“C-c-c-cold,” Isaac chattered in his sleep. “Dad, it’s cold. Please.” He rolled over, drawing his knees up so that he was huddled on the bed into as tight a ball as his gangly limbs allowed.
Scott leveraged himself onto his elbow, instantly awake at the sounds of distress. In the darkness of the pre-dawn, Scott reached over and gently touched Isaac’s shoulder. Isaac wasn’t prone to nightmares, but this wasn’t the first one Scott had seen him experience, and he knew that waking Isaac up could be dangerous. Though it would have helped him see, he kept himself from shifting, afraid of frightening Isaac more when he did awaken. “It’s OK,” he murmured. “It’s over. You can wake up.”
“No. No. No. Don’t,” Isaac mumbled. He scratched at the air above his head as if pushing at the freezer lid. His fingers were tipped with sharp claws, and Scott had to wonder if dream-Isaac also had those claws. Scott had seen the inside of the freezer in the Laheys’ basement, the marks from normal human fingernails that covered the interior. As a werewolf he would have been able to shred his way out, a fact that no doubt contributed to Isaac’s decision to accept the bite. Now, however, his teeth were clacking, his eyes moving rapidly behind his eyelids as the nightmare/memory trapped him more effectively than the appliance ever did.
Scott scooted closer, pressing the full length of his body along Isaac’s. He could only hope that his heat would seep through his boyfriend’s perceptions, would help pull him back. Isaac was warmer than normal, despite the shudders that ran down his body. “It’s over,” Scott repeated, alternating with his boyfriend’s name. “Isaac, it’s over.”
He knew better than to say it wasn’t real, because it was and had been, and he’d never want to treat Isaac as if that part of his history was something to be denied or suppressed. But, he could safely remind him that it was history. The freezer was destroyed, Isaac’s father dead; Isaac had moved in with the McCalls as a foster child, and then had somehow moved into Scott’s room and bed, with a baffled Melissa only able to throw up her hands and quip about the utter lack of resources on parenting werewolves. Tonight, at least, she was at the hospital, and Scott was on his own to help.
While continuing his murmuring, Scott began stroking down Isaac’s side, touching skin as much as he could under the t-shirt and shorts that Isaac slept in. The shuddering stopped, but the nightmare didn’t. Isaac’s foot kicked out into the empty air. “C-can’t f-feel….” Isaac whimpered, and Scott pushed closer, pushed for more warmth. “D-dad?” His call to his father sounded so plaintive, so hopeful, as if Mr. Lahey hadn’t meant to lock his son in the freezer and would let him out as soon as he realized his mistake. Tears leaking from Isaac’s eyes made Scott redouble his efforts.
“Isaac, it’s over. You’re safe,” Scott repeated, brushing his fingers through his boyfriend’s curly hair. There was a moment of stillness, a long second between breaths and heartbeats when Scott wasn’t sure if anything had changed, and then Isaac’s eyes fluttered, and opened. They glowed yellow, then faded to blue. Isaac blinked vacantly toward the open window, the curtains pulsing in the faint summer breeze.
“See, you woke up,” Scott told him. He stilled his stroking and settled into simply holding the traumatized boy, his arms positioned to comfort rather than constrict. While he watched, Isaac’s claws also disappeared and his body relaxed, letting him fit more comfortably into the curve of Scott’s torso. The position wasn’t perfect since Scott was the shorter of the two, but it was what was necessary.
“D-didn’t think I would,” Isaac replied, his voice small and hoarse, as if he’d been screaming for too long.
“You did,” Scott reminded him.
“Almost didn’t.” He captured Scott’s arm and pulled it around him, hugging it like it was a child’s security toy. He didn’t need to elaborate; Scott already knew the story: how Mr. Lahey had finally opened the freezer and found his son unconscious and barely breathing; how he’d brought him to the ER, claiming that his teenage son had trapped himself in it while playing a game; how Isaac’s “reward” for not telling was that the freezer was unplugged.
“But you did,” Scott insisted, more forcefully. He dimly remembered the week in eighth grade when Isaac had been the talk of the cafeteria, the school’s rumor mill vacillating wildly between accusations of their classmate suffering from a bizarre accident or pursuing an attempted suicide. No one ever guessed the truth, and Scott was determined to make up for that as best as he could. “You will. You’ll always wake up.”
Isaac released a deep sigh, angling onto his back, his long body once again spread the length of the mattress. He held tight to Scott’s arm. “Yeah,” he said, as if he were just now realizing that it was true. A moment later he added a simple, innocent, “Warm.” His eyes slipped closed, and he was asleep again as if the whole nightmare had never happened.
“Always,” Scott answered into the darkness. He rearranged himself to get as comfortable as possible in the enforced position, ending up with his pillow on Isaac’s shoulder and his legs wrapped around Isaac’s. With his one free hand, he tugged the sheet up over both of them as best he could and settled in. The sun was starting to peek over the horizon before he felt his own sleep reclaiming him. As he drifted off, he thought about how much healing Isaac needed, and how interesting it was that what one werewolf could offer another was protection from the cold.