Isaac takes the job because, honestly? He doesn’t have anything else to do.
He’s technically still a run-away. Though, how exactly that works when he randomly shows his face at lacrosse games (and beats half his own team into the grass) he isn’t really sure.
There’s a lot he isn’t sure of, and not just lately.
So when the doc asks him (in that polished way he has that says he already knows all your possible answers and has counters for every one) to fill some hours for him at the clinic while he communes with nature, or teaches Derek not to be a brooding Vulcan or whatever, he says yes without really thinking. Partly because he’s surprised Deaton trusts him all of a sudden, and partly because his brain performs that skip-stutter move it likes to do before landing on an image of Scott McCall’s face like it’s a particularly safe place to stop.
Yeah, he’s not exactly great at off-the-cuff decision making.
But he likes animals; he always has, even before he sort-of became one himself. They’d had a dog once, a long long time ago; before Cam died and everything changed. He doesn’t remember much about the dog; just the sense memory of soft fur and brown eyes and a bark that was always more a welcome than a threat. He thinks he used to let the dog sleep in his bed, even though he wasn’t supposed to; because things were different then and he could do things he wasn’t supposed to without being so afraid his teeth would knock together and his hands would shake.
It’s pretty easy at first (relative to having his bones snapped or being thrown around a room or getting locked up in a basement); he comes in; cleans cages, fills bowls with food and water, and generally does his best not to let the place burn down until school ends and Scott shows up.
That’s when it gets a little less easy.
He knows Scott isn’t an Alpha, like Derek is or Peter was (is? They still haven’t exactly explained that whole dynamic very well), but there’s still something deep down past the human parts of him that says Pack. Or trust. And maybe some other things he’s not looking at for reasons he doesn’t want to think about.
It might have something to do with how Scott had saved his life when Gerard Argent came at him with a sword (and really, a sword? Who does that?), or the way he stands off to one side while Isaac learns to put a cast on a dog or give a cat it’s booster shots, smiling the whole time like it’s his face’s default setting, telling him he’s doing a great job in such a genuine, friendly tone that something in Isaac makes him want to turn and leave the room.
Scott is just. Okay, so he knows intellectually that there must be people in the world that are just nice, maybe not all the time, but frequently enough that it becomes a defining character trait; something they get remembered for when they aren’t around, like you can‘t say their name without mentioning how nice they are in the same breath. It’s actually impossible to make Scott be a dick unless you actively try and kill someone he loves, Isaac thinks.
That still seems like a ridiculously high threshold to him, but he has to admit he isn’t really the best person to judge it. He lives with Derek Hale. And Erica.
He just wishes he could spend more than ten minutes in a room with Scott and his ridiculous spotlight of a smile without wanting to shake himself - like a dog, appropriately enough - so the itch between his shoulders goes away and he can talk without feeling like his tongue is a lead weight shoved behind his teeth.
Wishes are nice. You can make as many as you want and keep them somewhere safe and nobody can take them away. They may not come true, but they’re still yours. Like memories, but smaller. More specific, idealised little things that together make up a life you might’ve had.
Isaac has a lot of wishes.
Derek has been…off lately. Even for Derek. Maybe especially for Derek.
Ever since they stormed Gerard’s little fortress of solitude to rescue Erica, Boyd and Stiles (and part of Isaac still thinks Derek had ordered their names that way on purpose), Derek has been alternating between his standard douchebaggery and something he’d almost call contentment, if he wasn’t still afraid that Alpha’s actually can read minds and he’d be forced to train for hours with Boyd again. The dude’s like a house coated with steel.
He gets that it’s a big relief to have Gerard dead and Jackson somewhat closer to his old self (even if he does still has raging fights with everyone and then doesn‘t talk for days at a time with every Kanima memory that he dredges up) and that for whatever reason Derek and Peter aren’t slitting each other’s throats or dueling with pistols at dawn. He knows that the Argents packing up and taking most of their buddies with them solves a lot of problems for the pack, and he’s definitely not going to miss the arrows or the knives coming at him all the time. But there’s this kind of settled calm over everything that he doesn’t really understand or know what to make of.
He’s not great at ‘calm’.
It doesn’t help that his other ‘packmates’ are too busy screwing each other and having whispered discussions like they’re. Well okay like they’re teenagers, he needs to stop forgetting that. Maybe write it down or have t-shirts made. He’s happy for them, he is; Erica seems less and less like the fake version of herself she’d become after the bite every day, and Boyd actually smiles now.
The calm is still disquieting though.
He’d mentioned it to Deaton once, and got some typically cryptic mysticism about lulls between battles and taking respite when it’s offered, and that same gentle smirk like they’re all so amusing with their impressions of headless chickens. Really, a vet should have more sensitivity about things like that.
It turns into a full time thing without him really noticing. Deaton seems to have taken some kind of advisory role in keeping the pack and the few remaining hunters from colliding in a big bloody mess, and Scott is running himself into the ground trying to up his grades and stop his mom from crying about his secret double life every other day.
Those are the days that Isaac most wants to do something stupid. Like tell Scott that if your mom cries then she still cares, or tell him that he’s not going to get a black eye if he fails a chem test. Or maybe just hug him until he doesn’t look so overwhelmed.
He can’t decide which of those’d be stupider, so he doesn‘t do any of them.
Inaction is always safer.
Scott has Stiles for that stuff anyway.
Isaac doesn’t think other people see Stiles the way he does. People see the flaily hands and the motor mouth and the way he fumbles almost every time he walks and write him off as a hindrance. A goofball, with nothing to offer but the occasional insightful intuitive leap and a good Google search. But Isaac remembers the guy who’d sat next to him and promised point-blank to kill him if he hurt Lydia, and Isaac remembers believing him. He remembers the Stiles who yells at Alphas and tells them when they’re being reckless, the one who stares Peter down and calls him a ‘creeposaurus’ and the Stiles who’d shoved him and Erica to one side; shielded them with his own body like he was the one with supernatural healing powers.
Isaac seems to notice a lot of things other people don’t.
Maybe it’s just easier to see the big picture when you’re so used to orbiting almost silently around the outside, and there are a lot of things people miss if they’re too busy paying attention to the wrong thing.
