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I'm sorry, brother; so sorry, lover. Forgive me, father. I love you, mother.

Chapter Text

Sometimes his father doesn’t remember.

Sometimes when Isaac goes down the stairs in the morning, his eyes red after staring at the clock for too long, without sleeping, waiting for it to announce midnight, his father is asleep on the couch with an empty bottle on his hand and nothing happens. Maybe he does remember, though, maybe that’s why he drinks himself to oblivion before the sun can rise.

This wasn’t one of those times.

He was hoping it was, because they didn’t have dinner together that night and when they do on August 24th it never, ever ends well. August 24th preludes August 25th, and on August 25th at 2:00 AM eleven-year-old Isaac woke up to his parents screaming and the loud bang of the door and just like that, he never saw his mother again.

His father doesn’t drink that much. He did, for a while, for around eight months after it happened, then he stopped, and for two blissful weeks it seemed like it was over and his father wasn’t going to push him into the living room’s cabinet or smash his hands into the table when they were having dinner, it seemed like he wasn’t going to yell at him and tell him it was his fault and he wasn’t going to lift him by his sweatshirt and bang him against the fridge.

Isaac’s father doesn’t drink that much, but he always does on August 24th.

There’s a certain number of things Isaac’s father only does when he’s been drinking.

It’s a different kind of terror, when his father is sober it’s easier to look for signs, for warnings, sometimes he can get out of the room before nothing happens, before the man gets angry at something he said and slaps him across the face or into the back of his head. When his father is sober everything is crystal clear, he’s not dragged down the stairs if he doesn’t resist because he will always be told first, he’s not struck with an empty bottle of wine or kicked in his stomach, instead he’s asked to bend over on the bed or the table and the hits are consistent, calculated.

Isaac fears his father a lot more when he’s drunk. It’s why he never sleeps on the night before August 25th, sometimes, if he hears noises, he crawls under his bed, which has never helped him before, and he’s sixteen and he should know better but he does it anyway.

That’s how he father finds him at 1:30 in the morning. Isaac hears the clumsy steps climbing up the stairs and he freezes over, and in between his panting he thinks he should run and hide or try to get out through the window but his legs won’t move and then there are loud, violent knocks on his door.

“Isaac!” his father yells. His voice is slurred. Isaac doesn’t have any time to answer before it’s opened loudly and he sees his father’s boots coming towards him.

It’s not the first time his father has found him like this; he knows where he is.

A pair of hands grab him by his feet and he weakly tries to escape the grasp but it’s too late, his hands find a hole in between pieces of wood on the bed but it’s not enough, it’s never enough. Then a fist connects with his cheek.

Another black eye. Another question from his friend Erica. Another odd look from his teacher. Another lie.

“D-dad” he manages to whimper out before the man pulls him by his hair and demands for him to get up, then they’re walking, they’re headed towards the stairs and Isaac starts to cry, he starts to cry because he knows, he knows where they’re going.

He can’t hear his own distressed sounds over the sound of his father’s voice on his ear. Loud, cruel. “You’re such an ungrateful, little brat, you know that? It’s because of you they’re gone and I have to keep up with you every day, and how do you thank me, huh? You get a D on chemistry? You don’t do the dishes when I ask you to?”

“D-dad, please,” they’re close, they’re close and Mr. Lahey kicks his son inside of the basement and Isaac falls flat on his chest and the air is extracted from his lungs.

“You’re just a big fucking failure.” Isaac doesn’t get a chance to catch his breath before he feels his father’s boot smashing into his ribcage. “Camden wasn’t like this, now, was he? That’s why she took him but left you with me.” There’s a laugh at the end of the sentence, Isaac can hear the grief on his father’s voice. He tries to crawl away, feels a hand smashing his head right back on the ground.

“Dad,” he repeats, this time louder, fueled by the sharp pain on his forehead. “I’m s-sorry, please, I-I’ll do better, I p-promise, please-”

“You’re sorry? You’re sorry? You think that’s gonna’ fix anything?”

While he speaks, he’s dragging him up, and into, into-

“N-no, please, stop, d-dad, please-” his pleading dissolves into incoherent sobs by the time he feels the cold surface on his hands.

“How about instead of being sorry you think about what you’ve done for a while, hm?”

And then he’s being pushed inside, and Isaac is frozen by his terror, he doesn’t kick and he doesn’t scream and his father almost tucks him inside of the freezer with care before sliding the lid above him and submerging him into absolute darkness.

Chapter Text

When he gets to school the next day, Erica is angry at him.

Isaac doesn’t know why. He comes in late after waking up with the lid open without an alarm, he comes in late and sits beside her and says hello and she doesn’t say it back.

“Eri?” he mumbles. She doesn’t turn to look at him, her head buried on her hands and her blonde hair a complete mess over her notebook.

Isaac feels a fire that starts from his heart and burns through his veins, like small needles opening his skin, sting by sting. Why is she mad? What did he do? He doesn’t know, he doesn’t know and not knowing what he did wrong has always been the worst possible scenario.

Maybe, a hopeful voice says on his head, maybe she’s asleep.

She’s not, she rolls her head to look at the teacher when the class starts.

Isaac feels like throwing up.

An hour later when it’s over he tries to grab her arm before she leaves and she smacks it away and looks at the floor with fury on her blue eyes. Isaac steps back like she pushed him. “Can’t you take a hint?” she barks, with the usual tone she uses on everyone, everyone that isn’t Isaac or Boyd.

“Eri-”

“Don’t ‘Eri’ me, asshole. You knew my reading was yesterday and you knew it was important and you still didn’t show.”

Oh.

“We called you so many times and you never picked up, never answered a single text. You even went to the trouble of getting out of school, it’s amazing, really, it all happened here, Isaac, you didn’t even have to go anywhere.”

He opens his mouth, but no sound comes out. He thought the reading was next week, next week when it’s not August 24th  and he doesn’t have to skip the last class to be home in time, otherwise he would’ve told her he couldn’t go, and now it’s all ruined and doesn’t know what he can possibly say.

“I- I’m s-sorry, Eri, I-” but she’s walking away before he can manage out anything else or pinch his wrists to snap himself out of it. He hates his stutter, usually only happens when he’s talking to his father.

Boyd is the one that asks about his black eye.

Isaac shrugs, tells him he just fell on the shower, doesn’t bother to think of something different or creative or to try to smile to reassure him it’s nothing to be worried about like he normally does, the burning on his chest has not subsided and Erica still doesn’t glance at him and he doesn’t think he can deal with any of it.

