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“Fallen angel

close your eyes

I won’t let you fall tonight.”

 

Scott didn’t need to be able to see the quick white flashes of Theo’s sneakers darting in and out of sight in the forest as he fled to know exactly where he was. He could hear the half-wolf’s heart slamming a thousand beats per second as he darted between trees. Feel his confused chemosignals churning in the crisp night air as he leapt over rocks and fallen logs.

He knew the place Theo was heading, and he needed to close the distance fast.

Theo was neither stronger nor faster than Scott, but he was good at feinting and could change directions in an instant. He was headed north, to a place in the forest where several small waterfalls spilled out over black rocks and split into tiny brooks. The terrain was difficult to navigate and water scattered the scent of anything that crossed it.

They’d been there several times during their runs and it was always where Theo had the most advantage. Each time previously Scott was pretty sure that he’d only won because Theo had let himself be caught and tackled.

But this time the chase wasn’t a game. It was for real, and there was no way Scott was going to let him slip away.

He nearly tripped over the sports bag that Theo dropped on the ground as he tore up the hill, but it didn’t slow him down. When he reached the top he had Theo’s back in his sight. Could see the sweat on the back of his neck glittering in the moonlight as he slid down the opposite side of the slope.

Scott sprung through the air, claws out, and tackled him to the ground.

They tumbled down the hill. Theo kicked and clawed at him, but he refused to let go. They wrestled all the way to the bottom. Scott landed on top of him and pinned Theo’s struggling body down onto the mossy leaf-covered ground.

“Scott, let go!” Theo half-growled, half-pleaded. 

His voice was angry and desperate as he tried to push Scott off him. His eyes were locked on Scott’s chest as he struggled, intentionally avoiding his gaze.

“Theo, look at me!” Scott said, taking hold of both his wrists and holding them between their heaving chests. 

 “Please.” he added, this time slightly softer.

Scott held his breath as Theo hesitantly lifted his gaze, preparing himself to witness the damage that had been done. Preparing for the fact that the Theo he’d come to know this summer — the same Theo that he’d known back in fourth grade — might have already retreated back behind his cold mask. That the warmth that had slowly kindled back to life in his eyes might have been snuffed out again. Doused by his best friend’s recklessness.

If he had to spend a thousand more months to get that Theo back, he would. There were no bridges between them yet that couldn’t be rebuilt. He would help Theo rekindle that flame even if it took years.

But that could only happen if Theo would let it happen. If he wanted help. If he was willing to accept it.

When Theo finally looked at him, Scott felt like his chest might split in two. There was a storm raging in his grey eyes. Pain and fear shimmered in the turquoise flecks of his irises. Doubt and confusion twisted in the black pools of his dilated pupils.

At the same time Scott couldn’t help but feel hope. 

Yes, Theo was in pain, but none of it was hidden. It was all there before him, raw and unguarded. Theo hadn’t put himself back together yet. Which meant there was still time. He wasn’t too late.

“Just talk to me.” Scott said, squeezing his wrists. “Please, we can—”

“We can what, Scott?” Theo demanded, bitterly. “Read some more White Fang? Do trust exercises?”

His tone may have been sarcastic but Scott didn’t miss the pain that underlined it. If being friends this long with Stiles had taught him anything, it was how to spot when someone was lashing out because they were feeling hopeless and insecure.

“No,” Scott said. “Of course not.”

“What then?” Theo asked, his voice breaking farther.

“Theo, we’ve all made mistakes.”

“Not you.” Theo scoffed, bitterly turning his face away. “You’re perfect...”

“I most certainly am not perfect.” Scott insisted. “I’ve made countless mistakes. You know that.”

“Not like I have.” 

“Okay, yeah.” Scott acknowledged, loosening his grip on Theo’s wrists but still holding him firmly. “I’m not going to insult you by pretending that I know what it feels like. But Theo, running isn’t the answer.”

“You don’t know that. You don’t have any idea—”

“I know there are some things that you just can’t out-run.” Scott said gently. “No matter how hard you try, there are things that will always catch up with you. And if you make more mistakes while you’re running, it’ll get harder and harder to stop. I get that it sucks. I get that it’s not fair. But Theo...as much as facing it hurts, you’re only hurting yourself more by running from it.”

“But—”

“You have a chance right now.” Scott cut in before he could finish his objection. “I know, you almost really fucked up tonight. You lashed out. You almost did something that you would have really regretted. But Theo, you stopped.”

“You don’t know that’s how I feel.” Theo accused, sharply. “And I just as easily could have not stopped...”

“Yeah, but you did.” Scott reiterated. “ Why? What stopped you?”

Theo bit his lip.

“What went through your head when you went to hurt him, and then didn’t?”

“I thought about how hard it would be to get away with it.” Theo stubbornly growled at him. “That’s all.”

Bullshit , Theo.” Scott fired back. “If you were thinking rationally you wouldn’t have attacked him at all. If you were being manipulative you could have played innocent. You could have tried to fuck with me and my pack again — you must know how much I care about you at this point — you could have used that against me, but you didn’t.

