Isaac stands in the Hale kitchen, which seems to be warmed as much by goodwill and laughter as it is by the actual heating. It’s pretty overwhelming, especially for someone with his history. And he’s still not sure exactly how he came to be here.
Well- he knows how, obviously. It can be summed up in one word that starts with “S” and rhymes with has-a-surprising-amount-of-wiles.
Anthony passes Isaac a soda and doesn’t give him a single curious glance about the no-alcohol thing. It’s just one more reason to love the Hales. Isaac takes a deep swig and watches Peter and Talia talk over the top of each other as they try to get their opposing versions of a family anecdote across to their audience. Isaac fakes interest, but he’s completely focused on the possibility of a car pulling up outside, because he is, apparently, a Grade-A idiot. This is the second time in his short life that he has fixated on someone completely out of his league.
It had taken him years to get over his semi-crush on Scott McCall. Years. And he hadn’t even- he doesn’t even seem to be actually gay, for God’s sake.
After one, abortive trip to a gay bar two towns over Isaac had immediately realized that was not for him. Even a dance floor heaving with glistening, muscular bodies hadn’t done it for Isaac Lahey.
Of course not. Apparently his loser-gene was strong enough that it couldn’t be that simple. He couldn’t just be gay, or bi. He had to be Scott-specific, and then spend years pining for someone who barely even knew he was alive to begin with. There had been something about the guy he hadn’t been able to shake.
Isaac blinks back into the present when Peter and Talia both pause in the same second, then resume their stories after an odd moment of silence. No-one comments on it, though, and Isaac forgets it entirely when Anthony turns to him and says quietly, “I know we can be a bit overwhelming en masse. If you want to take a breather, go ahead.”
Isaac shoots him a grateful glance. The Hales can actually be a bit overwhelming, not that Isaac’s ever going to say so out loud. He likes it. He’s just not used to it. The way Isaac had grown up, a noisy house had meant something else entirely.
“Why don’t you go check ‘round the front of the house and see if the twins or the Seattle division have arrived yet?” Anthony suggests.
“Yeah, okay,” Isaac agrees readily.
He accepts a leg-tackle-hug from Peter’s kids as he goes, is smiling ruefully as he extracts himself and moves down the hall. For some reason it hits him just how close he’d come to missing out on all of this, just because of the Scott thing.
Isaac had hesitated for a long time over Stiles’s invitation, all those months ago. He almost hadn’t shown up to the lacrosse game. It wouldn’t have been hard to avoid the guy, after all, everyone knows the Sheriff’s son lives in Seattle. He’s making a big impression there, too, if his father’s stories are anything to go by, so what would Stiles have cared if Isaac had never showed? He could skip the game and it would all blow over. And it had seemed beyond stupid to start any kind of connection with the best friend of the guy he’d only just begun to get over.
But he’d done it anyway. Had sat with Stiles on the cold, hard benches at BHHS and shared mutual misery over the thrashing the Cyclones had suffered. And it had been fine. There had been no pity in Stiles’ eyes at any point. No prurient curiosity, no speculation. It had been like a cool drink on a hot day to just sit and be, without the spectre of his father and Cam and Isaac’s deafness and the endless gossip.
The front rooms of the house are empty for the moment, but in an amazing stroke of good timing when he glances out the window he sees a familiar car rolling to a stop on the gravel drive. Isaac’s chest tightens and he swallows as he reaches for the front door.
He likes this, the weird way the Hales have swallowed him up and made him family without ever actually asking for his consent. But now, of course, he’s going to screw up the fake-family opportunity, and the solid friendship he’s been slowly building with Stiles, by fixating on-
“Isaac,” a warm voice burbles, “hey, I didn’t realize you were already here.” Cool air flows through the open doorway of the Hale house.
“Hey,” he manages weakly, gut-punched at just the sight of her climbing the stairs up to the porch. “Hey, Rachel.” And then she hugs him. Damn it. He tries not to sniff too obviously as her arms circle his neck and her fragrance drifts past him.
“Lahey,” another voice says from right over her shoulder. Cora, waiting not-so-patiently on the porch.
“Cora,” he acknowledges, and forces his hands to loosen where they rested on Rachel’s back.
He and Cora don’t hug – she’s not the type. Most of the Hales are, though, or so Isaac has discovered, since Stiles Stilinski burst into his life and turned it upside down.
But Rachel’s the one who smiles, big and broad, when they meet. The one who remembers Isaac loves The Office, that he only likes balsamic dressing on salads, and is allergic to horses.
But then, he tells himself sternly, she remembers everything about everyone. Isaac’s not an idiot. He knows it means nothing at all, it’s just how she is. Cora got all the attitude, Rachel got all the nurturing.
Isaac shuffles back and smiles at them both, head turned so that his good ear is facing toward them. He doesn’t even think about it anymore, and the Hales, thankfully, have never given it a moment’s notice. He pushes the door closed behind them and picks up two of their shopping bags, trying to ignore the emasculating fact that Cora is, as always, carrying twice what Isaac does. Apparently becoming a chef is accompanied by really impressive muscle development.
“Stiles and Derek show up?”
“Not yet,” Isaac says, and watches Rachel unwind her skinny scarf, the only concession she’s made to the cold. He’s lucky she didn’t throw on the cropped suede jacket that perfectly highlights the appealing curve of her hips and ass. It always short-circuits his brain completely, and it’s going to be complicated enough getting through Thanksgiving dinner without dealing with an inappropriate boner.
“Probably making out on the side of the road,” Cora says on her way to the kitchen, and rolls her eyes. “One last emergency scr-”
“It’s romantic,” Rachel says primly, and Isaac laughs, shaking his head. Only the very rosiest of optimists could call those two romantic. They’re in heat, is what they are.