The sun wasn't setting until eight now, but it was San Francisco and the sky had been gloomy and cloudy all day, so by the time sunset rolled around it was already dim, dark, a blue filter laid out over everything. Theo liked sunset for photo taking, preferred the golden hour when the sky was clear and the light was perfect, but this subdued twilight was perfect in its own way, the opportunity to catch little glimpses into gold light dripping out of nearby windows and flickering neon signs down the street, while the rest of the world faded back like someone had brushed over it with watercolor.

He had the time to appreciate it, too, with more availability now that work had calmed down, and he'd arrived early to the dinner date spot he and Kit had chosen. No bike this time, just his skateboard, propped underneath his sneakers as Theo sat at the lip of the gutter, leaning back into taking a photo of the downward dip of the street. The restaurant was a few shop fronts away, and the rest around him were dark. Theo clicked, dropped his camera down and fiddled with the settings. There was a mark on his wrist, under the little bracelet there that would shift and expand into more if it needed to, where it housed some very important webbing, and he paused to inspect it.

No matter how many times it happened, when Theo woke to the bruises faded and gone and healed, it was always jarring. A reminder that this was what his life was like now — mysterious injuries with, sometimes, only the barest sliver of information to go by how he got them. And then he'd sleep, and rest, and in no time at all they'd be healed again. Sometimes they took longer, but longer for him was an added day onto his already short few day healing timeline. But at least — at least nothing disastrous had happened, not really, not disastrous enough to throw off their weekend travel plans, a holiday that Theo had been looking forward to since they'd started talking about it, and he flicked his wrist and tugged his sweater down over it and pushed any unease aside.

Well, he tried to push it aside. But it had stuck to the back of his neck, a cold flush down his spine, and his focus centered on it just as something clattered through a trash can in the dark alleyway behind him. Theo jerked around, frowning at the open mouth of it, but the light was tenebrous, difficult to see through, to make out any distinct shapes except — dumpsters, trash cans, the jutting lines of a fire escape. But Theo knew better than to ignore the discomfort flooding through him. He shoved his camera into his backpack, hurled it up around his shoulder, grabbed the edge of his skateboard and — hesitated.

Because of course he would. A sense of unease, of building urgency in the back of his brain? That could only mean one thing, and if Theo left — if he sprinted off down the street and left whatever it was, it only meant that somebody else would have to deal with it.

In the end, he didn't have a choice in the matter. The thing inside the alley moved before he could. A big hulking mass of black, shadowy ribbons exploding off of it — one long thing string of it shot forward, a claw that snatched at the air where his leg had just been. At least, Theo thought, he was fast — he'd sprung away with a gasp, but — the thing was fast, too. It slammed itself on the ground and the pavement cracked outwards towards Theo, the shudder knocking him from his feet, sending his skateboard skittering, and then the thing shambled into view.

Which — was hard to tell, in the end, because it was just like the shadow of the alley had extended out to a different form, one filled with teeth, a sharp jagged maw dripping and open and hungry for — him? Fuck. Theo had spent too much time staring and not enough time moving. Another sinewy black limb snagged him by the ankle and in the blink of an eye had dragged him from the low light of the street and into the funnel of the alleyway, the contents of his backpack spilling as he went — phone, books, pens, and that heavy, strange gold amulet that hated (hated, like it had a personality) being away from him.

"Hang on—" He spat out, "—I'm already on a date!"

The thing didn't listen, and tried to shove Theo into its mouth.

"And I'm not dinner!"

He wasn't going to go easily, and instinct, by now, was easy enough to fall into. Kick, punch, web, flip, twist around and get free of the big claws and limbs and many, many teeth of the thing that had crawled out of god knew where. He leaped over the length of it, punched down, sent it slamming into the ground, the wall — and then he followed, thrown by it so heavily that his body cracked a brick, and knocked the wind out of him, a little bit of blood.

Kit arrived in time to see Theo thrown from inside the alley and into the nearest lamp post, to drop to the pavement, sweater torn to shit, lamp post bent a little where he'd landed, and for Theo to look up and say, "Wait, don't—" in some well-meaning attempt to keep Kit away before the thing came barrelling out, one big claw slashing down to pin Theo into the concrete. Keeping Kit away was always going to be an unsuccessful gambit, because there was no way — no way he'd stand by and watch Theo continue to get his ass properly handed to him by some giant, terrifying, many-toothed creature from the deep.

But at least, for the two of them — that gold amulet had been humming with growing urgency on the pavement, twitching a little as if jostled by some unseen hand, the vibrancy of its sound increasing when Theo slammed down next to it, little leaks of white light flickering through it. And Theo recognized that, recognized its reaction to the thing the same way it had saved him during his strange magic training session with Henry.

His gaze flew to Kit, to the thing, to the amulet — and he grabbed the latter in one hand, wrenched around, shouted, "Kit!" in — warning, or to direct, or something — as with a whir and a click the Eye of Agamotto opened in his hand and a searing orange light wheeled open in the empty air behind the monster. He shot a stab of web out at it, blotting its vision, timed it just enough for Kit to hurl a powerful punch into its inky oozing jaw and in a blink and a breath the whole thing had been thrown — sucked, knocked — back through the sputtering glowing circular doorway. Theo couldn't maintain the connection for long enough. It closed before the thing was all the way through, and black tissue exploded out and covered him in goop. Great.

Theo — drenched in bits of black monster goop — immediately fell into Kit, breathing hard, clinging tight, and staring at the place it had disappeared, and the bits and pieces of its limbs left behind.

"What the fuck was that?"