One day, when Isaac was ten, he wore a pair of purple socks. When he'd put them on that morning they hadn't meant anything at all, just a pair of socks he grabbed from his top drawer when he got dressed quickly before he was late for school again. By the time he was in bed that night, purple socks still on beneath the cover of his blankets, purple had become Isaac's most important color.
As he got older Isaac learned to hide the color better, it wasn't as effective if it could be seen. So Isaac drew purple lines under the waistband of his underwear with a marker from school, slipping away to the bathroom during art time. He kept the marker in his pencil box in his desk, hoping that nobody would miss just one marker - no one did. He colored elastic bands purple and wore them under his shirtsleeves or around his ankles, he stole some of the threads the girls used at recess to weave bracelets and knotted himself a thick piece that he could wrap around his belt loop or tied through his laces, and one night he decided that when bruises turned purple they counted too even though he had to hide those more than any other type of purple.
The purple didn't always work, but he couldn't expect it to either. Purple was just a color - no matter how powerful it was, it couldn't do everything. Somedays Isaac purposefully took off all the purple, scrubbed his skin clean, even refused to touch anything purple in case it somehow knew he had asked for its help. Those days were the hardest, waiting without any sort of protection and knowing he had done it to himself. More often than not he was right and there was shouting and fists falling. He figured that he had to give the purple a break sometimes though. If he relied on it too much maybe it would stop working entirely and then he'd have nothing at all. So when he spent a few hours in the freezer, his fingers stinging and bloody, he'd press his hand against where ever hurt the most and know that the purple would bloom in the next day or two. The times when he had the purple with him he would hold onto it and know that it would have been much worse without and he'd picked a good day to make sure the purple was there.
The purple became as much a part of Isaac as his hair or his skin or the wolf that he could now feel bristling and rolling within. He checked for it, constantly, but it was always there when he looked or felt for one of the now many strings or bands that were rife through all his pockets. He had sewn purple thread in sloppy, uneven stitches into the underside of his lacrosse pads so he wouldn't lose them on the field, the underside of his bike had purple stripes in permanent marker, and the inside of his backpack had some pieces of purple plastic buried inside the straps. He had become a fortress of purple over the years and with all the other protections he had acquired he didn't feel so bad about his over-reliance on purple anymore.
"What's this?" Stiles asked, his fingers tugging on the end of a purple string that had slipped from the pocket of Isaac's jeans.
Isaac's claws and fangs were out before he even realized, the itch of hair growing down over his face as he tore away from Stiles while trying to protect the string at the same time. "It's mine!" he said, the words coming out a deep growl.
Stiles' mouth was open in shock and he was cradling his hand to his chest as he stared at Isaac. The rest of the room had come to a complete standstill, everyone watching and preparing to intervene in the event of werewolf on human violence.
"Okay, it's yours. I wasn't trying to take it, I just was interested in seeing it," Stiles said, letting his hands down now and Isaac could smell the blood before he could see the scratches he'd left on Stiles' hand. "I was just curious."
A flash of panic rang through Isaac as his hand clenched down around the string Stiles had touched and he could feel that his still extended claws were digging into the flesh of his own palm. His first thought, the one that kept overriding everything else was don't take it, please don't take it from me, though Isaac knew at this point it would take the Alpha to be able to tear it from his hands. Scott was still a better fighter than Isaac, Jackson and Erica were faster, Boyd was stronger, but Isaac knew he could at least throw them off him long enough to escape. Derek could take him down without warning and probably would. Hurting the humans in their pack was taboo, Derek had explained to them about being careful because they were stronger and faster and sometimes wouldn't even realize how easily they could hurt someone. Isaac turned to face the threat in the room; Derek was standing by the kitchen table and watching Isaac with a wary expression.
Still clutching the purple string, begging it for the speed and strength to escape, Isaac shifted on his feet in one smooth motion and ran through the open back door that led out into the forest. He kept running, down on his hands and feet, and stopped just inside his hearing range of the house when he was certain Derek wasn't coming after him. The other Betas had speed and strength advantages over Isaac, but no one but Derek had a better hearing range than Isaac.