Theo didn’t say anything. Just bit his lip again, and Scott was pretty sure that it was to keep it from trembling. A small gust of cold night air stirred Theo’s hair. He desperately wanted to run his fingers through it, but restrained himself.

“I meant everything I said to you these past months.” Scott whispered. “I never once lied to you. I still believe that you can turn this around. I still care about you. I’ve always cared about you...”

*    *     *

I still care about you. I’ve always cared about you. 

Words that Theo was both desperate and terrified to hear. Desperate because he couldn’t even admit how long he’d needed them. Terrified because he could feel tears welling up in his eyes, his bones aching to to have Scott’s arms around him. All he wanted to do was bury his face in Scott’s chest.

Scott would hold him if he did that. Scott probably wanted to hold him like that. They both wanted it, and that was the dangerous part. Theo stared up at Scott, a golfball-sized lump forming in his throat.

“The problem is, Scott....” he started, slowly and painfully, trying his hardest not to avert his eyes as he spoke. “You shouldn’t. You really, really shouldn’t.”

“I’m getting really tired,” Scott growled. “Of people telling me what I should or shouldn’t feel about you.”

“Dammit, Scott, I’m trying to do the right thing for once!” Theo ripped his wrists out of Scott’s grip. “Why are you making this so difficult?”

He made to turn away but Scott’s hands were on his shoulders in an instant, pinning him in place.

Running isn’t the right thing!”

“It’s better than sticking around here and waiting till I have a bad day and then you’re fucking dead because of it!”

“Theo, I get that you’re scared, but you are really not giving yourself enough credit. You’re not just going to snap and go on a murder spree because your day isn’t going the way you want it to.” 

“Scott—”

“You...you are worth so much more than what the Doctors did to you.” Scott held his gaze, gently squeezed his shoulders. “Then what they tried to make you...”

“Oh, fuck you...” Theo choked, turning his face away to try to hide the tears rushing down his face.

“You are.” Scott insisted, ignoring the deflection.

Theo wanted to believe it was true. He wanted to believe that he was more than just the sum of all of his sins. He wanted to believe that he could be the person Scott seemed to think he could be. Someone with depth. With needs and wants that went beyond shallow craving to have people look at him. Someone whose most interesting and worthwhile aspects weren’t something that could be examined on an operating table. Someone who wasn’t defined by what he lacked, but by what he was. 

Someone that could love, and that was worth loving.

But every time he reached deep within himself, and searched for that spark, that thing that was supposed to let him be that...all he found was emptiness. A dark endless void whistling with fear. A void with a gravitational force that would suck in and obliterate anything that came into contact with it.

His parents had looked at him and saw him for what he was: a lost cause. The Doctors had looked at him and saw an object whose value could be exploited before it quickly expired. Stiles saw a pile of shallow vanity and messy lies.

Why could everyone see the truth but Scott?

“I...I know you think that,” Theo started, barely able to get the words out. “But the thing is...I’m not.”

“Theo—”

No.” Theo growled, attempting to push Scott off of him again. “You need to understand—”

This time Scott let him. He rolled off of him and allowed him to sit up, but Theo knew if he tried to run again Scott would be on him in a flash.

“Understand what?” Scott asked. True Alpha stubbornness gleamed in his eyes, but Theo could still feel the pain in his voice. “Understand that you’re not worth more than what they did to you? Because I won’t. Theo, you’re—”

“Understand that I’m never going to be able to be what you want me to be!” Theo interrupted. “And it’s not because I don’t want to, I... fuck...”

He had never admitted it out loud. That he did want it. That he wanted something that he could never have. No matter how hard he tried.

There had to be a way to get Scott to understand.

He wracked his brain, searched for the thing that would finally get Scott to let him slip into the shadows of the forest and never return. He could take Scott to the place that he’d watched Tara die. He could recount every minute of it in painstaking detail and see if that would rattle him.

But no, Scott already knew all about that. He would be ready for it.

Then it came to him. There was a place Scott had never been. Somewhere that none of the pack had ever been. Yes, that place...that place would be perfect. Even if the thought of going there made his skin crawl and stomach twist.

“There’s someplace I want to show you.”

*    *     *

Scott watched Theo’s back closely as they walked deeper into the forest, just in case he decided to make another break for it. 

He sensed that they were moving closer to the Nematon, though not exactly towards it. He could see the growing apprehension in Theo’s shoulders, the stiffness in his spine, the hair standing up on the back of his neck as they moved closer to...whatever they were moving closer to.

He had no idea what Theo was planning to show him, or what he hoped to prove from it.

Theo stopped in a small clearing and crouched down on the ground.

“The Dread Doctors,” he said, as he plied back several layers of leaves and dried pine needles, “Had more than one operating theatre in Beacon Hills.”

