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Survival of The Fittest

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2015

The day was the beginning of the end. There were always rumors that transcendent beings walked the earth. Isaac is one of them, it took them all by surprise when the government announced their existence with no preamble. Hushed whispers broke out in the communities, no one knew what the government was planning. The voice was the press secretary, his voice came out staticky. Every radio station trying to get the signal to broadcast all throughout the United States.

This was different, Isaac glanced over at his pack mate Erica as they sat around the kitchen table. Mutely, Erica quickly ran to Boyd and Derek stirring them from their slumber. Isaac remembered the dread as everyone huddled together. There were thoughts racing about, everyone was holding onto something.

“-are aware of numerous beings, the number of different beings is being counted. At this time we are creating a team …”

A team, designed in to cater to the transcendent beings. The biggest lie since Watergate.

2018

Isaac gritted his teeth as thousands of bolts of energy coursed through his body. The men tried to paralyze him enough to inject him with a vial of wolfsbane. The thick claws dug into the dirt, he couldn’t get a firm grip on anything with his muscles spasming. Isaac crumpled into the muck, the bolts didn’t let up. One immobilized, while the other went to inject him. Isaac’s eyes were a beautiful deathly yellow. He was unable to do much more than groan, his spit gurgled in his mouth. This was it, he was sure of it, they were going to capture him and bring him to the Cornucopia.

A vicious roar erupted behind him. The men scrambled to pull out their guns, the made them clumsy. Their fear was their undoing as Derek snapped their necks. The volts of electricity stopped. Isaac could still feel the thrumming of his muscles, vibrating. Derek made quick work of disposing of the bodies. He threw them into a fox hole hoping the animals will finish off the body.

Derek crouched down next to Isaac, “Are you hurt?” He asked the warmth of his hand hovered over his back. Ready to take the pain to help his pack mate to stand. They couldn’t stay there, the men were a part of a squad. Their comrades were going to scour the woods searching for them. They could barely evade two, five or six more men? The two would be shackled and brought in.

No, it wasn’t going to happen. Isaac dug his nails into the ground slowly lifting his body up, knocking Derek’s hand away. “I’m fine, I’m good.” Isaac stood up his whole front side covered in dirt and leaves. He spat out onto the floor trying to rid himself of the metal taste in his mouth.

“Come on, we are going to need to move,” Derek urged. He was already making his way towards the little encampment they made.  

 

Many people thought being exposed to humans was a good thing. That meant a wave of communication could be achieved, acceptance. The world was supposed to be accepting. Finally, Twilight was a real thing and those hot romance books lonely house mom’s clutched to- that was real. People adored the world Isaac was brought into. It should’ve been an easier transition.  However, everyone forgot the one thing humans loved to do. Chain, lock and kill things that weren’t them. At first, it was the small things, beings that were the farthest things from human cognition. While everyone marveled at the little sprites, the government was trying to open up communication.

The government was smart. It wasn’t like the alien conspiracy theory where everything was so hush-hush, it was all speculation. They were so transparent. Everyone was fully aware of what the government's propaganda was trying to create. They were showing acceptance with utter caution. With carefully placed wording to let people know ‘THEY’RE SAFE but dangerous.’ Making everyone aware of the dangers that the transcendent community held.

Then two months into being thrown into the limelight, the bureaucratic agency started to openly take over. Congress was discussing laws to be placed. The rhetoric was what if one went rogue. Like this man-made discovery was only possible since 2015. That the transcendent community wasn’t around till they discovered them. Representatives tried to step in, the agency kept urging the community to register themselves down. It was so they could get assets like blood, sanctioned off woodland housing, riverbeds and so forth. At first, this was optional. No one wanted the government to come off as imposing or infringing.  

That meant a school-wide poll to label yourself. Isaac remembered when he had to mark down if he was human or not  Derek told them not to. It was the smartest thing he had ever said.

 

They reached the camp, the fire was crackling at low burn while Boyd was cooking a rabbit he managed to catch. The meat seared it smelt good. With only the burnt hair strands that ignited on the skinned animal curbing his hunger. Erica was lounging in the tent they dragged around with them.

“What happened to you?” Boyd asked just as Erica peeked her head out of the tent. Both staring at Isaac’s muddied up clothes.

“Doesn’t matter. We need to leave now. There are some hunters nearby and more coming our way,” Derek was kicking out the fire.

