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“You’re more resilient than we expected.” the man’s voice droned above him. “We’d hypothesized that your construction would make you weaker than a true werewolf, which may be true of your physical prowess, but your body does seem to be more resistant to a number of toxins that traditionally affect werewolves.”

“Thanks.” Theo panted through the pain. “Just what a boy loves to hear on a first date.”

Small ribbons of sweat began to trickle down his neck. It took all of his self-restraint not to fidget on the operating table where he was bound.

Theo’d been in this position enough times to know that struggling would only make the pain worse. It would aggravate the flesh around the needles stuck in him, cause the man’s tool to slip and cut him. His raised heart rate would only make the toxins work faster.

“You think this is our first date, do you?”

The man leering over him was wearing a stained surgeon’s mask that covered his mouth, but Theo could tell from the amused upturn in his voice and the cruel glimmer in his ice cold eyes that he was smiling.

“You don’t remember all the other times?”

A cold chill ran down Theo’s spine at the question.

He wasn’t expecting that answer.

“Very interesting.” the man observed him carefully. “Tell me, how long do you think you’ve been down here with me?”

Theo liked that question even less.

He wasn’t sure how long it had been since he’d been captured. Maybe a few days? A week at most?

“What month do you think it is?” the man asked, chilling Theo to the bone.

What month ?

The leather straps seemed to tighten around him, squeezing his chest so he couldn’t breathe properly.

It took Theo another moment to realize that the tightness was because he’d started trembling, and that him not being able to breathe had nothing to do with the binds.

The man laughed. A twisted horribly high pitched sound half muffled by the mask.

He couldn’t take it.

He could take the experiments, he could take the pain, he could take the long hours of confinement. The endless hours spent in the dark, the shackles, the dying screams of the other subjects. The annoying voice of the man leering above him, who probably considered his remarks clever.

He’d lived with the Dread Doctors for nearly ten years. He could stomach all of that.

What he couldn’t handle was the insinuation that he was losing his grip on reality. That he couldn’t tell if this man was just trying to fuck with his head...or if...he was losing it again.

Not sure what was real and what was dream.

Not again. Not again. Not ever again….

He couldn’t let it happen again.

“It’s…” Theo started slowly, hating that he was playing this man’s game. “It’s...November…”

The man stared at him.

“Very, very interesting.”

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

He could feel it closing in on him. That darkness. That sickness. Where he couldn’t tell what was up and what was down. What was real and what was nightmare.

Helpless. Trapped.

He couldn’t move. The man’s face started to blur before his eyes. Split from one man into three. Their collective features twisted in front of him. Became more and more grotesquely mechanical.

Please, stop …” he muttered.

Why did his voice sound different? High-pitched. Squirmy.

Not real. Not real. Not real.

Please, I’ll do anything …I’ll give you anything you want. Anything.”

No.

He couldn’t do this.

He didn’t want to remember that.

He didn’t want to remember anything.

 

*     *     *

 

“Stiles, you and Malia take the stairs. Liam, you guard the front. I’ll check the basement.” Scott said heavily. “See if they had anything else down there.”

Stiles nodded and followed Malia up the stairs.

“Another fun night in Beacon Hills.” Scott could hear Stiles remarking as they ascended the squeaking steps of the old house. “Man, I know I’m just gonna miss this so much when I’m slamming back shots with the other trainees at the FBI…”

“You don’t have to sit in summer school, so please shut up.” Malia snapped back at him.

Scott did his best to ignore the sinking feeling in his chest when he thought about the upcoming fall. And how everyday it seemed more and more likely that he would not be going anywhere.

He grabbed the locked doorknob that lead to the basement, and threw his shoulders against the wooden door.

It burst open without much fight. This lair had been built with secrecy in mind, not fortitude.

The smell that hit his nostrils the moment the door splintered was rank.

But it wasn’t just the scent.

It was the chemosignals.

People had died down here. People like him. People like Malia and Lydia and Liam.

Their lives snuffed out for the sake of these hunters and their experiments. Their endless quest to find out the most effective way to put an end to anyone and everyone that was different.

His stomach twisted and turned as he made his way down into a makeshift operating theatre.

Dark crusted splatters of blood lined the floor and the operating table, that was equipped with a set of worn leather straps. Cruel tools and jars of items that Scott didn’t even want to know the contents of lined the walls.

Maybe Stiles was right, and they should burn this place to the ground when they left.

He squinted, quickly scanning the shelves for something that might hold the man’s research. They hadn’t been able to catch the man that owned this place, but he’d fled in such a rush he was bound to have left something.

Anything that might help them figure out what he and the other hunters were planning.

It was then that he heard it.

The low drumming of a heartbeat.

He quickly turned around, but there was no one there. Just another wall of shelves and messy blood-stained items.

Wait a minute.

Scott moved to the shelf and slowly pulled objects off items till he found what he was looking for: a lever.

The shelf slid to the side, revealing a short dark hallway. The air was so stagnant and hot Scott almost choked on it.

The heartbeat quickened, but Scott knew it wasn’t a threat.

The hall was lined with cages, and the owner of the frightened heartbeat was curled up within one. Scott could only make out the shape, trembling with it’s knees drawn up to it’s chest and it’s back against farthest wall.

*     *     *

 

Theo had no idea where he was, or how he got there. He didn’t know why he feared the door opening. He just knew that he did.

He knew that he had a life of some kind out of this dark box, but he couldn’t remember what it had been. He didn’t even know if it was any better than where he was.

But when the shape of a man stepped through the door, Theo knew that it wasn’t the person that normally came for him. This was someone else.

It dawned on him that this person wasn’t a stranger. He knew who this was.

He recognized the warm and wholesome scent. The shape of his silhouette. The rhythm of his heart, beating with concern.

Scott? ” he whispered.

As he felt the name roll on his tongue, he realized that he didn’t just know Scott. Scott was important to him.

His heart began to pound painfully in his chest as he started to remember that Scott was his Alpha. Or an Alpha. Probably his. Why else would he feel every bone in his body ache to feel him move closer?

 

*     *     *

Scott’s blood turned cold.

He knew that voice. And the last time he’d heard it, the person it belonged to had been trying to kill him and his entire pack.

The rational part of his brain screamed at him that he should call the others before he took another step forward, yet he found himself moving towards the cell in spite of it.

Theo’s voice, low and scared, tugged at his heart despite everything that had transpired between them.

Much like when Theo’d first returned to Beacon Hills, Scott found himself falling under the spell of his voice and the aching notes of need that rode beneath its current.

Maybe if another member of the pack had been with him, then he would have been able to resist it. For their sake. To protect them.

But with just him and Theo in the thick and heedy darkness, he couldn’t turn away from him.

Even if it was just for a minute to call the others for help.

There was a lock on the gate to Theo’s makeshift cell, but it was no match for the strength of an Alpha. Scott snapped it off easily in his hand and pushed the iron gate open.

“Theo?” he asked, slowly ducking into the cell. “Is that you?”

Theo’s feet were bare and his ankles were shackled to the floor. His nearly bone-white skin was covered in dark splotchy blue and purple bruises. His lower lip defaced with crusted scabs, like he’d bit through it over and over and over again.

Something had been keeping him from healing.

“Scott?” Theo asked again as Scott crept closer, this time his voice broke into a half sob. “You came for me?”

Guilt rippled in Scott’s chest at the assumption.

He hadn’t, although he probably would have if he knew this was where Theo was.

“I’m gonna get you out of here.” he assured him, slowly reaching for his arm. “Okay?”

Theo jumped when Scott’s fingers made contact with his skin. Recoiling, automatically. His body shaking.

“Theo, it’s okay.” Scott whispered. “I won’t hurt you.”

Theo let out a choked sound as water began to gather at the corners of his eyes and trail down his cheeks. It slid down to his neck, following a raw path of aggravated skin that had been paved through the caked dirt and dried sweat by earlier streams of tears.

I should have stopped this. Scott thought, even though there was no way that he could have. I should have stopped this somehow...

It was with stabbing pain in his heart as he slowly pulled Theo’s arms away from his knees.

Theo’s chest was a mess. The dark bruises continued down his neck and collarbone. The flesh of his chest was laced with what seemed like a thousand stitches, visible through the slashes in his dirty tshirt. His body cut up and carelessly sewn back together like a ragdoll.

What had they done to him?

“Listen, Theo, it’s gonna be oka-” but Scott didn’t get to finish his sentence.

Theo moved forward. Reached for Scott’s chest.

Scott’s eyes widened. His heart pounding, the memory of Theo’s claws above him flashed in his mind’s eye. The crazed cold look in his eyes in the library as he tore through his flesh.

He recoiled, instinctively as Theo’s fingertips grazed his abdomen. Jerked backwards.

Theo quickly drew his hand back to his chest. His fingers curled into a tight fist, his trembling worsened.

A second wave of guilt moved through him as the adrenaline cooled in his veins and he realized Theo was only reaching for help. Theo couldn’t have hurt him right now even if he wanted to.

There was a thudding sound above them. Someone, probably Liam from the sound of the gait, moving down the stairs.

Theo’s breath became more erratic at the sound. His eyes widening and his pulse skyrocketing.

“It’s okay, I’m not gonna let anyone hurt you.” he said, moving closer to Theo again. “Come here…”

Theo looked at him unsurely for a moment, before slowly inching forward.

Scott took hold of the chain on his ankle and snapped it apart. It left the cuff still around Theo, but they could remove it later. He put his arm around Theo’s waist, and slowly lifted them both up off the ground.

 

*     *     *

Theo has to fight the urge to wriggle away as Scott’s arm wrapped around his waist.

He knew Scott was here to help him. It was one of the only things that he knew.

But that didn’t stop his heart from racing, or his heels from wanting to dig into the ground as Scott pulled him to the door.

Only bad things happened through that door.

“No!” he began to hyperventilate, and tried to pull back. “ No…”

Scott didn’t drag him forward but he didn’t let go of him either.

“Don’t worry.” Scott assured him again, his grip gentle but firm. “I’ve got you.”

Something about the tone of his voice was soothing. Trustworthy.

He tried to stop his breath from coming out in rapid coughs. Scott pulled him a little closer. He felt the warm and pleasant scent of his skin invade his senses. The steady rhythm of his heart.

Alpha.

He buried his face into Scott’s neck, and clinging to Scott’s torso. There was a stiffness in Scott’s body when he did that, like he was surprised, but Theo couldn’t understand why.

He allowed himself to be brought into the operating room, where there was a another looking around.

He was shorter than Scott, with a pointed nose and long bangs.

*     *     *

Liam’s nostrils flared the moment he saw Theo draped over Scott.

“Li-” Scott started, but before he had a chance to explain, a roar ripped from Liam’s mouth and he lunged forward.

Theo’s grip on him tightened, pulling him closer but not in the way that Scott would have expected.

As Liam charged them, Theo didn’t shrink away or try to use Scott’s body to shield himself. He shifted, but he shifted the weight of his weak body to cover Scott.

Almost like he was trying to protect him.

LIAM! ” Scott roared at his beta, freezing him in place.

“What...” Liam managed to get out, chest still heaving. “...the hell is he doing here?”

Theo’s arms squeezed tightly around his waist.

“Liam, calm down .” Scott said sternly. “I found him chained up in a cage.”

He could hear Stiles and Malia suddenly rushing down the stairs.

“Go upstairs and tell them I’m coming up and bringing Theo with me.” Scott said, hoping to avoid a second round of surprised roars and yelling.

“But-”

“Liam, please !”

Liam’s face twisted into a sour grimace, but he quickly shot up the stairs.

“Scott…” Theo whispered. “Who was that?”



 

Chapter Text

“So you’re saying he doesn’t remember anything ?” Stiles asked, not making even the smallest amount of effort to mask his skepticism as he paced around the clinic.

“No, he seems to remember some things, just no personal memories.” Deaton explained. “He remembers his name, and seems to have a good deal of knowledge about werewolves. He knows what state we’re in and what year it is...”

“But none of the shitty things he did?” Stiles cut in, scathingly. “How very convenient for him...”

“He knew me.” Scott pointed out. “That doesn’t count as a personal memory?”

“Vaguely, yes.” Deaton agreed. “Also the fact that you’re the Alpha seems to have solidified in his mind.”

“Yet again, how very convenient.” Stiles went on. “He can remember just enough to help himself into our pack.”

“What are you suggesting, Stiles?” Scott asked, exasperated. “That he got himself caught and drugged and tortured for almost seven months just so when I showed up he’d be able to make me feel bad for him?”

“No.” Stiles said. “He wouldn’t have needed to get himself caught on purpose. He could have just gotten himself there on his own, rotted down there for a while, then when he sees you he sees his way out. All he needs to do is get you a new sob story that completely nullifies anything he should be held accountable for.”

“And you think he came up with all of that, right on the spot, in the kind of condition we found him in?”

“You don’t think he could?”

“What I’m wondering…” Malia interjected, slipping off one of the metal counters to stand next to Stiles. “Is why it even matters? He’s still Theo, right? I say we kill him.”

“Babe, you know we don’t kill people.” Stiles saved Scott the trouble of having to say. “No matter how much they really deserve it.”

He looked at Scott pointedly as he spoke the second sentence.

It took everything in Scott not to roll his eyes.

He was just as concerned as Stiles was about this entire situation. He knew more than anyone else, just how hard he’d fallen for Theo’s lies in the past.

But he’d just spent the entire ride back to Beacon Hills sitting in the backseat of the Jeep, with Theo clinging to him like his life depended on it. He’d listened to him quietly gasp as he drew thick dark bands of pain from his body. Watched him fall into an exhausted but uneasy sleep.

It really didn’t feel like Theo was lying.

“We’re not killing him.” Scott affirmed. “With his memories, or without.”

“Well, how about this,” Stiles suggested. “If he’s really lost his memories, then he’s crazy, and belongs in Eichen House. If he hasn’t, and he’s still the sociopathic liar he’s always been, then he still goes to Eichen House. Either way, seems like a win.”

Scott watched Lydia’s back stiffen at the suggestion.

“Yeah…” she said, quietly. “Eichen House is always a win . Let’s send him there. That way he can have a hole in his head by the end of the week….”

“Yeah.” Malia, not picking up on Lydia’s sarcasm, nodded her head enthusiastically. “That sounds like a great plan. Then Theo’s still dead, but we didn’t have to kill him!”

“Lyds, you do remember that he’s the one that put you in Eichen?” Stiles said. “Right?”

“No, he didn’t.” Lydia responded. “My mother did that.”

“Yeah, because you were comatose from what he did to you!” Stiles objected. “Like have we all just forgotten this stuff?”

“I think Stiles is right.” Liam piped up from the sofa. “Theo’s dangerous, and yeah, we can’t kill him...but Eichen makes sense.”

For some reason the thought of that made Scott’s chest ache.

He knows that he can’t just let Theo go free. But...

“He’ll...never get any help there.” Scott said, slowly.

Help?” Stiles nearly choked. “We’re worried about helping him now?”

“Oh, come on , Stiles he obviously needs help!” Scott shot back. “Even before this, he clearly needed help. He’s sick.”

“He’s a murderer is what he is.” Stiles seethed. “A murderer, and a liar, and an expert at getting people to want to lick his wounds for him.”

Scott looked away.

He knew full well that by “people” Stiles meant just him. And it stung.

To Stiles, Theo was just someone that had come between them. Someone that Scott had mistakenly put his faith in. That had taken advantage of his kindness and willingness to believe the best in people.

Theo’s betrayal had made everything less complicated for Stiles. The wool had been pulled from Scott’s eyes. Everyone got to see how Stiles had been right from the very start.  

Scott was the one left looking like idiot for believing that Theo actually cared about him. Needed him. Wanted to be with him and his pack.

Stiles didn’t understand the pain that Scott felt every time he thought about Theo.

He didn’t understand that every time Scott saw Theo, he could picture him eight years old, wheezing and terrified, as he had his first asthma attack. Or of how it twisted Scott’s soul to look into Theo’s cold manipulative eyes and wonder how he became that way.

Stiles hated how Scott’s heart had softened when Theo first came back to Beacon Hills, spilling out his story about needing a pack and an Alpha.

But to Scott, Theo had appeared not just as an old friend, but as a fellow werewolf in need. A werewolf Scott’s age, bearing a similar story to himself. Someone he could help.

Theo’s needy omega wolf eyes had stirred his bones in way that he’d never felt before.

This is what it’s all about. He’d thought. This is why Derek called the Bite a gift.

This. This connection.

He wanted Theo to be his, and he’d stupidly believed that Theo wanted the same thing.

Stiles had no idea how agonizing and humiliating it had been to find out that it had been a lie.

“There is another option.” Deaton said, breaking the tension that had coiled in the room. “We could give him a test to see if he’s lying.”

“Oh you mean like listening to his heartbeat stay steady while he lies his ass off and makes eyes at Scott?” Stiles scoffed. “Yeah, that worked out so well for us last time.”

“No.” Deaton said patiently. “Not using Scott’s abilities. Someone else…”

His eyes fell on Lydia.

*     *     *

 

“You want me to put this on?” Theo asked, eyeing the device the the veterinarian handed him.

“Yes.” The vet confirmed. “Place the readers on your temples and just lay back and relax.”

He didn’t like the looks of it. The wires connecting to the receptors could easily be used to administer a shock.

“I don’t want to.” he said, nervously.

“Oh, what a surprise.” The boy with messy dark hair quipped from the corner of the room. “Let me guess, now you suddenly have a memory that makes you terrified of any kind of medical equipment?”

“N-no.” Theo said, looking to Scott for help. “I just…”

“It’s okay.” Scott said, putting a hand on his shoulder and shooting an unhappy look at the dark-haired boy. “It’s not going to hurt. It’s just going to help us see what’s going on with you. Alright?”

Theo bit his lip and looked down at the receptors.

His fingers shaking slightly, he placed them on his temples.

The girl with long red hair then stepped forward, picked up the other set of receivers, and placed them on her forehead.

*     *     *

Theo’s pleading eyes were nearly impossible to look away from.

The kind of scared and helpless that Scott was sure could melt even the coldest heart of stone.

It didn’t help that his skin was still mared and discolored with scabs and bruises (whatever poison he’d been administered was working its way out of his system very slowly) or that he was wrapped in one of Scott’s spare hoodies that he kept at the clinic.

“Just lay back and close your eyes, okay?” Scott said softly, putting a very gentle amount of pressure on Theo’s shoulder.

Theo sank back onto the makeshift hospital bed.

When Scott made to step away, Theo’s hand shot out and caught his arm.

His grip was weak but desperate.

Please …” he whispered, his lip quivering.

If Stiles was right, and this was just an elaborate ruse to get Scott to want take care of him again, it was really working.

Scott could feel Stiles eyes staring daggers at the place where Theo gripped his arm.

Scott ignored it.

“Okay.” he said, letting Theo hold on to him still as he looked up at Deaton. “We’re ready.”

The procedure itself, didn’t take more than ten minutes.

Theo closed his eyes. Lydia closed hers. Her face scrunched up in focus. His grip tightened on Scott’s arm.

For once the pack was quiet. Waiting for Lydia’s determination.

When she pulled the receptors off and and confirmed that Theo couldn’t remember anything Scott released a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding. Stiles sucked in one.

*     *     *

 

Theo had the vaguest sense that he’d been in Scott’s house before, though he couldn’t recall what each room looked like until he stepped into them. They felt warm and wholesome, yet somehow unwelcoming.

Like the walls and the floors remembered more about him then he did about them.

As he soaked in the bath he couldn’t help but wonder why the house didn’t seem to like him very much. And why the pack seemed to reflect a similar sentiment.

After Lydia had declared her observations the pack had adjourned to the waiting room and proceeded to have what sounded like a very heated argument.

He was pretty sure Stiles, the dark haired boy, straight up hated him.

But why?

Wasn’t he pack? Didn’t he belong with them?

He turned onto his side, burying half his body in the warm water and letting his arm dangle over the side of the tub.

What exactly was his relationship with Scott?

If Scott hadn’t given him the Bite, then who had?

He slipped his head beneath the water.

As he did, he felt the beginnings of a memory start to ripple in the deep recesses of his mind.

He reached for it, but when he did an ice cold shiver ran down his spine.

He shot up, gasping for breath as water and sweat rolled down his neck.

Nothing.

He remembered nothing.

*     *     *

Scott waited apprehensively downstairs in the living room, texting his mother, whom he was glad was working a double shift tonight.

She, like the rest of the pack, did not approve of his decision.

He was happy to be able to have the conversation through text message, because he knew that she would be even more upset at the idea that Theo would be staying with them than the rest of the pack.

It took nearly an hour of texting before she agreed to let him stay even for the night.

Scott completely understood her reasons.

But he couldn’t send Theo to Eichen House. He just couldn’t.

Not the way he was right now.

His mind too fragile and vulnerable. His memories a blank slate.

Well, not entirely blank. Deaton said his memories weren’t gone. They were repressed. They could come back at any time. Or they might never come back at all. Only time could tell.

But in Eichen House Theo’s unguarded mind would be at the mercy of anyone that had less than altruistic intentions. And Scott couldn’t trust the staff at Eichen anymore than the inmates.

There were no guarantees that someone wouldn’t take very serious advantage of him.

And then there was the fact that Theo, in his vulnerable state, had latched on to him.

It could have been because he’d been the one that save him. Some kind of Stockholm Syndrome. Or it could be that his werewolf instincts drew him to the Alpha.

But regardless of the reason, Theo’s attachment wasn’t something he could just brush off.

Throwing him to Eichen House when he earnestly wanted help was not an option. No matter how much the rest of the pack wanted to pretend it was.

He wasn’t sure what he was going to do, other than try to figure it out as he went.

He’d gotten this far in much the same way.

When he’d first chosen to take a stand against Peter, against Derek, against any of the other challenges he’d faced in the past three years, there had been no clear path forward. No third option until he’d found a way to make one for himself.

He just wouldn’t do something that he felt was wrong. His instincts told him he’d be able to find another way. So he would.

“Scott?”

Theo’s voice sent shivers down his spine.

Scott looked up from his phone to see Theo peering at him from the bottom of the stairs.

His hair was damp, his bangs falling into his eyes. The pajamas that Scott had given him hung loosely on his underfed body.

It might have been a mistake to let Theo wear his clothes and let his scent cradle Theo’s.

He wasn’t exactly comfortable with how the wolf within him was responding to it.

Just like he wasn’t comfortable with the way that Theo had made him feel in the weeks that followed his betrayal.

Scott had thought that the slow-growing feelings that he’d felt for Theo would have disappeared the moment Theo’s claws cut into him. The moment he’d realized Theo was trying to take his pack from him.

But they hadn’t.

In some ways, knowing Theo’s involvement with the Dread Doctors had made the aching need to pull him closer even worse.

“Can I sit with you?” Theo asked.

“Yeah.” Scott said, moving over to make room for him.

Theo settled himself down beside him and drew his legs up to his chest, letting his toes curl on the edge of the cushion between them.

Scott couldn’t help but notice the cruel scabs that snaked up his bruised feet and disappeared under the hem of his borrowed black sweatpants.

“How are you feeling?” Scott asked, trying to push the feeling down.

“Okay.” Theo said. “Scott…”

Scott really wished he didn’t feel an aching thrumming feeling in his chest every time Theo said his name like that.

“What are we to one another?”

Scott swallowed.

He didn’t know how to answer that.

“Things were…” he searched for the right word. “Complicated between us.”

*     *     *

Things were complicated between us.

Theo mulled over all of the things that could possibly mean.

“You didn’t give me the Bite though, did you?” he asked after a long moment.

“No.” Scott said, looking down. “No, I didn’t.”

Theo could sense a small pang of regret in his voice.

“Did you want to Bite me?” Theo pressed, hoping to learn more about what Scott felt about him.

Maybe Scott had wanted to Bite him but someone else had gotten there first. Maybe that’s why it was complicated. Theo technically belonged to some other pack but he and Scott had this connection.

Theo couldn’t remember this other Alpha or this other pack, but he suddenly knew that he didn’t want to be with them.

He wanted to be with Scott.

“Theo, I…” Scott said, shifting . “I don’t want to answer too many questions about you. It could interfere with you remembering things correctly. Color your memories. Reshape them.”

“But I asked about you.” Theo pointed out, unhappy that he was hitting such resistance to what seemed like it should be a simple question. “You can’t tell me if you wanted to Bite me?”

“Well, the answer to that is complicated .” Scott answered again.

Theo tilted his head, taking in the tension in Scott’s shoulders. The sadness in his heartbeat. The way he seemed to be pointedly not looking at anywhere his clothes hugged his body.

...

Did Scott like him?

Did he like Scott?

His eyes traveled over Scott’s dark eyelashes. The edges of his hair. The contours of his arms. He couldn’t help but notice the way his caramel skin seemed to glow in the dim light of the living room. Or how the dark bands of his tattoos hugged his tired but strong arms.

Yes. He realized, his heart thudding heavily in his chest. He did like Scott.

Was Scott his boyfriend?

He felt excitement move through him at that thought.

Could that be why Scott was so reluctant to disclose the nature of their relationship?

Having an intimate relationship and then Theo not remembering any of it would certainly be complicated.

He wanted to ask, but he knew that Scott would likely refuse to answer.

He’d have to try something else.

He slid closer to Scott on the sofa.

*     *     *

“Do you...want to Bite me, now?”

Scott felt blood flush his cheeks.

“Wha-what?” he choked.

“Do you want to Bite me?” Theo repeated, sliding so close they were nearly touching. “Like, right now?”

He slipped his fingers into the neckline of his t-shirt and dipped it down towards his shoulder, exposing a pleasing soft patch of skin to Scott. Bared his throat.

“Theo, that…” Scott said. “that doesn’t even make any sense…”

Except it did make sense.

Scott’s blood turned to ice in his veins as he began to fear a trap, and at the same time a heat coiled in the pit of his stomach.

Was Theo trying to get the Bite so he could try to kill him and take the True Alphas powers again?

Or was he just so entirely confused and desperate to belong to an Alpha and a pack that would protect him, that he was acting on pure instinct.

Caving to primal impulses was the struggle of all werewolves. Impulsivity one of the trademarks of a sociopath.

Which was this? And did it matter?

“I want you to…” Theo breathed, moving even closer to him.

Scott could feel Theo’s breath rolling on his face.

Theo reached for his arm, his touch was gentle and enticing. His eyes wide and searching.

All of the signals radiating from his body screamed that he was speaking the truth, that he did just want to belong with him. Scott could feel the wolf within him growling hungrily in return.

Scott stood up abruptly, breaking away from Theo’s touch.

“Theo, you need to never ask me to do that again.” he said, firmly. “Things are...very very complicated, and if Stiles heard you saying that he would freak .”

And because I can’t trust myself not to do something really stupid.

Scott thought, darkly.

Theo looked crestfallen.

“Is...is Stiles your boyfriend?” he asked.

“What?” Scott asked, mystified as to where the question was coming from. “N-no. Why would you think that?”

“He’s possessive of you.” Theo answered honestly.

“He’s…” Scott searched for the word. “He’s a bit overprotective. Of me and the rest of the pack.”

“But especially you.”

“Theo, no.” Scott corrected him. “I mean, yes, I guess he is kind of possessive, but it’s not like that. We’ve been friends our whole life, he’s basically a brother to me. And vice versa.”

He would laugh if it weren’t for the fact that he was so grossed out by the idea, and disturbed by the fact that Theo, with only a few hours of knowing them, had identified Stiles as possessive.

But then again, Theo had always brought out the worst in Stiles.

Even back in fourth grade.

For some reason, Theo seemed less put out than a moment earlier.

"Do you have a boyfriend?” he asked. “Or a girlfriend?”

Scott swallowed.

His mind tumbled back to watching Kira, disappearing into the dust.

“Don’t wait for me.” She’d said. “I could be gone for years, and we don’t know how either of us will feel when I’m finally free.”

He’d argued that he would always care about her. She agreed she’d always care about him.

But neither of them had been able to promise how they would care about one another.

He wasn’t dating Kira anymore, but he still felt like he was.

He wasn’t dating Allison anymore, but he still felt like he was.

And yet, despite feeling attached to both, he felt completely and entirely alone.

“That’s…” Scott began, heavily.

“Complicated?” Theo supplied.

Scott nodded.

Again, Theo’s response surprised him. He was expecting frustration at the lack of answers, but Theo seemed to accept this new piece of information as if it confirmed some other question that he had not asked directly.

“Maybe you should just relax tonight, and not push yourself to remember anything yet.” Scott suggested, cautiously sitting back down on the sofa. “Do you want to watch a movie?

“Sure.” Theo consented, sliding over to make room for him.

Scott could feel Theo watching him as he flicked through options on Netflix.

“Can I...sit next to you?” Theo asked him once he’d settled on a film.

Scott considered the request. He fully understood that Theo wasn’t really asking to sit next to him. He was asking if he could sit close to him.

After a moment’s contemplation, he nodded.

He could hear Theo’s heart beating happily as he crawled closer.

Somewhat apprehensive, Scott let Theo nestle himself against his side.

As the movie began to play, he could feel the weak rise and fall of Theo’s breathing. Before he knew it he was relaxing into it.

He slowly let his his arm drape over Theo, whose head was now resting on Scott’s chest like a pillow. Theo sighed quietly and went almost entirely limb against him.

It shouldn’t feel good to have Theo curled up against him, but it did.

He’d spent the past several months slowly preparing himself for the day that Stiles, Lydia, and Malia would all leave. He pretended for them, and for his mother, that he would be going to college as well. But in his heart, he knew that he wasn’t.

Beacon Hills needed it’s protector. It needed the True Alpha.

But as Theo leaned into him, clung to him, Scott began to remember what it felt like to be needed.

Not as the Protector of Beacon Hills, but just for himself.

*     *     *

Theo’s eyes soon began to droop, his exhausted body ready to give itself over to what seemed to be the first good sleep he’d had in a long time.

He soaked into the heat of Scott’s body, breathed in his scent.

No.

He realized, just as he began to drift to sleep.

He didn’t like Scott.

He loved him.

Chapter Text

“Well, that’s just awesome.” Stiles spat, hardly able to believe that he was having to listen to this. “Do you have any other great ideas you want to share?”

“Stiles, please .” Scott was pinching the bridge of his nose like he had a migraine. “He’s just trying to help, like we all are.”

“Yeah, help us all to the bottom of an ice cold riverbed.”

Stiles kept his eyes trained on Theo, hoping to gauge his reaction, see if there was any flickering of a memory in his eyes, but Theo didn’t look anything other than confused and slightly pissed off.

Like he knew that was a jab with some weight behind it, but couldn’t understand why.

Stiles! ” Scott raised his voice this time, shocked. “Kitchen. Now .”

“Alright, alright, get your paws off me, I’m coming.” Stiles brushed Scott’s hand off his elbow and followed him into the kitchen.

It had been over three days since they’d found Theo Raeken shackled and caged in the basement of one of the hunters that they’d been investigating. Four hundred and eighty-two and a half hours to be precise.

Stiles knew because that’s how long it had been since he had a good night’s sleep.

“What the hell was that?” Scott demanded, the moment the door was closed and he’d turned on the blender to block the sound of their conversation from finding supernatural ears.

Scott was extra careful about such things these days. Anything to keep the poor little fragile sociopath in blissful ignorance of his past crimes. It made Stiles want to vomit.

“Oh, come on , Scott how long do you plan to keep this up?” Stiles demanded. “You actually expect me to sit here and pretend that he isn’t who he is? That him being here is somehow alright?”

“No, of course I don’t expect you to do that.” Scott said. “But, you can’t interfere with him recovering his-”

Why ?” Stiles demanded. “Why do you care about him getting his memories back so badly? And what the hell are you planning to do when he does remember? That is, of course, assuming that he hasn’t already and is just playing along, biding time til-”

“Stiles, stop .” Scott nearly growled at him. “You think it would be fair to him, or anyone, to tell them what they are instead of letting it come to themselves?”

“You can’t shelter him from himself!” Stiles raged.

“And that’s what you want him to remember first?” Scott demanded. “Him killing his sister ?”

“Scott, I didn’t make him do that. He did that all on his own.”

“You don’t know if it was all on his own. The Dread Doctors, they-”

“Oh, don’t start with that! Even if they influenced him, and I for one am not entirely convinced that they did, he still made that choice! It’s not my fault he killed his sister. It’s not my fault he fucked us all sideways, and it’s not my fault he killed you either.”

Scott’s fingers were clenched into a fist. He was taking deep breaths. Almost like he was struggling to control the shift.

It was the most angry Stiles had seen him in a long time.

“Scott, what are you hoping for here?” Stiles asked.

This time he softened his voice. Not because he was afraid of Scott hurting him, he knew Scott would never, but because he could see how his words were cutting into him. Picking at him like knife.

It reminded him of the way Scott had looked on the hospital floor as he’d raged at him.

Stiles had been out of his mind with fury. Terrified of losing his Dad. He didn’t want to do that again. But he could feel himself getting that mad. That scared by Theo’s presence.

He needed to calm down. He needed to get Scott to see the risks. And he needed to try to do it without making Scott feel like he was being kicked in the teeth.

“I just don’t understand what you’re expecting will happen.” he went on, more cautiously. “Let’s say he doesn’t remember - we’re gonna keep walking on eggshells thinking about the day he does?”

“He will remember.” Scott said, not looking him in the eyes. “Small things are starting to come back. Like he remembered that he can speak German and Russian, and yesterday he said he thought he could remember breaking his wrist skateboarding and he did sprain it back in fourth grade, I don’t know if you remember but-”

“Okay, great.” Stiles interrupted, trying his hardest not to let the edge creep back into his voice but not entirely succeeding. “Then let’s say he remembers. Now he’s right back to Theo The Psychopath Raeken, ready to cut your throat in your sleep…”

“I’ve been talking to Deaton and Morrell.” Scott started slowly. “They have some old journals written by a Druid in the eighteen hundreds that was trying to ‘cure’ a friend that had received the Bite. We know that’s impossible, but this guy actually did a ton of research about the psychology of supernatural beings. So we’re cross referencing them with modern psychology-”

“That’s wonderful.” Stiles hated himself a little for how mean he sounded, but was unable to stop it. “And?”

“And…” Scott started, painfully. “I think that maybe, if we can give him the help he needs now, then when his his memories come back…”

“He’ll what, be able to change who he is?”

“He’ll stand a chance at overcoming his challenges.” Scott said. “Back in fourth grade, he needed that help, and instead of that he got... them . I want to give him an actual chance.”

