Theo didn't even know his older brother was in the room until Levi let out a loud sigh the second he flopped into the seat across from Theo, arms settling onto the table and fingers interlacing. Theo looked up from his laptop, fingers resting lightly on the keys and the cursor flashing patiently on his essay. He quirked a brow, frowning when he took in the sight of his older brother. Levi looked exhausted, brown hair hanging limply in his face, brushing his eyelashes and sticking every-which-way like he hadn't brushed it in days. His skin seemed paler, blue eyes duller and shoulders sagging like he barely had the energy to hold them up. Normally, despite being leaner than Theo, he seemed imposing and large, but it was as if exhaustion and stress alone had chipped away at his presence over time. Theo sat up straighter, feeling concern partially as a sibling and partially as the second to his alpha.
Levi hadn't always been the alpha. A long time ago, the title had belonged to their grandfather, but he had died, along with their parents, aunt and baby cousin. It was sudden-wolfsbane poisoning after a group of self-proclaimed vigilante hunters had mistaken their family for another pack who had turned children against their will. The only survivor had been their uncle, but so much damage had been done to his brain and body that he was mostly bedridden. Theo had been at school with Levi and their little sister Hannah when he had felt the agonizing wrench of loss that came with half of their pack dying off. Levi had inherited the strength of their grandfather and parents in such a rush that the school had to tranquilize him to keep him from hurting anyone in his grief.
The hunters had never been brought to justice, and Levi, newly an alpha and barely eighteen, moved them from Colorado to Seattle to escape the memories of home and the feeling of loss. No one would have tried to separate the lone survivors of a once-thriving werewolf pack.
"Theo," Levi began tentatively, clearing his throat and bringing a hand up to scrub at the two-day stubble that had started to show across his cheeks and jawline. It was still early in the morning, and then sun coming in from the half-shut blinds left streaks of light across Levi's shoulder and face. The living room window was cracked, letting a breeze in and filing their apartment with the soft hum of a morning drizzle. Even though he was only twenty seven, Levi looked older in that moment, like the weight of the world was slowly crushing him down.
Theo quirked an eyebrow, "yes?"
After a beat, Levi said, "I'm thinking about getting a fae."
"A fae," Theo echoed, narrowing his eyes. Fae weren't exactly friendly, there was a reason that a law had been passed years ago for their detainment and rehabilitation. "For...?"
"Uncle Oscar," Levi looked down at his nails, picking at the corners of his thumb. He was avoiding eye contact, most likely because he felt some form of guilt for suggesting they take in a potential murderer, which would mean endangering his pack. "I know you've been trying to help, but you and Hannah have school, and I have work. The cost of a caretaker is almost as much as keeping him in the hospital, and I don't have the time to take care of him. If we took in a fae, we could get them to watch Oscar."
"Fae are dangerous." Theo reached out to shut the lid on his laptop, scowling. "There's a reason they're all in facilities. They could kill Oscar-could kill us. Remember what happened to that human family? The house was leveled-"
"I looked into it," Levi interrupted, scrubbing a hand over his face. "Fae are more compatible with werewolves and other magic families. Humans can't keep them grounded as well. Most of the stories are about humans who didn't establish a connection with the fae. Plus, government will pay us to take one in. They've got a bunch of precautions that will keep us safe. It's more like fostering a kid or something."
"Only instead of a kid, we're going to take a strange adult into our house to take care of our half-vegetative uncle while you're at work and Hannah and I are at school."
"God, you're so negative," Levi sighed, dropping his face into his hands. "I could ask you if I should make a cake and you would tell me the possibilities of choking and dying on it."
"I'm the cons to your pros. I'm like your other, more pessimistic half," Theo supplied helpfully. Despite Levi being older by three years, most people thought they were twins anyway, given how similar Theo looked to his older brother. Theo's hair was darker, chest broader, and his nose wasn't as sharp, but he stood just a few inches taller than Levi, had the same sharp jawline and crooked smile, and their eyes were almost the same shade of blue. Levi usually shaved more than he did, but that was probably due to the fact that Theo was lazy, more than anything.
Levi gave him an exaggerated groan, but Theo caught sight of the corner of his brother's lip quirking up. Theo opened his laptop, looking up instances of werewolf families taking in fae. Unlike a generalized result, where pages upon pages of cases would have appeared, most detailing gruesome deaths or damages, there was only a small handful of articles on the first page. Two of the stories were actually about werewolves attacking and hurting others to defend the fae in their pack.