Scott watched Theo’s hand disappear under the brush and then heard a click. Theo stood back as the sound repeated itself over and over again in a growing chorus of turning gears. Metal groaned as the earth split apart in a perfect circle, revealing an old stone stairway.

Theo glanced at him briefly before descending the musty steps.

The corridor wasn’t very long, but it was very, very dark. When they reached the bottom Theo flipped a large rusted lever and several crackling incandescent light bulbs flickered to life before them, illuminating the hallway.

It was an operating theatre. Equally as charming as all the other Dread Doctors’ chambers Scott had had the pleasure of visiting. Blood-stained concrete floors, walls lined with grotesque machines, shelves stuffed with bleak bottles of putrid liquid baring latin names, a godless ceiling made of metal. Harsh yellow light that flooded everything below it in shades of inky brown.

But there was also something about this room that made it unique from the others Scott had been to. The chemosignals.

All of the Dread Doctors’ rooms were painted with the tortured cries of their victims. But in this room, the victims weren’t nameless. In this room, the pain that hung eternally in the stale air, belonged to someone that Scott loved.

Scott swallowed as he approached the operating table, his eyes moving to the worn leather straps. Their edges were shredded from relentless tugging. His stomach turned as he noticed the hand-made buckle holes in each of them. Clearly Theo’s wrists had been too small to be held by the normal ones and the Doctors had needed to make modifications.

“This is where I became a chimera.” Theo said beside him. “Right here, I watched them break Tara’s chest open and rip her heart out. Then I waited, as they sewed it into me. Do you know what I felt when they did it?”

“No.” Scott said, looking Theo in the eyes. “Tell me.”

Theo shook his head, and instead reached for Scott’s hand. Scott let him take it, and place it on the operating table.

“Can you feel it?”

Scott closed his eyes. He could f eel it. What Theo felt then, and so much more. The countless times he had been dragged here. His terror, his helplessness, his desperation, the feeling that he was completely and totally alone. His eventual submission. Resignation and detachment. His numbness to it all.

“Theo—” Scott opened his eyes, searching for Theo’s.

“I felt nothing.” Theo said. “I didn’t feel anything at all. And it took hours.”

“Theo, that’s not what I feel here.”

Theo looked phased for a moment. A ghost of uncertainty flickered in his eyes before his features hardened once again.

“I feel fear. And I feel pain.” Scott explained. “I feel a scared child. Who was tortured. Who was suffering.”

“It doesn’t matter , Scott.” Theo doubled down, his voice quivering. “She was my sister. I watched her freeze to death in that water. I didn’t do a thing to help her, even though she begged me...”

“You weren’t yourself then.” Scott insisted. “You weren’t in your right mind—”

“Wasn’t I?” Theo demanded, bitter tears welling up in his eyes. “I’m glad you’re sure about that, because I sure as hell am not...”

“Theo, look at the kind of duress you were under!” Scott gestured to the wall that was lined with cruel surgical tools. “The kind of things they were doing to you! That affected you. You keep saying that you didn’t feel anything, but you also just said you remember laying on this table, getting cut open, being awake while they sewed the heart into you...but you don’t recall being scared or struggling or feeling pain?”

“So?” Theo asked, confused.

“That doesn’t seem strange to you?”

“It all seems strange Scott!” he shouted. “No part of this is normal!”

“There’s a word for what your describing. How you didn’t feel anything when any of this happened,” Scott insisted. He’d learned it from one of the books he’d read with Deaton in the early stages of Theo’s recovery. “It’s called dissociation , and it can happen when pain becomes so intense, so traumatic, that a person can’t process it anymore. You distance yourself from what you’re experiencing to protect yourself. Physically, emotionally, everything. To the point that it hardly feels real.”

“Nice theory.” Theo quipped. “Sounds like a really good excuse for me to not have any responsibility for my actions...”

“Theo, you literally just recovered from trauma-induced amnesia where you couldn’t remember anything about your life.” Scott said. “Are you really going to tell me that you’ve never experienced dissociation?”

Theo scoffed and looked away.

“What does it change though?” he asked, eventually. “You see over there?” he pointed over at a bare patch in the cracked tiles of the wall, just to the right of the shelf. “That’s where I sat a week later, watching another boy, one my age, be pulled apart piece by piece. I watched his body wriggle. I listened to him scream. Again, I did nothing to help him.”

“And what were you supposed to do, exactly?” Scott demanded. “Fight the Dread Doctors? You were a child. A human child...”

“I don’t know, maybe give half a fuck?” Theo said, venomously as he stepped back towards the operating table and pointed at the concrete floor beside it. “Maybe not kneel down here and scrub blood off the floor for the Dread Doctors like their good little assistant?”

He could see the change in color of Theo’s skin as he spoke, and knew that he was getting sick the more he thought of it.

“Maybe not stay with them for years after the experiments on me stopped?” Theo went on, his voice shaking as tears finally spilled from his lashes. “Not run around trying to please them, trying to prove to them that I was worth keeping...”