Stiles exhaled a deep frustrated breath. Dragged a hand through his hair and down his face.

“And what if it doesn’t work?” he asked through his fingers.

Scott didn’t answer.

But he didn’t have to. Stiles already knew.

Scott didn’t know.

*     *     *

Theo peered at the map of Beacon Hills and the surrounding areas that Stiles had rolled out over the dining room table.

It’s surface was marked up with lists of chemicals, artifacts, location details, and the names of missing people. Theo’s name was written next to the spot that Scott had found him three days ago.

The moves of the hunters were mystifying to the pack. Stiles was convinced that there was something connecting their actions, that they weren’t random acts of violence and theft, that they were calculated. All aimed at achieving a specific end that none of them could figure out.\

As Theo’s eyes scanned the lists and locations, he couldn’t help but feel like there was something familiar about them.

But just like when he reached for his other memories, all he was able to find was a thick and chilling darkness.

He shivered. Shook his head.

Malia and Liam were both squinting at the lists, also to no avail. Lydia was leaning against the wall near the kitchen door.

They could all hear Stiles and Scott in the kitchen. Fighting about him. Again.

Stiles voice was shouting, Scott’s was strained and agitated. He couldn’t make out the details of the conversation over the sound of the blender, but everything in him wanted to burst in and show Stiles what was what.

He didn’t like hearing Stiles raise his voice at Scott like that. It made his blood pump faster. His fingers itch. Something icy start to coil in the pit of his stomach.

Yeah, help us all to the bottom of an ice cold riverbed.

The way Stiles had said that. The thick tension in the room that had wound its way through the pack after it had left Stiles mouth. Scott’s immediate anger.

Those words meant something. Though he couldn’t understand what.

When Scott and Stiles came back into the room, everyone huddled back around the map and pretended like the argument hadn’t happened.

Theo wanted to leave.

He couldn’t shake what Stiles had said. It had put a nervous sickness in his stomach, like the kind he’d felt the past few nights when he’d woken up drenched in sweat, trembling.

But he couldn't leave either. Because if he did, then Stiles would feel like he’d won.

And he couldn't let that happen.

So he swallowed the bile gathering in the back of his throat and stayed out of spite.

He made sure to move closer to Scott the moment they re-entered the room.

Fuck you, Stiles. He thought even though he kept his expression neutral. Scott is my Alpha.

He doesn’t belong to you.

“Listen.” Scott addressed the pack, firmly. “I understand that we’re all a little on edge right now. But we need to focus on this. We can’t be fighting with one another while Gerard is mobilizing every hunter from here to Seattle. We have to figure out what they’re planning.”

“Yeah, and we need to figure it out before the third week of August.” Malia insisted. “I’m not missing the Grand Canyon.”

Theo wanted to roll his eyes.

He’d only been here for three days and he’d already heard about Stiles and Malia’s planned cross-country trip at least four times.

“Yes.” Scott sighed. “Before we all need to leave for college.”

Theo glanced down at the map and lists.

It really didn’t look like the kind of thing that was going to get wrapped up that quickly.

“Two more wolves were killed last night.” Scott went on. “But we don’t know who they were or what pack they belonged to. We need to find their bodies and bring them back to the clinic so Deaton can examine them before the Beacon Hills Coroner.”

This was met with a number of consenting head nods.

“We’re going to split up into groups to cover more ground.” Scott went on. “Stiles, you and Malia can hit the powerplan, Liam, Hayden, and Mason take the South Eastern part of the Preserve, Lydia can meetup with Parish and check the area with the Nematon. Theo and I will take the Northern part of the Preserve.”

That was met with an uproar.

Theo couldn’t help but smile at Stiles behind Scott’s back.

Stiles eyes widened.

“Did you just fucking smirk at me?”

*     *     *

In the end, Scott had been able to convince the pack to split up according to his design. The fact that they didn’t really have the time to spend on arguing worked to his advantage. It was probably fortunate for Stiles as well, as he seemed likely to lose his voice from the amount of shouting that had followed Theo’s antagonism.

“Did you really smirk at him?” Scott asked as they walked beneath the tall aspens and oaks of the Preserve.

Theo glanced at him, guiltily.

“Yes.” he admitted.

He looked far better than he had a few days back. He was still underweight and the color of his skin wasn’t quite right, but his bruises had faded and cuts had healed over. The uphill walk in the Preserve was the most physically exerting activity that he’d attempted since the rescue, but he seemed to be handling it quite well.

“Why would you do that?” Scott asked, and was surprised at how difficult he found it to keep amusement out of his voice.

Theo antagonizing Stiles shouldn’t be funny. But there was something almost cute about the expression on Theo’s face and the open admission of guilt.

And the fact that Theo hadn’t tried to lie was encouraging.

“Because.” Theo said, stuffing his hands in his pockets. “He was being an ass.”

“So you figured you’d goad him some?”

“Well, when you say it like that…” Theo said, a sly grin slipping onto his lips. “It makes me sound kind of like a dick.”

Scott had to let out a small mirthful scoff at that.

Theo’s eyes lit up at that response. His heart rate changed. His steps became a bit lighter and springy on the forest floor.

He didn’t have any right to look as cute as he did, wearing one of Scott’s old denim jackets and hoodies, smiling in the late morning light. But that didn’t stop him.

The cool air and the exercise were doing him good, as was was the search.

Scott hadn’t explained his choice of partner to the pack, but it wasn’t just because he needed to keep an eye on Theo. Deaton had theorized that bonding with an Alpha might give Theo a considerable advantage when it came time for him to face his memories.

Searching their muscles in the woods together, searching for something, it was almost like a hunt.

“How are you feeling?” Scott asked as they neared the top of the lookout over the town.

They still had a lot of ground to cover.

“Good.” Theo said, stretching his arms. “Really, good actually…”

“Do you want to try going for a run?”

Theo’s eyes glittered with excitement at the suggestion.

“Race?” he suggested, and then with a slightly mischievous upturn in the arc of his eyebrows. “Or…do you want to chase me?”

Scott wasn’t sure it was a good idea, but something in the way Theo said it, made his bones buzz with excitement.

Maybe it was a sign that the bonding activity was working. Maybe it was supposed to feel that way.

Before he could decline either, Theo took off.

His heart thudding excitedly, Scott sprang after him.

*     *     *

The crisp forest air filled Theo’s lungs as he leapt over fallen logs and moss covered rocks. His body felt lighter than he could ever remember it feeling.

Not that he could remember past three days ago, but still.

It felt good.

His muscles buzzed pleasantly. Adrenaline pulsed in his veins.

He glanced over his shoulder to find Scott, who was gaining on him quickly.

He pushed himself harder. Moved faster.

He hadn’t suggested the chase out of pure whimsy, it had been to achieve a very specific end. The end being, Scott tackling him to the ground.

Scott may be good at withholding information, but the language his body spoke was less cunning. The impulse of a wolf more difficult to mask.

If he and Scott were lovers, then it might be a lot harder for Scott’s wolf to deny it while chasing him through the woods.

But despite his calculated purpose he was finding himself more absorbed in the chase than he’d thought. Soon his mind wasn’t working on a plan of how to seduce (or re-seduce) his boyfriend, but looking around for ways to slow him down.

He took sharp turns, ducked behind large tree trunks.

Why did he feel like he’d never had fun like this before?

Surely he must have?

He reached the top of a small hill and paused.

Scott wasn’t behind him anymore.

He looked around, confused for a moment.

Right before Scott slammed into his side and tackled him to the ground.

They tumbled down the hill in a light scuffle, kicking up dried leaves and pine needles as the went.

Scott landed on top of him with a thud at the bottom of the hill and pinned his wrists above his head.

His chest heaving, Theo’s eyes fell on the small bits of leaves and twigs caught in Scott’s dark hair, then to the curve of his parted lips that were drawing in ragged breaths of air between them.

He submitted to the hold, and let his wrists go limb in Scott’s grip.

Scott coughed a small laugh as he caught his breath. His eyes still glowing with with mischievous excitement.

*     *     *

As adrenaline from the chase drained his blood, Scott found himself staring into Theo’s eyes.

The run had affected them both.

He took several long breaths to steady himself, but his eyes wandered downward to Theo’s throat.

He half wanted to dip his head down and nip a small bite on Theo’s neck. Nothing hard enough to break the skin, of course, just a quick playful graze of his teeth to tease him for losing and claim the game as his.

There was a softness in Theo’s expressive eyes that Scott had never seen before. Like the gentle glow of victory, despite the fact that he’s just lost. As he panted to regain his breath, he looked happy. Authentically happy.

Scott found himself leaning closer, to do what - he wasn’t quite sure, when the wind shifted and a putrid scent filled his senses.

From the way Theo’s eyes widened and body stiffened, he’d smelled it as well.

One of the missing bodies wasn’t that far off from where they lay.

*     *     *

“One of Satomi’s pack.”

Theo watched Scott pick gently place the dead boy’s arm down. There was a tattoo with three circles on it.

“She’s an Alpha nearby.” Scott clarified. “Her and her pack are all Zen Buddhist werewolves.”

Theo nodded.

A strange feeling crept over him as he watched the gentle way that Scott examined the corpse. There was a care in his movements, and sadness.

It slowly began to dawn on him that he should probably feel something as well. The boy couldn’t be that much older than him and Scott. The sight of his bullet ridden corpse was objectively sad. The twisted open mouth that had died screaming in pain was objectively unsettling.

But Theo felt nothing.

For some reason, there was nothing remarkable to him about the sight at all. It felt normal to him. Routine.

An icy coldness began to creep over his skin, but he shook it off.

He was probably still just slightly shell shocked from his imprisonment.

The sight of a dead body couldn’t be that commonplace to him, could it?

Werewolves lead violent lives. Scott’s pack had all seen their fair share of death, but even so, finding a body wasn’t commonplace. Scott seemed to feel something for it. Some kind of remorse or compassion.

Scott’s fingers slowly closed the staring empty eyes.

“We’re not too far away from the car.” Scott said, looking up at him. “Do you think you can help me pick him up?”

Theo nodded.

He knelt beside Scott and slipped his hand beneath the stiff shoulder. He was in the process of lifting when the head lolled and fell on his shoulder.

Theo froze, his eyes blinded by a white flash.

A dead boy’s head hitting his shoulder. A dead girl’s arm knocking into his elbow. Open mouths. Staring eyes. Stiff cold fingers. Different faces. The same expression. Dirt. Shoveling. So much shoveling...

*     *     *

Scott heard Theo gasp and looked up just in time to see him lurch backwards, ashen-faced and trembling. The body tumbled to the ground, but Scott hardly noticed as he stumbled towards Theo.

In his haste to scramble backwards, Theo slipped on the leaves littering the forest floor and fell.

“Theo?” Scott called. “Theo, are you okay?”

“Ye-yeah.” Theo stuttered, still staring at the corpse. “Yeah.”

Scott put a hand on his shoulder and squeezed it gently.

“What happened?”

“I…” Theo slowly turned to face him. “I don’t know…”

*     *     *

Theo stared out the window in the backseat of the Jeep, watching the tops of trees blur against the sky.

After his small episode, Scott had called Parish to help move the body.

Stiles and Malia had found the second missing corpse in an abandoned power plant, and both were brought to the clinic for examination by Deaton. He’d have them for the night before they’d be handed over to the Sheriff, whom Theo only just discovered was Stiles’ father.

Maybe that’s why he’s such an insufferable ass . Theo had thought as he watched Stiles whine at his father to not call the coroner. Daddy has always been there to get him out of trouble. He thinks he’s above rules. Above the law….

Scott had made sure that Theo stayed in the back room when the Sheriff arrived, which made Theo suspect that the Sheriff would feel similarly to the rest of the pack about him. Then they’d loaded up into the Jeep for Stiles to drop everyone off at their respective homes.

That was, of course, after Stiles had expressed his preference that Theo walk home. And ideally get hit by a car on the way.

Scott had been less than amused, and eventually Stiles had conceded and let Theo climb into the backseat.

He was happy to be seated next to Scott, who’d volunteered to sit in the middle, but he knew the reason was that no one else in the car would be comfortable next to him.

Lydia had not been openly hostile, but had still sucked in a nervous breath when he’d moved to sit next to her.

He closed his eyes. The sight of the trees was starting to make him nauseous, and there was a growing pain between his eyes.

He desperately wanted to be alone with just Scott again.

He had so many questions.

Like why the pack was so nervous around him and why he felt like he’d seen dozens of dead bodies.

But the most unsettling thing that he couldn’t stop thinking about, was Scott’s reluctance to talk to him about his life. Because the more Theo looked at it, the less it seemed like Scott was keeping information from him, and the more it seemed like he was protecting him from it.

What was so bad that he need to be protected from?

 

Chapter Text

“Trephine.”

Theo’s hands found the instrument on the tray of cruel tools. The metal was cold on his bare fingers. They were trembling slightly as he held it up to the Tall Man.

“No!” The subject howled. “Please, no!”

He watched as the Tall Man placed his hand on the back of the subject’s neck.

The subject is only a few years older than him. But much more stupid. They didn’t know what he knew. That screaming wouldn’t help them. That nothing would help them. They were crying because they’d once thought they were safe. They couldn't understand why this was happening. But he knew that no one was safe. No one.

There was no escaping this darkness. You either were the darkness or you were the darkness’s victim.

Soon the chamber was filled with the sounds of drilling and screaming. Then only drilling.

Blood seeped across the operating table and oozed onto the dirty floor.

He got down onto his knees and began to sop up the liquid with a rag.

It was his job to make sure the floor didn’t get too slippery.

He rung the rag out into a bucket. Continued until the Tall Man’s experiment was finished.

“Theo Raeken.” The Tall Man beckoned him once the subject had been cleared from the table.

He didn’t like the way the Tall Man called him, but he knew there was no refusing him.

He dropped the rag in the bucket and stood before him.

He would look into the Tall Man’s eyes, but he had no eyes. Instead he stared into a pair of green glassy lenses set into a face that was no face at all. Just leather and metal.

There was a winding and clicking sound as the Tall Man reached for him.

He didn’t flinch. He didn’t move at all.

The metal tipped fingers of his gloves slipped under his chin, then clutched it, turning and tilting his head to the left and then to the right.

He wanted to pull away, but he didn’t dare.

He was yanked forward and up off his feet like a rag doll. His toes scraped the floor, as he tried to grab the Tall Man’s arm to lift himself up enough to breathe.

He squirmed as The Tall Man’s thumb pressed into the corner of his mouth and brushed across his lower lip, gathering something, before he was dropped back onto the floor.

He choked and rubbed his neck. Not sure what he had done to deserve that.

It was only then that he saw the silver liquid shining on the Tall Man’s metal-tipped gloves.

His fingers quickly went to his lips. When he pulled them away, they were coated with the same glowing silver.

His blood went ice cold in his veins.

“Theo Raeken…” the Tall Man’s voice clicked again, and Theo could hear the other Tall Men moving forward. “Submit yourself to the table.”

“But, I-” he stuttered. “There...there’s nothing wrong with me...”

“Submit yourself to examination.”

“No.” He moved to step back from the operating table.

That small amount of disobedience was all it took. The Tall Man never asked a third time.

Mechanical fingers twisted into his hair and yanked him up onto the table. One hand was all the Tall Man needed to hold him down, while the others fastened straps around him.

“Hypothesis: Subject Theo Raeken’s body will be unstable until it has reached maturity.”

His heart pounded in his chest. The binds tightened.

“Further examination required.”

The sound of the drill returned.

*     *     *

Theo thrashed around, tangling himself in his sheets. A desperate scream was caught deep in the back of his throat. He couldn’t push it out, and he couldn’t breathe with it stuck there.

The dream shifted, but he couldn’t break free from it.

He was scrubbing blood again. Then he was piling dirt onto a heap of smouldering ashes and bones.

His chest felt like it was about to split open as images flashed before him, too fast to process.

Cold metal fingertips grazed the skin of his chest, peeled his shirt open. He took a deep breath, preparing himself for the first cut.

“Sc-” Theo struggled to call for help, but no sound would leave his lips.

He didn’t want to be cut open.

His body was still on the operating table. He allowed the knife to cut into him without objection.

He wanted to move. He wanted to stop it this time.

But he couldn’t. He was suffocating in the the bedsheets.

He was standing on a bridge. Dark icy cold water rippling below him.

Theo’s eyes flew open. Sweat streamed down his neck. The dark shapes and shadows cast by the furniture in the guest bedroom loomed around him, blurring into those of the figures in his dreams.

He gasped. Pain shot through his chest as his lungs finally pushed air in and out of him again.

He was shaking. His nightshirt was soaked and sticking to his skin.

He felt sick.

He lurched from the bed, stumbled through the dark hallway to the bathroom.

He crashed down onto his knees, barely making it in time.

*     *     *

Scott woke to the sound of Theo’s heat racing. He was already throwing off his covers and stepping out of bed when he heard gasps and stumbling. By the time he made it into the hall he could hear Theo hacking and heaving in the bathroom.

The bathroom door was open and the light was still off. Theo was sprawled out on the floor his arm hanging over the side of the toilet like a drunk. His shoulders were shaking as he choked and coughed on his own tears.

Scott crouched on the floor next to him. Slid his hand between his shoulders to let him know he was there.

“I’m...” Theo coughed. “I’m sorry…”

Scott knew what he was apologizing for. It was the fourth time this week that his nightmares had woken him up.

But he’d never hold something like that against him.

“Shhh.” he whispered, letting his fingers slide down Theo’s spine. “You’re fine.”

That seemed to help. Theo didn’t stop shaking, but the tremors became less violent, and the hacking softened.

When the heaving stopped, Theo buried his face into his elbow and fell back in hysterics.

The light in the hallway went on, and a moment later Melissa was standing in the door frame clothed in her pink bathrobe and pajamas.

She looked at Theo, and then up at Scott.

Theo’d been living with them for a little over a week and had nightmares more nights than he didn’t. He’d woken up screaming a few times but Melissa had always been at work. None of the other times had been quite as bad as this.

“Is he…” she began, but Scott interrupted her.

“No, he’s not drunk. Just had a nightmare.” he said, his hand moving to the back of Theo’s neck, as if to shield him from her view. “I’ve got him, you can go back to bed.”

She looked like she was debating saying something before exhaustion got the better of her. She slipped away back into the hall, but not before giving Scott a look that clearly conveyed, we will talk about this later.

“It’s okay.” Scott whispered, slowly prying Theo away from the toilet. “I’ve got you, alright? You just need to calm down...”

Theo’s body was rigid and tense, but he didn’t pull away. Scott drew him into his arms and, knowing that they could be there for a while, leaned back against the wooden cabinets below the sink.

They stayed like that. Theo shuddering, his heartbeat slowly returning to it’s normal pace.

“You’re safe.” Scott whispered into his ear, over and over again. “You’re safe.”

*     *     *

It took several minutes for Theo to truly recognize where he was. The dreams were so vivid, so present and overwhelming, that they still clung to him.

That’s because they’re not dreams.

A cold and cruelly amused voice whispered in his head.

You know they’re not dreams...

Smug, mellow, and taunting.

He knew that voice, though he couldn’t remember anything about the person it belonged to.

“You’re safe.” Scott interrupted with a measured and calm whisper. “You’re safe...”

He closed his eyes. Blocked out all sounds except that of the Alpha’s heart beating next to his ear.

*     *     *

Scott released a long breath when he felt Theo’s body finally relax.

He loosened his grip and let Theo slip out of his arms.

Theo sat next to him on the floor, slowly wiped the tears and sweat from his face.

Fuck .” he whispered, his voice raspy and embarrassed as he pulled his fingers through his hair.

“Did you...remember something?” Scott asked slowly.

He found himself dreading Theo’s answer.

“I don’t know.” Theo said, not looking him in the eyes. “It didn’t...make a lot of sense.”

Scott couldn’t help but feel relieved.

Every time he watched Theo freeze up, or heard him struggling to sleep, he couldn’t stop fear from creeping through him.

The last few weeks had been difficult with the pack, but Theo seemed to be been doing exceptionally well in spite of it.

Physically, he had almost completely recovered. Color had returned to his skin, and his muscle mass was almost what it had been prior to his kidnapping. After consulting with Deaton on the success of their run, Scott had taken him out into the Preserve nearly every day for one kind of exercise or another.

He’d done something similar after he’d bitten Liam, but that had been different. Theo didn’t need help keeping his emotions in check, and although he wasn’t as strong as Liam, his abilities were much more matured. Running with Theo was less about teaching and more about exercise. Learning to work together.

It was surprising, how well Theo’d seemed to take to it.

“Yeah, almost like it’s too good to be true?” Stiles had pointed out.\

But Scott had ignored him.

It felt good when Theo would fall in stride with him. Both invigorating and fortifying.

The more attention Scott paid him on their runs, the more Theo seemed to flourish. His eyes glittered with excitement early in the morning when they’d set out.

They had a routine in place, taking runs in the morning. And then sometimes just before dusk.

He was doing well, but he needed more time.

Scott wasn’t sure what he would have done if Theo suddenly remembered everything.

All he knew was that Theo wasn’t ready.

“That’s okay.” Scott assured him. “You’ve been through a lot. You were in that plac e for months, you’ve only been here for a week.”

“It’s just…” Theo was looking down at the floor tiles. “It’s just that I don’t ever seem to dream or remember anything good.

It was a statement, but there was an underlying question in it. One that Scott wasn’t prepared to answer.

“I...” Theo went on, biting his lip. “I don’t want to go back to sleep...”

Scott watched him grip his arms, like he was fighting back a shiver.

He probably was. The bathroom floor was cold and Theo was covered in sweat.

“Then don’t try to right now.” Scott suggested. “We can stay up.”

“We?” Theo asked, finally meeting his eyes. “What time is it?”

“Doesn’t matter.” Scott said, standing up and offering Theo a hand. “You clean up, I’ll go make us some coffee.”

Theo took his hand. His palm was cold and clammy but his eyes were moved and grateful.

*     *     *

Theo closed his eyes and let the hot water of the shower wash the sweat and coldness from his body. But it couldn’t clear away the icy feeling of that final image.

That dark bridge. The cold rippling water.

He started to feel sick again, and quickly finished his shower. He dressed himself in a clean set of cloths Scott had left out for him, and hurried down the stairs.

Scott was waiting for him in the living room with two cups of coffee.

As he slid down on the sofa next to him, Theo felt coldness finally slip off of him.

White Fang or Hunger Games ?” Scott asked, setting his mug down and reaching for the books on the coffee table.

White Fang .” Theo answered, taking a sip from his mug. “Please.”

The coffee was warm and creamy, with just a hint of sugar. The scent of Scott’s hand still lingered on the cup as Theo brought it to his lips.

He watched Scott find the dog eared page they’d left in the paperback book yesterday.

Theo’s not sure why Scott insisted on this activity. Scott didn’t seem like the reading out loud type, but nearly every night they’d spend some time trading a book back and forth and reading aloud. Scott would often pause in the middle and ask him questions about what he thought of the story and its characters.

Theo got the sense that he was doing this to help him in some way, but he’d never asked Scott the purpose. Maybe he was hoping to jog some memory, or maybe it was just to help relax his mind.

Either way, Theo didn’t mind it.

Scott had picked both their current titles, but said that Theo could feel free to choose the next one once they completed one. Theo wasn’t quite sure what he wanted to read next but he liked the idea of getting to choose.

Theo couldn’t help but notice the glowing time on the cable box as Scott began to read.

4:23 A.M.

Scott must have been tired, but Theo knew he wouldn’t be dissuaded from staying up. Once Scott said he would do something, he did it. Especially if that something was helping someone.

Especially if that someone was him.

He’d noticed that the harder the pack pushed him out, the more firmly Scott would dig in his heels. Which was something that Theo found immensely satisfying.

He leaned his head against Scott’s shoulder and closed his eyes as he drew another long sip of coffee. Listened to the sound of Scott’s voice read vivid descriptions of the northwestern wilderness.

He couldn’t reconcile the feeling of emptiness that loomed in his dreams when Scott made him feel so full.

Hours passed, and Theo found himself slowly nodding off as the first early rays of the sun crept in through the windows.

With the strange flashes, the unsettling dreams, and the way the pack and Scott’s mother behaved around him, he couldn’t help but wonder what kind of person he’d been, and what kind of life he’d had.

But Scott had to love him. Why else would he be doing this?

And if Scott loved him, how could the real him possibly be that bad?

Chapter Text

“I still don’t see why he’s living at your house.” Liam huffed between situps. “Or how your mom is okay with it…”

Scott stepped off of Liam’s toes and blew the tin whistle between his teeth.

Liam flipped over onto his stomach, along with the rest of the lacrosse team and began pushups.

“She’s not okay with it, really.” Scott admitted. “Straighten your back.”

Liam’s back stiffened, straight as a board as he continued the exercise.

“In fact, she’s pretty unhappy about it.”

But that was an understatement. She’d objected vehemently when Scott had first said that they’d be temporarily taking Theo in, and she’d become even more unhappy with the night time disturbances.

“Scott, I haven’t been woken up like that since your father left town.” she’d scolded him the night after she found them in the bathroom.

As if it were even remotely the same thing.

Scott completely understood the pack’s concerns; it wasn’t like he didn’t have the same concerns himself, but their constant complaints and objections were becoming quite tiresome.

Theo was a teenager with severe psychological problems. Rafael McCall was just an asshole.

And if Scott had to live with him for over ten years, Melissa could live with Theo for a few weeks.

Although, Scott really wasn’t sure how long all of this would last, and he’d be lying if he told himself that he didn’t hope it would go on for longer than that.

It had been over two weeks since Theo’d moved in with him.

In that time the pack had managed to figure out what it was that Gerard was mobilizing hunters for. The experiments, the kidnappings, they were connected.

Gerard was designing weapons, and he was training people.

For what?

The aim seemed pretty obvious: genocide.

The complete and total eradication of werewolves and any creature akin to them.

The most troubling things that they had discovered was evidence of increased experimentation in chemical weapons, as well as theft of devices that might be jury-rigged into administering them.

“Nolan, keep your eyes looking forward.” Scott coached, walking around and checking the other players. “Good job, Gabe. Keep it up.”

“McCall!” Coaches irritated voice rang from the other side of the field. “Haven’t I expressed now several times my disdain for encouragement?”

Scott sighed.

“Yes, Coach.”

He blew the whistle and the team rolled over onto their backs again.

“But…” Liam panted and Scott stepped back on his toes and he resumed his sit-ups. “Why does he have to come to every practice?”

Scott glanced over his shoulder to the direction that Liam was glaring every time his chin came up over his knees.

Theo was leaning against the bleachers, arm hooked over one of the upper benches, dangling casually as he watched the field.

His eyes lit up when he noticed Scott looking at him.

Scott smiled and quickly looked back to Liam, hoping that his beta hadn’t noticed what was surely a small jump in his heart rate.

“So I can keep an eye on him.” he answered, honestly.

Coach’s whistle sounded shrill across the field, and with a few snapy lines of verbal abuse, he commanded everyone to take positions for a practice game.

“McCall, you join too.” He said, tossing Scott a helmet. “Teach these lightweights how the game is really played.”

*     *     *

Theo raised his eyebrows as he watched Scott suit up.

He’d been to five practices, but he’d never seen Scott participate in a mock game, and he found himself excited to see his Alpha actually in action.

The game began, and almost immediately, it was obvious that Scott and Liam were lions among men. Though each in his own way.

Liam was like a machine. Furious power just barely contained by relentless conditioning and practice.

Scott was power and grace personified. A bastion of strength and self control among raging egos and barely contained testosterone.

Theo’s eyes followed the flex of his muscles as he slung his shots, the smoothness of his footwork as he dodged oncoming attacks, and the way he seemed to watch the entire field all at once.

He didn’t struggle to command the action around him, he blended with it, absorbed it, and redirected it flawlessly.

Unlike Liam, Scott moved as though he had nothing to prove. Which made sense. He wasn’t a player anymore, but an Assistant Coach. Yet he clearly still loved the game.

As Theo watched, he had the sensation that he’d done so before, from the very spot he was standing in. Half shrouded by the shadows of the bleachers.

That tracked. He probably had watched Scott practice before.

He glanced around the bleachers. It was bright out right now, but after a night game, this would probably be an excellent spot to make out...or maybe more…

As he watched he found himself wondering, not for the first time, if he and Scott had ever had sex. Or if he’d had sex with anyone at all.

“Oh, awesome, you’re here.” Malia’s voice sounded from behind him.

Theo turned to face her.

Now Malia definitely wanted to have have sex with him. Her hormones were much more discernible than Scott’s.

As much as she seemed to distain him, she couldn’t hide the lustful scents that rippled from her whenever her eyes scanned his body.

Was that one of the reasons Stiles hated him?

Theo let his eyes slip over the curves of Malia’s body. She wasn’t just objectively attractive, like Lydia, she was objectively hot. Everything from her pursed glossy lips to the way the threads of her fraying denim shorts tickled her thighs could make a wolf salivate.

But it did little to entice him.

What was more interesting was the way that she’d look at him. Like she wanted to choke him out but ride his dick while doing it.

She wanted him, but she hated that she wanted him.

However, even with that added level of interest, when Theo looked at her, it didn’t make his bones buzz the way they did whenever Scott touched him.

When she moved closer to him he felt the urge to goad her, but that was about it.

“Malia.” he acknowledged with a curt head nod. “Come to watch them play?”

He knew that she hadn’t. She never watched the team practice and must have another reason for being here.

“No.” she said, turning away from him and looking out onto the field. “I’m here to talk to Scott. Stiles wants a meeting tonight.”

“I could tell him that for you.”

She scoffed at the suggestion.

It was then that Scott noticed her arrival. He glanced over his shoulder, and for a moment Theo could see something nervous flicker in his eyes.

Scott had avoided Theo being alone with any members of the pack, but he’d especiall y been vigilant about him being left unattended with Malia. Most likely because she’d expressed several times that if she ever did get him alone, she’d rip his throat out and bury his body in the woods.

Scott turned his attention back to the mock game, but Theo could tell that he was anxious, and probably still had an ear turned to the conversation.

“You know Malia,” he said said, keeping his voice smooth and even as he slipped away from the bleachers and moved up beside her. “I get that you don’t like me very much-”

“Understatement.” she quipped.

“And that Stiles doesn’t like me either-”

No one likes you, Theo.”

Scott likes me.” Theo taunted her, a petty smirk slipping onto his lips.

At that point, Scott turned his head over towards them. Missing a ball as it went flying over his shoulder.

“Scott feeds the raccoons that dig through his mother's trash cans.” Malia growled. “You’re not special.”

“Ouch.” Theo said, in mock hurt. “Do me and the raccoons have anything else in common? Like, do you wanna fuck them as well?”

*     *     *

Several things happened at once.

Gabe launched a ball at the goal Scott was guarding. Liam lost control of the swing of his crosse and knocked Nolan in the head. Coach’s whistle sounded. Malia let out a sound that could only just barely be interpreted as having come from a human, and punched Theo in the jaw so hard Scott heard it crack in two.

He dropped his stick and bolted for the bleachers.

Theo hit the lacrosse green and took a mouthful of dirt and grass as Malia jumped on top of him.

“Oh my God, Nolan, I’m so sorry are you ok-”

Scott ripped past Liam, dashed across the field. He reached for Malia’s fist but just barely missed it on it’s downward swing. Her now blood streaked knuckles connected squarely with Theo’s nose and cheekbone, snapping his head to the side.

“Malia!” Scott had to grab her by the shoulders and wrench her off of him. “Stop!”

“He said-”

“I don’t care what he said!” Scott nearly growled at her as he moved between her and Theo.  “I’m saying stop!”

He moved to help Theo up. He was surprised that there weren’t more players crowding around them given the level of scene that they were making, but once he had Theo on his feet he realized the reason.

The team was crowded around a player that been knocked down.

“You two be good.” Scott said, pointing at Malia and Theo equally before dashing out onto the field.

Nolan was sitting on the ground looking dazed, blood streaming down his face.

Gabe was standing with his hand on Nolan’s shoulder, glaring daggers at Liam.

*     *     *

“I don’t need you to lecture me, Scott!” Liam punched a massive dent in his locker. “I already feel like shit!”

“I’m not lecturing you.” Scott kept his tone calm as Liam raged on. “I’m trying to talk to you.”

“You’re disappointed, I can see it on your face!”

Theo wiped dried blood from his nose and tried not to roll his eyes as he listened in on the conversation from the empty hallway.

The boy that Liam had hurt on the field seemed to be fine, though the injury had been serious enough for Coach to allow his friend to drive him to Urgent Care. The rest of the team had proceeded with practice, but Scott had pulled Liam into locker room.

Theo had lingered on the field long enough to see several of the teammates exchange hard looks with one another and whisper in hushed voices.

“Gabe is right about him.” he’d managed to overhear before another member of the team had hushed him. “He’s...a problem.”

Malia left soon after, barking to Theo that he didn’t need to convey her message to Scott, and that she would just text him.

Knowing that his presence would not be appreciated in the locker room, Theo had elected to wait for Scott out in the school hallway.

He’d amused himself by dragging his fingers along the blue lockers that lined the walls, trying to see if he could remember anything about them.

He had graduated from Beacon Hills, hadn’t he?

He had vague memories of being in Beacon Hills with Scott as a child. He must have went to school here.

He doesn’t feel particularly strongly about any of the lockers that he passes. He can easily identify those belonging to Liam, Mason, Corey, and Hayden from the scent of their fingers on the combination locks, but none of the lockers call out to him as his own.

It seems strange that he shouldn’t have any feeling about a locker that he’d have used for four years.

He can tell from the strong chemosignals how the little metal boxes held so much of the teenagers they belonged to. Their lives, their secrets. He could tell that a girl had been struggling to hide tears behind one of the doors earlier that day.

His fingers paused on one locker that felt particularly warm.

This one had belonged to Scott.

It must have a new owner now, some incoming freshman that had only just moved her things in.

He leaned his head against the door.

Why could he find Scott’s locker but not his own? Had he left so little of an impression in this place?

He could hear Liam crying now. Regurgitating a story to Scott about his and Hayden’s break up, that had apparently happened only a few nights ago.

Theo’s not sure how Scott puts up with it.

In the past few weeks, he’d witnessed packmate after packmate come to Scott to unload concerns that ranged from torture and genocide to dating and not being able to construct the right course schedule for college.

