The knock on the glass made Stiles’ pulse jump painfully in his chest, adrenaline racing through his veins as if it would be enough to save him from anything. The sick knot in his stomach reminded him what a pathetic defense it was. His fight or flight response hadn’t exactly served him well of late.
It was pointless anyway. He doubted murderous lizards or geriatric psychopaths would bother to knock before coming to snatch him up. That only left—
“I’m really not in the mood to chat, Scott,” he said, not bothering to raise his voice; werewolf ears could probably hear him from the front lawn even if he whispered. He stayed where he was, cross-legged on his bed, stringing and restringing his crosse like he’d been doing for the last half hour. He didn’t know what he was trying to accomplish with it, if getting the ties just right would somehow force his hands to quit shaking, but he couldn’t seem to make himself stop.
He heard the rasp of the window sliding open but didn’t turn around. He didn’t think he could look at Scott right now, not after everything that had gone down. Working with the enemy in a double bluff was one thing, but doing it without informing literally anyone else involved was another and that thing was shitty.
“I said I’m not in the mood for this, Scott,” he repeated a little more forcefully. The way his jaw clenched made the bruises there ache.
Definitely not Scott’s voice, and not Derek’s either. Those were the only people who had ever climbed in through his window before and Stiles found himself halfway off the bed with his crosse held up defensively before he realized whose voice it was.
“Isaac?” He lowered his makeshift weapon but couldn’t find it in him to let go of it completely. “The hell are you doing here?”
The werewolf was still half outside, straddling his windowsill like he wasn’t sure if he was actually allowed inside. That wasn’t exactly an unfounded worry, considering their history. Not that they had all that much history, but they’d sort of been playing opposing sides of the field until very recently. Maybe Scott had warmed up to Isaac lately but Stiles was still a little wary; the guy had turned into a giant dick once he got the bite, like a little Derek 2.0 but with less condescension and more vindictiveness.
None of that was conducive to Isaac in his bedroom in the middle of the night looking so uncertain.
“I know you lied,” Isaac said, eyes trained on the carpet somewhere between Stiles’ feet. “About that night in the basement.”
Stiles didn’t know what to say to that. Mostly because his head hurt, his brain was moving a little sluggishly, and he didn’t quite understand what Isaac was talking about.
“You wanna try that again?” Stiles said. “Maybe with a little less of the cryptic and vaguely accusatory I Know What You Did Last Summer vibe?”
Isaac shifted, pulling his other leg through the window to seat himself properly. His hands gripped the sill underneath him tight enough to make the wood squeak and Stiles had no idea why or what was even going on right now.
"The other night, with Gerard. You told your dad you were jumped by some lacrosse rivals,” Isaac said. “And you told Scott and Derek that he only caught you outside the game and slapped you around a little bit, just to make a point.”
Stiles’ hold on his crosse tightened. “Yeah?” he asked through gritted teeth. “And what do you know about it?”
“I know it was more than a little bit,” Isaac said. “Erica told me.”
Something in Stiles’ chest loosened; last he had seen of Erica she had been strung up and shaking, Boyd in much the same condition at her side. They had still been there when Gerard’s flunky had dragged him up the stairs again, stuck him in the back of a van, and dumped him on the side of the road to limp home. That had been two days ago, though, and he hadn’t heard much from Scott or Derek or anyone else about that situation.
Part of him was relieved to hear that Erica was safe and well enough to be telling her tale. The rest of him was feeling distinctly threatened, backed into a corner and pinned there as Isaac’s eyes flicked up to catch on the line of purple bruising that marred the entire left side of his face. He had the distinct urge to cover himself somehow, to turn his face and hide, to lash out until Isaac left him alone to lick his wounds in peace. There was a flush on his cheeks that he didn’t understand, heat creeping down his neck and making him itch.
“So what?” he said. “I got kicked around by a septuagenarian. What of it?”
“Why didn’t you tell anyone? Why did you lie about it?”
“It’s none of your goddamn business,” Stiles snapped. “Why are you here, Isaac?”
Isaac met his eye then and Stiles almost looked away at once. There was something there, a softness on Isaac’s face, that Stiles had never seen there before. Ever since he’d gotten the bite, Isaac had been all bite himself, all swagger and claws and knife-sharp smiles, puffing himself up to look as intimidating as he'd become. But there was none of that now, just a kind of openness that Stiles didn’t know what to do with.