The others started to dismantle the tent and gather up their belongings. It wasn’t a lot of things. The biggest was the tent they managed to grab before bolting into the woods for good. None of them were prepared to run, with only a few miscellaneous items to get them through.

Quickly the grabbed what they could, Erica slipping her dagger into the holster in her combat boots. They took off in pairs. Derek and Isaac created 100 meters between the other pair. The humans wouldn’t be able to take down both in that distance. If one went down they had the second group to intervene. They ran as fast they could, swerving through the trees and jumping over the slicked rocks. No one knew where they would end up. Derek kept leading them further into the woodlands. The terrain was dense making it possible to create a considerable distance between them and the regime. This is how they had to survive.

 

Once you had to, one way or another, specify your class things shifted even further. There were no cards to signify, but the government knew. News started to break out ‘monster attack in the preserve’. It was a teenager who wanted to get near a werewolf on a full moon. The person died, it was the first public casualty. There was a board of journalists constantly talking about the ethics of it all.

It was the talk of the town, the city, the whole world. Some smarmy men declared that they should all die. Everyone was voicing their opinions. While The Hale pack made sure they were quiet. Even as discussions began to happen within the school, they didn’t speak. It was hard to listen in on people assume the worst about them. It was hard on all of them to stay neutral. Derek continually advised them to never sympathize with their kind. With everyone having an opinion on the topic, he didn’t want anyone to pry into their lives. As the country became polarized procedures started to be implemented.

It began with the cops learning how to incapacitate them. Isaac never saw it as a bad thing. There were still people within the community that enjoyed making others suffer. However, no one knew how to tell them apart. The world was in varying degrees of grey, with the majority contractually blind.  

 

The sun was shrouded by clouds, leaving the world a new grey for the people who could see. The light breeze left goosebumps on his arms. They had settled down in a cavern from an uprooted tree. It was a small fit but it kept them sheltered. Derek, mutely, started to create a fire to continue roasting the rabbit. Isaac wanted to grab water for the group. Possibly get rid of the grime on his shirt and jeans. He pulled the jug along with him as he went towards the sound of running water.

He had to be careful, guards were smart and circled through rivers and water outlets trying to scoop them up wherever they can. Isaac trekked over mossy rocks, avoiding the dips and roots. The trees sat there stoic, helping them on their journey. The pine tree’s and Isaac had a complicated relationship. They helped him hide, and climb, but the needles scratched and dug their way into his skin. The trees started to lighten up as he reached the river bed. The water was rushing down towards his right.

Isaac yanked off his shirt as he bent down soaking it in the water. With the edge of his nails, he scraped the dried up dirt, He hadn’t noticed someone coming through the clearing on the other side.

“Hey!” The guy shouted out, Isaac’s eyes darted up at the man. Quickly Isaac stood up with his soaking wet shirt in hand. The man tilted his head to the side taking Isaac all in. The empty jug, dirty shirt, tousled hair. He was on the run, but Isaac wasn’t ready to just throw it out there now that all transcendent creatures were enemies.

“What are you?” The guy asked stepping closer towards the other edge of the river. With careful steps back Isaac was ready to take off back into the woodland. It wasn’t safe, Isaac darted his eyes around the forest line. Trying to see or hear others in the bushes that were armed and ready to strike him down.

“Human, what are you?” Isaac called backed.

“Werewolf, now what are you?” The man repeated.

Isaac's eyes narrowed, he couldn’t tell with lack of nutrition and the earthly scents invading his senses. He couldn’t fully make it out, Derek would know. “Prove it,” He retorted. The man hopped backward, his body warming up on the balls of his feet till he jumped over the river. The man crashed down next to him, seemingly unphased. When he lifted his eyes they were a bright golden yellow, the man gave a toothy grin. His golden blonde hair was coming out in loose strands. His chest heaved looking back over at the river bend and at Isaac.

“That would’ve sucked if I fell in huh?” He nudged Isaac shoulder, letting his head hang to the side to stretch his neck out. “I’m Liam,” His boyish charm only serving to show how young he was.

After being on the run for so long, hearing and watching ever wolf rounded up and incarcerated, he didn’t expect to find a kid running around. Then again Isaac wasn’t much older, but standing near Liam there was a clear distinction when it came to maturity. Isaac had been electrocuted a few hours earlier, beaten down, till he had to kick up the dirt and run like his life depended on it- because it did.

