Scott's mom used to wake him up every morning, but now he wakes up on his own, disturbed by her footsteps on the kitchen floor, the ding of the microwave. While his eyes are still closed, it's easy to pick out individual sounds: his mom, the birds outside, Ms. Rubenstein next door raising her garage door. That's part of the homework Laura gave him.
"You should try—sounds," she said. "Make a list each morning. It's quicker to start picking them apart at home, when you're surrounded by familiar stuff. Sounds first. Then smells."
Maybe she started him off on sounds because they're easier—Scott's always had good hearing, so it's not like he doesn't know these sounds, but they've always been soft or low enough that they slipped past his register. Stiles asks him about his new sense all the time—"Can you hear me breathing in the next room? Can you hear me now? Does it make noise when I write with a pencil? What about a Sharpie?" "What about a Sharpie on your face?"—which would be annoying if it weren't, you know, Stiles. Stiles has been annoying Scott so long that Scott actually finds him talking about Lydia Martin soothing, which is wrong on so many levels. He's so familiar that Scott could pick his heartbeat out of a crowd.
Stiles smells different now, though, or deeper, maybe. Everything smells different. The first week of school, Scott struggled through lunch, because his usual turkey & cheese smelled weirdly pungent, his Sunny-D waxy and chemical. He's convinced Mom to switch to PB&J, though, because he's become a vegetarian.
Mom's on her way up now, slippered feet on the stairs. "Scott!" she calls out when she reaches his room. She knocks on the door. "Rise and shine!"
"You've convinced your mom you're a vegetarian," Stiles says at lunch, the straw from his juice box hanging out of the side of his mouth. He's moved on from juice to applesauce, which, as Stiles has explained to Scott three times so far this week, is much more efficiently consumed with a straw than with a spoon. Some of the applesauce dribbles out of the straw and onto Stiles's sleeve; he doesn't seem to notice. "You? You ate three Happy Meals the last time we went to McDonald's."
"Because you wanted the Transformers!" Scott says.
"Three Happy Meals." Stiles lifts his applesauce back into position, sliding his straw into the hole he's already made like a jet refueling mid-air. "I rest my case."
"Everything smells weird and gross now, like plastic. Especially meat. Have you smelled that pepperoni?" Scott points at the remains of Stiles's pizza Lunchable in between them.
Stiles slurps contentedly. "Why would I want to?"
"You're drinking applesauce with a straw," Scott says. "I don't know, dude."
Allison slides onto the bench next to Scott, which makes his tummy feel all funny and warm even though all he's eaten is PB&J and a carton of milk. "That's creative," she says, raising an eyebrow at Stiles. "Have you ever eaten ice cream with a straw? Sometimes it tastes better that way."
Yeah, Allison's amazing.
Laura picks up Scott and Stiles after school in her mini-van. They're going to help Dr. Deaton exercise the puppies that are boarding at his office, at least that's what she told Scott's mom.
"I'm not sure who needs the exercise more," Mom said, leaning against the wall in the hallway with the phone pressed to her ear, fingers tangled in the cord. "Sure, that sounds great. I really appreciate it. You're—you're very good with them, Laura."
Scott likes Laura, mostly. She's not too nice to Stiles, or too mean, which is usually how Scott judges people. "Come on, come on," she's saying now. "Get in the van, I have candy."
"Do you really have candy?" Stiles says, scrambling into the back seat; Scott hops in and slides the rear door closed behind them.
Laura rolls her eyes at them in the mirror. "No, I'm just messing with you."
There's a hint of something in the air, though, acidic and sweet all once. "Sourpatch Kids?" Scott says, disbelieving.
"You can have them if you can find them," Laura says. "Practice."
Scott has been to Dr. Deaton's office before—that's where they always took Reggie, before his dad left and took their dog with him. It's brightly lit, welcoming, even though he has the closed sign out. Laura has a key; she lets them in.
"Al—Dr. Deaton's going to bring the puppies out to us, okay?" she says. "And then he's going to talk to you guys. He knows about us, about werewolves."
