Theo stared at the clothes on the counter, stuck in the doorway. The warm spiced scent had rushed him, stopping all thoughts, pausing the animals. It was the calmest the wolf and coyote had been in days. He stepped into the bathroom, closing the door softly behind him, but not letting go of the handle. For a moment he debated calling to Mason and throwing the sweats and shirt back at him, saying something along the lines of not wanting an angry Liam breaking his nose again for wearing his clothes. The thought died quickly as both his animals keened and his hand twitched, half-reaching forward to where the clothes were set on the counter.
No one else had to know. Mason probably just grabbed the first thing in the pile of clothes that weren't his. Between himself, Liam and Corey, there were undoubtedly a fair few things in that pile. It wasn't like Liam wore these sweats nearly every weekend because they were his comfiest pair. How was a human expected to notice details like that? He shook his head, taking a breath as he gripped the counter.
"Get a fucking grip," he said through gritted teeth.
The annoying prickling started again behind his eyes as tears built at the corners, and his chest tightened. Crying was humiliating enough. Why did it have to physically hurt too? He hated it. Hated the way his eyes would get all puffy and red at the slightest hints of tears, dead giveaways that refused to disappear no matter how he rubbed at them. Hated the way every inch of his body would shake and shudder, threatening to fall apart for good, to melt under whatever pressure had pushed him past his breaking point.
He shoved himself away from the counter, all but tearing off his clothes, barely keeping his claws away before stepping into the shower. With no care for temperature, he turned it on, forcing himself to stay still as icy streams pelted his skin. It prickled in an almost painful kind of way, just enough to pull his mind from what was beyond the curtain. Deep breaths in and out helped calm both his animals as they whined at the strong scent was diluted by the water. The chill also cleared his head, allowing for him to focus on something other than the unnerving rolling in his gut and incessant nagging from his animals that something was missing. He knew damn well what was missing, but friend or not, it shouldn't be affecting him this much.
The slow simmering uneasiness turned back to anger as he did his best to rip off a layer of skin along with the dirt, grime, and sweat he was washing away. Where else was he supposed to direct it? A wry laugh broke the deafening silence of the room as he shook his head. Maybe when this was all said and done he would apologize to Liam about playing with him so much. If this was even a fraction of what he felt, what he had inside had to be monstrous. He had been dealing with this for not even a week and he was ready to snap someone's neck for breathing in his direction.
When he rinsed the soap from his skin and hair, he shut off the water and stood, one arm pressed against the cool tile, bearing most of his weight as he plonked his head onto it. None of the unease had dissipated, nor the anger. At least he didn't want to cry anymore. He swore he almost choked on bile as he reeled back, furiously shaking his head.
"This is pathetic," he growled, fighting back the surge of bristling frustration.
Nothing settled him. He couldn't figure it out. Where had his immaculate control gone? There was no way it unraveled this quickly. Or maybe it had, and the Doctors were right to keep him so far removed from normal people. All he did was let himself enjoy a minor comfort, relaxed the iron grip he strangled his animals with, started listening to them both and his developing conscience. Maybe the wolf took the leeway and ran, taking the coyote with it, devouring his weakness. Peace was never supposed to be part of his equation.
The Dread Doctors wanted a weapon, something lethal, strong and smart enough to take down any enemy of theirs, a loaded gun they just had to point. Controlling the trigger had been all important. They drilled it day in, day out. Control or pain, but no screaming. That was just another kind of losing control. Either he learned to manage and curtail every instinct or they punished him. Absolute obedience or he was useless, just another experiment. He grimaced as phantom pricks made his chest clench. All or nothing. Ghostly echoes rattled in his ears, growing louder as he picked out his own cries, calling out for his parents. He was shaking again, alone in a sewer bedroom that looked nothing like the ninja turtles' did.
He jolted backwards, tripping over the edge of the tub, barely not falling straight onto his ass. The ground was not a soft landing, but he didn't register it. His chest was heaving, air catching in his throat again, barely wheezing out of him. In taking air went even worse. The floor offered no grip as he scrambled back to standing, holding onto the counter tighter than a boa would its prey. Chest rattling coughs shook his body, somewhat clearing his airway, allowing for a couple deeper breaths. He buried that in a hole so dark and deep at the back of his mind. It shouldn't have come back.
Neither was he, technically. Hell was a one-way trip for anyone else. He lifted his head as he shook it.
"I am not a failure," he ground out, staring at his reflection.