“Isaac,” He looked over his shoulder back towards the tree lined.

“Got a pack?” Liam guessed looking at the general direction, “I have a pack, we’re pretty bunkered down. You guys can stay with us. There is nothing that way just some ummmmm what’s that word- big claw-like things,” He motioned with his hand. “And there were the animals...I dunno what they did but don’t eat them.” He offered up. Isaac’s brows furrowed, he hadn’t noticed anything out of the ordinary.

It’s why his pack stopped, no one could detect anything. There was no movement that wasn’t naturally caused. He had to get back before one of them fell into a trap. None of them could help if they were all poisoned. Isaac hadn’t realized Liam hadn’t stopped rattling on about the area. There pack must have run through it a hundred times over to know every inch.

“Wha- uhm you have a pack right?” Isaac cut him off, and Liam took a second to stop his brain and rework it back to the task at hand.

“Yeah! My alpha is really chill, he would let you chill there. Well wait- you’re not like some jerks who want to take?”

“You should’ve thought of that before you offered up all that information kid,” Isaac mused, shaking his head, “No we’re just running.”

“Then come on! Wait,” another wait, if Isaac kept waiting they would be shot before any deal could be reached. He tapped his foot on the soft leaves. “Let me ask him, but I’ll come back in like two hours with an answer.”

It wasn’t like Derek would be thrilled about another pack, but it was the first opportunity they had in a long time. If they had kids like Liam running about, it wouldn’t be that hard to grab and run if things get hairy. Isaac nodded, taking the empty jug of water and sopping wet shirt and walking back into the treeline. He turned his head in time to watch the boy making a sprint back over the river-bend. Maybe it would be good for him.

The walk was more careful than before, worried about the snares Liam described. With more vigilance, Isaac realized patches of leaves that surrounded areas that it shouldn’t. He stayed away from bushes, walking around them. By the time he made his way back to the makeshift camp, they had an hour left. Boyd looked annoyed when the empty jug was tossed at his feet. Isaac recalled his experience, it wasn’t the best plan but it was better than sitting ducks.

“No!” Derek bellowed out, “There is no way we are going to be at the mercy of another pack. Ever notice we haven’t smelt them in these parts? A whole pack hiding their scents, use your goddamn head.”

Isaac opened his mouth but quickly closed it. He had a point. Isaac draped his shirt over a rock, the bristle breeze didn’t make it any easier. “It’s better than nothing! The kid Liam looked sheltered, we can easily overpower them. They’re probably some hicks, it’s why they are still around.” Isaac reasoned, “Why don’t we just have like… me scope it out-”

“No… I’m not risking losing you just for the off chance shit falls apart, I’ll go.”

“So we lose you as an Alpha and become Omegas to die? Fuck that I rather go.” Isaac argued. The two went back and forth with each other. Who was ready to fall on the sword on the off chance it went to shit. Meanwhile, Erica started to clean all their things rounding it back up into bookbags they can carry. She had made up her mind, and while the boys had a pissing match she was getting ready to go.

As far as Erica was concerned, they were going. Anything was better than them running every chance the hunters had to fuck up their lives. She was only a few feet away before the two even realized that she had decided for them. Isaac was thankful for her determination, as he grabbed his shirt once more and started walking back.

The entire walk they were on edge. Isaac explained that the wooded area was heavily boobytrapped, with some of the animals laced with wolfsbane. Derek figured, stating how he felt things were off. Isaac wanted to call bullshit because they were both on the terrain. Derek might have been a born wolf, didn’t mean he was suddenly gifted with trap knowledge. Isaac led the way, Erica walking alongside him. Her blonde waves were pulled up in a makeshift ponytail. She had long since forgoing makeup. She was a fighter through and through. All of Derek’s betas were fighters. Each one went through their demons, to make it out onto the other side.

Isaac wrapped his arms firmly around his chest, the wet shirt started to prune his fingertips. But he walked forward, stepping over rocks. Derek cast a sidelong glance as he shucked off his jacket and handed it over to Isaac. He didn’t want to take the jacket, wanting to trek forward. He was too good for that. But Derek insisted and Isaac slipped his fingers through the arms.

When they approached the river’s edge Liam was sitting by a rock with a brown hair girl. Isaac wasn’t expecting someone else. He wanted to hold back and figure out who she was. The two were talking about them. The pack listened intently as Liam explained their encounter in detail. He told the girl, Hayden, warned him about trusting a pack. Her musky anger built, but Isaac assumed it was for Liam’s safety. That was a good sign, she might have been mad, but they were just as scared as they were.