Maybe it’s because he doesn’t smile that Boyd looks at him like he can see the bruises through his clothes and the dry blood on his fingernails and says; “and the real reason?”

It takes him so much by surprise that he physically flinches. “W-what do you mean?” he pinches himself on his writs, twice, and tries to lift the corners of his mouth, “y-you know h-how clumsy I am.”

Boyd doesn’t look away from him. “Why didn’t you come to Erica’s reading?”

“I-”

“Why didn’t you answer any of our texts and calls?”

“I was just-”

“Why are you limping?”

He flinches again, stops walking immediately, not caring that they’re in the middle of the hall and they need to get to class. He thought they wouldn’t be able to tell, maybe he got distracted, didn’t realize he wasn’t putting enough weight on his right leg.

“I’m not stupid, Isaac,” Boyd stops in front of him, too, he doesn’t seem angry, but not exactly concerned either. “Did you get into a fight last night?”

He opens his mouth and closes it again. He can hear his own heartbeat on his ears. “Y-yeah.”

Boyd closes his eyes and sighs heavily. “Why didn’t you say anything? What happened?”

Isaac’s mouth is dry. A part of him is relieved he got such an easy way out, another part of him, though…

“I was on my way there when I ran into some idiots, I think they were high or something.”

It’s not fair, it’s not fair to use that excuse because Erica will feel sorry for him and forgive him when it was his fault, he should’ve payed attention to the date, should’ve known he wasn’t going to make it.

But he’s selfish that way.

Chapter Text

Like some form of divine justice, it doesn’t take long for Erica to be angry at him again.

This time there’s not an easy way out.

His best friend has always had health problems, going in and out of the hospital constantly, they bonded over being the weird kids no one wanted to talk to.

Erica gets sick again.

Only this time, she doesn’t seem to be bouncing back.

It takes a full-on week for Isaac to really, really start worrying. He’s never visited her on the hospital, his father wouldn’t allow him to skip work, but it was never a problem because he knew that after a maximum of three days she would be back to school and he knew Boyd and Derek would be there with her.

This time she asks for him to go see her. Erica never asks for anything.

So now Isaac is sitting at the dinner table with his feet bouncing and his hands shaking and trying to make the words come out of his mouth.

“Uhm,” he starts, nervous, his voice much too quiet for his father’s liking, “so, uh, dad, you remember my friend Erica?” His father doesn’t twitch, doesn’t make any indication that he’s heard him, just keeps on taking bites off of his plate. Isaac’s throat tightens up even more. “She’s, uh, she’s really sick, and she asked me to go visit her, so, uh, I was wondering…” He lets the phrase trail off, unsure, and slowly, his father turns his head upwards to stare at him, in expectation. It takes all of Isaac’s self-control not to whimper. “…If I… c-could.”

Mr. Lahey takes a pause, and cleans his mouth with a napkin, then he lets both of hands, one holding a fork and another one holding a knife, fall unto the table. It barely makes any sound at all, but Isaac stares at them anyway, one of his hands has let go of his own utensils to grab unto the chair, in case he needs to run. “Forgive me if I’m wrong, son, but I thought we had already discussed this.”

Isaac drifts his eyes to his shaking hand, and then back at his father’s. “I j-just thought-”

His father keeps talking like he didn’t say anything at all. “Do you not pay attention to the things I say?”

Isaac feels the hairs on the back of his neck stand up in fear. “I d-do, I do pay attention, s-sir.”

“You could’ve fooled me,” the words are punctuated by a glass of water falling loudly unto the table. Isaac flinches. “Do you perhaps need me to make things clearer for you?”

Isaac swallows with difficulty. “I j-just thought- She’s really sick this time and-”

“Isaac.” The command is clear. Shut up. Stop talking.

He doesn’t.

“I’m j-just really worried ab-bout her and-”

“Isaac.”

“I’ll d-do twice as much work after it, I p-promise, a-and-”

Isaac!

He stops, his mouth closes by its own, by the fear crawling at his skin. His father puts both of his hands down and stands up. Quickly, too quickly, Isaac uses the hand on the chair to pull himself off and stumble to the other extreme of the room, but by the time his back hits the wall it’s much too late and his father is grabbing him by the collar of his shirt.

“I think I haven’t made myself very clear to you, have I?”

Isaac feels his eyes stinging with tears, but he holds them back. His father hates it when he cries.

“I’m s-sorry,” he whispers out, his voice breaking at the end.

His father nods, moves his hand to put it on the back of Isaac’s head, almost reassuringly, if it wasn’t because of how common the gesture is, and what it means. “It’s okay, Isaac, this is my fault, I haven’t disciplined you well enough,” he pushes Isaac slightly forward, and says; “go to my room, son, and bend on the bed.”

He bits his lip, hard, maybe even makes it bleed, to stop himself from pleading and crying. It never gets him anywhere, then he manages out a small “yes, sir,” and does what he’s told.


 

His father takes away his phone.

Isaac spends the weekend on his room, lying on his stomach on the bed and counting the tiles on the floor or studying even though he’s practically memorized every one of his textbooks already. He tries not to think of Erica, of how maybe she’ll hate him forever now or worse, he’ll never see her again, he tries not to think of what he’s going to say to Boyd on Monday when they’re at school sitting one seat away from each other and he asks why he hasn’t called or texted or visited her. He tries not to think at all, and sometimes the bruises help with a little sting of pain and maybe Isaac touches them on propose to distract himself, and maybe he pinches his wrists even though he’s not stuttering and there’s no reason to. Maybe he’s come too used to pain.

Boyd screams at him on Monday.

Boyd never screams.

His voice is filled with buried emotions and his expression becomes furious and Isaac tries, he tries to come up with a good reason but the panic spreads through his lungs and heart and he’s unable to say anything coherent.

Why won’t you just go?

Don’t you understand how badly she feels?

I thought you were her best friend.

You’re so selfish.

The words still hurt hours after, days, they’re his only company as he quietly sits in a corner on class and recess and absently scratches his wrists.

He calls Erica when his father gives him his phone back, but she doesn’t pick up.

He’s too scared to try again.

Boyd doesn’t speak to him at all after that. Isaac tries to call Erica again the next day.

And the next.

And the next.

For a moment, he’s worried she died, and no one bothered to tell him, but surely enough, at his fifth try it’s Derek who picks up the phone.

“Isaac,” he says as greeting.

“H-hey, Derek,” he says, nervous, trying to sound cheerful, normal, like there’s not a weight on his chest that’s constricting his breathing, “I was just wondering how-”

“Isaac,” Derek says again, with a sigh. “She doesn’t want to talk to you, alright? Please stop calling her.”