At home he’d overheard Melissa nervously discuss the state of their family’s finances. Both of them skirting around the inevitable fact that one of them was most likely going to have to call Scott’s estranged father and ask for help.

And on top of all that Theo was acutely aware of the fact that Scott was woken up by him and his night terrors (or nightmares, or memories, or whatever the fuck they were…) nearly every night.

He’s not sure where Scott finds the energy.

Every time someone would come bare their heart to him, he’d open his own back to them. And when he was able to help them, he left the conversation happy and rejuvenated. But the problems that he couldn't coach them through or solve?

Scott would carry those problems with him.

Everything that happened to the pack, everything that happened in the town, Scott seemed to take responsibility for.

Talk about a thankless job.

He could hear Scott and Liam’s conversation come to a close. Scott was telling him about how things might not be over with Hayden, and that even if they were, he would find things that gave him just as much joy in life. Affirming that Liam was valued outside of his relationship with her. That he was a friend, a son, a teammate and a member of his pack.

Theo listened to Scott speak and wonder if he had been any of those things before he’d lost his memories. If he had been, it certainly didn’t seem like it.

Nothing he did seemed to jog his memories. No people other than Scott had triggered any type of feeling at all.

The only things that seemed to trigger him were soulless tactile objects like the corpse in the woods and the cold metal tools in Deaton’s office. Occasionally the mechanical clicking of the radiators in Scott’s house.

Why did he feel nothing of himself in anything that he touched?

He let his fingers slip down the front of Scott’s locker.

For a moment, he thought he saw a pair of glassy empty soulless eyes reflecting back at him in the glossy blue paint.

Chills rippled down his spine.

He heard the door open behind him, and Scott step out into the hallway.

He turned to face him, and instantly the chills vanished. He released a breath that he hadn’t even realized he’d been holding.

Liam was close behind him, and Theo could tell that the pep talk had worked. He didn’t look happy, but he did seem resolved and encouraged.

“Mason’s gonna pick me up.” Liam said, moving towards the parking lot entrance. “See you at your house tonight for the meeting?”

“Sounds good.” Scott affirmed.

He was smiling, but Theo was surprised to see that there was a subtle tension in Scott’s body.

It was odd because the talk seemed to have been a success, and that usually meant that Scott felt good afterwards. He acted cheerful, but Theo could read the small tells that he was hiding something.

Liam was entirely oblivious. He waved to his Alpha and disappeared through the swinging doors into the parking lot.

Scott sighed beside him. Theo watched the forced smile melt off his face and his brows knit together.

It made Theo’s heartbeat a little faster to realize that Scott had chosen to let some his bravado slip off in his company, but he couldn’t help but wonder what seemed to be weighing on Scott’s mind.

“Want to go for a run?” Scott asked, turning to him. “I think we’ve got some time before sundown.”

Chapter Text

Dried leaves and twigs crunched under Scott’s feet as he tore through the woods. He let the cool forest air and the adrenaline of his flexing muscles clear his head. Felt the presence of Theo keeping pace beside him.

These runs were now so ingrained into his and Theo’s daily routine, that Scott felt his body itching for them when morning and dusk drew near. The wolf within him tugged to be let off his lead and indulge in the increasingly satisfying games.

Scott was still careful about the types of activity that in which he and Theo would engage. Deaton had advised nothing too adversarial, play fighting in a chase was fine, as was them running through an exercise against an imaginary enemy, but outright sparring was not.

The purpose had been to build a bond and give Theo an outlet for any potentially pent up aggression, but several days into the exercises Scott began to feel the benefits of having an outlet for himself as well.

The pressure to figure out the hunter’s movements was building up inside of him. The day when Stiles, Malia, and Lydia would all leave was drawing closer. If he didn’t do something, the bank was going to foreclose on his mother’s house.

And as much as he is able to keep the wolf within him in check, when he feels threats closing in on him from all sides, keeping the fierce animal at bay is more difficult. It leaves him burdened with coiled energy that he has to keep locked deep within himself.

He can’t be Peter. He can’t be Derek. He needs to keep himself in order if he’s going to help anyone else.

But these games with Theo allowed him a brief reprieve from his eternal restraint. When it was just them and the tall trees, when Theo needed these games just as much (if not more) than he did, it just felt right.

And after that conversation with Liam, he needed a release more than ever.

It wasn’t anything Liam had done. It wasn’t anything that Liam could possibly have been aware of. But the pain that his words had cut into him stung all the same.

Any other day Scott would be fine. Three hundred and sixty-four days of the year, he would be happy to listen to the details of Liam’s lovelife and not think about himself once the entire time. But today that was impossible. He’d had to reach deep down within himself to find the ability to hide how much the conversation had hurt him, and to encourage Liam while doing it.

Scott ducked a low hanging branch and then leapt over a moss-covered log. When his feet hit the ground he kicked off so hard dirt and leaves flew into the air around his heels.

Perhaps sensing his anxiousness, Theo sped up and darted in front of him, pushing deeper into the Preserve. They took a different path than usual. Scott found himself taking them onto a route that lead farther from his house.

It wasn’t till they ended up at the end of a long winding path, looking out over rolling hills with looming stones casting shadows in the fading afternoon sun that Scott realized where he had taken them.

He came to a skidding halt and leaned his hand out on a nearby tree to stop himself from falling over. A moment later Theo was next to him, his hands on his knees panting heavily.

Theo held a pleasant expression on his face. Enthusiasm for the run was lighting his features, but when he met Scott’s eyes his expression shifted immediately to that of confusion.

Theo stood up, chest still heaving as he caught his breath, and looked out into the cemetery.

“You have someone here?” Theo put together.

“No.” Scott said automatically, but then quickly realized his error.

“I mean yes, I mean-” he struggled to articulate it. “She’s not here, but her bones are.”

He looked away from the hills, suddenly not able to stand the eerie sight of them. He leaned his back against the tree and squeezed his eyes shut.

He wasn’t going to cry. She wouldn’t want him to cry. She would want him to be strong. Everyone would want him to be strong.

He sucked in a deep breath.

“Today is um…” he started, feeling as though he owed Theo some kind of explanation. “She died two years ago today.”

He opened his eyes again, and swallowed.

“We can keep going-” he started to say before Theo cut him off.

“Do you want to go visit her?” he asked.

“Like I said,” Scott turned turned back towards to woods. “She’s not there.”

Theo’s arm was suddenly on his elbow.

“But do you want to?”

Scott looked down at Theo’s hand and then up into his eyes.

“I...never have.” he admitted.

It wasn’t that he couldn’t face it. He’d dealt with Alison's death a long time ago. It just had never felt like the right time to go.

First he’d been with Kira. He couldn’t imagine going to Allison’s grave and making her watch him grieve her loss. He cared about Kira too much to do that. Then Kira had gone and he was alone. Facing Allison’s grave had taken on an entirely new meaning then.

Then it was facing the loss of not just one person he had loved, but the prospect of losing all of them. A reminder of all the things that the Bite had taken from both himself and those he loved.

His relationships wouldn’t end in petty arguments typed out furiously on instant messengers. They wouldn’t end because they had to go to different universities.

They would be swallowed up in darkness. Buried in ashes and sand.

He looked at Theo, who was waiting patiently for his decision.

“You want me to go with you?” Theo asked.

 

*     *     *

In the end, they didn’t stay very long.

Scott lead Theo to the small place between two sloping hills where Allison had been laid to rest. A quiet patch of grass amidst weeping willow trees. It wasn’t far from her mother or aunt, but still distinctly on it’s own.

Just like she would have wanted.

The stone itself was beautiful, its smooth surface shone with a soft bluish hue in the fading light. Her name carved in bold elegant letters.

He closed his eyes. Let the tears that had been gathering silently slip down his face.

When he opened them again he beheld the engraving just below her name. French words, smooth and powerfully wrought:

Nous protègons ceux qui ne peuvent pas se protèger eux-měmes.

We protect those who cannot protect themselves.

Her words. Her legacy.

He sucked in a deep breath and turned to Theo, who was waiting quietly beside him.

The orange sunlight glinted on the edges of his hair. The shadows cast by the looming trees slipped across his face as the branches rustled from a sweeping breeze.

Allison would have understood why he couldn’t just wash his hands and walk away from him.

Not when he was broken and defenseless. Not when he had a chance to leave his dark path and remake what he’d been.

Allison didn't do what she was supposed to do. She did what her heart told her was right. When there seemed to be no way that suited her, she made her own.

Stiles might not understand. But she would have.

“Did I know her?” Theo asked, stepping up a little closer to him.

Scott shook his head.

“No.” he whispered. “I knew her sophomore and junior year. You left Beacon Hills after fourth grade and didn’t come back till senior year. You never met.”

“Would I have liked her?”

Scott smiled sadly.

“I don’t know what you would have thought of her.” he said. “She would have liked you more than Stiles does though…”

“Everyone likes me more than Stiles.” Theo mused. “Well…except maybe Malia.”

He could tell that Theo wanted to ask more questions, but was refraining.

“Come on.” Scott said, tapping Theo’s elbow. “Let’s go.”

*     *     *

Theo followed Scott down the gravely path back to the woods. The last of the sunlight was slipping away across the blades of dark green grass, the shadows of the tombstones and trees growing longer.

He felt strangely warm with the knowledge that Scott had chosen to come here with him. That he trusted him with a pain that he was withholding from the rest of the pack.

What other secrets did Scott keep from those around him? Would Theo one day be allowed to know those as well? Had he known them before?

He could tell that some of Scott was feeling better as they descended the sloping hills. Much of the rigidness that he’d held himself with earlier in the day had melted as he’d quietly shed his tears.

I helped him. Theo bean to realize as they turned the bend back towards the forest. He was able to come here with me when he hadn’t been able to with anyone else…

It was a strange and unfamiliar sensation to him, though he wasn’t sure why.

The breeze picked up as they turned the bend back towards the woods, carrying with it stray bits fluffy white dandelion seed. Theo followed one with his eyes as it danced along the edges stone pillars and crosses, swirling at the roots of an ancient oak tree.

He froze in place.

He’d seen those roots before. He’d seen that tree. That hill.

There was something waiting for him up there. Something that he didn’t want to see.

An ice cold chill rippled in the marrow of his bones. Goosebumps crawled up the back of his neck.

The winding path up the hill twisted before him. The jagged shapes of the headstones, the tree, the mausoleums, the carvings of crying angels and rose-covered crucifixes all leered at. Surreal and domineering.

“Theo?”

Scott’s voice cut through the darkness and reeled him back in.

“Are you coming?”

He slowly craned his head away from the path.

“Y-yeah.” he said.

Scott looked concerned.

“Are you okay?”

“I’m...I just got a little cold, that’s all.”

He didn’t know what was up there, but he knew that he didn’t want Scott to see it.

*     *     *

Scott frowned as he and Theo walked back along the darkening path of the Preserve towards his house.

He felt lighter leaving Allison’s grave. It was something he’d put off doing for far too long, and reading her words had filled him with a hope that he hadn’t felt in a long time. Someone understood. Even if that person wasn’t here to say it out loud.

But the way Theo had locked up as they were leaving the cemetery concerned him.

Scott had witnessed him have several flashbacks in the past few weeks. Mostly when waking from nightmares, but some during his waking hours. He always looked frozen and terrified.

Scott couldn’t blame him.

He didn’t press him to share his fears, but he did walk a little closer to him as they stepped into the forest.

Theo’s hands were stuffed in his pockets. His back and shoulders stiff. Scott could tell he was trying not to tremble as they climbed over rocks and fallen logs.

“Are you still cold?” Scott asked.

The temperature was plunging in the darkening woods, but Scott knew that wasn’t the reason Theo was barely suppressing shivers.

“Yeah.” Theo said, not meeting his eyes.

Scott bit his lip.

He probably shouldn’t move closer to him. Even if he was more resolved than ever he was doing the right thing, he wasn’t comfortable with how much he wanted to pull Theo closer.

It was one thing to help someone that had never stood a chance against in the crushing darkness of the supernatural world and the grip of it’s powerful predators that would shape the weak and vulnerable. It was one thing to believe that the small flickers of good within someone could be kindled and stoked to flame. It was one thing to be willing to forgive someone for things that they’d done in the hope that it would allow them to rebuild themself.

But it was another thing entirely to want that person.

And from the moment he’d seen Theo lose his nerve in the graveyard, he’d ached to pull him closer.

Each step they took into the forest the ache grew worse. The wolf within him hungered to snatch him away from his dark thoughts and shield him from the cold. Lick away his shivers.

What would Allison think of him wanting to be close to someone that had once tried to kill him? Would she be ashamed of him and disgusted by the idea? Would she be concerned like his mother and the rest of the pack? Or would she understand?

Allison knew what it was like to care for people that had done terrible things. She, of all people, would understand how that felt.

Scott looked at the cresting goosebumps on the back of Theo’s neck, the tension in his shoulders as he struggled not to curl in on himself. He could feel the darkness circling him, pricking at him, hoping to find a chink in his fragile emotional armor and slip inside him once again.

Scott couldn’t let the darkness have him. Theo wasn’t strong enough to resist it. Not yet.

“Come’ere.” Scott reached for Theo’s arm in spite of his better judgement.

Theo didn’t need to be told twice. Scott could hear the rhythm of his heart change instantly as he closed the distance between them and Scott slid his arm around his back. Anxiousness melting into relief and...something that seemed very close to excitement.

Theo leaned into his side, soaking in the warmth from Scott’s body, and Scott could feel his own temperature rising as the soapy vanilla scent of Theo’s hair started to invade his senses.

It’s just the Alpha Wolf’s instincts. He tried to reassure himself. That’s all this is...

But he knew that it wasn’t.

Chapter Text

Scott rolled over in his bed, sighing heavily.

The freshly laundered covers and sheets, despite their soft and welcoming scent, offered him no rest. Small ripples of air rolled over his skin from the slowly circling ceiling fan above. The room wasn’t hot, but something about the air was still stifling.

Kicking off his blankets, he made his way over to the window and pushed it open.

Returning to the bed, he dragged his fingers through his hair and sank back down onto the mattress.

The meeting Stiles had called brought with it disturbing news of a chemical lab that Sheriff Stilinski had discovered during a drug bust downtown. Along with the small meth cooking operation, evidence had been uncovered of airborne chemical weapon development.

Wolfsbane and Mountain Ash had also been discovered in no small quantities on the scene.

Aside from the obvious reasons why that would be disconcerting, it also meant that the Sheriff had made a call to the FBI and that Rafael McCall would soon be dispatched to the area.

During a conversation about chemical weapons, having to see his estranged father really shouldn’t be one of the things making his gut twist, but it did all the same. But old wounds run deep.

And yet, even amidst everything, Scott still couldn’t help thinking about the walk home with Theo and the stirring inside him that it had set off. He hadn’t felt something like that in a long time, and he knew the dangerous places it could lead him.

He flopped his head back against his pillows and tuned his ear to the bedroom down the hall.

Theo’s heartbeat was steady and even. He seemed to be sleeping well for once.

Scott could hear his breath slipping in and out of his lips and imagine the way that his chest must be comfortably rising and falling beneath the blankets. He could picture in perfect detail the way his hair must be falling peacefully over his closed eyes. The way the sheets must be draped over the arc of his hips, cradling him in his slumber.

A smouldering in his lower limbs told Scott that he needed to start thinking about something else.

Just the wolf. He tried to assure himself, as he rolled over and pulled one of his pillows over his head. It’s the wolf that keeps making me think about him like that...

Scott closed his eyes and willed his rushing blood to still. He tried to think of something else. Anything else.

Which only served to make the lack of anything pleasant to think about even more apparent.

Every time he tried to shift his thoughts away, the beating rhythm of Theo’s heart in the other room would send his mind straight back to that quiet path in woods. To the warm feeling of Theo nestling into his side in the slowly darkening forest. To the scent of Theo’s hair as he clung to him.

He’d think of their runs in the brisk pre-dawn air. His heart racing, his mind free. He could picture in perfect detail the way the first rays of the sun would catch Theo’s hair. Of what Theo looked like when he’d be tackled to the ground. His cheeks flushed, panting, sweat glistening on his neck, eyes glittering as he looked up at him from the mossy forest floor.

Scott’s body ached and his heart twisted in his chest.

He couldn’t keep pretending that it was just alpha wolf instincts that wanted to be in the room down the hall.

It had been more than half a year since he’d watch Kira disappear into the dust and the sand. Two years from the day he’d held Allison and felt the life leave her body. He couldn’t remember when the last time was, that he’d fallen into the embrace of someone that he loved, someone who wanted him as he wanted them.

He could take in a deep breath and tell himself that he’s his own anchor. That would help. That would provide a grounding sense of fortitude and self-efficacy. But it would not make the pain in his chest go away. Nor would it do anything to quell the tension that was coiling it’s way through his body as he listened to the sound of Theo’s soft breathing.

He wondered if Theo was warm enough in that room.

He turned over again in his bed, more restless than ever.

*     *     *

 

Theo was laying on his back, his eyes closed, when he felt Scott crawl on top of him.

“Scott…” he whispered, not opening his eyes.

“Shh....” Scott cooed back, and Theo groans under the weight of his body.

“Don’t open your eyes…”

He didn’t.

He felt Scott’s breath on his neck, the tantalizing graze of the Alpha’s teeth on his throat.

Still half asleep, he let Scott find his wrists and pull them over his head. It was a compromising position, but he trusted Scott. Scott would never hurt him.

Scott’s lips brushed across his. His teeth gnawed gently at the sensitive skin, his tongue slowly demanding entrance. Theo’s lips parted.

It didn’t taste the way Theo had expected it would. It was slippery and invasive.

Theo felt Scott’s lips start to curve against his own. Smirking.

And then he realized.

It wasn’t Scott.

His eyes flew open. His heart pounding.

He was staring into a pair of cold slate eyes, gleaming with malicious amusement. They were the same eyes he’d seen reflected back at him in the glossy blue surface of the locker.

His own eyes. Glinting with cruelty.

He tried to call for help as their lips broke apart, but the phantom grabbed his throat with both hands, forcing him to swallow the scream back down into his lungs.

“I’m sorry.” The phantom’s voice, his own voice, apologized. “Were you expecting someone else?”

Theo was looking at his own face. Staring into his own eyes. Feeling the clutch of his fingers on his throat as the thing that looked just like him sat on his chest and strangled him. He tried to twist away, but he was trapped. He couldn’t breathe and he couldn’t move.

“You didn’t really have the gall to think it was Scott, now, did you?”

The voice was venomously sweet. A sickeningly mimicked tone of a child talking to pet.

“But of course you did. You’ve always been a bit of a narcissist…”

Theo gasped and wriggled, trying to pull the tightening fingers from his throat.

Sco -” was all he was able to get out.

“You think Scott can help you?” the voice laughed, bitterly. “Alpha’s going to somehow make this all better? You think he can protect you from me ?”

Fuck you. ” Theo gasped and growled as he finally was able to work his fingers between the phantom’s grip and his throat. “You’re not even real.”

“I’m more real than you are.” the phantom scoffed. “And ten times as real as this ‘ relationship ’ that you seem to think you have with Scott…”

Anger surged through Theo’s body at the insinuation.

“What do you know about it?” Theo snarled back at himself, finally prying the fingers from his neck.

“I know all the things that you don’t want to know because you’re too scared remember them.” The phantom assured him with a sickeningly smug grin.

“You don’t know anything.” Theo snapped. “About me or Scott. Scott loves me, he—”

“Ohhhh, he loves you does he?” the phantom taunted. “He reads you a few chapters of White Fang suddenly and you’re vomiting up the L-word like it’s discount day at the Hallmark store? You think because you can smell how bad he wants to mount you on your little runs in the woods that he loves you? Grow. Up.”

Shut up !” Theo hissed again, heat and angry embarrassment flaring through him.

“Scott’s got a savior complex worse than Jesus, and this shitty town is his cross.” the phantom went on unperturbed. “He wouldn’t leave his worst enemy to suffer in the filth he found you squandering in. You think him saving you from that means you’re special to him? Get real.”

“That’s not what this is, you shithead,” Theo swore back. “He needs me. He wanted me there when he visited the cemetery. He wants me—”

“Oh he wants you, alright…” the phantom goaded. “Wants you to be something you’re not. He doesn’t want you , Theo. No one ever could. Not before the things you did, and certainly not after...”

“The things…” Theo slowly repeated as painful sickening chills began to ripple through his body. “I did....?”

“The things you don’t want to remember.” The phantom nodded. “You’ve had all the pieces to figure it out, yet you’re still not asking yourself the obvious questions…like why you don’t seem to have any family.”

Family. Theo was still stuck on that word. Family...

“It’s the first thing anyone else would ask but notice you haven’t thought about it once. No, you’re too busy trying to work out if you and Scott have ever fucked to give that a thought...”

Theo had no response.

Why hadn’t he ever wondered about his family?

“No family. No home. No friends. Just a set of claws and Scott’s pity.” the phantom went on. “Something you’ll use against him in the future I’m sure…”

“No!” Theo interjected, swiping his claws at the phantom. “I’m not ! I wouldn’t-”

The phantom didn’t move or block the attack. He let the claws rip into his stomach.

“You would, and you will.” It laughed as blood splashed down around them both. “Eventually his pity won’t be enough for you—”

“It’s not pity!” Theo raged back.

There was a strange burning pain building in his core.

“You’ll need more.” the phantom ignored his interjection. “But he won’t be able to give you any more than that. No one ever could. The closer people get to you, the more clearly they can see that there is nothing inside.”

“You’re lying.”

“No, you’re the one lying.”

“Why the fuck are you even here?” hot tears were spilling down Theo’s cheeks, his vision blurring with pain. “What the fuck do you want from me?”

Wait, was he the one bleeding?

“I’m here because I have to be.” The phantom growled. “I am you, idiot! The real you...the collective sum of all your sins, and nothing more.”

SHUT UP!

“Your own family couldn’t even love you once they found out what you were.”

A softer smile lit the phantom’s features as it leaned in and whispered into his ear.

Psycho. Path.” It purred.

I’m...I’m not… ” Theo couldn’t breathe again.

“Poor Scott is going to be so disappointed when he finally realizes that Stiles was right and he was wrong. Just like last time.”

Last time? The thought made him sick. What did he mean by ‘last time’?

“I know you think you love him.”  The phantom went on. “Somewhere along the line you decided to start buying your own bullshit, but if you looked at it more closely, you’d see that it doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. This ‘relationship’ with Scott? Nice and convenient. Keeps your ass safe from all the people that would just love to rip you apart, with the happy bonus of distracting you from thinking about what’s really wrong with you.”

Theo was paralyzed as the phantom’s hand slowly slipped underneath his nightshirt.

“Even if you wanted to, you couldn’t give Scott your heart.”

He wanted to pull away, but couldn’t.

“Because you…” The phantoms fingers traced an X over his heart. “Have. No. Heart. To. Give.”

Tears continued to spill down either side of Theo’s face.

They cut it out of you because it was worthless. To everyone. No one wanted you the way you were...except them . They said you had potential. They said they could make you special . And you gave them everything.”

His heart was beating out of control as the phantom drew out each syllable of everything.

“And you know what the worst part of our sad little story is?” The phantom asked as Theo sputtered and choked. “That you were never really special to them at all…”

It was like his heart had a life of its own. It wanted to free itself from his chest. It was going to claw his way out.

“Once they were finished cutting you up, once you’d given them everything that you could possibly give, you realized they didn’t really want you either. You were never anything more than a stepping stone for them. Half werewolf. Half failure…”

Suddenly Theo could move again. He tumbled down onto the floor, bringing the blankets and bloody sheets with him.

The phantom was gone. He was alone in the dark room. But he still couldn't breath.

His heart.

He suddenly realized.

It wasn’t real. It wasn’t his.

It didn’t belong in him.

 

*     *     *

 

Scott had just about given up on the idea of sleep and was about ready to go downstairs to watch TV when he heard Theo’s heartbeat change. The slow and steady lull building into something more rapid. Fluttering excitement, possibly something akin to arousal, right before it rocketed into panic.

Scott was out of bed and at Theo’s door in a flash.

“Theo?” he called gently as he knocked on the door. “Are you okay in there?”

There was a sputtering and gasping sound, but no answer.

“Theo?” he called a bit louder.

Nothing.

Scott reached for the doorknob, but it was locked.

Shit.

The acrid scent of fear and despair were rippling through the crack in the door.

There was another sputtering sound, this time Scott almost thought he heard Theo call something that sounded like his name.

“Theo, wake up!” He called again, rapping on the door so hard it rattled in his frame. “You’re dreaming, let me in!”

It was then that his ears were met with a ear-splitting, heart-wrenching scream of agony. His senses filled with the metallic scent of fresh blood.

He slammed his shoulder into the door and the lock burst open.

Theo was doubled over on the floor, tangled in a mess of sheets and blankets. Writhing and twisting, choking on mouthfuls of his own blood. His clawed fingers were buried up to the knuckles, digging into the gaping wound in his chest as he frantically tried to claw out his own heart.

Scott dived forward and grabbed Theo’s hands, pulling them away from the wound. His skin was ice-cold and clammy.

“Theo, stop !” he shouted. “Snap out of it!”

Theo tried to wrench his slippery hands out of Scott’s grip, but Scott wouldn’t let him.

He was frenzied. Out of control.

THEO! ” Scott roared at him this time. “ STOP!

Theo froze at the Alpha’s command. His eyes widened, recognizing him for the first time. But he didn’t stop trembling.

Not releasing his grip on Theo’s wrists, Scott pulled him to his chest.

I— ” Theo choked as he dropped his head down onto Scott neck.

Scott released Theo’s wrists so he could wrap his arms around his back. He could feel Theo struggling to speak, but too distraught to let the words leave his mouth.

“It’s okay.” he whispered into Theo’s hair. “I’ve got you.”


I don’t want— ” Theo finally sobbed, his shoulders shaking as he slowly brought his arms around Scott’s waist. “ I don’t want to remember…

Scott's heart twisted in his chest as his arms tightened around Theo.

Chapter Text

Sunlight streamed in through the living room windows, making the translucent edges of Theo’s hair glow red and deep orange. He was sprawled out, face-down across the living room sofa, his arm dangling over the edge, dead asleep. The blanket that Scott had put on him hung limply over his side.

Scott watched the slow rise and fall of his back as each breath left his exhausted body open and unguarded.

It had been a long and rough night.

Scott was relieved that at least now, Theo was finally sleeping peacefully. He wanted nothing more than to doze off in the armchair next to him, but he knew he had to clean some of the mess before his mother got home from her night shift. He let out a silent yawn as he stretched his aching muscles.

As he gathered the bloody washcloths off the floor, he couldn't get the sound of Theo’s broken pleading voice out of his head. He’d muttered countless things that were indecipherable through his sobs, but one thing came out clear again and again: I don’t want to remember .

Each time the words left Theo’s mouth it felt like Scott’s heart was going to rip itself out of his chest. Because he had no answer to Theo’s pain. He couldn’t lie to him. He couldn’t tell him that the truth wouldn't be as bad as he feared.

He wanted nothing more than to hold Theo in his arms and tell him it would all be alright, but he couldn’t promise him something like that. Because he wasn’t in charge of how this would play out. He could give Theo as many advantages as he possibly could, ultimately, only Theo would be able to determine the outcome.

But watching him suffer still hurt.

It felt beyond cruel to encourage him to remember that he’d sold his soul to three cruel people that couldn’t have possibly valued him any less. That he was completely alone in the world, and that it’d been made that way by the actions of his own hands. That he let himself become a monster, and had nothing to show for it.

And yet Scott knew that Theo would eventually have to remember. He couldn’t escape his past by running from it. Only by facing his demons could Theo ever hope to be free from them.

But how could he tell Theo that when he was sobbing and begging for it not to be true?

I don’t want to sleep anymore… He’d pleaded, nonsensically. I don’t want this...

It’d taken nearly an hour for Theo to calm down from hysterics enough to let Scott wipe the blood off of him. Hours more for him to be able to swallow down a cup of tea and read a book together. Every time Theo started to nod off he’d suddenly snap back awake, his heart racing.

He’d finally fallen asleep only an hour before sunrise, which didn’t leave Scott much time to get the house in order before his mom got home.

He sighed as he discarded the washcloths into hamper and closed the lid before making his way back into the living room to check on Theo. The chimera was thankfully still passed out, the deadweight of his exhausted body practically fused with the sofa cushions.

He forced himself to break his eyes away. He quietly climbed the stairs, and made his way to Theo’s bedroom, which looked like someone had been murdered in it. Knowing he was short on time, he collected the shredded and bloody sheets and thew a spare blanket over the bed, then gently closed the broken bedroom door so Melissa hopefully wouldn’t see how it was damaged.

She had just cleaned the house top to bottom the previous night.  

Despite the fact that she claimed to not care what her ex-husband thought, she always seemed motivated to make him wish that he hadn’t given up his life with them. And with the recent turn of events in Beacon Hills, a visit at this point, seemed inevitable.

He was throwing out the torn and blood-splattered sheets when he heard the loud bang of the front door and flinched.

Melissa was home, and she’d probably woken Theo with her entrance.

“Again?” she said, disgusted as she walked into the kitchen and slapped a pile of mail down onto the table. “Scott you had me clear out the spare bedroom, if he’s just going to sleep on the sofa every night—”

“He’s not.” Scott assured her. “And don’t worry, I’ll finish cleaning up the living room in just a minute.”

“It’s not about the mess.” she said, nervously hooking her keys up on the rack and hanging up her jacket. She never hung up her keys and jacket unless they had company coming. “It’s about how I can’t walk into my own living room without seeing the person that—”

Mom .” Scott hissed. “Please, he’ll hear you…”

“Let him hear then.” Melissa snapped irritably, as she started shuffling through the stack of unpaid bills and junk mail.

Her fingers were shaking.

“It’s been a month, Scott.” she went on. “If he’s going to be eating my food and sleeping on my furniture then maybe he should start paying rent.”

Scott knew that it wasn’t what she really wanted to say.

She wanted to say the same thing she’d said every time they’d had a moment to talk alone. That Theo had hurt her worse than anyone ever had. Worse than his father, worse than any of the other enemies he’d faced.

Because for a moment, Theo had made her think that she’d lost her son.

Scott had tried numerous times to sway her over to his side by bringing up all the times Theo’d slept over at their house in fourth grade. He’d try conjuring memories of Theo as a child, speculating about all the things that the Dread Doctors might have done to groom him, pointing out that he could have been like Theo.

But Melissa wouldn’t have any of it.

So Scott would have to pull out his final card, again and again.

Do you trust me, Mom?

She never had an answer to that other than ‘yes’. So Theo stayed.

But today, Scott knew that Theo wasn’t the only thing threatening the ‘sanctity of their home’.

“Mom, I think you’re just a little nervous because—” Scott started.

“Don’t start with me right now!” she cut him off. “You know that I don’t care what your father thinks. You could have twelve werewolves sleeping in the living room, all snorting cocaine off the carpet when he walks in for all I care about what he thinks! But it’s not about him! It’s about the fact that this is our house and-”

Scott put a hand on her shoulder.

“It’s okay. I get it.” he assured her. “We won’t sleep in the living room any more.”

Realizing for the first time that she’d raised her voice, Melisa’s face fell.

“Scott, honey…” she started again, her voice brimming with tired duress. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to yell…”

“It’s okay.” he said again, pulling her into a hug. “I know you’re tired.”

But he knew that it was far more than that.

She was going to have to swallow her pride and ask an abusive man that it took several years to get rid of for financial help.

When they pulled apart there were exhausted tears gathering in the corners of her eyes.

“Something came in the mail for you.” she said, wiping here eyes with the back of her hand and pulling a glossy dark blue envelope with gold lettering out from the stack of letters. “It’s from UC Davis.”

“Thanks.” Scott said, taking it, but not opening it.

“Have you picked your classes and ordered your books, yet?” she asked, tossing a pile of unopened bills into the garbage.

“No, not yet.” Scott said, forcing a smile onto his face. “Still thinking about it though…”

“Scott, there’s a deadline for those sort of things.” Melissa’s tone became chiding once again. “You can’t just blow this off or you won’t be able to get in any of the classes you need. My first year in school I ended up taking…”

She launched into a story about her freshman year, and then another about her first year in nursing school. They were meant to be self-deprecating and humorous. And they would be if Scott actually planned on registering and ordering books.

But he didn’t.

So instead, he forced himself to smile. Tried to ignore the growing ache in his chest as her words made him wonder if he would ever get to have anything normal in his life again.

*     *     *

Theo woke to the sound of glass rattling in it’s frame.

It only took him a moment to realize that it was the sound of the door slamming shut and the windows rattling from the impact. Scott’s mother wasn’t exactly graceful when she was tired.

He was rubbing his eyes when she walked past him with a disgusted groan on her way into the kitchen.

His head hurt and his body ached. He couldn’t remember how he got onto the sofa, or why he was wearing one of Scott’s t-shirts, but as he peered at the dog eared book and several half-empty mugs on the coffee table, he felt a chilling sickness begin to slip into his body. The phantom sound of a smug and taunting voice echoed in the dark recesses of his mind.

No.

Theo shoved the thoughts aside, stood up and gathered up the tea mugs. Then he crept near the kitchen to peer in on her and Scott’s conversation.

It wasn’t to eavesdrop, he could do that just as easily from the sofa if he wanted to, it was simply that he needed to get himself nearer to Scott.

He couldn’t be alone with that voice.

He craved the warm and grounding sensations that he knew he would fill him when he was back in Scott’s presence.

If only Melissa would stop prattling on about her damn freshman year. Each passing moment he was alone he felt his stomach tightening, his skin prickling as if he were being pierced by icy needles. But knew he couldn’t interrupt them. Melissa would be furious, and then the conversation would be drawn out even longer.

He leaned against the wall near the entrance to the kitchen and closed his eyes, listening for the sound of Scott’s voice whenever Melissa let him get a word in edgewise.

But when Scott spoke, Theo could tell that there was something wrong.

He spied around the corner until he could see Scott. There was a forced look of happiness on the True Alpha’s face. He was doing his best to listen and look appreciative of the story, while the words were obviously causing him pain.

When Melissa seemed satisfied that she’d motivated her son into registering for classes she made her way upstairs. Theo watched Scott for a moment from the entranceway. With Melissa gone he let his shoulders slump and his dark brows knit together as he looked at the blue letter in his hand.

“You’re not going, are you?” he asked softly, making himself known.

Scott looked up at him.

