Somewhere between breakfast and cross country practice on Saturday morning, Scott realizes he can memorize at least a dozen SAT words in a snap just by picturing Isaac’s face instead of trying to recall their exact definitions.
There are so many that apply it kind of blows his mind.
Incongruous. Abstruse. Perspicacious. Ephemeral.
Well. Not so ephemeral now.
That part takes some explaining, not that his mom actually asks for any. All she has to do is look at Scott a certain way and he folds like his cheap suit from last year’s formal.
“Um, I know this is insanely sudden, but Isaac really needs a place to stay.”
The words all spill out of him at once, tripping over each other the way Stiles’s used to before he got pulled for speech class back in elementary school.
His mom is just gazing at him with her brow furrowed and those grim lines on either side of her mouth. Scott hates that he’s the one bringing those out more and more often, hates that just a little over a year ago all he had to do to make her smile was promise to help with dinner or sign up for afterschool tutoring sessions. She doesn’t look angry, just resigned. Tired. “Is this a...” She waves a hand like she’s physically groping for a better way to say this, then seems to give up. “Is it a werewolf thing?”
Maybe he should lie. He’s gotten good at it, he could just say they need to work on a project, that Isaac can’t stand Derek’s cooking, that it’s not a big deal. But it’s always a werewolf thing now.
“He just...he just can’t live with Derek anymore,” he tells her. They’re downstairs and Isaac is in the shower, which should be enough noise and distance to keep him from overhearing. “I mean, emancipation only works if he’s supporting himself and he’s got a place to stay, and there’s still, like, insurance money coming in or benefits from his father’s company or whatever, but--” Scott’s a little fuzzy on just how Isaac’s situation worked out, but the last thing they need is child protective services sniffing around on top of everything else.
“Scott,” she cuts him off gently. “I’m not turning him away.”
Assuage, that’s another SAT word. Scott is definitely feeling assuaged right now. “Thanks.”
His mom just hugs him, lines still stubbornly bracketing her mouth. “I’ll see if I can prop up that crappy futon for you, okay? Consider this your official warning that at some future point I’m making you help me carry a new one home from IKEA.”
The futon really does suck. It’s saggy and ancient but still more comfortable to sleep on than the living room couch, which doesn’t even pull out and is too short to accommodate someone Scott’s height.
His parents had separate bedrooms for years before the divorce was finalized. Once Scott’s dad moved out, his mom transformed his room into an office space and never looked back. Scott never really thought much about it before, but now he kind of wishes she’d made it into a guest room instead. Or at least something with an actual bed. Just opening the futon is an ordeal; the thing screams like it’s possessed even with both of them pulling it into position, and Scott has to squirm underneath to make sure the one broken slat isn’t going to stab him in the ass when he sits down.
“All right. This looks,” his mom pauses for a long time, “cozy?”
It might just be Scott’s imagination, but he could swear the dilapidated thing is listing to one side in a distinctly drunken manner. “Yeah. It’s great, thanks.”
“Does Isaac need anything else?”
Scott doesn’t even know where to begin answering that one. Well, his psycho father was killed by a psycho lizard, he’s a werewolf whose alpha is being a giant douchebag and won’t put a roof over his head, and he’s prone to occasional near-homicidal fits of rage. “Uh. I don’t know if he’s eaten?”
“Right. Food. Growing boys.” She gives him a pat on the shoulder and smiles wanly. “I’ll bring something up in a minute.”
Isaac emerges from the bathroom a few seconds later, which makes Scott wonder if he was hanging back deliberately. He has on a wrinkled t-shirt and a pair of sweatpants, both his own, but the bag he brought with him doesn’t look like it holds much. Scott isn’t exactly waiting for an explanation, even though he’s dying to pelt Isaac with questions, but it drives him up the wall when Isaac doesn’t do anything but give him a nod.
“Are you okay?” Scott ventures at last, which is the most idiotic question ever, but he can’t say nothing.
Isaac is sitting with his back to the wall and his cheap flip phone in his hand, just looking at it. If Scott really wanted to, he could tilt his head and steal a glance at the screen from halfway across the room, but he doesn’t. He can guess well enough. “Yeah. I can get a motel room or something when the rain clears up,” Isaac says. He snorts, self-mocking. “I guess I could’ve done that anyway instead of crashing in on you.”