He leaned against a tree, first thanking the purple for saving him, and then directing his senses toward the house. The door was still open, which helped, and he heard Lydia's bare feet on the hardwood floor. "What was that?" she asked, and while there was a tone to her voice that meant she was probably thinking freak there was also more than a hint of concern.
"I don't know," Stiles said and then gave a quiet hiss. "I swear I wasn't trying to take the damn thing, I was just curious and it was right there."
"Maybe you startled him?" Scott asked, his voice coming from right next to Stiles. "It's good that didn't happen in school though."
"You think?" Stiles asked. "Ow, watch it! I've already been sliced open today without adding your tender treatment to the list."
"How bad is it?" Allison asked.
"He'll live," Derek said, probably the one who was tending to Stiles' wounds. "It's not deep enough to turn him, doesn't even need stitches."
"What about Isaac?" Erica asked.
Isaac shifted on his feet and absently rubbed his head against the bark of the tree. He'd been wondering the same, though he was glad that he hadn't hurt Stiles badly.
"I'll talk with him," Derek said over the sound of tearing medical tape.
"Talk?" Boyd asked, a hint of challenge to his voice along with a single step forward.
Derek sighed. "Yes, talk. I'm the Alpha, I'll deal with it."
Isaac wasn't sure if he was the 'it' or if the situation was the 'it', but he didn't like the idea of being dealt with in either case. He'd been 'dealt with' enough times in his life to know that it wasn't a good thing whether it was coming from his father or from a teacher. He left, at a slightly more sedate pace than he'd used to initially flee from the house, and ambled through the woods. He went through streams and leapt from tree to tree a few times to throw off his scent trail, but it was more out of habit than necessity. There wasn't an Alpha Pack after them anymore and Derek would be able to follow Isaac without the aid of a scent trail. Still, it might be better to lie low for a few days and he knew a couple of hideouts around Beacon Hills that Derek hadn't seen yet. When the sun had set later that night Isaac curled up tight in a little outcropping he'd discovered and wrapped the purple string that had nearly been taken from him through his fingers, thanking it one more time for keeping him safe and hidden.
Isaac gave into the inevitable; it would be worse if Derek was forced to hunt him down through the woods. He imagined that Derek's hunting instincts would take over completely and Isaac traced his clawed fingers over the delicate skin of his neck as he thought about Derek chasing him to ground and tearing out his throat. No, it was better to answer Derek's call - his dad had always called it facing the consequences. At least this time Derek had a legitimate complaint; Isaac had hurt a human member of the pack and he would have to answer for that. Because he couldn't help himself Isaac's mind immediately jumped to the worst thing that Derek could do. He wound his fingers around the purple string in his pocket and imagined what he would do if Derek demanded that he handed over the cause of their tussle. Isaac couldn't imagine himself handing it over willingly, this had his oldest and strongest piece of purple woven deep within the tangled strands, but he didn't kid himself about being able to best Derek if Derek decided to take it by force.
The thought of being separated from the purple made Isaac's breaths come quick and he started counting and tapping his fingers against his thigh as he walked. He lost himself to the familiar rhythm, vaguely aware that he was rocking his head and moving his lips as he silently counted, and it wasn't until he reached the edge of where he could hear sounds drifting from the pack house that he stopped. 'Please, stay with me. Don't worry about anything else,' Isaac told the purple as he untangled his fingers and tucked the strands deep into his pocket. He swallowed and stepped forward into the woods that were essentially their backyard, hyper-alert as he listened for the sounds of Derek approaching, and he nearly fell over his feet when he found Derek sitting on a log. Waiting for him.