“Theo, for fucks sake, of course you wanted them to think you were worth keeping! You knew exactly what they would do to you if you weren’t! They destroyed everything else in your life. They convinced you that this—” Scott gestured to the room around them. “—was all that you ever could be.” 

“Scott, this is all that I’ll ever be!” Theo shouted at him. “Okay? This is me!”

“No it isn’t!” Scott argued. “This is what they did to you. It may be a part of you now, but it is not all that you are and it certainly isn’t all you can be.”

Theo moved to turn away again, but Scott gently caught his arm. Theo glanced down at his hand and then back up at Scott’s eyes before he let the alpha slowly draw him closer.

“Maybe you don’t believe that right now,” Scott whispered. “But I do. I know you can be more than this because you already are more. You want me to believe that you can’t feel guilt? Theo, I held your hair back as you vomited your guts out starting to remember this. That’s not something that would happen if you truly didn’t care. And then there’s tonight. You know you’d be safer here with me, but you’re trying to convince me to let you go. I know you’re not doing that for yourself. You’re doing it because you’re trying to protect me.”

“But...” Theo started. 

“It’s easy for people who have never felt the pressures of the world that you and I know to judge us. Easy for them to say they would have done something different. But I’m not that ignorant. I know just how hard it is, and I have no idea where I would be if no one had been there for me when I was turned.”

Theo didn’t say anything just stared at him, eyes wide with emotion.

“You can’t change what happened here.” Scott went on. “But you can change what happens next.”

“What if I can’t?” Theo whispered. “And what if you end up—”

Heavy tears began to slip from Theo’s dark eyelashes as he held Scott’s gaze. 

“I know you’re afraid.” Scott went on. “I know that the idea of trying to have a real life and letting yourself care about people is terrifying to you. But you have to try. Just because you drowned in everything before doesn’t mean that you will again. The Doctors are gone. They can’t hurt you anymore. And I am not going to fail you the way everyone did back then. I will be there for you every step of this, alright?”

Scott slowly reached for Theo’s face. His breath hitched slightly as Scott’s fingers gently touched his cheek, but he didn’t pull away. Scott wanted to pull him closer. He could feel that Theo was struggling with the same desire.

“You are not going to be alone this time.” he whispered. 

“Scott, you have so much on your shoulders already,” Theo said weakly, “Do you really want all this shit in your life too? Do you really want—”

Scott interrupted him, his hands gripping his shoulders.

Yes.” he said, unwaveringly. “Because there is more to you than just ‘this shit’. There’s the kid I used to skateboard with. And the person that I’ve spent the last several months growing closer to. And the parts of you that you haven’t had the chance to discover yet — they’re all you too.”

*     *     *

Theo stared into Scott’s eyes, searching for a fragment of doubt or flicker of deceit, but of course he found none. Because that wasn’t who Scott was. He didn’t trick or use people. He didn’t offer fragile promises begging to be broken. He didn’t say things that he didn’t mean. 

Scott didn’t promise that things would be easy. He didn’t promise that it would be fun. He didn’t promise that his sins would suddenly evaporate and that he could instantly be a whole person. But he promised that he could be more than what he had been, and insisted that it would be worth fighting for.

He’d once hated Scott for what he had deemed ‘fool’s optimism’. His believe in the goodness of all people. The belief that there was almost nothing that couldn’t be saved. That it was always worth trying for. It was something that he’d used against him. He’d hated it, but some part of him had admired it as well.

It wasn’t until after Theo had tried to kill him, when he realized that Scott still didn’t hate him, that he somehow felt sad for him...that he’d started to wonder if it was something more than blind idealism. He would never have admitted it then, but that was when he’d truly started to fall for Scott. His grade school crush reignited in a way that he couldn’t even begin to comprehend.

That was the reason that he had been able to recognize Scott when all of his other memories had faded into darkness. Because even if he didn’t understand it, something in him knew he would be safe with him. His soul remembered when his mind could not.

Now, in the stale, cold air of the Dread Doctors chambers, he could feel the warmth of Scott’s hands pressing into him, radiating through his shoulders and into his chest. The warmth he had grown used to over the past several months. That he’d feared he wouldn’t be able to turn away from if he came into contact with it again.

The fear had been valid. He wanted, now more than ever, to be absorbed into it. To believe that somehow, things might be able to work out.

But could he really take that chance knowing what the consequences of failure would be?

*     *     *

Scott could see the resistance crumbling in Theo’s eyes.

“There’s still things you don’t know...” Theo argued, weakly. “I was with them for so long...the things I did...”

“I know there’s more.” Scott affirmed. “I know that there are things you haven’t told me yet, and I know that they’re probably going to be terrible. But, Theo, I want to know them. I want you to be able to tell me them. I don’t think that this will ever work if you can’t—”

Scott stopped mid-sentence.

Fuck. The way it sounded....he hadn’t meant for it to come out that way. 