The well of tightness in Theo's gut loosened a little. He glanced up to see Levi watching him patiently and shrugged. "You're the alpha," he reminded his brother, "whatever you want is what we do."
Shaking his head, Levi picked at a piece of tape stuck to the table from one of Hanna's presentation projects. Theo hadn't even noticed it against the darkness of the wood. "This is your decision, too. You're my second, and I can't make this choice alone."
"Okay," Theo pursed his lips. "Why a fae?"
"I... I'm just running out of options. Financially, we're okay, but I'm worried about the long run. Oscar's life insurance isn't going to last forever, and I don't know how long he's going to be like this. I don't know if he's going to get better. Yeah, he talks now, and he's reacting better, he can feed himself and go to the bathroom most of the time... but we know he's never going to be like he was. At least with a fae we'll have someone here with him who can read to him and change his sheets, and just be there when we can't. I've read up some stuff online and I think they're not as bad as people make them out to be."
Theo glanced back down at his laptop, frowning in thought. They had a better chance as werewolves, but part of him was still wary. "You're sure about this?"
"I made an appointment with the FCC to visit today. I wanted you to go with me. If we see one we like, we can get one, but we don't have to. Just tell me what you think and I can cancel right now if you think this is a bad idea."
Theo sat back in his chair, crossing his arms. The FCC stood for Fae Care Center (or Fae Containment Center, depending on who was asked), where the fae were kept and cared for until families adopted them in. Theo knew there was one not too far away, just in the next town over, but that was the extent of his knowledge.
Fae were probably the most dangerous of all the magicfolk-they drew on the energy of life and could take down entire buildings if provoked enough. Theo knew that each one was different, that some had strengths in other areas, but he'd never felt compelled to look up the difference between the elemental and the nature fae. All he knew was that the sheer power behind them was absolutely terrifying.
Part of Theo knew that not all fae were like that, but it was hard to shake that belief when the only time he heard about them was when there was a massacre involved. Another part of him couldn't help but remember being a child and sitting scared in his room as his parents argued downstairs over whether or not the Lycaon Detainment Act was going to pass. For months building up to the vote, his entire family had been terrified at what could happen if the bill went through, and if they'd even be a family again afterwards. The only reason that it had been a potential law was because of omegas who had gone on killing sprees. Fae weren't much like werewolves, but, for once, Theo could really understand what Levi was getting at.
"It wouldn't hurt to try," he finally settled on saying, shrugging a little. Levi settled back into his chair, hand scrubbing across his face with a sigh. He'd been pulling extra shifts at work, trying to make up for the huge dent that they'd started to put into the life insurance money from the rest of the family. Theo could see that, even for an alpha werewolf with superior strength and stamina to a human, it was starting to take a toll-especially when his day off was spent trying to adopt a fae. Levi cleared his throat, tapping on the table and then pulling his phone out of his pocket to check the time.
"We'll head out in about an hour. The appointment's at one."
The FCC was a plain brown and white building a good mile into the country, surrounded by tall, iron fences and a heavy gatehouse with a guard inside. Levi rolled up to the window, pulling out his driver's license and handing it over to the man. The guard took a second to read it, nodding and handing the ID back before letting them in. Theo could feel it the second they drove through the gate, hair standing on end and body twitching with the smell of electricity coming from the fencing. They parked close to the entrance, Levi leading the way as he locked the doors to their small blue four-door and headed into the lobby to talk to the receptionist. Theo crinkled his nose at the overpowering smell of St. John's wort that was coming from the herb garden perched on the front desk. Even Levi seemed annoyed by it, because he pushed the plant a few inches away while talking to the woman.
Theo was staring at a giant poster listing the reasons why a fae was a great addition to any family when a nurse came out from the back. She greeted them with a smile and a nod, clipboard in hand. "If you could just fill this out for me, it will help us in choosing a compatible companion for your pack."
Taking the clipboard and pen, Levi glanced down at the paperwork. Theo leaned in, peering over his shoulder at the paperwork. The first page was mostly for personal information, but when Levi flipped to the next page, Theo spotted a small questionnaire full of check boxes and blank spaces.
While Levi started to fill in the information, Theo pulled out his phone to keep himself occupied, texting a few of his friends to see what they were up to.