Isaac was the first to make his way out of the clearing. Liam poked his head up waving his hand once more trying to signal him over. Slowly, Erica and Boyd followed. Derek remained in the shadow watching over his pups.

“Glad you make it thought you wouldn’t have shown! I’m Liam and this is Hayden,” Liam spoke motioning between the two of them. With the two standing side by side, it was clear they were around the same age.

Isaac motioned to Boyd and Erica, who had a devious smile painted on her lips. She used her best assets and that was striking fear into people’s hearts. “Where’s your Alpha?” Liam wondered looking around them, his eyes glancing over at Hayden. Her eyes glistened a golden color her nails elongating. Erica quickly followed suit, ready to take Hayden down if need be. The air was silent, a clear stench of fear and excitement rolled around.

Liam was looking around trying to figure out how to stop the standoff.  The air was thick, the slight breeze only made it worse, a stench of cinnamon and dirt was the only way to describe what he could smell. Desperately, Liam looked over at Isaac, big brown eyes hoping that Isaac could do something. Isaac ducked his head, rubbing his forehead. For a lousy beta, he felt like he was constantly pulling rank. “Erica stop it! We need a place to stay.” He gruffed out, “Derek! Just come out, please.”

Erica didn’t shift back instead she straightened her back. Her stance wasn’t hunched over ready to charge at Hayden. It had only been a minute, but it felt like an hour before Derek made his way out of the clearing. The muted green shirt clung to his broad chest. The scruff along his jaw made him more intimidating. Derek wasn’t rushing, he was asserting his dominance. Red eyes constantly flickered, Isaac couldn’t believe it. Derek wanted to add to the pissing match.

Liam and Hayden glanced at each other, both alarmed that the Alpha was standing before them. Isaac felt bad for them. Maybe they should’ve brought their Alpha along just to even the playing field. Hayden seemed timid as she shifted back, Erica was following suit. With Derek standing in front of his betas, he looked on at the two with mistrust. No matter how many times Isaac tried to fool himself, he knew this wasn’t going to be easy for Derek.

Finally, Liam managed to swallow down his fear, though it was evident he was still terrified, and clasped his hands together. “Oh-kay, so we’re going to go quick. Hunters still like to patrol but we’ll be fine if we move before their schedule walk through.” Liam explained, he jogged back jumping over the riverbend with Hayden following right behind him. This was it. Isaac wasn’t passing this up. Isaac, reared himself back launching himself across the river. The rushing water sprinkled applause at his new physique. It still astonished Isaac what he could do now with his new found ability. The mud caught his descent, catching his worn out shoes. With the last of them jumping over, they were off.

Chapter Text

Isaac always wondered if it was ignorance or greed that blossomed in the men that sat around a table discussing their future. The unease was mounting, people started to blame the transcendent community for petty things. Robbery? Fairies. Murder? Wolves or Vampires. If they could pin it on them, they did. Even if it was clear it wasn’t them, it was in other’s eyes. People tried to copy their movements, but there were huge holes in each story that came out on the evening news. But no one cared, they needed someone to blame. They were the easiest scapegoats.

Then it truly began. The transcendent creatures had to be registered, any that weren’t would be executed. The most harmless, but stupid, stepped forward first. They wanted to bridge the divide and satiate the unrest. Isaac remembered the couple name Farrah and Victor, they aired on the news. The news crew zeroed in on them signing the dotted line. A few more came forward, but what struck Isaac was that couple. They spoke to the reporter that they loved humans and themselves. The two were progressive hippies trying to connect the world. Isaac long since gave up on that notion, humans were just as bad as the transcendent's that wanted hurt others. They were too cynical/jaded to think signing your life away would solve it. Sure enough, it didn’t.  When it was time for The Culling, they were the first to die. Both on stakes as they were ignited for the whole country to see. No proclamation of love would save them.

 

The paths were off course as they trekked forward. Everyone was on guard, but they managed to get by not attracting any hunters. When they made their way to the clearing, it looked like an old cabin town. Something that was lost long ago, only to be uncovered when people needed it the most. It was one of those recluse cabin in the woods, to get the taste of life without the experience of true roughing it.