“‘This’?” Theo repeated, his voice a strangled mix of hope and fear “Scott, what... is ‘this’?”

Heated shame rushed up Scott’s neck and singed his cheekbones. Guilt coiled like a snake in the pit of his stomach. He couldn’t let Theo think that he was just saying this because he wanted something from him. Theo had to understand that he would be there for him without strings attached. That it wasn’t dependent on anything happening between them — now or ever.

“I didn’t mean like...” Scott started again, uncomfortably. “I know that we talked about a lot of stuff over the past few weeks…but, Theo, I know now that you remember you might not want some of that anymore, and that’s oka—”

His sentence was cut short as Theo’s lips clashed desperately against his own.

Scott froze as he tasted the tantalizing faint vanilla-mint flavor of Theo’s breath. Felt the burning need sizzling on his near-trembling lip. But before he could decide if it was okay — if they were finally allowed to explore what they had denied themselves for months — Theo had pulled away. Shock and rejection written in the smooth features of his face. 

Scott had hesitated too long.

“I...” Theo stammered. “I’m sorry, I thought—”

Scott grabbed him, tugged him forward so fast Theo’s sneakers lost their footing on the floor. Scott crushed their lips together, his arm dipping out to catch Theo’s waist and keep him from crashing down onto concrete.

Theo’s arms fastened around him in return, as their lips locked in a deep and furious kiss.

*     *     *

Theo’s world was spinning. Scott’s kiss had been slow at first. Slow and careful. But, as Theo’s lips parted and it began to deepen, something seemed to snap inside him. Reservations shattered. The heat of Scott’s mouth banished all sense from Theo’s mind. The press of his fingers into his back obliterated all reason. 

His fingers twisted Scott’s hair. Scott’s grip on him tightened. 

Fear fled Theo’s chest as burning need rushed in to take its place. The cravings that had simmered beneath his skin for months — always told to be patient, to wait, to keep waiting — had now reached their boiling point. The questions his body had silently asked in the dark as he lay next to Scott each night now demanded full and immediate answering.

He pulled Scott closer. Hungrily drew on his lips as his fingers raked down the alpha’s neck and explored the hard contours of his shoulders. Scott let out a longing moan that Theo greedily swallowed down into his throat.

He needed this. He needed Scott closer. He needed Scott to fill every part of his being. To consume all the space left between them till there was no room left for fear or doubt. He burned to feel the pain of Scott pushing into him, and the release it would bring.

He stumbled backwards, pulling Scott with him till his back hit the cracked tiles of the wall and then kept pulling. 

*     *     *

Scott groaned as his body pressed into Theo’s, crushing him into the wall. Theo’s fingers were cold as they slipped down his back and underneath his shirt, but still sent waves of heat flaring through his blood. Theo pulled him closer and closer. The sound of his desperate breath was mesmerizing. The need radiating from his touch intoxicating.

Theo could have shut down. He could have closed him out. But he hadn’t.

Every move Theo made held an offering. Each motion a wordless invitation that he finally had the agency to give. Scott could finally accept that invitation. He craved to answer each and every one of them.

But as Theo reached for his belt a lightbulb sputtered and flickered above above them, causing the chimeras to momentarily freeze up.

“We should get out of here.” Scott whispered, reluctantly breaking their mouths apart.

No. ” Theo insisted and curled his fingers around the collar of Scott’s shirt, tugging him closer. “Let’s do this now.”

“Theo, I...” Scott hesitated, the air was thick with the scent of dried blood churning with their hormones. “Here?”

“I don’t want to wait anymore.” Theo reiterated, frustrated and breathlessly. “I don’t care where we do this as long as we do it right now. You said it — the Dread Doctors are gone, they’re not going to walk in on us. No one is going to walk in on us...”

There was a fear growing in Theo’s voice as he spoke. As if Scott would slip through his fingers if someone discovered them. Scott could feel the ghost of Stiles’ actions earlier that evening fighting to slip between them once again.

No one is taking me from you.” Scott growled possessively. “I am my own — adult — person, that makes my own decisions, and is in control of my own life. And so are you.”

“Now,” Scott fixed his eyes on Theo’s intently, “Do you really want to do this here?”

Yes.” Theo breathed, unwaveringly. “I really, really do.”

There was an iron workbench beside them, covered in tools that Scott would be happy to never know the use of. He cleared the surface with one rough sweep of his arm, sending them clanking noisily to the floor as he threw Theo down onto the counter and crawled on top of him.

*     *     *

Theo practically held his breath as Scott’s hands slipped underneath his clothes. 

It was the same strong and compassionate touch that he’d grown used to in the past several months — the hand that had brushed sticky hair away from his face as he woke from nightmares, the arms that had circled his waist and lent him their warmth in the treehouse, the strength that had playfully tackled him to the forest floor dozens of times, the touch he’d ached to feel pressed into every inch of his body — but now there was no attempt to mask or diminish the intensity in it. They were no longer separated by a shroud of secrets. 