"What kind of fae do we want?" Levi muttered, clicking and unclicking his pen in thought. "Water fae? No, it rains too much here..."
"What about an empath?" Theo suggested, brain going back to the articles he'd read earlier that morning, "most werewolf packs do okay with empaths."
Levi thought for a moment, but then shrugged and checked it off. He also checked off one or two others before going down the list of conditions that they didn't want their fae to have. Levi started to go through, checking all of them one-by-one before Theo reached out a hand. "Wait, I think we'll be okay if they have asthma or bad vision," he pointed out wryly, grinning when Levi finally realized that not all of the conditions were debilitating or required frequent doctor visits.
"Okay, I'll leave a couple," Levi muttered, skipping over a few he deemed acceptable and then finishing up the questionnaire. He brought the clipboard back up to the receptionist, thanking her when she took it and paged the nurse. The woman came back up to the front as Levi took a seat, grabbing the clipboard and reading over it before disappearing again.
Theo sunk down in his chair, legs crossed at the angles and lazily bouncing his left foot. The loose lace on his sneaker made a tapping noise each time it hit the rubber sole, so Theo tried to make a rhythm out of it. Levi looked ready to kick his foot when the nurse returned and gestured for them to follow her.
They went through two doors-one that required a key card and passcode, and ended up in a wide white room with one table and a few chairs. There was a window on one side, and another wall that was mostly glass so people could look in and out of the room. The only sign of life in the room seemed to be the rowan sapling sitting in a pot in the corner.
"If you'll just wait here, we'll bring the candidates in shortly," she said, smile fake and wide. Levi thanked her and Theo took a seat on the stiff, plastic chair near the door.
She left, and Levi dragged in a deep breath before letting it out through his teeth. He let his arms hand down to his sides in a flop, the sleeves of his worn green hoodie hanging half over his knuckles before he gave Theo a tight smile. Theo crossed his arms, shrugging when he couldn't think of anything to say to his brother. Neither of them had any idea what was going on, so there no point in putting up pretenses of joy or excitement. The room smelled like rubbing alcohol and herbs, and hummed obnoxiously from the fluorescent lights. If there was one downside to being a werewolf, it was the heightened senses of hearing and smell. Luckily for Theo, he wasn't partially colorblind like Levi was, so he could admire the blindingly bright green poster detailing how fae made the best type of house-hand compared to a cleaning service.
When the door opened again, six people shuffled in wearing matching gray outfits, each of them with a thick collar-like device around their throats. It looked to be mostly made of metal, with a thin strip of some kind of wood running around it through the center. They looked heavy and uncomfortable, and Theo couldn't imagine being forced to wear one for any amount of time. There were two women and four men, some looking in their early twenties and others closer to their thirties.
There were two orderlies flanking the back of the line, large and imposing from their sheer presence. Theo could tell one was human, but the other was a werewolf just like Levi and himself.
None of the fae looked up, their gazes focused blankly at the wall or floor as they were pushed into a straight line like mindless ducklings so that each of them faced Levi. Theo stood, walking up next to his brother while Levi paced in front of them, scowl deepening. He could sense his alpha's agitation, his own skin crawling at the near-lifeless way that the fae stood there. They were human, once, before their powers manifested. Theo wasn't sure there was any humanity left behind.
Finally, Levi reached a hand up to irritably scratch at his jaw, lips pursed and an aggravated sound escaping him. He glanced over to the nurse, quirking an eyebrow at the sight of her ignoring him completely and instead obnoxiously clicking a pen while she read a slip of paper on top of the stack of folders in her arms.
"Are all of them supposed to be this dead-eyed? We wanted a caretaker, not a bunch of vegetables," Levi asked irritably, crossing his arms and exhaling heavily.
Theo caught the sound of fabric shifting, and he glanced back to the group to see that a young woman with brown hair completely pulled up into a ponytail was staring at them. When she realized she'd been caught, she quickly glanced away, eyes unfocusing back onto the wall once more. She looked to be the youngest of the group, skin pale from lack of sun and her shoulders curling in the tiniest bit as if she felt eyes on her. She wasn't short, but it was like she tried to make her body language scream small and unimposing. Theo could see the curve of her collarbone peeking out from beneath the uniform and it made him wonder if they even properly fed any of the fae in the facility. The corners of her lips were chapped and cracked, fingernails bitten down and bags heavy beneath her eyes. Theo would have never noticed her on his own.