"Is he a werewolf, too?" Scott's nails harden involuntarily. The vet's office is overwhelming: he can follow the recent passage of a dozen people, including one who smells faintly familiar, and above that, there's the animals in the back, excited and nervous as they sense him, whining or barking in their cages.
"Nope." Laura shakes her head. "He's Derek's guardian—he is, he was a friend of our family. You can trust him."
"Is he actually going to tell us things?" Stiles asks, rocking on his heels. "Instead of, like, 'Scott, listen to this' or 'Scott, hunt for my creepy van candy, you don't have to share'?"
"I shared!" Scott says.
Stiles looks over at him, smiling sheepishly. He holds his hands up with a full-bodied shrug. The applesauce from lunch has sunk into his sleeve, left a dark patch on his grey Spiderman hoodie. Scott can sense the tug of the thing that ties him to Stiles, keeps him a boat coasting on the strange, wolfy seas.
"Sit down on the floor," Laura says. "The puppies are going to come and it's going to be hard for Scott."
There's the sound of metal sliding against metal, once and then a few times over a game, back in some unseen area of the office. A minute later, someone opens the door and unleashes the puppies, lets them come tumbling through the gate. There's three, and Scott can hear each of them, their quick heartbeats and quick breaths not quite in sync. They stop when they see Scott, wary, and Scott feels an answering waryness, the urge to… protect his own?
"They're puppies, Scott," Stiles says, disbelieving. "Don't make them pee themselves. They like to pee."
Scott takes a deep breath, closes his eyes. He can't tell if they're glowing; they don't feel any difference when they do that. "It's okay, puppies. It's cool. We can be friends."
One of them steps forward, tentative, slow, waits for Scott to respond. He tries to keep his breathing even. Finally, the puppy noses his hand, wet and curious, licks his fingers. Maybe puppies like Fritos. Scott was really little when they first got Reggie, but Reggie liked just about everything. He opens his eyes again, and there's a tiny poodle looking up at him. Scott can't help but laugh: the poodle looks ridiculous.
"You're bros now," Stiles says, as an adventurous golden retriever climbs into his lap, shedding all over him.
Laura sits down on the floor with them, beckons a small white pitt bull toward her. "Good job, you guys."
"I'm impressed," says someone standing by the gate. It's funny, Scott didn't hear him come in. When he looks up from his new poodle buddy, he sees Dr. Deaton watching them, eyes moving from Laura to Stiles and then over to Scott. "Building a pack, Laura?"
"Maybe we should take the puppies out to the back yard," Laura says, eyes narrowing. "All three of us. I'm sure you have some paperwork to do."
"I'd like to talk to Scott, if you don't mind," Dr. Deaton says lightly. "Stiles, too. Just for a few minutes. I haven't seen either of you boys in a while."
Stiles ducks his head, hand stilling behind the golden retriever's ears. Maybe Dr. Deaton took care of his mom's boa constrictor, too.
"Sure," Scott says, scratching beneath his poodle's chin. "That's cool."
Dr. Deaton leads him into the back room where Reggie used to get his checkups, pulls out a stool for Scott to sit on. "I'll be your doctor now, if you want, Scott," he says. "Werewolves heal differently, and the things that can hurt you are… rarer and more peculiar than those that can harm humans. Your asthma is gone now, isn't it?"
Scott nods. "One time I skinned my knee on the sidewalk and it went away really fast, too. Laura said that's normal."
"You're very strong now, too," Dr. Deaton says. "You must be careful with your human friends, but that doesn't seem to be a problem."
"No," Scott says. He was always careful before, too, but that was mostly for himself. He got winded easily, bruised easily, felt everything a little too deeply. Mom always says, be kind to yourself, baby and sighs when he gets hurt, and Scott hates that, hates disappointing her and making her sad. Treating the people around him gently is easy by comparison. "I don't want to hurt them. I don't want to hurt anybody."
Dr. Deaton nods. He pulls out another stool for himself so he can sit across from Scott. "Have you ever felt tempted to hurt anyone since you were bitten?"