He sees the pain and the anger on Derek’s face every time he looks at Peter; the frustration and gaping emptiness when Peter looks at the pack. He sees the fear in Erica’s eyes whenever one of them gets hurt, or the way Boyd’s jaw will tick when Erica tries to distract someone from that fear with her face or the cut of her top. The way Jackson will put a slightly shaky hand on Lydia’s arm, or tuck her hair behind her ear even though it falls forward again almost instantly. He sees how Stiles looks right to Derek every time he walks into a room; the tiniest loaded pause between them like the air goes still, the build before the spark ignites an explosion. How they’ll all sometimes just look at once another; blind grasp at reassurance and the need to know they aren’t all as alone as when they started.
But most often he sees the way Scott will sometimes stand off in the background; eyes roving over everyone like he’s looking for something, before he jerks into motion again like nothing had even happened; eyes only dimming a little before he’s shouldering into Stiles and laughing with his head thrown back. He notices when Scott will start a sentence with “Allison used to…” and then trail off with a frown like he doesn’t understand where it came from. Or when he comes into the clinic after his mom or Stiles drop him off and just stands in the waiting room; breathing with his eyes closed and so very deliberately that Isaac doesn’t even need his werewolf senses to hear it, rolling his shoulders like the weight will just slip right off even though it doesn’t ever work that way. Even when he smiles and Isaac just knows that he doesn’t feel it.
He wonders what he misses, by focusing on Scott.
It’s probably not important. Doesn’t feel important, at least. It doesn’t feel like the wrong thing, either.
Full moons suck. There’s really no two ways about that.
His bones ache until he actually thinks about breaking them just to see if it’ll help; his skin hums with the need to run and hunt and kill, and what feels like every single cell pulls him like a fish on a hook toward something he can’t even name, much less define or go after.
He wonders if it’s a homing instinct; something that’s telling him to find familiar ground where he feels safe, his territory or whatever.
How does he tell the wolf that he doesn’t have any? That secure and safe aren’t the same thing? That strength and power don’t give you control?
Derek might know. Or Peter. Or Stiles.
He doesn’t ask them.
It doesn’t help that he’s been anchoring himself with memories of his father, his family. All those things they used to do together; the movie nights or the Saturdays when they’d make pizza from scratch and ended up eating most of the toppings first. The way his dad would squeeze his shoulder or ruffle his hair every morning before he left for work, the crinkled smile that got lost somewhere in the dirt they’d used to bury his mom. It works, as far as tamping down the bloodlust goes, but he spends days afterwards feeling listless and bitter; aware that he’s just keeping old wounds open to spite the new ones.
He doesn’t use the other memories, the ones of fists and bellowing words, of dark boxes and fingernails broken on walls that’re always too close closing in not enough air can’t breathe. Thoughts of pain and fear always make the wolf want to buck against his skin like it’s a separate thing altogether; like it wants to tear right out of him and leave him behind; bloodied and broken and empty.
He doesn’t ask about that either. The meaning is a little obvious.
At least he doesn’t have to be chained up anymore. Derek and Peter run with them through the woods; sometimes corralling them away from the roads and the town, sometimes just swiping at them to encourage them to keep moving until the moon’s pull isn’t quite as urgent, as demanding.
Scott never comes to those nights, even though he knows Peter has asked him, and Deaton has been lecturing him about how the pack needs him, and Derek has indirectly admitted that maybe it wouldn’t be so terrible if he showed up occasionally.
Isaac is oddly grateful for the moon on nights like that; for the silvery call in his blood that tells him to keep moving stay together fight play pack run not alone. It’s a good distraction from the fact that something’s missing. Something not familiar or vital for the pack, but an essential quantity all the same; something he senses flickering between Boyd and Erica from time to time; something that hangs in the air whenever Stiles and Derek are side-eying each other from across the room.
He doesn’t ask, and nobody’s telling, but something in him still says missing not enough find it find it.
He runs; until the sun forces the moon out of the sky and his legs turn to rubber, howls of the pack ringing in the air.
He just keeps running.
The day Scott comes into work looking like he’d spent all night being repeatedly run over by a tank; Isaac kind of loses his cool a little.
He’s in the back with Mrs. Pendry’s deerhound Samson; trying to check the stitches in his side without getting knocked in the head by the big plastic cone, when the bell above the door chimes and everything goes fuzzy beneath the feeling of wrong coming from the waiting room like smoke, or an instrument out of tune.
He doesn’t even remember bolting out there, and it’s only once he realises that the shaking is him literally being shaken by the shoulders that he steps out of Scott’s space and. And takes his hand off the side of Scott’s neck; so fast in fact you’d think his skin was hotter than a brand.
It feels like it is.
“What the f-fuck happened to you?!” And yeah he knows he’s freaking out, he only stutters over the word once and he can’t even hear his father’s voice in his head yelling about cussing.
Scott’s got that befuddled look, like he’s replaying the question in his head. Like it was some complex theological thing and not really incredibly simple. “I’m fine dude, really. I just. Had a couple of rough days?” He shrugs, and even though he tries to smile it’s kind of ruined by the deep, purple-black circles under his eyes and the greasy, tangled mess of his hair; the way his clothes are clearly unwashed and he smells strongly enough of hurt and sad that Isaac wants to whine so high the dogs in the back will hear it.
“Yeah I can see that, did something happen? Did the hunters come after you? Why didn‘t you call us?” His voice is too fast, full of way too much obvious fear, and he can feel the pressure beneath his fingernails where the claws want to push through; his skin tingling with the urge to shift.
He wonders if Scott can smell it. He hopes he can.
“No! No, nothing like that, I swear. The full moon sort of, got a little crazy. And then I broke a table and freaked my mom out and I didn’t have time to shower after practice and I didn’t want to make you do all the work so I kind of ran here and then you were all jumpy and stuff. Are you okay?” The ramble and confusion becoming concern so quickly that Isaac can’t keep track, and the way Scott’s face morphs into worried-puppy pops the bubble of tension around him like he’d stuck a pin through it, and he can’t help but laugh; this breathless, adrenaline-fuelled thing like it‘s being squeezed from him.
“Yeah I’m fine.” He manages, still around half a smile as he shakes his head. Scott doesn’t look any less confused.
“You sure? ‘Cause you look a little spooked, man.” Scott says, hand waving at him like he’s got ‘freaking the hell out’ written on his clothes somewhere.