It barely looked like him. None of the confident exterior remained, not even a shred that he could hope to cling onto. All he could see was the haunted, sunken eyes of the scared kid who never understood why his life got so dark.
His fingers passed over the grotesque scar, cringing as he felt the mangled skin. It healed all kinds of horrible, even for being human at the time. Sometimes he wished that he was a full wolf, to heal it all away, to erase the ugly reminder of just how much of a monster he was and what he wouldn't do for power.
Could he even technically call the heart his? By all accounts, it wasn't. He stole it, along with the rest of her life. Contrary to popular belief, he didn't ask for it. How would a ten-year-old even have known how to ask for that? Tears rolled down his cheeks again, heavy fat ones that he felt fall as he flattened his hand over his chest, feeling the heartbeat beneath it.
"I'm sorry," he whispered, turning his head away.
A flash of grey on the counter caught his eyes. The clothes sat neatly folded and ready, still giving off the warmed fake spice. His wolf whined, making his hand twitch and stretch towards the pile. Barely a heartbeat later and he was getting dressed in Liam's clothes, repeatedly telling himself that it was not soothing the anxiety from his animals.
He opened the bathroom door with a cautious slowness, peaking around it like a child sneaking through the house. He had never been left alone in Mason's house before, let alone told to go shower here. Everything was so thrown off without Liam. Mason's was for video-games and movie nights, piles of junk food and senseless laughter that made him smile. This place was peace and shelter, somewhere he never had to hide what was going on. He could breathe and blend into the background just to watch the world with no one worrying what he was up to.
Right now it felt so opposite to that. There was no time to goof around or stay still. The lightness that normally hung in the air was gone, replaced by a stale sort of dread, limp and lifeless without Liam. He bit at the spot on his lip, somewhat amazed that it hadn't turned into a scar by now, crappy chimera healing powers be damned. If it did, he entirely blamed the beta. Before they met he didn't have anyone to worry about. Half the time he didn't even worry about his own well-being, assuming that he would find a way around any situation or be able to beat anything that came at him. He was the strongest chimera, a living weapon that was clever as the devil and twice as vindictive.
"You coming down soon?" Mason called from downstairs.
That's what he was. Past tense. No matter how badly they all needed Scott and Liam back, he wasn't going back to that. He was in control; he had a choice now and he would keep those instincts on a tight leash. No one had time to rein in a crazy chimera. Sprinting forward was his only choice, keep going, and maybe he could outrun his demons. Fat chance, but still, he could hope.
"Yeah, one more minute," he answered, pinching the bridge of his nose.
The stairs were far more daunting this way around, far steeper than they had seemed not even twenty minutes ago. It shouldn't be this hard to just talk to someone. Words were words. He could spin any kind of web and Mason would buy it. Lying to a human was so much easier than any supernatural being, which he figured he still could do. Skills don't just disappear because they're not practiced every day. Get a little rusty, probably. Rusty still could beat a human's detection skills, though.
With a sigh, he turned and started down the stairs. Each one squeaked, a quiet little sound, something he never noticed before. They were always running up and down, clomping like rhinos according to Liam's mom, so it wasn't surprising that he missed that detail. He used to notice everything, down to the thickness of a dust layer on an abandoned dresser or the heaviness of a scent in the room to determine the best time to drop a proverbial bomb on people.
He walked to the kitchen, guided by the soft sounds of a spoon scrapping a bowl and gentle music.
"Stress baking?" He asked with a half-smirk.
"Yeah. Figured I'd try to be somewhat productive if I was going to be stressing out in a kitchen. No one's really eating enough right now, so sweets for the calories and maybe to help settle some nerves."
"Makes sense." Theo nodded, sitting on one of the bar stools, watching Mason work.
Rhythmic and even, in time with most of the music, he almost was dancing as he mixed in and weighed out ingredients. Maybe Jenna would let him use her kitchen every so often. Highly likely if he shared his results. She and Liam had such sweet-tooths.
A wave of anger swelled. He gritted his teeth again, hands curling tightly into fists as a short, barely audible growl rolled out of him before he could stop it.
"Not again," Theo groaned, grinding his teeth.
"Yeah," he said, shaking his head and scowling at himself. "I'm fine."
"Can you just take the damn mask off for a minute?" Mason slammed the spoon back onto the counter.
Theo froze. All his senses focused on his friend, trying to parse through all of them, to understand what he was expected to do. Nothing was coming to mind though. The sharp anger was too mixed with sadness's salty tinge and abrupt stop of regret.
