The den was quiet when they returned from successfully completing their objective. Isaac nosed inside the abandoned subway car that was Derek's favorite place to sulk around, even though they all were able to tell by scent that Derek hadn't been here since they'd all left early in the morning. Erica shook her head as she kicked off her muddy boots, exchanging a quick glance with Boyd as Isaac continued around the enclosed space to check every nook where Derek might be lurking. All of the Beta wolves in their small pack had their individual eccentricities, Isaac's were just a little more obvious than most.
It had taken them hours to dig out the pit deep in the forest and create the rough wooden structure within while working off the plans Derek had given them. When Isaac had asked what is was for, after Derek had left them, Erica and Isaac had both turned to Boyd. The fact that he was knowledge base of their group hadn't stayed quiet for long and even Derek asked him to research various topics from time to time. Erica didn't mind, she wasn't much for sitting around behind a computer or with a pile of books and she had her own unique skills, but Isaac had done his anxious thing where he followed Derek around and stared at him until Derek gave him something to do out of pity - or more likely so that Isaac would stop following him. Boyd hadn't had any ideas about what the structure could be or the purpose of the pit, other than a trap. None of them could figure out what it might hold though.
Erica dug her watch from her bag and saw that she had more than an hour to kill before her mom was home and there was no point in going home before then just to walk through empty rooms and hear her own voice echoing in the walls. She'd done enough of that in her life that she didn't stay at home unless it was required and especially not when no one else was there. She had a clean set of running shorts and a t-shirt in her bag; the cold of winter didn't bother her much anymore, no more than racing through the streets barefoot with her hair streaming out behind her did. Perks of being a werewolf included that there was really no reason to have a car in a town the size of Beacon Hills. Her enhanced speed and strength got her where she wanted to go and was way better than paying four dollars a gallon for gas.
Overall there wasn't much she didn't like about being a werewolf, she even found her packmates to be tolerable company for the most part. When Derek had first changed her, promised her that she would be beautiful beyond words, he hadn't lied. But it hadn't quite had the effect she had hoped. Sure, now a good part of the population of the school wanted her - wanted to be her friend, wanted to be in her bed - but she was still just as much of an outsider as before. Same as how Isaac and Boyd joined the ranks of the stars of the lacrosse team, they moved among elite and powerful, but neither of them quite fit and everyone knew it. It didn't matter so much, none of them were being laughed at anymore, no one dared to mess with them. In the end what was important was that they had become part of a them, a group with bonds that were far stronger than any of their classmates could claim.
Isaac finished his patrol of the room and dropped down into the center of the space they'd cleared for hanging out and doing whatever needed doing. He was just as filthy as Erica, the cuffs of his jacket and thighs of his jeans smeared with dirt, but he only sat still and looked to the doorway in anticipation of Derek's arrival. Erica could practically see his metaphorical tail wagging in excitement at the prospect of telling Derek that they'd done just as he asked.
Erica glanced back and found Boyd sitting on one of the benches they'd dragged around the perimeter, unlacing his own boots with a look of distaste. She rolled her eyes, looking away to keep her amusement to herself. It figured that she would be the least squeamish of the pack; she had always been the one in science classes who never hesitated to start dissection projects, a fact that had contributed to her lack of popularity in middle school. Being 'creepy Erica' wasn't the type of notoriety she wanted.
She leaned back, preparing to start flinging random questions at Isaac and Boyd simply because she was bored and Isaac would answer her for a few minutes at least, when her elbow brushed against something cold and wet. A moment of inspection revealed that she had a thick streak of mud on her thin-strapped purple top, starting just below her ribs and all across her back. She usually tried to change as she was leaving because any clothes worn down in the den were more than likely to get dirty and possibly shredded but she didn't really feel like sitting around muddy any longer. It had been a long afternoon and she was looking forward to a shower more than she had since the last confrontation that had left her spattered with the blood of a Hunter who had nearly sliced her open across her chest.
With a simple movement she stripped her top over her head and knelt up to go back to her bag for her t-shirt. The shirt she had been wearing hadn't been designed to go with a bra and she smiled to herself when she noticed that Isaac and Boyd's gazes had traveled to her almost instantly. She thought it was a little bit funny that Isaac, Boyd, and Derek were among the most body shy people she knew, though Derek was frequently found without a shirt when he wasn't expecting to be interrupted. Erica had always figured that werewolves were supposed to be touchy-feely-naturey, but not so much with her packmates. It was a little bit surprising how much that had disappointed her and she'd taken two days to run off by herself while she accepted that just because she had a pack didn't mean anyone would touch her like they cared. Derek had showed up at her house in the middle of the night shortly after she'd returned to yell at her for disappearing but she'd needed the space to get her head together.
She found her clean shirt, pausing a moment to wipe the remaining dirt from her arms on the old shirt as best she could, and when she turned around she found Isaac crouching only two feet away with his mouth open as he stared at her. Erica was about to move closer, ask Isaac if he liked what he saw, when she realized that his eyes were focused lower than her chest. She didn't have to look down to know what he was looking at and she quickly covered her stomach with her clean shirt, far faster than she would have when she'd thought that he was checking out her breasts.