“Uh, just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.” Scott gingerly gives the futon a pat and prays it doesn’t collapse if Isaac decides to join him. “It’s not a big deal. My mom said she’s cool with it.”
“You don’t have to.” Isaac looks the way he did after they put him in the tub, his jaw too tight and his eyes too wild.
“Well, I’m not letting you crash in my tree fort,” Scott says glibly. “Deal with it.”
“You have a tree fort?”
“Oh, yeah. State of the art. If you leave now, you’ll regret it for the rest of your life.”
Isaac actually laughs. His phone is still open, showing a blank text screen with a certain name in the address box. He closes it.
They end up demolishing the quesadillas Scott’s mom brings up--well, Scott mostly lets Isaac do the demolishing and learns Derek eats a surprising amount of ramen and pizza rolls for someone who looks like he stepped out of a werewolf beefcake magazine--and Scott fills Isaac in on a few particulars. There should be extra toothbrushes under the sink, laundry hampers are next to the closet and in Scott’s room, and sooner or later he’s going to need to sneak away to give Derek a piece of his mind.
He doesn’t actually say the last part, but he thinks it really loudly. What he says instead is, “You’re gonna take my room and I’ll be just down the hall if you need anything. I’ll wake you up when my alarm goes off unless you just wanna set your own. Okay?”
“I don’t want you sleeping on the floor,” Isaac hedges.
“There’s the futon.” Scott can practically hear it cackling and pondering its next victim. “I’ll just sleep on that.”
To his credit, he tries really hard. The epic battle of Scott vs. futon lasts over an hour before Isaac appears like a shadow on the threshold. “Look, I can hear you every time you move, you know. You sound like you’re in pain. Let’s just switch.”
It goes without saying that Isaac’s had to sleep in far worse conditions, which just makes Scott even more determined to stick it out. Hell, Derek used to sleep on the floor in the burned-out shell of his family home. One temperamental futon is nothing.
“I’m good, just having trouble getting to sleep.”
“Yeah, I noticed.” Even in the dark, Scott can see the movement of his throat when he swallows. “Um, we could share. If you’re really set on giving me the bed. I mean, but if you’d rather have your own space, that’s totally cool and I get it.”
Scott’s pretty sure he should be the one reassuring Isaac and not the other way around. He’s also starting to wonder if maybe Isaac doesn’t want to be alone and just isn’t going to admit it any other way. And the futon really does suck. “No. I mean, yeah, if you’re cool with it?”
“Do you kick?”
“I don’t think so.”
“Then we’re cool,” Isaac says, like it’s just that simple.
Maybe it is. Scott’s bed is about a thousand times more comfortable and Isaac sticks firmly to his side. He’s also, Scott notices, lying there like a plank of wood and every wolf in a five mile radius can probably hear his heart beating.
“This is really okay?”
Isaac sighs. “I’m not trying to take over your space.”
“You’re really not,” says Scott. “When Stiles’s mom was sick, we shared all the time.” He doesn’t mention it was because Stiles’s dad didn’t want him staying overnight at the hospital that much. Mentioning parental figures doesn’t seem likely to convince Isaac of anything, possibly ever. The tension coming from Isaac’s side of the bed is almost palpable, but Scott doesn’t ask.
Isaac fell into Derek’s pack after falling into a grave, clocking overtime working the literal graveyard shift for his dad; they all heard the story. Then Boyd and Isaac had started talking about operating heavy machinery and Scott had tuned out to text Allison.
“Derek said I had to get out,” Isaac says finally. It’s the same thing he said when he appeared at Scott’s door a few hours earlier, soaking wet and folding into himself like a paper crane. He said I had to get out. I didn’t know where else to go. Scott had held open the door and invited him in without needing to hear anything else.
“Yeah, well, Derek says a lot of things. You’re safe here, though, all right?”