He could feel Scott’s unbridled need in the eager press of his palm against his core. Sense the undisguised longing radiating through his fingertips as they caressed his skin. He eagerly returned the touch. Pushing Scott’s shirt up his back with both hands. Sliding his palms up Scott’s spine and spreading his fingers over the sinewy back of his shoulder blades. Scott leaned all of his weight into him, pressing Theo’s hips harder and harder into the iron surface till the restrictive denim of Theo’s jeans felt impossibly tight.

He could still hear the crackling light overhead. It’s sound remained present in his ears, threatening to drive his mind into flashes of vicious memory each time it fizzled or popped. He’d been laid out on this bench once before — when the Surgeon needed to look at him while the operating table was still occupied with another “guest”.

He didn’t mention that to Scott as he yanked the alpha’s shirt over his head and off his shoulders. He didn’t want to give Scott pause or do anything that could possibly cause this to stop. The harder the ambiance pressed in on him, the more he needed him close. The more he needed this to happen.

He needed to know that Scott could be in this room and still want him. He needed to know that the sensation of Scott’s breath on his neck, hot and comforting, would not fall cold on his skin. He needed to know that what he felt for Scott couldn’t be cancelled out by what had happened in this place.

Theo closed his eyes and buried his face into Scott’s neck. Breathed his scent deep into his lungs. Focused the sound of Scott’s heart beating against his own.

He could still feel the Surgeon’s hands on him in flashes every time he allowed the phantom sensations to creep in. Those iron-tipped gloves on his neck. Squeezing his throat. Pinning wrists. Pushing his chest down. Holding him in place. Helpless.

Suddenly—as if he could feel Theo slipping away— Scott’s fingers twisted tightly in his hair. Snapping his attention back to the present.

“I’ve got you.” Scott whispered, his mouth wet and hot against his ear. “Stay here with me.”

Theo’s eyes started to burn as Scott’s lips grazed down his neck. He tried to swallow the growing lump in his throat but as the alpha’s teeth clamped down on him he broke into a muffed sob. Hot tears rushed down the sides of his face. Scott’s arms squeezed him tighter. His nails dug into Scott’s back, pulling him closer. Scott’s teeth ground into his skin.

Need coiled in his core and spread through his limbs, escalating with the grinding of Scott’s teeth and the brush of his tongue. Scott’s hands were on his waist. Unbuckling, unbuttoning, unzipping.

He hastily fumbled to get Scott’s belt open and push his jeans down his hips. A growl vibrated through Scott’s teeth into his neck, sending shivers through his body as their mutual need pulsed between them. Theo clutched Scott’s lower back with both hands and arched his body to meet the slide of Scott’s hips against his. He was barely aware of the fact that he was panting till he nearly choked on a stray cluster of dust.

Butterflies jumbled in his stomach as Scott’s fingers hooked through his shoelaces and pulled the knots loose. There was something startlingly intimate about the careful way Scott slipped the stiff high tops of his sneakers over his heel. Something exposing in the way the stale air of the room crawled on the soles of his feet.

He’d never fucked with his shoes off before, much less had anyone take them off for him — and the idea of being barefoot in this place was unnerving. But he barely had time to register the feeling because a moment later Scott’s hand found his ankle and slid up his leg.

Scott’s arm slipped around his waist as he pulled Theo’s jeans further down his thighs. Theo prepared himself for the sensation of ice cold metal on his lower back, but instead felt the heat of Scott’s palm sliding up the back of his thigh and gripping him tightly. Goosebumps crested up his neck and down his spine as Scott’s finger brushed at his opening.

Unable to hold himself together through Scott’s careful testing, Theo took hold of his wrist and pushed his fingers past the tight ring of flesh. He felt Scott’s hardened length throb against his own. He continued to apply pressure to the back of his hand and pushed his hips deeper  into Scott’s palm, impatient to deepen the burn of his dry fingers rubbing him open.

Scott’s teeth broke away from his neck. Theo tried to meet his eyes, but for a terrible moment the cracks in the ceiling above them caught his attention instead. In a flash, the image of Scott was replaced with glassy lenses of the Surgeon’s eyes boring down on him.

He gasped, squeezing his eyes shut. 

When he reopened them, Scott’s eyes were waiting for him once again. Concern burning in the dim red glow of his irises.

Keep going,” Theo breathed, hooking his knee around Scott’s waist. Cold sweat beaded on the back of his neck and a sour taste entered his mouth. “Just, please...I want this. I swear, I want this...

He was determined to beat these phantom sensations. He would not let them win. He would not let them take this from him like they’d taken everything else.

Scott nodded and spat into his hand. A moment later Theo’s eyes were rolling back into his head, struggling to breathe as his body was gripped with dull burning pain and slow building pleasure.

*     *     *

Sweat rolled down Scott’s neck. Blood rushed loudly in his ears.

