit. “Don’t worry, I will not cry about him.”

Liam cracks a smile at that. “Wouldn’t expect any differently.”, he says, truthfully. He can imagine that Theo’s not completely cool about his former childhood friend acting like he’s someone to be scared of, but… he also feels like something bigger, deeper, and more immediate would have to happen to make him truly upset. He’s the master of keeping his emotions in check, no matter what.

Or maybe Liam just thinks so because he handles them so differently than he does. Either way, Theo keeps to himself.

“I’m great at meeting expectations,” Theo nods. He sounds serious, but for a second Liam thinks he can see a hint of a smile on his face.

Liam can’t help but snort at that because if there’s one thing he learnt about Theo recently, it’s that he does not do anything you expect of him. He’d learnt to think of him as this rude and arrogant asshole, a snitch and manipulative bastard - and while Theo does act like an asshole at times, he’s fun to be around to, as well. He’s closed off, yes, and maybe his dry humour does make him seem arrogant, but that’s that: humour.

He gets no words in response, just the raise of an eyebrow.

And for some reason, Liam feels himself blush. He’s pretty sure that if he confronted Theo with all the things he’d noticed, he’d earn himself a punch in the face. So instead, he averts his eyes and picks up eating again.

Chapter Text

Liam doesn’t know if it’s been his and Corey’s words or rather the heated discussion that Scott hit up with Stiles after he’d interrupted their lunch, but he doesn’t try to talk to him about Theo anymore, not even during practice. Actually, for a while he seems to be ignoring him as a whole - it’s not completely weird because Stiles has always been more… well passive-aggressive to him. Well, that might not be the word exactly, but he isn’t as forward to him as Scott is. And he usually seems to act like Corey’s invisible, so that’s not too much of a change.

He does notice that Scott sends either praising or apologizing looks, but those he ignores, mostly. Sometimes he accepts them with a nod, but most of the time he just doesn’t get what they’re supposed to mean. Is he still on the train of encouraging their friendship? Hell, it’s not like he’s befriended Theo because he thought the guy looked lonely or anything. It wasn’t even a conscious decision, so it’s nothing to thank him for or whatever Scott’s trying to do.

It’s weird, but as long as nobody bothers them actively again, Liam could hardly care less.

 

-

 

“Hey, man. I gotta cancel tomorrow.”, Mason sighs as he comes up to their seat roughly a week after what Hayden’s dubbed The-Annoying-Stiles-Encounter. “Guess who decided to have a surprise test with one day of preparation time.”

Liam’s face falls. “What? But-- I got the tickets. Since Christmas.”

“I know.”, Mason says carefully, looking sad. “But you know, I gotta get an A on that test. She always puts them high on the grade.”

Liam wished he could argue with him, but he knows better. He’s heard of Mrs Martin’s reputation and Mason dreams of attending a college that really only takes the best. Throughout his whole High School career, he must ace all his classes. But still, the exhibition they wanted to go to is an interactive one, connecting historical facts with a labyrinth resembling that of Mykonos. It’s a two hour drive to the museum and not only did his parents gift him the tickets, he also kinda needs Mason’s car to get there. They’d meant to skip after lunch (not actually skip, their parents have allowed it) and drive out there.

“Sorry,” Mason offers, squeezing his arm.

“Not your fault.”, Liam mumbles, but he wishes he could punch something. He’s been looking forward to go there and it would have been tomorrow.

Mason notices it, of course. “You should ask someone at lunch if they want to go with you.”

Someone at lunch is what makes Liam scoff. Corey’s in the same class as Mason and while he doesn’t need the grade as badly as him, he can’t imagine he’d like to skip a test, weird as that is. Hayden hates history, so that’s a no. Which leaves only Theo. And while they get along by now, he also knows that Greek history is not his preferred topic. Plus, he probably has something better to do than drive Liam out of town.

His scowl only worsens when Ms Monroe enters the room, immediately throwing a glance at him. What a good fucking day.

 

-

 

“Hey, what’s up?”, Theo asks when they walk up to him. “You look like a really sad puppy today.”

Liam glares at him. He’s really not in the mood for any teasing today, not after everything. Ms Monroe has roped him into the conversation multiple times, probably enjoying that he’s especially easy to rile up today.

“He’s sad because I had to cancel going to the museum tomorrow.”, Mason explains.

Theo raises an eyebrow. “So... go another day?”

“I can’t go another day! The tickets’ve been a 50 bucks and. They. Are. For. Tomorrow.”

Mason sighs, putting his hands on Liam’s shoulders to calm him down. It does have a bit of the wished effect, but still. He’d rather not be in this situation.

“It’s this exhibition on an ancient Greek town down in San José.”, Mason explains in his place. “Got the tickets for Christmas and we’d been meaning to go there tomorrow, but Mrs Martin randomly decided to have a test tomorrow, so I can’t go. Liam doesn’t have a car, so he can’t go on his own either.”

Theo frowns at Liam. “I could drive you,” he offers.

Liam wishes he had a dagger to throw at him. He doesn’t want pity and he doesn’t want anyone to feel obligated to take him there. He’s meant to spend an afternoon with his best friend exploring something he’s really interested in, but that’s off the table. But he doesn’t want to say all of that, especially not to Theo - being whiny in front of Theo could go wrong in so many ways. So he says, “You don’t even like the Greeks.”

“I’ve never said that.”, Theo argues. “They’re just not my expertise. Hell, if you don’t want me around, I’ll just wait outside and take your gas money. I’m sure your step-dad would hate the tickets to go to waste.”

“You guys talk about this.”, Mason chimes in. “I need food.”

Liam stares at him as he rushes off. It’s not his fault, he knows, but he can be pissed at him anyways. Is it even actually possible that a college cares about what your grades are like in sophomore year? It seems ridiculous and maybe Mason’s taking it way too seriously again.

He snaps out of it when there’s pressure on his wrists and looks down on them. Theo’s closed his hands around his arms, pressing his thumbs softly in the flesh above his veins.

“Come on, you gotta get some fresh air.”, he says softly.

Liam wants to struggle because no, he does not need to go outside. He wants someone who’d enjoy going with him tomorrow and whom he’d enjoy spending time with and he doesn’t want to have school constantly fuck shit up. But he lets Theo pull him away, his vision a bit hazy as they walk through the hall.

He feels his breath speed up and anger grow in his chest. Anger at Mason, at Mrs Martin, at the school and himself for being like this. Even angry at his mom and Todd for spending so much money, and angry at Theo for thinking he needs to take pity on him. Angry at Mason again for just telling him and angry at his body for not listening to him when he wants nothing more than to shove Theo away and scream.

But Theo’s strong and keeps pulling him until they’re outside and then he leads him over to one of the benches and presses him down to sit on it. One hand always on one of Liam’s wrist, as if he needs to keep him close like a rabid dog.

“Okay, so what do you need to do?”, Theo asks as he sits down next to him. “Punch me? Because, man, go ahead. Punch the shit out of me.”

Liam’s practically panting, he knows that, but he almost stops for a moment as he stares at him. “What? Punch you? Why would I punch you?”

“It’s… it’s the thing you do, isn’t it?”, Theo says, blinking at him. “You look furious, Liam. So if you need to let it out--”

“I won’t punch you!”, Liam says quickly. “What the hell, man? I don’t-- I’m not angry at you.”

Theo gives him a stern look.

“Okay, I’m a bit angry at you.”, Liam admits. “Like, do you think I want you to do shit you don’t like because you feel sorry for me? The last time you did that we made a deal at least.”

Theo closes his eyes for a moment, taking a deep breath. When he opens them again, he brings his free hand up and pinches his nose. “Okay, first of all, I’d probably like it. I mean, I’d get to see you have a nerdgasm, right? Sounds awesome. But we could make a deal, if you want. I don’t know, you’ll treat me for a movie or something.”

“A movie.”

“Yeah. Trust me, that’d be fair.”, Theo says, giving him a small smile. “Okay?”

Liam thinks about it for a moment. It’s not like the trip to the museum would cost Theo anything, Todd will want to pay for the gas, so he’d only have to pay for lost time. And if he says a movie’s enough… “Okay, deal.”

“Deal.”, Theo repeats. “So, what else? Do you feel better?”

“I want to egg Mrs Martin’s car.”, Liam admits.

Theo laughs. “Of course you would. Better not do it, though, I’m not sure how to get you out of that one.”

“It would make me feel better, though.”, Liam mumbles. “But yeah, you’re right.”

“Look on the bright side.”, Theo continues. “You get to spend a whole afternoon with me. It’s a dream.”

Liam snorts. “You don't have to do this because I'm acting like a child.”

“You've been looking forward to this for months.”, Theo reasons. “I'd be pissed, too.”

Liam looks at him, trying to find any sign that he's just saying what he wants to hear. Theo's voice is soft and low and actually really soothing. He doesn't know if it's the fact he won't be missing the exhibition or just the talking, but he feels his anger subside somewhat. He reaches out to catch his free hand and then they sit there, Theo's hand around his and his hand around Theo's wrist. “Thank you.”

Theo stays silent for a while, looking somewhere on campus. It must be minutes until he lets go off Liam's arm again and says, “Food? I'm starving.”

“Oh! Yeah, sure.”, Liam nods, scrambling to get up.

He gets a chuckle in return. “Well, now you look like the cute little puppy everyone loves again.”

Liam rolls his eyes at him as Theo gets up. “You’re awful.”

Theo grins. “What, you’re still surprised by that? And here I thought you were a clever one.”

More out of reflex than anything, Liam punches him in the arm. When Theo takes in a sharp breath, he already has an apology on the tip of his tongue - it’s been meant playfully but hell, he might just take it for real. Plus, Liam had been pissed until only a few moments ago. Maybe his hit had even been pretty strong.

But then Theo breaks into a laughter, an honest one. It’s loud and bright as he throws his head back a little, closing his eyes. Liam smiles.

Chapter Text

Since Theo always devours his food within mere seconds, it's his part to basically cheer Liam on as he eats. If he didn't know any better, he would almost say Theo is as excited as him.

“I want to leave in ten minutes.”, Theo tells him, quietly but with enough determination to make Liam roll his eyes in response.

“I know, you told me two minutes ago.”, he replies between bites. “I need time to eat, you know. Some people have learnt to value tastes.”

“You two have any plans?”, Hayden wants to know.

Liam raises an eyebrow at her. Then he remembers that she probably hadn't heard that he's going with Theo now instead of Mason. She knows of his museum plans, of course, because he didn't shut up about it the week after Christmas break. But maybe she didn't even recall the date for when his tickets were.

“As a matter of fact, we do.”, Theo tells her. He puts a hand in the back of Liam's head, shoving him closer to his plate again. Liam lets out a strangled sound as he fights against the touch. “That is, we would, if Liam ever finishes eating.”, Theo continues. “Unless he'd rather sit in Math.”

At that reminder, Liam does pick up eating again. Not that he needed any more reason to look forward to going to San José, but skipping Math class is an extra bonus.

“Good puppy.”, Theo teases, patting his hair.

Mason actually has the audacity to laugh at that. Sure, he gets treated like a dog and his best friend thinks it's funny.

Thankfully, Theo lets go off him again when Hayden speaks up again. “What, you're skipping together?”

He can practically see Theo's smirk as he answers, even though Liam's eyes are fixed on his plate. “Yeah, we figured there's more exciting activities than classes. I hope Physics won't be too boring without me.”

“Maybe Mr Douglas will cry once he realizes he can't depend on calling you up.”, Corey muses.

“That would be a pity.”, Theo answers. “I mean, I would love to see that.”

Liam snorts halfway through swallowing the last bite of his Spaghetti. He shoves his plate away and reaches for his drink, emptying the cocoa. “Finished. Let's go!”

He gets up from his seat and grabs Theo's wrist to pull him along. His bag’s strip finds its place in his shoulder as he grins at the others. “See you!”

Theo shakes his head at him even as he says his own share of goodbyes, but he follows along when Liam basically drags him out of the cafeteria. “I hope you didn't forget about the gas money. I'm running kinda low.”

Liam just nods. Todd had insisted on giving him even more money than probably necessary because he couldn't tell him what exact kind of car Theo drives. He's said that they should use the rest for dinner. The drive to San José shouldn't take too long but the exhibition probably will, simply because he gets so easily lost in worlds that haven't existed in the past thousand years, so food might be good later.

He frowns when Theo turns to his right rather than further ahead to the parking lot and slows a little, at least judging by the way Theo has to turn a little to raise his eyebrows at him.

“What?”, he makes. “Go get your bike! No sense I driving back here later.”

“You got a bike rack?”, Liam wants to know.

“No. But a truck.”, Theo reminds him. “We can put it down in the back, I made space in the morning.”

“That's… thoughtful.”, Liam answers. He wouldn't have minded biking back later, but if Theo's already offering to take care of that, too, he won't complain.

They both need to grab onto the bike to get it onto the truck's load but once it's done, Theo fixes the tarp over it. If you don't look too closely, you don't even see that anything’s underneath it, so even with only a fake lock it should be safe in a bigger city.

He wonders if Theo had remembered - or noticed? Had he ever even seen the fake lock in (fake) action? - or if he generally uses the tarp. He's sure if must be the latter because there's no way Theo is actually that… nice. Right?

“You have the address, right?”, Theo asks once they climb inside. “Pull up GPS?”

Liam nods and does as he's told. Once it's done he puts his phone into the holder. He feels like pouting a bit when he realizes that means no music.

He lets his eyes roam through the car and thinks that maybe that's been out of question anyway. Where a normal person’s radio is, Theo's car wears an open space. What kind of person doesn't have a car radio?

Generally, Theo's car is clean. It's a battered and old one, one Liam didn't expect but thinks fits to him anyway, but on the inside there's not even a hint of trash. If he didn't know any better, he'd guess Theo cleaned up for today.

He must sense the tensed silence approaching because as they leave the school ground, Theo says, “So. Tell me about Mykonos.”

“What?”, Liam turns to look at him. “I think you'll learn plenty later.”

“Yeah,” Theo shrugs. “But I don't think I want to show up knowing nothing. That would ruin my reputation, wouldn't it?”

“You have a reputation in San José?”

“I have never in my whole life been to San José.”

He says it so dryly that Liam can help but laugh at him.

“Anyway, so it's a city, right? Where's its location?”, Theo asks then.

Liam blinks at him. He really wants him to talk about it. “Well, Mykonos is also the name of the island it's on. It's-- there's, like, a billion of islands in Greece.”

Theo nods along to his words, keeping his eyes on the street. “And what makes that one so special?”

Liam lifts his shoulders. “Legends, I guess. And the architecture.”

“Legends? Tell me about it.”, Theo urges. “I love legends.”

“Are you… sure?”, Liam wants to know. “It's just-- I tend to ramble about this stuff and we are gonna hear about it later, so…”

“Liam,” Theo says, the name rolling off his lips firm but patiently, “I wouldn't have asked if I didn't wanna hear about it.”

“Uh. Okay,” Liam nods. And then he tells him about Hercules and one of the giants. He can't stop himself when that makes him talk about Percy Jackson but Theo doesn't mind. Hell, he even lets out an appreciative chuckle.

So the hour carries on, with Liam talking about everything and nothing in the end because he keeps remembering one thing while talking about another, and it's only interrupted when Theo pulls up at a gas station. Liam dives right back into talking once he's back inside and Theo doesn't seem to mind.

With how quiet he is, Liam would've almost thought Theo isn't listening. But the receptive noises and movements he makes - a lift of an eyebrow, a chuckle - fit way too well to be fake.

Theo lets him ramble until they're at the border of San José, not once seeming annoyed by him. It's not only weird because Theo seems to be easily pissed at anything but because even other people, people Liam's closer to, can't hide their exhaustion at times.

It's a silent agreement that as soon as they enter the city. Liam reaches for his phone and turns the volume up. So far, Theo had managed to get by with street sign only but cities… well, cities are always a jungle.

He feels himself get more and more excited the closer they get, until he's basically bouncing in his seat. He can't help it because he's waited for so long and all the reviews on the internet were really awesome - he would be embarrassed under different circumstances.

Theo just grins. “Like a goddamn puppy.”

Liam lets out a huff at his words, but the offense isn't meant seriously. How could it be when Theo's right? He does act like a dog that can't wait to get off the leash.

He checks his wallet for the tickets again as Theo turns to the last block, amazed by himself for having only checked at the gas station last. It's irrational, especially since he didn't even leave the truck, but he's relieved anyway when he finds then there.

“Ah, good.”, Theo nods, mostly to himself as they turn into the museum's street. “I feared we'd have to use a garage.”

Why he'd be so negative about that, Liam doesn't know. Maybe he'd gotten lost in one as a kid and has a trauma or something. It would be one of his lighter once, he guesses.

Frankly, right now he doesn't care because they're there!

Theo's barely killed the engine when he unfastens his seatbelt, ready to kick off. He's stopped by Theo's hand grabbing his wrist.

“Hey, Speedy Gonzales, you do realize we need to get in together, yeah?”, he tells him, smiling a bit. “Think you can manage until I locked the truck?”

Liam presses his lips together because sure, he's not that much of a toddler. Theo releases him and finally pulls the key out, starting to climb out himself. Liam's just glad that his door can be locked by itself with a push of a button, so he doesn't have to wait for Theo to round the car because really? The guy is slow, and he guesses it's on purpose.

“You're impossible.”, Theo grunts when Liam grabs his arm as soon as he's locked the door.

Liam ignores him in favour of pulling him to the entrance. And anyway, Theo complies, so it can't be too bad.

“Hello.” Liam smiles brightly when they approach the reception. He lets go off Theo to pull out his wallet again and hands the guy their tickets.

He gives the two of them an odd look, but he guesses it's because he's so excited and Theo bumped into him at the sudden stop. “Here are your audio guides.”, the receptionist tells them as he produces two devices from under the table. He sounds pretty bored, actually. “Enjoy.”

“Thanks!”, Liam says and grabs the guides.

He hands Theo one of those as they walk towards the actual entrance of the exhibition itself.

“We're not getting an actual guide?”, Theo wants to know. He looks down at the device and adds, “Well, a person, I mean.”

Liam shakes his head. “It's a labyrinth, remember? We're supposed to find the way by ourselves.”

“Great.”, Theo mumbles. “Better stay together then, huh?”

 

-

 

The exhibition is great. If it wasn’t for the ceiling above them - even though its higher than a normal one and mostly made from glass - he’d think he’s actually in some antique village, wandering the streets. They did an awesome job with recreating. The walls feel like actual ones (though Theo reckons they must be made from something ever than stone - the transportation would’ve been too expensive otherwise), with the colour fading and dust settling. There’s recreations of paintings, or maybe just depictions of scenes from books written by Historians, vases and other things that could’ve still been found in the area. It might just be his imagination, but as he and Theo try to make their way through the exhibition Liam could swear he even tastes salt from the sea on his tongue.

He doesn’t know if Theo is aware of it, but from time to time Liam leads them into deadends on purpose. Usually you’re greeted with info texts or maybe even a relict in those and he’s made it his personal agenda to see as many of them as possible.

Like right now, when he’s figured they’d have to turn right but pulled Theo to the left. There’s something on the wall they’re facing, though, so naturally they go to look at it.

“Are those two guys?”, Theo asks, squinting at a painting on the wall. He sounds surprised but not offended or anything, so Liam giggles in response.

He steps closer to the painting and looks at it. Sure enough, there's two men somewhere at the edge of it - it takes a him a while to find them, so Theo must have looking at it really thoroughly - sitting in an embrace. “Looks like it. Same sex couples were pretty common back then, especially among men.”

Theo raises an eyebrow. “Really? Didn't know that.”

“Yeah,” Liam nods. “There's two things you can be sure of when it comes to history: Erasure of queer people and people of colour.”

Theo grimaces a little before cracking a smile again. “Feels like we should make sure nobody rewrites our current history. Better write ‘I, Theodore Raeken, am gay as hell’ on every available surface.”

Liam laughs. “Gotta stick little bi flags everywhere then. I don't think that I'd be particularly interesting for historians, so no need for my name.”

“Oh yeah, I'll be terribly famous after my death.”, Theo nods. He gives Liam a long look before reaching for his arm, “Let's look for more evidences of representation.”

Like always, Liam follows him easily, even though suddenly Theo's fingers feel hot against his skin. He could have guessed that Theo might like guys from all the conversations they've had, with all the teasing, but hearing him say so easily that he's gay is different, somehow. He knows first hand that each time you mention your sexuality, it's a little bit like coming out again. And Theo knows that he has gay friends, of course, but it's a sign of trust either way.

“They went really out with this maze, didn't they?”, Theo muses as they follow a path just to meet another dead end.

“It's authentic.”, Liam agrees.

“Imagine you lived there.”, Theo says. “It'd be cool, easy to hide from unwanted guests.”

“Got so many?”, Liam answers.

“From time to time.”, Theo says curtly, sounding a bit more serious. For a moment, Liam finds himself wondering what kind of people would visit that leave him in such a mood. Maybe his parents have become closer to other, more distant relatives. Maybe there’s an old great-aunt who smells like cats that Theo can’t stand. But if that was the case, he would sound more annoyed. He knows what an annoyed Theo sounds like, and this is not it. It feels more like he’s exhausted, irritated and distraught.

Liam decides to drop that topic then. “You know, there's this book about Achilles and his lover's relationship. Like, a retelling. It's very sad but somewhat accurate, I think.”

“Achilles' heel?”

“Yeah, that guy.”, Liam nods. “Had a lot on his plate: parental approval, war, love…”

“Not much different from nowadays.”, Theo mumbles, so quietly that Liam's not sure if he was talking to himself. Louder, he adds, “Doesn't sound like it'd be your thing, to be honest.”

“What'd you mean?”

“Well? It's sad.”, Theo responds. “Sad doesn't suit you.”

They step up to a glass case displaying small tools. It's not that different from what people still use today and Liam would usually marvel at that but right now something irks him about what Theo's said.

“Well, there's this amazing passage about someone flipping out.”, he answers. “Sounds more like me, huh?”

Theo snorts, a smile tugging on his lips as he shakes his head. “You think you’d have made a good soldier?”

“No,” Liam says without any hesitation. “Believe it or not, I don’t want to hurt people.”

“Yeah, I can imagine that.” Theo’s voice is low, indicating that he really means it. And somehow, Liam’s stomach does a summersault at that simply sentence. Usually, it feels like people think he does his outbursts on purpose, as if he enjoys trashing things his parents will have to pay for, as if he enjoys scaring the shit out of people. He knows that they don’t mean it - his parents and Mason, at least - but sometimes, their first reflex is thinking like that. Theo, however, seems to get it.

There’s a moment of silence as they look at the small relics before Liam finally decides they should wander along. There’s still so much to discover, extravagant things you won’t encounter in the world any more, and he wants to see them all.

 

-

 

Liam’s still buzzing when they’re out of the museum. There’s not been too much new information for him, because he’d already known the basics about Mykonos and studied the Wikipedia article intensely once he got the tickets (because he’s an idiot like that), but there’s still been nice things. It’s been awesome to see them in the flesh, to get a feeling of what it must have been like to live there, even if just remotely. And then, Theo’s comments have sweetened the deal. Whether he made jokes or was genuinely interested, Liam enjoyed his presence greatly. Theo wasn’t as engrossed as he was, of course, but it seemed like he didn’t hate their trip either.

“I don’t know about you, but I could eat a horse.”, Liam says when they’ve given back their audio guides and step out of the museum.

Theo snorts at him.

“No, seriously!”, Liam insists. “Let’s go to a restaurant or something. I’ll pay.”

In return, Theo purses his lips, thinking about it. It’s slowly getting dark outside, Liam notices as they enter the street, so that could go both ways: Either Theo realizes that yes, it’s been quite a while since they last ate, or he would want to get home soon. Honestly, he wouldn’t even mind the latter as long as they go through the drive-through at the next McDonalds.

Which doesn’t mean he isn’t happy when Theo nods in the end.

“Awesome! Where do you want to go? I’ll take whatever, as long as it’s without mushrooms.”

“How long until you come down from your high?”, Theo wants to know, blinking at him. “Anyway, I think I saw a Mexican restaurant not too far from here. That way we don’t have to search for another parking spot.”

“Mexican’s awesome.”, Liam nods. “Did you like the exhibition?”

“Yeah. It was cool, with the whole interactive thing.”, Theo says and starts walking. “And I think there could’ve been worse people to go there with.”

“You like me!”, Liam exclaims as his ears heat up.

He doesn’t look over, but he can imagine that Theo’s rolling his eyes in response. If he’s lucky, there might even be a smile still plastered on his face.

The restaurant really is only a bit down the street and then down on the left, so their walk takes only a few minutes. They’ve fallen into step next to one another quickly, neither of them saying a word more, but it’s comfortable.

They’re lucky that it’s early on a Wednesday evening because otherwise there’s no guarantee they’d get a table. Now, though, they’re led to one right away. They order their drinks before even sitting down, Theo deriving from his usual apple juice in favour of a coke while Liam takes a water.

“I don’t even know how to pronounce half that stuff.”, Liam says while looking through the menu. He frowns at the different meat-containing food. “I think I’ll just take some good old Chili con Carne or something.”

“I could tell you how to say it.”, Theo offers.

“Nah,” Liam shakes his head. “I’d fuck up again anyways and then it’s twice as awkward. Besides, I like spicy stuff. What are you getting?”

“An Ensalada con Pollo, I guess.”, Theo shrugs. From what Liam knows, the words roll of his lips perfectly and even though it’s just the name of a meal, he can’t help but be impressed. It must be obvious because Theo adds, “I did spend time at Scott’s house, you know.”

“Oh, yeah. Makes sense.”, Liam nods.

“I’m sure you can also just point at the thing you want or say the number.”, Theo reasons.

“No, it’s fine.”

“Your call.”, Theo tilts his head and closes his menu.

Liam does the same and as if she was summoned by that, a waitress appears and puts down their drinks.

“Good evening!”, she says cheerfully. “Do you already know what you’ll take?”

Theo nods and orders - surprisingly for both of them -, giving her a bright smile. Liam can tell it’s fake, with how exaggeratedly wide it is, but it seems to have an effect on her anyway. He can barely hide his chuckle at the way she almost swoons.

“Anything you don’t want to have in the salad? There’s quite a bunch of everything.”

“Oh, hang on,” Theo says and lets his eyes roam the menu again. “Not too much Feta, please?”

“Gotcha,” she replies, sending him a big smile of her own. Then she leaves without even sending Liam another glance.

Once she’s out of earshot, Liam finally lets out the laughter he’d been holding back. “You’re impossible.”

Theo takes a sip of his drink. “What’d I do?”

“Using your looks to your advantage?”, Liam proposes.

“So you do think I’m hot,” Theo smirks. It grows wider when Liam realizes his mistake, opening and closing his mouth. “Anyway, what advantage shall that bring?”

“I don’t know, but there probably is one.”

“Sure, I get through life powered by my smile only.”, Theo says sarcastically. He crosses his arms and leans back, looking over at Liam as if to challenge him.

Liam just reaches for his water, taking a big sip. He feels like if they spend any more time talking about Theo’s smile of all things, it’ll quickly turn against him. Somehow.

Their meals are ready pretty fast. It’s only a little while until the waitress comes back, a plate in each hand and shooting a grand smile in Theo’s direction. Liam would maybe consider being offended that she doesn’t even do so much as look at him as she sets his Chili down, but then he notices just how big Theo’s food is.

“That can’t be how they usually serve it!”, Liam insists once she’s gone, looking down at the huge tortilla Theo’s salad has been placed in.

“Who knows?”, Theo shrugs. “Look, it’s not my fault if she wants to kiss my ass. If she had any common sense, she’d assume I was on a date with you.”

What?”, Liam makes, voice high.

Theo gives him an Are-You-Kidding-Me look. “Don’t piss yourself, pup. I’m just saying, we’re sitting here together and I ordered your food, so to the outside it’d look like that.”

“Oh. Hm, yeah. You’re probably right.”

“I can’t wait to see her reaction when you pay for both of us.”, Theo closes, sounding gleeful at that prospect.

“You’re mean.”, Liam tells him, but he can’t stop himself from smiling either.

“What?”, Theo says innocently. “Like I said, I didn’t do anything.”

Chapter Text

They start hanging out after that. Well, more at least. It’s never like they actually plan for it - sometimes Theo would just show up at Liam’s porch when his parents aren’t there and leaves before either arrives (another superpower of his, apparently) and other times Liam would randomly ask if he wanted to hang out. First it’s nice because it’s something that keeps him occupied whenever he has no training and Mason doesn’t have time either, playing video games with Theo or doing homework together, but more often than not they’d be joined by either Mason or Corey or maybe even both.

He discovers during those afternoons that Theo might have problems socializing. He’s fun to be around with when they’re alone, his asshole side mostly joking than anything else, if you asked Liam. He gets a bit more serious when Corey is around, but it’s not as bad as when Mason is there. Not that Theo seems to be actually uncomfortable or that he doesn’t enjoy his time, it’s just… Liam doesn’t know how to describe it, but the side of Theo that comes to light then reminds him of Stiles’ words. It’s not even like how he behaved when they first interacted, it’s different. He’s snarky and jabs a bit too hard, things like that.

And yet, it’s not awful to be around him. His dry humour is still there and he still doesn’t know how to handle an xBox controller - he’s still unmistakenly Theo Raeken. It just seems like there’s more sides to him.

 

-

 

Liam wakes up in the way he hates the most: Someone pulling his sheets away. And not even carefully but really fast so that the wind blows into his face and causes him to cough a little. The worst kind of waking up.

“Dude, I figured it out!”, comes a loud voice, causing Liam to groan.

He rolls over and shoots a look at his alarm. “Mason, why the hell does my mother let you inside at half past midnight on a school night?”

“Don’t question our love.”, Mason shoots back and hops onto the bed, kneeling down next to Liam.

Liam sighs and sits up. “Why are you here?”, he mumbles and rubs a hand over his face. He’s tired and tomorrow’s training, so it would be like death if he didn’t sleep the night before.

“I figured it out!”, Mason says again, sounding excited.

What ,” Liam snaps, “did you figure out?”

“Theo!”, Mason replies, giving him a bright grin.

Liam stops in his movements, blinking up at him. Theo is a mystery in himself, that’s true, but he didn’t know they’ve actively worked on understanding him completely. And the fact that Mason’s had his breakthrough - whatever that entails - in the middle of the night is strangely upsetting. “Why don’t you tell him that his villaineous disguise has failed?”

Mason gives him a blank stare.

“Okay,” Liam sighs. “What did you find out?”

“You know how we found it so weird that he freaking saved your ass and didn’t want anything but lunch? And why he was so adamant to sit with us while eating?”

Liam frowns. “Is ‘adamant’ a word? I thought that’s Wolverine--”

“No, it is an actual word. Stop talking about comics and concentrate , man.” Mason swats him on the arm. “Dude, he’s got a crush on you.”

Naturally, Liam laughs at him.

“No, listen ,” Mason says sternly. “Theo Raeken, who looks like he’d like to murder people with just a glance. Theo Raeken, who is said to be the biggest asshole on earth--”

“According to Stiles ,” Liam cuts in before he can stop himself. He’s still not sure how exactly Stiles has gone from being friends with Theo to starting rumours about him, but he’s learnt that that’s all: rumours. Theo may be difficult, but nothing he’d heard has proven itself to be true.

“Why would Theo Raeken decide to randomly help you out?”

“I don’t know, man. Because he’s had a good day?”, Liam shrugs. “Look, from what I’ve seen, he’s actually pretty helpful? He helps Corey with Physics, too, doesn’t he?”

Corey says that Theo’s soft on you.”, Mason says proudly. “And he carefully thinks about what to say to you. With others he just shoots whatever sarcasm comes up to him.”

Liam shakes his head at him. “Have you ever even listened to a thing he says to me? He constantly insults me!”

“He teases you.”, Mason insists. “And you like it.”

“What the hell .”, Liam breathes. “Were you on a date earlier? Is that it, are you drunk on love or something?”

“Shut up.”, Mason suggests. “You know, when you were mad about me not going to San José? I thought you’d go punch something. And then you talked to Theo and you instantly looked more relaxed. Still pissed, yeah, but… I don’t know, not like you’d explode.”

Liam opens his mouth to reply but nothing comes out. When did this even change from what Mason thinks Theo feels about him to the other way around? Not that he even has any, hell, they're barely friends. Theo'd just taken what has upset him and talked about it rationally, erasing the problem. He'd even offered to be a punching bag; of course Liam would feel better then. And the fresh air probably helped, too.

“Were we in the same place?”, Liam asks. “I was about to deck him.”

Mason raises an eyebrow. “Really? Didn't look like that to me.”

Liam sighs. “Look, he's a friend. We’re friends. I keep forgetting he blackmailed me, which he did , by the way. He didn't want to sit with us because he has a crush on me but to remind me of my debt.”, he tells him. “But yeah, we've become friends. Weirdly enough, I like him.”

“I'm sure he likes you, too.”, Mason grins. At Liam's glare, it falls. “Okay, sorry. I thought I had a breakthrough here.”

“Besides, what on earth would move someone like Theo to have a crush on me?”

“Is this the moment where I have to be the supportive best friend?”, Mason asks. He throws himself down on the covers as well, folding his hand under his head and facing Liam. “You're not bad looking, you're a lacrosse player and a great guy. You're in his English class and his former best friends have become your bodyguards. That sparks some interest, at least.”

“You think he only helped me out because he thought it’d ultimately help him with Scott or something?”, Liam wants to know.

Mason flicks his hands against the back of his head in response. “You kidding? Then he’d have requested something different for your deal, don’t you think?”

Objectively, Liam knows he’s right. There wouldn’t have been any reason for Theo to have lunch with them everyday if he wanted to get on Scott and Stiles’ good side or something. There would have been easier methods, for sure, even if Liam can’t come up with them - Theo would’ve.

But there’s generally no reason why he would’ve asked for that in return for his help. He and Mason had talked about it before, that Theo could have asked for anything. Whatever has motivated him, Liam doesn’t believe for a second that it’d be because of a crush . Not just because someone like Theo wouldn’t have a crush on someone like him, but because someone like Theo doesn’t have crushes, period.