“I’m sorry she woke you up.” Scott said, scrunching his eyebrow deeper and tossing the envelope on top of the unpaid bills into the trash. “You were finally asleep…”

“Don’t be.” Theo said, setting the mugs down in the sink and moving closer to him. “It’s her house.”

He was already feeling better. Scott’s scent, the sound of his voice acknowledging him, the beating rhythm of his heart. They made him better.

But he could tell that Scott had slept even less than him. His shoulders were bent and the weight of the conversation with is mother was still weighing heavily on him.

“Why are you lying to her?” he asked leaning against the counter beside him.

He wanted to move closer, but he made himself stop there.

He wasn’t sure how to touch Scott. Or how to ask Scott to touch him.

Maybe it was just his missing personal memories, but he found himself strangely anxious about the idea of giving or asking for comfort. He was able to receive it, but only when Scott initiated. And that was frustrating.

He looked at the place where Scott’s tattoos hugged his bicep and imagined placing his hand there, rubbing his thumb into his skin.

“I’m not lying to her.” Scott sighed. “I’m just...I don’t want to give her another thing to worry about. She has enough as it is.”

Theo felt that was a little hypocritical. Melissa had more to worry about than Scott ?

He doubted it. But he didn’t feel pointing that out would win him any points with Scott.

“And you haven’t told the rest of the pack either?”

“No.” Scott nodded. “There’s nothing that anyone can do to fix it, so it would only drag them down.”

“But pretending…” Theo pointed out. “It can be draining. Exhausting.”

He’s not sure why he knows this to be true, but it’s something he’s certain of.

“It...yeah it kind of is.” Scott admitted, slipping his hands into his pockets and leaning back on the counter beside him. “But I have more reason to keep it from them then from my Mom. I don’t want them to think that they should give up their plans for college. If I tell Stiles I’m not going, he’ll try to figure out a way to make it work-”

“But there’s no way you’re leaving town with all this going on, and we all know that it’s not getting wrapped up by fall?”

“Exactly.” Scott nodded. “I can’t go to school in Sacramento while Liam and Corey are still here in Beacon Hills and there are hunters kidnapping werewolves left and right. And once Stiles finally accepts that...he might try to stay too, and I can’t let him do that.”

“Not that I’m not secretly counting down the day for him to leave or anything...” Theo started and Scott sideyed him. “But why can’t you let him do that?”

“Because he got into the FBI .” Scott explained. “That’s been a lifelong dream for him, and I can’t let him give up any more of his life for me.”

“What has he ever given up for you?” Theo asked, doubtful.

“Are you kidding me?” Scott asked incredulously. “Theo, from the day I got bitten Stiles’ entire life has revolved around me and my problems.”

“Well…” Theo folded his arms. “He certainly seems to enjoy it enough. What exactly did he do before you got bitten?”

“Complained mostly,” Scott admitted.

“So he did the same thing he does now?”

“It was different .” Scott insisted. “He complained about normal things, like girls, dating, not having a seat at the popular kids table. He read comic books and played video games. Normal .”

“Sure, he might like some aspects of what we do...” Scott went on. “but he doesn’t like worrying about our friends and families dying.”

“I...guess….” Theo said, looking at the kitchen floor tiles.

“And Lydia...” Scott continued. “She’s an actual genius. She’s going to win the Nobel Prize…”

“Fields Medal.” Theo corrected.

“Yeah, same difference.” Scott said with a small smile. “I can’t get in the way of that. They all deserve a chance at an actual normal life.”

“Yeah that’s all great…” Theo said, growing a bit frustrated. “But what about you ? You’re the Alpha. They’re your pack, and I don’t see what they do for you.”

Scott squinted at him.

“That is not what being an Alpha is about.” he said, firmly but not condescending. “Being an Alpha is being a leader, a mentor, and a protector. It’s not about getting things that you want at the expense of others.”

Silence hung in the air for a few moments as Theo considered Scott’s words.

“But like…” he finally said, slightly exasperated. “Why would anyone want to be an Alpha then? Doing stuff for everyone else and never reaping a benefit? That sounds like a pretty raw deal…”

Scott laughed a bit at that.

“Well, I didn’t ask to be a True Alpha. It happened because I couldn’t stand by and let people get hurt.” he explained gently. “And there isn’t no benefit. When you look at all the people you were able to help, watch them grow instead of being cut down, a part of their happiness is yours. You know that you did that. You gave them that. You made a meaningful difference. You matter .”

Theo wondered what that feeling would be like. The warmth in Scott’s voice when he described it, it made it sound wonderful. Like it was one of the best things you could have.

Had he ever felt like that before he was kidnapped?

“But not all Alpha’s are like that.” Theo pointed out after a moment. “Some Alphas...they’re in it for the power .”

“And what does that power give them?”

“I don’t…” Theo said slowly. “I don’t understand the question...”

“Having power is pointless unless you do something with it.” Scott explained “Power only has meaning when it has purpose. My purpose is helping people, trying to make it so no one ever has to feel like they’re an outsider, or that they have to be cruel just to survive or to not be alone in the world. I want to make sure no one has their chances and their futures ripped from them...”

There was so much conviction in the way Scott spoke Theo couldn’t doubt the honesty of his words. They didn’t come from a place of theoretical ideology. They came from experience. Scott’s experience.

But the way Scott was staring into his eyes. It made him wonder if he was hinting that it was an experience they both shared.

Had they both been outsiders? Alone in the world? Had their chances and futures been ripped from them? Had they been pressured to do terrible things?

“Those Alphas,” Scott went on. “The ones that seek power for its own sake? They’ll never find fulfillment because achieving power without purpose only leaves them hungry for more. Once they get it, they don’t understand why it doesn’t complete them, and they have to keep looking for more and more. Nothing is ever enough. They cut everyone around them down for nothing, and then someone eventually cuts them down. The whole thing is so pointless…”

“You’ve known someone like that?” Theo asked.

Scott clearly wasn’t speaking from first hand experience anymore. He’d never be like that. This had to be someone else.

“I’ve known many people like that.” Scott affirmed. “They all end up the same way.”

Scott put his hand on his arm, and Theo felt his skin practically smoulder from the touch.

“Does that make sense?” Scott asked.

Theo thought about it.

It did, sort of.

But thinking about it was making his stomach twist again. There was something in him that wanted to reject Scott’s logic, and it was in complete conflict with the part of him that wanted to melt into Scott’s touch.

“Kind of…” was all Theo could get himself to say.

Scott’s brows arced happily. He nodded and let his hand slip off Theo’s arm.

Theo was sorry for its absence.

“Now,” Scott was already saying as he started opening cabinets. “Let’s have some breakfast.”

Theo glanced down at the trash where the glossy blue letter still shone brightly on top of the bills.

He didn’t doubt that Scott meant everything he’d said. But there was something that didn’t sit right with him. And that was the fact that the giving of chances only seemed to flow one way.

Why was it okay that everyone else got chances, but he had to be content with only giving chances to others?

He looked at the tired crease of Scott’s brow as he rummaged through the half empty cabinet. Immediately he felt the same craving for closeness begin to creep through him, but he didn’t act on it.

Instead he let out a heavy sigh and retrieved the envelope from the trash.

“You should call the college and ask them to defer your admittance till next year.” he said. “So that you aren’t screwed if you do manage to get this town back under control by then. I understand why you can’t leave right now, but that doesn’t mean you should fuck yourself over indefinitely. You’ve already made the decision, now adjust the long term plan to account for it.”

Scott looked at him over his shoulder, like he was shocked that Theo was still on about him attending college. Before Scott could reassure him that he was “fine” Theo tore the envelope open and riffled through the papers till he found the phone number for admittance.

“Here…” he said, as Scott turned to face him. “I’ll call if you want, while you make breakfast?”

Scott blinked at him, all of his features softening.

“I’ll call.” Scott said, taking the paper gently. “You make breakfast.”

*     *     *

There was a hopeful rhythm beating in Scott’s chest as he spoke to the college admissions office. The woman on the other end cheerfully assured him that delaying a year was something that people did all the time, and that it wouldn’t necessarily hurt his chances for a bright long term career.

As she spoke, Scott watched Theo asses the contents of the refrigerator.

His eyes had dark circles under them, his brow knitted tiredly, but he didn’t seem jumpy or unhappy. He glanced over his shoulder every so often, listening in as Scott spoke about the invented personal reasons he needed to delay his admission.

Scott was expecting him to be a broken mess from the previous night, but he’d seemed far more put together than he should be. He darkly wondered if that was just a part of Theo’s psychology leftover from his time with the Dread Doctors. Something terrible happened, and he needed to accept it and get on with his regular routine.

While he was put on hold he had to fight off disturbing images flashing in his mind’s eye of Theo, ten years old assisting the Surgeon in an operation and then going to school the next morning, acting like the only reason he was tired was because he’d been up too late playing video games. Of fourteen year old Theo casually playing Candy Crush Saga on his phone while someone screamed and writhed on the operating table in an adjacent room.

“You want cheese in your omelette?” Theo’s voice broke him from his upsetting thoughts.

“Uh, yeah.” Scott nodded, just before phone line went live again and it was confirmed that his admission was officially delayed till next fall.

He breathed a sigh of relief as he hung up the phone and watched Theo slide eggs onto plates. Another thing he’d been putting off for weeks, finally resolved.

He smiled as Theo took as seat beside him and they dug into their breakfast.

Theo had seemed very receptive to their earlier conversation, which was extremely encouraging. On top of that, he seemed to be genuinely concerned about the state of Scott’s future, insisting on him seeing to the problem instead of letting it fall to the side. Scott getting to go to UC Davis didn’t benefit Theo in any obvious way. Just as him accompanying him to Allison's grave the previous day hadn’t.

Were these signs that Theo was improving?

For the first time he let himself imagine what it would feel like to be eating breakfast with Theo, sitting across from him like this, talking about their plans for the day but without an axe hanging over the both of them. It was the future that he hoped for but never allowed himself to truly indulge in fantasizing. Where Theo remembered everything, and this was still possible.

He couldn’t help but wonder what Theo had remembered last night. How much had slipped back into his consciousness, and what had triggered him clawing at his chest.

As terrible as it had been, his upset did indicate that he was starting to process his past, and that it struck fear and guilt in him. Things Stiles and the others had vehemently insisted Theo was incapable of feeling.

“So,” he started, as they cleared the plates from the table. “how are you feeling?”

“Fine.” Theo yawned casually in response. “Just kind of tired.”

There was something in his offhand response that Scott found unsettling.

“Fine?” he pressed further. “Nothing you...want to talk about?”

“Not really.” Theo said, as if nothing out of the ordinary had transpired the previous evening. “Should there be?”

The warm hopeful feeling that had been growing in Scott’s chest throughout breakfast vanished, a chill swooping in to take its place.

Did Theo remember more last night than he was letting on?

He remembered how easy it had been to fall into the faux-friendship that Theo had offered him in the past. Could it be that Theo remembered everything last night and didn’t want to let on that he had?

Was the support that he had just lent not altruistic at all, but another ploy to gain Scott’s trust and lull him into a false sense of security?

Was their conversation about power and purpose just another game of Theo’s? Was he letting Scott believe that he was helping him just so he could turn on him again? Internally laughing at him the entire time?

Scott didn’t want to believe it was true, but he hadn’t wanted to believe that Theo was capable of doing it the first time either.

Suddenly, Scott found that he couldn’t trust himself.

He needed help.

Chapter Text

The metal floor was cold underneath Lydia’s bare feet. Her breath curled into the air before her, glowing white in the flickering dim fluorescent lights.

She stared at the dark corridor.  The walls and ceiling were lined with body lockers and heavy chains, crisscrossed like spider webs up and down the hall, obscuring her path. She moved towards the nearest locker and tried the handle, but it was bolted shut, padlocked and chained. She tried the next, and the next, but nothing.

Towards the dark end of the corridor she could hear a rattling and ragged heavy breathing. She slowly made her way towards it, ducking between the chains as she went. The curtain of metal links became thicker and more dense as she moved closer, forcing her to have to wriggle through narrow openings until she finally reached the end.

When she did, she saw Theo with his back pushed up against the wall, desperately trying to hold one of the body lockers shut. His chest was heaving from the effort, his eyes screwed shut as the door rattled at his back.

Blood seeped through the cracks in the door as it rattled in it’s frame, soaking the floor beneath him. But still he didn’t open his eyes.

“Theo…” she whispered, crouching down before him. “Theo, look at me.”

He slowly opened his eyes and stared at her.

“Theo, what are you doing?”

“I can’t let it out.” he panted. “It’s going to take everything…”

“What’s behind the door, Theo? Do you know?”

“Things are good now.” Tears were gathering at the corner of his eyes. “Things are so good…”

There was a winding and a clicking sound behind the door. The last blush of color drained from Theo’s face and he slammed his shoulder into the door and sealed the latch down.

*     *     *

Lydia slipped her fingers away from Theo’s temples and opened her eyes.

“Find anything interesting?” Theo asked, looking up at her from Scott’s sofa with cold and deceptively innocent blue-green eyes.

It had been over four weeks but it was still difficult to see Theo sitting in Scott’s living room, comfortably wearing one of the Alpha’s old t-shirts like he lived there. Mostly because he did live there.

It was even harder after seeing the inside of his mind. And how desperate he was to cling to whatever time he had left in the blissful safety that only ignorance could provide him. But, as she tried to remind herself, a rat’s instincts were always to hide.

“No.” Lydia said with what she was sure must be a weak and slightly forced-looking smile.

Scott was hovering apprehensively beside them with his arms folded.

“But is there any progress?” he asked. “Like, does it seem like we’re getting closer to unlocking memories?”

They both stared at her, expectantly.

“Guys,” she said. “This isn’t an exact science. It’s not like I go in there and I’m looking at a loading progress bar...”

“Right, I’m sorry.” Scott bit his lip. “Thanks for coming down here, we both really appreciate it.”

Theo didn’t look like he appreciated it. He looked like he’d rather have spent his afternoon doing just about anything else. And from the way she could see Theo’s eyes move to Scott whenever the Alpha spoke, she couldn’t help but get the feeling that he simply wanted to be left alone with him.

She felt a small smoldering anger, both at the ungrateful and mildly annoyed expression on his face, as well as entitlement he seemed to think he had to Scott’s time and attention. He was the last person on earth that deserved Scott’s energy. Much less her effort.

Learning to slip into his mind without the aid of Deaton’s device hadn’t been an easy feat, yet neither Theo or Scott seemed to appreciate —or even notice — that at all. She couldn’t blame Scott, who obviously had greater problems on his mind, but Theo had no excuse beside being a self-absorbed dickhead.

But the anger could only stay at a slow simmer within her. It was hard to thoroughly hate Theo after seeing the inside of his mind. Even with the annoyed arc of his eyebrows and the faux-relaxed slouch in his posture, Lydia could now read the tension in his shoulders in a way that betrayed his inner fears.

Theo wasn’t just annoyed. He was scared — of what she could now safely assume was memories that he would be more happy to keep locked away.

“No problem.” Lydia acknowledged Scott’s gratitude as she picked up her purse off the coffee table. “Should I plan to come by tomorrow morning as well?”

“Yeah,” Scott replied. “I think that would probably be for the best. Maybe plan to drop by regularly for the time being?”

“Why?” Theo demanded, crossing his arms and looking up at the pair of them. “What do we need to do that for?”

“We’ll talk about it later.” Scott promised him. “Lydia, let me walk me to your car.”

Theo frowned and picked a book up off the coffee table.

“How do you think he’s doing?” Scott asked the moment they were a safe distance from the house. “Really?”

“He’s scared.” she explained. “He’s blocking the memories. Intentionally.”

“How can you tell?” Scott asked.

“Because I literally saw him doing it.” Lydia said, adamant. “Blocking them — with his body. I don’t need to consult an emissary to interpret that.”

“I can’t really say that I blame him.” Scott said sadly, leaning against Lydia’s car door and looking at his feet.

“Yeah, me either.” Lydia admitted. “It must be nice to not know that he did all of the things that he did and have you taking care of him all the time.”

Scott frowned sadly.

There was something else that she wanted to ask after watching Scott and Theo interact over the past several weeks. Something that, if her speculations were true, would be very concerning. But she wasn’t sure how to broach it.

She wasn’t as willfully deluded as the rest of the pack. She didn’t miss the pain in Scott’s eyes every time Stiles mentioned his name in the following months after Theo’s betrayal and then disappearance.

“How are you doing?” she asked, slowly. “With him, I mean?”

Scott sighed, heavily. He thought about his answer for several minutes.

“It’s getting very complicated.”

Lydia nodded, slowly.

“Scott, I’m not going to be like Stiles and tell you that you shouldn’t want to help him.” she said softly. “I know that you do. I know that you care about him...and that...that isn’t a recent development either.”

Scott remained silent through her observations and didn’t deny them.

“But I’m getting really worried about you.” she went on. “Stiles acts like he’s mad, and sure, he is mad, but also worried. About you .”

“Theo’s not going to be pulling another trick on me.” Scott assured her. “I’m not defenseless and I’m not going to get caught off guard. You’re checking to see if he remembers regularly so he won’t be able to pretend that he hasn’t and buy time to scheme.”

“It’s not just that.” Lydia pressed. “I’m worried about how invested you are in this working out.”

Scott frowned once again.

“You don’t have to pretend that you aren’t.” she said, gently. “I understand that you want to help him. I’m worried because I see you caring more and more. You’re with him all the time .”

“I have to keep an eye on him.” Scott pointed out.

“I know.” she agreed. “But that doesn’t mean that it won’t make this even harder on you. Scott, Theo’s always been difficult for you, but this...what are you going to do if when he remembers, and it’s right back to the way it was?”

“I’m not sure yet.” Scott said. “I’ll think of it then.”

“Scott—”

“Lydia, please,” Scott cut her off. “I know you’re trying to help, but we have so much to worry about with the hunters right now, and he seems like he’s doing well, so can’t we just entertain the possibility that this could work out?”

“But what does ‘working out’ even look like?” Lydia asked. “What is your best case scenario?”

“I don’t want to think about that yet.” Scott insisted. “I just want to take this one step at a time.”

“What are all the books for?”

“The books?”

“All the books in your living room.” Lydia didn’t explain the abrupt change in topic. “What are you guys doing with them?”

“Oh…” Scott smiled a little. “Theo and I are reading them at night. It’s supposed to be much better than watching TV for kids that are having trouble developing empathy.”

“Another one of your and Deaton’s therapies?” she asked. “Like the exercise?”

Scott nodded.

“And you really think they’re working?”

“I…” Scott was slow to answer. “I do.”

Lydia considered his answer for a long moment. She still wasn’t sure that the benefits of uncovering Theo’s potential goodness outweighed the risks. But it wasn’t her decisions to make. Scott had the deepest connection with Theo, and he’d been the one most hurt by him.

Scott had chosen this path, and only he could measure the risks and rewards.

“Promise me you know what you’re doing.” she asked, “Please?”

“I promise that I’m doing the best that I can.” Scott answered heavily. “For everyone.”

*     *     *

Scott watched Lydia’s car pull away.

He knew that he hadn’t given her the answers she’d wanted, but it was the best he could give her under the circumstances. He hoped that she’d have the foresight not to divulge all of the details of their conversation to Stiles. He was already treated to a daily lecture and dose of salt from his best friend on the subject every day, sometimes several times a day.

He didn’t need her sharing details about his and Theo’s runs or reading activities. But he also wouldn’t go so far as to ask her to keep it from Stiles. If Stiles asked, he would answer honestly himself. He wasn’t going to risk more damage to their relationship by adding lies to an already charged and painful subject.

He turned back towards the house where he knew Theo was waiting for him. He was relieved to hear that Theo hadn’t remembered everything just yet. It meant that he still had time.

As he climbed the steps, an idea struck him.

“Hey,” he said as he walked in and Theo looked up at him expectantly. “Get your shoes on, I want to take you somewhere.”

*     *     *

“Where are we going?”

“You’ll see.”

They walked to an old playground with squeaking swings and a rusted over jungle gym. The park hadn’t been maintained, and there was slouching grass growing through the wood chips under their feet. The paint on the seesaws was chipped, it’s colors faded to bleak pale hues in the dimming light of day.

“It doesn’t look like it used to.” Scott said, walking past what looked like an old sandbox to the the back of the park. “The town opened up a wooden castle playground not too far from here and this one kind of got the shaft…”

“You don’t say…” Theo eyed the sloppy graffiti scrawled on nearly every surface.

There was something that he definitely didn’t like about this place. The squeaking of the rusted metal put an acrid taste in his mouth.

“I used to come here a lot with Stiles, but you and I came here a few times too…”

Theo was staring at one particular swing. It’s creaking was more sinister than that of the others.

He’d sat in that swing once.

“Scott, I want to leave.” he said, hurriedly. “I don’t like it here.”

Scott turned to him, suddenly concerned.

“You feel like you’re remembering something?”

“I want to leave .” Theo reiterated, on the verge of pleading.

“Hey…” Scott took his wrist, reassuringly. “It’s okay, we don’t have to stay. This isn’t what I wanted to show you.”

He gestured to a path leading out of the playground and into the woods. For some reason that felt safer. He stuck close to Scott as they followed the overgrown path.

“What did you want to show me?”

The farther into the woods they moved the more Theo could feel the tension in his bones ease. His muscles soothed by the cool shade of the trees.

“I told you that it’s a surprise.” he said, looking over his shoulder with a smile. “But are you remembering anything here?”

Theo felt his heart thudding a little harder in his chest.

No, he didn’t remember anything. But from the tone of Scott’s voice, whatever it is that he should be remembering probably wasn’t that bad.

Scott took him a short distance off of the path to a tall tree with several wooden boards nailed to its trunk. Steps leading to a modest-sized, but sturdy-looking tree house.

“Come on.” Scott said, climbing up the first few. “Let’s go up.”

“Did we build this?” Theo asked, following him.

There was something familiar feeling in the way the rough-sanded boards felt in his palms as he gripped them.

“No, Stiles and I did.” Scott said, pulling himself up into the treehouse and leaning down to offer Theo a hand. “But you and I came out here once.”

This was the most that Scott had ever voluntarily told him about his life, and he was eager to hear where it was going. What had he and Scott done in the treehouse?

Theo felt his cheeks burn as he took Scott’s arm and let the alpha pull him up the last few steps.

There was no roof to the treehouse, only a sturdy floor, one side with a wall and three sides with only railing. They had to climb in through a hole in the floor that they both only just barely could squeeze through.

Scott sat cross-legged and started digging through his pockets.

The last of the light was disappearing around them and the cicadas were beginning to hum and chirp.

“We came out here one time after school when Stiles was sick.” Scott explained further, pulling an item out of his pocket.

“Let me guess,” Theo supposed as Scott retrieved his phone from his pocket along with a pair of earbuds. “We went that day because Stiles usually didn’t want me here?”

Scott let out a weak laugh.

“Yup.” Scott admitted. “He had a ‘no one but us’ rule that I never agreed to so I didn’t feel that bad about breaking it.”

“What did I do to piss him off so bad?”

“I...have no idea why he didn’t like you back then.” Scott said, thoughtfully. “But he’s like that with a lot of people to be honest...”

Yeah, because he’s possessive as fuck.

Theo thought, but kept to himself.

“You were super excited because you had a new band you wanted to show me, but you only had one pair of earphones for your ipod.” Scott went on plugging them in and offering him one end. “So we shared.”

“We’re gonna listen to it again?” Theo asked, cautiously taking it. “Why?”

“We can if you want to.” Scott offered softly.

Theo bit his lip.

It was obvious that Scott was trying to jog his memory. After weeks of frustratingly vague non-answers to his questions, Scott was offering him this. But now Theo wasn’t sure that he wanted to go flipping over stones in his mind. Every time his memory started to come back, that cold voice would come with it. Taunt him with it’s lilting smug tone and insinuations.

A breeze ruffled the the leaves around them as Theo fingered the rubbery earbud, nervously.

“We don’t have to if you don’t want to.” Scott put his hand on his wrist again. “If you’re not ready to try, then we can go home right now.”

There was something so warm and fortifying in Scott’s touch. Firm so that he could feel the strength in it, but gentle so that he wasn’t afraid of it.

“Why…” he asked slowly. “Why are you doing this now?”

“Because,” Scott said. “What happened last night…”

Theo swallowed. He didn’t want to think about that.

“I know that whatever you saw, scared you.” Scott continued. “And Theo, I’m not going to lie to you. The truth is...a lot of what you’re going to remember, it isn’t going to be good.”

Theo looked down.

“I know.” he admitted, his voice wavering. “I’ve...been beginning to put that together.”

“I want to make sure you remember at least one thing that’s good.” Scott said, taking his other wrist into his hand and squeezing them gently. “And I want you to know that, when everything comes back, I’m going to be here for you. I want you to be able to trust me, and I want to be able to trust you, but I need you to stay honest with me and share stuff as you remember it, okay?

Conflicted sensations rippled in Theo’s chest.

Part of him was relieved to hear Scott acknowledge and confirm his suspicions. It was comforting to feel Scott’s hands hear him whisper assurances, but the way that Scott was talking about it…

It made it sound really really bad.

Why did Scott need to assure him that he’d still be there for him when he remembered?

Did that mean that he should have been scared that Scott suddenly wouldn’t be there for him?

He looked into Scott’s seeking dark brown eyes.  Felt the warmth from Scott’s palms on his wrists. His concern was so real, so authentic. Just like everything else about him. He slowly nodded and reached out and took the single earphone Scott was offering him.

They leaned, shoulder to shoulder against the truck of the tree and let their feet dangle over the ledge as Scott searched for the song they’d once shared in the same place more than eight years ago.

Theo closed his eyes as it began to play.

Three simple but ominous strums of a bass guitar. The start of violens. His posture began to soften he followed the growing rhythm of electric chords and strings. Then the vocals started. Nasally and intentionally off-pitch.

He scoffed.

“So, the first thing you want me to remember is that I listened to trash?” he smirked, but didn’t open his eyes.

“Theo, you were like ten, of course you listened to trash.” he could hear the amusement in Scott’s voice. “And it’s not so bad...”

“Mhmm…” Theo hummed, letting himself relax into Scott’s shoulder.

Time started to slip away. He listened to the sound of the music and the rhythm of Scott’s heart. When he opened his eyes the sun had set and they were looking out at a the last rays pale white light bleeding into a navy blue sky. Stars beginning to shimmer in the fading light.

And he remembered.

He remembered following Scott into the woods, excitedly. A backpack full of homework on his shoulder. A skateboard tucked underneath his arm. There was an ipod in his pocket, practically burning to be used.

He was excited to be there with just Scott.

I liked him even back then. Theo realized, as he remembered the way Scott’s smile and curly dark brown hair had made his chest flutter with nerves.

He remembered huffing as they climbed the wooden board steps, worrying that he might have an asthma attack, but willing to risk it to share this song.

There had been something about the song that he really needed Scott to hear.

He knew what the thing was when he heard it. A suggestive verse of lines that made it unclear if the subject of the lead singer’s interest was a boy or a girl.

He’d thought about Scot the first time he’d heard it.

The memory of his first time hearing the song started to come back to him in slivers as well. He could picture his old bedroom. Wall to wall carpeting, a desk with a spinning chair and a small computer at it. Posters of bands and tv shows on his walls. A tall white door that lead to his closet.

A clicking sound as a gloved hand with metal fingers reached out of the door.

“Theo!” Scott was shouting at him.

He was suddenly in the treehouse again, only now he was on his back staring up at Scott, who was clutching both his shoulders.

“Theo, are you okay?”

It took a moment for Theo to realize his chest was heaving and his face was wet.

“What-what happened?” he asked weakly, surprised at how hoarse his voice sounded.

Scott swallowed.

“You started gasping and shaking.” he answered. “You almost fell. I’m sorry, this was a stupid idea—”

“No.” Theo panted, slowly sitting up. “It wasn’t. I remembered being here with you. It’s just that other stuff started to come back too…”

“What kind of stuff?”

“I’m...not sure.” Theo said, failing to suppress a shiver as the familiar chills rippled down his spine. “I keep seeing these...hands, and...and faces...not like people’s faces, like masks or something…”

He looked at Scott, desperate to see some kind of confirmation or denial of these visions.

Scott simply nodded, so Theo kept going.

“And I keep seeing...corpses and severed limbs.” he whispered. “Like, tons of them...”

“It’s okay.” Scott assured him, slowly rubbing his shoulders “You can tell me anything. Its alright if it’s awful or if it doesn’t make sense. I already know it’s bad. I’m ready for it. I want you to be able to talk to me about it.”

Theo could feel the tension in his chest melt away underneath Scott’s warm touch. Relief flowing through his veins at how unphased he seemed by his dark confessions. Scott rubbed his shoulders down his arms, but froze when his fingers slid past the end of his shirt sleeves and their skin connected.

“Theo, you’re freezing .” he observed. “Come on, let’s go home—”

“No.” Theo grabbed Scott’s arm, imploringly.

He wasn’t ready to go yet. He didn’t want those mechanical hands anywhere near him, but he knew that they never touched him in the treehouse. Scott was the only person he’d ever been here with.

He liked the things Scott was saying, and the way they made him feel.

“Can we stay for just a few more minutes?” he asked. “Listen to one more song?”

Scott looked as if he were wrestling with his better judgement.

“Please?” Theo asked again.

Scott’s resistance crumbled.

“Okay.” he said, pulling his phone back out of his pocket.

Theo settled down next to him, leaning against his shoulder this time. As the song began to play Theo leaned more and more of his weight into Scott. He could feel Scott relaxing into it as well.

The song ended and another played. He didn’t move, and neither did Scott.

*     *     *

Scott knew that they should be leaving soon. It was getting dark, Theo didn’t seem to be good at retaining heat, and he didn’t want to push him remembering anything else that night. But each time a song drew to a close Theo would nestle himself just the smallest bit closer. Scott could feel the rise and fall of his breath, each one leaving his body more relaxed, more comfortable.

He could tell, when Theo leaned his head into his shoulder, that he was breathing in his scent. And that it was soothing him.

Scott found himself slipping his arm around Theo’s back to lend him some of his warmth. Theo turned his face into his shoulder.

Just one more. He told himself, each time a new song played. We’ll go home after this one...

After the first track, it had switched to a playlist of related songs. They all had similarities. Songs that were popular in the same genre back when they were in fourth grade. Nostalgia-inducing ballads of school day woe and angsty tales of heart-wrenching love.

Scott could remember Theo making him a playlist that he’d played over and over again on a pair of shitty earphones to block out the sounds of his parents fighting. He could remember laughing at Stiles who had misheard the lyrics to one and sang it completely incorrectly.

He remembered sipping Capri Sun on his porch with Theo, knees scraped from skateboarding. He remembered how the late afternoon sun illuminated Theo’s sweaty skin, and the way Theo’d blushed and smiled shyly when he’d complemented his execution of a skate trick.

He knew that Theo likely couldn’t remember all that, and he doubted that he had even before he’d lost his other memories. But he could tell that he was enjoying the sounds all the same.

As another song ended, Scott felt Theo’s weight shift again, but this time it was different. There was intent in the way Theo tilted his head that went beyond a small nudge to silently request they continue listening.

Scott could sense what Theo was about to do, and he knew that he should stop it.

He didn’t.

He let Theo brush their lips together. He pulled Theo closer, and let him climb into his lap. His arm still around Theo’s back, he drew their bodies together and returned the kiss with a fever that he’d be ashamed to let anyone else see.

But only for a moment.

Theo’s fingers twisted desperately in his hair. Scott could taste the longing on his lips. Could feel the glowing rapture in his heartbeat. But it was wrong, and Scott knew it.

No. ” he said abruptly, turning his head to the side. “Theo, I’m sorry, but we can’t .”

Shock etched into every detail of his usually smooth and collected features. Scott could tell from the completely unconcealed raw emotion on his face, that this had not been an outcome that Theo had considered. He stared at Scott, his expression frozen somewhere between between disbelief and devastation.

The authenticity and emotion in the reaction was both heartening and disconcerting.

“I don—” Theo stuttered, his voice breathless. “I don’t understand.”

Scott put his hands on his shoulders and squeezed them gently. He could feel how Theo wanted to melt into it, but was now resisting.

“You’re not entirely yourself right now.” Scott explained, trying to soften his voice.

“So?”

“So, you’re not in a state where you could consent to something like this.”

“The fuck I can’t—”

“It would be taking advantage of you, and the vulnerable state you’re in right now. When your memories come back, you might feel that you never wanted this.” he said firmly. “And I’m not doing that to you.”

“But—” Theo looked scared and terribly confused. “But we—you and me…”

He looked at Scott, pleading with his eyes, but for what Scott wasn’t quite sure.

“Haven’t…” His voice was trembling now. “haven’t we...?”

Now it was Scott’s turn to be confused.

But he didn’t have the time to work it out. No sooner than Scott had tilted his head to the side in confusion than he felt his phone buzz in his pocket with a text from Liam.

[Liam]: Emergency at the school.
[Liam]: Stuck in detention but I can hear people talking in the basement.
[Liam]: Something is about to go down.

Chapter Text

“Liam, stay in your seat.”

“But Ms. Monroe—”

“You’re already in detention, I don’t want to have to write you up a second time in the very first week of school. Please don’t force me to.”

Liam opened his mouth to argue but she cut in before he could get a word out.

“You’re captain of the lacrosse team this year, aren’t you?” she asked, silencing him immediately. “The Cyclones are going to need their captain now more than ever with Scott McCall gone. Please don’t jeopardize this for yourself and your teammates.”

Liam closed his mouth and took his seat.

He waited till Monroe had turned her head back down to her paperwork before sneaking his phone out again.

[Liam]: I’m totally fucked right now.
[Liam]: I can hear two people talking about trying to jumping some freshmen in the basement.
[Liam]: They think she’s a werewolf and that she’s dangerous.

He glanced up at Monroe and waited for the reply. It came almost immediately.

[Scott]: Hang tight, I’ll be right there.
[Scott]: Don’t do anything by yourself.
[Scott]: We still don’t know what the hunters are after - this could be a trap.

Liam glanced at the clock. There were only fifteen minutes left till detention was over.

[Liam]: I’ll get out in fifteen minutes.

Stiles suddenly jumped to life on the thread.

[Stiles]: Liam!
[Stiles]: Keep your ass in that chair!
[Stiles]: Malia and I are on the way too

[Lydia]: Same.

Liam turned his ears back towards the basement.

