Derek didn't ask any questions when Erica told him she wasn't going back to the subway that night.
Her skin was paler than it should have been, and the shade only served to highlight the smudges of blue sitting beneath her eyes. There were problems to be dealt with, including the condition the wolfsbane left Scott in, so he didn't bother to ask where she was going. He knew where she was going and who she was bringing with her.
Isaac followed only a single pace behind as she ascended the few stairs to the front door of her old house. There were no lights on inside, and when she pressed the palm of her hand against the door and focused, she could only hear her mother's steady heartbeat and the rasp of her breath. Satisfied, she turned her key in the lock and stepped into the dark living room.
It was a small house. There was only so much a single mother could afford when she'd paid for her daughter's extensive medicine collection for four solid years. Even before that, they were barely getting by, though their first home had been larger, one of the many remnants of her father and the first discarded.
Once Isaac ducked in behind her, she locked the door. His discomfort wasn't difficult to pick up. If anything, standing in the dark with him so close only amplified the scent.
Erica reached out, her fingers sliding around his wrist. “Let's go up to my room,” she murmured. “Quietly.”
He'd seen the inside of her house before. The day she was bitten by Derek, while her mother was still pulling her second shift, he was given instructions to follow her and help her pack. Derek was a very busy man, after all, and watching his new wolf shove underwear into a suitcase wasn't his idea of an activity that deserved his attention.
They made their way through the dark hallway and through the kitchen, stopping off to grab a warm bottle of water from beside the refrigerator, past her mother's room and into hers. The rooms were close, but far enough apart to award the both of them some measure of privacy.
The door shut with what would be an almost imperceptible click to human ears. To Erica, the lock sounded more like metal grating in the hollow of her ear, and she winced.
“Do you think she'll make a big deal about waking up and finding us here?”
Isaac's voice was quiet, just as she'd told him to be, and a small smile crept across her lips. “I'm not so sure about that.” Moving over towards her chest of drawers, Erica guided the top drawer open. She could smell detergent wafting from the folds of the clothes she left behind, not perfume or sweat or the tell-tale bite of rust that sunk into her clothes with every passing day in the subway. “She'll probably highfive me for bringing a boy home.”
“That's... interesting,” he said slowly, working the words over his tongue before letting them loose in the room. “Not exactly what you'd expect from a mother/daughter relationship.”
“It's not much of a relationship.” Her voice was muffled as she stripped off her top without an ounce of shame, tossing the bloodstained garment onto the floor. Isaac watched as her fingers went to the clasp of her bra, unhooking it without trouble. “She wasn't very hands on, especially once I started having my seizures.” Once her bra followed the heap of white and red on the floor, she tugged a larger shirt on over her head. “My medicine screwed up everything else I had going for me.”
When she turned around, Isaac stared up at her from the seat he'd stolen on the foot of her bed. “It was like you showed up at school one day a completely different person.” He remembered hearing about her first seizure. They were both twelve, both at the same school, with some of the same friends. She collapsed during PE and had to be rushed to the hospital. Kids hurt themselves. Kids broke bones. But hearing that someone in their class fell onto the ground and started seizing and might have been seriously injured was a harrowing experience. And when she turned up a week later, she was a watered down version of the girl everyone remembered.
“I was,” Erica said with a tight smile as she tugged down her skirt and stepped out of it, toes pinching the fabric to fling it to lay next to the rest of her clothes. Sitting down next to him, the mattress bounced slightly under her weight, and she began removing her shoes. “You should probably get comfortable, if you're even planning on sleeping.”
“Where am I sleeping?”
A thick brow quirked a shade higher on her forehead. “Really?” He nodded, pushing himself onto his feet. “In the bed...? Which is where people usually sleep? Seriously, you haven't been crashing in a subway car for that long.”
“I just didn't know if you...”
“Didn't know if I what?” Erica stood up, and before he could even consider taking off his shirt, her fingers were twisting in the soft fabric. “Wanted to sleep with you?” Her head drifted to the side. She smelled like sweat and smoke and the same perfume she'd always worn, faint and citrusy and concentrated at the hollow of her throat. “It's just sleep. Plus...” His tongue darted out over his bottom lip when he felt her fingertips digging into his stomach. Gently, barely enough pressure to attract his attention. “I don't have any condoms.”