It doesn’t even matter because while Theo’s fun to be around to and, well, he certainly doesn’t look half bad, he does not have a crush on him himself. If he had, he’d seriously have to kick himself in the ass - Theo’s not just someone who doesn’t have crushes, he’s also someone you don’t have crushes on. Or shouldn’t have.

Theo’s moody, rude and arrogant most of the time. Even if he can put that part of his personality away like a mask at some points, it’s still there . Someone who falls for Theo would be worse off with dealing with that than someone who’d have to deal with Liam’s anger issues, if you ask him.

Even if Theo seems genuinely caring and funny underneath all that.

He knows he’s still sleepy and his thoughts probably won’t make sense - and he also knows that no matter what, Mason would turn it against him. That he knows the different sides to Theo or whatever, while others don’t. Something like that. And honestly, maybe he’s right, Liam doesn’t know, but in this very moment, he doesn’t even want to attempt to think about it.

“Are you crashing here or what?”, he asks instead, yawning for greater effect (and also because he really needed to). “Because if no, I want to sleeeeeeep .”, he adds in a whine.

Mason presses his lips together, rolling his eyes. He’s not happy with the change of topic, Liam can tell. But then he shrugs. “Does it even matter if I stay here or not?”

Liam closes his eyes.

“I mean, I’d still have to change so you’ll probably already sleep.”

Liam nuzzles deeper into his pillow.

“You’re already halfway into the dreamland, huh?”

Silence.

Chapter Text

The rest of March and early April passes by in quick steps, leaving behind a trail of moments in the early stages of a new friendship - though, is it even new any more? Liam can’t tell. What he knows, though, is the dread he feels about the upcoming end of the school year. Of course, he’s still looking forward to the summer, to the freedom it brings but. He can’t help but be anxious what it means for Theo’s inclusion in his friend group.

Their deal runs out soon and even with how well they actually get along, it’s the only thing binding Theo to him. It’s very likely that come month, they’ll talk for the last time.

It’s thoughts like these that are a constant in Liam’s mind at the moment. From one second to the other, they’ll make their way to the front and taunt him - that’s something normal for him, even if it’s another topic recently.

And it sucks.

 

-

 

It's still not really warm outside but it's endurable when you have a jacket on. And it's the first time in a while that it's still bright outside even after 6pm, so he decides to enjoy it for a bit and take the long way home. It's pretty much just riding his bike through nowhere, random streets of neighbourhoods he's barely familiar with, but it's nice to not go shack up at home right after training.

When he passes - well, plans to, anyway - he sees a familiar figure sitting on one of the ping-pong tables, looking down on something. Normally he would have carried on and let Theo do his thing, but the way he’s twisting himself underneath the lantern, Liam wonders what the hell he’s doing.

As it turns out, Theo’s reading something in the spare lighting and Liam smiles to himself, wondering what it is. He could imagine that maybe’s he’s not fully realized that it’s started to get dark with how absorbed into reading he seems to be. He knows from experience that Theo usually is paying attention when he doesn’t look like it and the other way around.

Now, however, he’s apparently completely lost in the book. He doesn’t even look up when Liam comes closer, braking only shortly in front of him.

“Hey,” he says carefully so that he wouldn’t make Theo jump.

In response, he snaps his eyes up, finding Liam at once. He cracks a smile. “Oh, hi.”, he says and puts down his book. “What are you doing here?”

Liam shrugs. “I took a detour on my way home.”, he explains and leans his arms onto the handlebar of his bike.

“You had training, right?”, Theo asks.

“Yeah. Coach kept us for a bit longer. Jitters before the game on Friday, I guess.”

“You have one? I didn’t see any motivational posters anywhere.”, Theo remarks, licking over his lips. There’s some blood on them, but not as much that Liam wonders if he’s been in a fight. It’s just a cracked lip, probably from the air.

“It’s an away game.”, Liam explains. “The last one this season. And then one more at home in two weeks.”

“Ah,” Theo makes. “How are the chances? There’s a trophy or something, right?”

Liam snorts. Okay, so Theo has only been at BHHS for less than a year, but how could he have missed that ? “Yeah, I think it would be the first in, uh, quite a while.”

“So you could win? That’s cool.”, Theo nods.

“And you?”, Liam asks. “What are you reading?”

“Oh, it’s-- it’s nothing.”, Theo says quickly, placing his hand on the book cover. If Liam didn’t know any better, he’d say he’s embarrassed .

“Romance novel, huh?”, Liam grins. “Must be pretty awesome to have you read in the half dark.”

“Something like that.”, Theo says, looking down for a moment. He’s licking his lips again when he raises his head, so Liam pulls his bag closer and digs for some balm to give him. “Oh, thanks.”

“No problem,” Liam says. “You can keep it. I have lots more at home.”

Theo shakes his head with a small chuckle. “Full of surprises.”

Liam scratches the back of his neck. “How come you’re out reading on a deserted playground? I can’t focus unless I’m in the comfort of my bed, you know?”

Theo hesitates for a second. Liam feels painfully reminded of Mason’s claims on how he always searches for the right words with him. In the end, he settles with, “I needed to get out.”

Liam huffs. “Yeah, I get that. Though, generally, or was it the parents?”

“Both, I guess.”, Theo shrugs. He could seem nonchalant about it, but there’s something in his eyes that makes Liam wonder - what is Theo’s relationship with his parents even like? How do you, as a parent, carry on when one of your children dies?

“You know what always helps me?”, Liam starts. “Video games.”

Theo raises an eyebrow. “That an invitation?”

“If you want,” Liam smiles. “I mean, I probably wouldn’t have done anything else anyway, and it’s always more fun with someone else.”

At that, Theo gives him a long look before breaking into a smirk. Liam doesn’t need as long to realize how that could’ve sounded - out of context - and starts blushing under his stare.

“You’re awful.”

Theo raises his hands as if showing his innocence. “Hey, I didn’t say anything.”

Liam can’t help but grin at that, simply because it’s so ridiculous. He swings around so that he’s standing next to his bike rather than hovering over it, holding onto the handlebar still. Well, if Theo wants a game, he can have one. “What do you say, then?”, he asks in a low voice. “Coming to my home?”

Theo doesn’t miss a beat. He slides off the table and steps closer until there’s not much more than the handlebar between them. “So your parents aren’t home? Because certain… games could get pretty-- loud.”

Liam swallows as his face heats up even more. He can’t make out Theo’s expression because he’s standing with the light in his back, but he doesn’t sound like he’s grinning - it sounds like actual, honest to God, flirting and for some reason Liam can feel his heartbeat against his chest like he’s just run five laps.

“You know how bad you are at losing.”, Theo closes soberly and Liam releases his breath. “But yeah, hanging out would be fun.”

He steps back again, turning to where his things are spread out. Once he’s got his back to him, Liam loosens his grip on the handlebar and closes his eyes for a moment. He’s been joking and Theo’s joked back. He shouldn’t have reacted like this, like it’s been real, solely because he was aware of the fact that it weren’t. Plus, it’s not even like he’s attracted to Theo. Sure, he’s handsome, especially with his smirk, but - they’re friends and he doesn’t feel anything for him beyond that. And it’s not like Theo could ever mean something like that; not when talking to him.

He snaps out of his thoughts when there’s something atop of his hand and blinks a few times. Theo’s come closer again, though not as much as before, and placed his hand on the back of Liam’s. It’s cold against his skin and Liam wonders again for how long he must have been sitting there.

“Earth to Dunbar,” Theo chuckles as Liam blinks. “Thought I lost you.”

“Yeah, no.”, Liam makes. “I was just-- uh, thinking.”

“Anything special?”, Theo asks.

Liam looks at his silhouette, taking in the sharp edges and the supposedly free hand holding onto one strap of his bag. He shakes his head. “No, nothing.”

Theo huffs. “Anyway, I’m all set. Good to go?”

This time, Liam nods. It crosses his mind to tell him that it isn’t far but then he remembers that for some reason, Theo’s known where he lives for a while now. So instead, as they start walking, he asks, “Did you finish that essay for English already?”

“Yeah. Pretty much the same day, didn’t have anything better to do.”

“Dude,” Liam chuckles. “You need hobbies .”

“And here I thought my greatest hobby was planning the downfall of the lacrosse team.”, Theo muses.

Liam looks over at him, noticing a frown. “You know, I never understood why Stiles says so much-- why he is like that. I mean, you guys were friends, right?”

“It’s been a while.”, Theo lifts his shoulders. “I guess… He might be scared I’d waltz in and take Scott away or something? He’s got him to himself for so long-- well, or maybe not. I don’t understand their group.”

“Yeah, you and me both.”, Liam nods. He sees some sense in Theo’s guess, though. Scott and Stiles may have a big circle of friends, and who’s currently with who seems to be interchangeable as well, but it’s still different. It’s never just Scott and the others or Stiles and the others - it’s Scott and Stiles and the others , as if those two couldn’t be found without the other around, no matter what. He’s seen it himself, that the bond those two share is something closer than friendship, and yet different from any couple he’s ever seen. So someone who used to be as close to Scott as him coming back could explain Stiles’ behaviour.

They walk for a bit in silence, only the sound of the clickers on his bike filling the air.

Liam doesn’t feel like he needs to say anything, but he does anyway. “Speaking of them, though,” he starts, “there’s a party at Scott’s place after the game.”

“Is there?”

“Yes.”, Liam nods. “And, uh. You’re hereby invited?”

Out of the corner of his eye, he sees a tug at the corner of Theo’s lips. “And why would I want to?”

Liam shrugs. “I don’t know, it’s tradition. Most of the team and their friends come there to celebrate.”

“... Or to mourn? You guys don’t win all games.”, Theo answers. If anything, Liam would have expected him to decline instantly, so this is a surprise.

“But most since Scott became captain!”

Theo laughs. “You haven’t even been on the team for that long, pup.”, he says and steps closer, bumping his shoulder against Liam’s.

“You just don’t have faith in me.”, Liam pouts.

Theo raises an eyebrow at him, accompanying the smirk on his face. “Tell you what,” he says, “I’ll show up if you score ten goals.”

“Ten goals?”, Liam repeats. He feels like Theo’s never in his life even seen a lacrosse game, or otherwise he’d know you can’t just request ten goals. Hell , they’re lucky if they even score ten goals as a whole.

“That’ll be easy for you, won’t it?”

Liam juts his chin forward, trying his best to seem sure of himself. There’s no way in hell that he’ll show Theo his doubts. “Of course.”

“Good.”, Theo nods. “Then we have a deal.”

Liam chuckles a bit at that. If things continue this way, all their conversations will end in deals. “So you’ll watch the match?”

“I guess.”, Theo says, “I gotta make sure you score, right?”

“Yeah, because I’d lie to you otherwise.”, Liam snorts. “I’m very desperate to have you around.”

“Of course you are.”, Theo replies, smiling at him.

Liam wouldn’t say he’s desperate , no, but wishing maybe. Having Theo around could be fun - not that he hasn’t enjoyed all of the others post-match parties, he generally likes the people there and can strike up conversations about pretty much everything but somehow… Somehow he feels like something will be missing without Theo. They’ve become friends, and the idea of celebrating a win - or, like he’s put it, mourning a loss with friends around but not all of them seems strange. Plus, despite all the bullshit Mason has said, there was one thing that was true in his words: Theo helps him feel grounded, whether with his presence or his words. In the middle of a crowd, that could be helping.

“You better put out your party outfit then.”, he closes.

For a short moment, Theo looks kind of surprised by the words. But then he presses his lips together and leaves it as it is.

 

-

 

Liam frowns when he hears not just the TV running, but his mom talking as well. From what he knows, Todd shouldn’t be home yet, but it could be that she’s on the phone or something, so he shoots Theo a look saying to be quiet.

Theo just shrugs and takes off his shoes carefully, setting down his bag. He puts them neatly next to each other, so Liam just kicks his own wherever with a grin. He’s met with a roll of Theo’s eyes.

He should probably tell his mom that he’s home and that he brought Theo with him before going into his room, so he decides to look if she’s up for listening to him real shortly. Or at least for him to wave at her, whichever.

When he steps into the living room, though, Theo right behind him, he stops short almost instantly. His mom isn’t on the phone but actually talking to someone who’s sitting on the couch with her.

Hayden ?”

They both snap around at his words, Jenna granting him a smile. “Oh, hey! You’re home at last.”

“Uh, yeah, I met--”, Liam reaches back for Theo’s wrist, ignoring his silent protest and pulls him closer so his mom would see him. “Theo.”

“So that’s Theo, huh?”, his mom says. “Nice to meet you.”

“Uh,” Theo makes, clearly a bit overwhelmed. “Hello?”

Liam frowns. “Hayden, I didn’t know you came over.”

In return, she scoffs, folding her arms. “ Please , I’ve been discarded here.”

Jenna clicks her tongue and shoots her a look before explaining, “Valerie has asked if Hayden could spend the night here. There’s been something that’s required her to add a night shift, apparently.”

“Half the station caught a cold.”, Hayden adds with a roll of her eyes. “Still, it’s not like I can’t be alone at home--”

She keeps talking about the injustice that the whole thing is and how she’s almost off age which is ridiculous because they’re 16 and Liam tunes her out when Theo leans over, muttering at him. “If you already have a visitor, I should probably go.”

Liam opens his mouth but he’s not really sure what to say. The easiest thing would be to say that at least Theo has been invited, so if anyone would have to go, it’d be Hayden. But he feels like his mother wouldn’t appreciate it and even though Hayden’s bitching about it, she probably would be mad at him, too. She’d probably start talking about how he’s choosing Theo over her or whatever, which would be ridiculous. It’s just that he really didn’t plan for her to be there. But it doesn’t look like she could even be going home, because the Valerie would be anxious the whole time.

So instead, he keeps looking from Theo back to the couch and the other way around, trying to figure out what to do.

“Why don’t you all have a sleepover!”, Jenna suggests then, smiling up at them. Liam’s not sure if he should be thankful for that idea, if he should agree or not, primarily because he’s sure he doesn’t want only Hayden to sleep over, given their whole history.  She might be expecting things to happen otherwise, even though it seems weird - he’s never even felt any real attraction for Hayden.

Theo looks panicked at that. “Oh, no.”, he says quickly, shaking his head, and Liam feels his heart sink for some reason. “I-- I shouldn’t stay out for the night, too.”

“Are you sure? I could talk to your parents--”

“Better not,” Theo practically winces. “No, I should leave.”

Jenna looks confused for a moment, but then she nods. “Okay. If you think so.”

It’s awkward then, with Theo’s apparent discomfort and Hayden staring at them now rather than keeping complaining. Liam suppresses a groan because he doesn’t want to look like a little kid who didn’t get what he wanted - and he did want a nice evening in, destroying Theo in a video game. He feels himself grow impatient, though, clenching his fists.

“I better get going, then.”, Theo speaks up again, but he gives Liam a look as he says so. Then he turns back towards Jenna. “Thank you for the invitation, though.”

“Any time.”, she responds with a kind smile.

Liam leads him back into the hall then, not awaiting any further conversation. To his surprise, Theo doesn’t reach for the doorknob immediately but grabs his hand instead. Not the wrist like usually, but the hand, pressing his thumb against the inside. It feels different, like Liam could easily pull away if he wanted to - easier than usually.

“You’re fuming,” Theo says calmly, shrugging a little. It’s probably supposed to be an explanation but Liam just frowns at him. “Do you even get treatment for your anger issues?”

Liam scoffs.

“I mean it.”, Theo insists. “I don’t think I’ve seen you make it through a whole week without exploding. And I gotta say, it’s not as a good look on you as you’d hope. Puppy’s better.”

Liam glares at him. He really doesn’t need to hear any of the usual bullshit Theo says right now. “I’ve got lacrosse.”

“Yeah,” Theo snorts. “And it’s obviously helping.”

They keep staring at each other for a moment, Liam scowling at the challenging look he gets in return, until suddenly Theo moves his hand to have the palm of it meet Liam’s. He’s keeping him from clenching it like this, closing his own firmly against it. He should look smug about being right, but if Liam didn’t know better he’d say he looks concerned instead.

It’s only a few more heartbeats until he lets go off Liam’s hand then, stepping back. It’s like nothing happened, like he’s put on a mask, and he leans down to get his shoes on finally. “You should put on Hayden’s favourite movie or something to make her shut up,” he suggests. “And enjoy your evening.”

Liam stares at him, baffled more than anything at the sudden change. He remembers to nod when Theo shoulders his bag and opens the door for him. “See you tomorrow.”

Theo slides out without saying anything else. Liam closes the door once he’s down the porch because he figures it’d be weird to keep staring after him. Especially after what’s just happened. Theo held his hand , basically, which shouldn’t be such a difference to how they usually keep catching one another’s attention, but still. It’s been different, and Liam feels like he can still feel a shadow of Theo as he strokes his thumb over the insides of his fingers.

He presses his forehead against the door for a minute or so, breathing in and bracing himself for spending the evening with Hayden. It would have been awkward at most a few months ago but still something to look forward to. Now, however, he’d much rather just go to bed and skip the evening as a whole. He guesses it’s because the whole thing came sprung at him with no time to mentally prepare for it.

He sighs softly as he stands up straighter again and walks over into the kitchen to get something to drink. It’ll keep him busy from joining the conversation they’re currently having, if he’s lucky.

Why would Hayden’s sister even decide to leave her here for the night? Sure, they’re friends but with how strained things have always been between them they’re certainly not the closest. Hell, Mason’s probably better friends with her. Why couldn’t she just stay there? Mrs Hewitt probably won’t try to set up her son with her.

His mom? Whole different story. She doesn’t even know that they’ve shared a kiss years ago on a dare. And she isn’t even, like, set on getting him to date her but that he dates someone , for whatever reason. She’s way too excited about things like this.

When he comes back into the living room, Hayden doesn’t look as pissed any more. She doesn’t even slouch in her seat but sits upright like she’s just waiting for him to come back.

Liam frowns at her and throws himself onto the armchair none of them really use, nursing his drink.

“You don’t think I scared him away, do you?”, his mom wonders. “He only just arrived .”

Liam wonders if it would be accurate to tell her that uh, yes , she pretty much did. Theo isn’t just someone you can jump an idea on, from what he’s learnt so far. Or maybe you can if you wrap it nicely and if you’re not a parent when he’s spent the whole day outside to get away from his own.

Before he can say anything, though, Hayden speaks up, “I didn’t know you two were such good friends!” She sounds casual, but there’s suspicion written into her eyes.

“Uh,” Liam makes. They aren’t good friends , she’s right - but since when is having someone over for video games a sign for good friendship? He’s had plenty of people over for a game night: most of the lacrosse team, people from his bio class and what not. He wouldn’t call either of them his close friends either and she knows that. “I ran into him.”

His mom nods. “Todd’s told me he seems nice. Wasn’t wrong, but he’s shy, isn’t he?”

Hayden laughs at that.

Liam shoots her a glare. Good, Theo might not be shy per se, but it’s not like he usually approaches people by himself. It’s more like he lets things pan out first before assuming his own role, calculating what’s best to do. But it’s not like she can know that when she only ever sees him during lunch, right? “He’s… something, I guess.”, he mutters to himself.

“Do you kids want to join me for a movie?”, Jenna wants to know then. “Independence Day is on.”

“Yeah, sure.”, Liam nods. If he said no, he probably would have to do something with Hayden only and who knows what questions and assumptions she’ll come up with. Or maybe she’d start whining again, who knows. Plus, Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum is something you don’t just say no to, he’s sure she must agree.

Chapter Text

Liam resumes to just staying in the back of the English class. Theo’s always one of the first people to show up, meaning the seat next to his right is empty when Liam gets to class. And since he’s already there when he plans to apologize for his mom’s behaviour, he supposes he can just stay there. It’s gotten awkward to keep walking back and forth anyways.

Theo raises an eyebrow when he puts down his bag, but cracks a smile anyway when he notices that Liam sits down, too. “Trying to be one of the cool kids now?”

Liam raises an eyebrow. “I always thought that was a cliché. You know, like how those are the people who also want your lunch money. Oh, hey, wait.”

Theo rolls his eyes, more jokingly than anything. It’s good that he understands that at this point, it’s really just a joke. Sure, Liam’s still paying for his lunch, but it’s almost like he wants to do it nowadays. Somehow. It’s weird.

“Look,” Liam says, “I’m sorry for yesterday.”

“For what exactly?”, Theo wants to know, narrowing his eyes.

“My mom, mostly. And, well, you leaving so quickly.”

Apparently it’s not what he wanted to hear, because in return Theo scoffs and turn his head to face the front of the room again. Liam frowns and wonders what else there is to apologize for. What, so now Theo thinks he has a right to be pissed when he basically told him that he needs help for getting angry about things? That’s such a double standard--

“Wait. Do you want an apology because I did not agree with you?”, he shoots at him. There’s plenty of things that went wrong yesterday, but that’s the one thing he did not worry about. His own opinion, that’s something he shouldn’t doubt, right? Especially not when it comes from Theo Raeken, someone who thinks he’s above even looking at someone for longer than a minute.

Honestly, if there’s one in the two of them who probably needs therapy or whatever he’d been suggesting, it’d be Theo . He’s the one with the dead sister and the secrets and always wearing the same stupid jacket and what not. He’s the idiot who can blackmail the hell out of him and asks for nothing but lunch. Who even does that?

And now he just scoffs again and ignores him .

Liam presses his lips together and grabs his bag. If he throws his notebook onto his table with more force than necessary, it’s totally unrelated to everything. It’s got nothing to do with his heart beating faster and the tremble of his hands and the stupid way Theo does look at him, just from the corner of his eyes.

So he doesn’t want to face him, but watching in a creepy way is okay? Why the hell can’t he just be like a normal person for once?

But fine, two can play that game. Liam opens his notebook and looks for the printed out version of his essay, wiggling his leg as he does so. It’s been a while since he’s been inside a classroom with nothing to do - he usually stays out of one for as long as possible to avoid boredom - so of course he feels like moving somewhat at least. Plus, yeah, he’s pissed. Pissed at Theo for thinking he’s entitled and wise or whatever.

He busies himself with doodling in the corner of his notebook until the teacher enters the room and once the lesson starts, he actually takes notes. Detailed ones, so that he keeps his hands busy and eyes away from Theo. Because if he had to look at his stupid face again, he might actually be suspended for starting a fight.

 

-

 

“Dude,” Mason says when Liam flings himself into his seat, “who got your panties in a twist?”

Liam glares at him.

“Seeing as it’s early in the day, I’m guessing it’s been either Ms Blake or Theo.”

Liam intensifies his glare.

“Want to talk about it?”, Mason offers. “What did he do?”

Liam sighs. He knows that sometimes talking to someone - Mason in particular, because nobody can work himself up in something totally unrelated to himself like Mason - helps, but he’d rather not do it. At least not right before class. He shouldn’t be exploding when his teacher comes in.

Besides, it’s actually ridiculous. Ridiculous that Theo feels he’s entitled to ignore him . As if Liam had been the one to overstep a line because that’s what it’s been - hell, he’s basically told him he’s crazy. So yeah, if anyone should be pissed, it’s him .

He shakes his head at Mason and starts pulling out his books, trying his best to focus on the lesson ahead.

 

-

 

By lunchtime Liam’s calmed down a bit. Not much, but he supposes it can only get better once he’s actually talked to Theo. After all, things had happened fast last night and it’s been way too early for Liam to think clearly this morning, so maybe they just kept misunderstanding each other. They should finally talk about it and then Theo will acknowledge he’s butted into things that are none of his concern.

At least, that was his plan.

When Liam and Mason walk up to the cafeteria, there’s no sign of Theo anywhere. It’s strange, because usually Theo waits for them, always looking impatiently like he’s already been standing there for hours.

“He probably got held up in class,” Mason suggests when Liam frowns. “Could be, right? I swear, I’m sure he always bolts out before the bell rings and now his teacher’s giving him trouble.”

Liam nods curtly, crossing his arms. It sounds logical, somehow, but with how the past 24 hours went, he wonders if it isn’t possibly that Theo doesn’t show up because of him . Or because of himself and his own stupidity, whatever.

“Do you want to wait for him?”, Mason wants to know. “Because I’m kinda starving.”

“I’ll give him five minutes.”, Liam decides. “You can go, if you can’t wait that long.”

“Okay,” Mason nods and then he turns to go.

Liam sighs to himself when he’s alone. He’s not sure why, but standing there like this gives him another rush of anger shooting through his body. Theo would know that he’s waiting for him, right? He should know because if he didn’t, Theo would probably go to Ms Monroe and tell her what really happened because he’s an asshole like that. Someone who makes demands and thinks he’s the know-it-all just because he watches people.

He scoffs. Well, he can learn about people, too. He’s learnt that Theo thinks he’s funny with all his smirking and teasing, and that he thinks he’s the anchor everyone needs to hold on to. That he’s above starting conversations and people should talk to him .

Liam pushes himself off the wall and starts walking towards the library. Theo barely talks about himself, which would probably give him an advantage in contrast to Liam - hell, he’s been in Liam’s room and a part of his nerd-dream come true. The least he could know is, like Theo’s favourite band or whatever. And if he won’t tell him, then he’ll find out himself.

The library’s not too far from the cafeteria, so Liam’s seated in front of one of the computers before he’s even gotten really mad at the fact that, no, he hasn’t even met Theo anywhere close to it. The fucker isn’t even showing up.

Liam pulls up facebook and logs himself in. When he doesn’t find anything under “Theo Raeken”, he tries his luck with his full name, even though he doubts the guy would use his full name. He’s too cool for a such a lame name, after all. Or at least that’s what he thinks.

Still, there’s no way the guy has made it through his childhood without creating at least one social media account. Liam opens google and just types in Theo’s name, thinking he’ll probably find an old myspace profile or something.

He finds something else, which he only recognizes when he’s already clicked the link.

It’s an obituary notice.

For a Theresa “Tara” Raeken, from seven years ago come May, saying that her parents and brother will miss her much. Her brother Theo.

Liam hisses as he reads that. Of course, he’s known about Theo’s sister, but seeing something like this makes a difference. Now, he sees that she’s only been 12 when she died - she hadn’t even finished Middle School.

Like on autopilot, he opens another window, pulling open the local newspaper’s archive. He knows that those articles don’t drop any names, so he just types in the date and the word “girl”.

He finds one and as he reads through it, he wishes he hadn’t. Not only has Theo lost his sister, he’d been there when it happened. The article says it got the details from her brother, a first-hand witness. There’s not much of those stated, however, just that it’s been an unhappy accident that let to Tara drown in the creek - just like Scott had said.

Still, reading it and the fact that Theo had been there makes Liam sick. He’d barely been able to imagine what it must be like to lose a sibling like that. But being present to that? He’s seen it happen, he’s watched and -- Theo’s been ten . How helpless and overwhelmed must he have felt in that moment? How frightened?

Liam feels himself getting dizzy as he closes the window and leans back against the chair. It’s no surprise Theo is as closed off as he is with such a past - and that he’s stubborn about helping people even when they don’t want it. It’s probably his version of not just standing by, of acting instead of just watching and-- maybe he’s connecting the dots wrong. How would he know what goes on inside of Theo’s mind?

And yet, he knows one thing for sure: He doesn’t want to fight with Theo. Of course he doesn’t, that much he knew before. But now he won’t wait for Theo to make the amends, even if he was the one who started it. Liam’s willing to back down, just so that Theo has someone in his corner.

Chapter Text

Liam races back to the cafeteria once his breathing got steady again. He makes it into the building just in time for the bell to ring and stops short, watching the students who make their way out of the cafeteria. There’s still no sign of Theo, just as he would have expected, not even when the rest of their group makes its way out of the hall.

“There you are!”, Mason calls when he spots Liam, dragging Corey over to where he stands. “Where’ve you been?”

“Library.”, Liam tells him.

Mason nods, just like that, understanding that they’ll talk about it later. “You alright?”

“Yeah,” he nods. “I’ll be a bit late, though.”

He doesn’t know how Mason knows what he means to do, but he just nods again and steps away. “Well, good luck.”, he says and then he trots away, leaving him and Corey standing there.

The two of them stare at one another for a moment, Corey raising an eyebrow in question. Liam just sighs and puts a hand on his shoulder, pushing him forward softly. “Let’s get you to class.”

He’s glad that Corey lets himself be stirred away without further discussion. Otherwise Liam would show up late for a class that isn’t even his own. Now that would be awkward.

“Uh.”, Corey starts finally when they round a corner. “Why exactly are you coming with me? You have history, last I checked.”

“I need to talk to Theo.”

Corey raises an eyebrow. “Okay.”

That’s one of the things he loves about him: Sometimes, Corey will just accept whatever’s thrown at him, no questions asked. He probably has an opinion, but he’ll keep it to himself.

Instead, Corey changes the topic. “Are you excited for the match?”

Liam shrugs. “It’s a match.”

Corey looks confused when he looks over at him, his brows drawn together. He almost looks like he wants to say something, but then he just nods and presses his lips together. Liam’s thankful for that.

As it turns out, Theo’s punctuality extends itself to every class he has. Well, or English and Physics at least - Liam can’t actually speak for more. Anyhow, it is a fact that he’s already in the room when he and Corey enter, in a seat next to Tracy Stewart. She’s telling him something, looking pretty bored at her own words, and the way that Theo’s crossed his arms on the table and laid his head on top of it is a sign that he thinks similarly.

It changes, though, when he sees Liam. As he lifts his head, his face changes from bored to surprised, then confused and at last angry again. Narrowed eyes meet Liam’s and if they were any closer, he guesses he could hear a hiss escaping from Theo’s mouth.

Tracy’s still talking when he gets up from his seat, but he doesn’t even do so much as turn back. Instead, he approaches Liam in fast steps, dragging him out of the room by the wrist. It’s almost forceful so Liam basically stumbles after him.

Theo only stops when they find themselves, once again, face to face in a restroom. “Are you skipping ?”

“I’m just being late for class.”, Liam tells him. “I wanted to talk to you.”

“Why?”

Liam blinks at him. “Because we’re fighting?”

Theo just stares at him, this time with a neutral face.

“I don’t like fighting with you. With anyone.”, Liam says. “Especially not about bullshit.”

Theo clicks his tongue. “I wouldn’t call it bullshit--”

“I do.”, Liam cuts him off. Why is talking to Theo always such an act? It’s always statement against statement, at least in the last few days, and it pisses him off more than anything. He doesn’t want to have arguments with Theo and even now when he’s trying to end one-- “Anyway, that doesn’t matter. I just--”

“The topic of our discussion doesn’t matter when ending it?”, Theo wants to know. There’s a tug at the corner of his mouth, but the way he glares at him tells Liam he is not actually amused.

“I just don’t think it’s worth a discussion, that’s all.”

In return, Theo frowns. “Not worth a-- Okay, you know what? Carry on, I wanna see where this goes.”

“This isn’t going anywhere-- I mean, it is-- I--”, Liam shakes his head to himself, trying to find a way to answer. It’s not that he means to just forget about their fight - unless Theo’s willing to agree that he fucked up. But knowing him, that should be an impossible idea. Still, he’d rather, like, postpone it until they’ve both agreed that Theo’s been in the wrong. Yeah, that’s what he wants. Obviously, that’s not what he can tell Theo. “Look. I don’t-- I’ve got enough on my plate, even without us fighting.”

It’s technically not a lie - the Lacrosse matches are getting more and more intense. They have to win the next one to give Scott the opportunity at a championship that he, as the captain, deserves in his senior year. And then, of course, if they win that one it’s the actual final match, even though he’d rather not think about that just yet. And it’s only barely a month until finals and those are stressful enough in themselves. So yes, he does have a lot on his plate.

And it actually seems to work on Theo. If Liam wouldn’t know better, he’d say the annoyance is vanishing from his face. Instead, his features grow soft and he lets out a sigh. “I can imagine.”, he admits quietly, crossing his arms - not defensive this time, but like he’s hugging himself. “But don’t you think it’d be better if you dealt with--”

“I’ll deal with it later.”, Liam cuts in. Because if he’s honest to himself, he knows that Theo is right. He’s realized it last night already, while he was in the living room with his mom and Hayden, that everything Theo has said about his anger issues is true: they’re still frequent, even with Lacrosse. And his parents think that everything’s okay because he never flips at home and he never mentions it to them. He probably should change that, but then again… he’s scared. What if they find something is really wrong with him and he’ll have to be locked away or something? What if they’ll label him as crazy and keep him away from people? It’s what keeps his mind running at night, just reliving the moments he’s lost control and what they could mean if some expert looked at him.

Something of these thoughts must have been visible in his face, because Theo lets out something between a sigh and a huff and reaches for his wrist again. “What’s up? Talk to me.”, he prompts, drawing his thumb in a circle on the inside of Liam’s arm.

He doesn’t know if it’s how close they’re standing, or the touch or maybe the soft and concerned look Theo gives him, or maybe all of it together, but Liam does. Carefully, he says, “I’m-- I’m not ready.”

“To talk or--?”

“To deal with it. To admit to myself, to others that maybe there’s something wrong with me and that I should be put away because I could hurt others even though I don’t want to and--”

Suddenly Theo lets go off his arm, placing his hands on Liam’s shoulders instead. “Listen,” he starts, determined but barely louder than a whisper. “It’s okay. It’s okay that you’re scared of what might happen, how they’re gonna deal with everything but-- it’s always about you , alright?”

He looks earnest as he says that and Liam wonders: They must have sent Theo to see a shrink after his sister’s death, for sure. Is this how he can be so sure about everything being alright in the future? How he understands what Liam is going through?

But he can’t ask, not just because it feels invasive, but because Theo doesn’t know that Liam is even aware of his history. How would he react if he heard that Liam googled him in a fit that he can’t even explain to himself?

“And it’s alright if you want to wait until there’s not as much going on.”, Theo continues. “Just-- you should do it eventually, alright? And better sooner than later.”

“I should, huh?”, Liam breathes. He doesn’t know why, but suddenly he realizes his heart is hammering against his chest like he’s just run a marathon - like just thinking about everything overwhelms him so much he might puke.