“He couldn’t just explain it to me?” Isaac demands, every word like a tripwire about to snap. “He couldn’t give me another day? I was just kidding about Cora, I didn’t actually mean--”
Scott doesn’t know exactly what happened, but the scent of fear is rolling off him in waves, thick and acrid. “Derek isn’t very good at explaining things sometimes.” And isn’t that the understatement of the century.
Isaac isn’t fooled for a second. “Uh-huh. That’s a really nice way of saying he’s a huge dick.”
“Dude.” Scott can’t help laughing a little. “Me and Derek being dicks to each other is, like, the foundation of our relationship.”
Isaac turns away. His voice is barely louder than a breath, but it’s enough. “I was asking him about his sister. I didn’t mean anything by it. And now she’s staying with him and then he decided I couldn’t anymore.”
Now Scott really wants to throttle Derek. It was one thing when he was on the receiving end of Derek’s particular mutated strain of tough love, but Isaac’s had the deck stacked against him since long before he took the bite.
“You know what,” Scott says, since he can’t think of anything else and the thought’s been clawing its way to the front of his mind all night anyway, “fuck Derek.”
“If we could get drunk, I would so drink to that,” mutters Isaac.
And he turns over just enough for Scott to fistbump him.
And somehow, they sleep.
It gets better as the days goes by. There’s a fair amount of paperwork-shuffling Scott doesn’t entirely understand--change of address forms, scheduling meetings with Isaac’s case manager, and learning that Isaac is technically employed as Derek’s office assistant. Something about needing proof of a steady income, Isaac explains, which makes no fucking sense to Scott since as far as he knows Derek lives on doom and despair and probably a truckload of fudged paperwork of his own, but he’s not going to argue.
“I did help him do his taxes,” Isaac adds, making Scott’s mind do a backbend the way it usually does when he imagines Derek doing anything remotely normal. “Derek kind of sucks at math.”
Scott’s about to say this explains why all his shirts are six sizes too small, but he stops himself. “Um, do you wanna do my taxes? Because ever since I started working for Deaton I’ve just been bribing my mom...”
“It’s not that hard. My dad liked having stuff in order, so I got pretty good at it.”
That kills the conversation the way even a passing reference to Isaac’s dad tends to do.
Isaac is a chronically helpful addition around the house, tax forms or not. He sweeps and vacuums compulsively, and one time Scott finds him sorting laundry into darks and whites and has to tell him to tone it down a little or he’ll make him look bad. Laundry and Scott have never gotten along, much to his mother’s despair.
“Hey, you know she’s not gonna kick you out if you don’t earn your keep or whatever, right?”
It’s the wrong thing to say.
“I’m almost seventeen, my closest living relatives don’t give a shit about me, and I’m not going into foster care for a year just to get spat right back out of the system. So maybe this,” Isaac brandishes one of Scott’s shirts, which appears to be sporting a mustard stain the size of Utah, “isn’t something I have to do, but it can’t hurt.”
Scott sighs, shoulders him over a few feet, and starts helping him sort the laundry. “Fine, whatever. You know, I think if you just put everything on cold it doesn’t matter if you separate lights and darks. Or maybe it’s lights and colors. And maybe you put it on warm.”
Isaac throws a sock at him. “You suck.”
Later, his mom explains to him that the state pushed for Isaac’s emancipation to go through since his case was so heartrending and, in addition to insurance revenue and his promising career as a werewolf office assistant, Isaac apparently has some inheritance from his mother that he can access once he turns eighteen. Privately, Scott adds that Isaac also has a face like one of those angels on every other page of their social studies book’s Renaissance unit, which probably helped.
Then she mentions hitting IKEA for a new futon and doesn’t even say anything when Scott rubs the back of his neck and tells her they’re doing fine without one.
He’s kind of gotten used to having Isaac there at night, the scent of him mingling with the scent of laundry detergent and Scott’s own shampoo. He never really thinks about it, but he likes that Isaac’s scent is starting to merge with his own. It’s comforting in a way not many things are anymore, even though it sort of reminds him of Allison.
Isaac still doesn’t move or make much noise in his sleep, but he no longer acts like everything in Scott’s room is made of glass, which Scott interprets as a good sign. He wakes up in a panic only once, when Scott cracks open an eye and realizes Isaac has about ninety percent of the sheets balled up in his fists.