At that, she turned on her heel and left him to chew over that thought, to watch her walk to the right side of the bed. The shirt she'd put on was baggy, but not nearly long enough to cover most of her legs, leaving her thighs bare and giving him a shot of black, lace-banded boyshorts when she bent over to tug the covers back.
Scrubbing his hands over his face, Isaac gave his head a slight shake before pulling himself back to his senses. He toed off his shoes, but didn't bother with his shirt or jeans. The idea of climbing into bed with Erica for just sleep in less than a full wardrobe didn't appeal to him. Though he didn't mind on her part.
“Oh, come on. It's not like we haven't done this before,” he heard her mutter at his back. “Take off your pants and get over here.”
There was no point in arguing with her. She was letting him sleep in her bed after a night at a rave and no shower; that was more of a gift than anyone had given him in a while. Plus, it would be nice to sleep on a mattress for the first time in weeks. “Are you sure you don't have any condoms?” he asked her without looking over his shoulder. It was his step up to the plate, reminding her that he could give as good as he got. “After that show I got tonight...”
Erica laughed. The sound was muffled by her hand, forced quiet to keep her from waking up her mother. “Right. Because you weren't showing off for Jackson, too.”
“Who says I was showing off?”
Shucking off his shirt instead of his jeans, he turned around to face her. With Derek walking around shirtless more often than not and Boyd keeping close enough for her to feel every muscle when they got into hairy situations, Erica had nearly forgotten her own preferences. She'd never been overly fond of musclebound jocks. Guys like Isaac (and Isaac himself, if she was being completely honest) caught her eye more often than not.
She dragged her teeth over her bottom lip as he moved over to the bed. Her room wasn't expertly lit for this sort of thing. Moonlight filtered through the blinds and down on top of her instead of hitting his already milky pale skin. The room itself was dark, and she only got a good enough eyeful of him when his knee hit the bed, mattress sagging slightly beneath him as he scooted in next to her.
The first move that surprised him was an arm curled around his waist. The second was a burst of strength that nearly flipped him over onto his side and pulled his back against her chest.
And the third was the feeling of a pair of lips against his spine as Erica settled in close.
“If you have any issue being the little spoon, tell me now.”
Isaac shifted uncomfortably. “If I say I have a problem, will you stop?”
“I'll... think about it.”
Eventually, she did let go, but Isaac didn't drift far. He turned over onto his back. She scooted to the other side of the bed. They both fell asleep not long after, content with their positioning for the time being. There was enough space to move around, enough air to breathe without it stifling, but they were close enough for the smell and sound and body heat of another person. And not just any person.
Erica's sleep was light, but relatively innocent. She dreamed of things she wouldn't remember in the morning, of colors and tastes and a shadow standing at her side. It moved with her. Every time she raised her hand, it would follow suit. Every time she took a step, it moved forward, as well. Only when she reached out to grab it did the colors in her dream drain to gray and the shadow lost all warmth emanating from it.
And it ran.
It ran and ran and left behind a trail she couldn't pick up. Whatever she grasped for slipped through her fingers, leaving nothing but ash and embers in her palms. As she chased it, the noises began. Quiet whines that filled her ears and tugged at the center of her chest. They were all of one note, all unidentifiable, but there was something that told her she knew that sound. She'd heard that sound before.
The moment she stopped to consider the whine's tone, the ground beneath her shook. She couldn't fall. She hated falling; she hated not feeling in control over her own body. Gasping for a breath, she reached out blindly, fingers spreading so far her hand ached, and closed a fist around what she expected would be thin air.
She fell, tripped up by the shifting ground, and her eyes flew open with a start.
Isaac twisted onto his opposite side, his arm pinned beneath him and his hand twitching beneath her palm.
The whine was his, distorted by sleep. Suddenly the tightness in her chest at the sound made more sense, if only slightly more than none, and she wished for nothing harder than for the light to shift, to move away from his face. Seeing him like that, shoulders hunched forward and his brows pulled together so tight they wrinkled his forehead – it was the last thing she wanted.
“Isaac,” she murmured, giving his hand a squeeze. “Isaac.”
A breath caught in his throat, and he groaned before opening his eyes. “Nnh, what?”