Again, it must be more than obvious because Theo gives him a quick onceover. “You wanna get out of here? School as a whole, I mean.”, he adds, rolling his eyes at the restroom a bit.

The truth is, Liam would love to do anything rather than sit in a sticky classroom - even if it would be his favourite class - but even if he agreed, Theo’s things are still in the Physics lab. He tells him as much.

“I got an idea.”, Theo says and drops his hands at that. “Wait for me?”

Liam frowns but nods nonetheless.

And then Theo hurries out of the room, just like that, without any further explanation. Liam stares after him, facing the door for a few moments before sighing. He’s expected that settling things with Theo wouldn’t be easy, but he certainly didn’t expect himself to have half of a heart attack or whatever that is. His heart’s still racing and he moves over to the the sink, running some cold water over his wrists before splashing his face as well.

He stops when he hears the door open again and meets Theo’s eyes in the mirror.

“You okay?”, Theo asks.

Liam nods and reaches for some paper towels to damp his face, stepping away from the sink again. Theo takes it up in turn and reveals a bottle of something that he begins to put on his face in careful pats.

“Are you-- Is that make-up ?”

“Yes,” Theo answers, not missing a single beat. “I told you I had an idea.”

Liam chuckles. “Is your idea pulling off a drag?”

“No. I’m making myself pale, you idiot.”, Theo drawls. “I’ll tell Douglas I threw up and then he’ll let me go.”

“Where did you even get that from? That’s not gonna work.”, Liam says, shaking his head at him. Watching Theo apply whatever the fuck that is, as if he knew how to do it properly, is somehow mesmerizing, and soon his heart beats along to the rhythm Theo’s hand has picked.

 

-

 

“I can’t believe it worked.”, Liam laughs as he pulls his bike off the stand.

“You’ve said that about five times already.”, Theo remarks, repressing a chuckle. “It did work. You just didn’t have faith in me.”

He doesn’t even know what the hell Theo has told Mr Douglas exactly, since they figured it’d be suspicious if someone lingered behind as Theo lies to his teacher’s face, but he’d thought the make-up would be obvious. Or that someone would speak up about how he didn’t look sick earlier or something. But no, Theo only went back to his seat to grab his things and then he made his way back into the hall where Liam waited.

“I don’t have my truck here today, by the way.”, Theo adds when Liam stirs into the direction of the parking lot.

“Oh, alright.” It makes things a bit complicated because while the way to his home is doable by foot - maybe a bit more than half an hour if they’re slow - they’d still be careful not to meet anyone. “We need to make a detour, though. My mom works at Valentino’s.”

“Need to forge an excuse?”, Theo wants to know.

Liam shakes his head. “Nah, her shift’s only over at, like, 5. I think. And Todd’s only started at 9, so he won’t be home before 6 either.”

“Whole day to us then, huh?” Theo wiggles his eyebrows, spotting a grin as he says so.

“Yeah, the freedom of skipping.”, Liam agrees and lifts a fist. He returns the smile, hoping it sends the wave of thanks he feels towards Theo. Not just because he’s distracting him, but because of everything he’s said before. He doesn’t know how awkward it would be to mention any of it to him, simply because Theo doesn’t do talking about feelings, but he tries to show it anyway.

Maybe it’ll be enough if he lets him win a few rounds of whatever they end up playing.

Chapter Text

Liam never expects anyone to show up for his matches - and especially not to those outside of Beacon Hills. More often than not they take a long drive in themselves, meaning the team usually leaves a day before to crash in a local hotel. This one, however, isn’t too far away, so they’re only leaving in the afternoon.

It also means that his friends have an easier time getting there. His parents both got late shifts but with the promise that if the Cyclones get into the finale, they’ll be able to go there at least.

Liam wouldn’t call himself too dependent on familiar faces on the sideline during a game - he appreciates when they’re there, but it’s not like he can’t play when there’s nobody he knows present. Lacrosse in itself is something he fully gets into, no matter the circumstances. It’s like he forgets everything else while playing besides the ball, the goal and his teammates.

Now, however, he can’t help but shoot a look over to where Mason, Corey and Theo are on the stands. With everything going on, he’d almost thought Theo forgot about their deal, but when Liam had jogged over to them while warming up, he’d earned a smile and a “Ten goals, remember?”

Liam had pointedly ignored the look Mason had given him and grinned back. “Naturally.”, he’d nodded at Theo before Coach Finstock called for him to get back on the running track.

 

-

 

It’s like the world freezes as Liam watches Nathan get down. For a moment, he doesn’t even know if anyone else even noticed because everyone’s attention must be at the opponent’s goal rather than the Cyclones’, but then there’s the crowd booing loudly and he lets out a breath.

If others have noticed it’s probably safe that they’ll pause the game, he supposes, and sets off to run into Nathan’s direction. He’s crashed on his arm, from what he’s seen, after flying through the air in an almost supernatural manner. There’s no way this can’t be hurting like a bitch, especially seeing that Nathan’s still on the ground.

He’s the first to reach him, even when other players stopped or turned, animated by Coach’s yelling about the injustice (“What the hell was that freak going on about? Pierce didn’t even have the friggin’ ball!”). Nathan’s not knocked out, thankfully, he’s even spluttering out his own share of insults but he still needs Liam’s help with sitting up.

“I’m gonna rip that fucking bastard’s balls out.”, he spats in between two sharp inhales. “Fucking asshole didn’t have any fucking reason for pulling this shit.”

“Yeah, I think Coach might be faster than you with that.”, Liam comments, crouching down next to him. “Are you okay?”

“Hell, Dunbar, you’re as stupid as you are pretty. What do you think?”, Nathan says with a glare. He presses against his arm with his healthy hand and hisses. “Think I broke my fucking shoulder or something.”

His breathing is still aggravated, but from what Liam can see he’s probably exaggerating. Still, he can imagine how much it must hurt, with how he’s crashed down to the ground – no wonder Nathan’s spitting more swear words than he’s ever heard him use before.

Liam doesn’t know whether to hold him down when he tries to get up or to help him in doing so, so he lets out a relieved sigh when most of the rest of the team comes along. On top of it: Scott, of course.

“Hey, dude, are you okay?”, he breathes as soon as he’s close enough, looking from Nathan to Liam – probably to ask a bystander as well.

Scott doesn’t get a snappy reply in response. Whether it’s because Nathan’s already feeling a bit better or because he’s their captain, Liam can’t tell, but there’s enough worry written in Scott’s eyes to be not offended by that; he’s genuine as ever. “I hurt my shoulder.”, Nathan presses out.

“Paramedics are on their way, buddy.”, Scott says and kneels down. Liam thinks it’s almost funny how the two of them don’t know whether it’s even okay to touch the guy. “And Coach is taking care of the guy who knocked you over.”

Nathan lets out a shaky laugh at that. “Yeah, Dunbar mentioned something like that.”

It is funny, really, how Scott doesn’t seem to have any more clues about what to do than him. Liam’s just happy that Nathan seems to be focussing on other things than the fact he has the sons of a nurse and a surgeon around him doing nothing. Or maybe he’s aware that doesn’t immediately mean that they know anything about medicine - at least not human.

He definitely doesn’t complain when all they do is stand around (Liam’s part) and talk to him in a soothing voice (Scott’s) until the paramedics appear. Liam could later pretend he held off the other players, but actually they kept their distance by themselves. Still, Scott’s definitely doing a better job than him, Liam thinks. He keeps holding onto Nathan just about somewhere as if the touch alone can make the pain go away.

It does seem to work at least somewhat, though, because when the paramedics arrive Nathan’s breath is steadier. It’s obvious that he’s still hurting, naturally, but he’s stopped swearing - that’s a good sign, right?

Liam’s met by a hand on his shoulder as he steps back to let the paramedics do their work. As he turns and sees it’s Kira, his heart sinks a bit as if he had expected someone else. In fact, he shouldn’t have expected anyone because it’s not like he’s any close to Nathan or that it’s particularly gruesome or anything.

They’re all watching as Scott helps put Nathan on the stretcher the paramedics had brought along, as if he was one of them. It’s only when Coach Finstock calls for them - apparently finished with shouting at the guy who had run over Nathan - that they all snap out of it. Liam sees how Scott says a few more words to Nathan and squeezes his hand before coming up to him.

“Hey, Liam, what do you think of Plan S?”

Liam smirks in return. Plan S - S for Stiles - is a great one. As bad a player as Stiles is, there’s always one thing they can count on: Scott will manage to catch his ball. But since it’s obvious that Stiles is not very good, they’ve decided to play into it if he ever gets to stand on the field. The plan: pass the ball back into their side, but not toward the new player like they’d expect, but to only use him as a stop on a road further back. Meaning right now, Liam will throw it back to Stiles, who will pass it on to Scott and he’ll— well, hopefully he’ll shoot at someone close to the other team’s goal while the players are still on the other side of the field.

“My favourite.”, Liam tells him. They check their sticks against one another, exchanging a grin and jog back to Coach.

Scott continues to Stiles immediately while Liam stops short. “Hey, Coach, mind if I do the penalty?”

“Hell, Dunbar, I don’t care who of you does it as long as it’s not Stilinski.”, Finstock replies, massaging the back of his nose. “God, I thought we could do without ever using him.”

Liam pretends to frown along, even though he’s feeling a little giddy. It’s a fun idea, playing like this, and he’s sure they can only manage it once. He almost feels bad for Stiles because he’ll be shadowed once they pulled it off, but maybe he’ll survive for the last minutes of regular time and the few of additional. They have the chance of increasing their lead and - if he does it cleverly, Liam might be able to up his personal score to 10.

They wrap things up pretty easily then. Liam goes back to where Nathan had collapsed and accepts when one of the assistant referee throws a ball at him. He squeezes it softly, even though the material barely notices, just so he has something to do while the rest of the players find their places.

As the referee comes closer, taking her place not too far from Liam, he looks back to see Scott closer by their own goal, just like they’d practiced. Stiles is a few feet in front of him, eagerly staring in Liam’s direction. He grins like Christmas comes early and grips his stick like a lifeline. It’s a damn shame, really, that Stiles has no stamina at all and is clumsier than allowed, because the guy got passion for the game at least.

He refrains from giving him a thumbs up because it’d give away what they’re planning. Instead, he continues looking around like he’s trying to find out whom to pass the ball to. He finds Brett, looking tense like he always does during matches, and Isaac, so far away already that he can barely make out his expression.

Damn, he’ll have to be really quick if he wants to be the one to score next.

He sees the referee already lifting the whistle to her lips, but he throws a glance over to the stands nonetheless. He finds his friends quickly, seeing as they’re still where they were before. Mason and Corey are holding onto each other, already chanting his name, he presumes as they open and close their mouths, always repeating the same two syllables. Next to them, Theo has his arms crossed and looks down on the field. He doesn’t just look expecting, but actually tense as well. Like he’s not just trying to find out whether Liam can keep their deal, but like he’s actually invested in them winning.

It makes Liam smirk a little. Knowing that Theo might actually be rooting for him, even with his stoic posture, makes him even more hellbent on scoring. He tightens his grip around the stick, pretending to aim for the opponent’s goal as he waits for the whistle to go off.

This will be fun.

 

-

 

Liam’s pretty sure the referee’s not even started blowing the whistle when people begin pouring onto the field. He can’t blame them, though, the game’s over and they’re in the lead with 17 to 13 goals. There’s no way the Preps could win even if the additional time had been any longer, so those 5 seconds shouldn’t matter anyway.

The team members find each other first, of course, throwing themselves on top of each other as if they were a wrestling team rather than lacrosse. Liam feels his team members hugging him, pulling at him and someone - he suspects it’s been Scott - ruffling his hair in an act of celebration. It’s not suffocating in the least, even though he should find it difficult to breathe in the layers of sweaty bodies around him, but in this moment he feels like it’s never been easier.

It’s only when he hears his name being shouted over and over that he slowly tries to make his way out of the circle. It feels like they’d never want to give him free, for a moment, still tearing at him but he grins - it’s great . They’ve won , they’re on their way to the championship and it’s been a fantastic match.

He actually has to push people away to get out of the mess, and when he finally does he stumbles over somebody’s foot. He holds onto the person in front of him, only to pull them down as well.

“Ouch,” Theo grunts. “You’re worse than a puppy.”

At the words Liam starts scrambling (which he probably should have done already), moving to quickly get up from where he’s halfway laying on Theo. “Shit, sorry!”

Mason snickers as he and Corey move to help them up, not even stopping when Liam throws him his best death stare. “Here I thought you did enough throwing for an eternity. I mean, ten goals! By yourself!”

“Yeah,” Liam grins. “I guess I was quite in form today.”

Then he lifts his head to glance at Theo to see if he remembers their deal. He doesn’t expect to be met with an honest-to-God smile rather than a smirk; he’s expected him to be making a joke about Liam chasing the ball like a dog or something. Right now, though, he looks… if he didn’t know better, he’d think he looks proud, like he both did and did not expect him to do it.

It makes sense, because he guesses that’s actually what Theo must have thought before the game. The guy doesn’t seem to have ever watched a single match, and he certainly didn’t know how good Liam is. Still, coming from him Liam feels like he should cherish that expression.

“You were remarkable.”, Corey answers. He looks over at the team celebrating, his eyes a bit sad. Liam guesses he can tell where it comes from - if it weren’t for the circumstances, he would be among them. It’s a small jab at his heart, but with the way Corey looks more than happy for them, and the adrenaline still pumping through his veins, Liam can’t think of anything to properly reply.

“I think it’s safe to say you were the best.”, Theo agrees. He’s stretching as he puts his hands in his pockets, trading his smile for a normal smirk again. But now that Liam knows it’s been there, he doesn’t feel like expecting any sarcasm. Still, Theo is a little shit, so in fake-innocence he adds, “Right?”

Dude .”, Mason breathes, voice full of disbelief.

Liam just rolls his eyes, unable to hide a smile of his own when Theo continues his game and raises his hands like he didn’t do anything wrong.

It’s a blissful moment, Liam realizes right then, the way they’re having their own circle, joking along with one another. And the fact that Theo is in the very center of it, starting things-- but of course they’re interrupted.

“Dunbar! You better hit the showers or you’ll get detention for the rest of the school year!”, Coach bellows over the field.

Liam turns to see that the others have already left, probably met with similar words, and frowns.

“His threats used to be more colourful.”, Corey remarks. “Guess he’s too happy to come up with any right now.”

“Probably,” Mason agrees.

“Yeah, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t mean them.”, Liam says quickly. “I really should get going. We’ll go to Scott’s together?”

He’s supposed to be driving with the rest of the team, but only to the school. Liam supposes if Stiles had his way, they’d already be skipping that step because pretty much everyone continues on to Scott’s anyway, but the bus is still school property. Plus, if he’s in the same car as the rest of them, he’ll have better chances of making sure Theo joins the celebrations.

“‘Course.”, Mason replies easily. “Now get going! I don’t think any of us would like if you spent your afternoons locked inside.”

In return, Liam laughs before he jogs off. Right now, he doesn’t feel like anything could ruin the high he’s running on. Winning the match, feeling everyone’s happiness, and celebrating with his friends - is there anything better than this?

Chapter Text

Liam doesn’t know what he’s expected, but it should have probably been along the lines of this. Of course Stiles would cause a scene. It’s like the guy can’t even live without any drama at all.

“No.”

While Corey and Mason have been allowed to just pass through the door, Stiles holds up his hand, causing Liam to crash against it. It’s not forceful or anything because he almost shoves the hand away simply by touching it - really, Stiles is not strong at all - but it has an effect.

Theo tries to pull his wrist out of Liam’s grip, likely so that he could retreat. Liam only pulls him closer, moving his thumb over the inside of his arm.

“What do you mean ‘no’?”, Liam asks, raising an eyebrow. “We’re all allowed to bring people!”

Yes ,” Stiles says firmly, trailing his eyes from Liam until they narrow at Theo. “ Nice people.”

Liam inhales deeply, ready to answer: If anybody there was not nice , it’s Stiles. For the past weeks, and probably even longer, he was nothing but an asshole about Theo. Talking shit about him, but not even like actually calling out on anything, but spreading conspiratory whispers with nothing behind them. And in all that time, the amount of times that Theo has even said anything at all about his old friends could be counted on one hand.

Before he can even say any of this, though, Theo’s opened his mouth already. He would have expected venom to drooze off his lips, but instead, Theo sounds more like joking than anything else. “Did your dad and Melissa finally get it on, Stiles, or why do you act like you live here?”

For a moment, Stiles’ mouth opens and closes several times. He blinks at Theo and if Liam wasn’t so pissed off, he’d probably be laughing at the way he resembles a fish. “I do have more right to be here than you have.”

“The way I see it you’re both guests to Scott’s home, aren’t you?”, Liam pipes up. He already sees him making his way towards the door, confusion written on his face. “Maybe you should ask him.”

He doesn’t know if Scott’s heard him or not, but the smile he wears on his lips as he approaches them looks like plastered on. Still real, because he thinks Scott is incapable of doing anything but genuinely smile, but purposely aimed at all of them. He claps his hand on Stiles’ shoulder, asking, “Hey, everything alright?”

Stiles tenses slightly, but doesn’t move his gaze away from Theo. Without turning back to look at him, Liam can tell that it must be the same for the other, too.

He sighs, deciding to take over. “Stiles won’t let us through.”

Scott frowns at that, giving his best friend a long look. “What, why? No, you can totally come in.”

“Scotty--”, Stiles speaks up, sounding both warning and annoyed. He trails off then, like he doesn’t know what exactly to say.

Scott lifts an eyebrow in expectation.

It’s like watching a silence conversation. Not just because both of them do nothing but stare at each other, move their eyes and corner of their lips a bit, but also because it ends with Stiles groaning and stalking off.

“Uh,” Scott makes, looking after him. Then he shrugs it off, turning to smile at Liam again. “Well, come in!”

Liam sends him a thankful smile. He can imagine that Scott didn’t do it for him but just because he’s a nice person. It seemed like that when they talked about Theo weeks ago, and he’s known it before, too.

“Good to see you, Theo.”, Scott continues, nodding at him when Liam steps in, pulling Theo with him.

He can tell that he’s hesitating, not just in his steps but in the answer as well. After a few beats, though, Theo answers. “Decided to end High School with a championship, huh?” He sounds almost carefree.

Scott smiles brightly. “I guess so!”

There’s a slight tension, an awkward one, forming between them all - especially when Scott lets his eyes roam over them and finds their still joined hands. Liam’s close to just letting go, but that probably would be even more awkward.

“I’m sure Liam will continue that, though!”, Scott continues then, as if nothing happened. “Did he tell you he’ll become captain?”

Theo shoots a look at Liam from the corner of his eye and raises an eyebrow. “No, he did not.”

“Oh,” Scott makes at that, facing Liam. “I did not ruin a surprise, did I?”

“No, you didn’t--”

They’re interrupted by a loud shattering noise coming from somewhere further inside the house. Liam would guess it’s been something made of glass, maybe a vase. He doubts Scott’s mom would appreciate it being broken.

Scott winces at it. “Damn. I better go check up on that.”

“Wouldn’t want Melissa to kill you.”, Theo muses.

He’s met with a surprised look at that, either because Scott didn’t think he’d happen to be so casual or simply because he remembers . Even if it’s simple things like his mother’s name, Liam can guess it’s weird to see traces of a friendship that’s been over for so long.

“Right.”, Scott nods then. “Anyway, you two enjoy yourselves! We’ve got plenty to drink and space for dancing, so yeah.”

He doesn’t wait for either of them to reply but sets off to find whoever had caused that noise earlier. A part of Liam considers how amusing it would be if it had been Stiles, kicking around things in frustration. It would be an interesting turn of events to see him react like he usually would do himself.

“Well,” Theo breathes after a few seconds. “That was awkward.”

Liam nods.

“This shall forever be remembered as The Day We Pissed Stiles Off And Had Scott Side With Us.”

“Long name.”, Liam reckons. “I’d prefer We Rule.”

“It’s a general thing.”, Theo muses. He reaches out with his free hand and uses it to shove Liam’s away. He smiles as he says, “I promised to be here, you know.”

“You should do that more often.”, Liam tells him. “It worked like a charm, I scored so much.”

They’re standing close, Liam notices, so close that he can see step by step how Theo changes his smile into a smirk. How one corner of his lip drops a little, fitting to the way his eyebrow goes up. It’s a swift motion, something coming natural to him, which makes sense since it’s his default mode. Yet, Liam can feel himself flush under that gaze.

“And here I thought next time I’d come for the view rather than the result.”

And the blush gets deeper. He decides to overplay it by rolling his eyes. “We should probably get inside.”

“Yeah.”, Theo agrees. “This will be a wild ride.”, he sighs before straightening his back.

Seeing him like this, Liam feels slightly bad. Theo had said before that he wouldn’t want to show up and apparently making Stiles disappear did not help his discomfort. Thinking about it, he realizes that Stiles’ talking must probably have had its effect on others, too. He’s heard the rumours spread along, get crazy and whatnot, and now that he stands here he realizes that among the lacrosse team, it must have been the strongest. He’s a fucking egoistic idiot to drag Theo in there.

“You don’t-- We could go to my place, if you’d rather. Watch a movie or something.”, he proposes.

“Interesting offer.”, Theo replies. “But now that we’re already here, I’d rather throw arrogant smiles in Stiles’ direction.”

Liam can’t help but chuckle at that. Yeah, it sounds like something he would enjoy.

They’re approached several times before they even make it to the table full of drinks that Scott must have set up. There’s people who clap Liam’s back, congratulating him on scoring so much. Some look like they’d want to actually have a conversation, but as soon as they set eyes on Theo, too, they’re suddenly scrambling to get away.

Theo doesn’t seem too fazed by that, he realizes, but keeps a straight face. That is, until Nolan appears.

Suddenly he’s faced with someone who doesn’t find his presence upsetting but grants him a wild smile as well, and it seems like this is what really sets Theo off. As Nolan and Liam exchange hellos, Theo finally wiggles his hand free again.

“I’ll go get something to drink. Anything special you want?”, he mutters, leaning over to talk directly into Liam’s ear. It’s not even really loud: The music’s a quiet steady in the background while people chat with one another.

Liam frowns at him for a moment. He’d have thought Theo would have wanted to disappear earlier already, but now he goes? It’s almost funny, so he can’t help but send him a smile. “Surprise me.”

Theo looks surprised but then he nods and retreats, leaving Liam to Nolan.

“I, uh, actually, I just wanted to say: good game.”, Nolan says, shooting a look to where Theo disappeared to.

“Thanks!”, Liam says brightly. “Guess I had the right motivation.”

“Uh, I suppose.”, Nolan shrugs. There’s a little shift in his smile, even though it does stay. “I didn’t know you were with someone.”

“Oh, yeah, I practically had to drag him here. Probably won’t stay for too long--”

Nolan lift his eyebrows curtly. “You guys have other plans, huh?”

“Yeah, no,” Liam says, scratching the back of his neck. If Nolan hasn’t really noticed yet just how everyone reacts to Theo showing up, he sure as hell won’t be the one to point him at it. Let the boy make up his own mind. “But you know, can be spontaneous.”

Nolan laughs at that. “I bet!”, he says cheerfully. “Anyway, I just wanted to say congratulations. Guess Finstock will have to make you captain next year, huh?”

“Looks like the plan.”, Liam shrugs. “Thanks, man. I should probably see if Theo got lost.”

“Yeah, this house is huge.”

Liam refrains from mentioning that Theo probably knows the house better than either of them. Instead, he nods and squeezes Nolan’s shoulder shortly before rushing over to the stand with the drinks. He’s seen that Theo isn’t there, of course, but he figured it’d be easier to follow his steps.

He lets his eyes trail through the room, scanning over the many people he doesn’t know - or just from passing in the hallways or something. Scott’s in a corner crowded by Kira, who’s on their team, and Allison, standing close as they talk. Corey and Mason are leaning against one of the walls, kissing and probably doing stuff he doesn’t even want to think about, so he quickly moves on. Stiles is sitting on the couch, one arm around Lydia’s shoulder and animatedly talking to some older guy with a dark beard. Where the hell did they dig him out of?

He catches Brett making his way down the stairs -- followed by none other than Theo. They’re leaning closer to each other as they take the steps, talking quietly, and as if it that wasn’t weird enough, Brett’s wearing one of his best flirting faces. Liam’s not sure exactly how it derives from his usual expression, since the guy seems to flirt with everyone crossing his path, but he’s definitely doing so with Theo.

And, to be frank, Theo doesn’t need something like this. Have someone finally approach him, make him believe that maybe not everyone’s shit towards him - and then to discover that Brett’s just after hook-ups. For a brief moment, he wonders if Theo would even be up for one of those, and when he comes away unsure of an answer, he shakes his head to himself.

He watches as Theo lets his eyes roam the room himself and the way his eyebrows shoot up when he spots him. It sends a wave of relief through his body, simply because it means Theo won’t be tricked into any wrong conclusions if he comes over now.

They meet in the middle of the way to each other, Liam fighting his way through people - this time they mostly ignore him, either because they don’t particularly care for the occasion of the celebration but just for the party itself, or because he’s already talked to them. He’s almost panting when Theo catches his upper arm, while the other seems as relaxed as ever.

Brett follows him, though.

“Dunbar!”, he says quickly, stepping up until he’s almost brushing against Theo’s back. Which means he’s close to Liam, too, so he can’t help but scowl a bit. “The man of the hour! What’s up?”

“I was thirsty.”, Liam deadpans, directing the words and his gaze at Theo.

“Thirsty, huh?”, Brett chuckles. “Yeah, I get that. It’s… hot in here.” It’s almost like he doesn’t notice how little Liam cares about him being there.

Theo raises his hands in defense. “I showed Brett to the bathroom. I could get your drink now?”

Liam crosses his arms. He shoots a look at Brett, doing his best to have it say ‘ really, dude ?’ because Brett must have been in the house often enough already to know where to find a toilet or whatever. With how much he goes around flirting, Liam’d have expected him to have more game. And then Theo falls for it? It’s almost insulting that Liam always thought he was clever.

Brett sends directs a smile at him, one corner of his lips curled up in what’s probably meant to show an apology. Yeah, sure.

“It’s fine, man.”, Liam tells Theo. “I can get it myself now, right?”

Theo looks utterly confused for a moment, like he didn’t realize he isn’t his personal assistant or something. But then he just nods. “Can you get me a coke, too?”

Liam’s mouth falls open in surprise. Of course, Theo would want to continue talking to Brett. They seemed to have a steady conversation going until he barged in, and before he starts an argument, he just nods.

 

-



“Hey, what’s up? Where’d you leave your prisoner?”

Liam didn’t even know Hayden would be there. From what he’s seen, she hadn’t attended the game - though he doesn’t know if it was for a lack of interest or ways to get there or something else. Now she’s standing there with Tracy Stewart of all people, a drink in her hand as she leans an arm down onto a cupboard. One that Liam has to pass on his way to the kitchen.

He glares at her. “Talking to Brett .”, he spats, because it wouldn’t make any sense to argue with her whether he really dragged Theo here or not.

Tracey grins. “Brett, huh?” There’s something in her voice that doesn’t sit right with him, like she’s about to laugh out loud any second. He doesn’t understand why she would, especially since they barely even known each other, but it makes him scowl.

Hayden seems to agree with her, though. “Jeez, no wonder you look so mad.”

“I’m not mad.”, he mumbles before he can stop himself. He isn’t. If he were mad, there’d already be a hole in the wall, wouldn’t it? And then, why would he be? Sure, he’s pissed at Brett for being like that, but that’s something he should be used to.

“Yeah,” Tracey says dryly. “Absolutely not.”

Liam snaps his head around to face her. “What do you mean?”, he asks and narrows his eyes. “Why’d I be mad?”

Instead of replying, they both look at each other. This time, he supposes it’s one of those things girls are able to do, but he’s also sure he’s got enough of silent conversations when they apparently are about him. So he huffs and continues his way to the kitchen. And if his shoulder collides with Hayden’s, it’s not on purpose at all.

One of the profits he definitely has from being over at Scott’s house even for casual bro nights at times (though most of the time just because their plans require a specific number of participants, he imagines) is that he knows where Mrs McCall stores the beers. He doesn’t drink usually, not just because he’s underage but because he doesn’t think he needs it. Right now, it feels right, though. After all, he’s scored both of the winning goals, one of them in last minute, so if that isn’t reason for his own personal celebration, he doesn’t know.

He does remember to take Theo’s drink with him, too, so in the end he stalks past where Hayden and Tracey still stand with both hands occupied and chin up.

Theo and Brett moved back to the staircase. Brett’s sat down on it by now, while Theo leans on the railing, arms folded beneath his head. Neither of them looks particularly cheerful, but they still have their conversation going. Maybe Brett’s flirting doesn’t go as successfully as he’d hoped. The thought makes Liam smile.

He forgoes all ceremonious behavior and nudges Theo with the cup. “Your drink.”

Theo lifts his head immediately, sending him a smile before catching the cup. He frowns then, when he sees what Liam’s got - even though he’s pretty certain it’s not even that obviously alcohol. “You’re drinking?”

“Celebrating.”, Liam shrugs. He lifts his drink to his lips just to emphasize.

“You should.”, Brett chimes in, giving him a nod. He looks serious, and Liam can’t tell if that means he does mean his words or something else, as if he’s being sarcastic or anything.

Well, he doesn’t care. Instead of replying, he watches him give Theo a long look before getting up, grabbing onto Theo’s arm in support. Liam narrows his eyes at that. He supposes Brett must have gotten ahold of something alcoholic somewhere as well because otherwise there’s no reason Theo would let him randomly touch him. In any other situation, Brett would now be headless, he’s sure.

Finally Brett takes his eyes off Theo - is staring a way of flirting for him? Who looks at another person for this long? - and sends a shorter look his way. “Take care.”, he says, maybe to both of them, maybe to neither. And then he trails off into the crowd again.

“I don’t like that guy.”, Liam admits as they look after him. It’s barely a mumble, but Theo hears him anyway.

“Yeah, he’s kind of an ass.”, Theo nods. “But same here, right?”

Liam opens his mouth at once to protest, but then he figures that he is kind of right. Theo’s not the happiest person to be around with, and while he’s actually pretty kind to him and his friends, he’s not forward about it. He feels like with him it’s about earning it, equal for equal. Does it make him a bad person? Liam doesn’t feel so.

Theo cuts him off before he can even voice any of that process of thought. “You okay?”

Liam blinks at him. “Of course! Why wouldn’t I be?” It’s a stupid question, really. They’ve won the match, they’ll definitely win the championship and Coach will make him captain. He’s partying with friends, Brett’s left Theo alone and now they’re talking. It’s as good as it can be.

Theo tilts his head. “Dunno. Figured I’d ask, you looked a bit stressed earlier.”

“People,” Liam replies. It is an explanation.

“Well,” Theo says after a beat. He seems to have used it to recount their earlier conversation because next he echos Liam’s words. “If you want to get out of here, we could probably go play video games or something.”

Liam doesn’t look away, even as his own lip quirks into a half-sided smile. “I might take you up on that. Later.”

Theo grins back, nodding as an answer.

Chapter Text

“So,” Mason starts when they’re at Liam’s locker. He has his hands in his pockets, rolling back and forth on his feet like he always does when he desperately wants to say something. Come to think of it, he must have waited for an opportunity to catch Liam alone for the whole day, since there’s always been someone around willing to talk about the match. And judging by the grin Mason wears, he’s sure he won’t like the content of his words. “Theo came to your game.”

Liam fights the urge to roll his eyes. He knows exactly where this is going and if he’s honest to himself, lately he feels like he needs to believe Mason is exaggerating things. “Yeah. I don’t know if you noticed, but he even got there in your car.”

At that, Mason’s grin just becomes wider. “Yeah,” he agrees. “But he didn’t leave the party with us. He went with you.”

“Better me than Brett.”, Liam mutters. He couldn’t stop himself from sending daggers (mentally, of course) in the other player’s direction whenever they encountered each other today, still pissed that he’d treat Theo like any other of his achievements. Brett had remained oblivious, though.

“Brett?”, Mason repeats. Then he huffs, “Huh. I suppose I can see that.”

Liam glares at him before digging further into his locker. He knows that he has some notes on the Punic Wars here somewhere – one thing that’s good about his lack of an attention span is how he’ll always take notes when he reads up on something. He frowns when he encounters his copy of The Song of Achilles at some point instead because he can’t recall that he’s ever taken it to school. Maybe he had and just forgot about it because he had an exam then or was late to practice or something, who knows. He throws it into his bag, anyway.

“I was tired of everyone wanting to talk to me.”, Liam explains. “And, well, it was Scott’s house, so Theo didn’t feel really comfortable anyways. So we went to my place and played something.”

He can imagine that, if he were to lift his head out of his locker, Mason would be raising an eyebrow. “Why’d he come around in the first place, then?”

For a moment, Liam imagines what the drive to the match and back must have been like. Theo’s probably sat in the back of Mason’s van, stared into nothingness while Mason and Corey weren’t sure whether to talk or not. Or maybe Corey has tried to start a conversation or something. Anyways, he can’t imagine that it’s been really exciting.

He shuts his locker’s door, maybe a bit more forcefully than he planned and announces, “I don’t have the notes.”

Mason presses his lips together when Liam looks at him, but he can spot a little quiver on them.

“I’m not pissed at you.”, Liam says quickly. “It’s just—I thought I had these notes.”

“Are you sure that’s it?”, Mason asks, carefully.

Liam closes his eyes and turns so his back is pressed against the locker. He draws in a deep breath as he thinks of what to answer. It’s not that he wants to lie to Mason, that’s not what they do. But how is he supposed to tell him what’s going on when he doesn’t know it himself? He feels weird whenever Mason brings up his theory about Theo, like there’s a tug on the inside of his stomach – and when he thinks about it, he realizes what it could mean. And he doesn’t want it to be real.

Because if he accepts it for what it is, it would mean he’ll start thinking about it. He’ll start thinking about what it would be like to breach the last few inches between him and Theo whenever he pulls him closer to mutter something. He’ll start thinking about how just sitting next to Theo calms him down, no matter what’s been going on before. He’ll start thinking about how natural it feels to catch his wrist, or to have Theo’s fingers run circles over his veins.