Smoke emitted from the center of the clearing. There wasn’t a lot of people, everyone tucked away like guarded secrets. One stepped forward, a young lad practically the same age as Isaac. His caramel skin seemed darker with the constant sun beating down. With a slightly crooked jaw and shaggy dark chocolate locks that looked black under the shade, he stood under. Liam and Hayden rushed over to come to the boy side, leaving the four of them to soak it all in.

Liam whispered into the boy's ear, “That one is the Alpha and that’s the one who I met,” He motioned between Derek and Isaac. The urge to look at his pack members was hard. They didn’t see the point in whispering, they can all hear him. Derek stood his ground making the members stand behind him. The tan boy gave an inquisitive look over all of them, contemplative. Slowly, he made his way forward.

“I’m Scott McCall, this is my pack, my home.” He stated firmly, “We’ll find a housing unit for you guys, but until then you can stay in my house. I’ll go over the area-”

“What do you want from us?” Derek bit out, his broad shoulders looking massive towering over the boy. Even from the distance, Isaac knew he was taller than the lad. Isaac assumed he had to be the Alpha. No one would have balls to talk to them with that commanding voice.

Scott paused, not expecting Derek to be blunt. He would soon learn, Derek’s mouth said what he wanted. “We want you to live,” Scott stated, “Do you want to talk in private?” Scott urged motioning towards the cabin.

The cabin he motioned towards was near the front of the main entrance. The shades were drawn and looked like it hadn’t seen an ounce of care in a long time. The weeds were overgrown licking up the edge of the wall. It looked creepy, and Isaac claws extended. His eyes glistened a golden yellow. With only a jacket, and bare chest. He looked the least threatening. More like he should be on a new YMCA video. Isaac took his place beside Derek and the others followed suit.

“He’s not going anywhere without us,” Isaac growled. If he could nuzzle his head into the crook of Derek’s neck he would. This was his Alpha, and he would be damned that Derek would go out by a wolf they barely trusted. Hayden was quick to extend her claws, but once more her fear coated the air. She was terrified but ready to stand by her Alpha to defend him at all cost.

“Everyone calm down!” Scott looked over at Hayden waiting for her to back down. She did so slowly, her face transforming back into the human-esque girl they have seen. “We aren’t here to hurt you, but if it makes you feel better you can bring them with you.”

“Are you nuts!? They could kill you,” Hayden hissed looking between the foreign pack and her Alpha. She was loyal to him, but more so scared for him.

“Just Boyd and I,” Derek motioned to the one pack member who seems apathetic to the situation. Boyd was strong but level headed. Without a thought, Boyd stepped up next to Derek ready to follow him.

The two Alphas and Boyd left towards the cabin, leaving Isaac bewildered and on shaky ground. That was his Alpha, he would kill for Derek he should be in there. Isaac was ready to follow the group but Erica’s claws scrapped the jacket shoulder. Erica was just as perturbed, but they both knew her loyalty never was fully Derek’s. Not when Boyd was constantly put in danger. There was an eerie silence that washed over them. They were soldiers left without an order.

It was always said that soldiers would go crazy with no rules. “Want me to try to dry your shirt? I can show you around,” Liam piped up. The boy was careful, but he pushed forward. Before the two betas could come up with an answer. Liam was leading the way further into the village. The houses were far apart but the distance wasn’t too dramatic.

He led them towards the fire pit, two people came back with a few animals caught on lines. Strung up on a long stick, fishing wire circled the dead animal's foot as they hung lifelessly. The two stiffened, halting in their movements as they watched the parade walk forward. Liam waved at the two, “Save me the dark meat this time!” He exclaimed. Liam’s calm exterior unsettled everyone.

Isaac wondered if this wasn’t the first time people have been brought into the pack. Quickly he corrected himself, they wouldn’t belong to this pack. Derek was not going to be relinquished as his Alpha no matter what. That was the one thing he was sure of, Boyd and Erica’s loyalty may falter more than he would like. But his wouldn’t, no matter what. The fire pit was at a low simmer. The white ash caked onto wood that barely clung together. One poke and it would disintegrate into clouds of smoke. Liam pulled a black metal slate, soot was on one side. Charred from constant use, but the topside had bits of crud. Isaac grimaced but Liam ran his hand down one side brushing it all off.

As the fire was on the last verge of death, Liam renewed its spark. He sat the metal on top and held his hand out for the shirt. Isaac handed it over and he laid it out carefully. At least it would give Isaac something to do instead of staring at the cabin hoping he would gain x-ray vision.