Isaac feels one of his hands closing unto the other one, the nails embedding themselves on his skin. He doesn’t mean to do it, doesn’t really realize it or think about it. “I just wanted to know how she’s doing,” he whispers, not trusting his voice to go any higher.

“How about you visit her, then?”

Isaac flinches at Derek’s tone. It’s angry, clearly, but contained, an adult talking to his sick daughter’s shitty best friend. “I-” there’s a lot of things he wishes to say, to explain that visiting hours are his work hours and his father will know. He wants to say that he’s sorry and that he wants to and excuse himself in some way.

He doesn’t have time. Derek says “goodbye, Isaac,” and hangs up on him.


 

Isaac sneaks out of his house the next day. He’s climbed out of his window before, when his father was drunk and he needed to get out without being seen, but this is different, he’s disobeying him, he’s disobeying him and he’s going to find out because he won’t be there for work and he’s going to be so mad.

He doesn’t know why he doesn’t stop halfway through, why he keeps going until he’s walking on the hospital halls and asking about his best friend like he won’t get home to be locked into-

Don’t. Don’t think about it.

Maybe he can get to work before he realizes.

Erica is angry when he walks through the door.

She doesn’t turn to look at him, stares ahead with her jaw tense. She’s sick, Isaac can tell now, can see her pale face and how skinny she’s gotten so soon and her hair is a mess and he’s so, so sorry he wasn’t here before.

“Eri,” he whispers, tries to keep it steady, calm, happy. She doesn’t need him to be upset. “How are you doing?”

Erica sighs. Her voice is raw when she speaks. “Why didn’t you come sooner, you asshole?”

She sounds mad, but also fragile. Isaac bites his lip, hard. “I’m sorry.”

“That still doesn’t answer my question.”

“I’m here now, aren’t I?” he says, too loud to be considered normal speaking. There’s anger flaring up in his chest, sitting there as frustration that rises and rises, but he’s unable to direct in anywhere, it rots inside, aimless.

“So I’m not allowed to be upset anymore because you’re here now?” He brings his hands to his face, tries to keep himself calm. He didn’t come here to shout at his friend. “You can’t even tell me why you hadn’t shown up!”

“Can’t you trust that it’s important?” the sounds that his throat produces are contained, shaking on their foundations.

“What’s more important than your best friend dying?!”

You’re not dying, he wants to say. Instead he shouts back; “you don’t know what I’m going through!” and it resonates through the room and into the hallway and Isaac closes his fists around his own hair and pulls hard, tries to remember to breathe. The anger that was trapped inside flew right into his words and now he feels exhausted, he just needs for it to stop, if only for him to get air back into his lungs.

But Erica is never one to give up the last word. With tears in her eyes, she responds in a tight whisper, like she’s above him by pure nature of not raising her voice; “what you’re going through? How do you think I feel, huh? I don’t know if I’m ever getting out of here. Why should I think of you if you hadn’t thought of me! Just-” she closes her eyes tightly. Isaac feels his chest constrict. “I thought I could count on you for this shit, I thought you’d be there for me if I needed it, but now- I guess we’re not really here for each other, are we?”

He takes a step back to steady himself on the wall. The small sting that brings to his back helps him focus back on reality. Suddenly, he feels dizzy. “Eri-” he starts, but Erica shakes her head and then she’s sobbing with her fists around the bed sheets.

“Just go away, Isaac.”

He opens his mouth again but doesn’t find any words he has that can fix what’s happened. Erica isn’t even looking at him anymore, her eyes are fixed on some far point ahead.

When he speaks again, he sounds just like he did when he was eleven and he asked his father when his mother was coming back home. “E-Eri, p-please.”

She shakes her head again. “Go. Away.”

For what feels like eternity, Isaac is unable to get himself out of her room. He stares at her, as if he could change her mind by pure force of will, but eventually takes a step away from the wall and another one back into the door and stays by the doorframe another few seconds in which he tries to think and rationalize and come with a solution but there’s nothing, there’s nothing he can say, there’s nothing he can do and he’s going home and his father is going to be so mad and there’s not going to be anyone he can spend time with to distract himself and not feel like he’s slowly drowning.

Somehow, he drags himself out into the hallway and sinks into the floor to hide his face on his knees.

He doesn’t know how long it passes, doesn’t really care. No amount of rushing back home is going to get him out the situation he’s placed himself in. He’s just looking to delay it, to stop time and remain in that moment, so he quietly counts the tiles on the floor and pinches at his own wrists and thinks he should be crying, but he just feels empty.

He hears step coming from the right, doesn’t bother to move. Then someone makes a surprised sound, a woman, and asks him if he’s alright.

“I’m fine,” he says automatically, without thinking.

“You don’t look so good, sweetheart,” she kneels in front of him. Isaac doesn’t turn to look at her face, but he can see out of the corner of his eye that she has black hair and brown skin and he’s immediately reminded of one of Erica’s friends from school, a guy with broad shoulders and a kind smile that plays lacrosse and knows Isaac’s name even if he doesn’t remember his.

He’s not really used to people being nice to him. He just repeats what he said before.

“I’m fine.”

For some reason, the woman insists. “Do you want to be alone?”

Not really.

He shrugs.

“Okay,” so she sits down beside him. “Then you don’t mind me being here?”

He shakes his head no.

“Are you really okay?”

He shakes his head no.

“Do you want to talk about it?”

He licks his lips, thinks of his answer. “Can’t.”

“Hm.” She places a hand on his shoulder. Isaac doesn’t usually like physical contact, but this time, he doesn’t mind it. “Is it a secret?”

He doesn’t answer her question this time, instead he says; “I just wish it would stop for a moment.”

He really shouldn’t be telling her this.

She tilts her head and looks at him carefully. “That what would stop?”

His father. Erica. School. Boyd. Being alone. Being afraid. “Everything, I guess.”

He’s not really looking at her, but he thinks she smiles, a sad, tender smile. “We all feel like that sometimes. Don’t worry, darling, I’m sure it will pass.”

He doubts it but nods his head and says thank you and slowly pushes himself up. The woman follows through. “I should get home. My father… is probably worried.”

She gives his shoulder a squeeze as she walks away from him. “I’m here if you need anything.”

So Isaac hugs his arms around his own torso and forces himself to get back home.

Chapter Text

Erica cries for half an hour before she starts to worry about what she said.