And he won’t think about what it would mean if Mason is wrong. That his friendship with Theo, which always feels somewhat tentative, could easily break over something like that. He knows it now, of course, but he’s also aware he’ll completely forget about it if he truly gets caught in those feelings.

“Yeah,” he tells Mason in the end. “Look, I gotta get to practice. I’ll check if I have the notes at home.”

“Dude, don’t worry about it.”, Mason answers. “I’ll survive without them. And… if you wanna talk— I didn’t mean to upset you, you know that, right?”

Liam nods, instantly. How could he think otherwise when Mason’s able to read through his lies and doesn’t even decide to call him out on them? No, Mason’s is the one you go to when your life depends on it, even when your stepfather is a doctor, Liam’s sure. “I know. I’ll— I don’t know. Maybe later.”

“Okay,” Mason agrees quietly. Then, he smirks. “Now get going before Finstock officially makes you Greenberg’s replacement.”

Liam shudders at the thought. “See you later.”

 

-

 

Entering the empty house, Liam can’t help but feel somewhat satisfied. Usually he doesn’t mind his parents being around – he’s not particularly a fan of being alone, and whenever he is he’d put on music to make everything less silent. Now, however, after another day where seemingly everyone wanted to talk to him and Coach shouting at him louder than at anybody else (because apparently scoring the most does not mean praise or anything but more and more pressure only), he can’t help but embrace the silence.

He figures he’ll enjoy it and do either nothing or lay on his bed and read. Or maybe he’ll take a bath. He’s already showered after practice, but a full bathtub is always the best thing for relaxing. Because right now, that’s what he plans to do until Todd comes home after his shift.

He’s just let the water start running in the big bathroom when his phone goes off with an incoming call. It’s ironic, really. The one time he wants to be left alone for a little while, the world just won’t let him.

He frowns when he sees that it’s Hayden calling him. Sure, they’re friends and they hang out occasionally, but Hayden is not someone who just calls . Generally, she’s got kind of a brusque behaviour on herself – not mean or anything, but straight-forward and, well, like a teenage girl.

Naturally, she proves that when he picks up by immediately starting to talk without even saying hello. “I need you to cover for me.”

“I—What?”

“I have a date and can’t tell Valerie about it, so I told her I’m at your place. So tell your mum to say so if she calls.”, Hayden orders.

“… Wait. What exactly shall I tell my mum?”

“That I have a date later but because Valerie doesn’t know I like girls, I said I was invited to hang out at your place.”, Hayden summarizes, sounding annoyed. “Your mom’s cool with that stuff.”

“Great. Why aren’t you telling her yourself then?”, Liam breathes, still confused. So his place is the one people pretend to go to?

“I don’t have her number, duh. I’m not as weird as Mason.”, Hayden huffs. Liam can imagine how she’s rolling her eyes. “So will you tell her?”

“Let me get this straight,” Liam starts. “You want my mom to lie for you because you aren’t out to your sister? Since when are you even—”

“A lesbian.”, Hayden says quickly. “I’m a lesbian, Liam. And I don’t know, maybe always? Since when exactly are you bisexual?”

“Okay, fair.”, he admits. How is it that nobody he knows seems to be hetero? And especially the girl whom he’s shared his first kiss with. He supposes that revelation is helping somewhat, because maybe they can stop being so awkward around each other. He’s figured before that maybe Hayden isn’t interested in him and he’s sure he doesn’t want anything from her , but that’s something like a reassurance.

“And don’t hurt your big ego about it,” Hayden continues. “I didn’t do it either when you said you liked boys.”

“My ego isn’t hurt .”, Liam insists. “So, who are you going out with?”

She stays silent for a moment. Then, quietly, she says. “Tracy Stewart.”

“Tracy Stewart.”, Liam repeats. He supposes he shouldn’t be so surprised, especially since he’s seen them awfully close at the post-match party. Still, it’s somehow weird because he can’t recall to have ever seen them hang out before.

“Well, you’ve got Theo of the two, right?”

“What—I don’t -- I don’t have Theo!”, Liam protests, spluttering over his words.

Hayden sighs. “Sure, alright. So, will you tell your mom?”

“I—yeah, I guess I will.”, he concedes. He doubts that continuing this conversation will help him in anyway. If anything, it will probably only make things worse. It’s one thing if Mason has his crazy theory about Theo , but if he thinks about it, Hayden may be awfully close to his truth. Plus, he should probably check up on his bath.

In an instant, Hayden sounds way more cheerful. “Cool. Thanks!”, she says. And then she hangs up.

Liam stares at his phone for a moment, totally befuddled. He’s never been able to really understand Hayden’s moods and right now it’s even more confusing than usually. Well, maybe not confusing, but it leaves a strange feeling behind. If the thoughts and feelings he’s been repressing are even obvious to her, he can be happy that Theo hasn’t caught up on them. It’s also possible that Hayden’s just saying stuff like that to rile him up.

He sighs and trots back into the bathroom to turn off the water. Then he sends his mom a text, saying that she’ll have to cover for Hayden in case Valerie calls and that he’ll explain more about it later.

And then he locks his phone again and throws it onto his bed. He’s decided that he deserves to take a bath without any interruption and possibly drown himself in it. Right now, that sounds like a plan.

Chapter Text

It’s almost a surprise to Liam how well he handles the whole thing. He’s never been one who’s good at hiding his feelings, hence his outbursts of anger, but he snaps out of them pretty easily. It doesn’t mean that they’re gone, of course. More often than not he finds himself take in deep breaths when he and Theo stand close together, taking in his rough and salty scent - and if that doesn’t sound fucked up and creepy already, he doesn’t know.

But no, his friendship with Theo is safe. He still comes over quite a lot; either to play video games or do homework or just talk shit. He’s also introduced him to a few good shows that Theo hasn’t known before, and since apparently he doesn’t have a Netflix account, they end up watching them together.

It’s a normal kind of friendship, just like he and Mason have. After all, he’s also visiting a lot and then they do the same kind of stuff. Thinking like that makes it easier to ignore the draw he feels towards Theo whenever his eyes find him, like there’s a pull that binds them to one another. One that only works on his side.

Sometimes he feels like his pretending works. Other times Theo would smile and suddenly everything comes barreling back down on him. He can’t win.

 

-

 

When Mrs Finch reminds them in one of her biology classes that it’s only roughly four more weeks until the end of the school year, Liam’s first reaction is shock. Of course, with the last match of the season coming up and Coach constantly reminding him, he was aware of that, and yet something in her words set him off.

He wishes he could claim that it’s how he hadn’t realized it means finals are so soon – that’s a problem, too, of course, because there’s no way in hell he’s prepared accurately. And yet, he finds himself pushing that thought to the front, so that he focusses on that instead of something else.

With the end of the school year, his deal with Theo runs out. They’d said he’d pay for his lunch for the rest of the semester, so once that’s over, there’s no reason for Theo to be still sitting with them. There’s no reason as to why Theo would seek his company any more. And really, Liam would understand if he’d avoided him in the coming school year. After all, Theo’s a Senior then and there’s more urgent things to worry about than a Junior who can’t keep his anger in check.

Still, he feels sad at the realization. He knows it would be nothing but a proof of how immature he is if he tried to hold onto this somehow, especially since he still tries his best to avoid his growing crush on Theo – because that’s what it is. He doesn’t like admitting it, not even to himself, but it’s what it is.

It’s not that he can blame himself for it, really. With how gorgeous Theo is, how nice and thoughtful, and funny – and then Mason planting the idea in his head that just maybe … But no, he’s acting like a schoolgirl in moments like this, he knows that. But it’s not like he’s ever been good at controlling his thoughts; just like with his anger, the thoughts just swallow him whole. And most of the time when that happens, he wishes the ground did the same.

It never does.

 

-

 

It’s in the following week that, for the first time since they’ve known one another - possibly even the first time since Theo came back to Beacon Hills -, his seat during first period is empty. Liam frowns at it as he makes his way to the back to sit down in what has become to be his table. It’s never even happened that Theo’s been late. Hell, with how punctual the guy is it wouldn’t surprise him if he slept in the school.

Still, there’s always a first time for everything, he supposes. There’s no way that someone never oversleeps, so he doesn’t worry. Theo will arrive later. And knowing him, he’ll have a smooth excuse as well.

So, only logically, Liam leans forward to dig out his things before Ms Blake comes into the room. He’d been close to being late himself, so it shouldn’t take too long until she’s here.

 

-

 

He doesn’t worry too much when the period’s almost over and Theo still hasn’t shown up. Of course, it bothers him to find an empty seat whenever he shoots a glance to his left, but that’s mostly because it’s pretty boring without exchanging annoyed looks with him like usually. That’s also the reason why he does it so often - boredom.

When Ms Blake turns to write their homework onto the chalkboard, he can’t suppress a sigh. The lesson had felt like a whole school day and he’s relieved to leave the room now, even if it’s with a new assignment in his pocket.

He stops short, though, when Ms Blake writes down today’s date. May 10.

Shit .

No wonder Theo isn’t in class today. He hasn’t overslept, he isn’t sick. It’s-- it’s been today . He remembers it clearly from the newspaper article, even that it’s been in the afternoon - seven years ago, Theo’s sister died.

It’s not his part to feel anything about it, he knows. If it hadn’t been for Scott, he wouldn’t even have known about it, and he doesn’t blame Theo for keeping it to himself. He’s allowed to deal with it in what way seems good to him . And maybe Liam’s heart doesn’t speed up because of Tara, awful as it sounds right now, but for Theo himself.

But of course it isn’t like he’s the one who Theo should turn to today. Why would he? They’re friends, yeah, but this is something you deal with with the people closest to you.

Still, he feels like he should at least check in with him. Even if he hadn’t known about Tara, it would only make sense to ask how Theo’s feeling, right? After all he hasn’t been in English today.

 

-

 

With how often he’s had Theo’s phone in his hands himself, either to plug it in or give it to him when the other was over, it’s almost ridiculous that Liam doesn’t have his number. But then again, there never was any reason for that – Theo is always just there . There’s silent agreements on where to meet up, like in front of the cafeteria for lunch, or at the bike stand or maybe just in front of Liam’s house. They don’t need to text about these things, and then it seems like they wouldn’t have much more to text about. Liam feels like a text conversation would feel more pressured than the natural one led face to face.

Right now, though, he’s about to curse himself for never even thinking about asking Theo for his number. Because seriously, who goes even through life without having the number of someone he regularly hangs out with?

That stupidity only leaves him with seeking out Scott during lunch. He’ll ask him for Theo’s address and then he’ll check in after school – maybe he’s invading his privacy in multiple ways, but he doesn’t care. He’d rather know that Theo is alright than wonder if he could’ve helped in any way or something.

Mason frowns at him when they approach the cafeteria and there’s no sight of Theo. “Did you two fight again?”

“No,” Liam tells him. “I—“, he cuts himself off, not sure if he should tell Mason about what’s going on. He hadn’t mentioned Theo’s sister to him at all, because it didn’t feel like it’s his part to tell. But now that it’s almost present, that it’s her anniversary, it might be okay. “Today’s his sister’s death day.”

Mason’s eyes grow wide. “His sister ? Oh, shit! I had no idea—”

“Yeah,” Liam cuts in. “Do you think it’d be weird if I… went to check up on him?”

Thankfully, Mason knows better than to poke any fun at him this time. “No, man, it’d be sweet. Thoughtful.”

And despite himself, Liam feels a blush creep up his skin. He honestly doesn’t need any of that right now. What does it mean when he feels embarrassed about acting like a basic human being to Theo already?

He tries his best to will his blush away while they’re standing in line, waiting to get their food. Liam doubts he’ll even get around to eat anything with the knot that’s become of his bowels, but it’ll give him something to do at least.

Even the lunch lady frowns when she sees Theo isn’t with them.

It’s not better when the others arrive at their table. Hayden’s as nonchalant as ever, but after greeting Mason with a kiss Corey raises an eyebrow at the empty space next to Liam. “Where’d you leave Theo?”

“He’s…”, Liam trails off, not sure what to say. If Theo’s meant to keep the whole thing under the covers, he can’t just blurt it out.

“Sick, we guess.”, Mason shrugs, jumping in. “Liam’s meant to ask Scott for his address later to bring him homework around.”

“Ah,” Corey makes. If he suspects anything, Liam doesn’t know him well enough to tell. “Then I’ll text you if we get any in Physics.”

“That’s really sweet of you.”, Hayden chimes in. She’s smiling widely, something in her eyes that makes it seem almost sarcastic. Her voice sounded genuine, though, so maybe Liam’s just not at top of his game today.

He just nods at both of them and puts his hands under his chin, looking towards the doors so he won’t miss Scott.

 

-

 

“Liam,” Hayden speaks up, a certain annoyance in her voice. He supposes that with his fidgeting he can’t blame her for it. “Why don’t you just go over there and ask someone about their collective boyfriend?”

He should probably do just that rather than darting his eyes between the group - pretty much all of Scott’s friends had already arrived only ten minutes into the lunch break - and the doors, waiting for Scott to show up after all, but - first of all, he barely really knows anyone seated there. Okay, that’s not right because three out of the six people are on his team, but that doesn’t mean he feels like chatting up either of them. Especially not Stiles because they haven’t exchanged a single word since the party - not even during practice.

But the end of lunch break is growing closer and there’s still no sign of Scott appearing at all and Liam knows he’s annoying. With wrapping his hands around the table only to unwrap them again, tapping his thumb against the side in the process, he’s not quiet at all.

He sighs, shooting another glance to the door. Did he miss the reminder that said all the people he counts on are to skip school today?

No, that’s not right. Mason is here after all, and right now he’s placing both his hands on Liam’s shoulders and squeezes them softly. “Hayden’s right, man. Staring won’t help you.”

“Plus, you’re being really annoying.”, Hayden adds dryly.

“That too.”, Mason conceides with a small grimace. “So, here’s what you’re gonna do: Go over there and ask Kira where Scott is. You like Kira, right?”

“Yeah,” Liam agrees, voice hollow. Out of Stiles, Kira and Isaac – aka his present teammates – Kira is definitely the one who does not look like she would like to kill him just for existing. He has no doubt that despite her sweet appearance she would be able to, though, if she wanted. Still. “Yeah, I’ll do that.”

“Good man,” Mason says and rubs over his back shortly. “Then go .”

It leaves Liam with no other option than actually getting up and trotting over to the other group’s table. He can’t help but think about how awkward it is as he makes his way through the cafeteria. Because there’s no way that he could talk just to Kira like that.

Still, he’s already on his way, right? Once he’s close he realizes that his worries are for nothing – they’re all so invested in their conversation that they don’t seem to even notice him. They’re all leaning on one another, somehow, even though they don’t look like they’re sitting in any weird positions or something. It’s almost mesmerizing to try to figure out how they do it.

He catches himself early enough, though, before it gets seriously weird how he must be staring at them. He taps Kira on the shoulder, making her turn around and shrugging off Malia’s arm around her shoulders.

“Hey, Kira, do you have a second?”, he says quickly.

“Yeah, sure.”, Kira smiles up at him. Sadly, she decides to stay sitting. “What’s up?”

“I was—uh, where’s Scott?”, Liam asks once he’s seen that the others didn’t even stop their talk apparently. Only Malia had looked up for a second, probably confused by Kira letting go off her, but when she saw Liam she just gave a small shrug.

“Oh,” Kira frowns. “Deaton needed him at the clinic. But I’m sure he’ll be back for training.”

Liam surpresses a curse. Damn , he had forgotten about the extra training Coach had ordered. He’s not sure if Finstock would understand if he didn’t come, because the guy can be a psychopath sometimes. And they’re right before an important match, so that’s probably extra pressure.

But, if Liam’s honestly to himself, one thing is clear to him: Theo is more important than lacrosse.

Kira catches up on the fact that her answer isn’t satisfying him in any way, apparently, because she says, “Hang on.”

Liam can’t even do more than raise an eyebrow before she pokes Isaac in the side, telling him, “Tell Stiles Scott’s half of his brain is needed.”

As Isaac turns to pass on the message, Liam smirks at the description. It seems fitting to say that the two of them share a brain, with as much as they appear together and how they barely need to communicate out loud most of the time. But still – it means that he’ll have to talk to Stiles now, whether it’s Scott’s brain or not. (Which actually sounds really fucking weird, thinking about it.)

It’s clear when the whistling train reaches Stiles (okay, between him and Isaac there’s only Allison, but still) because he leans back on the bench until he’s almost falling down, trying to catch a glimpse of Liam. He’s just glad he doesn’t wear a display of utter dislike when he catches who is looking for him. It’s more like he’s surprised and confused than anything, so Liam lets out his breath.

That he keeps standing where he is must be a sign enough for Stiles that he doesn’t want to keep talking right there, so he gets up and walks over to him. Talking to Stiles is always unique; how someone can pull off being a bouncy geek and an asshole at the same time is still beyond Liam, and especially how it comes through in the smallest amount of words. “What’s wrong?”, he asks with suspicion written in his voice rather than concern.

Like Mason always says: Stiles is the stern parent, the one who always expects the worst.

“Mind if we step out for a second?”, Liam asks. Kira may have turned around again, finding her place in the conversation again easily apparently, but well. Stiles probably knows what today means, and he figures it’d be better to talk about it privately.

Stiles tips his head only slightly before nodding. He extends his hand like he needs to show Liam the way which is just ridiculous .

“Just so you know,” Stiles mutters while they walk to the door. “Coach hates me, so if it’s anything you would want Scott to do because he’s the captain --”

“Dude, I’m co-captain .”, Liam reminds him. It’s like Stiles doesn’t realize that Liam knows he’s higher in the hierarchy than him – or maybe he doesn’t recognize it himself because he’s so busy acting like he’s superior by age already. “It’s not—it’s not related to the team.”

“What’s it about then?”, Stiles wants to know while they’re leaving the room, watching the door fall closed behind them.

Liam hesitates for a moment. He knows that Stiles practically hates Theo. With Scott, he knew at least that their friendship may be over, but Scott still cares about whether Theo is alright or not. Stiles? Seems like he wouldn’t care if he were rotting away in a hole. But still, he’s the only one left he could ask. “Theo.”, he closes then.

Theo ?”, Stiles echoes, practically spatting out the name. “What did he do?”

Nothing ,” Liam says quickly, not able to hide the anger in his voice completely. Stiles must know about Theo’s past, so why can’t he give him a break just once? “You know today’s date?”

Stiles blinks at him. “Of course I know today—Oh.”

“Yeah.”, Liam nods. “He’s not in school, so I figured I’d check in with him later.”

“Okay,” Stiles nods instantly. It’s almost surprising that he doesn’t try to talk him out of it. “So, what did you need Scott for?”

“I don’t know Theo’s address.”

“You don’t know his address? I thought you were—”, he stops himself and frowns for a moment, giving Liam the opportunity to wonder what he meant. He supposes if Scott’s already thought he and Theo were friends when they barely knew each other, he must be thinking they were, like, best friends by now, which means Stiles would probably assume the same. Of course it would be surprising that Liam’s never been at his place.

“You are aware that we only know where he used to live, right?”, Stiles continues then. The way he says we even though Scott’s not even present makes Liam think that maybe Theo wasn’t completely off with guessing Stiles’ motivation in hating him. It’s like he needs to point out he and Scott are a unit. “The chances that they moved back there are extraordinarily slim—”

“I know . But do you have a better idea?” When Stiles opens his mouth at once, he adds, “That doesn’t require me to hack into police data.”

It’s almost funny how disappointed Stiles looks then. “Well, then you gotta guess.”, he shrugs. He rattles of the address then, even giving him a bit more of a description, just in case Liam doesn’t know where exactly it is (he’s known the general direction, but nothing more).

“Thank you.”, Liam tells him earnestly.

“So you’re going after school? I’ll make sure Scott tells Coach. Guy has a knack for him.”, Stiles muses. He rubs his chin absently, even though he doesn’t look away.

“That’s… that’s nice of you.”, Liam says slowly. He’s surprised, actually, that Stiles agrees so easily. Maybe even his ridiculous behaviour has a limit.

“No problem, man. You know, I suppose he could use an outsider today.”, Stiles says seriously. “You—Take care of him, yeah?”

Liam has to stop his mouth from falling open in surprise. That was almost nice of Stiles to say, especially in the way awkwardness and seriousness met each other on his lips. It means that he realizes how uncharacteristic it is for him, but he means it enough to oversee that fact. It almost makes Liam ask him right there why he is like that, why he acts like Theo personally offended him in a way that can’t ever be forgiven. Before he can do so, though, Stiles has already turned and opened the door again to get back into the cafeteria.

Liam repeats the address to himself to make sure he didn’t forget any of it and draws another deep breath. That he knows it now means that he’s one step closer to getting to Theo’s home. Usually, he would look forward to it. To see how Theo lives, to see whether he has his own collection of embarrassing items like books or even toys or anything . Now, though, he’s almost dreading it. He knows that he won’t encounter a cheerful version of Theo today but one that must be hurting, in one way or another. But that only makes him more determined to go there.

 

-

 

Liam frowns when he arrives at the house. Not just because it’s bigger than his own but because there’s a bobby car standing in the yard among other things. Somehow he had never considered if Theo had any other siblings – but then, would a family decide to have another kid after one died? Liam doesn’t know, he can barely even grasp the idea of losing someone like that. Still, he feels like Theo doesn’t have a younger sibling because even with the way he barely talks about his life at home, he thinks he’d have learned about it somehow .

He does know, though, that apparently the family often has visitors (that Theo doesn’t appreciate), so maybe one of those is there and brought a child along. Is it meant as a way of distraction?

It makes him feel less and more awkward at the same time about being here. Because on one hand it means that visitors are okay today, but then again maybe only if they’re family? He’s probably and definitely overstepping a line here, isn’t he?

He snaps out of his thoughts when the front door of the house suddenly gets opened.

“Can I help you?” The woman standing in the doorway doesn’t look a bit older than 30 maybe. She has a kid perched on her hip, looking a bit irritated at Liam.

He can’t blame her, though. He’s still standing in the yard, like for the past few minutes, without moving an inch. Now, he steps closer so that he doesn’t have to yell back at her. “Uh, yeah,” he says quickly, rubbing his hands together. “I was—uh, do the Raekens live here?”

Raeken ?”, she repeats. It’s like she’s never even heard the name. Liam’s heart sinks. “No, we’re called Fuller. Maybe you’re at the wrong house? One of the neighbours may be called Rayden.”

Liam doesn’t even correct her, just apologizes before turning around to leave the property.

Chapter Text

Liam knows that he’s overreacting. Of course he’s overreacting because if there’s one thing he’s truly a master at, it’s that. So the Raekens did not move back into their old house, what’s the deal? It’s what happens - of course their house wasn’t still empty after years. It shouldn’t worry him so much that it wasn’t either of Theo’s parents opening the door. The only problem now is that he doesn’t have any clue where to find Theo, but maybe he doesn’t need to. Maybe, he thinks again, it isn’t his part to barge in today anyways. Shouldn’t it be a day for the family either way, even if it’s sad?

Still, he wouldn’t feel right going back home. He didn’t know Theo’s sister, obviously, but he feels like he should honor her anyways. Theo’s never talked about her, not even hinted that she ever existed, so he can’t say anything about their relationship to one another but - she’s been a big part in the life of someone he cares about. He feels obligated to honor her somehow.

So it’s no surprise that his feet carry him towards the creek. It goes through the entirety of Beacon Hills, so wherever he starts he’s close to where it might have happened. He doesn’t know how to feel at the realization; there’s a certain emptiness in his chest. He’s not sad because he doesn’t have a reason for it, as awful as it sounds, but he does feel it. The absence of someone.

It could have happened anywhere along the stream – how can he be sure he never actually stumbled upon the place where someone died while he was jogging through the forest? It sends a shiver down his spine. It’s like passing through a haunted house. Tension seeping through your bones because you know something is off but you can’t pinpoint when it’ll really hit.

He has the whole afternoon to himself and he has no problem with spending it by walking along the entire creek. It’s what feels right right now, even with the uneasy feeling weighing in his chest. If he’s already feeling like that without even knowing Tara, how must Theo feel today?

 

-

 

He’s not too deep into the forest when he notices a car within the woods. Squinting as he steps forward, he recognizes the flaked off pattern of the dark colour. Liam’s certain that it doesn’t look like that on purpose, and yet it’s like there’s shapes in the missing paint – he’s learnt them by heart, remembering them each time he passed Theo’s truck.

It’s Theo’s truck.

Which means Theo is here.

Which means, in all likelihood, that this is where Tara died.

It’s not even a decision when he starts walking faster, pacing towards the car. He can hear the sound of the water stream passing by, a steady rhythm coming to his ears. It’s oddly calming, though he can imagine it must be quite the opposite for Theo.

As he rounds the truck, he finds Theo on the ground, leaning against it. If he’d ever thought before that Theo’s face looked empty, it’s nothing compared to now. His eyes seem foggy as he stares into the water of the creek, absently picking at the skin of his hands.

“Theo,” Liam can’t help but breathe at the sight. He knows that Theo zones out sometimes, but he’s never looked so truly lost before.

Theo turns towards him, moving his head slowly as if he was in a slow-motion. Only when his gaze meets Liam’s legs do his eyes get wider. He looks up, not surprise but shock written into his features. “Liam.”

They stay like this for what feels like an eternity. Theo on the ground, craning his neck to look up at him and clasping his hands now. Liam standing there, his own falling down besides his hips, unsure what to do. Should he say something? Do something?

In the end, it’s Theo who acts. A simple word, really, especially with how thin his voice is, but it grants Liam a certain permission: “Hi.”

“Hi,” Liam echoes. “I—can I sit?”

Theo doesn’t say anything, but he pulls his knees together as if there were limited space next to him. It’s enough of an invitation for Liam to sit down next to him. Even to the outside it must be obvious who of them is more affected, naturally, with Theo pulling his knees up to his chest while Liam stretches out his legs.

“What are you doing here?”, Theo asks, looking back to the creek.

Liam thinks of an answer for a second. He could tell Theo how he walked along the creek until he found him, how he tried to visit him at home, how he thought that – what did he even think to do about everything? Why did he think that he of all people could help Theo with his grief? He settles with, “You weren’t in school.”

“Yeah,” Theo chuckles dryly. It’s a tired one, like he has no control over himself.

“And I know—it’s today.”, Liam adds. “Isn’t it?”

He’s met with Theo’s eyes again. There’s always circles underneath them, but today they’re darker than ever, making the red of his eyes stand out more. It’s not just fatigue written in them. “You know?”, he breathes.

“Yeah.” He doesn’t want to tell him how he found out. It’s still weird, thinking about how he searched for his friend on the internet rather than just talking to him. What person does that?

Theo doesn’t ask anything about it. Instead, he starts talking. “It happened here.”, he says and nods towards the water.

In Liam’s head, the scenery changes. He’s read the article about Tara’s accident only once, but almost every word has stayed with him. It’s not difficult to imagine how, years ago, a tree was forming a bridge over the creek, slim and wet from rain. The creek looks different every few meters – he doesn’t know if that part in front of them is particular deep or if she fell in an awful way; that wasn’t covered in the article.

But he doesn’t need to know any of that. Sitting here with Theo, the circumstances are less than trivial. It is something that happened, something that left a scar inside of Theo, making him careful and silent like right now.

He doesn’t want to change the topics because it would be awfully tactless, but he doesn’t want Theo to relive his worst memories either. “Have you been here the whole day?”

As an answer, Theo nods.

Liam can’t help but smile softly when Theo moves a bit, leaning his shoulder against his. Maybe he does have a purpose here after all.

Slowly he reaches out, taking Theo’s wrist into his hand. It’s always helped him calm down when Theo ran his fingers over his veins, maybe it works the other way around as well. Though he doesn’t need to calm him down apparently - it’s scary how quiet Theo is, even when he’s usually not particularly chatty or loud either. It’s the sadness, he supposes.

Theo doesn’t struggle a bit, even moves along as Liam pulls back, taking Theo’s arm with the motion, and settles it on his thigh.

“I’m sorry,” Liam says, because it’s what you do.

Theo doesn’t acknowledge it - at least not out loud. He hums something and for the first time since Liam came here he closes his eyes.

Liam ignores the tug in his chest at the sight of Theo looking so stripped down from everything. It’s not the time to think about any of that, not when they’re watching the place Theo’s sister died at. Not when Theo’s so vulnerable; not because he wants to but because he has nothing left. Making himself believe anything isn’t fair to either of them.

What Theo needs rather than all of the thoughts swarming Liam’s brain is support . Liam shouldn’t ask anything of him, he should do nothing but give.

“Do you… want to talk?”, he prompts, trying his best to not sound pressing.

He doesn’t know if Theo’s just hesitating or if his lack of a response is supposed to be the answer - Liam focuses on the water, too, the steady rhythm of it passing by. If it didn’t have its history, it would almost be a nice place.

It’s like Theo’s holding his breath he realizes when the other finally lets out a long sigh. Theo moves slightly, curling against him a bit as he wiggles his wrist free and takes Liam’s hand into his own.

It’s cold against Liam’s skin and he tries to make himself belief that’s the reason for taking in a sharp breath. He wishes Theo would actually talk, just so there’s something louder than the beating of his heart - it’s a selfish thought, he realizes. He swallows it and does his best to keep quiet, leaving Theo to his thoughts for at least a little while longer.

Is that even the right way? Didn’t they always say grieving people should talk about the people they miss? Maybe it’s different for when years have passed. Liam doesn’t have a single clue about how to act, so he lets Theo choose the path.

They stay like this for quite some time, Theo holding onto him - not gripping into his flesh but just touching him as if he needed a kind of physical contact to another human. Liam keeps quiet, not just to give Theo the floor but because he has no idea what he would even say .

Still, it’s already been late in the afternoon when Liam stumbled upon Theo. It’s getting later and later, colder and colder and even though it’s May, the water makes it even fresher. Plus, the floor isn’t comfortable at all. Considering how long Theo’s already been here, Liam decides that maybe they should leave.

“Give me your keys,” he prompts, taking his hand out of Theo’s to hold it up. “I’ll take you home.”

Theo keeps his eyes on the water. It’s like he’s frozen, not even able to move at all as he answers. “I am home.”

His voice is silent, the sadness louder than anything. Liam can’t even begin to imagine how strong his connection to this place must be. The last place he’d talked to his sister, a place that will always remind him of her. At the same time, it must be like his personal hell, looking down at the water and just remembering . He doesn’t know if Theo and his sister have been close, but they were kids. Siblings. If he’d feel close to anyone, it would probably be the memory of his sister.

“To your parents.”, Liam corrects himself.

Theo scoffs, but he still doesn’t lift his eyes from the creek. “They don’t care.”

“Theo,” Liam starts, unsure how to properly react. He reaches out again to intertwine their hands but Theo pulls away at the lightest brush already. “They-- It’s hard on them, too.”

“Oh, yeah.”, Theo says dryly. His head snaps up finally, the emptiness gone from his eyes and replaced with… rage. Liam’s never seen him like this, he’s always the calm one behind a mask. Seeing him portray his emotions so freely now-- it should’ve been freeing, light and fun to have him open up but now it is painful . “So hard that they’re just ignoring it.”

Liam frowns. “But… you came here to deal with--”

Theo’s lips pull up into a smirk. Not the teasing one he usually wears, but an ugly one, a forced one. “ I came here to deal with it.”

It takes a moment for the words to settle.

“Your parents aren’t here ?”

If he’d said it any differently, Liam would have thought that maybe, just maybe, they’d left for her anniversary. That it suddenly became too much, too real, to be here on that day, and they left the city for it. But what Theo’s said - what he meant - sounded like they’d never been here to begin with. He is the one who came here. Not them.

“You’re on your own.”, Liam closes. His voice sounds hollow even to himself, as he watches Theo looking down at the water again. “Theo.”

When he doesn’t get a response, he tries for Theo’s hand again. This time he catches his wrist, holding onto it firmly.

Theo ,” he says again. “Where do you live ?”

It’s almost funny, really. Liam’s always thought that all those crime shows are exaggerating when with one simple comment everything makes sense. But as he sits there, it’s like a timelapse is playing in front of his inner eye.

Theo avoiding his parents at all cost. Theo never talking about his home life. Theo never seeming to have slept enough. Theo spending entire days outside. Theo not paying for his own lunch.

Looking back, it all sums up. And Liam? He should have seen it, but he’s been blind. He’d just thought Theo wanted to be mysterious or something when, in fact, he isn’t even in the position to want anything, as it seems.

Has he been on his own the whole time? How did he do it?

Theo doesn’t respond out loud, instead he backs away, clenching his fist as he tries to get out of Liam’s grip. He’s not trying it desperately like Liam does so often, but with determination, even if it’s not written in his eyes.

When his back hits the truck, Liam finally lets go. It’s almost comical how his hand and mouth open simultaneously at the realization.

“Are you sleeping in your truck ?”

Instead of replying, Theo takes his new won freedom to scramble up. He’s looking down at the ground rather than facing Liam, something that he usually never does.

It sets something off in Liam, making him jump up as well. “ Theo --”

Yes , I live in my truck, okay ?”, Theo finally barks out, cutting him off. He flips around, looking at Liam at last and - there’s fury in his eyes, so much that Liam takes back a step. “What are you gonna do about it?”

Liam swallows. Even with the way Theo spats the words at him, he can’t back down. Hell, if he thinks about how he must be like during one of his outbursts, he shouldn’t even be considering doing anything but step forward . Theo’s always there, so why wouldn’t he be? “I--”, Liam hesitates. “What do you want me to do? Theo, you can’t be living like--”

“I can. I have been living like this for the past months .”, Theo insists, his voice loud. “You wanna know what I want you to do?”

Liam steps forward and reaches out. For a moment, he thinks Theo might pull away again, or that maybe he’d punch him, do something , but then his hand finds his wrist. Moving his thumb over Theo’s veins like he’s done so often, Liam nods.

Theo still looks mad, but when their eyes meet Liam can see something else. A flicker only, really, but it’s there . Sadness, fear, one of those.