Isaac came to a stop, his heart pounding and he was all too aware that Derek and probably even the other pack members could hear his fear. He clenched his hands to stop his fingers from tapping out any numbers, it was past time for that, and he waited for Derek to acknowledge him. This game was familiar, being toyed with because there was no way to talk his way out, being made to wait in silent fear because if he spoke first he'd make it worse. His lips twisted against his will as he thought that the only way this conversation would be more silent and stilted is if Boyd was out there with them. Derek wasn't known for being a talker, he communicated a lot in growls and nodding his head in the direction of things, Boyd was quiet up until he had something he needed to say - his words always careful and measured - and Isaac tried not to say too much stupid crap, which meant he was pretty quiet unless he was just hanging out with Scott. Scott didn't care if Isaac said something dumb and they'd driven each other to spasms of laughter more than once just being stupid and running with it.
"What happened the other day?" Derek asked finally, his expression impassive as he considered Isaac.
Isaac swallowed, already knowing that Derek was on Stiles' side. Telling Derek that Stiles had tried to take something that wasn't his wouldn't help, particularly since Stiles had denied that he'd wanted to take it. "I reacted poorly," Isaac said at last, wondering if letting Derek know that he already knew he'd screwed up might help his chances.
Derek's overall expression didn't change but it seemed that his mouth imperceptibly drew down along with his brow. "We need to work on your control," he said, his focus still entirely on Isaac.
Isaac thought of the freaky metal things Derek had chained them up with their first few full moons and wondered if that's what Derek meant. It was still a week until the next full moon though, but he supposed that wouldn't stop Derek from chaining him up like a dog until the full moon was over. He reminded himself that at least he would be able to breathe in the chains, which was much better than being locked inside something, though he absolutely wasn't looking forward to the headband of metal spikes thing that Derek had once put on Erica.
"What was it?" Derek asked, and his frown grew more pronounced when Isaac only stared back in confusion. "What was it that Stiles wanted to see?"
Without thinking Isaac's hand went to cover his pocket and he cringed as soon as he made the motion. "It's nothing," he said as he focused his eyes on the crush of leaves beneath the edges of his shoes.
"Stiles has four scratches down the back of his hand," Derek stated bluntly. "What was it?"
The deep growl in Derek's voice caused all the hair on Isaac's arms and the back of his neck to fluff up. Isaac slipped his hand in his pocket and reluctantly pulled out the purple, unable to stop his fingers from curling around the strands until it was barely visible. "Just some string," he mumbled, hanging his head so he didn't have to watch Derek's approach.
Derek stood and stepped closer, but stopped just out of range where would be able to easily reach for Isaac. He tipped his head and refocused on Isaac's hand where the purple tangle was hanging a few inches out. After moving from one side to the other he took an abrupt step back and stared at Isaac. "What is it?" he asked, and this time there was honest curiosity and confusion coloring his voice.
Isaac felt like he could suddenly breathe again as he realized that the purple was working; keeping him safe and keeping Derek from taking it. "String," he said again, giving a one shouldered shrug. Derek wouldn't understand that it helped, no one would, but Isaac supposed that was part of its power. If they knew how it worked, maybe it would stop.
"Alright, lets go inside. The others were worried when you didn't show up for school today," Derek said, jerking his head in the direction of the house.
It was right on the tip of Isaac's lips to ask 'that's it?' but he tucked the purple back into his pocket and followed Derek. If the purple was going to get Derek to drop the matter entirely, he was more than willing to let it.
Most of the pack was already inside the house, moving around the kitchen as they finished preparing a late dinner, and Isaac steadfastly didn't react to their raised eyebrows and exchanged glances and was grateful when Boyd handed him a pile of silverware and asked him to help set the table with Scott.
Pack dinners were a lot like eating in the cafeteria at school; noisy, messy, and usually not over until there was at least a small argument about something. Isaac found himself hemmed in between Boyd and Scott as they sat down to eat, though they were seated on the side of the table that was open to the rest of the room, and throughout the meal everyone had taken the opportunity to peer at him with varying levels of discretion. Conversation remained light, Lydia leading a discussion about plans for fall break while Derek vetoed most of the suggestions from around the table.