He said nothing, only scooted closer to her. Closer and closer until she let go of his hand and wrapped an arm around his waist instead. “Yeah. I was having one, too. Sort of.”
There was no discomfort in the way he buried his face in the curve of his neck. With every breath, he tasted the vestiges of her perfume, lapping up the salty edge of her skin, letting the warmth of her wash over him. After a nightmare, he needed something to steady him on his feet. Who better than Erica? And what better way than to press a kiss to her pulse.
The pulse that rushed onwards once his lips brushed that very spot, pulling a huff of a breath from her lips and driving her to dig her fingers into his soft curls.
“So... do you wanna talk about it, or are you trying to distract me? Because that's not going to—” His lips were replaced with a sweep of his tongue, and he felt her fingers flex in his hair. When she continued, there was a breathiness to her voice that would've driven him up the wall if he wasn't exhausted. “That's so not going to work.”
“Nope. And if you push it, I can do way worse to you.” Her body arched closer. At the feeling of her hips shifting against his, Isaac took in a sharp breath. “Without even trying, evidently. I just want you to talk to me. That's all.”
Isaac sighed. The breath washed over the damp stretch of her neck, sending a shiver over her skin. “Yeah, I was having a—” He paused; she could feel his muscles tighten in her arms. “I was dreaming. About the kanima. Scales freak me out.”
“I can sympathize,” she murmured, and relaxed when she felt him do the same. “That it?”
“Tonight was the third time it hurt you.” Erica's brows twitched inward. She felt herself pulled closer, not by his hands but by some other forced drawing her towards him. “What if something worse happens next time? He's capable of killing. I know he only goes after murderers, but what if there's an accident?”
Scooting down a little, moving until she could bump her forehead against his, Erica rubbed her palm over his hip. The pad of her thumb rubbed over his hipbone, and she shut her eyes just as his tongue slid over his bottom lip. “I'll stay out of its way, then. Derek and Scott can handle it. No way is that thing paralyzing me again. Or clawing me. Or throwing me against a wall.” She paused, a rough chuckle leaving her. “Did I ever do anything to Jackson to piss him off? I can't remember.”
“You mean, besides confirming that you're more attracted to me than you are to him? I can't really think of anything, no.”
Erica leaned down, pressing her face into his chest and laughed again. The sound was still muffled; still quiet and still the best thing he'd ever heard. He could feel the vibrations right against his skin. Her soft mouth, the press of her nose against his sternum, her eyelashes brushing over him with every blink.
“That must have been a real blow to the ego.” Curling up closer to him, she slid the hand on his hip up his back. Her blunt nails scratched lightly over his spine. “For him, at least. You're never gonna get over it.”
“Mm... no. No, I won't.”
He shifted on the mattress when he felt her press a kiss to his chest.
The intimacy between them was odd. Unexpected, even after everything that happened during the rave. There was a mutual attraction between the two for quite some time, but neither of them was willing to make the first move. Then they were dancing, submerged in the music and the crowd, and her lips found his. Her lips found his, his tongue found hers, and their bodies merged at a single point, pressed together so tightly each movement prompted an equal reaction.
And now they were in her bed, tucked away in a shell of cotton sheets wearing nothing but their skin and a few layers of fabric to keep the fog of memories that hung over the room from seeping into the both of them. They were wrapped up in each others arms, tangled instead of pressed with their tongues in their mouths and hands that never once found somewhere to rest.
“I'll be careful,” she whispered after the stretch of silence extended far beyond the tips of her fingers. “I know what it'd be like if I found out the kanima hurt you. I don't want you to worry about me like that.”
Isaac's immediate response of, “I don't worry,” caused her to tilt her chin up to look at him. “I... What I mean is, I don't worry about you not being able to handle it. I know you'd be okay. I worry about me.” His jaw twitched, and while his eyes were shadowed, she could tell they were on her. “I worry about me without you. That's all.”
When she settled her cheek against his chest, her arm curling so far around his waist she could tuck her hand beneath his waist, he leaned down to press a kiss to the top of her head.
“I get it. I... don't know what I'd do without you, either.”
Erica was tired enough not to roll her eyes at such a cliché spouting out of her.
Isaac was tired enough to let himself believe the truth for once.