“I’m sure, you just. Well you kind of look like crap.” He says, and pointedly doesn’t wince over how that sounded. Scott just laughs and tugs at the hem of his shirt; wrinkles reappearing as soon as he lets it go.
“Yeah I know right? I spent the whole moon tearing up my bedroom and trying not to scare my mom, and then she wanted to be a part of the whole ‘help me to control myself’ thing, and I tried to stay out of the way and I just made it worse.” He gets quieter as he goes on; bitter note of sadness floating up, and something clenches behind Isaac’s ribs, either sympathy or recognition. Maybe both.
He doesn’t know what it means if Scott is losing control during the moon now. And he’s not going to ask; just in case it’s another road that leads to Allison.
He forces a hopefully non-serious expression onto his face “Hey at least you only broke a table. My second full moon I almost broke a whole train.” Scott laughs again, sudden and full with his whole face; and it’s such a stupid thing to feel that much pride over; too tiny and short-lived to feel as though everything has settled more firmly onto it’s foundations, unshakable.
“Yeah I heard. Dude you’re badass.” He says, still smiling wide, flapping the back of one hand into Isaac’s shoulder. He thinks his face is heating, but Scott’s eyes aren’t as downturned anymore; and through the sourness of his sweat (which is much more appealing than it should be) and the lingering anxiety there’s real happiness coming through.
The sense of accomplishment hangs around for the rest of the day. He doesn’t feel like running.
Erica likes to joke about him being a puppy instead of a wolf, even though he’s older than her, because okay he has to admit he does sort of go stupid around baby animals.
It’s not just him though. Scott’s way worse.
The day they have the Maggs family’s dalmatian (called Buttons because they’d decided to let the kids name her) in for a caesarean is probably his favourite of all the ones he’s spent working at the clinic. And that’s including the one where he’d beaten Scott at thumb wrestling and Scott had to wear the cone of shame for the rest of the day.
Deaton is so utterly controlled through the whole procedure that he doesn’t even perspire; even when both the werewolves with supernatural endurance in the room are frantic and trying not to drop the impossibly small puppies as they get passed over and placed between soft folds of towels sitting on the heating pads.
Isaac watches him work with a kind of reverence that he doesn’t remember ever showing anything else; the way his hands never falter between instruments, the serene look on his face broken only by the occasional flicker of a smile as each pup emits a gurgling breath when Scott clears the fluid from their airways.
It’s the kind of unwavering calm he’d wanted when Derek first offered him the bite; the knowledge that you control your own fate. It hadn’t worked that way for him, or the others; they’d seen the chance for power and leapt at it like it’d make things better, easier; sheep becoming wolves. He sometimes wonders what would’ve happened if he’d found Deaton before Derek. If Derek had left him there that night, in the literal grave he’d dug; the sandbox he’d built.
Peter’s always talking about potential. About waiting for things to swing your way. For the wheel to turn and lift you up, and then making your own choices to take advantage of the circumstances.
Isaac wonders if it’s his turn to be lifted.
There aren’t a hundred-and-one puppies, no matter how many times Scott makes the joke, but the eight they do get are all completely healthy. They share a kind of group sigh of relief, and when Deaton goes to clean up him and Scott just stand over them; watching the tips of their tiny black noses move around outside the edges of the soft blue cotton.
“Are you gonna cry? D’you want a tissue? Maybe a hug?” He says, because the silence was starting to make him twitch. Too many possibilities; paths to follow, ways for him to screw things up.
“Dude shut up.” Scott replies with a shove, but he’s seriously failing at stealth as he tries to scrub at his eyes with the end of his sleeve, and his voice is a good few octaves lower than it should be.
Isaac pretends he isn’t grinning; that wide, uncontrolled one he’s never liked. The one that shows too many teeth and makes him look about five. The one he got from his mom. The one he somehow now associates with Scott.
“This is what I wanna do.” He hears himself say, sudden and unprompted; like it slipped under a fence and made a break for it. There’s certainty in it though, like it’s more real now it’s out there.
Scott looks up and raises questioning eyebrows at him, smiling around the pink bottom lip he’s got trapped between gleaming white teeth.
That doesn’t seem fair. That he can just look like that and not realise.
“Work with animals, I mean.” He looks down at the squirming mass of damp fur and wet noses on the table, feels the smile reform even though he’s apparently baring his soul at random intervals now. Like that’s something he does.
I trust you.
“You mean like a vet?” Scott asks, eyes focused on Isaac like there’s nothing else to look at. He isn’t sure what to make of that kind of focus.
“I was thinking more like a shelter? For abandoned dogs or something?” He says, hand fiddling pointlessly with the edges of the towel, something to do.
“Oh wow you totally should!” Scott says, enough flailing enthusiasm that he almost knocks back into the cabinet. “Dude, you’d be amazing!” He huffs a laugh at how Scott just full-on runs with the idea, warmth that spreads through at him at the unreserved honesty.
“I don’t know, I just. I want to help, you know? Maybe find homes for strays, or stop people abandoning them in the first place.” It just spills out of him, this want he has to do something good with the opportunity he’s been given. To take all that pain and ash and build on it until you can’t see the bare earth underneath anymore. To use his potential.
Peter might’ve had a point.
“Yeah? Sounds awesome, you should definitely do it.” Scott nods like that settles it, and Isaac wants to just hang the idea off that feeling; keep it there where it won’t tarnish or get lost.
“What about you?” He asks. “You gonna be a vet? Deaton 2.0?” He smiles at the image of Scott in a white coat, all compassion and good heart, competent without being distant, helping anyone and everyone with a smile on his face.
Scott scoffs and ducks his head “Nahh, I don’t think I’m really cut out for all that school stuff, y’know?”
Isaac frowns, looks at Scott as Scott looks away, and feels some weird swell of protectiveness; a need to wipe away that awkward admission even though he has no idea how to do that.
“I think you could do it.” He says, no word of a lie, and Scott looks up at him briefly like the punch line’s just hiding on his face.
“Really?” Question strangely vulnerable, and that desire to convince - to somehow transfer across all the faith he has - that Scott can be more; can be whoever he wants to be if he just trusts himself, rises so strong and fierce it‘s almost frightening.
He manages a nod, and makes himself hold Scott‘s gaze even as his cheeks warm “I think you could do anything.” And it comes out with such a pure kind of conviction that Isaac wants to laugh it off; distract Scott from whatever stupidly naked certainty he’s wearing like the opposite of a mask.