The voices were muffled, garbled in some way so they were unrecognizable. Like they were speaking through cloth. Or some type of mask.

 

*     *     *

“Why can’t I come?” Theo demanded, following Scott.

“You’re still recovering.” Scott answered, quickly searching his jacket pockets and then the basket near the fridge for the keys to his bike.

There was much that they needed to talk about; they’d barely spoke as they ran as fast as their legs could carry them back to Scott’s house. Scott wasn’t sure he could get there in time, even on his bike. But even with the stop home, it would still probably be faster than trying to get there on foot.

“I feel fine .” Theo objected. “My wounds healed weeks ago.”

“You’re still mentally recovering.” Scott lifted up the basket to check if they had somehow gotten beneath. “Damn it, where the hell are—”

“Keys are next to the coffee mugs.” Theo pointed to them on the counter.

“Thanks.” Scott grabbed them.

By the time he turned around, Theo had moved to stand in front of the door.

“I want to come.” he said, this time more adamantly. “I’m fine. I’ve been fine for weeks now, you don’t need make me stay back like I’m some kind of invalid when you need the help out there. I can fight just a well as any of them.”

The jealousy and bitterness with which he referred to the pack made Scott frown.

“Theo, I don’t have time for this right now.”

“No.” Theo argued. “What you don’t have enough of is able-bodied werewolves at your side. I know all the weird stuff that’s been going on. You need me.”

Theo’s argument was sound. There was something really not right about the situation Liam was describing, and he didn’t know what he was walking into. The pack really did need an extra set of claws.

But bringing Theo into an already charged and uncertain situation wasn’t an option. He had no way of knowing how violence would impact him in his fragile state. It could trigger a memory — or worse — it could trigger an impulse. 

He couldn’t put his pack in danger from Theo. And he couldn’t put Theo’s recovery in danger either.

“Theo, I get that you want to help, but it’s just too c—”

“I swear to God, Scott if you say ‘complicated’ I’m gonna bash my skull on the counter till my brains fall out…”

Scott sighed.

He needed to leave, but he couldn’t brush Theo off. Not after what had just happened in the treehouse.

He put his hand on Theo’s shoulder. Immediately, he felt the change in Theo’s body. How his heartbeat slowed and his muscles relaxed, even if it was only a small amount. He waited for Theo to look him in the eyes.

“I can’t take you with me right now, but we will talk about it when I get back. About this, about what just happened with us, about...everything.” he promised. “Okay?” 

Theo bit his lip.

Scott could see him wrestling with something. It took him longer than it should have to realize that Theo wasn’t just frustrated with being constantly excluded, or their conversation being delayed.

Theo was worried about him.

“Okay.” Theo gave in, reluctantly.

“I’ll be back soon.” Scott assured him. “I promise.”

With that, he turned and left.

*     *     * 

Theo watched the door swing shut behind Scott, his heart sinking in his chest and anxiety knotting in his stomach. He was more confused than ever by what Scott had said in the treehouse, but he could hardly bring himself to think about it.

Every bone in his body was screaming at him to go after him. His instincts going wild. His blood pulsing in chilling ripples through his veins.

He’s not coming back.

Theo couldn’t stop himself from thinking as he continued to stare at the door. 

He’s never coming back.  

 

*     *     *  

“Um, hello?”  

A third voice had joined the two others in the basement. This one was female.

“Guys? Are you...are you there?” 

Scott wasn’t there yet. There were six minutes left on the clock. But he couldn't wait a second longer.

“Mr. Dunbar, get back in your seat—”

Liam ignored Monroe calling at him as he dashed out the door and towards the basement.

 

*     *     * 

 

Scott’s motorcycle peeled into the parking lot. There was no sign of a blue Jeep. Scott heard the sound of Liam’s teacher yelling at him as he dismounted and pulled off his helmet.

He bolted to the school doors, pulling his gloves off his fingers and tossing them on the ground as he went. As he pushed through the double-doors, he could hear the sound of a girl in the basement screaming.

But there was something not right about the sound. Something inauthentic. Artificial.

 

*     *     * 

 

Theo paced the length of Scott’s living room restlessly. His senses were charged and he couldn’t explain why. He could hear the ticking of the clock on the wall in the hallway, the drip of the leaky faucet upstairs, the hum of the ceiling fan in the neighbor's living room.

The hair was standing up on his arms. Adrenaline tingling in his veins. 

He should go after Scott. He’d overlooked something. Scott wasn’t going to be prepared for what was coming for him.

Was that true? Or was he just terrified to be alone with only his thoughts?

 Scott’s reaction to his kiss had been surprising. And not in a good way.

Almost like he isn’t actually your boyfriend, isn’t it?  

Theo shook his head. Tried to push the voice away.

You know it’s true. You just don’t want to admit it. You invented the entire thing. Because you think you want it...

Shut. Up. ” Theo growled under his breath. “Shut the fuck up .” 

You don’t need him, Theo.

His heart rate was climbing. His lungs shuddering in his chest.

You don’t need anyone.

“Leave me alone.” Theo whispered, closing his eyes and curling his fingers into fists. “You’re...you’re going to ruin everything ...”

I already did. I’ve done things that no one can fix. Not even Scott.

Stop .” Theo whimpered, squeezing his fist so hard his nails cut into his palms.

I did them to protect you. I had to. No one else would. Believe it or not, I’m still trying to protect you. This road you’re going down with Scott? That’s the thing that can really hurt you.

“Fuck this.” Theo growled.

He turned on his heel back towards the kitchen when there was a loud mechanical click click click as the radiator turned on.

Every time Theo’d heard that sound it had sent shivers down his spine, but with Scott gone it sent him crashing to his knees. Scott’s living room swam before his eyes. The ceiling looked up at him as if it were the floor.

Theo’s cheek hit the carpet. He tried to breathe but couldn’t.

The room and it’s furniture was growing all around him. He was small and helpless as heavy footsteps approached him.

Do you remember what I protected you from?

The Tall Man was back. His masked face with it’s glass lenses for eyes staring down at him.

The metal tips of leather gloves reaching towards him.

 

*     *     * 

 

“HEY!” Liam roared as he leapt down the stairs. “LEAVE HER ALONE!!!”

The basement was dark. The dim red glow of the emergency light was all that lit the room. It was hardly enough light for a human to see, but Liam didn’t have time to think about that as his feet hit the concrete floor and he took off in the direction of the girl’s screams.

Please —” she shrieked and sobbed. “ Please, please I haven’t done anything —”

She was close.

Liam turned the corner. There was a click. There was a snap. And then there was pain.

He roared, crashing down onto the floor as hot blood burst from his calf. He reached for the wound on his leg, but there was something attached to it, and the harder he tried to pull it away the deeper the sharp metal fangs of the steel-jawed trap buried into him. 

The screams of the girl suddenly turned into giggles and Liam craned his neck up towards the sound.

Three figures crept out of the shadows. From the neck down, they looked like they could be his classmates. Two boys and a girl, wearing jeans, tshirts, and hoodies. But as Liam’s eyes moved up their bodies he could see the shining metal of firearms in their hands, gas masks hanging around their necks and the strange black pointed hoods that covered their faces.

Executioners hoods.

“The old man said you’d fall for that.” The girl’s sing-song voice laughed. “That you always come to protect one of your own. Even if you don’t know them.”

“Wha-what?” Liam repeated, stunned. 

He didn’t know the girl, but there was something familiar about the scent coming off of the two boys that flanked her. Liam recognized the scent of body spray on the taller one. He must have smelled it dozens of times in the locker room just before a game.

The sneakers on the other were a beaten up pair of Adidas. The same shoes he’d watched get laced up after practices with slender trembling fingers.

“Nolan?” Liam blurted out in recognition. “Gabe? Wha—what the hell —”

Nolan froze. He turned to the other two, as if looking for direction. 

“It doesn’t matter.” the girl snapped, aiming her shotgun at Liam’s face. “He’s not going to be around long enough to tell anyone…”

Several things happened at once. Liam closed his eyes, there was a roar behind him, several surprised shouts in front of him, a rushing feeling of moving air just over his head, and gunfire erupted.

When Liam opened his eyes Nolan was gone and Scott was wrestling firearms out of Gabe and the girl’s grip. Bright red blood was leaking from his arm. 

Liam took the moment to try, in vain, to remove the trap from his leg. He couldn’t figure out how to unclasp it. The pain was spreading up his leg, burning him and making him dizzy.

There was a skidding and rattling sound next to him. He turned just in time to see a smoke grenade burst into a cloud of purple-hued vapor.

“Fuck them!” he heard the girl call, though he couldn’t see anything anymore. “Let’s get out of here!”

He felt them rushing past him, and he was too busy choking and coughing to be able to swipe at their legs. A moment later he felt Scott beside them.

 

*     *     * 

 

It was another long and grueling day in the ER.

Melissa could barely feel her legs as she trudged up the front steps of her porch. Her ex-husband had texted to let her know that he would be stopping by tonight, and she barely had the time to get changed before he arrived. She only prayed that Scott and his...guest hadn’t trashed the living room again. 

As far as teenage boys went, Theo actually wasn’t that messy. He didn’t forget to pick towels up off the bathroom floor like her son, or leave smelly socks and shoes under the coffee table like Isaac. Nor did he break lamps or drop food like Stiles — Melissa still had nightmares from all the crunched Doritos she’d vacuumed out of the carpet after every single Stiles overnight. But Theo’s late-night...incidents...and the steps Scott would take to help him often left their mark in several rooms. 

She still wasn’t sure why she was missing an entire set of bedsheets and blankets from the linen closet, but she didn’t want to inquire about it either.

It wasn’t that she didn’t care about Theo’s supposed suffering. She wasn’t immune to feeling pangs of sympathy for others, even if it was someone that had done bad things. 

It was that every time she saw a pair of coffee mugs in the sink and knew that one of them had belonged to Theo all she could think about was her son lying dead on the floor.

Scott had trusted him. Had taken him under his wing. Would have put his life on the line to protect him if he’d needed it. And Theo’d repaid him by trying to break his pack and take his life. If Scott hadn’t been as strong as he was, he’d be buried under six feet of dirt in Beacon Hills Cemetery. His pack left to spiral into darkness. Melissa left to weep for him.

Theo was the last person on earth who deserved her son’s help. Yet he was the one that Scott seemed the most determined to give it to.

When she saw the way Scott had pulled his fingers through Theo’s hair as he puked his guts out at three in the morning, it was like being doused with a bucket of ice water. She’d done the same thing for Rafael in the early days. Back when she thought that his drinking was just him going through a rough patch.

It had taken her far too long to see Rafael for who he really was, and even longer for her to cut him out of her life completely.

She was scared because, although she did believe is was a beautiful thing to be able to forgive someone for past misdeeds, to enable them to be better, some people just weren’t capable of getting any better. Because some people didn’t want to be helped.

Scott’s bike wasn’t in the driveway, so she wasn’t expecting to see anyone inside, but when she entered she saw Theo sprawled out on the floor, his limbs at odd angles, his body shaking.

Dropping her keys, she rushed towards him.

“Theo!” she was surprised to hear the concern in her own voice, something she would later assure herself was just a knee-jerk nurse’s reaction. “What’s wrong?”

Theo’s eyes were wild and crazed. He looked at her, but from the way his irises dilated when she reached for him, she could tell that he didn’t recognize her.

Get away !” he shouted as he lurched away from her.

The panicked pitch in his voice was unnerving. He sounded like a child. She froze and watched him hastily back up along the floor till his back hit the wall and he couldn’t move any farther.

“Theo.” she said firmly, keeping her eyes locked on him. “Calm down.”

Don’t touch me! ” he squelched out, and Melissa could see tears gathering on the edges of his eyelashes.

It was in that moment that the memory of a boy rushed into her mind’s eye. Tousled hair and wide observant eyes. He’d sometimes walked home with Scott and stayed for homework and dinner. He’d been polite. Shy compared to Stiles or Scott’s other friends, but there had been something that her husband hadn’t liked about him. Something “off” as Rafael had put it.

Which, at that point, had only made Melissa like him more.

Until now, she’d done her very best not to remember that boy. Damn it.

Where the hell was Scott?

“It’s me, Melissa.” she said slowly, unsure if she should try to approach him or stay still. “Scott’s mom?”

At Scott’s name something seemed to register in his glassy eyes.

 

*     *     * 

Scott, I —” Liam burst into a fit of coughing. “ I can—I can’t breathe!”

His eyes stinging from the smokey cloud of wolfsbane, Scott groped around to find the lever that would release Liam’s leg from the trap. He could feel the toxin starting to burn in his lungs. He couldn’t find the lever. All he could find was the chain that the trap was connected to.

Resolving himself that he’d never be able to dismantle the trap in time, he grabbed the heavy chain with both hands and, with a guttural roar, yanked the metal links apart. He scooped Liam up off the floor, trap still latched to his leg, and stumbled out of the cloud of poison. Liam howled in pain as the trap’s teeth tugged deeper into his leg, but his fingers clung to Scott’s shirt tightly.

“I’m sorry—” Liam managed to choke out as Scott struggled to get them both up the stairs and back into the school hallway. “It was a trap, I didn’t listen—”

“It’s okay.” Scott coughed, his head was spinning from the wolfsbane and it took almost all of his effort to keep him and Liam from stumbling back. “You were tr—trying to help someone...” 

“More like some thing.” a woman’s voice greeted Scott as he made it to the top of the stairs.

*     *     * 

Scott’s mom.

Theo stared at the Tall Man, then squeezed his eyes shut. When he reopened them, he was looking at Scott’s mother. There was a conflicted and concerned expression on her face. For a moment, Theo thought that it might be for him, but he quickly realized she was probably just worried for her own safety.

“I...” Theo started, cold sweat dripping down the back of his neck. “I’m sorry...”

“Are you okay?” Melissa asked, and Theo was shocked to hear that the concern in her voice hadn’t evaporated. “You seemed like...you didn’t know where you were for a second.”

Theo looked down, unable to maintain eye contact with her.

“Where’s Scott?” she asked.

“He’s with Liam.” Theo didn’t lift his eyes from the floor. “There was an emergency at the school.”

There was a long silence that followed the explanation. Theo could feel her eyes scrutinizing him. Trying to read him.

“And why aren’t you with him?” she asked.

 Theo couldn’t be sure, but there was something slightly inauthentic about the hard edge in her voice. Almost like she was forcing herself to sound that way.

“He wouldn’t let me come.” he answered, and flinched at how pathetic desolate the words sounded as they left his tongue.

“And what happened to you, just now?”

“I...” Theo wasn’t sure how to answer, or if he should answer at all. He’d never talked to anyone but Scott about things like this. He wasn’t sure he could trust anyone else. “I wish I knew.”

“You thought I was someone else?” Melissa pried, every bit as persistent as her son. Maybe that’s where Scott got it from.

Theo still didn’t look at her, but slowly nodded his head. 

There was another long silence after that, that Theo didn’t dare break.

“Theo look at me.” she ordered, and Theo slowly lifted his gaze. “Whoever you thought you saw? They can’t hurt you here. This is my house, and the only person anyone should be afraid of inside these walls is me. So as long as you don’t break my furniture or do anything to hurt my son...you don’t have anything to be worried about.”

All Theo could do was stare at her. He wasn’t sure what he had ever done to get on her bad side, but he knew that she had hated him with every fiber of her being. That hatred seemed to be wavering, not gone, but not as unrelenting as it once was. And he wasn’t sure why.

But more puzzling, or more disconcerting, was the unspoken implication of her words.

So long as you don’t do anything to hurt my son...

“Did...” Theo asked slowly, staring her deep in the eyes. “Did I hurt Scott?”

“Yes.”

Melissa’s stare didn’t falter. There was no tick in her heartbeat. She didn’t blink.

“How?”

“You know Scott doesn’t want me to tell you that.” she answered, straightening up. “Now I’m going to get you a glass of water, and you’re going to help me make dinner. Okay?”

Theo nodded.

His mind was reeling as Melissa disappeared into the kitchen.

He’d hurt Scott. That’s why things were complicated. That’s why the pack hated him. That’s why no one trusted him. It all made sense.

He’d barely had a moment consider it, before the room was filled with the flash of headlights as a car pulled into the driveway.

“Oh shit. ” he could hear Melissa swear from the kitchen. “He’s here . Theo! Go clean yourself up and—”

But Theo didn’t get to hear the rest.

Before Melissa could finish her sentence Theo heard the door burst open and the click of a shotgun.

He bolted to the kitchen, just as the room erupted in gunfire.

*     *     * 

For a moment, Liam thought that the pain was causing him to hallucinate his guidance counselor standing in front of them, blocking their exit with a shotgun. But no, that was actually what was happening.

“I didn’t think we’d catch the Alpha.” Monroe said as she lined up her shot. “But here we are.”

Before she can get off a shot, Scott dropped Liam to the ground and rushed her, grappling her for the gun. He shouted as a fresh wave of pain ripped through his leg.

He could hear Scott hacking and coughing. When the fresh wave of pain subsided he could see the same purple-hued smoke leaking from the vents throughout the hallway.

“Liam, run!” Scott roared. “Get help!”

He, of course, couldn’t run. The trap was still clamped to his leg, cutting so deep Liam can feel the pointed teeth starting to scrape nerve-splitting groves into his bones. He was more than forty feet from the set of swinging doors that led to the parking lot.

Scott was weakening. Blood leaked from his arm onto the floor as he began to lose his footing in the grapple.

Crawling on his hands, Liam dragged himself towards the door. With each yard he felt like his leg might sever itself from his body, but still he kept inching forward.

BANG!

Liam looked over his shoulder just in time to see Scott take the blast from the gun and crash backwards down the stairs into the basement.

Chapter Text

A terrified roar ripped from Liam’s mouth as he watched Scott fall.

In a moment of blind rage, he shifted his direction. Ready to claw his way back along the floor and break Monroe’s ankles.

Before he got more than an inch towards Monroe, a second roar ripped through the hall. Malia was suddenly behind him, grabbing him by both shoulders and wrenching him back. Liam flailed, the pain in his leg almost all but forgotten, his claws slashing through the air as he watched Monroe lay down a line of Mountain Ash down across the entrance to the stairwell. Sealing Scott in.

She turned to look Liam in the eyes as she pulled the caps off two pairs of smoke grenades and tossed them down into the basement as well.

 

*     *    *

 

It happened so fast, Melissa could barely register what was going on before it was over.

One minute she was pouring a glass of water, sweating through her scrubs as as she prepared herself to come face to face with her ex-husband. The next there was a searing pain in her arm and Theo was tackling her to the floor.

His arms circled around her waist, his body shielding hers as he yanked the heavy kitchen table down onto its side to block the onslaught of bullets. For a moment she couldn’t breathe, as the impact from the fall shook her lungs and nerve-splitting pain riveted up her arm and through her shoulder.

Bright red blood oozed out onto the freshly-mopped floor beneath her. With her cheek pressed to the linoleum, all she could process were the scents of metallic blood and Pine Sol.

The gunfire paused and Theo released her, disappearing over the table with a loud roar.

*     *    *

Jesus Christ !” Stiles exclaimed as Malia and Liam in a cloud of gushing blood, chains and smoke burst out of the school doors. He left the Jeep door half open as he dashed towards them, baseball bat in hand.

“They got Scott!” Liam choked, tears streaming down his face as Stiles crouched down and triggered the release of the trap. “They shot him — he fell—”

With a flash of headlights, Lydia’s car pulled up beside the Jeep.

Who ?” Stiles demanded, his veins turning to ice. “Who shot him?”

EVERYONE !” Liam howled nonsensically. “My teacher, the lacrosse team, everyone! The basement—” His panic was momentarily inturrupted as he coughed up a mouthful of sour-smelling blood. “—and wolfsbane—he’s gonna die!”

Stiles looked up at Malia. She was already charging back into the school, but no sooner had she’d disappeared than she bursting back out again, hacking and coughing.

“The wolfsbane—” she sputtered. “It’s coming from the vents, I can’t even see in there!”

*     *    *

The pair of men in flannels and ski masks — that looked remarkably like executioner’s hoods — stumbled back as Theo sprung over the table. He could see their shock in the dilating irises of their bloodshot eyes. Hear it in the sharp breath that they sucked in through their open mouths as his feet hit the floor and he crouched, ready to spring at them.

They scrambled backwards out the kitchen door, swearing as they fumbled to reload.

The fuck —” one of them shouted as he flung the door shut and Theo caught it in his hands.

“Why’s this one still here?” The other one panicked, dashing back to the running van in the driveway. “I did not sign up for this shit!”

Theo’s blood ran cold as the implications of the words hit him.

Scott.

He ripped the door back open, fangs bared, ready to tear their throats out and take their keys, when a pained cry behind him gave him pause.

Fuck her. The icy voice in his mind shouted at him. Kill these bastards before they get away.

There was a coldness spreading through him. It didn’t make sense. He should feel nerves. Anxiety. Rage or fear. But within his adrenaline there came prickling numbness. Creeping through his veins like frost up a windowpane. Clouding his vision.

There was something familiar and comforting in that numbness. In it’s dark arms it held escape. Freedom from the discovery of all the things that haunted him. If he surrendered to it now, it seemed to promise, the truth would hurt less.

But there was a price to that escape and he knew it.

The price would be Scott, and all of the warmth that accompanied him.

You’re going to lose that anyway. The voice pointed out.

He had a split second to decide.

The hunters gunned the engine, and Theo turned back to Melissa.

Idiot. The voice chided. You are going to pay so much for this, and you don’t even see it...

Go fuck yourself. Theo mentally fired back as he dropped to his knees beside a pale-faced and writhing Melissa. If you’re right then, I’ll see you in hell.

Don’t worry, you will. And you’ll come crawling back to me. The voice was growing faint. You always do...

“Argh!” Melissa half groaned, half shrieked as he moved her arm to look at the wound. “What are you doing?”

“I’m trying to help you—”

Thankfully, it was only her arm that had been hit. The bullet seemed to have missed all the major arteries in her arm. Theo somehow knew where all of those arteries were, just like he knew German and Latin. More knowledge bubbling up from the abyss.

“Didn’t you hear them?” Melissa demanded as he tore her sleeve open and began to bind the bleeding wound. “They’re going after the others

“Yeah, I’m going, I just need to get you to the car so—”

There was a loud bang and the kitchen door swung open again.

FBI !” a tall man with a gun trained on Theo’s head burst through the door. “PUT YOUR HANDS ABOVE YOUR HEAD AND BACK AWAY SLOWLY !”

“Oh for fucks sake !” Melissa snapped. “He’s not one of them, Rafe!”

*     *    *

WHY DIDN’T YOU LISTEN ?” Stiles couldn’t control himself as he grabbed Liam by the shoulders and shook him. “ WHY THE FUCK DIDN’T YOU STAY WHERE YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO ?”

“I—I couldn’t!” there were tears sliding down Liam’s face. “They were going to kill someone!”

Guilt ripped through Stiles gut as Liam’s voice broke.

“It’s what Scott would have done!” Liam defended himself through his tears.

“Just because Scott would do it doesn’t mean it’s smart!” But even as the bitter words left his mouth Stiles knew it wasn’t Liam’s fault. He was just trying to do the right thing. Just like Scott would try to do the right thing. Always everyone else first. Himself last.

“Fuck this, I’m going in.” he said, reaching for the door handle. “My best friend is not getting killed by some fucking guidance counselor!”

“No you’re not, idiot !” Malia’s voice growled in his ear as she pinned his arms to his sides, hoisted him up off his feet and yanked him backwards. “They have guns! You think Scott would want you to rush in there right now?”

“I bet he doesn’t want to die either!” he snapped back. “Put me down!”

“Stiles, calm down!” Lydia snapped, an ear to her phone. “You aren’t helping anything!”

She turned her back to him.

“Yes, hello?” Stiles heard her speaking into the phone. “No, you need to get down to the school now, and bring backup, they’re humans.”

“What are you doing?”

“I’m calling the police, Stiles!” Lydia said. “Parrish is on the way.”

“Are you kidding?” Stiles could barely breathe. “They will never get here in time!”

“What about Theo?” Lydia suggested. “Where’s he?”

“I don’t know.” Liam piped in. “He wasn’t with Scott.”

“Yeah, of course he fucking wasn’t.” Stiles spat. “Because why the fuck would he be here when when it could actually do us some good? But even if he was there’s no way in hell I’m letting him near Scott like that!”

“I told Parrish to bring backup. They’re human hunters, they’ll be able to storm the school—”

“They won’t! This will turn into a hostage situation and Scott will be dead before they have a chance to do anything!”

*     *    *

There was something familiar about the teenager standing before him, but he couldn’t place him.

Something was wrong with him, Rafael could see that immediately. Something more than the fact that he was soaked in blood and crouched over his ex-wife.

It was his cold grey eyes. Staring down his gun without the slightest flicker of fear.

Not normal.

“Oh for fucks sake ! He’s not one of them, Raf!”

He heard Melissa’s voice, but as the boy made a sudden dash into the living room his finger squeezing the trigger anyway. Thankfully the bullet missed him, blasting itself into the blender and shattering it to pieces.

“Dammit, kid!” Rafael raged, but he could already hear the idiot running running out the door on the opposite side of the house.

“Raf, I said—”

“If he’s not attacking you then why is he running?” Rafael demanded, but didn’t give chase. Instead crouched down beside Melissa. Now that he was up close, he could see that her arm was half-way bound with torn fabric. “Fuck, I could have killed him!”

“He’s—” Melissa gasped in pain as he finished the work the kid had obviously started. “He must be going to help Scott. You should go too—”

“I placed a call for backup, they’ll get here any second. Now you need to tell me what the hell is going on here.”

*     *    *

Poison pricked the inside of Scott’s lungs like a thousand tiny needles. Harsh fumes burned the back of his throat. He could feel the toxin leaking into his bloodstream through the shrapnel in his side. He coughed and tired to open his eyes, but when he did all he could see was the blurry distant light of the EXIT sign that seemed to grow farther away by the second.

He had to get up there.

With all of his strength, Scott pulled himself up onto his elbows. Stabbing pain ripped through him at the movement. A roar died in his lungs before it could leave his mouth. He fought with all of his might to keep his eyes open, but the light was growing fuzzier and dimmer by the second.

As if it were moving farther and farther away.

He grabbed the first stair, and dragged himself up again. He could feel the life draining out of him with every moment, bleeding out onto the stairs as he forced himself to keep going. He took another stair, and another. His muscles gave out as he tried to take the fifth. His teeth nearly knocked out of his jaw as his head hit every single step on the way back down.

*     *    *

By the time Theo got to the school, there were already police sirens making their way up the streets of Beacon Hills towards them. He could hear the assailants arguing inside the school, just as he could hear Stiles having a mental breakdown in the adjacent parking lot.

He wasn’t exactly sure where Scott was, but from the panicked shouts of Stiles and the rest of the pack he knew that the alpha was the only one still in the school. And that he was trapped there.

He avoided the lot where the shouts were coming from and instead crept to the biology classroom window. Peering inside he could see a black powder laid down in a tight line across the windowsill inside. Mountain Ash.

He was aware that as a werewolf he shouldn’t be able to cross it. But, with his heart still slamming in his chest from the sprint to the school and adrenaline pumping through his veins, he was also somehow aware that he’d still be able to breach it.

He broke the glass with his elbow and crawled through the hole. Jagged shards scraped his arms and legs as he moved. He coughed as the scent of wolfsbane filled his senses, but he knew that he would last longer in it than the rest of the pack would.

You’re more resilient than we thought... A cruel man’s voice rang in his ears.

It wasn’t the Tall Man, nor was it the phantom. This voice was less terrifying than either of them, but still paralyzed him with fear.

The man whose experiments had robbed him of his memories.

Theo’s vision swam before his eyes, the classroom blinking in and out of focus. He could smell chemicals and dried blood.

He closed his eyes and shook his head, forcing the memories back.

He didn’t have time for another traumatizing flashback. Scott was dying . He could feel it in his his chest. His inner wolf responding to the Alpha that lay coughing somewhere below his feet.

Basement. Theo realized, just as he heard the sound of footsteps drawing nearer to him.

He ducked behind the door, and waited.

When the hunter came bursting through to investigate the shattered glass, he’d be ready for them.

*     *    *

Scott could hardly breathe or cough anymore. Each breath was agony to pull in and out of his lungs. Fear swept through him as he realized he could no longer lift his arms. No longer feel them.

He could feel the lives of his pack and family, all connected to him through echoes of sound and low pulsing and energy. He could feel his mother. Her pain. Her worry. He could feel Stiles and his terror. Could practically hear his panicked voice. He could feel Liam’s guilt. Lydia’s stress and hope. Malia’s rage.

He could feel Theo as well.

He knew he had to keep fighting, for as long as he possibly could. But as he struggled to draw in breath, he found that he couldn’t.

*     *    *

He didn’t have time for this, Theo realized just as the door flung open and a teenager in a gas mask burst through.

Scott’s life was slipping away, and he could feel it.

Theo’s body moved faster than his mind could keep up. His arm, snapped to soulless life, animating before his eyes like dead flesh struck by lightning. Guided by some memory that only his muscles had access to, his claws slashed through the air.

Flesh ripped open and blood spilled onto the floor.

 

*     *    *

The darkness that had been clouding his vision began to bleed into white. For the second time in his life, Scott could feel the cold tiled floor of Beacon Hills high school on his back as his soul began to break free of his body.

Tears started to stream down his face as a dark shadow obscured the blinding light.

A man in blood-soaked gas mask. The last thing he would see.

This is it. Scott steeled himself for the blow that would take everything from him. I’ve finally failed them all...

Only the blow never came.

When Scott blinked Theo was standing over him, pulling a gas mask from his head as he knelt down beside him.

“Hang on.” Theo coughed as he brought the mask to Scott’s mouth and slipped the strap behind his head, securing it. “I’ve got you.”

Chapter Text

The next few hours passed in a blur.

Scott could remember Theo’s voice. He could remember sharing air back and forth through a mask that tasted of fresh metallic blood and fear. He had a vague sense that his wounds were bound, and remembered the searing flashes of pain riveting through his him as his cuts were smothered in wolfbane ashes, sealing them shut.

He vaguely remembered being half-dragged, half-carried through the school halls. Stiles sobbing on his chest. Police sirens. An ambulance ride. Stiles and Theo shouting at one another.

“Hey there, Sport. You with us?”

Sport. There was only one person that had ever called him that.

“Dad?” Scott muttered, his eyelids slowly blinking open in the harsh fluorescent light.

He was ashamed at how the kind and rarely-used nickname still elicited a tugging sensation in his chest. He did his best to block out the few times in his young life that his father had seemed proud of him. Rafael had given those crumbs of affection only to yank them back too many times for Scott to grow attached to them.

Even half-conscious, he knew he needed to be careful.

“What are you doing here?” he asked, groggily as the image of his father and the hospital room slowly took form in the defogging blur of his eyes. “Wait, I’m in the actual hospital?”

“Yes.” his father chuckled, unscrewing the cap of a plastic water bottle and handing it to him. “Guess you don’t come here that often anymore?”

“No.” Scott moved to shake his head, but a sudden stabbing pain quickly stopped him. “Not for myself at least.”

“So, where do you usually go when you get knocked around?”

“The vet.” Scott muttered, taking a cool and refreshing swig of water.

“You’re kidding right?”

“I’m not really up to explaining all of the details of my supernatural life right now, Dad.” Scott said, tiredly. “What happened?”

Rafael frowned, and Scott felt a small wave of guilt ripple through him.

He and Rafael had agreed to try to work on their relationship. Snipping at him wasn’t exactly going to take them in that direction, but with his current level of fatigue Scott wasn’t sure he could help it. Saying that they were going to work on things didn’t make years of neglect and abuse just disappear. It didn’t make up for the missed lacrosse games. It didn’t erase all of the times Scott had watched his mother cry. How the sound of a drunken voice would make him shiver with dread.

Even just being in the same room with Rafael made him feel defensive. The pain in his body and the anxiety for the safety of his friends made that defensiveness more difficult to mask.

“Sorry,” he muttered guiltily, taking another sip of water. “Head just hurts.”

His head wasn’t the only place. He wasn’t sure how long he’d been out, but there was still a throbbing pain in his side. He reached for it and realized it was bandaged.

“What’s going on?” he asked again, this time more gentle. “Why are you here?”

“You mean why am I the only one here?”

Scott nodded.

“Only blood relatives are allowed in.” Rafael explained. “And your mother is going to be fine, but there was another home invasion, and—”

What?” Scott nearly choked. “Mom’s hurt?”

“I said she’ll be fine.” Rafael said, this time more firmly. “Don’t rile yourself up. She was attacked but one of your friends was there, and her wounds are only superficial. She’s in a recovery room just down the hall.”

Scott understood that Rafael’s tone and demeanor were ingrained in him due to the nature of his work, but he couldn’t help but be angry at him for it anyway. FBI or not, other people wouldn’t describe their family being attacked and hospitalized as ‘ a home invasion with only superficial injuries ’. That was his father’s own particular brand of emotional vacancy. Not giving a fuck just came easy for him.

“Is everyone else okay?”

“Yes.” Rafael nodded. “Although they’ve made quite a scene in the waiting room. Stiles was less than thrilled with the staff holding fast on the ‘blood relatives only’ rule.”

He then launched into a description of the night’s events. By the time Rafael had arrived at the school, it was already flooded with police officers in what seemed to be a hostage negotiation — something that he made sure to mention he was certified in.

Scott tried not to be peeved at his father’s subtle bragging, but failed. He had to focus on not letting his irritation show on his face as he curled his fingers into fists beneath the hospital sheets.

At some point either before or during the negotiations, Theo — whom Scott now realized Rafael didn’t know the name of — had broken into the school and kept him alive for the time that it took the negotiations to fall through and the police to storm the building and make several arrests.

“You arrested them?” Scott repeated in disbelief.

“Yes, Scott, it’s what law enforcement is supposed to do.” Rafael said smugly. “Find the bad guys and take them off the streets. These schmucks made it easy for us by holding up teenagers in a high school.”

Scott tried to process that. It seemed difficult to believe that the conflict could be over that easily. And in his experience, that meant that it likely wasn’t.

“Did you arrest Gerard? Was he there, too?”

“Who?”

“Nevermind. Just tell me how we got here.”

Rafael nodded, but Scott could tell that he would be asking follow-up questions later.