“I can’t be an omega. Fuck, I can’t.”
And Scott gets that. Nothing good happens to omegas, and Isaac’s already had one too-close-for-comfort brush with being cut in half. “If it makes you feel better, I used to dream about Allison’s dad shooting me all the time.”
Lately, the dreams haves escalated into things like being torn into crouton-sized chunks by the alphas, but Isaac doesn’t need to know that.
Isaac rubs both hands over his face. “Sometimes I wake up and I can’t move. Then I freak out because I think it’s the kanima venom. Erica said it happened to her too.”
“That’s terrible,” Scott says sincerely, then squawks when Isaac pokes him in the ribs.
“Shut up, you guys were the ones who paralyzed us for the first time.”
“You were trying to kill Lydia,” Scott says, like he’s talking to a toddler.
“You were the one who made that choice,” Scott cuts in firmly, “not Derek.”
Isaac sighs and does that thing where he looks about half his actual size, chin dropping and shoulders hunching and knees drawing in. “Yeah, I know. Let’s not talk about Derek. Or Erica.”
On the sliver of mattress between them, his hand is half curled into a fist. Without thinking, Scott reaches over and uncurls his fingers. He doesn’t expect Isaac to curl them right back up again, this time around his own hand, but he can live with it.
“You shouldn’t sleep like that. You’ll screw up your back.”
“Do werewolves even get back problems?” Isaac sniffs.
“You can ask Deaton tomorrow,” Scott says, and gives him a tug without conscious thought, pulls him in the way he used to with Allison. Isaac doesn’t laugh the way she always would, but he doesn’t resist either. Scott isn’t expecting that, but then again, Scott still doesn’t know what’s going on inside Isaac’s mind most of the time.
When he wakes up, their heads are on the same pillow and Isaac still has an arm around his waist.
It’s...not exactly like cuddling with Allison, but Scott got in a lot of cuddling practice when they were together and he misses it a lot, so he can make do. It still makes him ache when he catches the faintest trace of her scent on Isaac from when they sit next to each other in math. And even though he guesses it’s good that they’re reconciling after Allison tried to kill him and Isaac lashed out at her during his panic attack, it still hurts more than being on the receiving end of a blowtorch.
Right now, Isaac smells only like himself and a little bit like Scott’s favorite soap, which is weirdly comforting. It kind of makes Scott want to press his nose against Isaac’s temple and breathe him in over and over, but that would probably be a little weird.
He does it anyway. Just because he’s mostly mastered the art of werewolf impulse control doesn’t mean he can’t have lapses.
And Issac is warm like he’s been curled up against a furnace even though Scott is very much aware Isaac’s been curled against him, and his breathing is even and he’s clearly asleep. He won’t even know if Scott nudges his face against the side of his neck. Right there, that little bend where it slopes down into his shoulder, where he smells like salt and skin and it would be totally weird to lick him, but he’s already had the thought and there’s no getting rid of it now, oh fuck.
And of course Isaac wakes up.
“Hey,” he mumbles, rolling onto his back, not seeming to notice Scott’s eyes tracking the sheet when it slips down his chest. “Your hair looks insane.” His is springing up on one side and squashed flat on the other, but Scott opts not to say so.
Scott makes a face that he hopes doesn’t scream “I was just sniffing the hell out of you, my bad” and bolts into the bathroom.
He’s learned by now that Isaac’s house-cleaning habits spring equally from both fear and habit. That even though Isaac might be perfectly well-off now, and potentially even better off once his family’s house gets sold, he’s not used to having much of his own. He once admitted that sometimes his dad would pay him, but mostly just extol the virtues of hard work or find excuses to take it back. “Stupid things, like saying I ran up the electric bill or something, so I’d have to pay him back.” Isaac tells him this in the locker room, grinning like he’s sharing a joke. “Working my ass off was supposed to be good preparation for the real world.”