But Scott’s mouth quirks up, first one corner and then the other; slow and steady until he’s grinning so wide it practically splits his face, and Isaac doesn’t regret one thing about whatever he’s just given away.
Scott deserves someone who expects things from him, not because they feel they should but because Scott can live up to it; can settle into the man he’s gonna be one day whether he knows it now or not.
Isaac knows it, sees it, trusts in it. And he’s starting to realise there’s not much he wouldn’t do to get Scott to see it too.
The healing trick is sort of more complicated than Deaton had made it seem, that first time.
Yeah, he can ease pain, can take it and absorb it like some kind of freaky sponge; but he can’t actually fix the cause, not with a simple touch.
That doesn’t stop him from trying though.
Scott is gritting his teeth hard enough that Isaac can hear them scraping against each other like falling rocks, and his heart is beating way too quickly. The beam is still lying across his leg; this huge hunk of charred-black wood and warped nails and it’s too heavy, too much for him to lift until the pack hears him howling and comes to help.
This is all his fault. He’d been trying to shift the debris around so they could bring the new lumber and things in ready for the next room, but he hadn’t noticed the way the fire had bent the support above him; not until it was already crashing down and Scott was slamming into him, and then all he’d known was the scream Scott had let out when it landed on his knee, pinning him to the floor.
This is his fault, God.
“It’s okay, it’s okay.” Scott’s muttering from between lips pressed so tight they’re totally white, and seriously? He’s consoling Isaac?
“I should be telling you that.” He says, voice like it’d been him yelling his throat out, and wow they’re really doing this all backwards aren’t they?
He kneels next to Scott’s head, fits his hands underneath along the planes of his skull, tries to keep him up and alert rather than vacantly staring at the barren ceiling.
“They’ll come, don’t worry. They’re probably already on their way back. God Scott I‘m so sorry.” He says as he tries to stop himself saying anything else; jaw clenching and eyes stinging at the corners.
“N-Not your fault.” Scott forces out as he grunts against the pain, face so pale against the charred floorboards, and Isaac doesn’t know how much healing he can do with that beam sitting right on the joint.
He has to try and do something, he can’t just. He can’t.
So he shifts around until Scott’s head rests on the flat of his legs above the knee; one hand moving to the side of his head, fingers carding through soft hair, and the other resting over the thud of his heart that Isaac could find from miles away, probably even through a crowd or underwater.
“What’re yo -- no Isaac don’t, I don‘t need it. You don’t have t-”
“Just shut up okay? Shut up and let me do this.” He cuts in harshly, pushes Scott down flat so he stops trying to move against the enormous hulk of the beam, and focuses on the acrid scent of pain; the sting of it that hides just beneath the skin like thorns.
He tries to imagine ropes or lines of webbing that connect them, and the black suddenly flows up into the veins of his hand, spidering along his forearm, stealing his breath and scraping over his nerves. It’s slightly different every time he does it, but he’s never tried this on a person before, and there’s a buzz going through his bones like vibrations; oddly warm and almost visible. He thinks they’d be yellow. Or maybe orange.
There’re tears practically streaming down his face, and something else that might be blood dripping from his lip where he’s bitten clean through it. But he can feel the way Scott’s muscles go lax as the absence of pain seeps through him; can see his eyes fluttering involuntarily at the relief of it; feels the shudder of his chest beneath Isaac’s palm as his breathing eases, gets less shallow and rapid.
I can do this for you. He hears himself thinking, and it echoes weirdly; reverberates inside his skull. I can be this if you need me to be. If you let me. It feels important somehow; the way his mom telling him she loved him used to feel important, or how he’d hugged Cam before he’d left for the airport that last time. Weighted. Full of layered truth.
His arm is numb now, the shoulder and some of his back burning with more than just the simple stretch of muscle, and everything’s fading against the orange light that he knows is there even though he can’t really see it, like sunbeams leaking through curtains.
There’s a crash somewhere far away, and what might be voices, but he’s lost in the light and that has to be okay doesn’t it? Light is good, the antithesis of dark, bad things don’t come from the light. Then, as everything goes quiet and he’s floating, he feels safe; in a way he hasn’t for a really long time. Peaceful. Home.
The light he wakes up isn’t the light he passed out still feeling.
Actually, he doesn’t remember passing out at all. But he’s on a lumpy mattress in one of the newly refinished rooms; vague lingering smell of paint fumes where before there’d been the stink of smoke and fear.
Deaton’s sitting in a chair just by the door, flicking through a book with a weird looping symbol on the cover; one of the ones Derek keeps in the case that nobody is stupid enough to go near. One of the Hale library books that survived the fire.
He tries to sit up, but leaning on his arm is like dipping it in molten lead. There are long, red marks all up his forearm like welts, and they’re throbbing along with his heartbeat.
“W-Where’s Scott? Is he alright?” He asks, twisting up on his good arm and coughing to get his voice to level out.
“He’s fine.” Deaton says, tone soft like he’s talking to a startled animal, even while he crosses over to the bed and kneels to put a hand on Isaac‘s forehead. “I wouldn’t try to get up just yet. You did a real number on yourself.”
“What happened?” He asks, trying to bypass the obvious concern, focuses on the scent of animals and the clinic and something older that hangs around Deaton like an invisible veil.
Deaton sits back on his heels, smiles like he’s almost amused. Or maybe proud. “You tried to take away Scott’s pain, and you took too much. You passed out when Boyd pulled you away.”
He winces at the suddenly present memory of hands gripping his shoulders like iron bands; the pain in his arm that jolts his nerves like he needs reminding. “And Scott?” Tries and fails to keep his anxiety out of the question. He’s never been good at hiding things like that.
He gets another smile “Derek and Peter managed to lift the beam off his leg, and he’s almost fully healed. A lot sooner than he would’ve been if you hadn’t helped. That was a pretty brave and selfless thing you did, Isaac.” He doesn’t sound surprised, which is sort of weird, but then when does he?
“It was my fault it happened.” He flushes under Deaton’s eyebrow raise; guilt and maybe embarrassment twisting at him. “The beam was coming down on me, and I. I froze. He pushed me out of the way.”
Deaton looks even less surprised, and definitely more amused. Fatherly, Isaac thinks. “Yes, well. He does that.” He wanders over to the chair and picks the book up, before moving to leave. “I’ll let him know you‘re awake. He’s been busy slowing down his recovery by pacing a brand new hole in the floor.”