"Sometimes." Scott bites his lip. "Laura makes Stiles's house smell weird. I don't like it."
"Interesting," Dr. Deaton says, hmms a little. "Do you mind changing for me? I'd like to give you a quick look, make sure everything's in order."
That seems a little weird, but Dr. Deaton's a vet, he's a doctor, and Laura trusts him. "Okay," Scott says, and… lets go.
He hasn't transformed on purpose since the first week, when he'd do it and look at himself in the mirror. Whenever he goes all wolfy, he feels out of control, restless, like he couldn't stop himself if he really let loose. This is a little less scary, though, because Laura and Stiles are close by: Scott knows that they'd keep anything bad from happening.
As usual, his claws come first, then his face slopes into its hairy scowl while his teeth grow in his mouth. Dr. Deaton steps lifts his chin, peers into his eyes—"Gold, I see."—and thumbs his lower lip down until Scott opens his mouth wide for inspection. He gives Scott's hands a cursory look, turning one over in his own, briefly touching the underside of one claw. "You're a healthy werewolf, Scott. You've got nothing to worry about."
"Great," Scott says, glances at the door. "So—can I go now?"
"Just a few more questions," Dr. Deaton says. "Have you felt the pull of your alpha?"
"What? What's an alpha?" Scott says.
Dr. Deaton frowns. "The werewolf who bit you, Scott. He's Laura and Derek's alpha as well."
Laura hasn't said anything about that, and Scott… hasn't really asked her. Sure, he's curious, but he doesn't really want to think about that night in the woods, how scared Stiles looked, how sure they both were that Scott was going to die. It's easier to do what Laura asks, to practice using his new senses, learn how to lean on Stiles when he needs help, instead of asking questions Scott doesn't really want the answer to. "She hasn't told me anything about—him," Scott says. "I don't know anything. I don't—feel anything, I don't think."
"I see," Dr. Deaton says. "That's all, then, Scott. You can go."
Scott hangs out with Laura and the puppies in the back while Stiles talks to Dr. Deaton. For some reason, Scott can't hear anything back there, even though they're as close as his mom is when Scott's in bed and she's downstairs. "How does Dr. Deaton know about werewolves?" he asks after a few minutes of tossing his poodle friend a stick. "From your family?"
"No," Laura says. She comes over to him, crouches down and waits for the golden retriever to approach her, holding out her fingers for the puppy to sniff. "What did he tell you?"
"He said we have an alpha. I don't know what that is."
Laura goes still for a moment, fingers arrested mid-air. "He did, huh?"
"You didn't tell me about him," Scott says, and he's mad—he didn't realize that until just now. "You don't tell us anything, Laura. Why did he bite me? Who is he?"
"You're just kids," Laura says. "You don't need to know this stuff. I'm taking care of you, okay? You're my family now."
Scott scuffs his toe against the ground. "If we're your family, you shouldn't keep secrets from us. It's not fair."
"None of this is fair," Laura says, standing up abruptly. "I'm taking you guys home, I'm—I can't do this now, Scott. We'll talk more, I'll tell you soon."
"Okay," Scott says, but he's not sure he believes her.
Stiles is quiet and withdrawn on the way home, slumping against the seat. Scott reaches over and puts his hand on Stiles's arm until Stiles leans into him, sort of, the way they do when they're half watching movies and half falling asleep. There's another sense that Scott has, one that's stronger than his noses or his ears or his newly sharp, flashing eyes, and it's the way he can feel Stiles wherever he goes, certain and safe and secure. Laura says they're family, but Scott can't feel that, not like he can feel this: that he and Stiles are really brothers now.
Scott doesn't ask what Stiles and Dr. Deaton talked about.
Before he goes to bed, Scott practices again, listening to his mom watching TV downstairs, the creaky noises of the house settling, the steady thumping of the dryer. After a while, he goes beneath the sounds, goes to where he can feel Stiles, warm and steady, drifting off to sleep.
Beneath that, though, Scott can feel something else, now that he's looking for it. Someone else. Not pulling, not pushing, just—there.