“You weren’t healing at your usual rate, so we took you here. Stiles and your friend, the boy that saved you —” Rafael paused to allow Scott a moment to supply him with Theo’s name, but Scott remained tight-lipped. “—had a bit of a row over who got to ride along in the ambulance, and then we called Deaton. He’s your special doctor, as I understand it?”

“Yeah, my boss.” Scott clarified. “The veterinarian.”

Rafael’s eyes narrowed for a moment like he wasn’t quite sure if Scott was messing with him at this point. However, if that was what he suspected, he didn’t call him out on it.

“Right.” he said, lifting himself from his chair. “Well, he should be here any minute now. I’ll go let the others know that you’re awake. Hopefully your two boyfriends haven’t killed one another waiting in the lobby.”

“My—” Scott nearly spit out the water he’d been drinking. “My what?”

Rafael looked at him with a raise eyebrow.

“Oh, you mean Stiles and Theo.” Scott’s cheeks colored as he realized that it had been meant as a joke.

“Yeah.” Rafael said slowly, now scrutinizing Scott’s reaction. “That’s...who I meant.”

He slipped from the room, but not before giving him a long sideways look.

*     *    *

“Alright, he’s ready for visitors.”

Theo looked up from the hospital floor. He was on his feet in a moment, moving towards Scott’s room. Nearly the entire pack stepped to do the same.

But —” Rafael added quickly. “They’re only going to let a few people in at a time.”

Stiles was already cutting in front of Theo and brushing past Rafael before he’d even finished his sentence.

“Yeah, sure Pops, whatever...” he muttered, slipping into the room.

Liam was practically at Stiles heels, disappearing into the room as well.

Theo stayed back.

He wanted to see Scott just as much as the rest of them but knew that pushing for it was only going to cause another row. Part of him wanted to insist he be allowed in with the first round, rub the fact that he’d been the one to save him in the pack’s face a bit more, but he resisted. Instead he watched several pack members disappear into Scott’s room and the rest gather around the door — more like vultures than wolves — while he slipped quietly away.

It was for the best. His head was still swimming with the events of the evening and the last thing Scott needed was someone confused and anxious buzzing around him. He was already going to have to assure his pack that he was alive and that him nearly getting murdered wasn’t any of their faults.

No one had asked why Theo was soaked in blood. They’d all assumed it was Scott’s, and most of it was.

Theo made up his mind that he wouldn’t conceal what happened if they asked him directly because he wasn’t ashamed of it. It was Scott or the hunter trying to murder him. Any of them would have done the same if they had the nerve and the ability. Theo wouldn’t want to take it back.

But what he wished he could take back was the cold empty feeling that had rushed through his veins when he’d watched the body fall to the floor before him. Or how easy it had been. How all of it seemed to happen not as a conscious decision, but as an automatic response. His claws snapping to life so fast he couldn’t stop them even if he wanted to.

He should have felt something when it happened.

He knew he should have felt something.

But he hadn’t.

Would Scott be angry with him?

And then there was what he’d learned in the treehouse. How, despite Scott’s clear attraction to him, it seemed very unlikely that he’d had ever been his boyfriend. What Melissa had told him just before the kitchen erupted in gunfire only reaffirmed the idea.

It had been easy to push that out of his mind when Scott’s life was threatened, but now, with no bullets flying through the air and the adrenaline drained from his veins, he could feel a sickness coiling in the pit of his stomach.

What had he done to Scott that had earned him the entire pack’s hate?

And if it had been that bad, why didn’t Scott seem to hate him like the rest of them?

Was it just Scott’s nature? To protect anything that was defenseless and broken? Would Scott’s demeanor change if his memories returned?

Would he lose everything?

Unable to survey the floor of the lobby for a moment longer, Theo found himself wandering the hospital corridors, stealing glances at inpatients as he passed open doors. As he turned the corner into the children’s wing he realized that he’d been there before.

More than once.

Theo pushed the voice away, but his legs still carried him to one room in particular.

There was no one in it. Just a bed that he’d once sat on after a vicious asthma attack. Waiting. And waiting. And waiting...

“His parents aren’t here yet?” He remembered overhearing a nurse asking.  “Didn’t the school call them?”

Theo gripped the the edge of the door as he tried to fight the urge to block the memories out. He was sick of everyone knowing more about him than he did himself. He needed to know where the cold feeling came from, and he could tell that part of it had started in this very room.

He didn’t know how long he spent in that room, waiting. But he knew that he’d watched several pairs of concerned parents come to collect their children, tear-stricken with relief at seeing that they were okay.

One mother kept repeating the same thing over and over again into her little girl’s hair as she wept. I’m so sorry, honey. I came the second I heard. I’m so sorry I couldn’t get here faster…

Theo could remember thinking that it hadn’t seemed that long. He’d been there when the girl arrived and was still there after she’d left with both parents.

He could remember his fingers starting to tremble as he realized that the reason his parents weren’t there yet wasn’t because they were too far away. It was because arriving soon simply wasn’t important.

He wasn’t important.

He couldn’t understand what was so special about all of the other children with bloody noses and bones broken on the playground. What was it about them that had made their parents come so quickly to collect them? What was wrong with him that his own parents were nowhere to be found.

He remembered squeezing his arms tighter and tighter around himself as the floor blurred before his eyes and tears threatened to fall down his face. His fingers going numb as he tried to keep his body from shaking.

He’d hated the nurses for talking about him. Hated the tearful parents for forcing him to realize how insignificant he must be for his own parents to not be there yet.

Most of all he hated himself. For not being worth his parents time, and for being too stupid to realize it sooner. He was eight years old. He should have figured it out a long time ago.

Always being either the first or last guest picked up at a birthday party — depending on if his parents meetings were early or late in the evening. Being left at school for what seemed like hours after other kids had gone home.

He’d thought his parents jobs were just important. But Jackson Whittemore — a pretentious boy whose face Theo now couldn’t recall even if the name stuck out in his mind — his parents always made sure he was picked up on time. And his father was Theo’s parent’s boss.

He was such an idiot.

“So...Theo, right?”

A man’s voice broke Theo from his reverie.

He blinked, turning to face Scott’s father. His fingers were casually stirring artificial sweater into a styrofoam cup, but his eyes were locked on Theo. Studying him.

“Uh...yeah?” Theo slowly shifted away from the room. Rationally he understood that only he could see the shades and spirits that haunted him there, but he didn’t want anyone peering into it, regardless.

Almost immediately, Rafael’s eyes flickered to the room. As if some slight adjustment to Theo’s posture had indicated to him that he wished it to avoid his notice.

Alarms started ringing in Theo’s mind at the realization that Rafael was not someone that would be easy to lie to. He wasn’t sure why he needed to lie, especially since he could hardly remember anything to be able to lie about, but something in the man’s observant eyes called out to his senses as a serious threat.

He needed to watch himself.

“You’re Scott’s dad, right?” he asked.

“Yeah.” Rafael nodded. “You weren’t in Beacon Hills last time I visited, were you?”

“I...” Theo started, unsure of where the line of questioning was going. “I...guess not?”

“Why was that?”

“I don’t know.”

“You don’t know?”

“Yeah, I don’t know.” Theo repeated, annoyed. “I don’t even know when the last time you were in Beacon Hills was.

“Last April.”

“Okay...” Theo let his eyebrows crease as he answered “Is...there a point to this story?”

“No.” Rafael softening his tone to something calculatedly more casual. “You just look sort of familiar, that’s all. I’m wondering if we’ve met.”

“I think we have.” Theo said, matching his casual tone. He was more unnerved than ever, but he wouldn’t let it show on his face. If this man wanted to play ball, he wasn’t going to just hand the game to him. “Scott and I were in grade school together.”

“Ah.” Rafael offered him a smile that Theo knew was fake. “That must be it. But, in that case, maybe there’s one more thing you could answer for me...”

“Yeah?”

“Just what exactly is your relationship with my son?”

Theo blinked. Was that all this man was after?

“I feel like that’s a question for Scott.” he said, letting a smug smile spread across his lips as he slipped past him as he made his way back into the lobby.

There was something vindicating about refusing to give this self-important man the straight answers he wanted.

*     *     *

“The high exposure to wolfsbane that your body suffered tonight looks like it’s taken quite a toll.” Deaton observed as he surveyed Scott’s wounds. “You’ll heal, but this one,” He gestured to the bandaged gunshot wound in Scott’s side. “Might take a little longer than usual. Once it’s healed over then you’ll be back to normal.”

Scott heard several relieved sighs around him and felt his cheeks burn slightly.

It was nice to have so many people concerned for him, but it was also embarrassing to have everyone hovering over him as he was examined. And he couldn't escape the small pangs of guilt their nervousness inspired in him.

He hated making people worry.

“Great.” he said, forcing a smile onto his face. “So I can go home tonight?”

“Yes, I think so.” Deaton said, removing a stethoscope from his ears and placing it into his bag. “But I would recommend against you taking your bike. You need to take things easy for the next few days.”

“No prob.” Stiles said, fishing his keys out of his jacket pocket. “He left the bike at the school anyway. I’ll take him home in the Je—”

“That’s alright—” Scott’s father interrupted, stepping into the room once again. “I’m going to be driving him and Melissa both home.”

Scott loathed how much his father seemed to just be able to fill and command a room, but his brow had no sooner creased in annoyance than he found it quickly unwinding as he perceived Theo casually slipping into the room as well.

His eyes were cast down, like he was trying to make himself as scarce as possible. He took a quick glance up and Scott caught his eyes, pointedly. He watched several emotions quickly flicker through Theo’s features at the small bit of attention.

Surprise. Gratitude. Anxiety.

It was the first time in hours that he’d seen Theo without wolfsbane pumping through his veins. The first time he’d seen him since he’d felt Theo pick him up off the floor and hide with him, slowly sharing air back and forth in the dark.

He was exhausted, and yet, somehow, Scott found his muscles aching for a long run in the dark shadowy woods.

Was he an idiot for wanting that?

He forced himself to look away from Theo before Stiles could notice. The last thing on earth he wanted was to have Stiles treat him to yet another retelling of how Theo had gained his trust the first time around.

Tonight’s events bore a striking resemblance to the night Theo had rescued Liam and Hayden. Despite what he’s sure the rest of the pack must think, he didn’t need his best friend to point that out to him.

“Theo, too.” He corrected his father, making certain not to let the ache he felt in his bones make its way onto his face.

“He lives with us?” Rafael asked, surprised.

Scott scowled.

“He lives with me and Mom ,” he said, more irritable than he intended.

*     *     *

Nerves started to dance beneath Theo’s skin as he sat in the back of Scott’s father’s SUV and watched the house draw closer and closer. He could feel the tension simmering in the deafening silence between the two parents in the front seats.

For reasons he couldn’t explain, he felt as though it was his fault. Like the pair of them would turn around in their seats at the next red light, stare at him, and say something that would devastate him. Make him wish that he were nothing, or that he was nothing.

He didn’t know why he felt that way. He’d saved both Scott and Melissa. He knew Melissa, at least, was not mad at him. But he still felt like how that was how it was supposed to work.

Mommy and Daddy didn’t know how to handle you...

Theo squeezed his eyes shut tightly, tried to ignore the voice.

You were such a disappointment to them. The only thing wrong in their perfect lives.

And man, were you wrong.

He opened his eyes. Avoided looking at the dark glass window where he knew the phantom’s eyes would be reflected back at him. He forced himself to breathe normally. Slid closer to Scott.

Scott turned his to face him, and offered a tired smile.

Theo felt the voice grow muffled and distant as it crept back to through the dark corners of the twisted maze from which it came.

The relief he felt was only momentary, because not even a beat later he felt a new pair of eyes on him.

Rafael McCall was staring at him in the rear-view mirror.

Theo swallowed.

What exactly was this man’s problem with him?

It was eerily quiet as they rolled into driveway.

“Rafael, let go!” Melissa snapped, pulling her arm out of her ex-husband’s grip as she stepped out of the car. “I can get myself inside without your help. I was shot in the arm, not in the kneecap.”

Theo had to disagree with her assertion, but no one challenged her out loud as she slowly climbed the front steps of the house, her legs wobbling with drug-induced weakness.

As he hooked Scot’s arm around his neck and helped him from the car, Theo felt his nerves start to bleed into dread.

He and Scott would talk soon.

And his hopes for what he might discover about their past together were no longer optimistic.

Chapter Text

Scott struggled as Theo helped him up the stairs to his bedroom.

Partially from the pain that shot through his limbs with each step, but mostly because having the pleasant soapy scents he’d gotten used to tracking down in the woods right underneath his nose was torment.

The fact that it was so hard not to bury his face into Theo’s neck, pin him to the floor and rub his own scent into every inch of his skin, made Scott feel slightly nauseous.

Hugging Theo after he’d saved Liam and Hayden had felt good too. He could remember the overwhelming relief and the confidence in Theo it had inspired.

The sickness growing in his stomach was made worse by the fact that Theo could sense his interest. He knew it was his inability to mask that desire that had likely confused Theo and lead to what happened in the treehouse earlier that evening.

With all of the usual peril a school night in Beacon Hills had to offer, the ill-advised kiss and conversation that followed had all but evaporated from Scott’s mind. It wasn’t until he’d settled into the backseat of his father’s car and felt Theo slip in beside him that he recalled the promise he’d made before leaving for the school.

As they reached the top of the stairs Scott realized that he still wasn’t even sure what he was going to say in the impending discussion.

He groaned as Theo sat him down on the bed.

“I’ll get your shoes.” Theo said, ducking down to help him unlace his boots.

Scott felt himself blush as he looked at the back of Theo’s head and his tired mind imagined what it would feel like to pull his fingers through the loose spikes of his hair.

“Wait—” Scott grabbed Theo’s arm as he stood to leave. “Stay here. Sit with me for a minute.”

Theo didn’t argue. Just quietly slipped onto the bed beside him.

Scott was so used to Stiles filling in conversational gaps. Never letting a moment pass in complete silence. It was strange how patiently quiet Theo could be, even when there was so much that needed to be discussed.

It chilled Scott’s blood to wonder if the behavior wasn’t so much natural instinct as it might be a learned behavior from his time with the Dread Doctors. Just one of a thousand questions about Theo, and how much of his personality was himself and how much had been desired behaviors imprinted on him.

It was another reason he couldn’t turn Theo out into the world with no memories or direction. To someone less scrupulous, Theo would be a very attractive asset. A werecreature that could cross mountain ash, change his shape, convincingly lie, fight well, and think under pressure.  He was not only desperate to survive, but his driving need for attention and recognition was very easily read by others. Theo would be clay in the hands of someone that didn’t mind taking advantage him.

The Dread Doctors had made him that way. Screwed invisible marionette hooks between his shoulder blades so they could tug strings and get him to perform.

They didn’t need chains to keep their ward enslaved. The bars to his prison were all psychological.

Scott had witnessed as much the night that they’d tried to save Mason.

Until then, it had been unclear to Scott what exactly Theo’s relationship with the Dread Doctors had been. But as he watched Theo that night, as he heard the pain, fear, and anger in his voice when he’d addressed them, Scott understood.

I’m not a failure.

He’d sounded like a child. Frightened, angry, and devastated at the declaration that he wasn’t good enough. That he was ordinary. Theo was scared of The Surgeon and the fate of being a failure in his eyes. But it was more than that. Theo also wanted the man’s approval. He wanted to be valued.

Theo wanted to be cold and compassionless. He wanted to be an extraordinary evil. He wanted power, but not for any purpose. There was no plan for what he would do once he had the powers of the Beast.

It didn’t seem like a conincidence that Theo wanted to be everything that the Dread Doctors had attached value to.

Theo, of course, was likely not aware of this. A puppet was rarely able to see it’s own strings.

But just because Theo couldn’t see what was latched to him didn’t mean that others wouldn’t be able to. Someone perceptive enough would be able to exploit the wounds the Doctor’s cut into him for their own use. All they needed to offer Theo was validation. He would do anything to feel like he mattered.

If Scott wanted to, he could get Theo to perform for him. But Scott didn’t want that.

He wanted to unscrew the hooks, and give Theo a chance to operate without the influence of such compassionless hands. He prayed that Theo would choose the right path, but it would only ever work if Theo truly chose it for himself.

Which was why Scott knew he needed to be very careful in this next conversation.

He couldn’t forget that at least some part of Theo was programmed to please. He couldn’t forget that Theo knew how to read what people wanted. He was desperate to be valued. If Scott wasn’t careful, Theo would read his mind and remake himself into the tool that he thought Scott most wanted.

And what did Scott want most?

Scott wanted to fill the hole in his life that had ripped open the day that Alison was put beneath the ground. That had grown deeper when he’d parted ways with Kira.

He wanted to go to sleep next to someone that challenged him the way Allison had. Someone that was intelligent, and complex, and fascinating. Someone whose life wasn’t turned upside down by Scott’s presence, but made better by it, as Kira’s had. Someone who needed and wanted him.

It felt like an electric current had moved through his body when Theo’d brushed their lips together. It was both powerful and dangerous.

Was Theo unconsciously performing for him? Making himself seem just like what Scott wanted most?

Scott had no idea. And he couldn’t leave it to chance.

He wanted to help Theo for Theo’s sake. Not for his own.

“I promised you a talk.” Scott said, finally breaking the silence between them. “Let’s have it now.”

“You’re tired. We don’t have to...”

Scott had to suppress a small laugh at how truly different Theo was from his best friend.

“I want to do it right now.” he insisted. “Or I’ll never be able to sleep.”

“Okay.” Theo consented with a curt nod. He didn’t look away, but didn’t meet Scott’s eyes either.

For the first time Scott could feel how nervous he was. There was a defensiveness in his posture and a tension in his shoulders, like someone waiting to hear a terminal diagnosis.

“You were awesome tonight.” Scott started. “At the school, and back here. Mom told me what you did for her. How fast you reacted when the hunters attacked her...”

For some reason, the tension in Theo’s shoulders, instead of unwinding, seemed to draw tighter.

“I...” Theo said painfully. “I don’t think you would be saying that if you knew everything that I did.”

Oh no.

Scott’s blood turned to ice in his veins. He hadn’t asked Theo what had happened. He hadn’t asked if the fighting had triggered anything.

What did Theo remember now? And what had he done?

“I...I killed someone. One of the people in the school.”

“Wh—” Scott tried not to let the horror show on his face. “Why?”

“Because you were going to die if I didn’t.” Theo explained. “I didn’t have a mask, I was running out of time, I could feel...”

Theo didn’t finish, but Scott knew what he was trying to say. He’d felt Scott’s life slipping away, instinctively. The way a bitten beta might.

“It wasn’t—” Theo’s voice was choked with stress. “It wasn’t like I made a choice. It was like it just happened before I could stop it.”

His hands were trembling.

“It—it happened so fast...”

He cautiously lifted his eyes, and Scott could see the fear in his irises as Theo watched for his reaction to the confession. He was holding his breath.

Scott grabbed his hands and held them in his own.

“Theo.” he said, firmly. “Why are you telling me this?”

“Because all of my instincts are screaming at me not to .” Theo breathed in barely more than a whisper. “And I just...I don’t feel like I should trust them.”

Scott’s heat leapt in his chest. It was such an encouraging sign that Theo was trying to reject his old ways of thinking, he almost couldn’t allow himself to believe it was true. He squeezed Theo’s palms.

“Thank you for telling me.” he said. “I’m not mad at you. I know that it was an impossible situation. I’m sorry. I’m sorry for putting you in that position. You weren’t ready for it. If I hadn’t—”

“This is not your fault!” Theo snapped at him, tugging his hands away. “You didn’t make me do it. You didn’t put the idea in my head. You didn’t...put that...that...reaction in me...”

Scott looked at him, questioningly.

“I don’t know what I’m saying.” Theo said, confused and angry at himself. “It...it doesn’t even make any sense.”

“It’s okay.” Scott slid closer, but didn’t touch him again. “It doesn’t have to make sense. Theo, I’m just really glad that you told me this.”

Theo’s hard glare softened slightly.

“Why?” he asked.

“Because it makes me feel like you trust me.” Scott clarified. “And like...I could trust you.”

“You don’t trust me now.” Theo pointed out bitterly. “Do you?”

Scott bit his lip.

“That’s...” he started. “That’s a really hard thing to answer.”

“Because I hurt you.” Theo stated. “That’s why everyone hates me. That’s why you don’t trust me.”

“You figured that out?”

“More or less.”

“Look, Theo.” Scott sighed, heavily. “I know that you have a lot of questions, and I want to try to answer some of them, but there will be others that I don’t want to answer yet. Not because I don’t think you’re ready for them. Tonight, everything about tonight, it makes me think that you’re either ready or really close to ready.”

Theo let out a bitter scoff.

“You are .” Scott insisted. “But the reason that I can’t just give you answers is because there’s a lot that I just don’t know. I don’t want to fuck you up by telling you something that I think is true but is only based off my own speculation or a lie.”

Theo didn’t say anything, just stared at the floor and swallowed.

“Does that make sense?”

“Yeah, I guess...” he said, not looking up.

“What do you want to ask?” Scott pried, gently. “I’ll try to answer as best I can.”

There was a long silence that followed, one that Scott was reluctant to break.

“I don’t want to ask anything.” Theo muttered. “There is literally nothing that I want to know.”

“Theo—”

“Don’t tell me that I should !” Theo snapped in barely more than a whisper. “I thought—I thought that maybe there was something worth remembering in all the shit that keeps coming back, but there isn’t . It’s literally all fucked.”

His shoulders were shaking again, and Scott couldn’t help himself.

“Hey.” he said, gripping Theo’s shoulders.

Theo looked away, but didn’t draw back from his grip, so Scott gently pulled him closer, let his hands slide up his neck till he was practically cupping his chin.

“Theo, look at me.”

Theo slowly raised his eyes.

“Everything I said earlier, about how I was going to be there for you when you remembered?” Scott whispered leaning closer. “I still mean it. I promise.”

“Scott, we...” Theo said, slow and painfully.

Scott steeled himself for the question. He wasn’t sure what it would be, but from the strain in Theo’s voice as he worked himself up to ask, it didn’t promise to be an easy one.

“Were we... together ?”

It took Scott a moment to realize what Theo was asking.

“You...” he blinked, his hands guiltily slipping away from Theo. “You thought we were, like, dating, or something?”

He immediately regretted his phrasing as waves of devastation rip through Theo’s features. He watched Theo pull away, hurt and humiliated.

“Hey—” Scott reached for his arm. “Theo, please—”

He wasn’t sure what to say. He was too caught between the guilt of having lead Theo so far away from the truth, and encouraged by the fact that Theo seemed so genuinely upset that it wasn’t true.

If Theo’s interest in him was performative, then would he be reacting this strongly?

*     *     *

I told you so.

The voice was back, bouncing off the walls of Theo’s mind so hard and fast it felt like his head might split open.

You just saw what you wanted. Something that could never be true.

You know why killing was easy for you back at the school. You know what you did to Scott.

You’re just too weak to admit it.

Theo shook his head, willing the voice to stop.

Scott’s hands were on his arms, tugging him to face him again.

“Theo, listen to me.” he said. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to say it like that...”

“But you want me!” Theo blurted out in anger, more directed to the universe than at Scott himself. “I know that you do!”

He could feel the guilt and uncertainty in Scot’s grip, and finally faced him.

“Look me in the eyes and tell me that you don’t!” he demanded, unwilling to let this go.

The phantom was right. He had wanted it to be true. He still wanted it to be true even though he knew that it wasn’t.

Why wasn’t it true?

“I...” Scott stammered. “It’s...it’s not about what I want...”

“Yeah, it never is.” Theo quipped. “Is it?”

“Theo, can you please calm down and let me explain?”

Theo forced himself to take a long and steadying breath. Forced his heart rate to slow down. Forced the gloating voice in his skull to shut its mouth.

He knew that he wasn’t being fair. He knew that this wasn’t Scott’s fault. He knew that, from everything that he’d learned, the fault was most likely his own. But it still felt unfair. Why couldn’t the universe let him have just this one thing?

“There’s a lot about us that you don’t know.” Scott said, quietly. “I can’t....I can’t tell you what you thought about me or what you felt about me, but I can tell you how I felt and I can tell you what you did. Is that enough?”

Theo nodded, even though he really didn’t want to know.

“We were friends in fourth grade.” Scott said. “Close friends. But...things happened. I don’t know what happened to you, exactly. I wish I did, but I don’t. You moved away and I didn’t see you again till you came back to Beacon Hills in senior year. You said you were a werewolf and that you came back to be a part of my pack. I was...I was really excited to have you back.”

“You liked me?” Theo asked.

“I had a girlfriend.” Scott stated.

“But you liked me.”

“Theo, that’s not the point.” Scott sighed. “The point is, I thought we had a connection.”

“Don’t we, though?” Theo asked. “Scott, I remembered you and nothing else.”

At that Scott looked tongue-tied.

“I...I don’t know why you could remember me.” Scott admitted after a moment. “I’d like to think it’s the reason you say, but that could just be me seeing what I want to be true...”

“So you do want me like that.”

“Damn it, Theo can we just get through this?”

No .” Theo nearly growled. “Not if you’re going to keep avoiding answering this.”

Fine .” Scott snapped, more exasperated than angry. “You want to know? Yes. You’re right. I like you, okay? I’ve always liked you. I’ve always wanted you.”

“I’m an idiot, and probably a bad person for it,” he went on, his voice so gripped with feeling Theo couldn’t help but feel as if Scott was confessing to himself rather than to Theo. Scott was forcing himself to come to terms with something that he’d long struggled to admit. “But yes . I obviously want you, Theo.”

“I’m sorry.” Theo said.

“It’s not your fault that I feel this way.” Scott said, dragging his fingers through his hair to calm himself. “You pretty much did everything possible to break me of it...”

“I doubt that.” Theo said, staring at the floor. “I’m...pretty sure that I wanted you too.”

Scott let out a bitter laugh.

“Theo, I’m sure you believe that right now, but I really don’t think that you did—”

“I liked you back in fourth grade.” Theo looked at Scott, trying to get him to meet his eyes again.

Scott looked slightly taken aback.

“You...you did?”

“Yes.” Theo said, unwaveringly. “I remembered it when you took me to the treehouse. What it was like following you there. What I...hoped might happen.”

“Theo, even if that’s true,” Scott said, carefully, “Things were different when you came back. You tried to kill me. You almost succeeded. You got closer than anyone ever has, and that’s saying a lot.”

An image of Scott laying lifeless on the floor flashed in Theo’s mind’s eye. A feeling of complete numbness washing through him.

“I…” he said slowly, his voice caught in his throat. “Scott, I—”

“You can’t apologize for something you can’t even remember doing.” Scott cut him off. “I don’t think that we should say anything more about this until you can remember. That’s one of the reasons that I...stopped what we were doing in the treehouse. But it’s not the only reason.”

Theo was quiet, trying to process the image of Scott on the school floor. Trying to reconcile it with the hopeful strumming in his chest when he recognized Scott stepping towards him in his cage. With the desire he felt to be close to him the first night he’d slept on his sofa.

How could both be true?

“The other reason,” Scott went on. “Is that I don’t know if, with all of your memories, you would really want that.”

Anger started to boil in Theos’ veins at that. He could accept it if Scott didn’t want to get intimate with someone that tried to kill him. That made perfect sense. But from the way Scott was talking about it, it didn’t really seem like that was the reason at all.

“I know what I want.” he growled, hotly. “Just as much as you know what you want.”

“You’d want me to do something that would hurt you?” Scott said asked.

“If that something is what we were doing in the treehouse, then yes .” Theo said stubbornly. “That’s exactly what I want.”

“You realize that you’re basically talking about rape, right? Doing things like that with someone who can’t give their consent?”

“For fucks sake Scott, we were only kissing.”

“It doesn’t have to be sex to hurt you.” Scott said stubbornly.

“Oh, who really cares though?” Theo retorted. “Why do you even care about hurting someone that tried to kill you? Like, fuck him . He gets whatever the hell he gets.”

“Theo...” There was concern in Scott’s eyes, but Theo had more to say.

“I’m serious, Scott.” he went on. “That guy was fucking terrible. Like seriously fucked in the head. He didn’t care about anyone but himself. He’d hurt people, kill people without batting an eyelash. A shallow, soulless, monster.

Theo looked at Scott. Waited for the concern to melt into shock and horror on his face.

But it didn’t.

“Because...” Scott said, his voice soft and his gaze penetrating. “Maybe, a long time ago, he was just a kid that really needed help. And instead of that he got people  — people much older and stronger than him — that took advantage of him. Maybe I knew that kid.”

Theo stared at him.

Scott...

The voice of the phantom was back again, but it was different this time. It’s smooth lilt replaced with something rough and raw. Choked...like..like it was...

Scott, you fucking...idiot.

Scott’s eyes widened suddenly.

“Theo—” the concern in Scott’s voice doubled as he reached for Theo’s cheek.

It was only when Scott’s thumb brushed the tears from his face that he realized they were streaming down his cheeks. Reflexively, he turned to pull away but Scott’s hand slipped under his chin and gently held him in place.

“It’s okay.” Scott assured him.

Theo stared into his eyes for a long moment.

“How can it ever be okay?” he found himself asking, but he let Scott draw him to his chest. “How...how can anything be okay?”

“I don’t know how.” Scott whispered into his hair. “I just believe that it can, and that if something seems too big to take on all at once, you start small. Figure things out one step at a time.”

Theo sniffed and swallowed a sob, carefully avoiding Scott’s still-healing wound as he wrapped his arms around his waist.

“When...” Scott started again, cautiously. “When you remember everything, if you still want this, then we can have this talk again.”

“You’re so confident that I will remember everything.”

“Theo, if you want to have this conversation again then you’re going to have to try.”

“Okay.” Theo breathed into Scott’s chest. “I will.”

He knew that he should probably pull away and leave Scott to get some well-deserved rest, but he couldn’t force himself to. He stayed still for several long moments, soaking in the warmth of Scott’s arms.

“Could I stay here tonight?” he asked, lifting his head up to face Scott once again. “With you?”

Scott looked conflicted.

“I mean on the floor, or in the chair.” Theo quickly amended.

“You can sleep in the bed if you want.” Scott said, “I...I think that would be fine.”

His lips spread into a tired but smile, his brown eyes glittered.

“As long as you keep your hands to yourself.” he added playfully. “Think you can manage that?”

“How about a compromise?” Theo asked, laying down on the mattress with his arms still around Scott’s waist.

*     *     *

Scott knew he should probably say no, but there was a gentle glow in green and blue flecks of Theo’s eyes that he couldn’t find it in himself to put out.

“What would the terms of the compromise be?” he asked, suspiciously.

“Touching is allowed, but not with our mouths.” Theo suggested. “And nothing below the waist...obviously.”

Scott considered the offer for a long moment. There were considerable risks involved. It was going to be a lot harder not to break the rules if they were going to be this close, and he was well aware of the fact that he would have to be the responsible one if Theo didn’t keep up his end of the bargain. Which could prove very difficult.

But at the same time, if they did manage stick to the arrangement, it could deepen the trust growing between them.

“Okay.” Scott whispered, wrapping his arms around Theo’s waist in return. “Deal.”

 

*     *     *

 

“Dad?” Rafael woke to sound of his son’s groggy voice. “What are you doing on the sofa?”

He sat up, squinting in the bright morning sun that was streaming in through the living room windows.

“Your mother told me the guest room was taken,” he offered gruffly as he stretched his aching back.

He had to quickly remind himself to soften his tone as he rubbed his eyes and the uncomfortable look on Scott’s face came into focus. It wasn’t the first time that Scott had seen him sleeping on the sofa, and none of the memories they shared of such occasions were pleasant.

“You, um, going for a run?” he asked, observing Scott’s windbreaker and track pants.

“Nah, not fully healed yet.” Scott said, casually. Like he hadn’t been at death’s door less than fourteen hours ago. “Just going for a walk.”

Rafael was about to ask if Scott felt that was a good idea when his thoughts were interrupted by the loud grinding sound of a blender erupting from the kitchen.

“Your mom’s up?”

“Oh, no, that’s Theo.”

A chill rippled up his spine at the thought of that kid walking walking past him while he was asleep. There was something about him, or rather several things about him, that weren’t sitting well with Rafael.

That cold and empty look in his eyes when he’d starred down the barrel of a gun. The evasive answers to standard questions in the hospital. The detached way he’d conducted himself while the rest of Scott’s friends were wringing their hands with nerves. The fact that when he’d carried Scott out of the school the previous evening he was blood-soaked and entirely unphased by it.

Rafael had seen that kind of cold eyes before. Staring at him from the opposite side of an interrogation room.

They exactly the kind of eyes he was only comfortable looking at from behind bars.

“Did you...” Scott asked awkwardly once the sound died down. “Want a protein shake?”

“Thanks, I’m good.” Rafael yawned, trying to stowe his qualms about Scott’s friend temporarily. “Need a bit of grease to get me going after last night.”

Scott smiled, and Rafael was encouraged to see his posture relax some.

“Take it easy on your walk.” he added with a casual wink. “No sense in pushing yourself too hard just yet.”

“Will do.” Scott nodded, and turned to leave. Rafael watched him move towards the kitchen, and then hesitate before entering it. “Dad?”

Rafael’s heart leapt in his chest as Scott looked back at him from over his shoulder.

“I didn’t say it last night,” he said, slowly. “But thanks. For being there.”

“No problem, Champ.”

It was more than he could have hoped for given Scott’s frigid demeanor towards him the previous night. But that, in itself, was something that Rafael understood.

It was harder for Scott to be forgiving or generous when he was laid up in a hospital bed speaking to a macho FBI agent at the top of his game. It was easier for him to be kind to the estranged schmuck sleeping on the sofa, trying his best.

“You can, uh...” Scott added, hesitantly. “You don’t need to stay on the sofa. You can take the guest room while you’re here.”

“Theo’s heading back to his place?”

“Uh...” Scott slowly turned to face him fully. “No. He’s going to be staying in my room for the time being.”

Sirens whistled and screeched in Rafael’s head as a vision of those sinister grey eyes watching his son sleep flashed in his mind’s eye. But Scott was watching him intently. Searching him for his reaction.

His son’s tone might have been causal, but this was a test. One that, if failed, there would be no recompense for.

He had to play this one cool.

“Okay then.” He forced his tone to sound uninterested. “I’ll bring in my things after breakfast.”

Scott watched him for another moment, as if he didn’t completely buy into the easy acceptance. He was right to do so, but Rafael’s disingenuous response wasn’t for the reasons he knew his son suspected.

“Cool.” Scott said, and disappeared into the kitchen.