It’s a slow decay, she recalls their argument, gets mad again and again about what he did and what he said and with every time she remembers it her anger starts to die off and the words he screamed at the top of his lungs go on repeat on her head.

You don’t know what I’m going through.

What had he meant? At the time, it was silly to her, she was in a hospital bed, what could he possibly be going through that was worse than that, but now she’s thinking of Isaac a few weeks ago with a black eye and Isaac absently looking ahead in class as he pinches his wrists and falling asleep at lunch and smiling at them even though his eyes look sad and tired. He thinks that Isaac didn’t call to explain what happened and how that made her mad but that could’ve meant he couldn’t call, that could’ve meant so many other things she hadn’t even considered, she thinks that he asked her why she couldn’t trust it was important and she thinks and thinks until she remembers they’ve just passed August 25th.

She takes a deep breath; and takes her phone off the bedside table to call Boyd.

He answers after only one beep.

“Hey, how are you holding up?”

She traces a circle with her fingers on the sheets, thinks of Isaac’s frantic calls he made over the last five days. “I’m okay, but, Boyd, has Isaac told you anything weird lately?”

She hears him sigh through the phone. “You really shouldn’t be thinking about that idiot.”

“Boyd-”

“I mean it, he’s been a total ass and you should just forget about it.”

“He came today.” She waits for his reaction, but there’s none. “He came and I was mad so we argued and he told me I don’t know what he’s going through.”

“That little-”

“Boyd,” she leans forward, and closes her eyes tightly. “He was so upset. I didn’t think about it at first either but- I just realized, you remember like two weeks ago when he didn’t show to my reading?”

“Yeah?”

“I think it was close to August 25th.”

There’s a silence. Erica thinks Boyd may not remember what she’s talking about, but then he says; “is that the anniversary of when his mother left?”

“Yeah.”

“Hm,” he makes a pause, “he had a black eye and he was limping. Said he had gotten into a fight on the way there.”

 “I’m worried, Boyd, what if he’s depressed or something? What if he hasn’t visited because he’s so damn sad about it?”

He sighs again, this time there’s resignation. “I’ll talk to him, but I’m not really that convinced on your theory.”


Isaac’s father is waiting in the living room when he gets home.

He instantly freezes in the doorway, his whole body tensing up. Mr. Lahey stares at him for a full-on minute before he stands up and says; “well, look who decided to show up.” Isaac swallows with difficulty. He opens his mouth, but then his father takes two strides to him and all he can do is whimper in fear as he grabs him by the collar on his shirt and smashes him back on the door. The hit on his back makes him gasp. “You think you can just do whatever the fuck you want?”

He shakes his head no, his father slaps him, hard. Isaac stumbles into the coat rack, but before he can even fully recover his footing his father strikes him again on his chin and he falls unto the floor face down. “D-dad,” he tries to say, to explain himself, but his father kicks him on the ribs and snaps.

“Shut the fuck up.”

So he does.

He hears a rustle behind him, and out of the corner of his eye he sees the end of his father’s belt touching the floor. That’s the only warning he gets before it’s brought down on him, and he’s unable to stifle his cry.

His father kneels above him and grabs him by his hair to yank him upwards, then he’s forcefully shoved into the living room table. “I thought I told you to shup up,” he whispers roughly on Isaac’s ear, “one more sound and it’s ten more, you got that?”

He nods his head quickly and shudders when he feels him backing away, and as he does, he brings Isaac’s shirt up.

He’s forced to bite onto his hands to stop himself from screaming.

The hits are brutal, wild, lacking the usual control and composure, they burn into his skin and each one cuts through the air harder, faster, to a point he’s unable to keep track and just tries to shut his mind off and think of something else.

He knows he’s done when he hears the buckle being strapped back on, then he leans forward and Isaac can feel his breath on the back on his neck. “What do you say, Isaac?”

It takes him a while to get his knuckles out of his mouth. He thinks he tastes blood. “T-thank y-you, s-sir.”

His father pats him on the shoulder and leaves the living room.


Isaac spends a good five minutes looking at himself on the mirror the next morning.

He has a very visible bruise on his chin where his father struck him last night. His father never does that when he’s sober, he’s disciplined about it, always takes it all out with a belt, partially the reason why Isaac doesn’t show up to school every day looking like he got beat up, it’s all underneath his shirt and his underwear, it’s all hidden on small expressions of pain when he sits down and on flinching when someone crashes unto him on the hallway.

His father had never hit him so much on two consecutive days.

Then again, Isaac had never blatantly disobeyed him before.

“Hey, you alright?”

Isaac turns his head in surprise. Erica isn’t there, Boyd isn’t talking to him, he hadn’t expected anyone to ask or notice but right there there’s a boy, Erica’s friend whose name he doesn’t remember, he’s pointing at his own chin, where Isaac’s bruise would be.

He nods quietly, tries to bring himself to smile, but maybe he’s too tired and his expression only makes it worse.

“What happened?”

Suddenly he remembers his name.

Scott.

He shrugs. “N-nothing, I just, uh, I walked into a door.”

He’s used that too many times already, but it’s not like he knows that.

“You should make up an interesting story,” Scott says, and he smiles a little. It reassures Isaac that he doesn’t find his answer suspicious. “Like you got into a fight to save a young woman from getting robbed at night.”

He can’t help himself, he snorts. “I could just give the generic bad boy answer, ‘you should see the other guy.’”

Scott laughs. Actually, genuinely laughs. He covers his mouth to not raise the attention of their teacher, and just as he does the room is filled with a murmur of people talking and he realizes they’re making pairs for something he didn’t hear.

His first thought is that Erica is at the hospital. His second thought is that Boyd isn’t talking to him. His third thought it that he has no other friends, when Scott turns his head to him and says; “you want to work together?”

His fourth thought is that Scott does have friends. “Me? You sure? Aren’t you always with this other guy, uh, Stuart?”

Scott chuckles softly. “Stiles. Yeah, but he’s not in this class, he’s in the advanced version for prodigies.”

Oh, yes. Isaac remembers what happened when he wasn’t put in the advanced version.

He wants to ask, don’t you have other cooler friends, but instead he nods and tries to not look like a train wreck as Scott brings his chair closer.

Turns out the assignment will last a month and Isaac and Scott spend the whole two hours talking about it and he decides he likes this guy, he likes him a lot.

When the bell rings they go into the hall and Scott is telling him something funny that Stiles did last week when someone grabs him by the shoulder, and, really, it wouldn’t be a big deal any other day, but this time he can’t help but wince in surprise and flinch away from the touch.