Levi must have seen the movement too, because he was across the room in a heartbeat, eyes scanning over the female fae's face and narrowing his eyes. There was a nametag on a iron chain hanging around her neck and Levi reached out to read it. Theo came up behind his brother, peering over his shoulder to see the name Madeline Wallis and underneath of it, empath. She didn't budge an inch even after Levi let the nametag drop back against her chest.
"Look at me," he commanded. She didn't move, but Theo barely caught her breath hitching, hearing the sound of her heartbeat picking up nervously. Levi exhaled harshly through his nose, taking her chin between his fingers and making her lift her head. "Look at me."
Even though Levi was and always would be in charge, Theo couldn't help but want to try and intervene and point out that maybe force wasn't the best choice of action. He did, however, reach out to gently settle a hand over his brother's wrist, trying to silently get Levi to lower his arm. The fae hesitated, but then her eyes came up, ghosting over Levi's face for a moment and then twitching to look over at Theo. The moment that he caught sight of the way her pupils were blown so wide that there was barely a sliver of dark green around them, his breath snagged in his chest. She hardly looked coherent at all, blinking once before realizing she'd been making eye contact with Theo and quickly shifting her focus to some distant point past his ear.
"Good enough," Levi muttered, letting go and turning to Theo. Theo could tell his brother was getting antsy, it was hard to ignore that basic animal instinct that told him there was something wrong with the fae that stood before them. "Get this one," Levi instructed, frowning for a moment whenever the girl's eyes twitched to them and back again, like she couldn't believe what she was hearing. Levi turned to the nurse, who was watching with detached interest. "Is there any paperwork?"
The nurse nodded, sifting through the stack of files and then approaching Levi to hand him what must have been Madeline's folder. "Here is her information," the woman began, but Levi passed it to Theo without batting an eye, looking expectantly at the woman. She took the gesture in stride, instead turning and leading Levi out the door with a soft, "right this way."
Theo stood for a second, and then looked down at the file in his hand. "Madeline," he muttered, flipping the folder open and glancing over it. "She takes medication?"
"They all do," the closest caretaker answered evasively. "It's protocol."
"Hypericum," Theo muttered, frowning as he tried to place where he'd heard that term before. "Abilify? We said we didn't want anyone with depression or bipolar."
"It's a mood stabilizer," came the response, "most fae don't handle captivity well."
"So you drug them up until they don't care?" Theo asked, a little more harshly than he'd intended.
Instead of an answer, though, the caretaker just gave him a tight smile and a shrug.
Theo let out a soft sigh, wanting desperately to roll his eyes at the man. Instead, he kept flicking through the paperwork. No loud noises, allergy to shellfish, suffers from RLS. Theo skimmed over the list of behavioral patterns, eyes falling on the history section.
"Twenty, formerly from the Poole clan-wait," Theo looked up with a scowl, "she's from a vampire clan?"
"Dragon, actually," said the caretaker. Theo's gut bottomed out and he took a second to breathe, blinking harshly and shaking his head. It made no sense. Dragon clans kept to themselves, mostly, and if this girl had dragon in her blood, that would have kept her safe from being pulled into the system. The caretaker seemed to notice Theo's confusion, because he continued with, "she was adopted in as a human-well, former human."
Madeline' barely-there flinch said the rest.
Even though Theo wanted to know more, to find out why she was taken in by a dragon clan, and what her heritage really was, he snapped the file folder shut, gesturing at Madeline. "So do I just take her or what?"
The caretaker stepped forward, grabbing Madeline's shoulder with one hand and hooking a finger into the D-ring on her collar. Madeline didn't react, gaze unfocused at the wall, and the caretaker gave Theo another forced smile. "We'll get her things ready for you and bring her to the lobby in a few minutes."
With that, Theo was practically ushered back out into the entry by the other caretaker. Levi wasn't out yet, still probably signing some of the paperwork, still, so Theo took a seat in the lobby. He pulled his phone out, opening a text to his little sister, Hannah, and sending her a quick be home soon, got a surprise for you, and trying not to grin at the idea of Hannah's reaction when she realized what the surprise was going to be. It would serve her right after pranking him the week before by taping a bunch of pull-string poppers to his toilet seat and nearly making Theo wet himself when he tried to go to the bathroom.