Awesome. Rafael suppressed a sigh as he brought a hand through his hair. Passed my son coming out to me with a fucking C-...

It could have been such an easy win under different circumstances. Part of him wondered if maybe he was imagining things. Maybe there wasn’t something off about Theo at all. Maybe he was just finding ways to shoot himself in the foot with his son for the hundred thousandth time.

“You ready?”

He could hear Theo’s smugly happy voice asking his son from the kitchen. Like the little shit heard the entire conversation and was gloating about it.

Rafael waited until he heard both boys leave the house before digging his cell phone out of his pocket and pulling up his contacts.

Mieczyslaw “Stiles” Stilinski

If there was one thing he’d learned at the FBI it was that a little due diligence never hurt anybody.

Chapter Text

“Listen son, we know...” Noah glanced over his shoulder at Scott and Liam, “Well, your assistant lacrosse coach convinced us, that you were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. But it’s going to be really hard to convince a judge of that given that your prints are all over the firearms we recovered.”

Scott felt a sympathy rush through his chest as he watched Nolan’s lip tremble.

In the past few weeks of questioning, it had become obvious both to Scott and to Sheriff Stilinski that Nolan wasn’t like the rest of his peers. He wasn’t acting out of blind hatred or malevolence.

He was fragile. Terrified. He’d gone to his counselor for help with his anxiety and she’d exploited him. Used him for her own purposes.

Months earlier Scott had caught him vomiting before nearly every lacrosse game. He’d heard the shudder in his chest whenever someone moved too suddenly near him. He’d suspected more than once that there might be some trouble at home, but no matter how many times he’d asked Nolan if he wanted to talk he’d never confided in him.

It had taken a lot of effort to convince Noah, but they’d eventually agreed that Nolan wasn’t beyond reclamation.

Liam, who was now leaning against the wall with his lips pursed and arms crossed tightly across his chest, remained unconvinced.

“But evidence is a tricky business,” Stilinski went on. “There are plenty of errors that can happen, plenty of weak links in the chain of custody that could make something like that inadmissible in a court...”

Scott had to hand it to Nolan, he managed to deliver the rehearsed speech with both conviction and authentic empathy.

“Wh—what…” Nolan stuttered, “What are you saying? That—that I might not go to jail?”

“If you cooperate with us on a statement, we might be able to make sure certain details of the night at the school are lost in the official report. I think we might be able to get you counseling and community service.”

“You want me to lie?”

“Only a little bit.” Scott crouched down to meet Nolan’s eyes. “No one in a courtroom is going to believe in werewolves, but it could look really bad if a bunch of people are all sticking to that story. It’ll make news sites for sure.”

“So what do you want me to do?”

“Monroe was your counselor, right?” Scott asked, calmly.

Nolan nodded.

“Would it be fair to say that you went to her because you were suffering from anxiety?”

“It was off the record.” Nolan said quickly. “My—my parents, they never knew. They said that I couldn’t talk to anyone, that—”

Nolan stopped there, a dark ghost of fear creeping into his eyes. Like he’d just said too much.

“Wait,” Scott was surprised to hear Liam pipe up from behind him. “Your parents tried to stop you from getting counseling?”

“We don’t have insurance.” Nolan said, quickly and automatically.

Scott turned to face Liam.

His arms had unfolded and he’d stepped away from his perch against the wall.

Scott had asked him to remain quiet while they talked to Nolan, but he could see the pieces falling into place in his mind as he read between the lines of the conversation and didn’t want to discourage the sympathy he saw building there.

“School counseling is free for everyone.” Liam went on, and Scott could hear the concerned undertone in his insistence. “You don’t need insurance for that.”

“I...I…” Nolan looked up at him, helplessly.

“Nolan,” Scott said, gently. “I’ve asked you this a few times before. Is...is everything okay at home?”

Nolan bit his lip. There was a purple bruise on his skin there, as he’d chewed it on and off continuously since he’d been arrested nearly two weeks ago.

“It took me much longer to get my diagnosis than it should have.” Liam said. “Because my first dad...he said the same thing. He didn’t want me to get counseling. But it wasn’t because we didn’t have insurance.”

“Nolan, you don’t have to go back to your parents after this, okay?” Scott said. “You’re going to be eighteen in a few weeks and it’ll probably take a little while for the police to release you. We can figure out someplace else for you to stay.”

Scott could feel conflicted feelings churning in Liam beside him, and he knew all too well why.

Like staring into a broken mirror.

“We can work that out when it’s time for your release.” the sheriff interjected. “You don’t have to go anywhere you feel unsafe—”

“Well that’s everywhere, though...”

“Listen son, I’m really trying to help you here. We all are. But we need you to cooperate. When you went to Mrs. Monroe for counseling—and I can’t stress enough how important your answer to this is going to be—do you think that she encouraged your fears? Possibly told you stories that fed into delusions?”

“Delusions…” Nolan said, searching all of their eyes. “Like delusions about monsters?”

They nodded.

“Um...yeah.” Nolan he said after another long moment of reading their expressions. “Yeah, she did.”

 

*     *     *

 

Gravel and dirt slid beneath Theo’s sneakers as his feet gently grazed the ground. Rusty swing set chains creaked on either side of him as he rocked gently back on the swing. A light breeze danced through his hair and tickled the back of his neck.

The sun was getting close to the treeline off in the distance, and any minute the abandoned playground would be washed in the pink and orange light.

Theo looked down at the black leather journal open in his lap. Scott had given it to him to help write down and explore the things that he remembered. It’s pages were cluttered with scattered writing, brief bits of information. Places, names, feelings. Words whose relevance he couldn’t bring himself to understand.

Doctor. Doctors...

Again and again and again.

Some of the pages had hastily-rendered sketches in the corners. Bleak images snatched from his mind’s eye as they surfaced. Messy ink illustrations of syringes and scalpels scribbled with whatever marker or pen he had on hand. Faceless looming shadows, always in threes. A man with glass for eyes and a slitted metal mask for a mouth leered at him on the corners of pages next to confusing scrawled notes.

The contents of the pages made Theo sick, but still he kept at it. Recorded everything that came back to him.

It had been almost three weeks since the hunters had attacked the school. Most of them were still in holding cells at the sheriff’s station as Stilinski and Agent McCall tried to figure out how to charge them.

But that didn’t mean that any of them were safe. Scott was mostly healed but still on the mend, and Gerard was still on the loose.

Stiles should have been moved in to his dorm at Quantico, but he was delaying until the very last moment. Lydia had remained tight-lipped on when, exactly, she was supposed to board her plane to Boston. Malia had gotten straight-up screwed out of her trip to the Grand Canyon, but Stiles had promised they would go for Spring Break.

Theo had to admit he was counting down the days till Stiles would eventually board his plane. But Stiles was far from the only thing on his mind.

As the days pressed forward into fall, he had begun to press himself harder and harder to fill in the dark truths that still evaded him. He no longer harbored any optimism for the story that would emerge in the journal in his lap. Each page only served to take him deeper and darker, to places that no one should have to go.

But there was still a purpose in reaching the story’s end. Because, although there was no happy ending to the twisted story in his lap, Scott had given him hope that in it’s conclusion there lay a promise for a sequel.

One that he would get to take part in writing. One that didn’t have horrors lurking across every page.

Desire for that story burned inside him every time he looked into Scott’s dark eyes. Flared up each time they ran through the woods together and Scott tackled him to the ground. Kindled deep within him when he slipped into bed next to him and lay his head on this chest.

It burned inside him every moment of every day since the possibility had laid before him.

Which was what brought him here. To one of the places he feared the most.

This swing at sunset, the babbling cold brook that haunted his nightmares, and that sloping hill with the twisted tree atop it at the cemetery. Those were the places he feared most.

Every time he got near them, whether it be in his waking hours or in a nightmare he felt sick. He couldn’t push himself to think about them, to remember their significance.

The phantom, whose words had tormented him in the preceding months, had fallen eerily quiet since the first night he’d slept next to Scott. The moment Theo was ready to ask him for his taunting knowledge he’d made himself scarce. Disappearing back through the labyrinth of his mind and taking all of his hints and secrets with him.

Which is why he had to come here. He was never going to reach the end if he didn’t.

 

*     *     *

“Well that went about as good as it could have.” Noah said, closing the door to his office behind Scott. “With Nolan’s statement and the work your father’s been doing with the DA, I think we’re going to be able to get her and a few of her people put away for a long time without the werewolf angle blowing up in the news.”

He plopped himself into his chair, more relaxed than Scott had seen him in weeks, and started unwrapping a deli sandwich.

“Maybe now you’ll be able to help me convince my son that he should get his ass to the East Coast before he starts racking up absences.”

“You think I haven’t been trying?” Scott sighed, leaning back in his chair and unwrapping his own sandwich. “He keeps talking about how Gerard is still out there, but there’s always going to be someone still out there. But you know how he is; he’s convinced that the world will crash and burn if he isn’t here making sure that it doesn’t. But he has to leave. If he doesn’t—”

“You know, Scott, I’ve noticed that you haven’t exactly left for UC Davis either.” Noah interrupted him. “You think Stiles hasn’t noticed that too?”

He wasn’t quite sure what to say about that. It was one thing for Stiles to leave while they were still tying off loose ends from the attack. It was another thing entirely for Scott to leave.

“It doesn’t make sense for us both to stay.” Scott matched the sheriff’s stern tone. “You have to try to get him to see that. I’ve got support here for the time being, and even if I do need his help, he’s one FaceTime call away. He doesn’t have to physically be here.”

“Scott.” Noah abandoned his sandwich on the table and fixed him with the piercing stare that Scott knew he usually reserved for dealing with criminals or sometimes, his son. “I want you to be straight with me for a moment. When you say you have ‘support’ what exactly does that mean?”

Immediately Scott felt his fingers tighten on the arm of the chair he was sitting in. He’d thought the interrogations were over for the day, but he’d clearly been mistaken.

“I mean, I’ve got you and my Dad working on the legal stuff. Parrish is still here. Malia pushed back her trip. I’ve got Liam...” He trailed off, hoping that the conversation might die there.

“And?” Noah asked, dashing Scott’s hopes.

“And...Theo.” Scott concluded, reluctantly. “I know, we don’t trust him entirely but he really has been a big help.”

It was almost an understatement. Since sustaining the injury the night in the school, Scott had lifted his restrictions on Theo joining them on missions. Along with the rest of the pack, he’d raided hunter’s lairs, uncovered secret laboratories, and helped the police make several more arrests. Theo’s assistance had been practically invaluable. But his help still wasn’t exactly welcome or appreciated by the rest of the pack.

Malia was never happy to have him around. Lydia was never comfortable. Scott could see Stiles’ eyes on Theo, following his every move, just waiting to see something he didn’t like.

And Scott would be lying if he said he didn’t keep his own ear tuned to Theo’s heartbeat. That a portion of his senses were always occupied with Theo’s chemosignals. That he wasn’t ready to snap to action if there was a sudden change or a problem.

Allowing Theo to stay by his side on missions had proven to be a strange mix of exhausting, stressful, and still somehow wonderful. Because at the end of each and every one he could feel their bond deepening.

In fact, it hadn’t proved half as challenging as sharing a bed had become.

Ever since the first night they’d spent together Theo had been pushing himself to remember things, and that had lead to sharp spike in nightmares. Sometimes it would only take a small nudge to wake and calm him. Other times Scott would have to call his name and physically pull him back to consciousness.

The fleeting images and small bits of sensory information that Theo was able to retain were stomach-turning: Picking up discarded human organs off a concrete floor. Rolling small bodies up in blood-stained plastic. Staring into black lifeless eyes.

He’d talked about being strapped down onto an operating table, his chest being sliced into with scalpels. Having a gloved hand hold his head down as something drilled into his skull. He struggled tearfully as he told stories of being rendered completely helpless as his flesh was dissected, his bones sawed apart, his body completely disassembled.

It made Scott heartsick every time Theo talked about how the straps didn’t fit his wrists properly, how everything seemed so large in comparison to him. Revealing just how small he must have been.

They hardly had a night of unbroken sleep, but it was a price Scott was more than willing to pay to be there in the precise moment that Theo needed him. Because as bad as everything that kept coming back was, Scott knew that the worst was still to come.

Theo still, had not once mentioned remembering anything about his family. Or his sister.

Of course, that was only half of what made sharing a bed difficult.

The other, more challenging aspect, didn’t come in moments of stress, but in their aftermath. When the fear and adrenaline had died down, but Theo was still clinging to him. Burying his face into Scott’s collarbone. Pulling him closer.

Because each and every time he struggled with how close he should let Theo move towards him. How much comfort he could provide before the air grew thick and heavy.

It hadn’t taken long for the simple-seeming rules to prove more than complicated in action. Just two nights ago, they’d nearly broken them.

Theo’s nightmare had been a particularly vicious one. He’d been nearly impossible to wake. Choking and hyperventilating, his limbs thrashing and tangling in the blankets like he was trying to climb out. He hadn’t been able to remember any of it after waking, but had frantically pulled Scott closer to him, buried his face in Scott’s neck, practically clawing at him to get closer.

Scott had wrapped his arms around his back and held him tightly until he stopped shuddering and gasping. Whispering assurances that he was safe into his hair. Theo’s fear had been so visceral and intense, it consumed all of Scott’s energy just to quell. It wasn’t till Theo went unnaturally still that he realized that their legs had become entangled. Their hips pressed together.

He was about to pull away when Theo’s arms squeezed him tighter. A silent plea to not move just yet. It wasn’t a true violation of the rules. Neither of them had willfully put themselves in the position, Scott rationalized.

So for several minutes they’d stayed completely motionless, as fear bled into lust and heat smoldered between them. Scott made no conscious choice to squeeze Theo tighter, yet their grip on one another strengthened by the moment. His muscles grew taught and his hips ached as the neckline of his shirt grew damp from Theo’s hot open-mouthed breath rolling onto it.

Eventually Theo took the night shirt between his teeth. It also wasn’t it a true violation of the rules—Theo’s mouth hadn’t touched his skin—but as Scott could still feel the tug of his teeth through the tightening fabric, it certain seemed like cheating.

But still Scott didn’t correct it. Instead he let his fingers press more firmly than he probably should have into Theo’s back.

“What would you do right now...” Theo asked, his voice heavy and seductive as he let the fabric slip from between his teeth. “If we didn’t have any rules?”

Scott took a deep breath. Swallowed.

“I would respect the shit out of you.” he answered, difficulty as he moved his hands away from Theo’s hips and to clutch his shoulders instead. “And not take advantage of you right after you just had a panic attack.”

“Pfff.” Theo breathed sarcastically, but loosened his grip on Scott’s waist. “Yeah, right.”

“You don’t seem as worried about him as you used to be.” Noah broke Scott’s thoughts, abruptly pulling him back to the conversation at hand. “You and your mother both. Ever since the night at the school, you’ve been...a little less apprehensive about him.”

Scott shifted in his seat, uneasily.

It was true that Theo and his mom had gotten on better. At first Scott had chalked his mother’s change in temperment up to just an increased tension about Rafael being around. His very presence caused her so much stress Theo could only ever be a runner-up. But then, Scott noticed that she’d started vanilla coke regularly. She didn’t drink soda, and she knew Scott preferred regular. Theo was the only one that ever went for the vanilla with any frequency.

She’d told Scott how Theo’d protected her the night the school was attacked and, although she’d never said it explicitly, Scott strongly suspected that she was slowly beginning to believe in Theo’s propensity to change.

“I don’t think either of us are being stupid, though.” he argued. “Lydia is still checking up on him every day, and he’s being really honest about what he remembers.”

“I didn’t say that you were being stupid.” Noah said. “And I’m not trying to bust your balls either.”

“Then what are you trying to do?” Scott asked, suspiciously.

“When Lydia goes inside his head, how far back does she look?”

“What do you mean?” Scott frowned. “She looks to see if he’s recovered memories, any at all.”

“But can she see his recent memories?” Noah asked. “Those from the past few months?”

“No, she can’t just ‘see everything’.” Scott tried not to sound exasperated as he explained it for what felt like the thousandth time. “It’s more checking on the state of his recovery like that. Why...are you asking?”

The sheriff hesitated, and Scott watched his eyes flicker to his filing cabinet.

“Scott...what exactly did Theo tell you happened the night he saved you?”

“He...he had to fight through people to get to me.” Scott explained. “You...you’re not going to hold something that happened at the school against him? Are you?”

Noah looked at him, and Scott could see the sadness in his eyes.

“Scott, there’s....something that I really think you should see.”

Chapter Text

Theo suppressed a shiver as the the first orange rays of sunset hit the peeling paint on the jungle gym and stretched across the slouching blades of overgrown grass. He gripped the edges of his journal tightly as the breeze picked up and made the merry-go-round groan and creak as it slowly began to circle.

Now...

Theo closed his eyes.

He was sitting on the swing still, but now his feet could only barely touch the ground. The chains felt larger in his hands and far less rusty. His cheeks were raw and chafed. He felt so numb it seemed impossible that there could be tears slipping down his face, but they were. They leaked from his bowed head down onto his chest, soaked the front of his t-shirt and blurred the wood chips and gravel below his dangling feet. Their paths stinging his face in the wind.

He couldn’t remember the last time he’d slept. He couldn’t remember the last he felt safe.

No matter what he did, no matter how hard he tried, they always came for him. They’d come if his eyes were closed. They’d come if his eyes were open. If the lights were on or off. They’d come if he were awake or asleep.

But it was getting harder and harder to tell when he was awake and when he wasn’t.

Is this even real? He wondered, staring down at the darkening wet spot on the mulch below him. Am I even actually here right now?

There was a winding mechanical sound that didn’t belong to the swingset or teetering seesaws.

Them.

He knew the sound. He knew what it meant. This was the part where he should try to squirm away. Cry futilely for help. Beg them to leave him alone. They wouldn’t. Nor would any help ever come for him.

Theo. Theo Raeken.

He slowly lifted his head.

How many times had he cried for help? How many times had be begged them to stop?

The Tall Man reached for him, and this time, Theo didn’t flinch. He didn’t cry. Didn’t pull away. He let the cold metal-tipped glove take him by the neck and pull him off of the the swing. His body trembled but he didn’t resist. Just stared blankly up at the twisted metal face that was now more familiar than that of his own parents. Than that of his own reflection.

It didn’t matter anymore. Not really. They could do whatever they wanted.

He was tired of running from something he could never escape. Tired of being a pathetic helpless thing strapped onto a table and taken apart.

“You don’t have to drag me,” he whispered the damning statement so low it could be audible only to them. “I’ll go with you.”

They couldn’t take anything from him that he chose to give willingly.

The Tall Man bent his head to the side, his neck creaking as he surveyed him for a long moment. He released his grip, stepped back, and turned towards a path in the woods that Theo’d never seen before.

Theo stared at the path for a long moment, then swallowed and moved towards it.

Theo’s eyes snapped open. The memory broke into a thousand pieces that scattered and evaporated in front of his eyes like thin wisps of smoke.

He was trembling. Cold sweat beaded on the back of his neck.

This was why he came here. This was why the place was significant, why he feared it. Because it had been here, in this very swing, that he’d sold his soul to them. Here that he’d finally caved under crushing pressure of the darkness. What happened next, he still couldn’t remember. He didn’t have the strength to force himself to reach for more.

He felt sick and he wanted to call Scott.

He’d already dug his phone out of his pocket and was pulling up Scott’s number when an ominous sound filled his ears: the low rumbling growl of a familiar 1980s Jeep rattling along the road towards the park.

Theo looked over his shoulder just in time to see his least favorite person in Beacon Hills — excepting only Monroe—parking the vehicle and jumping out of the driver’s seat. He was clutching a folder tightly under his arm like some kind of prize as he stomped towards him.

“You really thought you were going to get away with it!” Stiles asserted as he approached him. “Didn’t you?”

“What are you talking about, Stiles?” Theo asked, exasperatedly. “And what the hell are you doing here? Are you following me?”

“Well someone’s got to.” Stiles said. “Scott just lets you wonder around now? No supervision?”

Theo glared at him.

“He’s with your dad at the station. And I’m working on something. So if you wouldn’t mind pissing off for a little bit—”

But before he could finish his sentence, Stiles had reached into his folder and retrieved a glossy photograph.

“Look familiar?” Stiles demanded, thrusting the image under Theo’s nose.

He didn’t like the way Stiles was glowering over him, blocking him from standing up off the swing. But he said nothing about it as he continued to glare up at Stiles and took the photo that was being pushed on him.

“Yeah.” Theo said, glancing down at it briefly, his irritation tripling. “So?”

So ?” Stiles repeated, disbelievingly. “Are you kidding me? You were the only one in the school when this happened. You think Scott’s going to be protecting your ass when he sees this? You are fucked , buddy. When Scott finds out—”

“Scott already knows.” Theo cut him off, a rush of satisfaction moving through him as he took in the look of surprise on Stiles’ face. “So, not to rain on your little parade, but you’re about two and a half weeks too late for this to be news to anyone.”

“You told Scott you killed someone?” he asked, doubt flickering momentarily through his features.

“That same night it happened.” Theo said, unable keep the smirk off his lips. “So if you’re looking for some reason to have Scott get rid of me, you’re going to need to go back to the drawing board.”

“Oh trust me, Theo.” Stiles seethed, clutching the folder tightly under his arm. “This isn’t even close to the only thing I have on you. But I’m calling your bluff. Whatever you might have told Scott, you didn’t tell him the whole truth.”

Theo felt the crease in his brow tighten. He really wanted Stiles to move.

“That is the whole truth.” Theo insisted. “Scott was going to die. They were in the way. You mean to tell me you wouldn’t have done the same thing if you could have?”

“Wow...” Stiles shook his head in disbelief. “You really don’t see it, do you? You are so fucked in the head you don’t even see it.”

What ?” Theo demanded, now on the verge of outright anger. “What the hell are you talking about?”

Look at that picture, Theo!” Stiles pointed at the image again. “You think that I could ever do something like that?”

*     *     *

Scott stared down at the crime scene photos laid before him. A boy, younger than himself, mangled and lifeless in a pool of bright red blood. There was a hole in his chest where his heart should be.

Gabe.

“We found the heart fifteen feet away from the body. Based off the blood-splattering it looked like it’d been thrown there.”

Scott’s throat was too dry to speak.

“The coroner's report,” Noah placed a document beside the photographs. “Reads that the victim was attacked from behind. His heart ripped out through his back.”

Scott felt light headed, as the photos and words blurred before his eyes.

“Does that look like self-defense to you?”

*     *     *

“I told him.” Theo repeated, his voice now wavering. “I told him...”

But had he?

He’d told what he’d thought had been important. That he’d killed someone, and why. He never thought that the how would have been important, but the ring of triumph in Stiles’ voice was now giving him pause.

“There’s only one kind of person that does a thing like that.” Stiles breathed. “A fucking psycho .”

The word made Theo’s stomach turn. Like he’d heard it before. Like he’d heard it a thousand times.

He looked down at the picture of what had once been a teenager, laying twisted in a pool of his own blood.

“Scott was going to die!” Theo objected, panic rising up in his throat.

“He was a human teenager.” Stiles insisted. “An asshole, yes, but — as Scott has made clear on several occasions — we aren’t allowed to just kill assholes. We don’t kill people that we can save. He wasn’t that strong, not by your standards. You could have easily incapacitated him.”

“I...I didn’t...”

“You didn’t think to, did you?”

“I...”

“You know why? Because that’s not how psychopaths think .”

Dozens of voices seemed to meld with Stiles’ as he spoke.

You’re drawings, they’re really upsetting the other kids.

Theo tried to block them out, but he couldn’t. They rushed at him from every angle, rattling inside his skull, ricocheting off the walls of his mind.

What the hell is wrong with you? — You need to stop lying. — And then I had to sit there as this clown of a doctor told me that my son is a goddamn psychopath!  — Are you doing this just to hurt us? — Theo your teacher called again today — When are you going to stop being like this?

His head felt like it was going to split open.

“You may not have your memories, Theo,” Stiles went on. “But that doesn’t mean you’ve changed. You’re the same lying murderous piece of shit you’ve always been.”

SHUT UP!” Theo roared, snapping to his feet and shoving Stiles in the chest. “And get the fuck out of my face!

Stiles stumbled backwards, the folder knocked roughly from his hands. A flurry of photographs burst into the air and fluttered down around them. Horror spread across Stiles’ face as what seemed like a thousand crime scenes flashed and glistened in the setting sun. Landing in on the remains of dirt and gravel, stuck in clumps grass all around them.

Bone-white lifeless limbs. Piles of black dirt next to numbered evidence markers. Strands of half-burnt human hair fused to melted bits of plastic.

Hands off!” Stiles shouted, but it was too late. Theo had seen them. Transfixed and unable to stop himself, he quickly snatched up a stack in his hands. “These aren’t yours!”

Except they were.

Theo’s knuckles were white as he shuffled through scene after scene, each one sending a host of memories crashing through his mind so fast he could hardly keep up with them.

Names of people and places. Dates. Thoughts. Feelings.

It was too much to process, but he couldn’t stop his fingers from continuing to peel through the stack. There was still one he was missing. One that he knew he needed to see. One that he could never be complete without.

The thing Scott was waiting for him to remember.

His fingers trembled as he came to a photograph of the bridge over a dark rippling river. The same bridge that broke him from his nightmares and sent him to the bathroom hurling and sobbing.

Don’t do this. Theo was shocked to hear the phantoms voice back for the first time in weeks warning him.

Theo ignored him and continued searching.

Things are good right now. They’re better than they’ve ever been. You’re going to lose everything again...

It was then that Theo realized why the phantom had gone suddenly silent in the past few weeks. Why he was no longer teased and goaded by it. Why it was no longer trying to tempt him to remember.

Because the phantom had been trying to protect him all along.

For a while it would have been advantageous for Theo to remember. If he’d remembered quickly, he would have been able to easily slink back under the phantom’s protection. But he’d crossed some kind of threshold the first night he’d slept next to Scott. His protective shell had been damaged, his thick skin melting in the Alpha’s warmth. Now the phantom knew he wouldn’t be able to help him, that the truth would hurt him just as much this time as it had so many years ago. So he’d taken his forbidden knowledge and buried it.

But Theo wasn’t content to let that stand. He had to know. He couldn’t keep the axe hanging over his head. He couldn’t live another moment looking at Stiles’ smug face — like he knew so much more about him than Theo knew himself.

And then he found it.

There was the bridge. There was the river. Only this time, there was a body in it. A pale and lifeless girl whose fingers were frozen in a death grip, grasping at a rock, trying to pull herself out.

The remaining photographs slipped from Theo’s hands.

And everything came crashing back.

 

Chapter Text

He remembered everything. 

Or at least, he remembered everything the Dread Doctors had ever let him remember. Even as images flooded through him and Theo fell gasping to his hands and knees, he knew there were still massive gaps in his childhood. Dark empty spaces that had once held memories he would likely never get back.

Why the Doctors took these from him, Theo had no idea. He only knew that they were gone, and had been for a very long time.

He couldn’t remember if he’d ever been normal or if there had always been something different about him. Something missing or under-developed. The spark that was supposed to light his soul. The flame that was supposed to warm his chest. The thing that should have made his parents want to hold him or spend time with him.

Had he been born with that void inside him that nothing ever seemed to fill? Or had the Dread Doctors carved that spark out of him?

His palms quivered in the gravel and rotted wood chips of the abandoned playground. His chest heaved painfully.

He remembered living in a large, pristinely kept house. A surplus of toys and video games at his disposal. Enough that kids from school would want to visit even if they weren’t really his friends. He’d never had many friends.

Because you were completely unremarkable.

It wasn’t the phantom’s voice anymore. It was his own. Because there, of course, never had been any phantom. Only himself.

He had been average in every possible way before the Dread Doctors. He was just good enough at everything not to be picked on, but not good enough to be noticed. He could remember wanting to be noticed. Yearning for it.

He tried to draw breath, but the air seemed stuck in his lungs. He knew he was about to remember more, and now that he was so close to it, he wanted to stop it. Wanted to slam the brakes on time and make everything stand still. He needed a moment to catch up — but he didn’t have it. Something had been set in motion that was beyond anyone’s power to stop.

He would remember. Not just the things he’d repressed from months ago, but from years, even a decade back. 

All of it crashed to the surface of his mind, like a train freed from it’s tracks.

He could recall, in perfect detail, sitting on a carpeted floor next to his big sister. Watching her thicken the lines of a tyrannosaurus in his coloring book. Something she had done regularly for him, so it would be easier for him to stay within the lines with his blocky oversized crayons.

He remembered how she would hold his hand when they crossed the street together. How she’d helped him change the bandages on his scabbed knees after kickball. How she’d sometimes sit next to him in their living room, her eyes focused on a book in her lap while he watched cartoons.

And he remembered how it had all suddenly stopped. How one day, she seemed to wake up different. The girl he’d known suddenly became a stranger to him. She didn’t want anything to do with him anymore. She didn’t want to watch TV with him, complained if she had to take him anywhere. She said the things that they’d once shared together were stupid. “kid’s stuff” that was no longer for her and her junior high friends.

It wasn’t ‘cool’ to have your younger brother tagging along. He could never be anything more than a pest. A bother. Something embarrassing that needed to be pushed aside before it ruined everything.

He remembered how much it had hurt. Watching her do her homework at the island in their kitchen, knowing that she’d snap at him if he tried to talk to her. That anything he said was going to be boring and annoying to her.

He was just as insignificant to her as he was to everyone else.

He wondered how she seemed to make friends so easily. How she could possibly spend so many hours on the phone in her room each night. He wanted to be able to do that. But for some reason, it seemed very difficult.

It was like there had always been a wall between him and everyone else. One that only he knew was there. Why he couldn’t breach this wall and why no one seemed to notice his existence was a mystery to him.

He was becoming a faceless name in a crowd of other children. The kid that people knew was there but never saw. Never wanted. He wanted to be someone. He was getting desperate for it. He started breaking rules, just to see if he would get caught.

But he didn’t.

He was so good at not getting caught that the things he did often got blamed on others. Theo could remember feeling waves of disappointment each time it happened as he still went unnoticed, but they were tempered with the chilling thrills of power when he watched other children punished for his misdeeds.

It was never enough, though. No prideful feelings could ever fill the void of being so thoroughly alone.

Then he’d met Scott.

He was sitting outside the guidance counselor’s office with tears streaming down his face. Waiting for an ambulance to come. He couldn’t talk, could barely breathe, but Scott hadn’t asked him to. His brown eyes had widened as Theo was plopped down into the chair, wheezing.

He’d slipped into the seat beside him, put his hand on his wrist, and told him that everything was going to be fine. Theo couldn’t remember who the teacher was that called for the ambulance, or what it was that had triggered the attack, but he could remember the warmth of Scott’s palm on him. The gentle way that he described what was going to happen.

As Scott talked he felt for the first time in a long time that things could be okay.

Scott had asked to accompany him in the ambulance, but the school staff had, of course, said that he couldn't. Theo was ready for that to be the end of it, but it wasn’t. The very next day Scott had waved to him when he entered the classroom and invited him to play with him at lunch.

He didn’t have to lure Scott to his home with the promise of video games that other parents had banned from their homes. He didn’t have to act out to get Scott’s attention. Scott spent time with him simply because he wanted to.

Scott had made him feel things that he’d forgotten how to feel. For the first time in a long time he felt hopeful at the start of each day. There was at least one person that was waiting to see him. Someone whose eyes would light up when he waved at him as he climbed onto the bus.

As the year went on Theo had started to feel other things for Scott. Things that were new to him entirely. 

But he never got the chance to explore what he felt, or see if the growing desires were returned. Because not long after that they had come. 

Like something out of a nightmare, reaching for him as he lay paralyzed in his bed. Their ice cold metal fingertips on his skin. Their iron grip around his neck. Piercing him with their drills, slicing him with their scalpels, filling him with their poisons.

He was nothing again. No person. No soul. Just an object to be dissected. His screams were pointless. His tears meant nothing.

Then he was back in his bed, with his mother pushing him out the door to school. Her face filled with shock when she watched him burst into tears and start trembling as he waited for the school bus. He’d tried to explain what happened, gestured at the places that he’d been cut open, but couldn’t get through it. He broke down each time into hysterical sobbing. 

For the first time ever, his mother had taken a half day off a day from work to bring him to the hospital. And, also for the first time ever, Theo’d thought that maybe she actually did care about him. That feeling melted away when they arrived at the hospital and the doctors informed her that there was nothing wrong with her son. No appendicitis, as she’d assumed, nothing.

Her fear quickly turned to fury when Theo was finally able to describe what had happened.

“A nightmare!” He could remember her shrill voice ringing in his ears as he was carted back to school in the passenger’s seat of her Mercedes. “ A fucking nightmare!”

Shame filled him.

From there, things got blurry. The gaps in his memories grew wider and more frequent. Large chunks of time blotted out, as if redacted with black marker. He couldn’t remember the sequence of events. He couldn’t remember when or how things became so bleak he couldn’t come back from them.

But he could remember how his world crumbed around him. How they took things from him that he could never get back.

He could remember feeling that wall again between himself and everyone else. Feeling it grow stronger and more dense. He wanted to talk to someone, to tell them what had happened, but talking about it became increasingly difficult. It had taken everything in him to confess to his mother what had happened, and he couldn’t bring himself to do it again.

He’d tried so many times. But each and every time anxiety had crippled him.

At the same time, tragedy had struck another child in their school. Stiles Stilinski’s mother had passed away, and from the whispers Theo’d heard, it had been a very dramatic ordeal. One that had required the complete attention of Theo’s only close friend.

Theo watched as Stiles returned to classes and people reacted around him. He was excused from assignments and from group activities. No one wondered why he would skip school some days, or why Scott often asked to be excused with him.

But the dark drawings that filled Theo’s school books, the dormant look that haunted his eyes, the way he’d fall asleep in class or suddenly lash out at others— these things his teachers didn’t understand. The death of a parent was something they could easily comprehend. Being abducted, torn apart and sewn back together on a nightly basis and being unable to talk about it? That wasn’t something they were equipped to identify or handle.

During the very few times he’d spent with Scott after Stiles’ mother had died, Scott had noticed something was wrong. He’d asked Theo if he was okay, but Theo had lied to him. He couldn’t repeat the things that were being done to him. He couldn’t risk Scott’s face turning with horror and revulsion like his parents had.

Scott wouldn’t be able to help him anyway. No one could help him.