“Wait.” He calls out, before realising he was going to. “There was something else. When I. While I was helping Scott I think I saw something.” Deaton’s eyes narrow the tiniest amount, and he steps halfway back into the room, book dangling from one hand.
“Oh?” Definition of neutral.
He tries to remember; to encompass something that hadn’t felt definable to begin with. “It was, warm? Like a light, but it was everywhere. Like it went right through me, or maybe it was all around me? And it was, I don‘t know, familiar. Like a song you heard when you were a kid.” He knows he isn’t making any sense, but he doesn’t have the words for whatever it was he saw; for the things he felt.
Something crosses Deaton’s face, like confusion or maybe just curiosity. His expressions all seem to come from the same well of zen, so it’s hard to tell.
“Interesting.” He says, almost like he’s talking to himself. Then he seems to just snap out of it; smiles wide and carefree like nothing could possibly be wrong. “I’ll send Scott up.”
Judging from the way Scott explodes through the door about two seconds after Deaton leaves, he’d been listening from downstairs all along. Doors and walls are kind of pointless when you have werewolf hearing.
“Ohmygod dude what the hell?” All one breath, most of it half-yelled before he’s even fully in the room.
Scott looks kind of freaked. Hair all fluffed out where he’s probably been running his hands through it; dark stains and small rips on his jeans from the beam, a few red-black marks that might be blood.
Isaac tries not to breathe through his nose. He isn’t sure what the smell of Scott bleeding will do to him right now.
“I’m fine.” He says, because there’s no way he’s going to say anything less when Scott looks ready to shift and break something.
“You’re fine?” Said like Isaac just told him he could fly. “You had a seizure, okay? They pulled you off of me and you started shaking and screaming. I thought you were gonna die.” His eyes are wide and bright in what little daylight is still coming through the window, and while Isaac doesn’t flinch at the volume he still winces at how high-pitched and frantic Scott sounds.
I don’t want you to get hurt.
“I’m sorry if you--if I scared you.” He says finally, after what is probably too much time spent watching Scott’s chest move up-down, in-out. “But I’m not sorry I did it. You needed--you needed help.” He finishes on what would have been a shrug if he wasn’t still trying not to put weight on his injured arm. He can feel the tingle of it already healing, but he thinks it’ll probably be a while.
“What’s wrong with your arm?” Scott suddenly asks, and he would pick now to become more observant wouldn’t he?
“Nothing.” He says, too quick, and Scott’s eyes narrow as his mouth pinches.
“Then let me see it.” Scott says, crossing his arms and squinting, trying for a glare. It doesn’t really work; Scott’s face just wasn’t meant for glaring. But Isaac sighs and holds up his welted limb anyway. If Scott’s anything he’s stubborn, and Isaac doesn’t want to argue with him right now. Or ever, if he’s honest.
Scott hisses a breath though his teeth and his eyes go so round and wounded on Isaac’s behalf that he’s expecting tears any second.
“That’s not nothing.” His voice is some low mix of sad and angry, and he folds himself down next to the mattress; only grimacing a little as he bends his knee.
Isaac just lies in a mostly-crumpled line of wariness and smarting aches, watches Scott’s eyes as they skip from his face to his arm and back; over and over like there’s more to him that he can’t quite spot. Like there are depths hidden away somewhere.
People don’t look at Isaac that way. He’s got not barriers for this; no practice at it.
Scott’s hand inches out toward him, slow and halting as if waiting to get snapped at or slapped away, but Isaac can’t make himself move. Everything is just suspended somewhere on the brink of all those choices he doesn’t know what to do with, isn’t equipped to handle.
The brush of fingertips over the thickest raised line of skin makes him twitch, more a suppressed shiver than anything else. Scott’s mouth is pinched at the corners, little furrow between his eyes that Isaac wants to smooth away with the pad of a thumb. He doesn’t think he even breathes as Scott’s fingers trace the red marks up to the crook of his elbow, apparently totally oblivious to how he’s leaning right over Isaac’s body with his knees on the edge of the mattress. His fingers are smooth, and oddly warm where the skin is already burned and blistered; the touch so light it raises goose bumps along the paleness on either side, pebbling the flesh that’s already healing and fading back to pinkish-white.
Something hitches in Isaac’s chest; topples loose and falls away; stone sinking into dark water. He doesn’t know what it is. Doesn’t know if he needs it. If he’ll miss it if he can’t get it back.
“You keep getting hurt.” Scott says, so soft Isaac isn’t sure it was meant for him to hear; all the meaning he can‘t parse; intensity he doesn’t recognise.
“Good thing we heal fast then, huh?” He says, and it comes out with none of the nonchalance he was aiming for. He’s really no good at this, more of him blistered and callused than just the temporary stuff on his arm. Too many pieces out of place.
Scott sits up, leans over him resting on his knees and seeming stupidly tall from this angle, where Isaac is used to being gangly and standing a good four or five inches above him, even when he keeps his head ducked and slouches.
“That’s not the point.” Scott says, abrupt; all bundled energy and forced stillness, a smell like ozone that Isaac thinks might be adrenaline. “You--it’s like you think it’s okay. That you can go and do stuff that hurts you and it doesn’t matter. Is that what Derek tells you? That it doesn’t matter if you hurt because we don’t stay that way? It’s not true, Isaac. Yeah fine, we heal super fast, and that’s cool an’ all, but it doesn’t--it doesn’t make the pain okay. Doesn’t make it less real. It doesn’t mean you just let it happen. It’s still pain. You shouldn’t--” He’s panting a little now, something wild but still non-wolf in his expression, and Isaac…doesn’t know what to say. To any of it.
Scott looks away, staring at the blank wall across from them, visible roll of his throat working. “People keep doing things like it doesn‘t--just stop getting hurt okay? Especially for me. Please?” The plea cracks, splinters and shatters and digs in to all the soft places Isaac doesn’t dare expose. To anyone. And how is he supposed to start now? He wants to; can feel where it’s all stuck beneath the surface, almost the way the wolf is, but this isn’t about the wolf. This is about something so purely human that Isaac doesn’t feel the wolf at all.
“I’ll be fine, Scott.” He ends up saying, and then wants to kick himself for using the most overplayed lie on earth.