"Look, I get that you guys think life's easier with a mask, but the normal people around you can't do anything if you don't let them in. I'm not asking because I want to know, I'm asking because I want to help."
"Help is overrated," he snorted. "Besides, who else notices?"
"Liam and Corey, for starters. You've got friends, dude, at least when you're not being your stoic, overly sarcastic, fake-asshole self."
Theo grit his teeth, lips twitching as his gums itched. "I never asked for you guys to be."
It didn't matter how scary he got, if he growled and snarled Mason would barely flinch. What was an emotionally compromised chimera against the werewolf Hulkling? His tantrums probably wouldn't even make top ten scariest moments in his life. All bark, no bite. Just a pitifully complicated…
He threw himself off the chair, spinning away. "I don't care about friends, I don't need them."
His animals writhed at the words, the wolf in pain and the coyote in anger, both loudly snarling at him. Their frustration boiled into a low groan that slowly surged into a growl as his hands tightened into fists, trying to keep the claws from emerging. There would be no forgiveness if he got blood on Liam's pants. Why did he care? Let him be angry. Let the whole pack hate him if they wanted to. He didn't care, nothing would ever change. Let the entire town burn for all he cared.
"Yet, you and Liam hit it off pretty quick."
"After a few handfuls of broken bones." Theo half-chuckled, rolling his eyes. "And he still regularly threatens to break my nose."
Sometimes first impressions were spot on. Liam was a lot stronger than his little baby face had suggested, and in more ways than he had first thought.
"Has he recently though?"
"No. But we worked on control. He rarely loses it anymore," Theo shrugged, shaking his head.
"Yeah, you two figured out how to help him control it. You helped him. I tried for years. Hell, Scott tried for a couple years and got nowhere. Then you help and he masters all of his anger?"
"I used some alternate methods," Theo countered, crossing his arms.
"Get it through your head, you're important to him, and I mean more to him than anyone. And I know you care about him too. Otherwise, why are you still here?"
"As if I could put a pinky toe across the town limit." Theo turned back to Mason, raising his hands in exasperation.
"You could've. No one was going to stop you. So," Mason sighed, stepping around the counter, "why did you stay?"
His hands dropped, slapping hard against his thighs. "Because it was easier."
"Really? Being watched almost 24/7 is easier for you than picking up and getting the hell out of dodge?"
"I just…" Theo shook his head, gums itching as his whole body started shaking too.
"I'm willing to bet it was Liam. Something about him, from day one, had you intrigued right? He's important enough that you're fucking losing it without him-"
"I don't need anyone!"
Theo staggered back from the roar, anger falling from his face as the animals cowered, retreating. How in the world did Liam control his anger? This wasn't even close to a fraction of his levels, and here he was struggling like some new bitten wolf.
"I don't," he huffed, trying to force a smirk as he shook his head, running a hand through his hair. Still almost speechless, he let out a long exhale. "How do I fix this?"
"Fix it? What's there to fix?"
"I'm not supposed to have one."
"I… I can't have an anchor. I've always controlled this on my own." Theo dropped his head, resting it on his arms.
Of all the stupid things he did, this had to be the worst. Attachment was weakness, weakness meant death, and death was not an option. He should have seen it, should have stopped it before it got anywhere near this far. This kind of thing wasn't supposed to happen to people like him. He was a damn death sentence. Just ask the tens of bodies he put in the ground.
"He's my friend. That's it. H-he," Theo shook his head violently, trying to shake away the tingling in his eyes and itching of his gums, "he can't be more than that."
"Not to burst your bubble, but friends don't look at each other the way you two do."
Not for the first time, he was happy Mason couldn't hear the way his heart sped up or smell how drastically the air just changed. The flinch probably telegraphed everything, though. He was more apt to catch things than most of the people in Scott's pack. Sometimes it was amazingly helpful, other times it was more annoying than anything else.
"Does he know?" The broken note in his voice made him wince.
"About what? That could apply to like a thousand different questions."
"Does he know he's my anchor?"
"No, but he's like fifty to seventy-five percent to figuring out you're his," Mason said with a smile. "And to realizing that he's head over claws for you."
Theo sighed, slumping down against the wall. There really wasn't any other explanation. Anchors didn't pop up out of nowhere. They were damn near pre-cursors to mated bonds in most, semi-reliable, literature. He didn't want that. Never thought about it enough to want it, or consider it. He wasn't even fully supernatural. This shouldn't be possible. It couldn't be true, there had to be something else. Anything else.