“I needed to make sure you were okay,” Isaac said, barely above a whisper, like he wasn’t sure that he actually wanted Stiles to hear.
Stiles tried to swallow but his mouth was dry. “I’m fine,” he said, voice hoarse.
“I know what that lie sounds like, Stiles,” Isaac said, lips quirking up into something that wasn’t a smile, not even close. “I’ve told it a hundred times before.”
That flush of heat flooded Stiles’ face again and his stomach churned with something he couldn’t name, something acidic and sharp-edged. His throat clenched up around a jumble of words that refused to form a response and Stiles turned away, reaching to finally drop his crosse back on his bed. He misjudged the twisting motion, though, and it sent lightning bolts of pain through his chest and punched a gasp out of him.
He untwisted to relieve the pressure only to find Isaac right there, a foot away from him at most. Stiles jerked back reflexively—another very painful action—and nearly toppled over backwards when the backs of his knees hit the edge of his mattress. Next thing he knew, there was a large, strong hand holding onto his right wrist and an arm wrapped around his waist, holding him upright.
There was a breathless moment as Stiles’ heart raced and his brain tried to readjust to his new circumstances, still working through the fading ache in his chest. His chest which was now pressed very close to Isaac’s.
Stiles’ shook off Isaac’s hold on his wrist, then used that hand to remove the arm from around him.
“Jesus,” he said shakily, “don’t do that. Swear to god, if you insist on being ninjas, I’m gonna put fucking bells on you people.”
He pushed Isaac back out of his personal space, but Isaac didn’t return to his window seat. He stayed close, almost hovering, scanning Stiles from head to toe with an intensity that made him want to put on more layers.
“Have you done anything for those ribs?” Isaac asked.
Stiles almost crossed his arms over his chest defensively, but he stopped himself. He’d already figured out the hard way that that was a terrible idea. He thought about denying it, insisting again that he was fine, but Isaac’s eyes were sharp and perceptive and Stiles’ chest hurt with every breath and he just didn’t have it in him to play this game.
“I didn’t— I don’t have anything to wrap them with, or whatever the hell it is you’re supposed to do for ribs,” Stiles mumbled. He’d considered googling his injuries, but he was already on a knife’s edge and he was pretty sure one wrong word would be enough to send him tumbling. He had a feeling panic attacks would be hell on hurt ribs.
"Good,” Isaac said. “That treatment’s outdated and actually hurts more than it helps. Bruised or broken?”
Stiles shrugged; Scott was the budding medical professional, not him. He was pretty sure he hadn’t punctured a lung at least, so he thought he was doing okay so far.
Isaac’s hand on his side startled him enough to almost send him flailing back onto his bed again. The hand retracted immediately, held up in front of Isaac in a distinctly mollifying gesture.
“Sorry,” he said quietly. “I just wanted to— I know the difference, is all.”
Stiles really wished that surprised him. More than that, he wished Isaac didn’t have first hand knowledge of what broken ribs felt like shifting under his skin, but there was nothing he could do about that. All he could do in the moment was chew on his bottom lip and try to hold onto the vestiges of his hostility, but it was slipping away faster than he could muster it up again. His chest hurt, his face hurt, that one spot on his back hurt, and the way Isaac was looking at him with those soft, sympathetic eyes fucking hurt.
With a shaky breath, Stiles nodded. Then Isaac’s hands were on him again, slower and more cautious this time, tentatively pushing the hem of Stiles’ t-shirt up his stomach. Stiles was too fucking tired to be shy, and it wasn’t like Isaac didn’t already know. There was no point in hiding from him.
Stiles pulled his shirt over his head and tossed it aside. Isaac didn’t gasp or shake his head or even look surprised, even though Stiles’ knew his chest and stomach were a patchwork of purple and blue with the edges fading into green already. There was only a tight set to Isaac’s shoulders, a pinch between his eyebrows, the faintest of frown lines around his mouth.
Isaac’s fingers were cool against his overheated skin, brushing over the ridges of his rib cage lightly at first and then pressing more firmly. Stiles gritted his teeth against the pain of the intrusion and Isaac made a soft noise of apology. The probing fingers became a wide palm flat against his side and for a second, Stiles could only marvel at how quickly Isaac’s hand had warmed. With his next breath, he realized that the ache was fading fast, draining away through the point of contact.