And he learns that Isaac might not say so out loud, but he likes having a place in Scott’s bed, that he gravitates toward him now that he knows he’s allowed. Heads close, scents mingling, wiping out the earmarks of Derek and his home and replacing it with his own. Redolence turns up on Scott’s SAT prep list one morning and it makes him smile a little. He learns that Isaac sometimes steals the sheets and usually sleeps shirtless--though Scott’s not sure if that’s a matter of preference or sheer clothing conservation. He only brought a few things with him and Scott’s don’t fit. Sooner or later, his mom is just going to drag him to Target and refuse to let him leave until he picks out a few things.
“Sorry, anything I have is basically gonna look like a crop top on you,” Scott told him once, passing over a t-shirt all the same. And Isaac had smiled crookedly and it had felt almost okay.
Then Derek dies and everyone goes back to school trying to act as if nothing’s happened.
It almost works, right up until Isaac goes berserk on one of the twins, Scott can’t remember which; everything is still a blur aside from Allison stitching him up in a rest area bathroom.
“She’s good for you,” Isaac says when they finally make it home. “She keeps you together.”
Scott thinks of Isaac punching one of the alpha twins--Ethan, was it Ethan?--to a pulp, Isaac corpse-pale and shivering in a bathtub full of ice, the tickle of Isaac’s hair against his cheek first thing in the morning. “So do you.”
“It doesn’t feel like it.” His mouth is turned down at the corners and his eyes are ice-hard, guarded. “Keeping things together isn’t really my thing.”
Scott doesn’t have the energy to argue with him. He lets Isaac turn down the bed, then either falls asleep or passes out again before he hits the mattress.
It’s too much, Derek dying and the lingering smell of Allison’s hair and the half-healed wound still scoured across his torso. Scott’s been stretched too far in too many directions, he’s been filled to the brim and he’s overflowing. When he dreams, all he can see is Derek cracking down onto an escalator in the abandoned mall, and when he wakes all he can think of is how they all ran away to lick their wounds and gather their forces.
Only now it feels like there aren’t any forces left to gather.
“What are we?” Isaac demands in the night, his face cool against Scott’s sweaty shoulder. “We don’t have an alpha anymore, I don’t even know if we’re a pack anymore. It needs to be you.”
“We aren’t anything,” Scott chokes out, and doubles over like he’s been stabbed in the gut.
And Isaac slips a hand up his middle, fingertips careful over the haphazard lines of stitches. “Don’t say that. You’re healing now, you’ll be okay.”
“We’re losing,” Scott murmurs into the pillow. It still smells like Isaac and it makes his stomach twist, makes him want to turn over and lose himself in Isaac’s scent until he can’t remember anything else. “We’ve already lost.”
Then Isaac’s palm is on his brow and he’s saying something again, but Scott can’t make heads or tails of it, can’t do anything but groan and try not to convulse.
“Scott.” One of Isaac’s long hands is gripping his chin, keeping his head from drooping. Scott forces his eyes open, sees yellow flaring in Isaac’s. “Pain transference, does it work on us? Can I do that to you?”
Scott’s never actually thought to use it on another pack member. It’s not a bad question. “You don’t need to worry about taking my pain.”
“I want to take it.” Isaac is combing back his hair, so carefully, like he’s waiting for a rebuke. “Let me take it.” And he curls up behind him, his arms wrapping around Scott’s waist, his bare chest pressed to Scott’s back and his nose pressed to Scott’s nape. Breathing him in, Scott realizes.
He isn’t sure if it’s working, but he does feel a little better.
Isaac is strong and solid and his mouth is so warm, half open and just a fraction of an inch away from touching Scott’s skin. Scott arches, trying to angle himself back, and Isaac has both hands on him now, one on his chest and one on his stomach. “It’s okay,” Isaac murmurs, and Scott curls his toes and grits his teeth because he can feel Isaac’s lips against the back of his ear. “Scott, I promise. It’s okay, you’re safe.”
These are all things Scott said to him once, and they’re all flat-out lies but Scott wants to believe them so badly he doesn’t even care. Even if it’s only for a minute, he can trick himself into thinking there’s nothing in the world but Isaac’s hands on his chest and stomach, the long lines of Isaac’s body slotted against his own like spoons in a silverware drawer.