Levi emerged soon after, exchanging a few words with the nurse and shaking her hand before she disappeared back behind the door again. He took a seat next to Theo, letting out a long breath and then smiling reassuringly. They both stood when the door finally opened and Madeline emerged with an orderly. She was in a pair of soft cotton pants and a white shirt with slip-ons covering her feet. The only other thing she wore was her collar-which looked like it had been changed into something even bigger and meaner looking. Levi got up first as the nurse from before walked into the lobby with a small bag.
"Here are her things," she said, handing it over. "Her medication is in there with instructions, and I made sure to add a few pamphlets on what fae are and whatnot so you can be prepared for just about anything. There are also some packets of herbs that you can use on her if she starts to act up, and here is the remote to her collar."
The look of disbelief on Levi's face was apparently not enough to stop the nurse from plowing on as she started to point out the buttons. "This one is to shock her-don't worry, it's just a little zap in case she misbehaves-and this is for injections...just get one of these packets out and there's a little syringe in it, see? All you need to do is put it into the slot on her collar and hit that button and it'll calm her down and numb any powers she might be trying to access. The other button is to tighten or loosen the collar, and this last one is to give her a little poke, in case electricity is not your thing and you need to get her back in line."
The more the woman talked, the sicker Theo felt. He was well aware that fae could be almost indestructible if given the chance to let their abilities emerge, but the extremes that they went to for control seemed inhumane. Madeline didn't seem to react to the conversation at all, looking blankly out one of the windows while the nurse prattled on to Levi.
"She needs to come in once a week to keep with her training, so make sure to call us in a few days to discuss a set time and date."
"Training?" Levi looked through the things that he'd been handed, scowling heavily. Theo figured he wasn't much happier about the new information on Madeline's collar.
"Of course. It's to prevent any possible incidents in the future from occurring. We do the work for you, no effort involved on your part with keeping her from accessing any of her abilities. It's easier for everyone this way."
Levi exhaled heavily through his nose, holding up a packet of mountain ash to inspect and shaking his head. "I think we've got it. Don't worry, I'm sure we can figure out everything else on our own. I need to get back home to take care of our uncle."
Theo let Levi continue to try and end the conversation with the nurse, going over a few last-minute details about contact information and hotlines, and approached Madeline. "Let's go," he said, gesturing towards the door. She didn't respond, like some kind of awareness switch had been shut off inside of her. Theo tried again.
"Madeline," he said softly, reaching a tentative hand out. Madeline twitched when Theo's fingertips brushed her elbow, and then slowly turned her head so that she was facing him better, but still avoiding eye contact. Theo figured it was better than nothing, and gave her arm a gentle push in the direction of the door. "Come on, let's go to the car."
Madeline hesitated, but then Levi was all but blowing past them with a sharp, "we're leaving," being barked out. It was enough to get her moving, and she shuffled quietly after him with Theo trailing behind to keep an eye on her. As soon as she was out and into the fresh air, she took in a sharp and sudden breath that had Levi glancing back and Theo taking a few steps forward until he was standing next to her. There was no expression on Madeline's face, but her hands were trembling just the tiniest bit.
Levi turned back around, and by the time they got to the car, she'd settled back into that lifeless stare that Theo was already starting to get sick of. Levi ushered Madeline into the back of the car while Theo got into the passenger seat, and as soon as he started to drive, Levi was instantly ranting.
"Can you believe that?" he cried, "Shock collars? Is she some kind of dog? What is this crap?" Sucking in a deep breath, Levi let out a noise of anger. "I mean, we go in there and it's like we just relived the 1940s and the fuckin' discovery of lobotomy! Does she even talk? I wanted her to read to Oscar! How is she going to read when she can't even talk! Did I just waste our time, Theo? I couldn't leave her there, could you? She was the only one who wasn't totally brain dead. Should I have left her there?"
Theo glanced up into the rearview mirror, intending to just take a peek at Madeline and almost forgetting to breathe. The fae was curled up into a ball against the corner of the back seat, shoulders hunched and body language screaming with the desire to hide herself, face buried in her arms and seatbelt digging into her throat.
"Levi," he said quietly. Levi kept talking, one hand steering and the other waving about as he went on a rant about creepy nurses deserving of their own horror films. Theo reached out, settling a hand on his brother's arm and repeating his name. Levi quieted, taking a second to control his breathing, and then glanced up into the rear mirror.