That’s why Theo’s words feel more like a stab than anything else. “I want you to leave me alone.

It’s said so calmly, almost as if all anger - any emotion - was drained off him. Even the way he frees himself of Liam again is careful, calculated, and almost scarily so. It makes it worse.

“Go home, Liam.”, Theo tells him. “Go before I knock you out.”

“Like you could.”

For a moment, Liam thinks he might get a trademark smirk in response. Instead, though, Theo drawls, “Don’t test me.”

Instead of waiting for another reply, Theo whips around then and begins stalking off.

“Where are you going?”, Liam calls. He doesn’t know what he’s expecting: Maybe for Theo to realize that apparently he has nowhere to go, for him to turn around again or at least stop walking. For him to talk to Liam.

Instead, Theo carries on, barely turning his head as he calls back: “I swear to God, Dunbar, if you tell anybody about this, I will ruin your fucking life.”

In that moment he sounds as if he was speaking freely. Like he means it. And Liam has no doubt that he will. Theo still has a power over him, he can still tell people that it wasn’t his keys that ruined Ms Monroe’s tires.

It’s not fear exactly that binds him to the place he’s standing at, but something similar. And at the same time not. Even with Theo’s words, with his threat , Liam looks after him as he leaves, feeling a pain of worry in his chest. As Theo’s figure gets smaller, he starts laughing at himself. How ridiculous can he be? Someone threatens him and here he stands worrying about him .

Still, it’s like he’s glued to the ground; doomed to keep standing there until - until when exactly? Until Theo comes back? Until it gets dark? Until he needs to pee? He only knows that for now, he just can’t move.

Chapter Text

“Liam. Eugene. Dunbar.”

Even in his exhaustion Liam can’t help but appreciate how well his mom can pull off the stern-parent-look. She’s got her hands on her hips, tilting her head in just the right way that her squinting her eyes doesn’t look ridiculous. On top of that the low and slow voice - perfect.

Sadly he has no energy for that, so he just sighs as he closes the door, trying his best to look at her.

“Your curfew has been three hours ago!”, Jenna starts. “I tried calling you! Where have you been?”

As if on autopilot, Liam moves his hand, tapping against his pocket softly. Yeah, his phone is there. “I… sorry, my phone’s been on silent.”, he tells her, closing his eyes for a moment.

Stupid . He should’ve at least sent her a text, then he could’ve come in and avoided talking. His parents are surprisingly chill with extending his curfew if he tells them about it. But today it hadn’t even crossed his mind because he was too busy staring into an empty forest, waiting whether Theo comes back or not.

But he would, wouldn’t he? After all, his truck - the place he sleeps in - is still standing there, so he’ll definitely have to get it at least. Where else would he crash? Liam should have stayed there and waited for him. But no, instead he’s went home just so that he could get some sleep. Fucking egotistic of him, thinking about it.

But it’s not like he can change it, and maybe his presence would’ve kept Theo from coming back. Maybe he’s seen him from afar and turned to leave again, not wanting to talk about things. Maybe it’s good that Liam left because then Theo would climb into his truck at least.

Liam jerks when his mum steps closer, cupping his jaw. “Honey, are you alright?” It’s truly remarkable how fast mothers can switch between emotions, Liam’s brain registers absently. Her eyes are wide now and her mouth pursed. “Where have you been?”

Right now, he can’t even try to think of any excuses. “Forest.”

“Oh, you went hiking with Theo? You should’ve told us before!”, Jenna says, clicking her tongue. “I’d have given you boys some snacks. You know, it’s important to be hydrated.”

Liam frowns at her. How did she know he was with Theo? Did she know about his sister? Was it actually, like, common knowledge among the adults of Beacon Hills? Only yesterday, he would have thought that maybe his mum had met one of Theo’s parents or something. Now he knows that it isn’t just unlikely but impossible .

His confusion must be obvious because she goes, “Come on, Mason would have insisted on coming inside. And Hayden’s probably busy with that girlfriend of hers.”

“I have more than—“, he cuts himself off. “I’m tired.”

“You should eat something.”, his mom urges.

Liam shakes his head. He doesn’t want food, he doesn’t want to talk, he doesn’t want to do anything . How could he when all he does is fuck up? How could he eat when he knows that Theo’s eating so little that he’s dependent on Liam paying his lunch? “I’m fine. I ate earlier.”, he lies to his mom.

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah. I’ll just…”, he nods towards the stairs. “Go to sleep or something.”

She gives him a doubtful, pitying look in return, but says nothing, so he takes it as a cue to actually finally leave the hall.

He crawls up the stairs, drags himself into his room and collapses onto the covers as soon as he can. He knows he won’t be able to sleep, not when his mind is simultaneously going crazy and empty of everything, but lying down… Lying down is something he can definitely do.

 

-

 

Liam doesn’t attempt to sleep, not even when midnight rolls around. Still, he’s lying on his bed in the same position he’d resumed hours ago, lying on his stomach and facing the window. The moon’s shining brightly through the open curtains and if Liam could be bothered, he’d squint.

Right now, though, he keeps replaying the day over and over. Earlier, he had been regretting searching for Theo, simply because he thought he’d overstepped a line. Theo had metaphorically spat at him - but now he realizes truly what has happened.

He’d understood it earlier, of course, but now it settles in. Theo is homeless . He’s sleeping in his truck because his parents - what about his parents? They’re not there. Theo said it’s because they didn’t care . And surely, if they did they’d have come to Beacon Hills. If not to mourn their daughter then to bring their son home, right?

He feels a burst of anger flare up his chest. Maybe it’s inappropriate of him to be mad at this but when he imagines what Theo must have felt like, how his parents must have been for him to prefer living in his truck-- Was it just the neglect or did they do something else? Why were they like this?

And most of all: How could he help Theo? The other may be mad about it right now, probably because he’d thought he kept his secret so well, but Liam’s sure he’ll see reason soon enough. Because if one thing is clear, it’s that he can’t keep living like this.

The first move he makes since he went up to his room is when the door opens slowly, letting a beam of light hit the wall in front of him. He shuffles a bit to turn his head. His mum should already be in bed, as far as he knows.

And, in fact, it’s Todd who leans in. “Hey, still awake, bud?”

Liam rolls over onto his back. He doesn’t lean up, too exhausted to do so, but he doesn’t need to. Todd enters the room, walking up to him until his face hovers above Liam’s.

“You okay? Your mom mentioned something.”, Todd says softly.

Of course she did. Liam can’t blame her, how could he? Naturally she’d find it odd if he came home completely swamped, even if he did something physically challenging. He’s an active person, hyper almost, so it’s only logical that she’d worry. And right now, he appreciates it more than ever.

His parents are here. He should cherish their love for him.

“Thanks,” he says earnestly, finally propping himself up on his elbows. Todd stands up straighter again, as well, still looking down at him. “It’s… I guess I’m not really okay.”

Even if the spare light he can see Todd’s frown. He watches as his step-father walks over to his nightstand, flipping on the switch. It’s weirdly comfortable when he sits down next to Liam, wrapping an arm around his shoulders. “You wanna talk about it?”

Liam hesitates. “It’s not-- No, wait. I am okay. I should be, anyway. Because it’s-- it’s not my problem--”

Somehow, Todd knows not to say anything. Instead, he just nods and squeezes Liam’s upper arm.

“He said I shouldn’t tell anyone.”, Liam continues. He’s breathing heavily now, because he’s made a decision. One that won’t benefit him but one that he won’t regret . “But he’s-- he’s hurting, dad.”

It’s a plead and when he looks up at Todd, he’s met with a soft and careful glance. His lips are open, as if in surprise, but then he shakes himself out of it. “ Who’s hurting, Liam?”

“Theo.”, Liam answers, voice barely more than a whisper. And yet, as if just saying his name was enough to make his throat unclog. The words spill out of him then, barely giving Todd enough time to react somehow . He tells him about all the signs he should have noticed earlier, but only understood today. He tells him that Theo sleeps in his truck, that he has no money to buy food. That the reason his phone was always empty when he was over was that, well, he has no electricity.

“And I-- I found out today and I asked him about it. I wanted to help but he said if I told anyone he’d-- I’d get in trouble but honestly I don’t care because Theo could literally starve to death or maybe someone would rob him or-- it’s a miracle he is okay --”, Liam carries on, panting heavily as he talks. His hands form fists and open again and again while Todd listens and holds him close, but it doesn’t help . He feels so helpless and he just hopes someone can do something even if Theo won’t like it. Something needs to happen.

“Liam,” Todd interrupts him, voice calm. He lifts his hand to pulls Liam’s head against his shoulder. “That’s… It’s horrible. You did the right thing telling me.”

“It’s just-- He’ll hate me, I know.”, Liam says quietly. He feels like he’s about to sob because all in all it’s such a mess . Theo’s in this horrible situation and if he tries to do anything, he’ll lose him. But still, it’s better than literally losing Theo to something . “But it’s… It’s okay.”

“I don’t think he’ll hate you.”, Todd tells him. The way he says it almost makes him believe it. “Your mom and I can probably come up with something.”

“I wanted to know -- I don’t know. I would’ve… asked him to crash here or something.”, Liam continues. “But he completely went off and I don’t know what to do .”

“You did do something.”, Todd insists. “My guess is he’s scared. He left his parents on his own accord, right? So he won’t want to go back. And I doubt he’s legally enlisted himself in school. He’s a kid, a parent would have to do.”

Liam’s eyes widen. “Shit! Sheriff will--”

“I don’t think Sheriff Stilinski would arrest someone who’s desperate.”, Todd calms him down. “I’ll talk to him myself, if necessary. But like I said, I’ll have to talk to your mom about it.”

Liam nods slowly. His parents are good at managing things. They’re stern at times but also understanding - it’s why his friends like them so much, he knows. They’ll try their best to make sure Theo can stay away from his parents. Make sure that he’ll get what he needs .

“Come on, buddy,” Todd says after a moment of silence. “I heard we both haven’t had dinner yet, you should try to eat at least a little.”

Chapter Text

Liam doesn’t know if Todd talked to his mom last night already or if they did it in the early hours of the morning, but they had already come up with a plan when he stumbles down for breakfast. He doesn’t eat, but as he’s seated at the table, Jenna promises him they’ll manage something. She won’t tell him what exactly and starts typing away on her phone, but the way she says it, with determination written in her features, makes him believe it.

He doesn’t know how far Todd is integrated in the plans because he’s still in bed, but he feels like it’s a collective effort of the two of them. He’s glad Todd’s chosen to talk to his mom rather than have him tell it all over again because Jenna is almost as expressive of her emotions as Liam. He doubts he’d have handled it well if his mom either broke down or flipped out.

“Honey, I’ll need you to go to school today.”, she says softly, stroking through his hair. “I have a plan and you’re crucial to it.”

Liam raises an eyebrow. He still feels heavy, not just because he barely got two hours of sleep in the end, but because he’s nervous. Guilty. Worried. “A plan?”

“Yeah.”, she nods. “I don’t think Theo will appreciate being cornered by adults, will he? He needs a familiar face. Someone he’s comfortable with.”

Liam feels his cheeks heat up as he shakes his head. “I don’t think I’ll have any calming effect on him. Not at the moment.” Not after betraying him.

“Oh, darling. Somehow I doubt that.”, Jenna says, giving him a small smile. She doesn’t tell him her plan exactly, just that he’ll know when to act. It’s really very mysterious, but Liam thinks maybe it’s better if he doesn’t know any details. It means he won’t blurt anything out. Not just to Theo, but others as well. He doubts that he’ll want strangers to know what’s up.

 

-

 

Usually his mom doesn’t appreciate him texting during class, but he guesses she’ll accept an exception today. If he’s supposed to wait for a sign, he can at least make sure she knows whether to send it or not.

It could be entirely possible that Theo’s just avoiding him specifically and that’s why he’s not in English class. Could he even afford missing multiple days in a row? Liam knows that sometimes teachers will request to speak to your parents if you miss too much. Would Theo risk that?

Concern spreads through his body as well. What if something happened? What if finally someone broke into Theo’s truck? If some animal attacked him while he was walking back to his truck? Shit , Liam had been such an idiot. He should have dragged him home, just to make sure he’ll be alright.

Maybe he’s just avoiding me tho , he adds even though his heart is pounding.

His mom replies shortly after that, thankfully. Honey, wait for a bit. Find out if he’s in his next class. If not, come to the principal’s office.

Liam frowns down at his phone, swallowing down a curse. His mom is right, of course, that that’s a way to find out. But still, it means he’ll have to wait for at least an hour until he can be certain .

 

-

 

He doesn’t know how he does it, but he makes it through English. Ms Blake’s talk went straight over his head, which is probably an awful thing considering it’s finals soon, but right now there’s definitely more important things to worry about.

He doesn’t know what class Theo has next, let alone whether someone he knows shares it with him, but he opens a mass text anyways. anybody know if theo’s in class?

It’s Scott who replies first. Stiles told me about yesterday. Is he alright? Did you find him?

Liam only replies to him once everyone else had declined that no, they do not have class with him. Honestly, how is that even possible ? After all, it should be unlikely that none of the five people he texted share an ounce of his timetable with him. He sends Scott a short “found him but he wasn't in english today” and shoves his phone away.

Hayden raises an eyebrow at him. “What’s up?”, she asks quietly. She sounds more annoyed than concerned, but that’s just Hayden.

Nobody has class with Theo.”, he replies, rubbing his hands over his face.

“I’m pretty sure you have a class with him, Liam.”, Hayden frowns. “And, like, Tracy sits next to him right now --”

“She what ? Ask her if he’s there!”, Liam prompts. He almost knocks over his pencil case as he turns to her, raising the attention of the guys in front of him. Okay, so maybe reacting like this is not optimal in the middle of a Biology lesson. Still, he can’t help it.

“... Okay,” Hayden says slowly, staring at him in confusion while reaching for her own phone. He watches as she types and thankfully it only takes only a few seconds until Tracy replies. “Yep, he’s there. Why’re you asking? Did he skip English?”

“Yeah,” Liam says shortly. He sends his mom a text saying that Theo is in class, that her plan can carry on.

He gets a thumbs up emoji in return and fights the urge to throw his phone against a wall. Why can’t she just tell him what she’s planning? But no, instead he’s sitting here, literally on the edge of his chair waiting for something .

Instead, Biology carries on. Honestly right now he couldn’t give less of a shit about genetic hybrids or whatever it is that Ms Finch is going on about.

 

-

 

Economics class. That’s when it happens. At least, Liam’s sure that’s his sign. He still doesn’t entirely understand why his mom’s decided to go all Bruce Wayne about it, but it’s something he has to live with now.

Still, when there’s a new announcement asking Theo to come to the principal, Liam’s sure it’s his mother’s doing. However she’s done it. Wordlessly, he collects his own things and throws them into his bag, stalking out of the door without even looking back. He’s sure plenty of people will be confused, most of all Corey and Coach, but he doesn’t care.

Hell, his mom will write him a pass if necessary. After all, it’s her idea.

The secretary frowns at him when he walks inside the small office in front of Principal Thomas’. “Mr Dunbar, how can I help you?”

“It’s--”, Liam stops himself. If he said he’s here because she called Theo in, she’ll probably send him back to class, won’t she? “My mum’s inside. I need to talk to her.”

She looks even more confused now. “There’s a number of people in the Principal's office, dear. The sheriff, Miss Braeden, a really concerned mother--”

“Yes, that’s my mum.”, he says impatiently.

“But her name isn’t--”

“Yes, she’s called Geyer. She married again.”, he says quickly. “Shouldn’t you know this stuff?” Maybe he’s rude; he doesn’t care.

Whatever she’s meaning to reply is cut off by the door next to Liam opening.

The Sheriff meets his eyes shortly before turning his head inside, announcing, “Jenna, your son is here.”

There’s sounds coming from inside, papers rustling, and then a few moments later the Sheriff steps back and his mom appears, looking her most serious. It makes Liam gulp - he’d thought before that she’s went all out but she even brought the Sheriff along. Hadn’t Todd said he’d make sure Theo doesn’t get any more trouble?

“I have a feeling,” she says instead of greeting him.

Liam nods. “Is it that he won’t come? Because if yes, then same.”, he says. Of course, the thought had crossed his mind while he came here. He hadn’t known what his mom’s plan was but Theo isn’t dumb. It wouldn’t have taken him long to realize that Liam knowing his secret and being called to the principal on the next day must be connected somehow.

If he didn’t know any better, he’d say Theo is hiding. And he’s sure it’s not inside the school building.

His mom looks disappointed. “I should’ve thought so far, shouldn’t I?”

Liam sighs. Maybe she should have. But honestly, how should she have known how Theo would react? They’ve only met once and even Liam doesn’t know what to expect of him. “Not your fault.”, he tells her. “But-- I don’t know, I feel like I should go looking for him.”

Jenna gives him a long look and he tries his best to return it. She knows that he can be stubborn, too. But he’s gotten it from her, naturally, so she could overpower him as well. In the end, though, she nods. “That’d be good. Do you have any idea where he could be?”

“I know where he was yesterday.”, Liam says calmly. It’s strange, really, how he doesn’t freak out - but his mom has always been good at keeping him grounded. “I mean, he probably isn’t there any more but… it’s a start.”

“We shouldn’t send a whole search group,” Jenna reasons. “He’s not a wanted person. I don’t want him to think that. But a friend looking for him?”

“I’ll try.”

Jenna sends him a small smile. “Of course you will. Do you need the car?”

“I won’t manage to get it there.”, Liam says truthfully. Theo may have managed to navigate his truck into the woods, but he’s probably a better driver than him. He probably knows the forest better, plus: it’s a truck. It’s made for something like this. “I’ll take my bike.”

“Alright. Send me updates?”, she asks. When he nods, she looks over her shoulder again. “They’re all concerned. I think I’ll still have to persuade the Sheriff to keep things small.”

For a moment, Liam wonders how well Sheriff Stilinski must have known Theo. Have Stiles’ rumours caught on at home as well? Or does he still remember the small boy that Theo used to be? Is he looking for a lost kid or a delinquent?

“Good luck.”, he offers.

“You too.”, she replies, holding his gaze. Then she leans forward, wrapping him in a hug. “Things will get better. We’ll give that boy a proper home, so help me God.”

Chapter Text

The problem is, Liam really has no clue where Theo may be. Hell, the guy has a truck. If he felt like leaving, he could have already left town and be somewhere Liam would only get in twice his time with his bike. But still, he’ll have to start somewhere and he knows where Theo’s truck had been parked yesterday so it’s a point to begin at.

It takes him longer than he had thought to find back into the right corner of the forest - he was without his bike yesterday and had basically walked through the whole forest to find Theo. And his way back feels like an entirely different person, a ghost of him, had made it. He curses himself for it because now it just takes too long . If he had any chance on locating Theo like this, it grows slimmer and slimmer with each times he kicks the pedal.

He’s breathing heavily by the time he decides he can’t keep driving over dead branches and gets off his bike. If he wants to continue like this, he’ll have to push it along. Carry it sometimes. It could be bothersome, but right now Liam’s just glad that bit of physical work will keep him occupied.

He knows that he’s guaranteed the downfall of everything: he’ll be kicked out of school, probably even get a criminal record because it’s been a repeated property damage that he’s done. He can say goodbye to the championship and maybe even High School as a whole. There’s barely one left in the county that would take him, he can imagine. But… if he’s honest with himself, none of these are the worst. Deep down he knows it’s ridiculous and childish but the thing he’s most hurt about is… losing Theo.

Still, it’s the only thing he can see himself do. Even if Theo will end their friendship, even if Liam won’t go to BHHS any more, he’d always have it that way rather than having Theo continue to live like this.

He doesn't know how long he's spent with wandering around but he's already given up on finding Theo's truck. Not that he's really had any hope in the first place.

His mom sends him texts pretty much every minute, asking if he's found Theo. If he didn't know any better, Liam would assume she abandoned everyone at school and set off to search for him herself. But she'd said she wouldn't send a squad after Theo, so he doubts she could have even left without alarming the Sheriff.

If he weren't aware of how worried she is, he'd ignore some of her texts in favour of being faster. It's difficult holding his bike and phone. As it is, though, he thinks not replying to her would end with a search troop looking for him . He texts Mason as well, though not even a real explanation of why he left so suddenly. Actually, he doesn't tell him any details but Mason doesn't question any further - at least not right now, not via text.

It wouldn't feel right to tell even more people about how Theo is living: his parents he can justify with the fact that they can do something. They are adults, they have connections, they can deal with it. But what help would it be to tell a classmate (from Theo's point of view) who isn't even off age yet? It wouldn't do anything but spread rumours; even if Mason swore he wouldn't tell anybody that's what it would feel like to Liam.

Of course, it couldn't ruin his friendship with Theo any further. That train is long gone. But that doesn't mean he needs to make the damage any bigger.

He stops in his tracks when he hears a sound. A loud THUMP that can't possibly belong to nature, even if Liam spends too little time in it. He pockets his phone and listens again, but there's nothing. Just from the sound, he can't even locate the source. If it had come from behind him, though, he would've already seen it, right? No, it must have come from somewhere in front of him. So he keeps going.

He continues looking around, this time maybe even more thoroughly than before because now he knows something is there. He’d have thought expecting something makes you less aware of your surroundings, in a way - at least those not of your interest -, but he proves himself wrong.

And then he sees it.

A truck parked near the creek, its bed facing the water and… And someone standing in front of its bed .

Theo.

Liam’s heart skips not one but a few beats as he slowly realizes that. It’s Theo , still in Beacon Hills, still in the same space with his truck as yesterday. Still here .

He’s moving softly, reaching forward deeper into the bed just to pull back again. Liam steps closer and -- Theo’s packing . He does want to leave.

It’s like the sight sets something free inside of Liam - before he knows it he’s striding forward, steps sure and quick.

“What the hell are you doing?”, he bellows as he comes to a halt. He’s forcing himself to stop, holding onto the metal of the truck so that he won’t continue and fling himself at Theo.

“Packing.”, Theo says calmly. He doesn’t stop, not even to look at him, but balls up a shirt and pushes it into his bag. “You wanna go and tell cops about that, too?”

Liam stares at him. “I didn’t--”

“Oh, please,” Theo spats. “I get called to the principal the day after you barge into my privacy and Noah just so happens to be there?”

Barge into your privacy ?”, Liam repeats. He doesn’t know if Theo means yesterday as a whole and what it means or rather who he lives but - is he actually being protective about it? Like it’s something that means something to him? How could it, that loneliness, be something he can cherish? And why would he want to? “I was trying to help !”

Instead of answering, Theo scoffs. He closes his backpack and shoulders it quickly, almost ripping one of the straps in the process. He puts it off like nothing, though, and Liam realizes: Theo’s about to leave. Right now. And he won’t even listen to him. No, he just wants to fuck off as if Liam had done something unforgivable and isn’t even worth talking to.

Liam tightens his grip on the metal, leaning forward over it. If he actually moved, he couldn’t guarantee for anything that happens, that much he knows.

It would be easy to just let go and stalk up to Theo, punch him in the face and give him a reason to leave. But that’s not what he wants. How could he let Theo go when all he’d have waiting for him is an empty truck? How could he let him go back to starving, sleeping in something that doesn’t even remotely represent a bed?

And how can’t Theo see just how wrong that is? Why is he pissed at Liam for telling people who can… improve everything?

It doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t make sense that Theo would choose something like this over and over. It doesn’t make sense that he’s the only one wanting to deal with his family’s tragedy and that he’s willing to suffer through it, no matter what. It doesn’t make sense that he feels like Liam’s sold him out when he’s just trying to make it better .

Theo’s head snaps up, looking at him for such a short moment that Liam can’t even begin to try guessing what his eyes would convey. He lets out a dry chuckle as he moves towards the driver’s door.

Liam surges forward now because if he doesn’t move then Theo will climb into his truck and leave . He wants to grab Theo’s hand, make him listen or just look at him, but Theo dodges it swiftly by turning just a little, as if Liam isn’t even worth the effort.

It makes Liam’s blood boil.

“What on earth makes you think you’re entitled to tell me I’m crazy but when I worry that you get yourself killed , I am the biggest asshole!”, he all but spats at him, clenching his fist just to open them again, over and over with every word.

Theo looks at him. There’s something in his face, for a second, something-- something almost soft mixing itself into the anger that’s finally there and there’s a twist in Liam’s stomach in return, squeezing upwards.

He shakes his head, mostly to himself and jabs his index finger at Theo. “ No . No, you don’t get to do this. You can’t just twist things around so you’ll--”

The next moment, he’s slammed against the side of Theo’s truck, Theo’s fits pressing against his collarbones where he grips into the fabric of his shirt. It hurts and for the first time, Liam thinks that Theo could actually physically hurt him this time around. And yet, he can’t bring himself to even flinch but holds his glare, not willing to back down.

Theo scowls again, his breath hot on Liam’s face with how close they’re standing and it’s only been a few seconds and yet Liam’s mind races: He doesn’t know if Theo knows the first thing about how to hit people but this is not the way. He’s standing all wrong and the moment of surprise is gone, his hands are too firm on his shirt to be fast enough for any force and--

Theo doesn’t even want to hit him.

He lunges forward, pressing his lips again Liam’s, their chins hard against each other and the truck’s window hitting the side of Liam’s head. The contact makes him open his mouth in pain but he instantly captures Theo’s lip with it instead of anything else, taking in the touch with all its force and moving forward . His fists have fallen open in surprise and now he brings them up, putting them on Theo’s arms to pull him even closer and--

And then Theo breaks it off, suddenly releasing Liam completely as he steps backwards. Liam suppresses a whimper and makes a step forward. He stops instantly when Theo lifts his hand slightly as if to say don’t .

“Sorry, I shouldn’t have--”, he mumbles. He’s looking down, somewhere to the side, and lifting his other hand to his mouth like he wants to wipe Liam’s taste away.

Liam splutters. “Did you just kiss me to win an argument?”

It would fit to Theo, to play into things and use his looks for his profit-- to do anything to look like the winner and not face consequences and Liam should be flipping out at this, at being used and thrown away. Instead, he feels hurt like Theo had kneed him in the stomach.

Theo snaps his head up, looking confused. “ What ? You think--”, he lets out a laugh. “You’re unbelievable .”

I’m unbelievable?”, Liam shoots back, pushing himself off the truck and stepping forward finally. “You’re the most ridiculous person with your fucking double standards and--”

Theo catches his hand out of the air as he points his finger at him, but he keep it there, just stopping him and nothing more. “I did not kiss you to win an argument .”

“Well, then to make me shut up or whatever.”, Liam shoots back, trying to pull his arm away.

Theo scoffs, dropping his own at the motion. Then he just turns around and starts walking away.

What the fuck ?”, Liam calls, taking a deep breath. “Why are you being like this? Theo!”

But he keeps walking.

Raeken ,” he calls again. “What the hell is wrong with you? You think you can just do whatever the fuck you want and screw everyone over--”

“Because I’m fucking in love with you, okay!”, Theo shouts, twisting around again. There’s several feet between them, but now Liam finally feels the blow. “And it’s the most ridiculous shit . Caring about you is the most stressful thing I’ve ever done because you keep acting like a fucking child --”

He cuts himself off abruptly, his eyes wide, like he can’t believe the words that just came out of his mouth. This time, he doesn’t look away, though, and Liam can see everything and nothing at once: his surprise at himself, annoyance at Liam and most of all fear. Fear of rejection.

Liam does the only thing that makes sense. The only thing he’d want to do.

He strides over, reaching for Theo’s wrist with one hand and the back of his neck with the other, and pulls him close again. This time their lips meet in a soft way, caution between the two of them. It’s different from before, like suddenly all the anger between them is gone with each movement they make towards one another.

Theo’s free hand finds its place on his hip, just resting against it for the moment they kiss. It isn’t a deep one, not meant to be anything yet but a guarantee that Theo won’t be rejected, that he won’t be alone.

They pull apart, and yet they don’t. Liam keeps his forehead against Theo’s, his hand still in his hair, and Theo keeps his hand where it is. His eyes are closed, drawn together like he’s fighting with himself to stay like this, as if everything could go away if he opens them.

“Theo…”, Liam says softly, speaking into the silence, against his lips.

“Don’t.”, Theo mutters, still not moving.

And right now, maybe for the first time in his life, Liam keeps still, too.

 

-

 

“You should come to my place.”, Liam says after a while. He doesn’t know how much time has passed as they’re standing there, doing nothing but holding onto another. If he didn’t know better, he would have guessed Theo fell asleep standing up.

Theo breaks into a smirk, slowly, as if he’s unsure of it himself. But then he says, “Didn’t think you’d move so fast, pup.”, and Liam lets out a chuckle.

It’s weird and new and fragile, whatever this is, but Theo’s still Theo and Liam’s still Liam.

“Shut up.”, he mumbles, moving his fingers to nuzzle into Theo’s hair. “I won’t let you sleep out here again. And-- we need to talk.”

Finally, Theo opens his eyes. They’re not back to the sparkle they usually have that always makes him look like he’ll wink anytime soon; but this time it’s no suspicion, just uncertainty.

“Come on,” Liam urges him softly. “I’ll make sure my mom won’t bother you.”

Theo sighs, but he doesn’t say no. He looks tired, exhausted, and Liam can’t even begin to wonder what it must have been like for him. He lets go off Theo’s neck and moves his hand down, over his arm until he finds his hand where it’s still lying on his hip and takes it into his own.

“Plus, I still need to keep you fed.”, Liam goes on, opting for their usual bickering. “Got a job to do.”

“Right.”, Theo mutters, leaving out a chuckle of his own. Then he nods, pulling his head away.

“Is your tank full?”, Liam wants to know. He’d rather drive home, make sure they’re there fast rather than having to walk the whole bit. That way the tension wouldn’t last as long.

Theo shakes his head. “Hasn’t really been since San José.”

“Theo!”, Liam scolds. The entire time Theo’s spent night after night in a truck, in the middle of the forest, and wasn’t even able to move it. What would he have done if anything were to happen? There’s animals in the woods, the weather’s always crazy in Beacon Hills and on feet he wouldn’t have made it out fast enough, no matter what.

“I didn’t exactly have the resources to fill it up.”, Theo says, sounding both serious and joking.

Liam rolls his eyes. “Fine. We’ll walk.” He turns his head to find his bike, frowning down at it. He could leave it here until tomorrow, probably. It’s barely recognizable within the leaves lying around, and he doubts that anybody would even walk as far into the nowhere of the forest.

Theo, however, just shakes off his hands without any comment. He shoves his own into his jeans pockets, almost looking completely cool with everything that’s going on. Like he’s wearing a mask, the one he’s got on at school and tends to drop around Liam.

He’d been wondering for a while, why that is; why there’s two Theos and at the same time not, and how they blur into one when they’re alone. He might have an answer to it now.

Instead of commenting on it, he bends down to pick up his bike. It should be a sign of normalcy, that they’re walking together like always, but all he wants to do is reach for Theo’s wrist again and make sure he really does come along. Holding on to the handlebar keeps him from doing so.

“You should grab your bag.”, he suggests. “Spare clothes.”

He will make Theo spend the night, make sure that he doesn’t sleep out here for another night. How has he even made it through the colder days? Why didn’t he ask for something, anything, to help him?

Theo sighs again and walks over to the truck, reaching into it’s back to retrieve his backpack. It doesn’t look like it contains any more than usual and when he comes back and announces, “Got everything.”, Liam realizes.

Theo doesn’t have much more than the clothes he’s wearing.

“How… Where do you wash your things?”

There’s a twitch at the corner of his lips, faked amusement playing into his features. “Melissa still keeps her spare key in the same place.”, he offers with a shrug.

Liam stares at him, unsure how to react. It’s not kidding, what he’s doing. It’s telling the truth, one that is absurd so you have to laugh at the world. Shit , that isn’t Theo’s favourite jacket. It’s his only one.

Theo decides to act like it’s nothing unusual. He starts walking, past Liam and forcing him to tag along with the fast pace he’s doing. “So, did you do the reading for tomorrow?”

Liam closes his eyes for a moment, trying to collect his thoughts. One part of him wants to shout at him for being so stupid , for not realizing how much he’s fucking up himself, how dangerous it’s been to live like this. It’s exactly what they’d been fighting about earlier and there’s no sign of understanding in Theo.

Or maybe he does understand, but it’s easier to pretend there’s nothing wrong with it. To power through, because it seems to be the only thing.

“I kinda had other things to worry about.”, he reminds him, clenching his hands around the handlebar.

“Didn’t know I was a thing now.”, Theo mutters quietly and if it wasn’t for the chuckle in his voice, Liam would have thought he’s talking to himself. “I could tell you what it was about.”

Liam’s first instinct is to scoff at the idea. Did Theo really get anything productive done? How would he even have found the strength, the concentration when he was in the middle of nowhere? But then he concludes: It’s his attempt at ignoring the tension between them, the things both said and unsaid. So in the end, he nods. “Would be nice.”

Chapter Text

Liam actually stumbles up to his porch when he and Theo arrive at home. It’s like ever since Theo’s… since his confession Liam’s body finally deals with the emotional tumult he’s had these past days. It’s like yesterday almost, only with the difference that he’s not sad now. Not completely at least. Because he’s got Theo by his side, safe and sound as he pulls him into his home, and apparently Theo reciprocates his feelings.

Right now, that exhaustion is like when you’ve eaten too much of a really good dish. You actually enjoy it while it lasts - he doesn’t know what comes next. For Theo, for whatever it is between them. But right now, it’s enough that Theo is here. They’ll worry about the rest later.

“Are you hungry?”, Liam asks. They’ve missed lunch by now, and seeing how Theo skipped school the day before he doesn’t know when - if - he’s had anything to eat in the last few days.

The only reason why he accepts the curt shake of Theo’s head is because he looks truly defeated by doing so. How well could Theo possibly sleep in his truck? Had he even gotten any more than him the night before?

“Okay,” he accepts. “Let’s go upstairs.”, he adds, grabbing Theo’s wrist and pulling him along.

Heavy steps follow him up the stairs, indicating that Theo really feels as tired as him. He should probably send his mom as a message and let him get a wink of sleep as they wait for her to arrive. It wouldn’t help anyone if Theo collapsed from lack of everything.