Isaac ate with gusto and let the chatter wash over him in gentle waves; he'd found that skipping meals as a werewolf was more difficult than when he'd been human. He'd had various non-perishable foods tucked away in his hiding places but it wasn't really a substitute for sitting down to an actual meal. He made the mistake of looking up and his eyes locked onto the white bandages wrapped around Stiles' hand. Stiles was still using his injured hand, holding a fork and waving it around without any indication of impairment, but Isaac couldn't look away. He'd done that. Even if he hadn't meant to, he'd hurt someone. Isaac breathed deeply and underneath the almost overpowering scents of dinner and pack he could smell the faintest traces of ointment and blood. Boyd's elbow, most likely purposefully placed to bump into Isaac, startled him from his focus and Isaac realized that Stiles had been staring back at him.
Dinner was evidently over, people standing and taking their empty plates from the table, and Isaac glanced at his own empty plate and the empty serving dishes with a tinge of regret. He was still hungry, but he pushed that aside as best he could as he stood and ferried his plate and glass into the kitchen and placed it in one of the two dishwashers Lydia had insisted that they install.
The pack kitchen had two of every major appliance except for the refrigerator. In retrospect, considering the pack spent more meals at the pack house than at their actual homes, it had been totally necessary. The freezer in the garage had been a necessity as well, though Isaac avoided it and the rest of the pack let him without ever commenting. Some days Isaac wanted to scream that he wasn't traumatized by a fucking freezer, but since every time he forced himself to approach it he felt hot and dizzy he supposed that might not actually be true.
Isaac turned around, wondering if people were going to stick around for long or if he should wait it out and see if he could grab a snack without catching anyone's attention. All the wolves were usually hungry enough to snack again an hour after dinner, but Isaac didn't want to wait that long if it wasn't necessary. When he turned he saw Stiles standing at the end of the kitchen.
Stiles raised his eyebrows, making sure he had Isaac's attention, and then he nodded his head in the direction of the front of the house and walked away.
Isaac followed because he'd seen enough movies to know that when someone silently nodded at you and walked away you were supposed to follow them. It was a useless gesture in a house full of werewolves, all of whom could listen if they spoke anywhere in the vicinity of the house, but Isaac supposed it was better than Stiles saying 'we need to talk', because that would attract outright interest instead of just the general vague attention that might not remain with them. They wound up on the front porch, Stiles sitting on the edge of the steeper side so his feet dangled a few feet above the ground below. Isaac stood a few feet back, leaning against the house and watching as Stiles picked at the edges of his bandages.
Stiles sighed and twisted around, bringing one leg up onto the porch as he considered Isaac. "Two things," he said and then waited.
"Okay," Isaac agreed, guessing this was Stiles way of telling him not to run off after whatever the first thing was.
"When you go running off like that, come back by the next day or take your cellphone and respond to our texts," Stiles said, his look of consternation almost comical under the circumstances. "I think we've all nearly died enough for each other that we've earned the right to know that everyone is alright, even if they're off sulking in the woods."
"Derek knew I was alright," Isaac pointed out. Being Alpha didn't make Derek omniscient when it came to his pack, but Derek knew when one of his Betas was severely wounded and would have known immediately if Isaac had been killed in the woods.
Stiles held up a finger, the bandages crinkling with the movement. "Totally besides the point. And, Derek was worried about you too."
Isaac raised an eyebrow, not even having to speak to convey his disbelief.
"He was. He didn't say it with words, because it's Derek Hale and he and words don't really get along, but he did that broody thing where he stalked around all the rooms of the house and kept staring out the windows," Stiles said.
The worst part was that Isaac knew exactly what Stiles meant because Derek had done exactly that during the two weeks Erica and Boyd were being held by the Alpha Pack.
"So next time, to avoid Alpha levels of moodiness, send us a text or two to let us know you're fine and hanging out in a tree somewhere," Stiles said with a firm nod before continuing. "Secondly, I'm sorry."