He must have seen the same thing Theo did, because a pained look crossed his face before he gritted out a soft, "sorry," and focusing his attention back on driving. His breathing was ragged and irritated, eyes dark with anger.
Turning a little in his seat, Theo glanced back at Madeline, watching her stare out the window for a second before asking, "Have you kept in touch with your clan?"
Madeline, at first, remained still, but then turned to stare lifelessly at Theo, blinking slowly. Theo was pretty sure in that instant that Madeline must have hated him by association, if only because she was leaving one prison in exchange for another. Theo didn't want her to think they were holding her captive-he sure as hell didn't see it that way. At least he knew for a fact that none of them would ever use her collar to hurt her.
After a stretched amount of silence, Theo muttered, "we can talk about it later," awkwardly and turned back around, settling back into his seat as Levi let out a huff of air and started to talk again.
"Okay, kid. You're with us because you're going to take care of our uncle. You have to help him eat, change his clothes, all that jazz. We're all busy and that's why you're here. I really hope you know how to fold clothes because you'll be doing a lot of that, too."
Theo turned to look out the window, tuning out the sound of Levi listing Madeline's chores for the future.
It was already pushing mid-afternoon when they got back home. So when Levi kicked his sneakers off and tossed his keys on the counter, he snapped a curt, "make dinner," to Hannah and headed down the hallway towards Oscar's room. Hannah got up from the couch, tucking her phone away and running over to Theo, who was still standing in the entry, showing Madeline the wooden shoe rack just beside the door where she could put her slippers.
"What's the sur-what is that."
"Surprise," Theo gestured to Madeline, who was struggling to coherently take her slippers off without falling over. "We got a fae," he added helpfully, because Hannah probably thought they'd brought home a drug-addict with how out of it Madeline seemed.
"Dude, you suck," Hannah hissed at him, making sure to give him a mean punch to the shoulder as she walked by on her way into the kitchen.
"Theo!" Levi called from Oscar's room. "Find somewhere to put her!"
Normally, Theo wouldn't have an issue obeying his alpha-except that they didn't have any spare bedrooms to put Madeline in. Levi slept on the couch half the time because they'd moved Oscar into his room recently and he was still trying to clear out the guest room for himself. It was mostly piled full of their families belongings that none of them had felt comfortable sticking in a storage unit. Sometimes Theo spent hours in the middle of a pile of boxes, looking through his mother's old things or reading one of his father's stilly war fiction books.
Theo frowned, watching Madeline' unfocused stare at the wall, wracking his brain for ideas. Did he put Madeline on the couch, or did he try to fit him into their laundry room? Levi was almost all the way moved into the guest room so she couldn't say there. Theo had no idea how big the laundry room even was because half the time Levi just ended up washing his clothes when he got sick of the piles of dirty laundry Theo usually kept in a heap on his floor.
Theo headed for the laundry room first, opening the door and staring inside. The washer and dryer were stacked on top of one another, and there was a half-empty basket in the corner with some sheets and towels sitting in it. He took a second, mentally trying to imagine Madeline sleeping on the floor, and then frowned upon realizing that it was too small of a space.
He turned, freezing at the sight of Madeline hovering behind him, like she'd been compelled to follow. Theo didn't want to look like an idiot for trying to see if he could fit Madeline in their teeny washroom, so he turned back around and spent a good minute shoving the sheets into the washing machine and starting a load.
Heading back into the living room afterwards, Theo pointed to the couch. "Sit."
Madeline shuffled past him, stiffly taking a seat in the corner and watching Theo's general area with a tired, wary look.
"Stay." Theo said, and headed down the hallway to talk to Levi.
He found him changing Oscar's sheets while their uncle sat in his recliner, playing with a picture book that Levi had picked up at a thrift shop a while back. He didn't have any visible damage from what had happened, but the mental effects made it hard for him to do things like shave and brush his hair. Even though Theo and Levi had tried to help, it was easier to trim his beard than to try and keep their uncle consistently cleanshaven. He had the same brown hair as Levi, but he looked more like his brother, Levi and Theo's dad, than anything. It was hard for Theo to look at his uncle sometimes, when the pain still felt fresh or the memories were threatening to take over.
Theo waited a second, watching Levi pull the pillows off the bed and then blurted, "where do I put her? She doesn't fit in the laundry room."