When they’re upstairs, though, Theo immediately steps up to his bookshelf while he turns to close the door. There’s something in the air all of sudden, a tension. And Liam knows exactly what it’s about, even if he’s not sure how to approach it.

“What you said earlier…”, Liam starts, his voice weak. They're inside his room now, run out of excuses to not talk about it. His parents aren't there to overhear, the house empty and silent and so much space to get the thoughts out of his head. And yet, they don't want to.

“That you are a full-time job?”

Despite everything, Liam breaks into a grin, for a short moment. Then he sobers again, his eyes flicking up to meet Theo's. “Did you mean it?”

He expects him to deflect it, to continue with the joke or claim that he doesn't know what exactly Liam's getting at. Instead, Theo holds his gaze and tells him, in a voice so quiet that it's barely audible, “Everything.”

Liam swallows. The confession earlier, it's been heated, come out in a rage, but he stands by it now and it's a lot to handle, especially because… “I like you, too. I don't know if it's love--”, he tells him and bridges the distance between them, reaching for Theo's hand and intertwining their fingers. “But it's a lot. It's like the thought of you has made its home in the back of my mind. Doesn't matter what I'm doing, there's  always-- you.”

He knows there's lots of uncertainty in his words, in himself, and it's mirrored in the way Theo bites his lip as he looks at him.

“You're a full-time job, too.”, Liam closes.

It makes Theo laugh, a honest one and yet weak because of everything.

This time, neither of them initiates the kiss: it's like they're pushed together by the tension in the air until their lips meet. It's a fierce kiss but not as hard as earlier, as their first one, but not as soft as the second either. There's no pulling or pushing between them but moving together , like they're agreeing on something. On everything.

It's not assuring Theo that he's there this time, it's showing him that he cares, that he's got feelings for him and that he'd fight to make it work. On Theo's part, he can tell, there's not as much desperation - quite the opposite, it feels like relief, the way he breathes out of his nose in strong winds and moves his tongue over Liam's lips, trying to part them.

Their hands let go of one another, instead leading them to wrap their arms around each other to stand in a tight embrace. It's holding onto each other, but this time not for support, but simply because it feels right .

When they part, it's slow and soft, with the guarantee that it'll happen again.

Theo smiles this time, softly, rather than looking scared. They're standing close, not backing away, meaning they have no other choice than to look into each other’s eyes. Not that Liam wouldn’t want to, when the gleam finally reaches Theo's eyes again.

“Hi,” he breathes, a smile of his own playing on his lips.

Theo snorts. “Hi.”

“You're a good kisser.” There's more to talk about, actual pressing things, but he doesn't want them to be real. He doesn't want a reality where Theo's living in a truck, all alone in the dark just to face his past without anybody by his side.

Theo gives him another kiss, a short peck, maybe just because he can. “Likewise.”

“You should get on the bed.”, Liam suggests. There might be different emotions written into his face now, but above everything, the exhaustion’s still visible. Theo always has circles under his eyes - and now, Liam can find it might be a byproduct of sleeping in the woods - but they're bags right now, darker than ever before.

Jesus , take me out first.”, Theo teases.

“I regularly pay for your food.”, Liam reminds him. “You're tired, Theo. You need sleep.”

“I don't want to.”, Theo says firmly. He doesn't claim that he's not tired, no. He doesn't say it, but Liam concludes that he's still afraid - if he's been let down by so many people he's cared about, by people who were supposed to be there for him, how should he believe this time is different?

“I'll stay with you.”, Liam offers. Then, because the Theo he knows would snap at being so obvious, he adds, “Naps are good.”

Theo considers it for a moment, his eyes narrowing at him. But then he nods, once and firmly.

They keep holding onto each other, their hands meeting again as they climb onto the covers. They're close, both of them on their sides so that they're facing each other, and the ghost of Theo's breath hitting his face. Liam moves his thumb over the back of Theo's hand as they shift to make it more comfortable until suddenly Theo wriggles it free.

“Sleep on my back.”, he offers at Liam's confused expression. Once he's turned, he reaches for Liam again, folding their hands above his stomach.

“When's the last time you slept in a real bed?”, Liam wants to know.

Theo stays silent for a moment, then: “Before I came back.”

Liam takes in a sharp breath. Of course, he didn't have any other space to crash at. Night after night, Theo's tried to make the best of his truck. He opens his mouth to reply something, but he doesn't even know what. He wants to tell him he could have said something, that he could've slept over if he'd needed to, but right now, Theo probably doesn't want a lecture. It'll have to wait for later.

Instead, he just nods, watching as Theo finally closes his eyes, and listens to how his breathing gets flatter.

 

-

 

Liam’s fallen asleep, too, in the end. He can't even tell if he's crashed first or Theo, just the rhythm of their breathing and the contact between them, but he's suddenly found himself more tired than he'd thought.

He only wakes up when there's suddenly a jerk next to him, feeling like when you dream of falling down and wake yourself up, and Liam lifts his head when Theo sits up. He blinks at him in confusion as his arm fall down into Theo's lap - apparently he's scooted closer while sleeping, hugging his waist.

Theo looks tense, staring through the doorway with his lips pressed together. His eyes are wide, even though he's only just woken up as well and Liam can't tell why--

There's the jingle of a key chain travelling upstairs. Liam looks over at the alarm clock, sitting up himself.

“It's just my mom.”, he tells Theo. He reaches over to squeeze his shoulder.

Theo blinks, snapping out of his concentration. He moves to look at Liam, confusion written onto his features for a moment. Then he nods, “Your mom.”

“Yeah,” Liam says. “Damn. I forgot to tell her. You should sleep some more, it's only been two hours.”

Theo shakes his head instantly. “I should leave.”

It makes sense that he wouldn't want to meet her, not when their last encounter was in the principal’s office and with a social worker present. Not when Theo doesn't trust parents at all. But still, if he leaves now, it would mean he'll hide again rather than trying to find a solution .

“Theo--”

His mom's voice interrupts him as she calls, “Liam? Are you there?” She sounds anxious and Liam feels a pang of guilt flare up in his chest. He had forgotten to tell her. She must have spent the whole time worrying, waiting for his updates.

“Theo.”, Liam repeats. “ Please , stay. I’ll go talk to her and then I’m coming back, alright?”

Theo squints as if thinking about how to get out of this situation. He doesn’t even look panicked, just… as if he’s expecting something bad. It makes Liam’s heart ache. When there’s a soft creak from one of the stairs travelling up, he nods, though. “Okay.”

“Okay?”, Liam repeats. He’s surprised by how easy that actually was. “Okay. Be right back.”

Theo just lets out a little huff as he gets up from the bed, rushing towards the door. His mom is already halfway up the stairs when he leaves the room.

“Liam! You didn’t answer any more!”, she says immediately, looking not only furious but worried as hell. Her eyes fall onto the door that Liam had quickly pulled close behind himself. “Did you find him?”

“Yeah,” Liam says softly. “I convinced him to get some sleep. Let’s talk downstairs?”

Jenna looks obviously relieved. “Yeah, come on.”, she says and turns. As they walk down, she asks, “Did you sleep some, too? Todd said you stayed up for quite some time.”

“I napped a bit.”, Liam shrugs. He can’t help but blush a little as he thinks about how he fell asleep, cuddling into Theo’s side, and ducks his head a little. He doesn’t think his mom needs to know about that right now. Or ever.

“That’s good.”, she nods. She sinks down on the couch, folding her legs underneath herself and waits for him to do the same. “Where’d you find him? And when ? I would have really appreciated an update, you know.”

“I know. I-- sorry. I was just glad I could get him to come here and then he was so tired--”, he tells her. “But I should have sent you a text at least. I’m sorry.”

“You’re alright, yeah? Both of you?”, she wants to know.

“Yes. He was about to leave when I found him. Same place as yesterday, actually. His truck’s dead so I guess he wanted to walk --” Liam shakes his head to himself. That hadn’t even crossed his mind before. If Theo had really stormed off, if he’d hitchhiked or something just to get out of Beacon Hills, where would he have stayed if he left his truck behind?

His mom proves again that she must be a mindreader. “It was a shortcut reaction.”, she reasons. “He was in school, right? So when he was called to Principal Thomas’ office--”

“He even saw the Sheriff. He thought I called the cops on him.”, Liam says hollowly. “And then he-- he wanted to run from the police?”, he continues, unable to keep his voice from going up. He only realizes now just what Theo had been about to do.

Jenna reaches forward, cupping his upper arm with her hand. “He was caught off guard. Just think about it--”

“I don’t understand . Why’d he-- why would he want to live in his truck? He was furious when I discovered it and I just--”

“It makes sense to him.”, his mom says. “Think about it, honey: you wanted him to go from nobody caring to a bunch of people saying they want to help. Of course he wouldn’t trust it. Neither of you is to blame.”

Liam thinks about it. It sounds cruel but she’s actually right. How many years of his life has Theo spent completely on his own? Had his parents stopped caring, like he’s said, right away or only with time? Still. Theo must have realized that living in his truck wasn’t a real option either, didn’t he?

“Do you think he’s more open to it by now?”, she asks then.

“Not really.”, Liam answers. “I mean, he did come here so it’s a bit better? Maybe? But we didn’t really-- We didn’t even really talk about it yet.”

“I don’t think one conversation will be enough anyway.”

Liam nods. If the people she’d brought along to the Principal’s office were any indication, there are plenty of people Theo would have to talk to. “What would that meeting have been about anyways?”, he wants to know. “I think if-- If I told him what’d happen, he might be more open to it.”

“Yeah, of course.”, she says quickly. Liam watches as she slaps her palm against her forehead, a sign that she realizes maybe her whole secret agent approach wasn’t the best. “I’ve called Braeden to ask whether she knows if anyone would be willing to take him in. There’s actually--”

“Wait. Take him in?”

“Yes, take him in . He’s not off age yet, Liam, even if he magically got a job and a flat, he’s not allowed to live on his own.”, she says softly. “Frankly, we don’t have the space for another teenage boy--”

For a moment, Liam considers that: living with Theo. He can’t quite see it play out in front of him, but he can imagine just how awkward it would be after everything he’s learnt today. No, they certainly aren’t in the stage where they should live under the same roof. Still, it would mean having him in a certain proximity.

“Did anybody agree?”, he cuts in.

“There’s certainly people who wouldn’t say no … But we don’t know anything for certain yet.”, she ends, a little bemused. “ But , until we find a solution, Theo’s more than welcome to stay here.”

“Really?”, Liam breathes. He doesn’t even let her answer but leans forward, pulling her in a tight hug. “Thank you!”

Jenna laughs softly. “Darling, you shouldn’t be so surprised. It’s the least I can do.”

 

-

 

Theo isn't on the bed when he comes upstairs again and Liam suppresses a curse. Then he turns, however, and finds him standing in front of his bookshelf again, running his fingers over the spines. It's a slow and careful movement and the fact that he didn't even stop when Liam came barreling up the stairs could be a sign for two things: either he's just become used to how loud he is, or Theo lost himself in thoughts again. While the second would probably be a good start for figuring out what to do, Liam would prefer the first option, at least right now.

“I have that book I told you about in San José in there.”, he says.

Theo tilts his head in response, but keeps his eyes fixed on the books. “I know. I read it already.”

Liam frowns in confusion. Then he gets it. “I knew I had never taken it to school!”

Theo lets out a small laugh.

“You stole my book?”

Borrowed .”, Theo insists, finally looking over at him. He's still smiling, grinning almost, and the sight itself makes Liam's heart grow bigger. “I gave it back.”

How did you do that? How did you know my combination?”, Liam asks. It's a question he should have remembered weeks ago already - after all, Theo had known it even after their first encounter.

Obviously , I've been stalking you for a while already.”, Theo says dryly.

“Mason thinks so, anyway.” Liam steps over to the desk and finally sets down the plate his mom had made him take upstairs with him. Then he sits down on the chair, looking up at Theo.

“He does?”, Theo raises an eyebrow. “I feel a story coming.”

“You answer first.”, Liam insists.

Theo sighs, putting his hands into his pockets and leaning back a little. “Well, on… that day, I was already in the principal's office fooling people, right? So on my way back, I made another stop at the janitor’s. Got a list of everyone's combinations, for emergencies.”

“You could’ve gotten so much trouble ,” Liam breathes. “Why?”

“I can be a nice person, you know.”, Theo shrugs. There’s a hint of a smile on his face.

“I know.”, Liam says quietly, not because he thinks Theo needs to hear it, but because he feels like it needs saying. “So, why did you make the deal, then?”

Theo averts his eyes, stopping for a moment. Liam’s seen him like this often, watched him search for the words but if his feeling’s right, this time Theo’s trying to say nothing at all. Still, in a whisper he admits, “I needed food.”

Liam takes in a sharp breath. He has realized before, that his living situation - without shelter, without laundry, without money - would mean he’s had limited meals, too. Was the lunch at school really the only thing he’s had? How long had he gone without anything real to eat?

Wordlessly, he gets up from his seat again and paces over to him. His arms find their way around Theo’s torso instantly, pulling him close. Theo tenses at the sudden contact, but as Liam hides his face in the crook of his neck, he returns the embrace.

It’s strange, how Liam’s the one getting worked up about all of this. It should be Theo who clings to him instead of the other way around - he’s the one in the awful situation, the one who’s starved and frozen. And yet, he’s so collected, a rock against Liam’s emotions like he always is. Is it just because he’s used to it, by now?

“You should have said something.”, Liam says firmly, lifting his head. “I would’ve-- I’d brought you all the food in the world.”

Theo laughs dryly. “Yeah, you would have. You’re an idiot.”

“I’m not.”, Liam insists, more out of reflex than anything. “You knew it didn’t have to be like that.”

“I wanted it to be like that. Rather than going-- going back.”, Theo replies. Then, in a mumble, he adds, “They will send me back.”

Liam back away, moving his hands so that he can squeeze Theo’s shoulders. Their eyes meet, both of them stubborn. “They won’t. Not when you tell them how they neglected you.”

Theo opens his mouth just to close it again. Then, he inhales deeply and says, “Damn. Protectiveness is hot on you.”

Liam feels his face flush in return. “Don’t try to distract!”

“Who’s distracted? I’m not distracted.”, Theo replies, biting his lip over a grin. “Maybe a bit. You’re so close.”, he adds, leaning closer.

His breath ghosts over Liam’s lips, hot on his face, and he has to shake himself. “ No . Don’t do this.”, he says sternly. “ Theo , we need to talk about this.”

“I suppose we do,” Theo answers, his voice suddenly sober, “because it’s not like my truck’s in a secret location anymore, thanks to you. No place to hide.”

He doesn’t sound angry, but it’s not the exhaustion speaking either. He just states it as it is, like he’s giving in, and somehow Liam feels a peng in his chest at that. He lets go off Theo’s shoulder and moves his hands down, picking Theo’s up from where they’re resting on his waist.

“I’d figured I’d rather have you mad at me than have something to happen to you.”, he tells him. “And maybe nothing would have happened, maybe you could have carried on like this, but I would’ve been scared for you.”

“When did you start caring about me?”

Liam blinks. He doesn’t have to think long before he knows. “Right away. Slowly.”

Theo shakes his head softly. “You’re too good.”

“I’m not.”, Liam tells him. “I’m loud and annoying, boring and I got no impulse control. At the same time, I can’t stop worrying about everything and nothing and whine about shit. I’m not what you’d look for in a--” He cuts himself off because despite everything said between them, they didn’t say that .

Theo catches it. “I think that is something we should talk about when you’re not holding me hostage.”

“I’m not holding you hostage.”, Liam rolls his eyes.

“Not? Well, then I’ll go home.”

“You don’t have a home! Why are you so difficult about this? They won’t send you back!”, Liam says. “They won’t. You’re almost off age, and if you tell them-- you’ll get to stay.”

Theo closes his eyes and sighs. “It’s not easy.”

“Of course it isn’t.”, Liam admits. “Facing your problems never is. That’s why I--”, he cuts himself off. Theo isn’t the only one with double standards, he realizes. “Let’s make a deal. It’s our thing, right?”

“A deal?”, Theo raises his eyebrows.

Liam nods. “In the morning, we’ll both go downstairs. You’ll talk to my mom about… everything. And I will tell Todd about-- well, about my everything.”

“You mean your anger?”, Theo wants to know. “You’ll listen to me?”

“Only if you listen to me .”

Theo thinks about it. Liam doesn’t know why he’d even still be wondering what to do, when he’s already said himself he doesn’t have anywhere to hide. But right now, it’s about whether he does it voluntarily or if someone will force him to, so maybe that’s what he’s so caught on. Making the step himself, admitting that he needs help. Still, he lets out a breath when Theo nods in the end.

“You said tomorrow, though.”, he points out. One of his hands wiggles free, instead reaching up to cup Liam’s cheek. “And in the meantime?”

“Well,” Liam says, his eyes darting to the side, “I did bring you food. And you need a shower.”

“You’re probably right.”, Theo says calmly. His face comes closer again as he talks, “But first,” and then he kisses him again. “Thank you.”

Liam smiles and pulls him close again, this time slipping his tongue in between his lips. He feels Theo groan into the kiss, causing him to chuckle.

“Hm, I could get used to this.”, Theo mumbles when Liam pulls away. He licks over his lips.

“You better.”, Liam answers. “You also better get used to eating.”

Chapter Text

Liam is not sure if his parents are oblivious or if they don't care that he and Theo share a bed. The latter wouldn't surprise him, with how easily his mom tries to set him up with just about everyone, but he has a feeling it's more about Theo's comfort than anything else.

Be it as it may, he does wake up cuddled against Theo. Their legs are entangled and their hands are holding onto each other, resting atop of Theo's stomach. It would be the perfect way to wake up, if it wasn't for his alarm blaring from his nightstand.

Theo groans and lets go off Liam's hand, draping his arm over his face instead. Liam can't help but chuckle as he turns to grab his phone. Once he's turned off the alarm, he turns again.

He stops in his movements. They've shared a bed for the night, without anything happening, but he feels like they shouldn't even have been at that stage yet. Not that he regrets it - it had been strange to have another body so close, because even if with all the times Mason’s stayed over they've managed to stay apart wide enough, but comfortable, especially since it was a reassurance that Theo was fine. The night before, he'd barely slept. But still, it feels intimate to see Theo this close after waking up, when his eyes are still small and the rest of his face soft.

Theo doesn't seem to mind, because suddenly he reaches out for Liam and pulls him atop of him. “Hi.”

“Hi,” Liam breathes back. He feels like he's melting into Theo's body with how their rib cages press against each other and find the same rhythm. “How'd you sleep?”

Theo thinks about it for a moment. “I'd be lying if I said it was my best night. But it wasn't the worst either.”

“That's good to hear.”, Liam nods. He's noticed that Theo's been awake a few times during the night but he can't blame him for that, considering… everything.

“Hmh,” Theo makes. “It's comfortable, though.”

“Good to know,” Liam says and leans down, pressing his lips against Theo's. It's a short kiss, because he knows how bad his mouth smells in the morning, but he couldn't let this go. “I should grab a shower.”

Theo reaches up, pushing back one of his bangs. “Sounds like a plan.”

“Think you'll fit into some of my clothes? You could grab some.”

“My, the school will think we spent the night together.”, Theo laughs. With his other hand, he rolls Liam down of himself again.

Liam doubts that Theo will even go to school today, but he doesn't mention it. He'll have to face facts early enough again and right now, a lazy and smiling Theo Raeken is something he wants to keep for as long as possible. He smiles as he sits up and says, “You're an idiot.”

Theo hums and puts his hands above his head, closing his eyes again. Liam lets him be and goes to grab some clothes for himself, taking out some that Theo could wear in the process.

When he comes back from what must have been the quickest shower he's ever taken, Theo's still on the bed. He has moved though, so that he's leaning back on his elbows and lets a look swipe over Liam when he comes back. “And here I was expecting a show.”

Liam rolls his eyes.

“How are you even so awake? I thought you weren't a morning person.”

“I suppose yesterday's nap helped.”, Liam shrugs. In fact, he feels like if he doesn't move around, he’ll explode eventually - over everything. He's sure that Theo will blow up again sooner or later and for that he'd rather be awake enough. “Come on up. You can use anything in the bathroom.”

Theo sighs dramatically but something in the way he sits up slowly tells Liam that it's only a bit exaggerated. Of course, Theo must be dreading the day as well, just differently than him. For Theo, things will change greatly and Liam doesn't have to guess that he still fears he'll be sent back. And yet, things have to change.

“I'll wait for you.”, Liam says when Theo gets up at last.

He's met with a nod and then Theo disappears into the bathroom, leaving him alone.

Liam opens the door towards the hall and listens. With all the stress, he isn't sure if Todd had to leave early today - he could've asked him when he was down in the kitchen to grab some sandwiches last evening, but he simply forgot. Now, however, his voice is carrying up the stairs as he discusses something with Jenna in a low tone. He doesn't have to guess that it's probably about Theo.

It's good that he's there, though, because it means he can show Theo he meant his part of the deal. He'd been thinking about it, actually, ever since Theo brought it up weeks ago - getting some kind of therapy for his outbursts, but in the end he'd never gotten through with admitting it to anybody else. He's been right, though. Lacrosse didn't erase the rage, only kept it at bay in general, but as soon as something really tips him over the edge he's at a point he can't deal with. Liam had been aware of that before, of course, to some degree, but it had been easy to play it down as long as nobody else caught on.

Now it’s in the open, though. And honestly, if talking about it means Theo’s willing to get help of his own, Liam’s worries about what his treatment could be like are pretty much disappearing.

He closes the door again and steps back into the room. He’s said he’d wait for Theo, so lingering in the doorway might send the wrong idea. Instead, his feet carry him to the bookshelf. It’s almost like he’s drawn to it, with how often Theo looks at it, and before he knows it he’s picking up his copy of Song of Achilles.

How hadn’t he noticed that it had been missing from the shelf? How and when had Theo even taken it? As he flips through the pages, he wonders if he could find traces of Theo on them - even though he doubts he’s someone who’d, like, scribble in a borrowed book.

He lifts his head when the door to the bathroom opens and watches as Theo steps out. His hair’s still a bit wet, tousled on his head in a lazy way. Liam lets his eyes move over him, taking in how well his shirt and jeans fit before he catches himself staring. “So, how’d you like the book?”, he says quickly to distract himself, lifting it a bit.

Theo’s lips curl up a little as he steps closer. “It was… something. It only really got to me at the end, though.”, he says. He takes it out of Liam’s hand, setting it down back in the shelf. “It was sad.”

“Told you so.”, Liam muses.

“It was good, though. Accurate, I believe?”

Liam nods. “Yeah, somewhat. I mean, there’s never that many historical records of that time, of course, and you know how history is never really true to the facts but… yeah.”

“I firmly believe it’s probably portrayed the facts better than a textbook.”, Theo says with a shrug.

“You’re set on getting your representation, huh?” Liam grins at him.

Theo crosses his arms in front of his chest, looking almost ridiculously serious for a second. He sounds casual as he says, “Well, if the entirety of Beacon Hills doesn’t seem to be straight, what’s a few historical figures in comparison?”

Liam laughs. “We really don’t have a lot of those, do we?”

“It’s comfy.”, Theo smiles, eyes small and teeth bright. It’s a ridiculous topic, Liam knows, but when he sees the honesty in Theo’s face, something so rare, he wishes he could keep going with the nonsense. It’s what the morning should be like, full of morning’s sleepy talking.

Of course, they’re not in a bubble.

“Liam!”, Todd calls up. “Are you up already?”

Instantly, Theo’s face falls. He presses his lips together as he sends a frown towards the door. Liam’s just about to say something when Theo inhales deeply, squaring his shoulders and looks him in the eye again. “Let’s go be uncomfortable.”

 

-

 

Liam can’t recall ever having seen Theo fidget so much. It’s still not too obvious to outstanders, but out of the corner of his eye he can see him pick at loose seams of the shirt Liam had given him, as if they were bothering him so much he can’t concentrate on anything but ripping them out. He knows that his parents are watching them - well, not openly; they’re pretending that they aren’t but he feels like they’re just waiting for Theo to break down or something - but it doesn’t stop him from wrapping his hand around his wrist.

It’s almost like the tension shoots out of Theo at that, the way he relaxes immediately even without looking up from his plate. He’s still not starting to eat, but he doesn’t look like the thought already makes him sick.

Yet, Liam knows that it’s his part to speak up first.

“Hey, uh, Todd?”, he starts. He thinks of letting go of Theo’s arm, but he’s sure if they haven’t already noticed, they’d do so now. Besides, the contact is in his favour, too, right now. “I was wondering if you… If you have a colleague who could check me out.”

It’s enough to catch everyone’s attention. Jenna looks up from the newspaper she’s been pretending to read, Todd sets down his fork and Theo’s head snaps around to him.

“A colleague? Are you-- what’s wrong?”, Todd asks. His eyes are wide in concern.

“It’s my anger,” Liam says quickly. “It’s-- Lacrosse doesn’t help that much.”

His parents shoot each other a look that isn’t even as surprised as he would have expected. Huh, so he didn’t hide it as well as he’d thought. He’d thought it hadn’t been as obvious, since most of the time the feelings had already subsided on his way home from wherever. It seems like he’s been wrong.

“So you… want to see an expert?”, Todd closes, raising his brows.

“I think I have to, at this point.” Liam shoots a quick glance at Theo, earning a soft squeeze in return. “Before I hurt anyone.”

“That’s a mature view.”, Jenna comments. It’s not meant like she’s surprised, but almost like a praise.

“Yeah,” Liam nods. Then, more quietly he adds, “Had someone talk sense into me.”

He doesn’t know if his mom heard him, or if maybe there’s another reason for her to give Theo a long look. Theo doesn’t seem to notice her, though, because he doesn’t tense in the slightest.

“We could talk to Dr Michaels later, if you want.”, Todd offers. “We’d have to see her later anyways, I guess.”

Now it’s obvious that the topic shifts towards Theo. It’s fitting, of course, because that’s what their deal had been about, but Liam wonders if it should have happened more privately. If Theo wouldn’t have liked it better if there were just his mom talking to him about everything, since she’s the one who decided to act.

“I, um, I don’t quite know what to say.”, Theo admits, looking down at his plate. “I mean, I’m sure Liam told you already—“

“I’m sure we’d all rather hear your side.”, Jenna assures him. “But I think everything can wait for later.”

“What does ‘later’ entail?”, Theo wants to know. He sounds more serious than Liam has ever heard him, and as he finally lifts his head, he presses his lips together.

This time Liam squeezes his arm, moving his thumb in circles.

“You’re… your parents aren’t here, right? You can’t live without any kind of guardian, not until you’re 18.”, Todd explains. “Child services will have to take care of you, for the time being.”

Theo just nods solemnly, still pressing his lips together.

“You probably have reason enough for not being with them.”, Jenna continues. “Nobody will make you go back if it’s not good for you.”

“It’s not like they hurt me.”, Theo insists. He whispers the words, as if he’s repeated a statement he’s heard often and is annoyed by. Liam doesn’t think he’s ever actually talked to someone about everything that’s going on, but maybe Theo’s thought about it more than once. Maybe he’s imagined what would happen if someone stumbled upon his truck, or maybe he’d thought about telling someone himself. But from the sounds of it, he’s always expected to be sent back.

“Oh, sweetheart,” Jenna says and Liam can feel Theo tense up at the pet name. “But that doesn’t mean it’s been okay how they treated you. Nobody would sleep in a car for that long if they didn’t think it was their last resort.”

“I—“, Theo swallows. “I need to use the restroom.”, he announces then, pushing himself away from the table.

Liam watches him as he hurries out of the room, something about his stride setting him off. It’s obvious that Theo doesn’t really need to pee, but that it’s the conversation upsetting him. He’s already halfway about to leave when his mom puts a hand on his upper arm.

“Liam, I think it’s best if we’ll keep you out of school today.”, she says. “Do you think he’ll be up for talking to the social workers later?”

Liam thinks about it. He can’t possibly imagine the situation that Theo’s in, but he feels like at this point he must have barely anything left to resent - like he’s said before: everything’s in the open now, so Theo can either talk to authorities or be on the run or something like that. And, if he’s a bit egoistical, given what’s happening between the two of them, he figures the latter is out of the race. So, he nods at his mom. “Yeah, I think so. I’ll ask him?”

“I’m sure a day more won’t be a problem, if he needs the time.”, Todd announces.

Liam sends him a thankful look. How he’s been blessed with such understanding parents is beyond him, especially compared to others. Not just Theo, but Isaac’s father as well. It hadn’t taken a genius to add things together, even if no article ever mentioned Coach Lahey’s name - Isaac moving into the McCalls’ home and his dad being fired at the same time didn’t leave much room for interpretation.

He wonders if Theo will have something similar. If he’ll end up living with someone who cares about him as much as Mrs McCall and Scott care about Isaac - Liam wishes Theo could move into their house, just to make sure of that at least, but they don’t have any spare room to make him live in. And sharing his room would get cramped, especially once Theo actually gets things of his own.

He doubts that the McCalls could take in anyone else, even if Scott would fight for it since he’s such a good guy. Mason’s family does have a big home, but they’re a big family as well, with visitors almost every week - even if they took him in, he doubts Theo would truly like living in such an … active environment. He doesn’t know about Corey or maybe even Tracy, but both of them are friends of Theo’s at least. If all of those were out of the question, there’d only be Stiles left of the people Theo knows better than in passing and yeah , no.

But still, Liam truly hopes he’ll get to live with people he knows.

He does find Theo in the bathroom linked to his room, but the door is far open and he’s leaning above the sink, running water over his palms.

“Hey,” Liam says carefully, not to startle him. “Are you okay?”

It’s almost a relief when Theo answers his stupid question in a usual manner: giving him a side eye. His breathing is shaky, though, even more confirming that he’s not .

Still, Liam’s not sure how to help, so he just talks. “You don’t have to talk to anyone else today, if you don’t want to. Todd said so. They don’t want you to have a breakdown over this I guess—“

“Liam,” Theo cuts in, turning off the tap. He turns to face him, a blank expression on his face. “My whole fucking life is a breakdown.”

For a moment, Liam is stunned. But he supposed Theo must be right - at least ever since his sister’s death, things don’t seem to have gone any other way than downhill.

“I want to get this over with.”, Theo continues. “There’s no sense in dragging it out, but I— I don’t like how people react.”, he admits more quietly. “I don’t need pity. I’ve managed. I’ve managed well enough that nobody noticed so I can’t have been too bad off, right?”

He cuts back a dry laughter and Liam steps forward. “You were good at hiding everything.”, he agrees. “But, man, you’ve been starving. You must have been freezing. You probably didn’t even have your phone most nights!”, he adds, recalling how often Theo had plugged in his phone at his place.

“I managed.”, Theo insists. He doesn’t back down this time, and despite the situation Liam feels something shift inside him - with everyone else, Theo avoids eye contact about personal things, about topics that could make him look weak. And with him he may still be biting them back, but he doesn’t completely hide them.

“And now it will be managed.”, Liam closes.

Theo sounds small as he says, “I hope.”

“You do know I won’t let them make you leave Beacon Hills, right? You’re my impulse control, after all.” It’s no exaggeration: a few months ago, Liam would have said the people keeping him in check are his parents and Mason. By now, Theo has not only snuck his way into the group but on top of it. Where Mason calms him down, Theo’d already be there to make sure he doesn’t even get aggregated.

And it makes Theo chuckle. “Threaten them with an angry puppy?”

“Excuse you, I’m a fucking wolf .”, Liam says dryly.

“You’re a wolf.”, Theo repeats, a hint of a tease on his lips. “What does that make me then?”

“Mason thinks a coyote is fitting.” He puts his hands in his pockets, rolling back and forth on his feet. He doubts his parents will want to be kept waiting for longer than necessary, so he should probably tell them whether they’ll go or not. It’s fitting when Theo raises an eyebrow because he can go, “I’ll tell you on the car ride?”

There’s not hesitation written into Theo’s face, not exactly. It looks more like he’s really thinking about it in a way where he’s definitely gonna say yes but doesn’t know if he can . Then, though, he breaks into the tiniest smile. “I’m thrilled. You guys talk about me a lot, huh?”

Liam looks down, trying to hide his blush. It’s not like they really talked about Theo in the way he suspects, probably. Mason’s been trying to but Liam had been too busy suppressing his feelings to listen to him. But how should he have known that Theo with his sharp face and beautiful eyes, with his calm presence and twisted humour, would actually like him back? It seemed like something he shouldn’t even have hoped for - and yet, here they stand.

“Oh,” Theo chuckles, “I can’t wait to hear about that. That’ll be an interesting ride, I believe?”

Chapter Text

Liam doesn’t like how he’s separated from Theo and he doesn’t understand Todd when he insists it makes sense. Wouldn’t it be way better if he added his own thoughts about Liam’s anger to the mix? And wouldn’t it be better if Theo had someone to hold onto present? Why is it that people say you don’t have to face things on your own, that doesn’t mean you can have anyone you know and trust there?

Well, he supposes that’s not entirely true because he does have Todd with him, but he’s sure that if it weren’t for the fact that Dr Michaels is his colleague and that Liam is underage, he would be all on his own. His mom is with Theo, but that’s also just because she’s the one who called child services.

Both Todd and Dr Michaels let him do the talking, though, about how things have been for him. He mentions his earlier outbursts, especially the one kicking him out of his old school, but is true about having feelings of anger more often than he would like. When Dr Michaels asks how often exactly and he answers that every second day on average, though not always as awful, Todd inhales sharply.

“It doesn’t happen at home, usually.”, Liam says quickly, shooting him a look. He doesn’t want his parents feel guilty about anything they couldn’t have possibly noticed. “It’s when I’m around lots of people… especially when I don’t like them. Or when I overthink things.”

Overthink things .”, Dr Michaels repeats. “What do you overthink?”

“I…”, Liam starts, unsure what to answer. It isn’t like he thinks before doing stuff. He’s quite impulsive, especially given his random outbursts, but afterwards… “Everything. But only after it happened.”

“And then you worry about what will happen in the future?”

