Sometimes important discoveries about the people in your life are made through the most innocuous circumstances. Liam could think of a couple of these– Mason coming out to him while they were playing Smash in the basement during seventh grade, for instance– but after Scott turned him he didn’t think such revelations would happen like they used to.
As a werewolf, there was little the material world could hide from him. His heightened senses and sharpened intuition tended to peel back the shadowy sides of those in his circle. He knew that Scott was in love with Isaac a week after the other beta returned, just by the way his heartbeat picked up and the way his body language subtly shifted whenever Isaac was around. He knew Stiles still had a huge crush on Lydia, and that Lydia was beginning to reciprocate without consciously knowing it. Sometimes he wanted to reach out and claw apart the sexual and romantic tension between Kira and Malia.
He could read people like a book now, and when it came to the pack, they were all so naturally in tune that Liam could almost tell what they were thinking. It was hard to surprise him these days.
So he was a little thrown when, one day at lunch, he learned Scott had chronic pain Liam hadn’t known about it.
They were sitting outside, Isaac on Scott’s left, Stiles to his right, Allison, Malia and Lydia lounging on the grass. Hayden sat next to Liam. They were all eating, Stiles talking animatedly about something Liam couldn’t entirely tune in to, when Scott pulled out an apple from his lunch bag and bit into it.
There was a loud, muffled click. Liam looked up to Scott, startled. Sure, it was noisy outside, but he was certain that weird noise had come from Scott.
Sure enough, Scott winced and put down the apple. He lowered his head and rubbed two fingers into the right side of his face, in front of his ear. Isaac noticed, going still. He rubbed Scott’s shoulders, and Liam noticed with alarm the black lines of pain traveling into Isaac’s hands.
“Scott?” Liam asked. “Are you hurt? What’s wrong?”
Scott looked up to Liam in confusion. “What? No, I’m fine. My jaw’s just acting up.”
Liam was confused. “Your jaw? What’s wrong with your jaw?”
Scott looked confused back for a moment, before his face cleared. “Oh, I guess I never told you. I have TMD.”
“Temporomandibular joint disorder.”
Liam tilted his head. His dad was a doctor, so he was pretty familiar with tongue-twisting medical conditions, but this was new to him. “What the hell is that?”
Scott lifted his chin and ran his fingers along his right jawline. “You ever notice how my face is uneven? My jaws aren’t symmetrical?”
Liam had. He’d never asked about it, figuring Scott had broken his jaw as a child or something. “Honestly I forget unless someone points it out. But yeah.”
“Yeah, well, the reason for that is because my jaw joint’s messed up.” Scott touched his lower jaw, then upper, along his cheekbone. “Mandibular. Temporal. There’s a joint between them that allows us to open our mouths, form words, move our chins around, that kind of thing. It’s called the temporomandibular joint, TMJ. In a healthy one, there’s a meniscus in there, like in your knee, between the two bones.”
Liam was catching on. “But yours isn’t healthy, I take it?”
Scott nodded, his expression a little rueful. “That meniscus is normally shaped kinda like a canoe. Mine is more like a paddleboard. I flattened it by clenching my teeth at night.”
Without saying anything, Isaac leaned against Scott’s side, letting his hand slip into his boyfriend’s.
“It was stress,” Scott elaborated, leaning slightly against Isaac. “From when I was a kid. After my dad left, when my parents were getting divorced. It manifested like that, and I clenched hard enough to flatten the meniscus in my jaw. It dislocates a lot, like when I eat hard foods and stuff like that.”
Liam was still confused. “Why didn’t the Bite heal it?”
“I don’t know,” Scott admitted. “I wondered. I asked Deaton about it, and he said that maybe because I’m still carrying around some of the trauma from when I was a kid, I’m subconsciously not letting it heal or something. That’s why it still hurts when it pops out, and I still get headaches from it.” Scott shrugged. “I don’t really think about it that much. It’s just another part of me.”
Liam leaned forward onto the bench. He’d had no idea Scott had, essentially, chronic pain. It seemed like it should be impossible for a werewolf, a true alpha at that. But Scott tended to take the odds and quietly rip them to shreds. Maybe this was just another example of his tendency to bend the rules.
“It’s actually gotten better, though,” Scott continued. “It used to really bother me, knowing it probably won’t ever heal. But it hurts less now.”
“Why?” Liam asked. “Are you healing?”
“In a way,” Scott replied.
And suddenly his eyes softened with affection, and he looked to Isaac, then Stiles, and the rest of the pack, finally landing on Liam. His lips lifted in a soft smile, the quiet love in his face outshining any lack of symmetry there.
“Oh,” Liam said, understanding. He smiled back.
And the afternoon drifted on gently.