Isaac blinked and looked away from where Stiles was sitting.
"Seriously. I've been friends with Scott forever and if anyone should know better by now than to avoid startling the fledgling werewolves it's me," Stiles said. When Isaac looked back Stiles had turned back to facing the woods again and he was waving his injured hand around as he continued to speak. "Anyway, I shouldn't have just grabbed at you. Whatever it was felt weird, like right on the edge of my mind in a way I can't even explain, and I wasn't really thinking about what I was doing. And yeah, I know, that's kind of a reoccurring thing with me."
Isaac felt vaguely nauseous now and was glad he hadn't taken the opportunity to eat more earlier. He went over to where Stiles was sitting and dropped down next to him, letting his feet dangle and his heels kick against the foundation of the house. "You shouldn't apologize to me. Not for that. I hurt you," Isaac said, his voice rough and he could tell that his eyes were glowing even if his claws and fangs hadn't extended just yet.
"Dude, it was an accident. Anyone could tell that just by looking at you," Stiles said, flexing his hand experimentally and then looked over at Isaac with an expression that meant he was trying not to smile. "I've seen you when you mean to do some damage and believe me, it's not the same at all. Much more 'grrr' and far less yelping and fleeing."
"Still," Isaac said flatly, thinking of all the times he'd apologized for things that weren't his fault because apologizing might make the situation better. "I shouldn't have hurt you. I'm sorry."
"Can we go for some sort of mutual 'apology accepted' thing here?" Stiles asked and smiled when Isaac nodded with relief. "Good. So, uh, whatever it is, you're still carrying it."
Isaac blinked as he thought back to what Stiles had said. Stiles could feel his purple, whatever that meant. That had never, ever happened before. Isaac couldn't even 'feel' the purple, he could just wait and hope that it worked. "What does it feel like?" he asked, wondering if he knew if he might be able to feel it too.
Stiles tipped his head back and forth as he thought. "Not much. I want to say that it's like a little bubble of pressure, but it's not like I can physically feel the resistance when I come near it. It's like the pressure is in my mind somehow. I don't know how else to describe it. Can I see the thing?"
His hand was shaking when he dug out the purple strands from his pocket and he held it out on his palm so Stiles could see it clearly. "I don't think it will work for you," he said nervously. If it would, he should probably get Stiles some purple because Stiles needed the protection more than he did now. But, Isaac didn't think it would work for someone else, or maybe he just didn't want it to.
"I'm not going to take it, okay?" Stiles said, looking into Isaac's eyes and waiting until he got a nod in return before moving his hand in a slow arc around Isaac's open palm. "That's so weird, and I'm sitting here talking to a werewolf, so I suppose it's really not that weird, but still."
"What does it feel like?" Isaac asked again, watching with interest as Stiles seemed to struggle to get his hand closer to the string.
Stiles shook his head and finally pulled his hand away. "I can feel that my hand could go closer, there's nothing preventing it, but I can't get near it. Where did you get it?"
"It's mine," Isaac said immediately, feeling his face flame when Stiles raised his eyebrows. "I've had the main part for seven years, but I've added around the outside when I find a piece that belongs. It's the oldest one I have."
"Probably the most powerful one, if it's the oldest," Stiles said matter of fact, like they were talking about rocks in geology or something scientific that had rules and books. Something that everyone believed in. "What does it do?"
"It keeps me safe," Isaac said, closing his hand back around the purple, but not putting it away again. Instead he cradled it to his stomach and let the fingers on his free hand start to tap quickly and silently against the side of his thigh. He watched as Stiles' expression thinned and his eyes dropped with understanding of what the purple had helped to protect Isaac from for all the years he had it.
"Oh," Stiles said, staring at Isaac with something approaching guilt in his eyes before he looked away and back out into the woods. "So, you're a magic werewolf. That's pretty cool, right?" he said a few minutes later, his tone forcefully bright.
Isaac huffed and smiled a bit. That was pretty cool, all things considered. He couldn't really have asked for much more.