Liam nods. “Or what else could have happened. It’s… I get the craziest ideas. They make me sick sometimes.”

Dr Michaels is very good at poker faces, Liam has to give her that. She just nods and writes down her notes, and not once does she make any facial expressions at his words. It makes it almost easy to talk to her, the sense of not being judged, even if he can practically hear Todd grinding his teeth next to him.

He doesn’t know how long it takes until he’s run out of things to say and Dr Michaels doesn’t have any questions any more, but it hasn’t felt like hour after hour at least.

Dr Michaels does sigh gravely in the end, like she’s just finished reading through a really fat book she’d been at for months. “I can’t give out any official diagnosis yet, seeing how it’s only been our first meeting,” she starts, looking shortly at Todd before focusing on Liam again. “But it seems, Liam, like you have IED and some form of anxiety.”

“Anxiety?”, Liam repeats, because it’s the word he recognizes. “I’m not a coward!”

“Nobody said so.”, Dr Michaels reassures him. “But your excessive worrying, combined with the physical effects - it’s symptoms of an Anxiety Disorder at least. It can be dealt with, don’t worry. I’ll give you something to read about it later.”

Liam nods, slowly. He’d thought that it’s normal - thinking about things, that’s what you do, right? Hell, that’s even what dreams are for. It’s happening to everyone. But apparently not as badly as it does to him.

“And the other thing?”, Todd asks. “The—“

“IED.”, Dr Michaels nods. “Intermittent Explosive Disorder. It’s, well, it could be responsible for Liam’s anger. It’s overreactions that occur to be violent more often than not, in a very short summary.”

The description, Liam thinks, fits better than he would have thought. He’d expected something vague, a confusing string of words to describe what’s apparently going on inside of him but-- the simple words that Dr Michaels uses make perfect sense. He does tend to get pissed at the most ridiculous stuff, even if lately he’s probably better than before he got kicked out. His determination not to fuck up has helped somewhat, as had Lacrosse and being near his best friend more often, but it’s still there .

And it’s something that others have, too.

“Is there any treatment?”, Todd wants to know. He sounds calm, grounding Liam as he’s practically vibrating next to him.

If others have the same thing, that means-- what does it mean? A part of him feels, hopes , that it means it’s not his fault. That his brain isn’t completely screwed because from what he’s learnt, from what Mason’s said when he broke down Corey’s autism to him, things like that aren’t people’s fault. People aren’t just screwed up or something and they don’t have to be.

“It’s very possible that the anxiety is a side effect of the IED, but anxiety medication could dampen the latter as well.”, Dr Michaels explains. “But for the IED itself, cognitive behavioural therapy would be required. It’s a lot of work, but it’ll pay off.”

She‘s almost smiling happily as she says that, but Liam can’t help but feel like something’s off. He curses himself for not paying more attention during Biology class because he knows they’ve talked about what cognitive means… “What kind of work?”, he asks slowly.

“You’d have to learn how to deal with those outbursts. How to spot them and hinder them from happening.”, he gets as an answer. Dr Michaels opens one of the drawers of her desk and pulls something out after searching for a moment. “But before that, you’d have to stop by more often so we can have a proper diagnosis.”

She leans forward and hands Liam a few pamphlets. When he looks down on them the headlines aren’t as cliche as shows always make them out to be. It’s not something like “ So You Randomly Happen To Destroy Things ?” but rather simply the names of what he might have written down in bold letters. It makes it feel more real, but not in a bad way. It’s good.

“Okay.”, Liam says quietly, nodding along to his words. “So, I’ll come back? How often?”

“I suppose once a week would be fitting for now.”, Dr Michaels says and opens up her calendar. Then she stops short and blinks at Todd. “I reckon, though, if you wanted an environment without a relative present - in case … something happens you’d rather not pass on - you could look for another therapist as well.”

Liam doesn’t even have to think about the offer before he shakes his head. No, if he’s sure about one thing it’s that he won’t keep this a secret from his parents any more. He’s decided to own up to it, deal with it, and he knows for sure that they could help. If the therapy triggered something inside of him, he’d rather have someone he trusts close by, no matter how ugly it’d get. “No, it’s okay. I… prefer it, actually.”

Dr Michaels looks pleased. “Great! Then let’s look for a date, shall we?”

 

-

 

Todd looks serious when they leave Dr Michaels’ office, but not in a tensed way. The way his hand holds onto Liam’s shoulder is more support than concern. It conveys one simple message: I’m with you.

Liam couldn’t be more thankful.

They head towards Todd’s office because apparently that’s where his mom has invited Ms Braeden to when they sketched out their daily schedule. Liam doesn’t know whether it’d help Theo to be in a strange environment rather than, like, their house which he knows at least a little, but it’s not like he can change anything about it. He also doesn’t know whether it’s a good sign or not that the door still is firmly closed when they arrive there.

“Come on,” Todd starts softly, navigating him towards the row of chairs on the wall opposite of his office’s door, “let’s sit down.”

Liam follows suit, sinking down slowly. He should probably be even more relieved about getting help with his anger, but as it is - as he sits there, staring at the door - he focuses more on Theo. This is it. They’ll get to know now whether his mom’s idea had been right or if he’ll have to go back.

He hadn’t lied when he said he’d try his best to keep Theo in Beacon Hills. Not just because he doesn’t want to even think about losing him in any way, but because Theo doesn’t deserve it. He doesn’t deserve being sent back when all he’d seen for himself was leaving his parents.

“Hey, bud,” Todd says after a few moments, nudging his side with his elbow. So far he’s done the same as Liam; just look at the door as if they can will it open. “You should probably check those texts you got earlier. Mason’s worried, huh?”

“Oh, shit!”, Liam bellows before he can stop himself. Not did he completely forget to tell Mason how he won’t be in school today, he still didn’t even clear up why he’d left the day before. He scrambles to get his phone out of his pocket, eager to send him at least a small explanation.

And most of the texts he’s gotten are from Mason. There’s one from Hayden, too, and even one from Scott, sounding genuinely concerned. It’s still beyond him how he can be like that: so nice and open to everyone, up to date with everyone’s problems as it seems and willing to hear them out, even if they aren’t remotely close. If Scott didn’t set his eyes on becoming a vet, Liam could see him in a future dealing with kids - he’d probably be great at that.

For now, though, he only replies to Mason. sry dude im @ the hospital bc anger. call me after school? , he types. He doesn’t know yet what to tell him about Theo, if he even should , so that’s the safest for now. Plus, it would be easier to explain it out loud rather than to wrap the whole thing up via text.

Mason replies quickly, thankfully. something happen? will do!

no dw im just getting treatment now , he sends back.

They text back and forth like this, just skimming the topic. When he tells Mason he’s currently waiting (though he doesn’t mention for what) his friend starts texting him updates for what’s happening in school, starting with the alert his rushing out of class had started. He does a good deal at distracting him, even though Liam goes back to glaring at the door whenever Mason takes longer than a few seconds to reply.

He’s almost up to date when finally there’s movements coming from inside.

When the door opens and Jenna steps out, Liam can’t tell what words he’d use to describe Theo. It’s like he can’t decide whether to make himself smaller or pretend everything’s fine and stand up straight - because that’s his standard. It’s not like he’s a prominent figure, but if someone were to look at him rather than past him, they’d usually find Theo portray as much confidence as possible. Now, however, he’s barely radiating any.

He looks defeated and tired, like he’s just run a marathon and doesn’t want anything but to sleep. Liam would give him the softest bed in the world if it meant he doesn’t have to see him look so broken any more.

And yet, it’s Theo who talks first. “Hey,“ he makes when Liam and Todd get up. He catches Liam’s wrist like his parents aren’t present, leaning closer to his face. “How was it?”

For moment Liam can’t help but look at him - Theo is the one who was just told whether he’ll get to stay in Beacon Hills or not. He’s the one who’s world might have turned around. And what is he doing? Asking about Liam. And in return he can’t tell whether it’s a way of distracting himself or actual concern about Liam.

In the end, he shrugs. His parents are talking quietly, short sentences as a way of updating one another. “I’ll have to come back.”

“And will you?”, Theo demands to know. He speaks softly, like he doesn’t trust his own voice.

Liam swallows, unsure what to think about that. It’s difficult to read Theo like this - he’d thought he’d gotten better at it by now, but in this very moment he can’t tell. Maybe it’s because his own worries are big enough to confuse his mind. “I guess so.”

Theo nods.

“What— What about you?”, Liam asks when he’s sure Theo won’t tell him without assistance.

“Theo’s coming with us for tonight.”, Jenna announces. Whether she’s listened in in the end or not, Liam can’t tell, but her timing is remarkable. She sounds serious, but there’s no sad hint in her voice.

Liam looks between her and Theo. “And then?”

“That’s to be decided.”, Jenna says. She smiles as she adds, repeating words he’s already heard, “There’s people who’d probably be willing to take in Theo. But they’ll have to  be contacted first, of course.”

Liam practically flings himself at Theo as soon as the words have left his mother’s mouth. He’s pulling him close, hugging his neck. “You’re staying here!”, he exclaims because if she says it in front of Theo, too, then it must be true.

When he pulls away - but only a bit - he can see a tiny amused smile on Theo’s lips. It might be a happy one as well, but Liam’s pretty sure there’s a comment to come about how he’s such a puppy.

He doesn’t care, though.

“I did tell you they’d have to let you stay!”, he says loudly, still not able to stop grinning.

“That you did.”, Theo nods. His hand has slipped off Liam’s arm in the motion, of course, but tentatively it finds its place in the small of his back. “I don’t know where yet.”

Liam’s not sure what to answer - right now, he feels like it shouldn’t matter where exactly Theo was as long as it’s in Beacon Hills. But of course it’s important. It’s the people he will be around to, the people who will take care of him. It’ll be almost a whole year until his birthday, until he could live on his own. Of course it matters where he ends up.

“Jesus,” Todd mutters over them. “Get a room, you two.”

In return, Liam just barks out a laughter and pulls Theo closer once again, burying his face in the others one’s neck. Right now, he doesn’t care whether it’s awkward. Right now, he’s too happy as he feels Theo press back, returning the embrace wholeheartedly.

Chapter Text

Getting back into the car had felt like both in a haze and slow-motion. Liam can’t quite describe it, but it feels like Theo is rushing them out of the hospital without even doing anything - like they can all tell how uncomfortable he is there (since for the rest of them, the building is practically a second home). And at the same time it’s a slo-mo because Liam’s brain is still trying to fathom everything that’s happened today.

That’s why he and Theo are sitting in silence in the back of the car, each of them looking out of their respective windows. His parents are chatting quietly in the front, Todd passing on what Dr Michaels said, from what Liam’s able to hear. Funnily enough, though, they don’t talk about Theo.

That is, until his mom turns around in her seat and speaks to him. “Theo, do you like Thai?”, she wants to know. “We figured we’re gonna eat out today.”

Liam thinks he’s probably a little too surprised by how big Theo’s eyes get as an answer. He looks almost panicking, darting them over to him and then the window. Liam reaches forward, his arm crossing Theo’s lap as he reaches for the door handle, because he has no doubt he’d be crazy enough to just jump out of the car.

“Just think of it like me paying your meal.”, Liam mutters quietly. “Right? This is lunch, and I get my lunch money from them.”

Their eyes connect for a moment and even though Theo tries his best to hide it, he can see the distrust and something like hurt in them. He lets go off the door again and moves his hand down, squeezing Theo’s softly.

He watches as Theo’s glance flickers down to their joined hands and then up again, to the rearview. “Yeah, Thai’d be great.”, he says then, sounding almost normal as he talks to Liam’s mom. “Thank you.”

“No problem at all, honey.”, his mom says almost cheerfully.

Liam tries to pretend he didn’t notice the way Theo tenses up at the petname. Instead, he just smiles at him shortly before turning his face to the window again. They keep holding hands, though, until the car stops and Todd leads them towards the restaurant.

 

-

 

They haven’t had their meals in front of them for too long when Liam’s phone goes off. He’d almost forgotten that Mason was supposed to call, but when he sees his name on the display he barely hesitates before getting up. He’s met with three slightly confused looks.

“It’s Mason,” he explains. “I promised to tell him about my appointment after school. Mind if I go?”, he asks. He phrases it like it’s meant for his parents, but while he lets his eyes roam over each of them, they stay the longest catching Theo’s eye. If he needed to, he would just tell Mason he’ll call him back later; he’d probably understand.

But at the same time as Jenna tells him it’s okay, Theo nods his head slightly. Liam lets out a soft sigh in relief before turning towards the restaurant’s entrance.

“Hey,” Liam breathes into the phone, guiding the door until it’s closed so that it won’t make any big noises.

Mason huffs in response. “Dude, you made me worry about you!”, he says even though he sounds pissed off more than concerned.

“Yeah, sorry. It was… a lot going on.” He turns to look through the window, expecting to see Theo duck into himself as he sits there with Liam’s parents.

Instead, though, he looks… almost normal. Still a bit uncomfortable but Liam believes he could tell if Theo was on the verge of fleeing. It doesn’t seem like his parents desperately try to involve him in the conversation but leave him to his food, so maybe that helps, too.

“Figured.”, Mason grunts. “So… Do you get any--?”

“Treatment?” When his friend hums, he continues, “I have to get an official diagnosis first. But, yeah, it looks like a mental disorder? Apparently.”

Thankfully, Mason doesn’t seem to be fazed in the slightest. He doesn’t miss a beat but asks, “Which one?”, with his usual curiosity.

“Uh…”, Liam frowns. “Something with explosive? So, I’m, like, a time bomb, I guess.”

He risks another glance inside and watches as Theo stares down at his meal. It seems almost weird that he’s capable of eating at a normal speed, but what surprises him even more is that he seems to be speaking . His mouth closes and opens in a way that is not chewing. Despite his own words, Liam smiles a little.

And Mason doesn’t take pity of him, just like he should. “Well, we knew that, didn’t we? So, what’s next on the agenda?”

“Diagnosis.”, Liam sighs. “And then behavioural therapy? And maybe medication, but that’s not for sure if I remember correctly.”

“Huh,” Mason makes. “So you don’t know anything for sure yet?”

“Not really.”

His eyes meet his mom’s through the window and she sends him a smile. He doesn’t miss how she glances at Theo for a short moment before widening it. Liam raises his brows at her because he’s not really sure what she means: Either that she likes Theo or that everything’s alright with him. She’s never been good at communicating silently. Figures, he’s probably gotten that part from her.

“But hey, that means it’ll get better, right?”, Mason says cheerfully. It actually sounds honest, and Liam can’t help but share his enthusiasm.

“I guess so.”, he mumbles. “Anything happen in school?”

There’s a moment of silence before Mason slowly starts, “Well… Let’s say Stiles wasn’t a big fan that both you and Theo weren’t in school on the same day. Do-- do you happen to know anything about that?”

Liam inhales deeply. He doesn’t think it’s his part to tell about Theo’s story and how it affects him presently. After all, he’d reacted so badly when he’s told people before, he really shouldn’t just go around and burp it out. But…

He’s a teenage boy and Mason’s his best friend and there’s some things you definitely tell your best friend.

“Um,” he says and turns away from the window again - maybe he shouldn’t be in a position where Theo and his parents can see his stammering. “I, uh, probably shouldn’t say anything about that but--”

He feels himself blush. Oh yeah, he should probably round the corner if he wants to tell Mason about what else had been going on.

“But…?”, Mason urges.

“Oh, hang on.” Liam throws one more look over his shoulder, happy to find that they’re all focussed on their meals again. He’s almost sad that his own is steadily growing colder, but hey , talking about this must be important, too. So he does walk a bit, just so much that he’s standing in front of the barber next door, but is shielded from the others’ sights.”Okay, so… I don’t even know where to start, actually, so this is a bit--”

“Spit it out, Liam.”

“We kissed?”

There’s a long pause hovering in the air and Liam wonders if he should’ve approached is differently. But then - how if he won’t tell him about where he’d found Theo and what had happened before and and and? But then Mason lets out one dray chuckle. “‘We’ as in you and Theo?”, he gasps then. “Dude! I’ve been calling it! When? How was it?”

Liam scratches his neck, feeling his face heat up. God , of course Mason would want all the details. He’d been way easier on him when it came to Corey, but then again he hadn’t been as pushy towards them as Mason. “I-- It was good? Like, really good?”

He’s pretty sure the sound Mason makes at that could almost count as a shriek. “Please tell me you didn’t leave it at a single one.”

“No!”, Liam says immediately. Maybe a bit too quickly. “I mean-- He kissed me and stopped and then I kissed back and--”

“Wait. He kissed you ? Holy shit.”, Mason squeals. “I knew it!”

“He didn’t like me from the start--”

“But now he does and you like him, too! God, I’m so good. I should become, like, a professional matchmaker.”, Mason reasons. Then his voice sobers up a bit. “So, what now? You’re, like, dating? Or--”

“I don’t know? I mean, he said that he-- but there’s-- there’s a lot going on and we didn’t really get around to… to discuss it?”

“Yeah, I get that-- wait. What did he say?”

Damn Mason and his ability to catch up on small things. He hadn’t meant to blurt that part out because he doesn’t know . Doesn’t know if Theo really meant it or if it was in the heat of the moment. Or if he didn’t just think it was something that it isn’t because he doesn’t know better. Still, he feels his heart hammering against his chest while he recalls it like it’s about to jump out and run away. He clears his throat, trying to shove it back into place.

“I-- uh, he.. He said he’s-- he’s in love with me?”

Mason stays silent for a moment. When he finally answers, Liam feels like laughing at how normal he sounds. “Those exact words?”

Yes .”, Liam breathes. “I mean, we were fighting and then he kissed me and I thought he just did it to shut me up so I yelled at him-- and he yelled that .”

Mason softly whistles through his teeth. “Shit, that’s intense.”

“You tell me,” Liam says, running a hand through his hair. If anybody should be able to detangle that situation, it should be Mason, right? After all, he’s in a steady relationship himself.

“Well, what did you reply?”

“At first I only kissed him back?”, Liam says. “And later I told him that… that I do have-- that I have a crush on him. But, like, not like--”

“You told him that?”

Liam’s mouth falls open. “Shit, should I have not done that?”

“No, that’s good , dude.”, Mason says immediately. “I didn’t think you’d have the balls to just tell him, to be honest. But good job, man. Honesty is the key!”

“Jeez, thanks so much.”, Liam rolls his eyes. He can’t help but smile a bit at it, too, though. Not just because he appreciates how Mason doesn’t beat around the bush but because it feels good to defy expectations, somehow.

“So listen, buddy.”, Mason continues when his chuckle has died down. “I feel like there’s lots going on that you’re not telling me, which is  okay. I get it, probably none of my business--”

“I don’t mean to--”

“No, it’s cool.”, Mason chimes in. “But talk to him . It doesn’t work if you’re not both on the same page, you know?”

Liam had figured as much himself already, of course, but it’s good to be reminded of it. It’ll definitely help if Theo was aware he no longer needs to lie and that he’ll only get the truth in return. “Yeah.”

“And now : Tell me the deeds. How was the kissing ?”

Mason sounds so excited and intrigued that Liam lets out a bark of laughter at him. He should’ve expected this won’t pass by without an ounce of gossip.

He wouldn’t have it any other way.

Chapter Text

Later that day, Liam isn’t even surprised when he finds Theo seated on the couch as if he hadn’t even attempted to sleep yet. Instead, he sits in the corner where the two parts meet, one leg pulled close, and stares at the wall.

Not wanting to startle him, Liam refrains from saying anything and simply turns on the big light. It has the wished effect.

Theo’s head snaps around, eyes a squint until he realizes who’s standing there. It’s amazing how his expression changed instantly: his features soften somewhat and his lips curl up a bit, but not so far that it’d count as a full smile.

It still makes Liam’s heart skip a beat; the fact that he gets that reaction.

“Hey,” Theo says softly, pulling his other leg close until they’re crossed underneath him. He straightens his back and looks up at him with a mixture of dowsy happiness and curiosity.

“Hey,” Liam echoes. He walks around the couch, tapping his hand against its rest while walking. As he sits down, inches between him and Theo, but mirroring his posture, he says, “Thought I’d check up on you.”

Theo lifts an eyebrow, almost teasingly. “Think I’d run away?”

For a moment, Liam grimaces. The thought had crossed his mind, before, but with how well Theo had played along today he’d figured he better stop that. Still, it’d been there. The reason he did come down here had been a different, though. It’s probably stupid that after just one night that he’d shared a bed with Theo it feels weirdly empty, but that’s what it felt like to him. That and the doubt that Theo would have a full night’s sleep like this. Not in a strange environment, not when there’s the chance of someone he doesn’t know that way just coming along. Not on his own.

He doesn’t say any of this, though. “I just felt like it. Couldn’t sleep.”

Why exactly his parents have suddenly decided to have Theo sleep on the couch, he doesn’t know. Maybe because Theo seemed to do better that day. Maybe because Theo wasn’t already in his room. Liam just knows that it isn’t working .

“Hm,” Theo makes in return. He doesn’t repeat the statement because it isn’t true for him, Liam guesses. As tired as Theo may seem, he probably hasn’t even attempted to lie down yet.

It’s probably on the account of that fact that he easily reaches for Liam’s hand, clasping his own around it. It’s not firm, not in desperation or anything else, but tentative and soft - and determined nonetheless. Liam had thought Theo’s face couldn’t look any softer, but right now, he looks almost relaxed . So peaceful, like right now he doesn’t care about the past, or what the future holds but just enjoys being there together.

How could Liam bring up his thoughts right now? He’d like to do nothing more than finally establish something about them and where they’re going but-- how could he when Theo is this content for once? It wouldn’t feel right to push him somewhere else, he thinks as he looks down at their hands.

But Theo doesn’t need to be pushed. Not by him, at least. Instead, he does it himself.

Out of nothing, he starts, “I’ll meet people tomorrow.”

“To live with?” It’s barely a whisper and when Liam looks up, he sees Theo’s glance fixed on him. The half-smile is gone, but he looks neutral at most - not stressed, not fearful and Liam is glad .

“Yeah,” Theo answers, voice even more quiet than Liam’s. “Apparently they have a history of taking in kids or something, Braeden talked pretty highly of them.”

“You got any more about them?”, Liam wants to know. Sure, Ms Braeden probably knows what she’s doing, but sending Theo off to a random family doesn’t seem right. He’d rather know what they’re like, if they fit to Theo, if Theo fits to them .

“Hm, not much.”, Theo shrugs, moving his thumb back and forth of the back of Liam’s hand. “Like I said, they probably have a horde of wild kids they took in. I don’t even know where they live, could be in suburbs or something--”

With his free hand, Liam pulls out his phone. There should be a way of finding out something. “Got a name?”

“Whittemore, I think.”

He can’t even stop himself from laughing out, even if it’s probably louder than he should be past midnight. “ Dude ,” he gasps. “The Whittemores ?”

Theo raises an eyebrow. “I feel like I’m missing something here.”

“It’s just-- Jackson Whittemore was the king of High School until he moved away.”, Liam says. He shrugs to seem nonchalant, but man , that’s a big deal. He’s never even met the guy, but the stories about him during Lacrosse make him seem like a legend. “His adoptive family’s crazy rich.”

Theo’s mouth slowly fall open, forming an O. Then he says, “Oh shit ,” though not in an excited way, but negatively surprised.

Liam wonders a bit about that because he’s sure that if he were practically invited to live with someone who looks like they’re on a level with, say, Tony Stark, he would flip out . But he supposes Theo never does what he expects him to do. “It’ll be cool,” he tells him. “I guess?”

Theo doesn’t exactly send him a death glare, but he doesn’t seem to agree with it. Liam can’t tell what’s going on inside of his head, but maybe it will be a shock to suddenly move somewhere with money when he lived in his truck for months. Theo sighs softly, nodding to his phone, “Pull up that guy’s profile? I wanna see how much people exaggerate.”

“I get you wanted to fly under the radar, but did you forget to enter the 21st century because of that?”, Liam asks. He does as Theo wanted, though, typing Jackson’s name into the search bar on Facebook. The last time he checked him out has been some time ago. “Like, get your own acc?”

Theo smirks in return. “Stalking me?”

Liam’s violently reminded of his outburst at that and blood shoots into his face. Not because of awkwardness but shame. “There’s… been an interest.”, he says slowly. “Oh, look! That’s him!”

“Oh, he’s hot .”, Theo breathes as he leans over, looking at the phone. It’s only been a  short look at the profile pic.

He’s right, of course, especially since Jackson has no problems with showing off his body apparently. He’s not flexing to the camera, no but he’s shirtless and the editing highlights his really sharp jaw. So yeah, there’s no point in denying it, but he looks at Theo irritatedly anyways.

“What? It’s true!”, Theo grins, tilting his head a little. He looks cute like this, especially with his tiny eyes, so Liam doesn’t really feel like punching him when he says, “Flip through the pictures.”

Again, Liam does as he’s told, though he does roll his eyes at him. Just for good measure. He knows some of the pictures already, from when his curiosity got the best of him - Jackson’s a constant whisper among the lacrosse players and even Coach, who keeps comparing Scott to him. So of course he’s looked him up some time shortly after he transferred. Looking at Jackson feels like looking at a model in some way, because each snapshot of him looks perfect, with poses and clothing on top of their game. Now he notices the very expensive things in the background as well, like the car he’s standing in front of in one pic or the Rolex he wears in another.

“So what, I’m gonna have a hot brother?”, Theo says thoughtfully.

Liam pulls his hand out of Theo’s to flick against his arm. “ No ,” he presses. “He moved to London some time ago. Sad for you, huh?”

“Aw, you’re jealous!”, Theo notices. He’s grinning widely and Liam thinks he should saviour this moment, this night, for all eternity because he doubts he’ll ever see him this carefree again. Maybe he should just keep Theo from sleeping, so his mask keeps slipping.

“No, I’m not,” he insists. “I wouldn’t let you out the house if I were.”

“Think I’m so easy to have?”

“You’re easy to want .” Liam’s eyes widen when he realizes what he’s said so before Theo can say anything he adds, “Plus, everyone in Beacon Hills is hot.”

“And queer.”, Theo nods. “Truly a blessing.”

Liam chuckles a bit. Yeah, Theo’s not himself right now. As much as he enjoys seeing that side of him, he feels like it wouldn’t help anyone if Theo was deadly tired tomorrow. “I feel like we should get some sleep.”

Instantly, Theo’s face sobers up. He pulls his lower lip between his teeth and frowns, shooting a look at the clock.

Liam reaches for his hand again. “I don’t really feel like moving, though. It’s late and walking up stairs is hard .”, he tells him, unable to keep himself from grinning.

Theo returns it shyly. “Oh?”

“Yeah, the couch seems really comfortable right now.”

“Okay.”

 

-

 

“Hey, get up!”

Jenna’s voice is shrill as she practically yells the words because there’s no blanket she can pull away. Even though it had been a conscious decision to spend the night on the couch, Liam hadn’t gone to get himself one. He hadn’t needed one, not because he had Theo around but because it was warm enough. In fact, they didn’t even cuddle up or anything that time. Each of them stayed on their side of the couch with their heads towards each other but nothing more. They’d kept holding each other by the hand, reassuringly, but when Liam’s eyes snap open they weren’t joined any more.

Theo’s already sat up when Liam finally lifts his head to blink at his mom.

“You have half an hour to get ready, breakfast included.”, she directs at him. Then, with a sweet smile she turns to Theo. “Miss Braeden will come over in two hours, Theo, so either you can go nap some more in Liam’s bed or use the bathroom first door on the left, if you don’t wanna go back to bed.”

Of course, the difference in her words don’t go unnoticed by Liam. “Wait,” he pipes up. “I have to go to school ?”

He’s pretty sure that Theo must still be sleepy because otherwise there’s no way he’d laugh at the Are-You-Kidding-Me-Right-Now look Jenna sends him. This is not a mother skill but one of his mom’s own, he believes. She does it with such a self-serving glee every time that it must be a personal thing.

“Of course you have got to go to school!”, she says. “Or do you have any appointments today that are more important?”

Involuntarily, Liam’s eyes flicker over to Theo. Just for a moment, though, so his mom probably hasn’t--

“I doubt that Theo needs you as a bodyguard, darling.” She totally used the petname on purpose. “And you shouldn’t miss any more of school than you need to.”

She’s right, of course. Finals are soon which, logically thinking, should be his priority, even if it isn’t Theo’s. He should be concentrating on passing his classes and getting to Lacrosse practice because that’s what affects him personally. But - in a way - Theo affects him personally as well. How should he concentrate on whatever nonsense Ms Monroe goes on about or fucking Math class when Theo might be meeting the people he could live with? It’s a huge step and a part of him believes - hopes - that Theo would want him there, too.

Right now, though, Theo keeps quiet. He’s slipped on his neutral face and plays with the hem of the blanket still on his lap.

Jenna sighs. “Come on up, boys,” she claps into her hands. “Liam, give Theo some new clothes, will you?”

“But mom--!”, Liam starts. Why can’t she understand how important that is? If Theo’s run from the people who were supposed to care for him, it can’t be easy to be passed onto the next group. Why would she think that school’s more important than this?

Out of the corner of his eye he sees how Theo suddenly drops his blanket. “Thank you, Mrs Geyer.”, he says charmingly. Then he puts a hand on Liam’s shoulder. “Come on, Liam. I really do need a new shirt.”

For a moment, Liam closes his eyes, taking in a deep breath. He knows that Theo’s trying to calm him down like this; he’s aware of how his hands had been clenched into fists, and he wants to stop the anger from bursting out. But how should he when it’s more than justified? He should stay at home and be with Theo, help him approach… just everything .

“Liam,” Theo says again, voice pressing. He moves his hand down Liam’s arm until he’s catching his wrist. If Liam wasn’t following it with his eyes, he would have probably been able to say whether or not Theo getting up from the couch is as gracefully in the morning as usually. Now, however, he just gets pulled up.

His mom huffs when Theo pulls him along, barely able to hide a grin. Liam sends her a glare, not just because he’s still pissed at her but because she shouldn’t be laughing . Either Theo doesn’t notice or he doesn’t care, he just trots off.

They continue like this up the stairs, only noise coming from Liam’s huffing at times, until they’re in his room and Theo closes the door softly.

Then he turns around, crossing his arms, and says, “Your mom’s right, you know?”

“With what?” Liam lets himself fall onto the bed. He knows that he should pay attention to Theo’s own opinion about something concerning him, but he’s also learnt lately that the guy just doesn’t know what’s good for him.

“Everything, actually.”, Theo answers and steps closer. Soon his face is hovering above Liam’s, but with lots of distance between them. It bothers Liam a little, so he leans up onto his elbows. “Look, you can’t miss any more school because of me. Your coach will flip out if you skip practice again. And you shouldn’t feel responsible for me.”

“Not responsible-- worried.”, Liam mumbles.

Theo vanishes from his field of vision then, straightening his back as he sighs loudly. Then, just as Liam wants to lean up a bit more, he bends down again, grabbing a fist of Liam’s shirt.

“Hey, dude, no--!”, Liam protests when Theo pulls on it. “You’re gonna fucking rip--”

Somehow he manages to scramble along Theo’s lift without ripping apart the seams, although he’s pretty sure it was a close call. In the end, he’s standing right in front of Theo, so close that only his fist is between their chests. He’s pretty sure that his breath must be hot against Theo’s cheeks.

“You know I’m a big guy, right?”, Theo says in all seriousness, not letting his eyes leave Liam’s. “You don’t need to hold my hand--”

“But I want to.”, Liam whispers. He reaches up, wrapping his own hand around Theo’s just to emphasize it.

There’s a little quirk at the corner of Theo’s mouth when he looks down at them. “You can .”, he answers. “But you shouldn’t-- not always .”

They stay like this for a few moments, Theo looking down and Liam looking at him. He can see that Theo tries to seem collected although he’s clearly overwhelmed - and at the same time, he can tell just how serious he is. And Liam probably should understand. Theo’s not used to having people by his side, he’s been strong for so long he probably chides himself mentally for showing any sign of insecurity. So it only makes sense that he wouldn’t feel like having him around, right? Wouldn’t it be awfully selfish of Liam to keep insisting that he stays, just because he feels like it’s something that should happen? He supposes that there’s something he still needs to learn and that’s paying attention to Theo’s wishes. He’d disregarded them often enough at this point, hasn’t he?

It’s Theo who breaks the silence between them. “Uh, can I--?”, he cuts himself off in favour of licking his lips, lifting his gaze to stop on the lower half of Liam’s face.

In return, Liam can’t help but let out a small chuckle. He breaches the few inches between them, pressing his lips against Theo’s firmly. It’s almost ridiculous, he thinks as Theo’s free hand finds its place at his neck, that their last kiss was almost 24 hours ago, right in this room. At once, it feels like it’s been ages and only mere seconds since the last time he’s felt Theo’s tongue against his.

They don’t break fully apart, even when their breaths start being heavy. Instead, they lean their foreheads against one another, drawing heavy breaths with their eyes closed.

“Well,” Liam says finally, because he feels like it’d get awkward soon if they stayed like this. “I don’t know about you, but I feel like that is something we could always do.”

Theo snorts at that, a loud and ugly one, and it’s the most precious sound Liam has ever heard. They meet each other in another kiss again and this time Liam reaches up, too, placing his hand in Theo’s hair.

It’s soft and smooth and raises a question. “Where did you even shower ?”, Liam asks before he can stop himself.

Slowly, Theo exhales as he pulls his face into a soft grimace. “School’s doors are open at 7.30.”

“Oh, Jesus , Theo--”

“It worked.”, Theo shrugs. He’s back to retreating, Liam can tell, and when he thinks about what else this day is gonna entail he decides not to press further. Instead, he lets him step back, their hands falling to their sides.

There’s no way to be subtle about it, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t awkward. Liam walks over to his cupboard, throwing it open. “Just so you know, there’s a tub in the other bathroom, if you’d rather have it more comfortable.”

“You are aware that if your parents have a tub in their bathroom, it means they totally had sex in it, right?”

Liam throws a pair of pants at his head. “Ew, dude !”