He could feel the specter of the Dread Doctors all around them. Not just in the feeling of the place, in its scent and its sounds, but in Theo himself. The Doctors were dead and gone but the mark of their work on him remained. Scott could feel it in the way Theo would suddenly flinch. See it in the shadows that would flicker in his eyes.

But the Doctors were not impossible to escape. Their grasp on Theo would break almost as quickly as it tried to ensnare him. Scott could banish the encroaching apparitions with a touch, brush them away with a whispered reassurance. 

Each time he did he could feel barriers breaking down. Theo’s thighs would tighten on his sides, his nails would dig deeper into his back. Their movements would grow rougher. More feral, and more intense.

Scott...” Theo’s voice, strained and breathy, sent impassioned shudders rippling down Scott’s spine.

He had almost lost Theo tonight, and he wasn’t about to again. 

He wouldn’t let the Dread Doctors steal him. Theo didn’t belong to them. Not here. Not anywhere. 

Their presence here was menacing. Their hold on him was strong. But it was not omnipotent. Not while Theo was fighting so hard to break away from it.

And Theo was fighting. Not to hide how deep the grooves they’d cut into him ran. Not to cover up what had been done to him, or what he had done to escape it. But fighting to leave his wounds open and raw and unguarded before Scott’s eyes.

It was strange not have to stave off the growing ferocity in his movements in the wake of Theo’s vulnerability, but Scott’s instincts spurred him on. The cut of Theo’s fingernails growing into claws against his skin, the feral moan that was building in the back of the chimeras throat with each hard thrust— those weren’t signs that Scott needed to pull back.

The less Scott tried to bridle the wolf’s urges, the easier it was for Theo to let go.

Fuck, Scott...” Theo panted again. “...Scott, fuck...”

The Doctor’s appearances became less frequent and more brief. Heat rose in their bodies and the room was filled with ragged breath and barely restrained growls. He bit down on Theo’s throat again and heard a satisfying rush of curses spill from his lips.

A gentle caress in Theo’s sweaty hair amidst a brutal thrust sent his body into convulsions and the entire world seemed to break apart around them.

*     *     *

It was several minutes before Theo could see the ceiling or feel the cold bite of the metal table beneath him again. His chest was still heaving beneath Scott’s when dust began to settle on his damp and sweaty skin.

“Okay,” Theo panted, as soon as the familiar cracks in the ceiling began to form before him. “Let’s go.”

Scott slowly rolled off the workbench, and Theo immediately missed warmth on his chest. He tried his best not to groan as he sat up and flexed the aching muscles of his back— reminding himself that he had been the one to insist that they hook up in a place whose only surfaces were made of metal and concrete.

He was eyeing the floor, searching for a patch that wasn’t covered in rust or stained with blood when Scott handed him both his shoes.

Theo searched Scott’s eyes as he accepted them.

He wasn’t quite sure where this left them. He hadn’t really thought past what would happen when they were finished. But he knew he didn’t want to stay in the chamber another minute longer.

He quickly pulled his pants and shoes on. He was still donning his shirt as he briskly ascended the stairs. 

Childish superstitions overcame him as he felt Scott fall into step behind him. He was afraid to turn around and face him. Fearful that if he did, he would wake from whatever dream this was. People weren’t allowed to crawl out of this hole all in one piece. If he turned around Scott would surely disappear. If they locked eyes, one of them would be swallowed up in the Underworld like Euridcye before Orpheus.

The night air outside was fresh and crisp, hitting him like a cold splash of water. A breeze whistled through the dark looming treetops above, carrying with it the familiar scents of spruce and pine. Scents Theo had long come to associate with his moments alone with Scott. 

He’d barely gotten a breath of it when he felt Scott’s hand fasten securely around his wrist.

Hey , ” Scott breathed, urgently, “You had better not be thinking about running right now.”

Fuck, he could see how Scott had gotten that impression with the way he’d rushed up the stairs.

“No.” he answered immediately, “I just...had to get out of there.”

“Oh” Scott sighed with relief, “Good.”

His fingers slipped from Theo’s wrist to gently stroke the back of his hand. It was strange but wonderful feeling.

“Are we....” Theo started, unsure of how to phrase his next question. “Are we going back to your house?”

Scott smiled, relieved.

“I certainly hope so.”

*     *     *

Scott kept Theo close to him as they wandered back over the waterfalls and mossy logs to the hill they’d tumbled down earlier that night. He’d be lying to himself if he didn’t admit that he was still slightly worried that Theo might still be a flight risk, but as they moved closer to the paths they’d taken so many times before, his concerns began to fade. With each step they took back to the house, he could feel the new compact between them growing stronger. Their commitment to it deepening.

Things were not about to be easy for either of them. They’d crossed only the first of what was sure to be many hurdles ahead of them in the upcoming weeks. They’d answered just one of a thousand hanging questions.

Scott was under no delusion that things would suddenly fall into place around them. He didn’t know if Theo would be able to open up as freely as he had previously. It may be more difficult for him now that he was no longer struggling to remember the things that haunted him. His demons were now free to spring up from the ground and barricade him within the walls that had imprisoned him for most of his life.