“Are you alright?” Scott asks, just as Isaac turns around and sees Boyd, looking a bit put off.

“I’m f-fine.”

Boyd frowns. “Didn’t think I grabbed you that hard.”

Isaac shrugs awkwardly. “I’m, uh, I didn’t sleep well, my shoulder’s a little sore.”

He didn’t sleep well. He walked into a door. He fell on the shower. He fell on the stairs.

“Erica told me you came by yesterday.” He tenses slightly. Scott eyes both of them like he’s watching a tennis match, probably wondering if he should leave them alone. Isaac gives him a furtive look that he hopes conveys a please don’t go. “She also said you argued.”

He fidgets with his hands and looks away. “Yeah, uh, could you tell her I’m sorry?”

Boyd actually laughs at that. “Why don’t you come by yourself?”

Isaac bites his lip. He can hear a distant buzz on his ears. “I didn’t m-mean-”

“She asked me to check on you, because apparently we passed August 25th like two weeks ago. See, Isaac, you don’t even have to think of excuses because she makes them for you.”

“Hey,” Scott steps up, and Isaac is glad, because he’s unable to find his voice at the moment. “Maybe you two should talk some time later when you’re more calmed down, dude.”

“I’m fine,” Boyd makes a point of taking a step forward, crashing unto Scott. “Besides, it’s not like Isaac took the time to be calmed when he came to visit our sick friend, or should I still say ours, Isaac?”

Isaac lets out a shaky breath. He remembers what she said.

I guess we’re not really here for each other, are we?

He thinks that Erica may never forgive him this time. He thinks that she may not buy into his lies, that there will be nothing he can say to make it right.

There it is again; the anger.

“Look, I came when I could,” he says, and his voice is shaking but he’s not stuttering and that’s enough, “why can’t you two understand that?”

“Maybe because you won’t even say why you can’t go whenever you want!”

Boyd doesn’t really mean to do it.

He’s mad, it’s a common gesture people make when they’re mad, he just steps forward again, and Scott is saying “hey, dude, back off,” but it goes unheard by Isaac because all he sees is a figure coming fast to him and an instinct inside of him takes over; he flinches back, and hits his back on the lockers behind him, hard.

Then, for a few moments, he doesn’t feel anything else, anything other than the excruciating pain on his muscles. He doesn’t hear his own gasp, he doesn’t hear Scott calling his name and he doesn’t see Boyd’s face changing from rage to confusion to concern. He just forces himself to inhale, as deep as he can, to focus on something else, anything, and what he finds is a pair of hands holding him up and a voice close to his ear saying, “Isaac? Isaac, what’s wrong?”

He blinks. It’s like coming out of the water. The initial pain wears off and he’s only left with an unpleasant far away feeling. Scott is the one holding him, and Isaac realizes he’s almost fully supporting himself on him and he tries to regain his footing. “Fine,” he says, and his voice is fragile and unsteady, “I’m fine.”

“Dude,” Scott shakes his head, “you do not look fine, do you want me to take you to the infirmary?”

“No!” he shouts, too quickly, now they must know something is wrong. He pushes Scott slightly away, and he looks a little hurt, but still worried. Isaac closes his eyes and tries to organize his thoughts.

“Isaac,” he hears Boyd say, “please, just, what’s going on with you?”

He shakes his head no. “Nothing, I t-told you, I’m f-fine.”

“Dude-” Scott says again, reaching out to him.

Isaac just outright panics. He opens his eyes when he feels Scott’s hand on his arm and slaps it away taking a step back. “I told you! I’m fine! Why can’t you just drop it?!”

He doesn’t have time to see their stunned faces, he makes a half turn and walks away quickly.


Erica is on a call with Boyd when they tell her she’s clear to go home.

“You were right,” he’s saying, “something is totally going on with him. I grabbed his shoulder and he winced like he was hurt, and then when I walked to him he flinched back so quickly like, I don’t know, like-”

“Like you were going to hit him?”

“Yeah, I guess.” There’s an awkward pause. “Then he just smashed back into the lockers and- he’s hurt, Erica, I don’t know from what, but first the shoulder, and then-”

“What? What happened?”

“He just, gasped like it was the most horrible thing in the world, Scott reacted somehow and grabbed him before he could fall, I thought he was going to pass out.”

“From hitting his back on the lockers?”

“Yeah. And he had a massive freak out when we tried to ask him about it or take him to the infirmary.”

She takes a moment to think of what this means. Isaac is hurt. Isaac thought Boyd was going to hit him. Isaac had a black eye a few weeks ago. Isaac freaked out when they asked him about it.

“Someone is hurting him,” she says, slowly, letting reality sink it. “But who? And since when?”

“I don’t know,” Boyd sighs. He suddenly sounds very tired. “I shouldn’t have been so hard on him. I didn’t think-”

“I know,” she rubs her eyes with her hand, “I feel the same way.”

“I guess he was right, we don’t know what he’s going through.”

“But we’re going to find out. Listen, I have a-” she has no time to tell Boyd her plan, the door opens and Derek and the nurse come inside.

Derek’s smiling.

“I’ll tell you later, I have to go.”

Chapter Text

Isaac can feel the tension in the air, hovering over them, on the silences, on the lingering gazes Scott throws his way. It almost reminds him of himself, when he's around his father, when he's tip toeing around a subject, testing the waters, determining what's safe to say and what isn't. His stomach turns at the thought that that is how he's making Scott feel, so, in a sudden burst of bravery, he turns away from his notebook, and looks at him. They're close together, supposedly working for the project, although it's more like they're both doing it by themselves, too afraid to break the glass between them.

"I'm sorry," Isaac blurts out, feeling his face turning hot when Scott glances up at him in surprise, "about yesterday. I'm sorry I freaked out. You were trying to help, and I- I'm sorry." 

He sees Scott's shoulders dropping slightly. "It's okay. I shouldn't have pressed you like that. I didn't know it was a personal thing." 

A personal thing. Isaac's ears are ringing. He wonders what's Scott thinking, maybe he reasoned he had scars from an accident, or something like that. Maybe he's just being hopeful, naive, maybe Scott has him figured out. 

Fear creeps inside of him. What if he tells someone? What if his father finds out and-

What if he doesn't tell anyone? What if... he doesn't care? 

He pushes the notions away; decides it's better to believe Scott doesn't know anything. 

"So," Scott's voice anchors him back into the real world, "we're okay now?" 

"Yeah," his throat is dry when he speaks. "Yeah, sure." 