There was black tracing up Isaac’s arm, twisting through his veins and disappearing under the sleeve of his leather jacket. A glance at Isaac’s face showed that he was as surprised as Stiles was; Scott had told Stiles about this, about the way werewolves could leech pain from other creatures and heal it more quickly in themselves, but Stiles would never have expected that Isaac would do that for him.
Then, abruptly, the connection was gone. Isaac held his hand close to his chest, looking almost flustered.
“Nothing broken,” he said. “Just bruises. Hurt like a bitch, but they won’t poke holes in your insides or anything.”
They didn’t hurt anymore, but Isaac had to know that. Stiles wondered if it was his sleep-deprived imagination or if Isaac’s eyes were really as wet as they looked to him. He was feeling a little teary-eyed himself, but that was probably just relief in the sudden absence of pain.
“You should...sit,” Isaac said, putting hands on Stiles’ shoulders to push him down onto the bed. “I’ll just...”
He disappeared out of Stiles’ room and was back again before Stiles had even decided if he wanted to follow instructions or be contrary about it. He had a pack of frozen peas in one hand, ancient ones from the very back of the freezer that were probably far past edible by now, and a dish towel in the other.
“Here,” he said, wrapping the towel around the peas. “Help bring the swelling down. Ibuprofen will help with the pain, and if you can sleep on your injured side it should make it easier to breathe.”
Stiles took the makeshift ice pack with a soft, “Thanks.” It was uncomfortably cold against his skin, but it didn’t hurt half as much as it would have before the magical pain drain.
Silence reigned for an excruciatingly long minute, Stiles focusing all his attention on icing his ribs and Isaac hovering like maybe he wanted to say something but didn’t know what or how.
Finally Isaac seemed to give up. He headed for the window without another word, head bent low and shoulders hunched up around his ears. It was a defensive stance again, so different from the openness of his expression just a few minutes ago, and Stiles wasn’t quite sure what he had done to bring those walls back up. But he thought maybe he regretted it.
“I didn’t want to do his job for him.”
Isaac stopped when Stiles’ spoke, one foot on the windowsill. He turned back with a frown on his face, confused. Stiles shifted under his scrutiny, moving the ice pack to the next sore rib.
“You asked me why I lied,” Stiles said. “All this—” He gestured vaguely to himself, to the bruises that covered him like scatterpaint. “—was supposed to be a message to Scott. A show of what Gerard could do, of how far he’d go. A reminder that everyone Scott cared about was fair game and he’d better play ball or else.”
Stiles had to work to swallow around the lump of bitter anger and helplessness that clogged his throat, trying to ignore the fear that still sent tremors through him from head to toe. Fair game was right. He’d been such an easy target, the vulnerable human that was so very easy to break. The weakest link.
He shook his head hard to dislodge that thought. It only made the sick churning in his stomach worse, and it didn’t help that Isaac was watching him so closely, so carefully. There was no pity in his gaze, just an overwhelming familiarity, sadness and resignation in every line of his face, and Gerard had put that look there. For that as much as anything else, Stiles hated him with a strength he had never felt for anyone before.
“I wasn’t gonna be his fucking messenger boy,” Stiles spat. “If he wanted to hurt Scott, he damn well wasn’t gonna do it through me.”
For a long time, Isaac just looked at him steadily, the seconds ticking past as Stiles counted his own heartbeats and waited for something, anything. What he got was a nod, simple and quick. It felt like more than an acknowledgement, like respect, and Stiles was surprised to find that it settled something in him. The unease in his gut calmed, his heart stopped feeling like it was about to beat out of his chest, and the openness in Isaac’s gaze didn’t frighten him anymore.
In the blink of an eye, Isaac was gone, the window sliding shut behind him with a groan and a click. Stiles was left alone in the dim quiet of his empty bedroom, a faint ache already creeping back into his ribs as the pain drain faded. Bottom lip caught between his teeth and ice pack discarded on the bedside table, he laid himself out on his injured side as per Isaac’s advice and found that his breath did come easier.
The crosse got kicked to the floor where it lay, forgotten, as Stiles replayed the phantom coolness of Isaac’s fingers on his skin until sleep took him.