“I’m Liam,” He introduced holding his hand out towards Erica. She stared at his hand, calculated before grasping his hand in hers.

“That's cute," she said. Settling down on one of the logs, she crossed her legs, her hand dainty rested on her knees. The blonde hair was tied up, but the strands that came out cascaded over her porcelain skin. Erica was beautiful, and she knew that. It took the bite for her to realize she could control any man she wanted. She had big doe eyes, that made her a minx. Isaac always silently wished she was a were-cat it would have suited her better. Liam's mouth went slack for a moment, quickly closing it.

Isaac felt bad for him, he knew the struggle that was Erica Reyes. Erica and Isaac were turned sequentially, they learned from each other. The heated spars, tight yoga pants, and the long nights where they wondered if it was all worth it. That was before Isaac realized the true gift Derek bestowed on them.  Liam only saw her for who she is now, even Boyd started to know her after the change. Isaac was the only one that remembered the skeleton she had stashed away in her closet.

Back in Sophomore year of high school, the two had gym together. Isaac was hunched over, using his thick curls to hide the bruises on his face. The pain always had him too paralyzed to do anything more than breathe, if he could manage that. Erica, she was a terrified little girl. Her hair was always hung lifelessly, always adorning sweats. Isaac knew who to be afraid of, he saw the danger head-on. Always able to brace himself before the blow, but she couldn’t. How can you protect yourself from your brain? Erica suffered from seizures, it was a disease that she had to carry all her life. Isaac watched her drop once, it was horrific. It was a week before she changed.

There was nothing happening, everyone was busting their ass in gym class. While they sat on the sidelines. Isaac was thumbing through Wuthering Heights. It was required reading for his English class. Absentmindedly rubbing his ribs where he was kicked the night before. When she rose up from the bleachers, she didn’t even get two steps forward before her joints contracted. Erica had dropped hard, the loud thud rattled everyone. Her eyes were glazed over, while she shook violently. Tremors seemed to rattle her tiny frame. Foam coated her chapped lips like she was a rabid dog. The gym teacher had to turn her on her side. It was pathetic, and when she couldn’t hold in her bodily function, Isaac had to turn away. Her grey sweatpants were stained. When she finally came to, a few moments later, she was too out of it to realize what had happened. But when she did, the horror struck her face as she got up and ran. After the change, Erica came out like femme fatale, a vixen who curled her fingers around everyone she met. She deserved it. No one had to go through what she went through.

Isaac used a stick to release the heat that simmered beneath his grey shirt. “Her name is Erica,” Isaac answered for her.

“Oh! Erm, welcome. So this is our little home away from home. We found this place a few months back. We were just jumping from county to county before we realized there was a camp that got deserted. A lot of hunters don’t come this far out because of radio signals and it’s far from the city. So we’re usually safe, but it’s always cool to like cover your tracks. Because they will follow you if you give them something to follow.” Liam explained.

“How many people are in your pack?” Isaac asked still toying with his shirt

“Uhhh, good question…” Liam counted them off in his head, pulling up his fingers for each one he accounted for, “Five if you count me and Hayden. Scott makes six,” He gave a wolfish smile. That was a fairly big pack to take care of in this day an age. The four of them could barely survive, how six people managed to evade hunters for that long was nothing short of a miracle. “You’ll probably meet them tonight for dinner. They’re pretty cool, I’m cooler though but don’t ask them because they will lie to you.”

Isaac quirked a smile, bracing himself for another breeze that drifted through the treeline, he needed his shirt to dry quicker. Anyone who walked past them stopped and stare. Isaac didn’t blame them, but it didn’t do well to relieve the tension he harbored in his shoulders. Hayden tapped on Liam’s shoulder mumbling about how his chores weren’t done. Liam shot off the log, “I’ll be back, just stay here,” He laughed weakly, his eyes shifted around him before taking off towards one of the houses leaving Erica and Isaac in uncharted territory. Instantly, his eyes went to look at the house where Derek was.

“Calm down papa wolf, Derek can take care of himself,” Erica grinned leaning towards Isaac.

“I know that!” He grunted snatching some pieces of grass, his blunt nails tearing into them one by one. There was nothing he could do. “Why aren’t you freaked out?” He asked casting a cursory glance her way.

“Because Boyd isn’t a hero, he’ll come back to me.” She replied smugly. Isaac severely doubted that was a redeeming quality, but falling in love in 2018 it had to be this way.