Scott smells like forest trees right after it rains. Isaac wonders how they got to this point, how he transformed from Erica's nice friend that plays lacrosse to Scott McCall, the guy that drives him to work in his motorcycle and sits with their knees touching and tells him about his day and asks him questions like what do you think? How was your day, though? Have you eaten anything today? When Scott's around Isaac's throat closes up and his heart expands inside his chest and he feels slightly dizzy, like he's floating. He feels like things are okay even if his father is angry when he comes back home, even if he's been hell bent on avoiding Boyd, even if Erica hates him.

But when Scott leaves and he's left alone he knows, he knows what he's feeling is wrong, disgusting, he knows.

He knows he's not normal.

The mere thought of Scott finding out, sweet, kind Scott, knowing that Isaac has had these dreams and thoughts and feelings about him- No. He can never find out. Isaac swallows it all inside of him and hopes that it will eventually go away.

Chapter Text

Erica is back in school.

Isaac hunches over himself when he sees her, feeling his heart crush itself against his ribcage painfully. She walks in, and she looks normal, and Boyd lights up at her sight and motions for her to sit beside him, and Isaac-

Isaac feels broken, utterly shattered from inside. He’s in a room full of people, but all of them seem like hazy silhouettes, and he’s alone, isolated from the whole world, not by choice, not by chance, but because he’s unwanted by everyone, not even his own mother wanted him. He shudders, even though he’s wearing his sweatshirt and it’s only September. Erica looks over at him and Isaac diverts his eyes and feels the sting of tears forming already. Pathetic. Pathetic, pathetic. He hates that he feels hopeful, that he’s wondering if she isn’t mad anymore, even though she will be, she obviously hates him now, why wouldn’t she? There’s nothing to like about Isaac, in fact, he knows it will only take Scott, even kind, sweet Scott, a few more weeks and he will despise him as well, if it’s not because of the thoughts Isaac has about him it will be because of something else, equally as horrible; there’s only so much niceness and pity someone can hold, Isaac knows this, he’s learned it the hard way.

So when Erica is shyly approaching his desk at the end of class, Isaac takes his backpack and runs off the room and ignores her shouting out for him, ignores her texts and her missed calls, ignores Boyd’s concerned expressions, he hides on the library with Scott by his side and wishes for them to eventually leave him alone, for their anger to subside just enough so that Isaac doesn’t have to hide and flee. He’s just sure that if they say one more thing to him, with even the lowest of spite, Isaac will crack, he will crack and there will be nothing to put the pieces back together, nothing to keep him from falling apart right there and then, and Isaac can’t have that, no, he still retains a little bit of self-preservation.

Weeks go by, and Isaac glues himself to Scott McCall’s side. He befriends, or, does his best to, Scott’s right hand; Stiles, who mostly just talks about Lydia Martin, and Isaac would feel bad for this impossible to achieve crush if it wasn’t because at least Stiles is normal, unlike him, and likes a girl. Stiles talks a lot, too much, at times, but Isaac is grateful; he’s never been good at filling silences. Scott isn’t like that, Scott is gentle and calm like a soft summer breeze, Scott gives up space for others, he listens, he never interrupts, not even when Stiles is accusing him of things, Scott is everything Isaac has never known but wished he did. Scott is everything Isaac longs for.

Scott has a crush on someone else.

It feels like a death sentence when it is spoken. It’s so selfish for him to even feel this way, he should want Scott to be happy, to find someone he deserves, and not someone that is sick and twisted in all the wrong places like Isaac is.

“I like someone,” Scott says when they’re sitting together at a corner in the library, no one else in sight, and he almost seems nervous, like he’s telling Isaac something intimate and private.

“Oh,” Isaac says, his throat closing up so painfully he thinks he’s going to pass out from lack of oxygen. “Who’s the lucky girl?” He attempts for his tone to sound teasing, normal, but he probably fails.

Scott winces and looks away, his cheeks going incredibly red. “Is not…” he sighs, running a hand through his hair, “will you promise not to tell anyone?”

“Of course.”

“Is not,” Scott repeats, voice going uncharacteristically fragile, “is not a girl, Isaac.”

And Isaac just, freezes.

He stares back at Scott, feeling bile rise up on his throat. No. No, no, no. Then Scott is placing his hand tentatively on Isaac’s leg, and some sort of instinct takes over him, fueled by his father’s cruel words playing over and over in his head. He stands up, almost knocking over the chair he's sitting in, and starts striding at the door. Scott follows him, desperately chanting his name, and right when they’re about to leave he finally manages to grab Isaac by his hand.

“Let go.”

“Isaac, please-”

“Let go, you faggot!”

Scott does. He flinches back, his eyes wide and watery. Isaac can’t breathe. He feels out of himself, like he’s someone else, someone bigger and older and enveloped in hatred.

He feels like his father.

He stumbles back, wanting to say something, to apologize, or explain himself, anything, but he can’t get anything out. He can’t breathe. He can’t breathe.

Scott pushes past him, and runs down the hall.

Isaac tries to call out his name.

But he can’t breathe.

Chapter Text

Isaac fidgets with the edges of his sweatshirt, he scratches at the small scar that keeps itching on the end of his wrist, made just a few nights ago with the blade of his pencil sharpener, one single, long, angry mark, the first of them all. It served its purpose; momentarily distracted him from the crushing pain all around his chest, squeezing at his heart and making it impossible to breathe at times.

Somewhere on the back of his head, he’s aware that it’s wrong, that something inside of him has rotten and is spreading through his bones. He ignored it for a while, kept on going on autopilot for almost a full week, until his father got drunk, and pushed him into the stairs. Isaac got lucky, his arm is still sore, but nothing was broken. No, what truly hurt him was the remark that came with it, the hissing whisper that his father delivered to his ear before he threw him; everything would be better if you would just die.

There are certain things you never expect your father to say to you.

In a way, the only reason he’s still here, is because his father locked him up for the whole night.

He stares at the letters displayed on the glass of the door. Counselor. He doesn’t deserve to be here. There’s no point. What is he even going to say?

Isaac takes a big, shuddering breath. The pain on his chest wraps itself around his lungs, and the inhale burns all throughout his torso. He takes the knob on his hand, and twists it, only to stand still for a few more moments, before finally, finally stepping inside.

Ms. Morrell looks up from a few papers all over her desk, surprised. “Oh, I’m sorry, did you have an appointment?”

Isaac’s throat feels dry. He shakes his head silently.

“Alright,” she intertwines her fingers, tilting her head like she’s examining him. “Do you want to make one?”