“Fine doesn’t mean alright.” Scott answers too quick, too loud; one hand flicking pointlessly into empty air like the energy just has to go somewhere.
“You would have done it for me.” Isaac says, and only realises as he says it just how true that is. “If I’d been trapped like that, you would’ve tried to help, because it’s what you do. How was what I did any different?”
“Because!” He yells, like it’s an explanation. “It just is. I’m--you keep acting like I’m some kinda hero or something, and I’m not okay? I’m not. And you don’t want to be either. Heroes die, Isaac, d’you get that? This isn’t a movie. Or a fairytale. It just sucks, all the time, and everyone’s running around acting like nothing’s changed when everything has! Allison--” He breaks off, swallows hard, his forehead skewing in pain. “Allison’s whole family is pretty much gone, and my mom can barely look at me. Stiles’ dad looks at him like he doesn’t even recognise him. It’s my fault, and I can’t pretend that it’s fine. It’s not fine, Isaac, so just stop!” He’s breathing harsh and loud, like it’s agony to keep drawing in the air, and as Isaac just lays there, reeling; a tear finally breaks from beneath Scott’s right eye; rolls down his cheek and beads on his jaw, drops somewhere onto Isaac’s clothes.
That feels important somehow.
He doesn’t know what to say, or do - when does he? He can’t fix all that loss and anger and pain. He can’t fix his own, much less anyone else’s. Doesn’t even know if he has the right to try.
Instead he just puts an arm around whatever span of Scott’s chest he can reach, tries to ignore the way his stupid insides flip at the feeling of Scott bending until they’re in a weird rhombus of a hug; all leaning lines and awkward angles.
Scott’s got his head pressed into Isaac’s shoulder; most of his weight on his thighs and his knee is probably still aching in that phantom way shattered bones do when they heal too quickly; like your body wants you to remember.
Scott smells of fear and frustration and the salt of either tears or sweat; it’s all deep and earthy tones mixed with something softer, warmer; almost like vanilla. Isaac’s chest shudders as he breathes out. Scott’s hand rests on his side, fingers spanning over his ribs, and he wonders if he can feel how fast Isaac’s heart is beating. He’ll hear it anyway, can’t help but hear it because they hear everything. But touch is real. Touch is memorable. Touch has to be given.
“You don’t need to be a hero.” His voice muffled against Scott’s jacket, another wave of scent running through him like flash fire as he breathes. “You don’t have to be that guy. Just. Be you. You is enough.” Scott makes a rough noise that’s all choked vowels and no real words, and Isaac finally thinks he understands something.
They stay like for what is probably a long time, by friend-hug standards; enough warmth seeping between them that it feels like a tangible thing; like they shouldn’t be able to separate at all.
When Scott finally clears his throat and sits up, Isaac almost drags him back in; the thought of putting his walls back up unappealing now.
That impulse gets ten times stronger when he sees just how open Scott’s expression is; the plain relief that’s obvious even with the wet lines of moisture beneath his nose and eyes; how his hands drag across Isaac’s middle as he sits up like he doesn’t want to break the contact either.
It’s too quiet, he realises, too still; the only heartbeats he can hear are Scott’s and his own; just the occasional creak of the house and the breath that shifts the air between them filling the silence.
He wants to blush at the realisation that the others must’ve left again on purpose, left them alone thinking…thinking something that Isaac really isn’t brave enough to examine.
Sometimes he’s glad that Scott can be kind of oblivious.
Like right now; when there’s less than a foot of space between them and Scott is half sprawled over him on a mattress in a deserted house, one hand resting unbearably close to Isaac’s hip and the other pressed flat somewhere by his arm. If that’s not a cosmic joke then nothing is.
“Thanks.” Scott says, and it’s low and hushed in a way that does nothing to make Isaac feel less awkward about badly he wants to strain up into the heat of him. He’s losing it, whatever tenuous grip he’s got on his control slipping between his fingers like grains of sand. He can’t do this, can’t be this close and still pretend this is all he wants, but he doesn’t know how to get away; can’t find the words or shove himself into motion.
They’re frozen like statues; entwined and just watching each other, and it’s awkward how very not awkward it is; how he’s coming to dread the moment when it’s over more than he is the weird precipice they’re stuck on right now.
He thinks Scott leans in first, or maybe they both do; but suddenly the distance between them is dwindling down to nothing, and the staccato huff of Scott’s breath is dancing across his mouth, and then their lips are just…pressing together.
It’s soft and unsure, but still undeniably real enough that something primal - something neither him nor the wolf; something new - stirs and makes him brave enough to lean into it, to raise his hand to Scott’s face and just rest it there; being grounded by the contact as much as he is spun apart by it.
They separate with a quiet, wet noise that almost has a whimper fighting out of Isaac’s throat, and he swallows to bite it back. Scott’s eyes flutter open, slow, dazed, and he smiles again.
“Wow.” He says, all breath and warmth, and Isaac grins hard enough it almost hurts.
The second kiss is no less gentle; it just seems to go a lot deeper. Something thrilling and terrifying and captivatingly warm unfurls in Isaac’s chest as Scott’s tongue brushes over his lower lip. He gasps into Scott’s mouth when a soft scrape of - blunt, human - teeth sends sparks all along his nerves, makes his toes curl up and the kiss go a little sloppy.
Scott groans something almost animal from the back of his throat as the hand he’d been using to support himself grips Isaac’s on the mattress, pressing on the welts and singing fire along his veins that might be pleasure or pain; impulses all mixed together.
It’s never felt like this; like nothing will ever be enough. Like he wants to crawl inside Scott’s skin and vice versa; wolf and human sides blended together until there’s no distinction anymore, no boundary. Until they fit.
Scott gets him to shove over, and since it’s not really that big a mattress they end up squashed together in a tangle of limbs and too much body heat; kisses passing between them more often than words, or just breathing with their foreheads resting together.
In the little bubble of happiness and stillness they’ve made; Scott’s voice becomes a low and unwavering stream of hidden fears and questions that Isaac tries to answer just like Scott always answers him; both of them with so much doubt but still sure that they can survive whatever comes next as long as they all stick together.
Isaac talks about his dad; his mom, his brother; his fears about where he belongs in the pack, basically everything he can think of that he’s never found the nerve to spill before. But Scott just nods encouragement or murmurs reassurance when his voice stumbles and his throat wants to close against the bitterness of it all, presses his lips to Isaac’s; to his forehead or even the tip of his nose just to make him chuff a laugh and stop dropping his gaze.