Levi froze, standing up straight and staring incredulously at Theo. "Why did you put her in the laundry room? Does she look like a towel?"
At a loss, Theo shrugged.
"Put her with Hannah," Levi shook out Oscar's comforter, laying it across the bed.
"Hell no!" Hannah yelled angrily from the kitchen, appearing only seconds later. "You are not putting that thing in my room! You didn't even tell me you were bringing home a fae, why would I be okay with this?"
"Hannah," Levi began, pained. Hannah shook her head, hair flying about. Theo wanted to point out that the fae was not a thing, but an actual person with a name, but he figured his opinion wouldn't be particularly appreciated at the moment.
"No, Levi. I get that you're the alpha and you're the boss, but this isn't okay with me. I don't even feel safe with it in the house, let alone sleeping in my room!"
"Sharing space won't kill you. Get over it." Levi snapped.
Hannah snarled, baring her teeth as they elongated into sharp canines. Levi growled right back, flicking his claws out in warning to let her know that she wasn't going to get her way.
"Uhm," Theo suddenly felt very uncomfortable standing in between his siblings as they argued. He blurted the first thing that came to mind, "she can stay with me."
Hannah and Levi turned to stare at Theo, and Theo just shrugged helplessly. He really didn't want to share his room with anyone-but he'd rather volunteer than force Madeline to deal with Hannah and her blatant prejudice. Also, Hannah's room was even messier than Theo's, and he was pretty sure that, of the two, his would be easier to make accommodations with.
"Are you seriously okay with this?" Hannah yelped, throwing an arm out. "We don't know her! She could kill all of us!"
"So could Oscar," Levi snapped, "or do you not remember when we had to keep him under sedation for a month because he kept trying to murder me when I would walk into the room?"
Hannah's mouth snapped shut with a click. Theo shuffled backwards out of the room, desperately wanting to escape any more arguing. He jerked his thumb over his shoulder, muttering, "I'm just gonna go and stuff," he said helpfully, hightailing it out of Oscar's room while Hannah stumbled over her apologies.
First, Theo headed to his room, kicking around all of his dirty laundry until it was piled over by his hamper and then tossing it all in. He shuffled towards the bed, lifting it by the frame to kick more stuff underneath of it. After his floor was relatively cleared, Theo made his way to the hallway closet to fetch the air mattress.
After pumping the mattress and putting some sheets on it, Theo went into the living room to see Madeline still in the exact same spot she'd been in for the past half hour. She took well to orders, it seemed. Theo wasn't sure how he felt about that. He motioned for her to stand, "come on."
When they got to his room, Theo let Madeline take a few steps in before saying, "this is my room. That's your bed."
At first, Madeline didn't react, but then she glanced around slowly, checking the room, and then looked down at herself. Theo waited for some other kind of response, wanting to know if she was okay with sharing a room with him, or if she even cared at all. All Madeline did, though, was purse her lips and nod. She sat on the bed, slowly, wincing when it made a loud noise from the plastic rubbing against the wall.
She seemed tired, so Theo said, "you can take a nap if you want," and tried to give her the most reassuring grin he could muster. She hesitated, looking up at him and then ducking her head again before she got under the covers.
Theo had no idea what to do or even say, so he turned and left the room. Hannah was back in the kitchen, cooking with an angry vengeance. He sat on the couch, making himself comfortable and pulling out his phone to text a few friends on their new houseguest.
Madeline didn't come out for the rest of the afternoon or at all that night. He wanted to wake her up for food, but seeing her sleeping form had made it impossible to follow through and actually tear her from what seemed to be some much-needed sleep. The facility hadn't given them any other clothes for her, so Theo made sure to bring up Madeline' lack of belongings to Levi over dinner, to which they both decided to get her a few things in the morning.
When Theo went back into his room after a few hours of studying, he was surprised to see Madeline hadn't been sleeping at all. Her eyes were open, staring at the wall tiredly. Theo wanted to ask her if she was hungry, feeling awful for denying her food when she hadn't even been asleep, but the words caught in his throat. After a long pause, he finally said, "do you want something to eat?"
Madeline remained unresponsive, curled up on her side and facing the wall. Theo waited a beat before sighing and changing into a pair of sweats. He climbed into bed, already mentally calculating a list of things he'd need to buy in the morning and how much it would cost them.
He fell asleep to the sound of Madeline' steady heartbeat and perfect, even breaths.