“I-” he closes his eyes for a moment, trying to force himself to calm down, if only for his voice to sound steady. He opens them again. “Could I just, uh, could I just talk to you right now?”

She leans back on her chest, taking a breath. Isaac looks away, feeling his cheeks burning. He shouldn’t be here. He shouldn’t be wasting her time like this. There’s nothing to be done. There’s no point. “Of course,” she says, and stretches her hand to the chair, “sit down.”

Isaac does, feeling his muscles stiff and cold.

“So,” she starts, slow, patient, like she’s talking to a child. “What’s on your mind today, Isaac?”

He didn’t expect her to know his name.

He takes a moment to ponder it, thoughts swirling all around his head. “A lot,” he bites at his lip, feeling so incredibly stupid, “I don’t know. Everything.”

“Okay.” Ms. Morrell takes a glass, and rolls her chair to fill it with the water dispenser that’s beside her desk. “Everything seems terribly broad. Why don’t you tell me some things that are bothering you? School, maybe?”

He shakes his head.

Ms. Morrel places the glass in front of him. “No? Do you have problems at home, Isaac?”

He can feel himself stiffen without meaning to, shooting his eyes up to see if she noticed, but her expression is unchanged, unreadable. “No,” he says, and the lie is heavy on his tongue, “no, everything’s fine.”

“Love issues, maybe?”

He swallows with difficulty. “Something like that.”

She hums, as he goes to pick up the glass to have something to do with his hands. “What happened?” He shrugs, moving his hand in circles, watching the water move inside, but not drinking it. “Did you have a break up, Isaac?”

He shakes his head.

“Did you get rejected by a girl you liked?”

Right. A girl. The word feels like a slap on his face. A reminder of what he’s not, of what he should be, of what he should feel, of what he should have said to Scott that day, and what he shouldn’t have. “No,” he finally whispers, and it comes out tight and uneven. “I-” he hesitates, “I hurt someone.”

“Someone you care about?”

He nods.

“Well, have you tried apologizing to her?”

He digs his fingernails on the flesh of his own palm. “No.”

“Why not?”

He shrugs again, feeling like he should just get up and leave, that he should stop taking up her time like this, like there’s even any point in helping him, like he’s worth any amount of effort. “Because- because they’d never forgive me.”

Ms. Morrell narrows her eyes, but she doesn’t comment on the pronouns Isaac has used. “You’ll never know that unless you tried.”

“But there’s no point,” he speaks, too fast, and fear springs up in him. Shut up. Shut up. “Even if he did, I wouldn’t be any good, I’m- I’m not-”

He takes a pause, to catch his breath. Ms. Morrell waits for a moment, before softly asking; “you’re not what, Isaac?”

He feels tears starting to form, and tries to push them back as he angrily rubs his hand through his face. “Good enough,” he finally says, gripping the glass a little too tight. There’s spite on his tone, anger that he’s saved up for so long it finally directed towards himself, if only to be consumed in some way, in the cuts hidden under his clothes. “I’m not good enough.”

“Isaac,” Ms. Morrell takes a box of tissues from a drawer, and hands it to him, “there’s no such thing as ‘not good enough’ for someone. You might not fit well together, you might not click, but it’s not because you’re not good enough.”

He stares at the box in front of him, but instead of taking them, he just puts the glass back on the table, fidgeting, wondering if he should just leave. “It’s not just for- for them.”

“What do you mean?”

“I’m just not-” he pauses for a moment, trying to collect himself, to hold the pieces closer to each other so they don’t come apart entirely. “I’m not good enough in general. For nothing. I’m-” His father’s words echo in his head, but he doesn’t speak them, he lets them hammer and resonate inside of him. Worthless. Pathetic. Failure. Stupid. Ungrateful. Good-for-nothing. Useless.

Silence. Isaac stares hard at his own hands. He can feel his whole face getting warmer with each second. He shouldn’t have come here, he shouldn’t have bothered anyone.

“Isaac,” she finally whispers, gentle, and Isaac grips his fingers together to hold the sobs back down. “How long have you felt like this?”

He laughs, doesn’t really know why, but he does, bitter, and unamused. “I don’t know,” he shrugs, “for a while.”

“Have you told your parents?”

He snorts, loudly, and bites at his own lip to stop himself, and instead just shakes his head.

“What about your friends?”

Isaac’s fake smile crumbles down as soon as she utters the question. He can feel the pain squeezing tighter and tighter, his heart feels like it’s bleeding out. “I don’t have any.”

“Now,” Ms. Morrell pursues his lips, “I know you have friends. I’ve seen you in the halls with Erica Reyes and Vernon Boyd.”

He looks away. “They’re not my friends.”

Speaking it out loud makes him want to puke.

“What about Scott McCall, then?”

He chuckles again, pressing a hand against his forehead. “Scott McCall hates me.” He doesn’t stop, the laughter, somehow, is almost like an equivalent to crying. “They all do, for that matter.”

“I’m sure that’s not true,” Ms. Morrell says, and Isaac looks at her once more, feeling like her voice is traveling through water. “Hate is a very strong word, Isaac. Did you have a fight, maybe?”

“You don’t get it,” he mutters. Defeat settles itself on his shoulders. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have wasted your time,” he stands up, but before he can reach the door, he feels her hand on his wrist, and he yanks it back immediately.

“I’m sorry,” she says, although she eyes his arm suspiciously, “I didn’t mean to startle you. You don’t have to leave, Isaac, come on, help me understand.”

“There’s nothing to understand.”

“Isaac-”

“Just-” he stops, ragged breaths coming out of his lips. “I just don’t know what to do, okay?”

“Okay,” she lingers in the space in front of him, leaning on her desk and half standing, “about what?”

“Everything.”

“Isaac, I want to help you, okay? But I need you to be more specific. What would you want to change? What do you need?”

“Everything,” he repeats, frustrated, “nothing is okay, alright?”

“You told me your home life was fine.” He hides his face on his hands, trembling. He doesn’t answer. “Isaac-”

“I just want for it to stop,” he finally says, cracked and broken, his shoulders start shaking as he sobs, making a choked out noise that had been sitting on the tip of his tongue for days. “I just need it to stop.”

Ms. Morrell places a tentative hand on his shoulder, rubbing circles on it. “That what would stop, Isaac?”

He shakes his head.

“Please. Tell me.”

So he wipes the tears off his eyes, and looks at her dead in the eyes. “Everything.”

Ms. Morrell just nods, the action almost unnoticeable.