Isaac's gaze didn't waver and a scraping sound announced that his claws were out and digging into the concrete floor. "Who did that to you?" he asked, his voice dropping a register as he growled, fangs slipping down over his lips.
Erica blinked, caught off guard by the question. It only took her a moment to understand what Isaac meant and she made sure there was no pity in her voice when she spoke. "Doctors. Isaac, I had surgery."
He looked up for a moment, his eyes flashing with color as he stared and then ducked his head down. It took him a full two minutes to retract his fangs and claws, Erica counting the time by her heartbeats, and when he looked up again his eyes were back to their usual greenish-hazel.
"Want to see?" she asked when Isaac didn't move away and his expression was still that painful cross between haunted and explosive rage. It took her a moment to gather her courage, remembering glances and smirks and not so quiet whispers from other girls in the locker room at school, but she pulled her shirt away from the scars multiple surgeries had left behind.
Isaac stared at her, his expression unchanging as he looked at the scars. He stayed on each for a long time, like he was memorizing them, and when he reached the one on the right that disappeared down into the waist of her pants he reached forward just a few inches and then balled his hand into a fist before pulling it back to tuck it tight between his knees and chest.
Erica reached out and slipped her hand over Isaac's, tugging him forward until he was crouched between her legs. She unfurled his fingers and brought them down to rest on the scar he'd reached for. "Appendicitis," she said, holding his hand there until he started to trace his fingers over it of his own accord. It was a strange feeling, she could feel the gentle pressure of his fingers directly on the scar tissue but it wasn't until he reached the edges that the sensation of being touched was on the surface of her skin.
Isaac waited at the tip of the scar, his fingers staying well away from her pants, and Erica moved his hand to the next scar and let him start to explore again. "Gastric cancer," she said as he moved over the long curved line with uneven edges at the ends.
She wasn't startled when Boyd sat down next to them, she'd heard him moving, but she was a little surprised that he was joining them. Boyd usually hung back a bit, like he wasn't sure he liked them. He held out his hand and raised his eyebrows, waiting for her to give him the same permission she'd given Isaac. She took his hand, far larger than Isaac's but just as gentle with his light touch as he slowly stroked the appendix scar. It felt even stranger to have both of them touching at once, the intermittent bouts of sensation and then only pressure on the scars themselves.
Isaac stopped on the next scar to the left, only a few inches under her lowest ribs. He looped around it with his fingertips and then looked up at Erica, waiting. "Cancer, second time," she said, wincing as she remembered the arguments that had rattled the windows of the house while she lay in bed and couldn't find sleep. The recurrence, less than two years after the first round, had been the death blow for her parent's marriage. Her dad had stuck around long enough to make sure she made it through treatment and the surgeries, two this time, and then he'd moved to Northern California with the promise that he'd see her during the holidays. Then he'd gotten remarried and she'd seen him once for dinner while he was on a business trip in the area.
Boyd was the one watching her intently now, his eyes on hers as he sensed the change in her mood. She tried to smile at him, show that she was alright now, better than ever. His hand left her stomach and reached up, resting on the top of her head for a moment before he started to pet her hair, just the way her dad had done when she was sick in the hospital and couldn't get to sleep. The heel of his palm brushed against her forehead on each stroke and Erica let her eyes flutter closed for a few moments. Isaac's hand had stopped moving and was placed gently over the worst of the scars like he was protecting them for her, adding a layer between them and the rest of the world.
She felt like she had a lump in her throat, a tangle of emotions that she couldn't begin to describe, but at the same time she felt like muscles where she hadn't even known she was carrying tension had started to relax. When she opened her eyes Isaac wasn't staring at the scars and instead was watching Erica's face with a far calmer expression than the one he'd shown earlier. She smiled at both of them, the smile coming easy this time, and let their hands fall away before she pulled her shirt over her head and tugged it down to cover her chest and the scars.
Before any of them could pull away from the little space where they'd all crowded together Boyd pulled his shirt over his head. Erica watched curiously, not sure what she was supposed to be looking at other than Boyd's well-muscled chest. He hesitated for only a moment and then brought his arms up so that his fists were parallel and his long arms were displayed to them.
Erica immediately understood what she was supposed to be seeing now. The mess of jagged scars that had no rhyme or reason ran from just below his wrists down to his elbows. Some of the scars were thick and raised, much like her own surgery scars, but others were like missing pieces in his skin and were only noticeable because of the slight difference in skin tone. She guessed that between both arms there were maybe ten severe scars with a dozen more that were more difficult to see.
"What happened?" she asked, raising her hand and resting it on Boyd's left wrist above where the scar tissue started.
"I smashed through a thick plate of glass," Boyd said, his voice a deeper rumble than usual. Other than his voice and a flash of his eyes he retained control over his wolf as Erica slowly ran her fingers down Boyd's arm. The texture was fascinating, unpredictable, and she wondered if Boyd was getting the same intermittent sensations from their touch.