There’s so much heady lightness building in him that Isaac is kind of surprised he isn’t floating; tethered by Scott’s arm thrown over his waist and their jumbled legs that dangle off the makeshift bed.
It’s more than soothing, more than friendship, more than anything he can compare it to. It’s peace.
By the time Isaac thinks to look, his arm is completely healed.
He doesn’t know what he’s expecting to happen after that day. For something obvious to change maybe; for Stiles to yell at him about stealing his best friend away, or for Derek to warn him off Scott because he doesn’t completely trust him yet.
But nothing happens.
Sure he and Scott are…something now. Something between friends and more than that, and from the way Erica smirks like she’d been telling him something all along, and Boyd quirks his eyebrows when he sees them together he knows it’s no secret. But he still spends his time working with Deaton and training with the pack and generally making sure random supernatural stuff doesn’t move into Beacon Hills and start killing people. It’s unsettling how unmoved everything is; how little it reflects whatever change he can feel in himself.
He has dinner at Scott’s house once or twice a week, and tries not to act like a total moron in front of Mrs. McCall; who smells like laundry soap and home and more strongly of vanilla; with a faint undercurrent of the hospital. It’s nice; quiet, warm and welcoming; and it stings like salt in a still-bleeding wound, makes the empty pit behind his ribs howl and his hands want to clench. But Scott taps his foot against Isaac’s under the table, fills the silences with rambling stories about school or Stiles or whatever they’d dealt with in the clinic that day; all accompanied by waving arms that come close to knocking glasses off the table and embellishments that Isaac can’t make himself point out.
They laugh and eat and Scott’s mom looks at him from the corner of her eye when Isaac catches his focus tunneling in on Scott across the table; weirdly transfixed by how much better it all feels like this. If she wonders why he’s there so often, or what he is to Scott that explanations of friendship don’t cover, she doesn’t say anything.
After a while he kind of forgets that he doesn’t belong there. After a while he begins to think that maybe he does. Scott tells him he’s always welcome, and maybe that’s the same thing.
She hugs him one night, right before he leaves, and it takes him so much by surprise that his eyes almost flash to yellow. But she just runs a hand up and down the line of his back, and his breath tumbles out in a choppy sigh against the curls of her hair, and he lets his eyes shut as she almost whispers “Thank you. I don’t know what you did, but he doesn’t seem quite so lost anymore.”
If he has to look away and wipe at his eyes when she lets him go, she’s too kind to mention it.
The next moon is…different.
There’s something more desperate to it; something restless that he can’t burn off even with extra miles spent running around the woods or getting thrown about by Erica while Boyd ‘supervises’.
He thought he’d gotten past this; the point where he lets the adrenaline and pure brute strength take over. He doesn’t enjoy knowing there’s a part of himself that could cause pain; could damage and destroy and then swipe at the people who try to help. That isn’t who he is; who he wants to be.
But something isn’t right.
The pack runs and fights and howls at the beguiling disc of the moon as they flit between the trees, but Isaac falls back; his own cries becoming mournful, lost. He lifts his head and fills his lungs with the smell of pine and deer and pack; lets it all out in a long, pleading note. Calling. Seeking. Alone. The others answer, but the sound doesn’t subdue the need in him; none of it flows over his skin and into his bones the way he wishes it would, just glances off; cold and unfulfilling.
Suddenly the air splits with another howl, one that pulls at his blood and has his feet tearing up the leaves and soil as he sprints even before he has the breath to answer. He dodges around thick trunks of mossy bark and leaps over jutting blades of rock; doesn’t slow down until the scents of the woods becomes mingled with the familiar tangled warmth of what he knows deep-down is Scott, but that the wolf is uttering as home-safe-heart-pack-mate over and over with the drumming of his heart.
They collide with enough force to slam them both into the ground; growls and huffing breath that fogs the air, everything cast in faint silver and grey except for the dual lights of beta-yellow shining from their eyes. They shove and roll to the tune of grunted laughs and playful snarling; until Isaac is looking up at Scott against the almost black canopy of leaves and branches; stars and moonlight looking down on them both.
His breathing deepens as the moment stretches out into some nonverbal contest that he dimly thinks has already been decided. Scott has one hand wrapped tight around Isaac’s right arm; keeping it pinned down and immobile, his other tracing meaningless patterns over his jaw with the tip of a claw. For all the animal instinct and bloodlust running through them both; Isaac doesn’t feel threatened. He wants this. Wants to tip his head even further back; expose his throat to Scott’s eyes and the moon above. He wants to snap and dodge and feint only for the eventual joy of surrendering; contented that it’s the way it’s supposed to be.
I trust you.
Scott’s eyes are fixed to his; glowing deep and melting into black; nostrils flaring, drawing in the scent of him; and Isaac whines deep in his throat as he lifts his free hand, traces over Scott’s lower lip until he gets a brief nip of teeth.
“Can you run?” Scott asks, and his voice is fire and hoarse need, bordering on breathless.
“Why? You gonna chase me?” He returns instantly, and Scott grins wide and feral; shows all the glistening teeth behind his lips, somehow predatory and playful at the same time.
“Do I need to?” Scott’s answer comes lower, like a burr along Isaac’s bones, satisfied and full of promise.
Isaac shivers from something that isn’t the night air.
Scott dips his head, fingers warm and spread wide over Isaac’s throat, resting on the flutter of his pulse as Scott drags his nose up to the space behind Isaac’s ear.
“Mine.” All hot breath and low timbre, and it’s the last piece slotting into place; everything becoming a little more clear, less blurry-grey and more sharply defined; yellow and white and perfect. He understands, and he doesn’t even need to answer; lets Scott smell the truth on his skin and see it on his face, hear it in his heart.
They scramble to their feet, and Scott bites a kiss against his mouth that draws blood for the brief instant it takes the skin to heal, tang of it carrying in the air like a message in itself. Scott laps the little trail of it from his lip, tongue hot and sending bursts of want through Isaac so strong he can’t believe he’s still standing.
Then just like that Scott spins and bolts into the trees, eyes yellow beacons even though Isaac could find him easily by scent alone, and they’re running and knocking together, hands batting at one another as they head for town.