Chapter Text

Isaac doesn’t know how he manages to slip off like he does, probably because he’s not thinking anymore, merely walking around the school in autopilot, but he fails to remember Erica and Boyd have a class ending nearby, and soon, after the bell rings, he hears her voice behind him.

“Isaac.”

He freezes. His throat closes up, his stomach takes a turn. He can’t do this, he thinks, he can’t deal with them telling him anything bad, not today, of all times, not after Scott-

He tightens his hold on his backpack’s straps, and is all about to sprint away when Boyd appears in front of him, both hands up, like he’s talking to a scared dog. “Isaac, hey, could we just talk for a moment?”

He opens his mouth to answer, not even knowing with what, but nothing comes out of it.

“We’ve been really wo-”

Erica never finished that sentence. Isaac tries to slip past them, and is stopped by a hand gripping his arm. The touch is surprising; Boyd hasn’t moved, and Isaac is too on edge.

He snaps. He pushes by instinct, and Erica isn’t even able to scream as her head hits the wall behind her, hard.

Isaac stares at the blood that drips for her nose, at her expression, filled in things he can’t read. She hates him, his mind tells him. He wants to say he’s sorry, he tries to, but nothing but a choked gasp comes out, and then Boyd is helping Erica up, looking at Isaac in hurt and betrayal and-

He flees, makes a half turn and runs away like the coward he is.


There are certain things you never believe a loved one would be capable of doing to you.

He wonders how they got to this point. From careless pushes, from his father’s hand gripping on his wrist too tight, from his father yelling instead of talking, cursing instead of guiding, from a few impulse ridden hits, to a routine of punishment, to a belt striking his back repeatedly, unceasingly, mercilessly.

And then, to a rifle being fired at him.

He was drunk, it’s what Isaac keeps repeating to himself. His father would never actually kill him, he was drunk, so drunk the bullet didn’t even touch him, it went way above his head; even now Isaac can see the reflection of his panicked eyes on the pieces of glass that fell on the carpet. He doesn’t remember running. It was like his mind shut off, all of the rules his father had built around him crumbled down at the face of death. He dashed for the door, driven by instinct, half stumbling, sprinted away through at least two blocks before his feet slipped into a puddle and he ended on the ground, panting. Isaac didn’t move for a while. He felt dizzy, like the whole world had twisted upside down. He couldn’t hear anything but the sound of the gunpowder sparking, expanding the gas inside the chamber, shooting a bullet into a house window, his house window. He knows it shattered after the rifle was fired, the logic of the sequence of events tells him so, but in his mind it all blended together, the firing of the weapon and a piece of his home being blown into pieces.

Isaac lived in that house his whole life, but there’s a separation between his memories; the house where he and his family lived is not the same house where he and his father lived. After he was eleven, he wasn’t woken up with the soft voice of his mother, he wasn’t served eggs with a happy face drawn on them with ketchup, and the living room wasn’t filled in with the sound of his brother’s fingers playing the piano. As he grew old, the walls shrank on him, trapped him inside, the hand of his father resting on his neck wasn’t reassuring anymore, it felt like a collar chained around his neck, suffocating him.

But a prison was still somewhere.

He walks the streets aimlessly for a while, still panting, still trying to escape even though he’s probably hours away. Slowly, as the immediate panic subsides, he realizes he has nowhere to go. He realizes he has no one to turn to, that if he was hit by a truck right now, no one would care.

He lets his weight fall on a nearby wall and thinks about dying. A car slows down near him, and an old lady rolls down her window and asks; “are you okay, kid?”

He looks at her numbly, wonders if there’s blood on him, or if he simply looks fucked up. “No,” he says, because it’s true, and he has no energy left to lie.

The lady pulls her car closer to the sidewalk. “Want me to give you a lift somewhere?”

Isaac thinks about death again, and then, of more.

 

Chapter Text

The moment he sees Erica, the planet resumes spinning. Too quickly, because he can feel every turn it makes, his head goes dizzy and his knees go weak, and he must be running out of oxygen, because he can’t catch any air into his lungs, and his chest constricts in such a painful way he can feel his own ribs crushing unto themselves.

“Isaac?” she says, and as she’s speaking, he notices the bruise she has on her chin.

The bruise he made.

He takes a step back. The lady beside him (he faintly remembers her saying her name but he can’t seem to get a grasp of it) grabs his arm. He wants to run, but all of his limbs are far too heavy. “Is this your brother? He’s told me this was his address.”

Erica blinks at her like she’s just noticed her presence. “Yeah. Yes.”

He makes a move then, pulls hard at his own arm so she’ll let go and stumbles into the front garden. He’s just about to sprint when Erica takes his shirt into her hands and pulls him closer to her like you would a scared dog’s leash. “Hey, hey, don’t run on me now.”

He stares at her. Not at her eyes, but at the bruise and at her hands. He wants to ask her to let go. He wants to tell her he’s sorry. He doesn’t say anything.

There’s more to the conversation. He can’t really process most of it, at least until Erica turns her head and yells something. A new urgency goes through him, a fear that is too vague to describe, anticipation of something that is familiar but formless. He’s running again, and on his ears there’s the sound of a rifle firing and of glass breaking. Then there are arms. They start by grabbing at his wrist and pulling at him, and he doesn’t quite see the figure as much as register its shape. He doesn’t know where he is, only that someone (his father?) is grabbing him and the arms now envelop him and he thinks it’s his dad, it’s definitely him, he’s going to drag him into the freezer, he’s going to shoot him, to kill him, to beat him-

No!” the sound of his own scream seems foreign to him. It rises for a moment and then he can’t hear himself anymore. He knows he’s shouting, pleading at his father to let him go, promising to be better, although he’s not quite sure if he’s being coherent. He thrashes and yells until something in his throat snaps and he’s unable to make any sound anymore.

That’s when he hears Derek’s voice.

“It’s me, Isaac, it’s me! I’m not him, you’re safe! You’re safe!”

He stills. His eyes go wide as he looks directly in front of him, at the chest where his head is buried. He feels disoriented. What happened? A gunshot. He flinches.

“Shh, shhh,” Derek’s voice again. “Just breathe, you’re fine, it’s over.”

He can’t seem to stop shaking. Derek is holding him so tight he can feel the tremble as if it’s his own heartbeat. He tries to speak, but nothing comes out.

“It’s going to be okay.” A hand, caressing his hair. He involuntary relaxes. “It’s all going to be just fine, hm? Just breathe, Isaac.”

“M’sorry.”

It takes him a moment to realize he’s the one who’s just spoken.

“No, no, nothing to be sorry for.”

Isaac starts crying.