Everyday Theo felt his grip on reality slipping. He would walk through the school halls in a daze, not sure if what he was seeing was real. Every night he would hold his breath, waiting to be spirited away by inhuman hands that were impossibly strong. Impossibly cruel.

Every adult in his life said that the Doctors weren’t real. But how could that be true when it felt more real than everything else?

He was desperate to make it all stop. He would do anything to keep the world from tipping upside down around him. Anything.

And so he had.

Once he’d surrendered himself to them, they’d finally offered him a choice. A way off the operating table and into their midst. They offered him hope and they’d offered him validation. He wasn’t like other children, they’d said. He could never be like other children. But he could be better. He could be something extraordinary. Something their feeble minds couldn’t even begin to understand.

True Evil had a better ring to it than disposable lab rat.

Their price was a heart that had already shut him out. Turned against him. If he gave them that, then he could finally be something worth being.

It wasn’t until the dust had settled, until nearly everything was over, when the world stopped spinning, that he truly understood what he’d done. And then it was far too late. There was no turning back. The gravity of his crimes was not something that could be faced. The guilt of his actions too heavy to bear. He couldn’t look at it. He couldn’t ever look at it. He had to not care. He had to.

So he didn’t. He’d sealed off the part of him that could care. The part of him that could feel hurt.

Made it disappear along with the slender trembling white hand of his sister as it slipped beneath the dark rippling river. It could never touch him.

He didn’t need help. He didn’t need love or compassion or forgiveness. He was fine without them. He had to be.

And so he had been, for a very long time.

Theo squeezed his eyes shut, his fingers curling into fists in the dirty mulch and gravel. He choked as tears streamed uncontrollably down his face. There was a swelling in his throat so large and dense he couldn’t breathe.

Damn Scott McCall.

He had been fine the way he was before Scott. He might not have been happy. He might not have been free, but at least he’d been able to breathe. Able to function. He didn’t have to recognize the deepest and most desperate desires his warped soul still had the gaul to ache for. To openly feel the longings for things that he could never have.

Now he was exposed, for the first time in years, to the true crushing weight of his actions. Scott had systematically removed the thick protective skin of lies and denials he’d long kept himself wrapped in. 

There was nothing left between himself and the furies that would feast on his flesh. Half-starved and insatiable, their razor-sharp serpentine teeth would gnash at gnaw into him. Greedily gobbling up all they could find.

Tara’s face flashed before him. Her rippling dark hair and warm features filled with life.

He had loved her. And he had killed her.

He felt the compulsion to scream, but couldn’t. No sound, no air could escape his trembling lips.

Scott had done this to him. Scott had taken away all of his defenses, and he’d done it on purpose .

He felt tricked, even though Scott had never lied to him. 

Rage flooded him. Rage at himself. At the world. At the unfairness of it all. How everyone else could so easily reach for and obtain the things that he desperately needed. Things he could never have. Rage at Scott for ripping the scab off a long ignored wound. For his stupid optimism for the human soul. For his belief that he could ever recover from what he’d done. Rage at—

“Th-Theo?”

He heard a voice behind him. Suddenly everything stopped spinning and all the scattered fragments of his mind snapped back into place.

His hands stopped shaking. His eyes snapped open. 

The hot blood in his veins had suddenly gone ice cold.

*     *     *

 

From the moment the photographs went soaring into the air, Stiles knew he’d fucked up.

He’d never planned on confronting Theo. It wasn’t something that he’d made a conscious decision to do. It was something that just seemed to happen. He’d been looking for Scott. He found Theo first.

Maybe it was because it was the first time he’d seen Theo alone. Maybe it was because he’d only just found out what happened at the school. But regardless of the reason, he’d found himself jumping out of his Jeep. Words flew out of his mouth before he had the time to think them through.

It wasn’t till the evidence folder was knocked from his hands and he’d seen Theo reaching for the photographs gleaming in tall patches of grass that he realized how irrevocable his actions truly were.

He’d moved to gather them, but it was too late. Theo moved too fast. Now Theo was hunched over on his hands and knees, his back to Stiles. Trembling.

“Th-Theo?” he asked, taking an apprehensive step towards him.

Theo’s shoulders stopped shaking. He made no sound, no motion. Stiles wasn’t even sure if he was still breathing.

And then a low, scratchy, and bitter scoff.

“Congratulations, Stiles.” Theo’s voice, raspy and fraught with emotion, mused. “Looks like you caught me again.”

Stiles stopped dead in his tracks, suddenly aware of the creaking abandoned playsets, and how very alone he and Theo stood among them.

When Theo turned to face him, his eyes were red and bloodshot. His cheeks were flushed and still wet with tears, but he was no longer crying. His lip was pale and the corner of his mouth pinched tight with the twisted vengeful hint of a mirthless smirk.

“You think you’re so much better than me.” Theo snapped, suddenly on his feet and standing in front of him. “Don’t you?”

Stiles took a step backwards.

“It must be real easy to, from where you’re standing.” Theo went on, his voice reverting to the taunting lilt that sometimes still haunted Stiles’ nightmares. The ones that made him snap awake, furious, scared, and sick. “With everyone around you telling you how you’re right all the time...”

“I—” Stiles started cautiously. “They don’t say that...”

“Oh, but you know it’s true.” Theo goaded, stepping closer. “You know you’re right all the time. You were right about me...”

He leaned down and picked up a photograph off the ground.

“Look at all this great evidence you’ve found proving it.” he mused. “How’s Scott ever going to look at these and still want me around?”

Stiles swallowed, but didn’t step back. He wasn’t going to give Theo the satisfaction of letting him see he was scared. Even if Theo could likely already smell it.

“And that’s what you wanted, right?” Theo asked, his voice still smooth but his eyes gleaming with wild hatred. “You wanted me to be lying when I came back here looking to be a part of his pack. You wanted it so bad .”

The lilt was starting to bleed into a growl.

“I didn’t want that.”

Bullshit .” Theo growled, his hand darting out to shove Stiles in the chest. “You couldn’t stand the thought of having to share Scott with anyone else! You never have. Not even when we were kids. You always hated me!”

Stiles didn’t have time to question if it was true. All he could do was notice that Theo’s hands were trembling again, and that his claws were out. He glanced at the claws, then at the truly insane look in Theo’s eyes.

He’d seen that look before. It was the look of a rabid animal that had been cornered. One that realized it had no way left to go except through whoever had been chasing it.

He reached for the phone in his pocket, but he’d no sooner pulled it out when Theo slapped it out of his hands and it soared through the air.

“Come on, Stiles.” Theo goaded, stepping even closer as the phone clattered down onto the rusted merry-go-round several yards away. “Tell me how good it felt just now. To rip everything from me.”

Of course that’s how Theo would see it. Even in the grave danger of the situation Stiles couldn’t help the rage at the hypocrisy coming out of Theo’s mouth from boiling in his veins.

“Oh right,” he spat, sarcastically. “This is my fault somehow. I must have just forgotten the part where I made you do all that shit. I didn’t rip anything from you, Theo. You did that to yourself. ””

“Oh, because you wouldn’t have, right?” Theo demanded. “Because you’re so damn good ?”

“I’m not a fucking murderer !”

You have no idea who or what you would be in my place !”

There was no pretense of reason or rationale in Theo’s eyes anymore.

Stiles dashed for the phone and Theo sprung after him.

He reached the merry-go-round. But no sooner had the rusted metal groaned under his foot than the chimera caught up with him. Theo grabbed the merry-go-round’s railing and snapped it into motion. It spun under his feet. The guardrail slammed into his stomach, knocking the air from his chest and sending his body crashing to the ground.

For a moment he couldn't breathe. He could feel dark purple bruises blossoming beneath his shirt. He heaved, hunched over in pain, clutching his stomach.

“—I’d like to see how you would have handled it!” Theo was raged as he took hold of his ankle and dragged him back across the playground to the mess of photographs.  “Getting cut up every fucking night. Your parents acting like it’s somehow your fault that you’re such a fucking wreck. Like you fucking asked for it...like you wanted to be that way...

Stiles head was spinning, he could barely make out the frenzied words leaving Theo’s lips. 

Had he hit his head in the fall? Everything was a blurr in front of him.

“You were always so stuck on yourself. You bitch and moan and everyone falls the fuck over you. Poor Stiles, his mommy is dead…

“Fuck you, you fucking asshole !” Stiles kicked at Theo as hard as he could, but he couldn’t shake him loose.

“What’s that, Stiles?” Theo asked, crawling over him and grabbing hold of his neck. “Does it suck to want to run, but you knowing you can’t? You don’t like that? It’s not fun for you ?”

Fuck… was all Stiles could think as Theo’s grip tightened on his neck. Fuck, fuck, fuck…

“I wonder how much you’d like getting strapped down. Dissected . Watching, while someone takes your insides out piece by fucking piece...Do you want to find out?”

Theo brought his claws up. They glittered red before Stiles eyes, catching the last rays of the sinking sun.

“Tell me how good you think you’d feel like being after that .”

Anticipating the downward slash, Stiles closed his eyes. Held his breath.

But it didn’t come.

A moment passed, and nothing.

Theo’s hand was still on his throat, restricting his breathing, but not completely choking him.

He slowly opened his eyes.

Theo was still on top of him, straddling his hips. His claws were still raised, but his eyes had changed. There were wide. Staring. Surprised in some way.

No. Not surprised. Terrified.

His lip trembled, messy tears fell from dark eyelashes.

And then, in a flash, he was gone.

Stiles gasped, clutching his throat as he was finally able to draw unrestricted breath. 

He turned his head just in time to see Theo’s back disappear into the darkening woods

 

*     *     *

 

“They’re…” Scott started, still trying to process the image of Gabe’s mangled body laid before him. “I…”

“It’s clearly not self defense Scott.” Noah reiterated. “He was killed from behind. And with excessive force. The method of killing—”

“But—” Scott tried to interject. 

Noah ignored him.

“—is disturbing. To say the least .”

“I—I know that.” Scott said, his heart sinking in his chest. 

It was true. It was disturbing. It was terrible. Unthinkably vile.

“But the circumstances still matter.” Scott said after a long moment. “They were trying to kill us. I was dying. I know this is bad. You know I know that, but...it doesn’t...it doesn’t mean…”

Theo hadn’t been ready to see combat. He hadn’t been ready to be put in that kind of situation. But that didn’t mean that Theo was a lost cause, or that he was hopeless. Surely the Sheriff would be able to understand more than anyone how even police officers often struggled to make the right split-second decision in that kind of high-stakes situation? Much less someone with Theo’s history and fragile mental state...

But it was still quite clear that Theo was not nearly as far along as Scott had thought.

“I just…” Scott said, “I just need a second…”

But not even a moment later the door to the Sheriff’s Office flung open.

“Scott—” Stiles panted, leaning on the door frame from support as he tried to catch his breath.

There were bruises on Stiles neck. Panic and guilt flickering in his eyes.

Oh no… Scott’s eyes widened as he beheld his best friend. Oh, fuck no...

Chapter Text

Theo!”

Scott’s voice echoed through the looming trees of the Preserve, disturbing birds from their nests and deer from their sleep. To almost anyone else, the sound would ring commanding and authoritative, but Stiles, who had known Scott almost his entire life, could hear the rising edge in it. Each time the alpha bellowed out the name it was with increasing desperation.

“Come on, Theo!” Stiles called out, far less impassioned, as he scanned the dark tree trunks with his flashlight. “Quit dicking around out here!”

“Yeah, I’m sure he’ll answer that.” Liam grumbled, from behind him. “He’ll be running back in no time.”

“Hey, Liam.” Stiles said, stopping dead in his tracks and turning to face him. “Less quipping, more sniffing.”

“I haven’t been able to smell anything since we crossed the river.”

Theo!”

Scott’s voice was much farther off now, but just as loud. The concerned tremor in it was now enough to make both Stiles and Liam flinch. Scott didn’t sound like that, even under pressure. He only sounded like that when he was... very upset.

“Did you have to do it?”

“Do what?” Stiles asked, returning his flashlight to the trees.

“Be a dick.”

Excuse me?”

“You heard me.”

“Are you for fucking real, right now?” Stiles waved the flashlight, nearly tripping over a rotting log in his anger as they descended a steep hill. “That bastard almost choked me to death less than two hours ago!”

“Yeah, I heard you when you said it the first five times back at the station.” Liam muttered. “And then the other three times you mentioned it in the car on the way here.”

“Well, contrary to popular belief, that was actually really terrifying .” Stiles snapped back at him.

“What do you mean ‘contrary to popular belief’?” Liam demanded, scrunching his nose in annoyance as he grabbed hold of Stiles’ arm before he slipped another time. “You think we don’t care that you almost got yourself killed? Scott didn’t even yell at you for what you did.”

Stiles really wished that Scott had yelled. 

It would have been so much easier if he had yelled at him. But all he’d done was grab Stiles by the shoulders and anxiously ask if he was alright.

Stiles had watched Scott’s eyes dart to the bruises on his neck and then his nose twitch as the alpha wolf sniffed for blood — confirming there were no truly egregious injuries — before he’d sprung into action. He’d been silent as they drove to the abandoned playground, but Stiles could feel him stewing in what he had to imagine were equal parts fear and anger. Determined to break the silence, Stiles had tried to re-explain what happened multiple times, but Scott had remained tight-lipped and tight-jawed through all of it.

“How am I the dick here?” Stiles demanded, smacking Liam’s hand away. “I’m not the one that just completely lost his shit.”

“You think I like Theo being around?” Liam asked, reeling Stiles back to the present. “Reminding me of everything that happened last year? Everything he did...the way he...the way I ...”

“So then why are you here defending him?” Stiles interrupted, sparing Liam having to go any further. “Scott finally got you to feel bad for Theo’s smug gaslighting ass too?”

“I don’t care about Theo.” Liam said, flinching again as Scott’s call echoed through the forest another time. “But obviously Scott does. He thinks Theo can change, and you know what? Theo did save him. I thought...I really thought that we were going to lose Scott that night and that it was going to be all my fau—” 

“And that’s exactly how Theo conned us all last time!” Stiles fumed. “Did you miss the part where Theo ripped a kid’s heart out? Liam, he’s a fucking murderer !”

 “All I know is,” Liam said stubbornly. “Scott said not to fuck with him. You fucked with him. Now Scott’s flipping out, Theo might be evil again, and I’m spending my Friday night stumbling around the woods with you shining that freaking light in my eyes every time you trip on a rock.”

“He was never not evil, he—”

Scott’s sorrowful voice cut through the night again, and Stiles lost track of what he was going to say next.

He knew he was right. He knew that Theo couldn’t be trusted. That Scott was stupid for letting him get this close to him a second time.

But with the pain of Scott’s voice cutting through him every twelve seconds...it was still hard not to feel like shit.

 

*     *     *

Run.

It’s all he could let himself think. All he could let himself feel.

He remembered more about his life than he had in years, and yet, he had never been more confused about who he actually was.

Just keep running.

The harder he pushed himself, the more adrenaline that filled his veins, the more the darkening woods blurred around him, the easier it was to not think. Not to feel. But the escape was only temporary. It would last only as long as his muscles could stand the strain. The first moment he wasn’t exerting himself his thoughts would catch up with him.

He needed a longer-lasting escape. He needed that familiar and comforting shroud of coldness. The one he’d come to reply on. The one that would chill his nerves and numb his feelings. The one thing that had always been there for him, when nothing else had been.

But he couldn’t seem to find it. He’d misplaced it somehow. Lost it.

Or someone had stolen it.

Fuck you, Scott. He thought, blinking back the bitter tears stinging the corners of his eyes as he ran faster.

He never made a conscious decision to go back to Scott’s house. But as he ran, desperately trying to separate himself from the conflicting sensations violently clashing in his chest, his legs carried him on to one of his and Scott’s routes automatically. His feet followed the familiar path, and he emerged on Scott’s block.

He stood for several long moments in the shadows by the McCall’s trash cans. His chest heaving. His lungs burning. 

There was a dim light on in the kitchen, but he could tell that no one was home.

For a fraction of a second he thought about breaking in —then he remembered that there was a newly made-up set of keys sitting in his pocket. The memory of Scott pressing them into his palm only three days ago now felt so distant to him it seemed like it must have happened in a dream.

Yet the keys were still there, and they still turned in the lock.

Once inside, Theo paced the dark living room. His heart still pounding, his hands shaking. The ticks of the clock on the wall echoed in his ears, making him painfully aware of every second that was slipping through his fingers. 

There was only so much time he would have alone here.

Stiles would soon tell Scott what had happened. He’d show him those damning pictures. Spare no detail in recounting the way Theo had attacked him. He could practically hear Stiles’ voice, equal measures self-righteous and self-satisfied as he furiously laid down the facts.

‘See, Scott! I was right all along!’

Fuck, Theo hated him. He hated him so much ...

His teeth clenched and his lip curled the more he thought about it.

The anger was comforting. It was familiar. And yet, when he’d raised his claws, prepared to dig into Stiles gut and rip out his entrails — make the fucker watch as he did it — something had stopped him.

A heavy lump swelled in Theo’s throat as he realized he knew exactly what that something had been. As he paced the room that he had spent so many restless nights in, it was impossible to deny. When he’d looked down at Stiles’ terrified face, he’d thought of Scott. And all the pain that ripping into Stiles would cause him.

It didn’t make sense. He shouldn’t care about Scott’s pain. It could only be a fraction of what Theo felt right now. He should be furious with Scott. Scott had left him vulnerable, defenseless to this. But no matter how hard he tried to force himself to hate Scott, he couldn’t.

Every time he thought of him, he found himself aching for the absolving touch he’d grown used to over the past several months. He longed to hear the sound of Scott’s soothing voice. To feel the press of his strong arms around him. To have his senses filled with his familiar grounding scent.

But would Scott even want to look at him after tonight?

Stiles was right, he hadn’t told Scott the whole truth about what he’d done to save him in the high school. He hadn’t intentionally left out the details, but Stiles would certainly make it seem like he had.

This whole time, Scott had been gambling on the moment Theo would remember. He’d been praying that Theo would somehow be different when his memories returned. But what had he done the first second he remembered?

He’d attacked Scott’s best friend. He’d tried to kill him. Again.

He’d failed Scott. He wasn’t different. He was a basket case. An incurable disease. Destined to repeat the same mistakes over and over and over again.

He sank down onto the sofa and buried his face in his hands.

Maybe he’d been sick before the Dread Doctors or maybe they’d made him this way, but it didn’t really matter. The net results were the same. He was broken in a way that could never be fixed. Not by Scott, not by anyone.

Scott could do many things, but not even he could un-poison the lab animal once it’d been injected. Tonight, Scott would finally understand that. Stiles would make sure of he did.

Theo looked at the front door and imagined Scott walking through it. Imagined the fear and disappointment in his eyes.

That would break him.

Theo hated to admit it, but he wanted Scott to still believe in him. Even though he couldn’t believe in himself. Or especially because he couldn’t believe in himself. He needed it so much.

But he had needed that same thing from his parents ten years ago — when every day he was pulled closer and closer to the edge of a dark chasm. When he hadn’t gotten it, when they’d looked at him with disappointment and judgement, the final threads that had tethered him to sanity had been severed and he’d tumbled down into the darkness.

By the time the world stopped spinning and he could truly understand the weight of what he’d done, the permanence and finality of it, it was far too late.

He couldn’t ever feel that again.

Even if, by some miracle, Scott still somehow wanted him after everything Stiles told him tonight, that still wouldn’t negate the fact that Theo hadn’t changed. If he was still sick, then there was no guarantee that he wouldn’t hurt Scott again. 

Theo couldn’t risk that either.

If he was still here when Scott walked through that door, he was damned either way.

He slowly lifted his face from his hands, swallowing the growing lump in his throat as he realized that there was no real choice. He couldn’t see Scott. He had to get his shit — which was actually not his so much as a pile of things Scott had lent him — and get the fuck out of Beacon Hills before that happened.

*     *     *

Scott searched the forest to no avail. He and Theo had spent so much time in the woods over the past few months it was impossible to follow his scent. It wound and looped it’s way through anywhere Scott would have thought to look for him.

Every false bit of hope the scents inspired sent him reeling. This is Theo...he’s here...no, wait, here…there...here...

Scott could hear his own voice echoing all around him, but no answer came in return.

Could Theo really just be gone?

He’d really thought he’d found him near the treehouse, but when he turned the corner and found it empty once again, he’d crashed to his knees. 

His throat was hoarse from the way it kept slipping in and out of it’s Alpha’s call.

He briefly considered calling Theo that way — if he howled for him the chimera would be able to hear it anywhere in Beacon Hills — but Scott knew he wouldn’t answer.

Theo was scared. He was confused. He’d lashed out at Stiles, but then stopped. He was a coin tossed into motion and circling through the air. No one knew which way he would fall, not even himself.

Scott knew he needed to find him before it made its final rotation. He needed to let Theo know that things weren’t over. That he still meant everything he’d said. That Theo freaking out didn’t change that.

The important part was that Theo had stopped . He hadn’t ended Stiles life even though he could have. Even though he clearly had wanted to.

Now Scott needed to be there for him in this crucial moment, but Theo wasn’t going to answer the call of an Alpha that he wasn’t even sure was his.

*     *     *

Theo stuffed down the ripples of guilt that swept through him as he reached for the old beat-up tin on the refrigerator where Melissa kept a thin wad of twenty-dollar bills “for an emergency.” He needed a bus ticket, and he was pretty sure that him getting the fuck out of Scott’s life before he did any more damage to it counted as an emergency, so he stuffed the small handful of bills into his pocket. 

Honestly, eighty bucks was probably a hell of a deal to be rid of him.

He didn’t know where he would go or how he would survive on his own. He’d only ever been without the Dread Doctors once and it had landed him in that basement, yet another person’s lab rat, for months. 

God, his life was fucking repetitive.

Was he just born with a tattoo on his forehead that begged all passers-by to strap him to a table and start fucking around with his insides? Was it just his destiny to be juggled between one set of malignant hands to the next?

He grabbed a half-eaten jar of peanut butter from the fridge — doing his best to ignore the aching feeling that moved through his chest when he saw a freshly-bought pack of Vanilla Coke that Melissa had clearly gotten for him earlier that day — and the three protein bars from the cabinet.

Fuck, why was that pack of soda still messing with his head? 

Why was every interaction he and Melissa had in the past few weeks playing before his eyes? Helping her carry in brown paper bags of groceries from the car. Her telling him and Scott to do their dishes before reaching for the dessert in the freezer. The moment that he’d noticed she’d folded the laundry he’d left in the dryer.

He was about to head up the stairs when an item on the coffee table caught his eye. The copy of White Fang Scott had been reading to him. The cover was battered and there was a dark coffee stain on one corner. It’s pages were warped from the many dog ears Scott had folded into it.

He knew he was running short on time, but he couldn’t stop himself from picking it up. They’d only had a few chapters left. His fingers traced the coarse paper spine as he opened it, thumbing through the pages.

He could practically hear Scott’s voice in his ears, reading to him.

At the time, he had assumed that Scott’s only purpose had been to distract him from the nightmares that kept them both up. But now, with all of the information he was missing then, Theo realized just how groan-worthily obvious and painfully on-the-nose Scott’s reading material had been.

“Do you get why Wheedon doesn’t shoot White Fang even after he bites him?” Scott had once asked him while he set the book down in his lap.

“Yeah.” Theo’d answered, with a tired yawn. “He’s strong. He wants him for his sled team.”  

“You think that’s why he saved him from the pit? Because he thought he could use him?”

“I mean...yeah. You don’t?”  

“I think,” Scott had held Theo’s gaze intently as he spoke. “When Wheedon sees White Fang being brutalized, he sees a creature that’s in pain. Later on, when he sees that he’s intelligent, that he hasn’t gone completely feral, he feels like White Fang could change. So he’s willing to put in the time — and take the risk — of helping him.”

“Why, though? When he could just have another dog that’s probably just as good and a lot less...broken.”  

“Because it’s not about what the dog can do for him. It’s about what he can do for the dog.”

“So he wants to help White Fang just because he can?”  

“I think he wants to help him because when he sees White Fang in pain, he feels that pain himself. Ya know?”

It was so stupid. It was so transparent. It was painfully sappy, and so very Scott-like Theo wanted to roll his eyes. He tried to force himself to, but instead he felt tears slipping down his cheeks.

Scott had specifically picked this book to read to him . He’d chosen to talk about that passage because he’d wanted Theo to know, in this precise moment, why he had done everything that he’d done in the past several months.

He choked down a sob and stuffed the book under his arm as he climbed the stairs. He couldn’t say goodbye to Scott, but he could take at least one small piece of him with him. He could only fit so much in a gym bag he planned to take from Scott’s closet, but somehow, he would try to fit this.

Maybe it would help him on the road. Maybe, if he had this to look back on, he could slow his decent back into the monster that he seemed destined to become again. 

But as he got to Scott’s room and retrieved the bag from his closet, things became more difficult.

As he rifled through the dresser he caught sight of an item draped over the back of Scott’s desk chair. A worn hoodie with threadbare sleeves that Scott often wore on runs. It was definitely something that Theo shouldn’t take, but he found himself reaching for it anyway.

His own sweatshirt was in the wash still. He tried to rationalize. He had to take this one.

He was pointedly avoiding looking at the bed that he’d spent the past several nights in. Trying his hardest to steer clear of the thoughts and desires that had wound their way through his body each night he spent with his back melded against Scott’s chest.

But it was impossible to do with their scents mingling on the blankets and in the air.

Fuck, he wanted to lay down. Just for a second. He could probably afford a second...

No. He practically growled at himself as he zipped up the bag and slung it over his shoulder. Leave, now.

He hesitated for just one moment at the window, quietly leaning his head against the cool glass. He made a silent vow to himself — and to Scott — that he would try his hardest to stay good for as long as he possibly could. 

It was the least he could do for the only person that had ever truly cared about him.

Then threw open the window and stepped into the dark night. 

*     *     *

Cold wind ripped through Scott’s hair as he leaned out the Jeep window, desperately searching through the thick suburban scents for a sign that Theo was nearby. But nowhere among the scents of mowed grass and asphalt did he find even so much as a trace of what he was looking for.

When it became evident that they wouldn’t find Theo in the forest, Stiles had called his Dad to check cars getting on the highway — it wasn’t difficult to convince the sheriff of the danger Theo potentially posed right now.

The rest of the pack was heading to bus stations while he and Stiles went back to Scott’s house to gather up some of Theo’s things. Malia was a far more experienced tracker and might have a better chance of finding Theo than Scott did, but she was less familiar with Theo’s scent and might need something of his to start with.

“Alright, man,” Stiles exclaimed, slapping the steering wheel loudly. “Will you just go ahead and say it already?”

Scott felt his back stiffen and his fingers curl tightly on the edge of the open window . He clenched his jaw, and took a long and steadying breath before leaning back in the chair.

He didn’t look at Stiles, just kept his eyes focused on the dark road ahead of them.

He knew they needed to talk. He knew the conversation was inevitable, but he was too worried to think clearly. He was barely able to keep his finger nails from growing into claws. If they talked now he was bound to say something wrong. Bound to say something he would regret.

*     *     *

Stiles let Scott smolder in silence for another fifteen seconds before he could no longer stand it.

“So, what?” he snapped. “You’re ignoring me now?”

“I don’t want to talk about anything until we find Theo,” Scott said in what Stiles was sure must have been the most calm and rational tone he could manage at the moment.

“So you are mad at me?” Stiles demanded. “Even though he attacked me?”

“You think I’m not upset that he did that?” Scott snapped. “You think when I saw the marks on your neck that didn’t terrify me? Fuck, Stiles, what if he hurt you? Like really hurt you? Do you think I’d be able to live with myself if that happened? But what you did was reckless and stupid! You deliberately put yourself in danger! And to what? Prove a point to me? To get back at Theo for senior year? What the hell were you thinking?”

“He was a ticking time bomb, Scott! This was going to happen one way or another—”

“So you figured you’d just go and set him off? Stiles, you know that I’ve been working with him for months to try to help him through this!”

“And you know that I never approved of that!”

“So you decided to sabotage me?”

“No!” Stiles shouted. “I didn’t go there to tell him shit — hell, I didn’t even mean to find him there, I was looking for you!”

“Yeah, and when you found him by himself you just couldn’t give up the opportunity to...to…”

“To what?” Stiles fumed. “Call him on his shit?”

“To be cruel!” Scott shouted back, his voice breaking. “He was trying...he was trying so hard —”

“Scott, he was lying to you! Again! Don’t you see what this means? He didn’t need his memories to be a duplicitous manipulative piece of shit! Theo is Theo! Period!”

“He wasn’t lying! He told me what happened—”

“Not everything! He didn’t tell you how he killed Gabe! He conveniently left out the part where he—”

“He obviously didn’t know .” Scott argued. “He didn’t understand the significance in the details. He’s so...desensitized to violence...he probably didn’t think—”

“Yeah, because he’s a fucking psychopath, Scott!”

“No! Because he wasn’t ready to be put in that situation!” Scott shouted back, and Stiles could hear the emotion rising in his voice. “It’s not his fault that he doesn’t know! Do you have any idea the kind of fucked up shit that the Doctors did to him? The things that he probably had to do just to survive? Fuck, Stiles if you ever heard the kinds of nightmares that he has...”

Stiles felt a pang of guilt as he recalled the things Theo had said in his fit of rage. 

I’d like to see how you would have handled it! Getting cut up every fucking night. Your parents acting like it’s somehow your fault that you’re such a wreck. Like you fucking asked for it...like you wanted to be that way...

In the moments that he’d said them Stiles had been too preoccupied with his pounding head and the fact that he was being dragged across the playground to really digest them — but they’d sunk in none the less.

“So you want me to feel bad for him?” Stiles spat, despite the fact that he was beginning to feel increasingly sick to his stomach. “After everything that he did to us senior year? Everything he did to you ?”

“Stiles…” Scott started, taking another deep breath. “Do you not realize that I had to forgive Liam for doing almost the exact same thing to me?”

“You…” Stiles paused, confused for a moment. “You what?”

“Liam tried to kill me the night of the Super Moon so he could take the Alpha powers and give Hayden the Bite.” Scott went on, his voice now choked with emotion. “He did it because he was out of his mind, but he still did it. You didn’t think twice when I forgave him.”

“Because Liam is one of us!” Stiles said, waving his hand in frustration. “Because he was a scared kid and he was obviously not himself…”

Exactly. ” Scott said. “I forgave him because I understand how easy it is to lose your fucking head when the world is throwing supernatural shit at you. When there are forces, so much larger and stronger than you, doing everything possible to make you into something you never wanted to be...”

“Scott…” Stiles pulled his eyes away from the road for a moment to look at his best friend. “You are nothing like Theo. And neither is Liam.”

“But maybe we could have been!” Scott argued. “Liam had me . I had you . Theo had fucking no one! And he was so much younger than we were...all I wanted was to give him an actual fighting chance to step off a path that he was pushed onto. I explained that to you. I told you that a thousand times! You knew I was trying to help him!”

“He doesn't deserve your help!”

“I never said that he deserved it! I said he needed it!” Scott shouted back. “It’s like Allison said, ‘we protect those who cannot protect themselves’ he can’t protect himself—”

“Ohhhhh don’t you go quoting Allison at me, now! Like she’d be happy to see you letting someone that tried to kill you sleep in your house!”

“Yes she WOULD!” Scott’s voice was almost a roar as furious tears leaked from his eyes. “She would understand more than anyone what it’s like to love someone that’s done terrible things! She almost killed Erica and Boyd! So many of us have done things, or come close to doing things that—”

“Wait— LOVE ?”

Stiles must have misheard that. He couldn’t possibly have just heard that.

“You know what, whatever!” Scott threw his hands up in the air. “There’s no point in talking to you about any of this! You got exactly what you wanted tonight so I don’t even know why we’re doing this!” 

“Oh no, you do not just get to say what you just said and then change the fucking subject!” Stiles shouted at him, as he put his blinker on to turn into Scott’s driveway. “Please —  God — tell me that you didn’t actually just say what I thought I heard you say —”

You’re the one trying to change the subject!” Scott yelled back. “You wanted Theo to fuck up — and you pushed him till you got your way! You didn’t care if you hurt him and you didn’t care if you hurt me! All you cared about tonight was being right !”

“I cared about protecting you!” Stiles fired back stubbornly as he killed the engine. “I’m sorry that the truth fucking hurts, but there’s nothing I can do about that!”

But even as Stiles said it he was filled with self doubt.

You always hated me! Theo’s voice rang in his ears again. You couldn’t stand the thought of having to share Scott with anyone else! You never have. Not even when we were kids.

Was part of it true?

Had he not cared about hurting Scott tonight? Did he want Theo to fuck up?

“No, you’re not sorry!” Scott shouted back, as they both climbed out of the vehicle. “You’re not sorry that you hurt someone that was already damaged and scared and trying his hardest to turn his life around! You’re not sorry that you decided to throw away something that you knew was important to me! The only thing you’re sorry about is that I don’t feel like talking to you right now!”

*     *     *

“Fuck!” Theo swore under his breath.

He’d had one leg halfway out the window when a pair of headlights flooded the driveway.

He quickly drew back into the room, thankful that he’d left the lights off in the house as he heard the tail end of a sentence echoing from the car.

“—he spent half his life getting dissected in a basement, and the other half trying to please the same people that abused him…”

Scott.

Theo’s heart dropped. He was frozen against the wall in Scott’s bedroom, hiding in the shadows as he listened to Scott and Stiles clamber out of the car. 

“So what?” Stiles demanded, but Theo could hear a doubtful tremor in his angry tone as he slammed the car door shut. “He’s got Stockholm Syndrome so he gets a Get Out of Jail Free Card?”

Tears slipped down Theo’s face in the dark. Scott was looking for him. He still believed in him. He still wanted to help him. Every bone in his body ached to go down and meet him.

But he couldn’t let himself. Not if he wanted to keep Scott safe.

“You know that’s not what I’m saying!” Scott argued back, as he roughly shoved the keys into the lock on the front door. “But maybe you could have a shred of sympathy for him! And stop treating me like I’m some kind of asshole because I still care about—”

Scott stopped mid sentence.

 

*     *     *

The moment Scott opened the door, he heard it.

A heartbeat. Erratic and strained, upstairs in his  in his bedroom.

He dashed up the stairs just in time to see Theo’s foot disappearing out this bedroom window.

Scott lunged after him.

 

Chapter Text

“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.