"I tried not to… you know… I really did." He wanted nothing to do with emotions or attachments. "But he's just too…"
"Brave? Kind? Sunshiney?"
"All of those things." Theo's nod turned into a shake as he leaned his head back. "This risks everything he has."
"Risking? Why would he be risking anything? It's not like you're getting him to fall in love with you and then bailing the next day, right?" Mason's chuckle slowly turned into a half-glare. "Right?"
"There's no guarantee I'm changed for good, and if I screw up and it blows back onto him, the others would never forgive it. I'd be dead before you blinked."
"That's such a stupidly unlikely scenario-"
"I'm the best there is at doing terrible things, Mase. That will always be a part of the equation."
"Not really. People do bad things when they're trying to survive." Mason squeezed his shoulder gently. "You're a good person, mostly. Good enough. No one's perfect."
"Did you forget your True Alpha?"
"No. But he's not as perfect as everyone thinks he is. He's got his insecurities, his unhelpful tendencies, the parts of his that aren't all that pretty. We all do. What matters is how we work to fix them."
Pretty though the sunshine and rainbow future Mason painted was, he knew that wasn't his future. Nothing good ever lasted. Good wasn't permanent. He would end up hauntingly alone, six feet under without a headstone, left to rot and be forgot. What other way could this whole scenario play out? He was dark from the beginning, a corrupted little kid that watched his sister die, and down the rabbit hole to the ever scarier and blurry blackness of the Dread Doctor's twisted upbringing as he continued to fall.
He fought the urge to say something back to Mason, knowing he would just keep trying to refute it. At the very least he should be happy to have so much support from him, but stuff like this wasn't meant to be in his life. Something as broken as him would only slice Liam to ribbons as the sunshine puppy tried to put him back together again. He was poison, and sooner or later, if he let himself have a chance with Liam, the brightness and innocence in his eyes would die.
"Stay away!" Liam sobbed, curling tighter into the corner.
The blood was still dripping from Scott's wounds, pooling into bright, sickening puddles by his knees. He could feel the stickiness of it heavy on his hands, drying, pulling at his skin as his stomach flipped again. This was so much worse than last time. He had been in somewhat in control, enough to remember it. All he remembered was the frenzied rage that whited-out everything else, building and building as his wolf took over, and the screams… His stomach lurched, threatening to return the remnants of yesterday's lunch, starting a new round of dry heaving sobs.
"Liam, it's okay."
"How the hell is this okay? I nearly tore you to pieces, Scott! And I could do it again, any time they want."
Worse than anything, he couldn't stop. The wolf had taken over, latching onto that part of him that was always so angry at the world and just lit itself on fire. They barely had to do anything and here he was jumping at his alpha's throat, again.
"We'll get through this."
"How? They turned me into a weapon. What if they turn me on the others? You're a fucking alpha, Scott, and they had to tranq me to keep me from killing you. They're not. He's not." His body shuddered as he shook his head, tears trailing down his cheeks. "I could kill him and I wouldn't even know except for his blood on my claws."
"That won't happen."
Scott's voice was so sure, so strong, echoing off the walls. His heart didn't even skip a beat. Honestly, he envied his friend's ability to remain a perpetual ray of sunshiny goodness, that after so many years and too much loss his optimism was damn near unbreakable.
"What makes you so sure?"
"We always find a way."
"What if we can't? Scott, I… If I kill someone…"
For a second the confident set of his eyebrows faltered and a wave of something sharp hit Liam's nose. Quick as the crack appeared it was paved over with determination, his brow setting deeper as he rested a hand on Liam's shoulder.
"They'll find a way. Between Lydia, Stiles, and Theo, I think our pack could take over the world." Scott smiled, broadcasting such a gentle hope that Liam couldn't help but answer it.
"The power throuple," he huffed, a hint of a smile cracking across his face.
"Throuple? You know what, never mind. I don't need to know what Stiles has taught you." Scott shook his head, letting out an airy chuckle, punctuated by little coughs. "Whatever it is, they're powerful enough to get us out of here. Plus, Isaac'll probably try to kill someone to get us out of here."
Liam couldn't stop the chuckle that bubbled up. He forgot about Isaac's tendencies. Maybe they should be a little worried about what the others' plan would entail. Hardly any members of the pack were known for their restraint, aside from Scott, Lydia and Kira. Hopefully, the pack queen had everything under control.