Then there was the rest of the pack. There was the pile of crime scene photos he’d seen at the Sheriff’s station. There was his fight with Stiles. Things had been heated enough when he’d taken off after Theo and left Stiles in the midst of a shouting match.

Scott wasn’t sure how to define his current relationship with Theo, much less how to reconcile it with that of his best friend

But what Scott did know, with more and more certainty with each step, was that they were both committed to facing it together. 

Theo hadn’t slipped through his fingers and back into the murky darkness. He had fought to stay with him. He was willing to face his deepest fears and darkest demons for the chance at standing by Scott’s side.

This was going to work. He could feel it.

They found the sports bag that Theo had dropped strewn across the overgrown roots of a large tree. A small thrill floated through his chest as he caught sight of a familiar paperback with a broken spine poking out of the half-zipped corner. But he kept his delight to himself and said nothing as Theo slung the bag over his shoulder.

His footsteps fell lighter on the forest floor after that. Even with everything they still had to face, a type of hope that he hadn’t felt for a very long time began to work it’s way through him. For the first time, he could truly begin to imagine what the future might hold without the axe of Theo’s remembrance hanging over his head.

As they emerged from the woods and onto the sidewalk that would carry them to the house Scott felt Theo begin to tense up beside him. A tension that grew stronger as they saw several cars parked in the driveway. The welcoming party would be in full effect.

He took Theo’s wrist in his hand.

“It’s going to be okay.” he affirmed.

“I’m not scared of them.” Theo objected, but didn’t pull out of Scott’ grip.

“I didn’t say you were scared,” Scott said, “I’m just saying that—”

“We decided that I’m staying.” Theo interrupted, breaking Scott’s hold on him, only to grab his palm and intertwined their fingers with an almost possessive squeeze, “I’m not going to leave just because Stiles doesn’t like it.”

Scott frowned at the acidic tone Theo took when mentioning the name of his best friend. Clearly there was going to be a lot of work to do on all sides of this. But the firmness, and the stubbornness with which Theo was holding his hand was too affirming to rebuke.

“Okay.” Scott nodded, “Let’s do this.”

*     *     *

Scott held Theo’s hand as they moved towards the house.

Theo found himself studying the dark curl of Scott’s hair on the back of his neck. The strong contours of his shoulders and arms. The stoic but graceful way he carried himself, preparing to face the mess that Theo had left behind him. He hadn’t been able to face Scott on the stairs of the Dread Doctors’ lab for fear that he might disappear, and now he was afraid to look away for the same reason.

He gripped Scott’s hand tighter as they ascended the stairs.

His mind flitted haphazardly between the inherent threat of the pack that waited for them inside the house, and recollection of all his earlier misconceptions about the nature of his and Scott’s relationship.

Why did he still feel as though Scott was about to be ripped away from him? Was he just so used to having the rug ripped out from underneath him that he couldn’t accept that just this one thing could possibly be stable?

No. It wasn’t just that. There was something else.

Something began to twist in the pit of his stomach as Scott let go of his hand and reached for the doorknob. An insidious instinct screaming at him from the back of his mind. He had forgotten something. Something important. Something he should have put together when his memories had come crashing back. 

There was another threat. Not the pack. Not Stiles.

There was a clear and present danger that had been in his midst for months. One that he had seen but been unable to recognize.

What though?

Theo wracked his brain as he followed Scott over the threshold and into the kitchen. 

What am I not putting together?

“Hey guys,” Scott started, addressing the group of familiar faces that were gathered in the room. “I—”

Theo’s eyes fell on one person in the room in particular. Suddenly it all clicked together, but it was too late. There was a rush of movement, and fifty thousand volts of electricity blasted through his veins. The room spun sideways. He was barely able to make out the shapes of the pack’s shocked expressions, before his face was shoved mercilessly into the wall.

Dad?” Scott’s shocked and furious voice sounded much farther away than it should. “Dad, what the fuck—”

“Yo, what the hell—” Stiles voice sounded, equally as far away. “Wait, what are you doing?” 

“Theo Raeken.” Rafael’s stern FBI voice recited in his ear as cold metal slipped around his wrists. “You are under arrest for the murders of Tara Raeken, Jonathan Raeken, Katherine Raeken and involvement in over eighteen other homicide and missing persons cases. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say—”

Scott —” Theo found himself calling out frantically as the handcuffs clicked together tightly.

“Dad, get your hands off of him!”

“We’ve got forensic evidence linking him to over twenty unsolved crime scenes, most of them missing children. I’m sorry, Scott. I get that you and your friends are special, but there’s a limit on what I can ignore.”

He should have known. He should have put it together faster.

Because he had met Rafael McCall before. Not just a few months ago in Beacon Hills Hospital. Not just back in fourth grade. 

But outside a rural town in Alabama. Three years ago.