Chapter Text

Funnily enough, Liam had thought that knowing where Theo is would make it easier to spend English class next to an empty seat. After all, only two days ago he couldn’t help but imagine the worst scenarios when Theo didn’t show up for school - now he knows that his mom’s with him and that they’re meeting with Ms Braeden and the Whittemores.

He’s been told that even if there was some sense of compatibility, Theo would at least stay until tonight. Otherwise, without an adjustment period that he’s actually going somewhere else, it would be too overwhelming, according to Jenna. So yeah, it’s not like he won’t be seeing him ever again. In fact, it’s only about 8 hours, because of course Liam has to attend practice, too, until he’s back home.

When Ms Blake entered, she gave him an approving look, saying she’s glad to have him back. He doesn’t miss the underlying message, though, that she’s basically tried to give off a supportive vibe. Which was kinda creepy, coming from her.

Somehow he does survive the class, though, even if he was alternating between staring at Theo’s seat and trying to pay attention to class. It isn’t as easy as they all made it out, that just because he is in school he could totally follow the preparations for finals, but he can try at least, right?

He also survives Biology and Economics, somehow, though probably not with as much enthusiasm as he usually has. The latter was okay, actually, with Coach‘s muttering sounding like he’s torn between praising Liam so that he’ll do well in the next match, and chastising him for having missed so much.

Nolan had asked him where he’s been, more concern than curiosity written in his face at that, and Liam’s told him. Because he knows Nolan has struggles of his own and won’t judge him for it. And he’s been right. Both Hayden and Corey had only asked him if he’s okay, which he’s answered truthfully with a “Yeah, somewhat.” He doesn’t know if they figured he’d tell them some time else or if Mason told them to keep quiet (or if he’s told them what’s been going on), but he’s glad he doesn’t need to tell it over and over.

Yet, he’s just happy that his next class should be more eventful - not because it’s Social Studies, of course, but because Mason’s there as well. He’s got practice at taking Liam’s mind of things and he’ll keep him from going completely crazy, he reckons. So yeah, the day could probably be worse.

And in fact, when he enters the room, Mason shouts, “You’re back!”, and grins so brightly when Liam walks up to him that, for a moment, he’s pretty sure he’ll get up from his seat and jump on top of him or something.

Liam hushes him, gesturing for him to keep sitting. “Dude,” he breathes as he sits down. “I texted you.”

“Yeah, I know.”, Mason nods slowly. “But that doesn’t mean you didn’t leave after English because you noticed you can’t possibly live without seeing--”

“Oh, shut up .”, Liam rolls his eyes. “Unlike you and Corey--” He cuts himself off, aware of what associations that might bring. Sure, Mason knows about him and Theo kissing, and maybe beyond that but… There’s still so much to be unsure about. Nothing certain, especially with Theo’s situation and even if it’s something , it doesn’t even have a name yet. It shouldn’t be compared to an actual relationship .

Mason smirks when he catches it. He enjoys it quite a lot, especially when Liam groans and buries his face into the crotch of his arms, leaning forward onto the table. He even snickers .

It’s bad, actually, that it doesn’t just leave Liam embarrassed. He feels frustrated, not just because his friend doesn’t seem to get it, but because he’s… he’s yearning. He wishes he could compare them, that he could say he’s dating Theo. That he could reach for his hand instead of his wrist in front of people and that he could just lean over and kiss him whenever he wanted to.

And maybe he can, one day in the future. But not yet. Not when everything’s fresh and they still don’t know for sure if Theo’s even gonna have a place to have meals at in any time soon. Not when there’s still more important things to talk about.

After a moment, he hears Mason clear his throat and risks looking up again. Mason looks more sober now, maybe even a bit concerned, so he musters his best smile at him.

It only makes Mason lift his eyebrows. “Uh, by the way. I was wondering about something…”

When he leads forward, Liam frowns at him but copies the motion nonetheless. Mason’s not someone who just shouts around things anyway, but if he starts to actually whisper you know it’s better to follow his movement.

“Is you getting treatment in any way connected with Theo?”, he wants to know. “It’s just… you were fighting, right?”

Liam can’t help but look at him with big eyes. “You-- what ? You think I--” If it were anyone else, it would almost be funny. But this is Mason, his best friend, wondering if his anger was directly pointed at a person. And not just any person. “ Dude . I never hurt you either, did I?”

“Well, you never thought I kissed you to distract you either.”, Mason grimaces a bit. “Sorry, I just had to--”

And Liam gets it. There’s been countless of times where he’s gotten aggravated and Mason’s not just seemed concerned but scared . How hadn’t he realized before - that he was always on the edge?

Even now, while Mason’s just worried about him, he feels his heart rate pick up. He draws a deep breath, releasing his hands from the fists they’ve been forming.

“No, I understand.”, he says slowly. “For the record, I didn’t punch Theo. He’s just-- he’d told me some time ago I should probably get some actual help. I only just did it now because we made… we made a deal.”

Mason knows better than to ask about that. Instead, he looks almost sad. Liam just wants to ask what’s wrong when he mutters, “I’m sorry.”

“You’re sorry?”, Liam repeats, gaping at him. “What for?”

“I’m your best friend! If anyone should have had that talk with you, it should’ve been me, not someone who-- well, someone who only became a part of your life a few months ago.“

Liam presses his lips together for a moment. He doesn’t think that anyone really has obligations, especially not about this. And while Mason may be as good at spotting the anger blooming in his chest as Theo is, he’s learnt by now that Theo is somewhat masochistic. Hell, once Theo had even offered to be punched by Liam. It’s completely different.

“Don’t worry, man.”, he says and reaches to squeezy Mason’s upper arm. “I guess it’s… It’s become something normal for all of us, hasn’t it? And Theo’s been new to it, so of course he found it weird.”

Mason doesn’t look really convinced, the frown still plastered onto his face, but it’s the best thing Liam can come up with. He doesn’t think that anybody should have, like, dragged him to see Dr Michaels - especially not when he’s playing things down. Sure, Mason’s been present to some of his outbursts, but only minor ones; he’s been the reason they’d stayed so little, most of the time.

In the end, Mason just sighs. “Yeah, probably.”, he agrees. “And it’s gonna be better now anyway, right? So it makes no sense to focus on that.”

“Right.”, Liam nods. He reaches over to grab Mason’s notebook then. At his puzzled look, he explains, “Just gotta check. You know, I didn’t have all the concentration in the world--”

Mason snorts. “Go ahead.”, he mutters nonetheless.

 

-

 

Liam doesn’t know just how he survives the school day, actually. The students he can deal with - because they don’t really treat him any differently. It’s the teachers who know that apparently he’s now officially in mental health treatment and therefore think he needs pityful looks sent into his direction. Hell, the only ones who were completely normal were Monroe and Coach Finstock.

That’s why he’s been looking forward to training most of all. Two hours with only students and the coach, doing something he loves and is good at, sounded like a dream.

And it is nice, even if Brett has chatted him up about Theo’s absence (how many classes do they even share for him to notice?). He’d went with a simple “I don’t know, man. Guess he’s sick.” and ignored the taller boy for the time being. It’s not so easy with Stiles, who keeps staring at him with narrowed eyes throughout the whole warm-up.

So it’s only a matter of time until he’s gonna explode, shouting his questions at Liam before he can stop himself or something. Thankfully, Scott seems to notice as well and acts while they’re supposed to jog around.

“Hey, dude,” he says when he stops next to Liam. He claps a hand on his shoulder, squeezing it softly. “You alright?”

If it were anyone else on the team, Liam would roll his eyes. But he knows that no matter how often Scott asks anyone that question, he always means it most sincerely. So now, Liam just tilts his head a little, thinking of a way to answer.

“It’s just-- you weren’t in school yesterday, right?”, Scott says quickly. Then, lowering his voice, he adds, “And mom saw you in the hospital.”

“Oh,” Liam makes. For a moment he wonders if she’s seen Theo, too, then; if she and Scott and maybe even Stiles have discussed him. Does she even know what he looks like nowadays?

“Did you get hurt? Did you--” Hurt yourself in an anger fit? , Liam imagine the sentence would end. It would fit because it’s not like he has ever actually pissed someone off who’d physically harm him. No, it makes more sense that he’d have, like, sprained his wrist while punching a wall or something.

Scott, however, surprises him with his perceptiveness. “Look, last I’d heard you were searching for Theo. And then you’re not in school and show up at the hospital and waited for someone with your dad-- and I guess… I guess actually I’m asking if you both are alright.”

“Oh,” Liam makes again. Sometimes it’s like he completely underestimates Scott. Of course he would put two and two together, especially when it’s about people he cares about - or used to, anyway. He can’t tell him about Theo, just like he couldn’t tell Mason, but his own part of the story? There’s no problem with sharing that. “I was, uh… Actually I was seeing Dr Michaels. You know her?”

Scott frowns. “That therapist? My mom wanted me to see her once after-- well, actually more than once. But last time after I had a really bad asthma attack and almost--”

He trails off, like he doesn’t particularly want to get into that memory. Liam’s positive, though, that he probably would continue if it meant making him feel more comfortable. He doesn’t need to.

“Yeah, it’s...”, Liam scratches the back of his head. “It’s been long overdue, I guess. I still get angry more easily than I should, so I figured…”

“I see,” Scott makes thoughtfully. “That’s-- that’s good, right?”

“Going to be.”, Liam nods. It’s weird how often that exchange of words has happened in the last 24 hours without losing any of its effect. His issues are not a secret at school, and yet he feels his heart beat against his chest when he admits their severeness out loud. And - saying that it will help, that’s mostly for himself, he realizes. He needs to think about it in a positive light. “You can pass that on to Stiles, too, by the way.”

Scott laughs awkwardly, looking over Liam’s shoulder to where his best friend (or just whatever they are to one another) must be standing. Yeah, Stiles hadn’t been clearly subtle with the stares he’d sent into his direction the whole day. Or how he’d urge Scott on to go talk to Liam. At least he knows that Scott has a better way of approaching him.

“Okay,” he simply says then, giving him another nod.

Liam can barely suppress a snort when he follows Scott with his eyes, watching Stiles gesture exaggeratedly while he waits for him to come closer. As irritating as he is, Liam can’t help but grin - Stiles truly is one of a kind.

But, when he thinks back to how… not exactly worried, but not hateful or passive either-- it makes him wonder if it hadn’t been only Stiles’ natural curiosity but maybe some concern, too. Stiles hadn’t been disregarding the anniversary of Tara’s death, and he hadn’t tried keeping Liam away from Theo. No, he had told him to take care of him.

So maybe, in a twisted way, Stiles still does care about Theo.

It’s a weird thought, actually. For the better part of the last school year, Stiles had downright hated Theo. Spread rumours and reacted to him like something really bad had happened between them. Liam hasn’t had the opportunity to really dive into that conflict yet, but as it seems Theo doesn’t have a real explanation either, meaning that if he did something upsetting, he isn’t even aware of it. Anyway, feeling now like maybe Stiles doesn’t completely despise Theo almost makes him turn back, walk up to Stiles and ask him what the fuck his past behaviour had been about.

But that isn’t his part to do, right? No, he really needs to learn not to make any decisions for Theo except when - of course - not making them would endanger his life .

So he presses his lips together again and tightens his grip on his stick. He should be running laps anyways.

 

-

 

Something that Liam definitely did not expect: finding Theo in his room, engrossed in the first Percy Jackson book . It’s almost like weeks ago when he’s found him on the playground - with what, he’s come to realize, must have been his copy of Song of Achilles; he’s completely lost in the book, not looking up when Liam appears in the doorway.

He takes in the picture: Theo’s sitting on the floor, leaning his back against the bed and legs pulled close. He holds the book with one hand, close to his face, and the other’s thumb pulls at the lose flesh of his lips. He’s far into the book already, and yet he still looks at it with wide eyes like it’s the most fascinating thing he’s ever seen.

He’s beautiful.

Without saying anything, Liam turns around and starts making his way downstairs again. He doesn’t want to disturb Theo, not when he looks so… normal, as if he didn’t have any bigger problems than worrying whether Percy manages to find Zeus’ lightning bolt or not. He could have stayed in the door, of course, just watching and enjoying to see Theo like this, but that would’ve gotten pretty awkward very soon. Besides, he should probably get started on homework - his mom has told the school why he hadn’t been in, but most of his teachers insisted that he, naturally, catch up on the workload. Ms Monroe had even wanted him to do a presentation, but Mason’s calmly convinced her to let that go. He couldn’t do anything about the detention that Coach Finstock had given him for leaving in the middle of the class. Which is incredibly mean if you ask Liam because his mom had told him to do so.

He should probably talk to her about that part when she’s back home. He’d been surprised, really, when she had texted him that she’d go grocery shopping. Because now Theo’s home alone and it doesn’t just mean that she trusts him not to do any shit to their house but that she’s sure he won’t try running away again. It isn’t that Jenna doesn’t trust easily, no she certainly does, but she’s also pretty… overprotective. He’d have expected her not to leave Theo out of sight or something.

Her being gone and Theo being so wonderfully occupied and Todd having been at work the whole day means, though, that he’ll have to be patient about what today means . In a short moment of pride, Liam’s pretty amazed by himself that he didn’t shout as soon as he came home to ask Theo how it’s been.

He’s been wondering if he would’ve gotten a text from his mom if anything had been bad. But with how good an actor Theo is he doubts she’d even have been able to tell. Hell , he barely ever is capable of reading his expressions. It’s the mask he wears almost every moment of his life.

With a sigh, he pulls out his phone and puts on one of his upbeat playlists. He keeps the volume low, though, not risking for Theo to hear and snap out of his reading. Right now, they should probably both concentrate on what they should be doing - relaxing for once in Theo’s case and solving ridiculous math problems in Liam’s.

He doesn’t know if it’s due to the circumstances or not that he feels himself relax at the knowledge that Theo’s upstairs. Is it just because he knows Theo’s safe? If he had a home to go back to, if Theo were just a visitor, he’d probably not leave him alone upstairs, would he? But like he’s thought before - Theo deserves some time to himself.

He blinks a few times at his textbook and tries his best to actually understand the task this time. He can’t afford to put it off any longer so until anyone enters the living room, he’ll do his best to concentrate on nothing but his homework.

 

-

 

He’s almost through the first problem (he thinks) when the front door opens and he hears the sound of plastic bags. That is to say, more than an hour has passed. He’s really not good at maths. So it’s a relief when he can get up and help his mom carry the groceries inside.

“Hey,” she breathes when he takes the two bags out of her hands to carry them into the kitchen. “I got some more in the car.”

Liam grins. “Figured.” He knows his mom better than to think there isn’t at least one whole bag full of chocolate still waiting in the trunk.

“How’s school been?”, Jenna wants to know when they’re outside. “Anybody give you trouble?”

“Yeah, actually -- You know how Coach has given me detention ? For running out of his class?”

“He did?”, she asks, looking genuinely shocked. “Damn, I thought Thomas would clear that up.”

“Yeah, he did not, apparently.”, Liam huffs. He takes the remaining two bags - and like he’d thought one is nothing but chocolate - and watches her close the trunk again. “So if you could--”

“Of course! I can’t believe they’d want to punish you for helping a friend--” She shakes her head to herself as they start walking. “Did Theo tell you about today? He said he found them nice but I wasn’t sure--”

“I didn’t talk to him yet.”

With a look back over her shoulder, she raises an eyebrow. “Didn’t your practice end, like, two hours ago?”

Liam shrugs. “I figured he could use some time to himself. And I tried to do homework.”

“Look at you being all grown and responsible.”, Jenna muses with a grin. She hold open the door, letting him pass. “What did I do wrong with you?”

“Everything. You’re a terrible mother.”, he jokes back. Once they’re back in the kitchen he sets down the bags and crosses his arms, leaning against the counter. “So… He met the-- the people. What’s next?”

“Well.”, she huffs. “They’re not opposed to take him in. Quite the contrary, actually. They couldn’t understand why anybody would abandon him. I mean, all of us wonder, clearly-- But yeah, in the end it’s up to him.”

“And if he didn’t--?”

“Doesn’t matter.”, comes from the door. “I will.”

Liam flips around, surprised that Theo’s come down. He and his mom hadn’t been whispering, sure, but they did speak in hushed voices. And they hadn’t been talking shit either, yet he can’t help but feel himself flush at the realization that he must have heard anyway.

Theo’s leaning against the doorway, his arms folded in front of his chest and his lips pressed together. It’s in moments like these that Liam can’t even start to read him. He can’t tell if Theo is pissed at them for talking about him, if he’s mad that Liam left him alone or something.

“You will what?”, Jenna asks carefully.

“Accept the Whittemore’s offer.”, Theo shrugs a bit. “To live with them. They’re nice and have a good home, so why wouldn’t I?”

“Are you sure about that?”, Liam blurts before he can stop himself. He doesn’t know if Theo’s gotten any ultimatum to decide, but only a few hours of reflecting seems like awfully less. How should he decide based on one single conversation whether he’d like to spend his days in their home?

“Somewhat.”, Theo remarks. Liam’s happy he isn’t outright lying to him. “If I thought about it any longer, I’d still come to the same result. So with agreeing now I’ll be out of your hair tomo--”

Tomorrow ?”, Liam pipes up at the same time as his mom goes, “Oh, darling, you don’t need--”

With an impressively effective glance Theo shuts them both up. His face grows softer when he looks at Jenna. “ Thank you for letting me stay here. For helping. But I wouldn’t feel comfortable taking up your couch for any longer.”

And Theo knows exactly what to say to his mom. It’s been her main point the whole time that Theo doesn’t just need to be safe, but comfortable as well. While Liam doubts he’ll just settle in with the Whittemores like that, he has to agree with his words. He knows that Theo’s not been comfortable relying on his parents the whole time and he’s seen last night that he hadn’t even attempted to sleep on the couch before he was around. With the Whittemores he wouldn’t feel like a momentary burden, not when they take him in properly .

Something else catches his attention, though. “Any longer?”, he repeats. “When would you leave then?”

Theo looks at the bags on the counter in front of him rather than into Liam’s eye. That simply says a lot already.

“Mr and Mrs Whittemore said they could have Theo’s room ready tomorrow afternoon.”, Jenna informs him. She sends a look at Theo, her face turning away from Liam. It stings a little when Theo lifts his gaze to look back at her .

Liam watches him. “So… you’re moving in with them tomorrow?”

“If I tell them tonight.”, Theo answers. He finally moves his eyes over to Liam, giving him a serious look. It seems full of everything and empty of nothing at the same time, like he’s wanting to say many things but can’t.

Liam can understand the sentiment, though. Not just because his mom is there but because he doesn’t know what to say. He knows, of course, that Theo can’t stay with them forever. Not just because of the limited space but because of whatever it is with the two of them. How should that play out if they were around one another constantly? Still, he feels a flare of anger that Theo just spring it at him without talking about it. That he sounds so definite. Would he have made the decision already even if Liam had sat down in his room earlier? It doesn’t even make sense for him to react like this, to feel like he’s been betrayed. After all, living with a rich family who’s volunteering to give Theo a home isn’t a reason to be sad. It’s what he’s wanted when he’d told Todd about Theo’s living situation. He wanted him in safety, somewhere where he has a proper bed and gets food.

So in the end he settles with the only thing appropriate to say. “Well,” he takes a deep breath. “You better finally give me your phone number then.”

Chapter Text

“Dude, you’ve been staring at your phone the whole time since you’ve sat down.”, Mason remarks, raising an eyebrow at him. “Everything alright?”

Liam sighs and puts it down on the table. Now that Mason’s actually striking up a conversation he probably doesn’t have an excuse to keep staring at the display, reading Theo’s answer to him asking if he’s at the Whittemores’ already (“I told you they’ll only pick me up at noon. And you asking every five minutes doesn’t help. Pay attention to class!”) over and over. He’s actually somewhat welcoming the distraction.

He and Theo had even talked about it last night when he’d joined him on the couch again. Because Theo missing from school for almost a whole week will raise questions, especially since you can’t trust the teachers not to keep completely quiet about what they know. So, in the end Theo will have to tell at least some people the truth and, according to him, he wouldn’t mind if Mason knew. In fact, he’d encouraged Liam to tell him, just so he’d be able to talk about the whole thing with him.

Liam hadn’t even mentioned to him that he’d told Mason anything despite his own therapy session, but somehow Theo must have known anyways. He hadn’t said anything more about it, though, continuing the dance around talking about them . Liam’s decided for himself that once Theo’s settled in his new home, they can approach that topic. Because he’s sure that then other things have been dealt with, it should be the main priority for both of them - that is, until finals.

“It’s… nothing, really.”, he huffs. He doesn’t know if it’s really something they should discuss in the classroom. Mason shoots him his best Why-Do-I-Somehow-Doubt-That look, so he adds, “Just Theo.”

At that, Mason breaks into a smirk. “ Oh , are you missing his beautiful face? Are you longing for a look into his pretty blue eyes?”

“Actually, they’re more like grey. Or green.”, Liam deadpans. They are pretty, though, especially the way they stand out against Theo’s tan. “And no , it’s just-- something’s happening today.”

“Something?”, Mason repeats. “Something as in--”

“Theo’s moving today.”

What ?!”, Mason gasps, reaching for his arm. “Theo is what ?”

Liam shushes him. “ Relax , he’s staying in Beacon. He’s just… living somewhere else.”

“I feel like I’m missing some info here.”, Mason says, not missing a beat. He seems to get instantly that it’s not him and his family moving or something but that it’s just about Theo .

Liam sighs. “Look, let’s not get into it too much here but… Theo’s been living in his truck. And now he’s moving in with a family because his family isn’t here and he’s not off age yet.”

“He’s been what ? Why did he--? Where are his--” Mason stops himself when Liam shoots him a pleading look. “We got to talk about this later. So is he alright?”

“Yes. He stayed at ours for the past few--”

Dude !”, Mason gapes. “He slept at yours? Where?”

“On the couch.” Liam frowns at him. “Well, mostly.”

Now Mason just looks utterly shocked. He leans over and punches Liam’s arm (though not really forcefully). “Man! You only said you kissed not that you slept together!”

It was all a whisper, but a loud one, so Liam punches him right back. “Shut up ! We didn’t-- You crash in my bed all the time .”

For a moment, he expects Mason to point out that they also never kissed, as one difference between those situations. Instead, though, he just looks disappointed . “You guys are really taking things slow, aren’t you?”

Liam snorts. He shakes his head and says, “I just told you he’s homeless and you--”

“Hang on. Homeless ?”, Mason repeats. He probably figured Theo had only run away from home a week ago or something. “Oh, shit. Yeah, of course he’s-- Damn, how didn’t we notice that?”

Liam nods grimly. There’d been many hints spread out before them and neither , not even Mason in all his intelligence, has figured it out. Not just because Theo had been good at concealing some things, but because it had seemed so abstract - Liam can imagine that Mason couldn’t imagine having bad parents any more than he does.

“You so need to tell me about that later.”, his friend insists. “And now he’s… not anymore?”

Liam shakes his head. “They’re picking him up at noon. To move in with… a family.”

“That’s still a few hours.”, Mason remarks, looking up at the clock. And as if on command, Ms Monroe enters the room then. “I’m sure she will distract you anyhow.”

Liam grumbles, but he can’t argue with that. If he paid attention to whatever Ms Monroe will be going on about today, being pissed at her will probably entertain his mind for long enough.

 

-

 

As he walks through the neighbourhood, Liam shoots another look down at his phone. Theo had texted him earlier that he could come over, if he wanted to, to check out the place. Oh, and how he wants to. He’s seen Jackson’s pictures and he’s heard from people who’ve known him about just how rich the guy was. So checking out the place he used to live in? Sounds awesome.

It isn’t even that far from where Liam lives, just a bit further out of town and a few blocks over, so it’s only taken him like five minutes by bike to find the street. Which is awesome , it’s almost closer than Mason’s home.

The only problem, though, is that he just can’t find the house . He’s walked up the street in the search of number 37 but, as it seems, it’s been skipped. The houses are all big and take up more space than he thinks should be allowed for a single family, all of them with fountains on their lawns and stuff you only see in movies. They’re all white and shiny and he’s sure that it must be irony that most of them even have picket-fences.

He could continue wandering back and forth on this street, he figures or he could go to number 36 and ask around. It’d probably seem stupid, that he can’t even find a house but it wouldn’t be the first time this week (or ever) that he walks up to strangers’ houses and asks for Theo. Yeah, it’s probably the best plan, he decides, and rips out his earphones; he sets off to the right house again.

All of the houses in the street had kind of blurred together, like none that isn’t number 37 matters, so he’s overwhelmed when he sees number 36. It’s probably the prettiest one in the whole street, which is already speaking for itself. It’s grey rather than white as he notices as he walks up the path to the front door, and there’s some kind of winter garden facing to the street.

He feels like it shouldn’t be a surprise that this is the house with the bell that reads “Whittemore”. Liam chuckles a bit to himself at the thought that Theo must have made a typo or something - he doesn’t know why, but the idea amuses him greatly.

He rings the bell and taps his hand against his leg as he waits until someone opens. He feels suddenly very weird, standing there in his cargo shorts and his old bag swung over his shoulder. God , his battered bike must look so weird standing on the path - speaking of battered, though, he couldn’t see Theo’s truck anywhere. Is it still in the forest? Had anyone even thought of getting it? Because he’s pretty sure that after months of living in it Theo wouldn’t like it to be completely abandoned and--

The door opens.

Liam takes in a deep breath.

It’s not Theo.

Of course it’s not Theo. Even if he lives now, and even if he’s expecting someone, he wouldn’t be the one to open the door yet, would he? No, Liam guesses that even if he were allowed to Theo wouldn’t feel comfortable with that just yet. After all it’s not home . Not yet, anyways.

Instead, he’s facing a guy close to his mom’s age, so he figures it must be Mr Whittemore.

“Uh, hello!”, Liam says, trying to sound cheerful. “I, uh… I wanted to see Theo? Raeken. Theo Raeken.”

Mr Whittemore’s frown turns into an amused expression. “Oh, you must be Liam.” He doesn’t even have the time to wonder what Theo’s told them about him because Mr Whittemore waves him in. “Come on, he should be finished with his pie by now.”

Now Liam frowns. Pie ? His mom enjoys her snacks greatly, but (probably thanks to Todd) they barely ever have pie - only for celebrations and stuff like that. That the Whittemores pull out one to greet Theo is quite sweet.

He follows Mr Whittemore inside, taking in the big hall for the whole while he gets led through. It’s neat and tidy, like as soon as there’s even a hint of dust someone will come rushing in to clean it off. And here Liam thought the tidiness of rich people was a myth.

“Do you want a slice, too?”, Mr Whittemore offers.

Liam wonders just how long this hall is. He shakes his head. “No, thank you. I just had practice and I get sick if I eat too fast afterwards.”

“Practice?”

“Yeah, I play Lacrosse.”, Liam shrugs. “I hear about Jackson all the time. I’d have loved to play with him.”, he adds then. Scott and Stiles may keep going on about what a jackass Jackson had been, but they couldn’t deny he was a great player. It’d have been awesome to be on the team with him, he’s sure.

Mr Whittemore gives him a warm smile, one that doesn’t exactly fit to his face, but is a nice surprise nonetheless. “Yeah, he’s loved it. I’m pretty sure he’s still secretly trying to convince the limeys to open up a team.”, he says, and there’s a hint of sadness in his voice. He must probably miss Jackson.

Liam just smiles along, unsure what to respond.

After a few more moments they’re finally reaching a door . It’s not particular huge or anything (the walls are normal-sized and somehow that’s something Liam is surprised by) but the massive dark wood is impressive anyway. They step through it and find themselves in an average-sized but quite empty room. There’s only a big cupboard covering the whole back wall and standing out against the dark red of the others. Everything looks old and expensive, fitting to the vibes he’d gotten from the Whittemores so far.

Liam is, however, not surprised when his eyes finally find Theo and he sees how upright he’s sitting, fork in his fist - full of tension. It’s Theo not knowing how to act, a careful expression that Liam had encountered every time that Theo had accidentally ran into his parents before everything came out. When it had first happened, Liam has thought that it was just a sign that Theo’s not comfortable around any kind of authority figure, period. He knows that from Nolan, for example, who becomes quite fidget-y and even more quiet than usually when there’s someone around whom he’s supposed to respect more than a simple pal. Looking back, it’s clear that Theo‘s behaviour had been one of the many signs of what’s really going on with him.

It is still confusing, though, that there’s something on Theo’s plate. Usually, it would’ve been, like, absorbed right away. Now the pie’s just resting there, only a corner of it gone, like he hasn’t even touched it yet.

The fact that Theo eating at a presumably normal speed is kind of funny.

And he doesn’t mind it when Theo sets down his fork and leans forward, almost beaming at him. Liam had thought he’d come to know quite a bit about Theo, but only this week he realizes how many sides there are he’s never seen. Like the sleepy version late at night, the careful one, the scared one, and now this… loving one.

It makes his heart speed up.

“There we are,” Mr Whittemore announces unnecessarily. Then, louder and as he looks at his wife, he goes, “Darling, this is Liam Dunbar.”

“Oh!”, she makes, getting up from her seat. Liam blinks at her, confused as she holds out her hand for him to shake. “Jenna’s son, right? I’m Mary.”

“Oh,” he makes before he can stop himself. But then he returns her smile and shakes her hand in the appropriate manner. She seems nice. “Yes, I am. Nice to meet you.”

“Likewise.”, she nods vehemently. Then she looks at Theo, who’s gotten up as well. “You guys want to go over?”

“Yeah, probably.”, Theo nods curtly. “Thanks for the pie.”

“No need for thanks, son.”, Mr Whittemore insists. Liam can only imagine that that’s something Theo’s gonna struggle with.

“Right.”, Theo mutters, mostly to himself. Then he turns to Liam. “Come on,” he says and grabs his wrist, pulling him further into the house.

In turn, Liam feels like it’s awkward if he just kept staring at the paintings they walk past, so he thinks he should probably start a conversation. He could say that the Whittemores seem nice, but somehow it’d feel weird to talk about the owners of the house in a part of it that is not Theo’s own - if that makes sense. He doesn’t know if his thoughts even make sense most of the time; that’s probably something Dr Michaels should figure out. So, he settles with some complaining. “Dude, you know how long it took me to find this house? You sent the wrong number!”

“Nah, I did not.”, Theo says over his shoulder. He opens a glass door leading outside, which seriously confuses Liam. He didn’t think they’d chill at the pool, as awesome as it looks.

“Uh, yeah? You texted me 37, and that house is 36.”

“Yeah, but technically,” Theo smirks and gestures towards the pool house in front of them, “ this is 37.”

Liam stops, staring at the building. Hell, it’s probably as big as their first floor. Massive white walls like the ones of the main house, except for one side that looks like those of Japanese houses in animes. He hasn’t even seen the inside, but is he understanding Theo correctly ? “You’re kidding.”

“Nope,” Theo makes, popping the p. “They’re literally the whitest rich people I’ve ever seen.”

“You live in the pool house ?”

“Supposedly.”, Theo nods. “It’s fucking horrible, if you think about it. Plus, Jackson’s been quite the minimalist. Come on, I’ll show you.”

Liams lets himself be led inside easily, mostly because he’s too shocked to protest. He’d thought Theo would get a huge room, yes, but one inside the house. Not a whole building to himself - doesn’t that kind of defeat the whole purpose of him not being by himself?

Inside, there’s one big room with a door leading somewhere else, probably the bathroom. The walls aren’t white but a very light yellow and they’re bare except for a pretty cool photograph of the New York skyline. There’s a waterbed, a desk with a  chair, a big wardrobe, and a red rug on the floor. Not more. Yeah, Jackson’s really not one for many details.

“This place is huge ,” Liam says, mouth open to gape as he turns around to look at the… emptiness. The space, more like. It’s a difference to Theo’s old and cramped truck. “This is all yours?”

Jackson’s ,” Theo emphasizes. “Even these ones.”, he adds, gesturing down at himself. The clothes he’s wearing fit, and they look good on him, but they’re different . Tighter than what he normally wears, and definitely more expensive. “He really grew into his money, huh?”

Liam shrugs. “I’ve never met him, but from what I’ve heard.”

“It’s… weird.”, Theo admits, scratching the back of his neck. It’s clear that he doesn’t just mean the room - pool house - even if it does seem to bother him.

“Do they have, like, any strange rules?”, Liam wants to know. He walks over to the bed, pressing a hand down onto the soft mattress before sitting down. Having something as soft as this must be weird for him in itself.

“I have to come over for breakfast every morning, probably so they can make sure I go to school. And family dinner four times a week.”, Theo shrugs. “My curfew’s only at, like, 11. Pretty much free reign.”

Liam whistles through his teeth. He’s not sure if he means it in a positive way or not, because it seems pretty loose when you think about why Theo’s here. It still seems to be a bigger effort than his parents had done, so maybe it’s good enough. He can’t tell. “Huh,” he makes.

“Yeah,” Theo sighs. He seems a little overwhelmed, so Liam steps over and takes his hand into his.

“You good?”

Theo stays silent for a moment, pressing his lips together as he looks down at their joined hands. He intertwines their fingers softly and sighs again before looking back up. “It’s… weird. But it’ll work.”

“Theo--”, Liam starts. He knows what he wants to say, but he doesn’t even know if it’d be right. He wants to say that it’s all about Theo’s comfort, that he could say if he didn’t feel like staying here and they could find another solution. But could they? Liam had meant to ask before, but then Theo’s decision to go here had shut him down. He doesn’t know if there’s more options. “Can I-- can I help you in any way?”

“You are--”, Theo cuts himself off. Then, slowly, he breaks into a small grin. “If I remember correctly, you still owe me a dinner.”

Liam sighs dramatically, even if he can’t help but return the smile. “My one task in life: keeping you fed.”, he says while putting his other hand on the back of Theo’s neck. He could easily be arguing that he did pay for Theo’s dinner that day, after the museum, but he likes the direction this is going.

“It’s what you’re best at.”, Theo nods. His free hand finds its place on Liam’s hips, just like it were supposed to sit there. And right now, it is .

“Oh, is it?”, Liam asks. He doesn’t wait for an answer but leans forward, pressing his lips against Theo’s.

“Okay, maybe not the best.”, Theo chuckles.