Teddy didn’t think he would ever be able to forget Julian’s face before he’d disappeared into the hospital. He definitely wouldn’t forget the hollowness he felt in his chest after he dropped off Grey and returned to his now empty apartment. No electronic dance music pumped out of Julian’s room, nothing was cooking in the oven after Julian got a random idea for a recipe off the internet, nobody was singing showtunes in the shower…and Julian had been upset with him before he left.
That was what hurt the most. He didn’t know why he’d lied about Ulfric even after everything. There was no need. Of course he knew he couldn’t tell the truth yet either, but that didn’t mean he’d had to outright lie. He could have kept quiet about it, focused on what mattered. But for some reason, it had been important that he cover one last time. It felt like Julian was too close, that he was about to know too much. And now, well, for all Teddy knew, Julian would know nothing.
He’d done some research while Julian had been getting the tests done. He knew that most of the deaths with cancer, especially the kind that Julian was suspected of having, came from infections. Small, minor infections that went unchecked through the body because it wasn’t able to fight it off anymore, too broken down by the treatment and its own malformed blood cells. All it would take was the wrong kind of sneeze at the wrong kind of time, a germ hiding in his room like a silent assassin. And the last thing that Teddy had ever said to him had been a lie.
When Grey had gotten out of the car, he’d wanted to follow. But his stupid, stubborn pride wouldn’t allow it. He worried that it would come off as insincere, that he was only doing it because Grey had. More than anything, he’d wanted to pull Julian into his arms and kiss him. Just once, just to say he had, because nobody was promised tomorrow and Julian had less time than most. It would probably have got him in trouble; but he knew he posed no threat to Julian as far as infectious disease went and at least he’d have that to remember. He wished he could do the whole day over, the right way this time.
But for all that the world was full of supernatural wonders, time travel was still beyond their abilities in any real sense, so he was stuck in the knowledge that he’d royally fucked up what could be his last chance with Jules.
Slumping into the couch, Teddy pinched the bridge of his nose between his fingers. He wanted to call Jules; text him, at least, but what could he say? He wanted to say so much and now still didn’t feel like the right time, so soon after what had probably been their first serious fight in all their time as friends.
Suddenly, his phone vibrated in his pocket and he yanked it out, quickly answering it without looking at the caller ID. “Jules?” he asked, hopefully. If Julian made the first step, that meant he forgave him; it meant they could talk this out.
“Um…no,” came the familiar voice of Kol.
“Oh,” Teddy said, disappointment filling him. “What’s up?”
“Don’t jump for excitement or anything…actually, really don’t. It’s not good news. I’m just calling to let you know…Malik didn’t make it. He died this morning. Saltpeter poisoning.”
“Saltpeter?” Teddy asked.
“Yeah, the old stories got it wrong. It’s not salt that kills or repels witches, it’s saltpeter. Like how silver burns werewolves, saltpeter can kill witches.”
“That’s troubling,” Teddy said. “Shepherd was still fighting, last I heard, but he had a bad case of silver poisoning and it didn’t look good. Whoever did this wanted to not only kill some of our leaders, they wanted us to watch it happen, second by agonizing second. It also means they know our weaknesses. It’s looking more and more like Hunter work to me.”
“Looks like,” Kol agreed. “But who? And why now? Why like this?”
“I don’t have the answers,” Teddy said. “But we should meet. Tomorrow, by the student center. I know it’s not our problem anymore technically but…I need the distraction.”
“Because of Julian?” Kol asked.
Teddy paused. “How’d you know?”
“Look, I haven’t known the two of you that long. But really, in my experience, there’s only one thing that causes a person to react as violently as you did when you found out I’d told Julian more than you wanted him to know. It also doesn’t take a genius to know that having to wear a mask to school means there’s some health thing going on there. So, you love Julian, and he’s sick. Anyone with that going on needs a distraction; it’s basic chemistry.”
“You’re really too smart for your own good,” Teddy said.
“So what’s wrong with him?” Kol said. “And why haven’t you told him how you feel yet?”
“Cancer,” Teddy admitted, “And it’s complicated. The council…they don’t exactly take well to outsiders knowing about us. And I can’t be with someone if I can’t, you know, be honest with him.”
“And you listen to that?” Kol said. “It’s bullshit. Just by associating with you, he’s involved in your life. What he does or doesn’t know won’t change the amount of danger he’s in. Besides, with all this going on, I think the council has more important things to worry about than what your scrawny human friend knows about them. And I know this is hard to hear, but he could be dying anyway, man. Do you really want him to die feeling like you’re not being honest with him?”
The answer to that was a resounding no. But how could he dig himself out of the hole he’d already dug himself into? Would Julian even believe the truth if he told it to him? It wasn’t exactly easy, coming right out and saying, Guess what, bro? I’m a werewolf. He might think Teddy was making things up or worse, that he was making fun of him. And he couldn’t exactly have Grey transform in front of him inside of a hospital.
“You’re right,” Teddy said, “But I think we still need to wait. Grey said she’d tell him everything when he got out of the hospital anyways and if things go the way they’re looking right now, we won’t have to worry about what the council knows by then.”
“Because we’ll be at war?”
Teddy laughed. “Exactly, too busy fighting a war. But no, I’m still hoping we can prevent that. There’s other things in the works, positive things, and if they happen, or hismaybe I won’t have to hide anymore.”
“Well, I hope it works out for you. Nobody wants things to be left unsaid,” Kol said, with enough feeling that Teddy thought he might be speaking from experience. He wanted to ask, but at the same time, he wasn’t sure he could. His and Kol’s relationship had improved a lot since he’d almost decked him outside the warehouse, not least because Kol had risked his weasel life to distract a monster from ripping Teddy’s chest open, but that didn’t mean they were at the level where Teddy could just ask things like that. Of course, it hadn’t stopped Kol from making assumptions and hitting the nail on the head. But Teddy knew next to nothing about Kol or his life outside of their investigations into the war that may or may not be stirring under the surface, so he had no context within which to place this newfound knowledge.
“You’re right,” Teddy said. “I’ll call him.”
“Great. So, tomorrow outside the student center, then?”
Teddy hung up the phone, then stared at it for another moment. Could he really do it? Could he make the call to Julian, knowing that the other might not answer, knowing that he could still be angry with him, and knowing that he still couldn’t give him all the answers he deserved?
Teddy wasn’t sure. But Kol’s words kept ringing in his head. He didn’t want to leave things unsaid. At least, not completely. He definitely didn’t want Julian to be angry with him, knowing that this next month was going to be hell for him. He would need Teddy, and really, if he were being honest, Teddy needed Julian just as badly.
And so, taking a deep breath, Teddy pulled up the FaceTime app and made the call. He still wasn’t sure what to say; he didn’t know if he could make things all better. But if he didn’t at least try, Teddy knew he’d regret it.
And as Julian’s already weary face appeared on the other line after just a short ring, Teddy felt his breath release all at once. “Hey,” he said.
“Hey,” Julian replied, and just like that, all was well for just a little bit longer.