Isaac smells like dirt and grime in the most superficial sense, like he’s been working in loose piles of dirt his entire life. Under the surface, he smells like fear, coiling off of him in ripples that are sharp and burn at the tear ducts; his fear smells as though it has been a part of him so long that it stains his scent. Deeper, there’s the indescribable twinge of longing that feels and smells like the twist of a nervous stomach.
These are things Derek notices.
“Need a hand?”
This boy would be an easy pick. Same age as Scott, as Jackson. Derek has smelled him in the background at the lacrosse matches he’s overseen his pack play. Here, Isaac smells like fear and adrenaline with the most subtle catch of power that Derek knows this boy would take the bite and, possibly, wouldn’t be as goddamn difficult as the other two.
Once, he had been in a pack of twelve strong, humans and werewolves alike. Now he is down to two. Three, maybe, depending on Lydia’s condition. He needs more. He is nowhere as strong as his parents had been, and they had died by the hands of a twenty-one year old woman and a few thugs. If they died so easily, what is the chance Derek has?
“Yes,” Isaac’s voice tumbles out. He holds out his hand, too, after a few seconds of tense hesitation. Derek takes a step of the edge of the grave and falls right in. Instead of a hand, Derek gives him an arm, pulling him tight and tossing him up. Isaac makes a strangled noise in his throat and Derek listens as the dirt-covered boy stands and dusts himself off.
He will always smell like earth and mud. It is his scent, whether or not he brushes the spots from his clothes.
After Derek has hoists himself out of the grave, Isaac shoots him a look through his bruised eye. “I’ve heard the rumors. Hale?”
“That’s right,” Derek elects to answer. “Derek.”
“I know your name.”
“I knew yours, too,” Isaac says with a hint of teenage cunning that Derek despises. Just as child-like as Scott and Jackson. He’d hoped that the stain of fear would compromise this, but it hasn’t, not at all. “A lot of people say that you killed her.”
“My entire family dies in a fire, and I leave. A few years later, I come back and deaths start popping up out of the blue, and they find a body buried in my yard. I’m an easy target for murder charges,” Derek argues, stuffing his hands in the pockets of his well-worn leather jacket.
“Because you didn’t do it, not according to the police reports.”
Derek does his subtle version of a smile. Not even in the farthest stretch of his imagination could he fathom laying a hand on Kate Argent. Opportunities had been thrown into his face time and time again and the only thing he could do was bare his teeth and snap like a half-mad dog. But bite? No.
To lead Isaac on, however, is a different story. Derek can play the falsely set-free murderer. It is the part he feels he fits snuggly into. Perhaps because he is one, just not of the people the rumors tell.
“An animal did those, I hear,” Derek says, shrugging.
His only answer is a stare.
“But I’m not exactly human, am I?” he says after a few moments. For the dramatic effect. Derek is fond of it.
Isaac does something of a snort, eye contact breaking away to look at his broken down equipment. “No, I guess not.” He waits a few seconds, probably assessing the damage. Derek will give him something to fix them. The money he has in the bank is useless when he is living in a burnt out shell of a home, feasting on rabbits and drinking water from a stream, more wolf than human. “So, what? Did I fall right into a Twilight novel?” Isaac says, turning his eyes back to Derek. “Are you gonna sparkle when the sun comes up?”
The fear that has tainted his scent is so much less permeating now. Instead of seeping and filling Derek’s senses, it is trickling, now. Isaac, Derek feels, is much more like Scott’s friend Stiles than he is Scott or Jackson. More like the human than the wolves. Maybe it is not a fair comparison just yet, but the dissipating fear makes Derek nauseous with annoyance.
“Something like that,” Derek says. He doesn’t understand the reference, outside of what he’s heard from his dysfunctional pack. Vampires, werewolves, he isn’t quite sure. But the comparison has been made before, and Derek knows that agreeing with it yields best results.
“So you’re a vampire.”
This time, it is Derek’s turn to snort. “Don’t be stupid.” Can he ask this much from a teenage boy? He can try.
“Werewolf?” Isaac is grinning now, the softest hint of a laugh in his voice.
Derek wants to rip the laugh out. There it is again, that annoyance. He gets it so often with these adolescent boys. It will pass, though he might have to quell the urge to throw the boy back into the grave, or slam his head into his machine.
For an answer to Isaac’s question, Derek flashes his eyes. Isaac stumbles backwards a step, two, throws his arms up defensively, and Derek can see the red glow bounce back at him off the fabric of his shirt. Red is not a color he ever wanted, but he accepts it, and uses it. He’s the alpha, now, but embracing the roll is coming much harder than he thought it would.
An alpha without a pack, he thinks. Scott, Jackson, maybe Lydia if the bite took, yes, they’re all supposed to be his pack. They aren’t. Not really, not when they run off, do their own things, have their own agendas while Derek struggles with coping to his new powers. He needs a pack, because he is weak on his own.
“Aren’t you going to attack me?” Isaac squeaks like a mouse under the paw of a hungry cat. Derek raises a skeptical eyebrow, the cliche, “If I wanted to kill you, you’d already be dead,” phrase touching the tip of his tongue before he pulls it back.
“No,” he says, sauntering a step forward and pushing back his shoulders to seem bigger in the face of a scared, inherently frightful teenage boy. “I’m going to give you a choice.”
“What, like Saw?”
Derek, once again, does not understand. This one he has not heard from his pack, either. He scowls.
“No,” he repeats. “You can go on, living a normal, boring life, scared to death at every move you make, or,” he pauses, eyes flicking up and down Isaac as the boy recovers from his slight flinch, “you can be powerful. Run faster, be stronger, all your senses can be multiplied. Just one condition.”
He doesn’t know why he pauses, like he wants Isaac to make a pop culture joke or ask, “What?”
Isaac does neither.
“You come when I call, do things I tell you to do when I tell you to do them.” They both wait, staring at each other in mutual silence, cogs turning in their heads. Derek adds, “I won’t take much of your time, and you won’t take much of mine. Don’t rush to a decision,” he adds quickly when Isaac’s mouth falls open, “you don’t have to make it right now.”
“When do I have to make it by?”
Derek did not have a set time in mind. He leans back on his heels as he fumbles the thought around. “Twenty four hours,” he settles. “Tomorrow night. Meet me in the old train station.”
Isaac stares again. He does a lot of that, with his slouched shoulders and solemn eyes. “Alright,” he says. “Tomorrow night.”
Much more smoothly than expected, Derek nods, turns, and walks away. His pack could use this. An example for the others, one taking the bite not by force, not by need, but by choice. It is a gift, given to those who want it. Not forced, not craved.
Derek feels as though he evaporates into the woods. This could be what he needs. That one missing link in his pack, to pull them all together. A lost boy who smells like dirt, fear, and longing.