Isaac sees a flickering burn of red off to one side, low Alpha grumble reaching him with the feel of…not reprimand, no order to submit, just…reminding.
This is where you belong.
He nods in the direction of the sound, and the crimson flashes vanish.
He’ll come back, and maybe this time he won’t be coming back alone.
Scott’s call from up ahead quickens his blood as well as his pace, and they howl answers to the moon as Isaac feels real freedom overtake him; anchored not by lost memories but by the promise of new ones.
They crash into Scott’s kitchen with enough noise that Isaac is instantly glad theirs are the only heartbeats in the house.
Scott shifts from wolf to human in the span of an excitement-buzzed grin; and Isaac manages to tuck all the sharp and untamed pieces beneath smoother skin just as he gets backed into the edge of the table. Then Scott’s mouth is parting his; slick pressure of tongues against each other, muffled groans lost to the lack of distance, and time seems to go from a crawl to a frantic run as soon as their hands are on each other.
The kisses range from filthy hot to bizarrely tentative, and when Scott leans back and looks him over; his cheeks red and eyes more black pupil than anything else, leaves in his hair and mud on his clothes; Isaac just wants to start over again, to do it all the same a million times across a thousand lives.
He just wants.
Isaac’s arms wind around Scott’s neck, stepping away from the table and into the space that feels like it was meant for him and licks into Scott’s mouth with every ounce of need and thrumming urgency that Scott can probably sense on every other level already.
“I’m sure.” He says, quiet but strong against the softness of Scott‘s cheek, because he knows the question was coming; could see it in the little scrunch of Scott’s eyebrows and the way his hands are running circles over Isaac’s sides like he doesn’t even know he’s doing it. Isaac maybe likes the idea that he doesn’t; that Scott is just as wrapped up in this as he is.
Scott smiles soft and warm, and Isaac echoes it without thinking, without hesitating, and they press tight to one another the entire way to Scott’s room, toppling onto the bed and laughing at how they both almost fall.
“Like that first time.” Scott says when they’re both not in danger of rolling off onto the floor, lying almost on top of each other. Isaac has to swallow around the lump in his throat at the look Scott’s giving him; the glow of the moon so appropriate as it beams through the window over the bed like approval, nurturing and powerful.
Scott sits him back on his heels, tugs his shirt up over his head and throws it aside before doing the same with his own, and Isaac gets lost in all the rolling muscle and tensing sinew of him; the lines and planes of skin that shine with sweat and pearly light. Being skin-to-skin is like electricity flowing into him, the connection so strong and pure he almost can’t bear it, smothers his cries into Scott’s open mouth as their hips press together.
They grapple and kiss and push against one another until Scott is over him again, something of the wolf going silent and pleased with the way Scott’s grip tightens as he licks his lips, eyes catching on the pulse at Isaac’s neck before going to his mouth, his eyes, the shadowed space between their bodies.
Aligned in a long, roving mass of heat and sex, Scott shoves down hard enough for Isaac to feel the firebrand line of his dick; a flood of want pouring through his veins even stronger than the call of the moon; stronger than anything, everything.
It’s a struggle getting their remaining clothes off without separating; jeans and underwear kicked away until it’s just them with nothing in-between; skin and bone and blood all lit from high above by the thing that binds them together in kinship and so much more.
“Want you.” He gasps, mostly unintentional, too much to bottle it all in; but Scott’s hips stutter through another thrust downward, making a pleased noise as the muscles of his back tense and release under Isaac’s hands as he pulls him in again. He can’t even manage to let Scott lift away now; needing the pressure, the contacts, to be surrounded and subsumed by the scent of him.
Their movements go sloppy, uncoordinated; grinding together over and over as Scott trails wet bruises along his throat, noises of wordless desire lost against Isaac’s temple, nerves alight as they both shift faster and more relentlessly toward the edge.
Isaac comes first; cresting over with his eyes clenched shut and mouthing at Scott’s bare shoulder as he empties into the sweat slick hollow of Scott’s hip, broken whine that scrapes his throat; head pressing back into the bed as he pants and feels Scott tense against him. Scott groans loud and base, something that might’ve been Isaac’s name while his hips jerk and his teeth set grooves into Isaac’s neck; claim and so many things that go even deeper.
They don’t even try and move or clean up; just roll their bodies together until they harden enough to go again; slower but no less heated, smiling dopey and endorphin-hazed into each other’s mouth as they whisper nonsense and mark each other with release and hickeys and possessive words.
Scott maps Isaac’s chest with his hands and his mouth; learns all the places that make Isaac twitch; that knock the breath from him in a surprised laugh, as well as all the ones that have him bucking up in want; cock jerking wet and stiff against his belly. Scott takes him in a strong hand and strokes him slow and sweet, or laps along the length of him with his tongue until Isaac’s coming again like it’s being driven through his body with the force of a freight train, wet heat of Scott’s mouth almost painful.
Isaac lies in the spread of Scott’s legs as Scott thrusts against him, tormentingly close to where he’s tight and untouched even by himself. It’s the last kind of connection, the one they both seem to think should wait for now; until they aren’t being spurred into impatience by the pull of the moon or their own fumbling desperation. Still, when Scott curses hot and low against his skin and spills into the cleft of him, he almost begs anyway; only the reminder of how much time they have for that and the graceless press of their mouths keeping him from it.
By the time the dawn breaks and the moon fades into the blueness of the sky, they’re both sticky and exhausted from more than just the change. They lie still pressed all along each other, kissing with mouths swollen and sore but not enough to stop; eyes barely open and everything giving way to the most perfect kind of hazy tiredness he’s ever felt.
Nothing aches or hurts that doesn’t still feel good, and as he lets the urge to drift into sleep take him he can still hear Scott’s heart; almost exactly in time with his own; and a tiny smile tugs at him over how their scents have mingled into something new, something more than the sum of their individual parts.
He presses in closer and just breathes, and when he sleeps he doesn’t even dream.
Isaac knows he doesn’t owe anyone anything. He knows he has choices now.
He came back for himself, because he thought he could help, even knowing it might end badly. He stayed because he felt it was worth it; because he knew there was something good for him here. Because he trusted.
In the warm daylight, Scott grins down at him; sight and scent full of joy; of potential for the both of them, his heart beating strong and steady to Isaac’s ears.
The wheel turns, and Isaac feels himself choose.