Erica smells like the chemical sweetness of nail polish, makeup, and the lipstick on her lips. She smells like hair product and lotion, sweet and fruity over her skin scent. Erica smells like the faintly sour tang of seizure medication finally leaving her body. And Erica smells like pack.
Isaac smells of home-cooked food, of the major meat dishes and high carb meals that he’d been cooking from a young age. He smells like chlorine and clean pools with a hint of forest from racing his bike through the paths that wind around Beacon hills. More often than not, Isaac smells like fear, especially when something happens to remind him of his father. And Isaac smells of pack.
Boyd smells like sports, like the material of his gloves and the metal and tape from the handle of his lacrosse stick. He smells like sweat and hard work, real and solid in a way that grounds his packmates when they’re riding off of each other’s pheromones. Boyd’s wolf almost seems to ride underneath the surface of his skin and so he smells like that animal --like his literal inner beast-- even when the moon is far from full. And Boyd smells like pack.
Most importantly, they all smell a little like each other…
“I’m starving,” Erica says into the near silence of Boyd’s bedroom as she makes herself comfortable on the huge blue beanbag chair that takes up one corner of the other beta’s bedroom and curls her toes in the plush rug that covers the floor. “Do you have any snacks? I couldn’t get seconds from lunch and my stomach’s killing me.”
Boyd looks over at Erica, tearing his attention away from the game that he’s playing on an old television set so that he can give her his full attention, and hits pause with his thumb. “I think my dad put some leftovers in the fridge before he left. You can go look.”
Erica makes a rude noise through her pursed lips, blowing a raspberry as she kicks her legs in the air. “I’m your guest, Vernon,” she says, putting emphasis on her packmate’s first name as a smile shapes up her made-up mouth. “You can go look.” Erica crosses her right leg over her left and then jiggles her foot at him in an expectant way as though waggling her pink and polished toenails will get Boyd to do whatever she wants. “It’s your kitchen isn’t it?”
“I told you not to call me that, Erica,” Boyd says with a hint of a rumbling growl underlying his words. His eyes flash gold in the sunlight coming in from the window and he looks every inch the predator that lurks underneath his skin. When he blinks though and turns his face to Erica’s, his eyes are back to their regular shade of deep brown. “It’s not cute. Call me Boyd or just…”
Boyd leaves his sentence to hang in the air, unfinished. He closes his eyes and with great visible effort, forces his beast underneath so that when he stands up it’s with none of the more than human grace that comes upon him. “I’ll go downstairs with you if that’s all you want.”
Erica’s eyes crinkle up at the corners underneath all of her makeup. She scrambles to her feet and manages to make it graceful even amid the shifting from the chair as the plastic pellets rush to one side. “How many days is your dad going to be gone this time?” Erica asks once she’s past Boyd and almost to the door while the other beta stands still in between the bed and the television. “Long enough for me and Isaac to camp out here for a few days?”
“Two weeks,” Boyd says in a low voice, “He’ll be gone for two weeks at least. He has work and then he’s taking my sisters to Disney.” Bitterness starts to leach into Boyd’s words by the start of his last sentence and by the time that he reaches Disney, it is practically dripping from his every spoken syllable. “He left enough food for me for the rest of the week.”
“That’s all?” Erica makes a face that shows exactly what she thinks of Boyd’s often absent father and then motions for Boyd to follow her out into the hallway that leads to the stairs. “You’re a big werewolf, Boyd. He should leave you with more than that. Even my mom--” Erica frowns and shakes her head hard enough to send her blond curls flying. The end of her sentence cuts off. The disdain in her voice makes her message clear.
Erica slides her fingers through her messy curls and then turns a brilliant and sharp smile up at Boyd when they finally stand at the top of the staircase. “Isaac and I will stay with you until your dad gets back and we’ll keep each other from starving,” she says in a decisive tone of voice. “And besides, if Derek needs to be all… alpha-y, he won’t have to hunt us down before tossing us around.”
Boyd makes a face that wrinkles the bridge of his knows and draws his eyebrows down over his eyes. “I wish he’d stop doing that,” he mutters, curling his fingers around the top of the worn wooden bannister. “I get it, that he thinks being the alpha means that he thinks he has to get rough with us, but… He broke Isaac’s arm.”
There is a tense moment that snaps tight between the two betas as they stand on the edge of the staircase. It’s only been a week since the change, a week of frantically trying to cope with changes to their bodies and minds while keeping it all together for their classmates. Isaac’s arm has healed, but that still doesn’t change a thing.
