Theo Everett is not a hitman. Sure, he kills people for money, but he brings them back afterwards. Sometimes even more than once. He’s an information extractor and mortality expert, nothing nearly as mundane as a simple assassin.
His target has lycanthropy. Alec Whitemore, a wolf who scented out something he shouldn’t have and carried it all the way to the cops. Admirable, maybe even brave, but definitely stupid. At least Alec was bright enough to book a ticket out of town when his testimony didn’t lead to conviction. Currently, he’s having a panic attack in the window seat of Theo’s row.
Fear is a powerful motivator, and a pungent odour. Theo can taste it in the back of his throat, the terror and panic palpable even to more human senses. Alec is drowning in it, passport crumpled in his fist and forehead pressing hard against the seat in front of him. Theo stares at him for a long moment, then carefully slides down into the aisle seat.
“Hey little wolf,” he says evenly. Alec starts, entire body flinching and a growl quivering in his throat. It’s not so much threatening as it is pathetic, and Theo sighs loudly. “I’m going to hand you something. Take it from me but don’t break it.”
He holds out a water bottle, waiting in silence until Alec reaches out and snatches it. Theo watches as elongated claws flex around the shape, applying pressure but not crushing. Alec’s breathing hitches.
“Good,” Theo says. “I’m Theo. I want you to put your feet flat on the ground and push.” There’s a long pause, punctuated only by Alec’s breathing, then the werewolf shudders and obeys.
“Are… are you using… magic?” Alec puffs through gritted teeth.
“No,” Theo tells him. “Instructions. I’m making you focus on them instead.”
“How do you know I’m a wolf?” Alec pants quietly.
“Your claws are out.”
Alec huffs, sitting up slightly. “I’m Alec,” he says, and smiles.
Theo thinks he’s having a stroke. The air leaves the plane, and suddenly he can’t hear anyone else around him. There’s no passengers jostling each other, no children yelling, no flight attendants. Instead, there’s Alec’s breathing, steadier now, and the soft tethers that attach his soul to his body, strings that keep him with among the living. Theo almost reaches out to touch them, but he pauses at the last second and locks his arms to his side instead.
“Oh,” Alec whispers, and the sound brings Theo crashing back into his own skin. The werewolf is still staring at him, eyes wide. “Oh.”
“Are you using magic?” Theo asks weakly. Alec shakes his head, tongue darting out over his mouth. Theo stares at it before cursing softly. “That’s… unfortunate.”
“I don’t believe this,” Alec mutters, not looking at him anymore. “You just look at someone and there’s a connection? A feeling? That’s idiotic.”
“Soulmates!” Alec hisses, shaking his head. “Wolves are supposed to get soulmates.”
“Little wolf,” Theo says carefully. “I’m flattered. But, you were panicking and I was kind. That’s all. It’s a connection of circumstance.”
“Yeah?” Alec scoffs, fingers tight around the water bottle. “Then why’re you looking at me like you want to run me down?”
Theo rubs a hand over his eyes. “We need to get off this plane.”
“What? Why?” Alec demands. Theo ignores him, standing and reaching over to pull Alec up. The werewolf flinches. “Why would I go with you?”
“Because,” Theo hisses. “You put your nose where it didn’t belong. You’re a marked man.”
“Shit!” Alec yelps, coming to his feet. “You’re a cop?”
“Sure,” Theo says, grabbing Alec’s forearm and pulling him into the aisle.
There are still people stowing luggage. No one stops them, no one looks at them, and Theo drags the werewolf into the skybridge. The tunnel is small, enclosed, and for a moment Theo can taste the lives he’s taken before. It’s ash in his mouth, bile in his throat, and he feels his feet slowing.
“Hey, c’mon!” Alec pants, toothy grin flashing and water bottle still in his hand. “We’re nearly there.”
Theo isn’t the only mortality expert on his boss’ payroll. There’s nowhere safe for the living.
He grabs Alec’s shoulder, swinging them around until the werewolf’s back collides with the wall. Alec winces, staring at Theo with wide eyes.
“They won’t stop until you die,” Theo says quietly. Alec’s heartbeat kicks up, and Theo closes his eyes. “Little wolf, I need you to drink the water.”
“Why?” Alec asks, glancing down at the bottle in his hand.
“Because,” Theo says, gently rubbing a thumb across the skin of Alec’s throat. “It’s laced with wolfsbane.”
Alec inhales sharply, expression impossibly betrayed. “Let me go,” he whispers.
“Alec,” Theo says. “We have a lot to talk about, but it can’t be here. I can get you out but you need to trust me. Drink it.”
“It’s going to hurt!” Alec hisses.
“Yes. Then you’ll be dead, and I’ll report to my boss.”
“Fuck off!” Alec snaps, trying to break free.
Theo slams him back against the wall of the skybridge. “Alec! If it’s not me, it’s someone else! And they won’t be so nice about it.”
Alec swallows, eyes flickering down to the hand on his throat, then up to Theo’s mouth. His breath hitches. Theo pretends not to notice.
“Alec. Let me kill you. Your body moves easier without you in it. I’ll get you somewhere safe, then put you back.”
“I don’t even know you,” Alec says quietly, shaking his head.
“Then trust me and you might get a chance to,” Theo says.
“Fine!” Alec snaps, dragging a hand through his hair. “Fuck! I can’t believe I’m going to kiss a mage.”
Theo blinks. “You don’t have to.”
“But I’m going to,” Alec repeats. “As soon as you bring me back. So… don’t lose me, alright?”
“Never,” Theo promises softly. “Now drink.”