He’s hard in his boxers, a little too aware of just how many points of contact there are between him and Isaac now, but it’s almost secondary. They’ve been sharing a bed for weeks now and Scott’s running out of things to feel ashamed of.
“Shhh,” Isaac is shushing him, because of course he knows, there’s no hiding anything from werewolf-enhanced senses. Scott’s brain is screaming at him to just apologize and squirm away, put some distance between them until his body calms down, but he’s so fucking tired and Isaac’s hand feels so good against his stomach.
“Let me take it,” Isaac whispers. “Let me, for you, please just let me.”
His hand is just above Scott’s waistband, waiting.
Scott heaves an enormous breath, nods.
And Isaac touches him. Gently, over his underwear, not much more than mapping the shape of him through the cotton, but still more than enough to have Scott hiding his face in the crook of his arm and whining softly.
Isaac is rocking against him, face nudging against his nape, so hot that his cheeks have to be blood-red by now. When his fingers dip beneath the elastic, Scott isn’t sure which of them gasps louder. Isaac’s mouth is open, scorching against the already feverish skin of Scott’s shoulder, and he can feel it when he hisses his name, can feel the tremble in his arm when his fingers clench around him. So slowly, so carefully, as if he’s expecting Scott to change his mind when the real danger is whether Scott’s already lost his mind.
“Come on,” he urges, but Isaac is learning him by touch at his own pace, mouth sealing over his nape and sucking hard. He’s so fucking warm, Scott has to shove a finger between his teeth to keep from crying out. His other hand presses over Isaac’s, hips hitching into the friction, and Isaac groans into his skin and then bites. He has to be marking up Scott’s neck and shoulder like hell, leaving red and purple bruises behind almost as quickly as they heal. Isaac rubs a thumb across the tip of his cock, spreading the wetness there, and when he finally, finally starts to jerk him Scott’s whole body torques up.
He’s wearing teeth marks into his knuckle when he comes, Isaac’s hand wrapped around him, boxers hitched around his thighs.
Even though Scott’s so disoriented it takes him a few tries and Isaac’s fingers are sticky, he slips their hands together and squeezes. “Hey. What was that for?” Seriously, if this is Isaac’s idea of extreme pain transference, it’s pretty awesome.
Isaac yawns into his hair. “It seemed like the nice thing to do.”
And Scott sleeps again with Isaac holding him like he needs an anchor.
In the morning, when he staggers into the bathroom and cautiously touches his stitches, they slide right off and there’s nothing but smooth unmarred skin underneath.
He’s about to bound back into his room and tell Isaac when he turns and ends up face to face with his mother.
“You know,” she says slowly, “I don’t need heightened werewolf senses to notice some things.”
Scott spends the next several seconds sputtering and swearing he’ll do his own laundry for the rest of his life if they just never speak of this again. It’s still not enough to get him off the hook, which is just cosmically unfair.
“Uh-uh. We’re so going to speak of this and you’re so not going to like it, but I’m late for work so you’re safe for now.” She narrows her eyes. “Is it a werewolf thing?”
And Scott hesitates, thinks of Isaac’s very human vulnerability and how building a pack is all in how you approach it. “Not really?”
His mom gives him a genuine smile. Scott kind of wants to cry and kind of wants to melt through the floor. “Good.”
“Do you get it yet?” Isaac asks, impervious to Scott’s mortification as he squeezes past him to get to the dresser. “We need you to be a leader.”
Scott stares fixedly at his rumpled sheets, trying to think of any examples of leadership he’d be able to list on a resume. “I don’t know if I can.”
Then Boyd, ever practical, comes up to him after class and says the alpha pack is going to tear them to shreds no matter what and the least they can do is band together and be ready for it. An hour later, Stiles sends him a flurry of texts about the latest body that’s turned up, and Lydia and Allison show up at his door with a six-pack of sugar-free Red Bull and a zillion PDFs on ritual sacrifice downloaded to Lydia’s phone.
“We need you,” Isaac tells him again. He’s framed in the threshold of Scott’s house like he belongs there. Looking a little smug, standing a little straighter, hair a little flat on one side.
And Saturday morning, somewhere in the time between breakfast and cross country practice, Scott kisses him.