“We won’t let him do it again,” Erica says (the wolf a full growling rumble pushing out of her human throat). She shrugs her shoulders making the muscles work underneath the wide straps of her black tank top. “I’m faster than Isaac, and smaller. I can get between him and Derek if he needs to. If we distract Derek and get him mad at us…”
Boyd smiles and knows that it’s not a nice smile. “You want us to be bait,” he says.
“Only if Isaac needs it,” she says. “If he’s fine, we don’t need to interfere. But if he smells like fear…” Erica trails off and then taps her nose with her index finger. “We’ll know and we can make Derek wish that he’d never bitten us.”
All of a sudden, Erica’s nose wrinkles as though she smells something bad that Boyd can’t smell (her sense of smell is miles better than his own). Her lips peel back from her teeth and she growls once on instinct before smoothing back down into her pretty picture of humanity.
“Isaac’s almost here,” she says as her eyes gleam gold and her claws start to slip out. She starts taking the stairs two at a time, moving so fast that she almost seems to blur.
Boyd starts and then races after Erica, asking, “Is he hurt?”
Erica shakes her head. “I don’t smell blood yet,” she replies, “But he reeks of fear. Whatever he and Derek did today didn’t end well.” She heads through Boyd’s father’s house at a fast pace, neatly avoiding furniture and scattered knickknacks with familiarity born from sneaking out of Boyd’s house at night and then yanks open the backdoor.
Isaac is there, leaning up against the siding on the little porch as though he can’t support his own weight on his own. When he sees Erica and Boyd, he gives his fellow betas a weak smile and then pushes his fingers through his curly brown hair, pushing it off of his forehead and revealing a cut and a purpling bruise on his forehead that hadn’t been there the night before.
“What’s for dinner, guys?”
Boyd starts work on heating up the leftovers while Erica takes care of Isaac’s injuries.
“You don’t have to do this,” Isaac says; voice quiet as he watches Erica pull out a much used first-aid kit from under the kitchen sink. “It’ll heal on its own.” He looks at her, still smelling of fear and sweat and their alpha, and tries to get her to do something else. “You should help Boyd with cooking.”
Erica shakes her head. She refuses to fall for Isaac’s distraction tactics even though she flinches with every clanging sound that comes from where Boyd is moving pots around. “What did Derek teach you this time,” she asks instead. “You smell like fear, Isaac.”
Isaac lifts and drops his left shoulder in a half-hearted shrug that makes him wince. “It’s nothing,” he insists, jerking away from Erica’s fingers as she reaches for the sleeve of his shirt so that she can look at his arm. “We went over some techniques for fighting and he showed me how to hunt. I’m fine.”
“No you’re not, Isaac,” Boyd says a moment later, “Maybe you can’t smell how scared you are, but it’s taking every ounce of willpower I have for me to keep from sitting on you and making it better.” He sets the food aside and then moves to help Erica bracket Isaac on both sides. He curls his long fingers against Isaac’s pale right wrist where the contrast in their skin tone is most evident and then squeezes gently. “What did Derek do now?”
“I don’t want to talk about it on an empty stomach,” Isaac says with a small smile tugging at the left corner of his mouth. “Feed me first?”
Erica rests her head on Isaac’s shoulder and snakes one arm around his waist until she’s touching the small of his back. She presses in closer and closer until she can rub her nose against the side of his neck, marking him with her scent at the same time that she subtly gets her fill of his own. “That’s Boyd’s job,” Erica says with the side of her face pressed into Isaac’s throat. “We’re his guests.”
Boyd huffs out a laugh and then makes his presence known on Isaac’s other side. His long, dark fingers skitter over Isaac’s stomach and dip underneath the front of his shirt to press against Isaac’s pale skin. “You say that now, but then eat my food.”
“Between eating here and eating Erica’s cooking,” Isaac says, relaxing as his fellow betas surround him with their scents and their bodies, “You have me spoiled rotten.”
Erica turns her face up at Isaac with a fond smile on her lips. She bites Isaac’s jaw lightly and then kisses it to soothe the sting of her teeth as she strokes her fingers in an up and down movement along the dip of his spine. “Well,” Erica says as she feels the heat of Boyd’s bigger body pressing against the side of her extended arm and she finds herself marveling at how easy this all is --their makeshift pack within a pack. “You could use a little spoiling…”