Isaac was on his knees now so he could reach Boyd's arm more easily. "Were you trapped?" he asked, keeping his eyes on Boyd's right arm as his fingertips moved deftly down the scars.
"No," Boyd said, his eyes traveling to meet Erica's briefly. "I was angry. I'd already broke through the sheet rock and there was a window. I didn't really think. I just wanted to destroy and it was there and fragile."
Erica reached Boyd's elbow and the thick winding scar that was smooth under her fingertips and she looked up at Boyd. That was so far removed from her experience of him, even when he was fighting he seemed like he was under control. He was never the one that lashed out at Derek and then went scrambling to the other end of the den - that was Isaac - and he never snarked and slashed his claws like when Erica was frustrated. "Why were you so angry?" she asked.
Boyd shrugged, the movement unseating Erica and Isaac's hands briefly. "No one saw me. They left and didn't tell me they were going, and I was left behind."
"That was you?" Isaac asked, his eyebrows shooting up and leaving his eyes wide with surprise, though there was a touch of awe in his voice.
Erica immediately know what Isaac was asking, because Beacon Hills was a small town and everyone their age knew the story of the kid in fifth grade who had accidentally been left at the school in a locked classroom while their grade was on a field trip and he had freaked out and broke through a window. Suddenly she felt a deep empathy with Boyd. She'd never really been sure on Boyd's motivations for letting someone turn him into a werewolf when there was a possibility he might die as a result of the bite, but she knew that there was no way he'd had an easy time of it after that, even if everyone had just gone back to ignoring him. She'd been uncomfortably aware that Isaac had been made fun of for being spooked by everything and for working in the cemetery with his father, and her own history with her classmates was better left unspoken as far as she was concerned. Maybe they were all bound closer than she'd realized, by more than just the bite of a werewolf.
She leaned in and after a moment's consideration she pressed her cheek to Boyd's arm, not quite nuzzling him but there wasn't much of another way to describe it either. With her face turned in Isaac's direction she could watch as he reached up to clasp his hand with Boyd's and pressed his other hand flat against the worst of the scars where there was simply a gash of missing skin. She was reminded of how Isaac automatically moved to step in front of her and Boyd when there was a threat, or even when there wasn't a threat and Isaac was just keyed up, and she smiled and felt her lips move against Boyd's uneven skin. When she leaned back, Boyd seemed a little more at ease as well and he was looking at both of them with what Erica could only describe as fondness.
Isaac settled back, still sitting on his feet in between Erica's feet, and looked between them as Boyd resettled his shirt. There were lines around his eyes giving away his apprehension as his fingers wrapped tightly around the bottom of his leather jacket.
"You don't have to," Erica said quickly. She'd never seen Isaac without his shirt but she could only guess to what scars Isaac was hiding underneath his protective layers.
Before Erica could say anything more or Boyd could give his own reassurance, Isaac shrugged out of his jacket and set it aside. His dark button-up shirt came after that and then the thin long sleeved shirt. Underneath that was a tank top and Isaac turned so that he was facing away from Erica and Boyd before he pulled that off and sat on the floor with his head bowed forward and his knees drawn up to his chest.
It took Erica what seemed like a long time to pull her eyes away from Isaac's back and glance to Boyd. Boyd was still staring at Isaac, his hands balled in fists and his jaw set. Neither of them had to ask about the more general cause of the scars that started across Isaac's left shoulder and disappeared down into Isaac's jeans and neither of them would ask about the specific actions that had caused the scars. Erica thought she knew the causes of a few; long, thin horizontal lash marks and small mounds of scar tissue left by burns being the most obvious, but many others she couldn't even guess. Mostly she was regretting that Isaac's father was already dead before she and Boyd and Derek could show him what it meant to cross a wolf pack. If she would do what she was imagining, Isaac's father would regret the day he ever looked at Isaac with violence on his mind.
She edged forward and rested her hand on Isaac's shoulder, feeling the tiny tremors that shook his entire body. She stayed there for a moment, letting Isaac get used to her touch and waiting while Boyd settled in next to Isaac's right side. When Isaac had settled, the muscles in his shoulder still tense under her touch but not trembling any longer, she started slowly moving her hand over his back. The smoothness and roughness wasn't quite as immediate as it had been on Boyd but the patterns were more easily identifiable. Erica finished tracing the long scars and began to rub her palm up and down Isaac's lower back, letting Boyd's steady hands soothe the scars closer to Isaac's neck.
When Isaac wasn't curled in on himself so tight anymore, Erica knelt up and leaned her face in to Isaac's throat, scenting him and then placing a gentle kiss right on top of the scar that started on his shoulder. Isaac shivered but leaned into her touch, his hand reaching back to rest on her knee, and Boyd moved in closer so that his chest was pressed against Isaac's other side. Erica reached over and slipped her hand into the crook of Boyd's elbow and he blinked at her with his eyes sad and lost with memory.
They stayed there together for thousands of heartbeats, huddled on the cement floor of their den. Erica thought that despite all of their remaining wounds that couldn't be seen and couldn't leave scars, this was what exactly what she'd needed from a pack.