The minutes turned into an hour. Isaac was able to wear his shirt again. His pants had dried all on their own, the mud caked into the dirt. He didn’t see the point in hanging around, they were in uncharted territory. Isaac thought it was a good idea, but he started to doubt himself more and more. A few times he tried to get closer to the house to hear what’s happening, but the voices were muffled through the thick walls. Each time Erica had to drag him back to the fire pit before anyone noticed.

Finally, when they emerged. Derek and Scott stood upright. Derek didn’t look on towards Scott but walked alongside him. He made a low comment, which Scott answered. The boyish smile dimpled as he rattled out. Isaac didn’t care as he slumped in his seat. Nearly rolling off the log feeling like he could breathe once more. Boyd walked past the two alphas sitting down next to Erica. His arms wound their way around her waist and hoisted her into his lap.

Derek seemed less on guard, his shoulders were pulled back but the ferocity that littered his eyes had died down to a somber look. “So here’s what’s going to happen,” He stated, “Alpha McCall has this land whatever he says goes. He’s going to let us stay here as two separate packs aligning. So that means we are all friends,” Derek eyed each of them carefully. Isaac wasn’t the type to make enemies, they usually found him. But he mutely nodded along, knowing it’s better to not be a wise ass when Derek was laying down the law. “McCall has been nice enough to let us stay in two of the empty cabins they have.”

Isaac’s noticed how proud Scott looked accomplishing this. If he only knew Derek allowed him to have those feelings. The musky scent was apparent, closer he was to Isaac, Isaac was able to commit it to memory. Alphas always had the stronger scents, it was how wolves told each pack apart. The betas had their own scents, but underlying it was always the Alphas. They had the dominant odor. The only difference between Scott’s scent that it was stronger than Derek’s. It nearly masked his Alpha’s. If Isaac wasn’t so close to his alpha, he wouldn’t be able to tell Derek was nearby. Isaac slowly stood up, cautious to not be too eager that they would have a roof over their head.

Derek gave a short jerk of his head for the rest to stand and follow Scott. The pack followed the Alpha, taking in everything. Now that Isaac was able to look at it more closely, it was a lodging place possibly a campground. He wasn’t sure which. He couldn’t remember anything this far out. It struck Isaac that he wasn’t sure where they were. The pack was running for so long, they could be in Oregon for all he knew.

Alpha McCall was glossing over the different cabins. He motioned to the showers near the outhouse on the far edge. Each cabin was assigned to different people of his pack, but he never mentioned who. One of the betas emerged from one of the cabins. It was a worn down hut. Withered from rain and occasional snow that would grace it. The windows were drawn shut, wooden planks nailed into panels. The beta was a girl she eyed the newcomers, her eyes glancing over to Scott’s.

Isaac moved quicker to match pace with Scott, sticking his hands into the leather jacket, “Thank you,” He felt like it needed to be said. Before Isaac could say anything more Derek called Isaac back into rank. Slowing his speed to walk behind Derek. Huffing as he walked forward keeping his eyes down at the dirt. They reached the first cabin it was a little closer to the main camp. “You two can have it,” Derek motioned towards Erica and Boyd.

It didn’t take much convincing before Erica was rushing up towards the door with Boyd in tow. It meant Isaac was rooming with Derek. Despite the bickering the two of them had in the past, Isaac was secretly Derek’s second in command. It was always made abundantly clear. As they reached the far cabin Scott grinned at them. “Dinner is usually around 8, I hope to see you guys later tonight.” Scott made his way back towards the main encampment.

They were the farthest out from the camp, with only the trees to encircle them. Isaac waited till they were out of earshot before turning towards Derek, “Boyd huh?” He huffed making his way into the cabin. Isaac sat the backpack against the door near the cabin. The cabin had two beds if you counted the bunk bed as one. Besides the beds, there was nothing else. There were two windows one off to the side of the door and one smack dab in the middle of the back wall between the two beds. The cabin smelled like dead leaves and dirt.

“You’re really going to get mad over that?” Derek shook his head as he opened one of the windows to let the room air out.

“Not mad, just, why him?” Isaac settled on the lower bunk, he was going to take the top but there was no need to climb up if he was just going to get down.

Derek pulled out some of their supplies, letting the jug  unclip from the backpack as well as pull out the rope setting it off to the side, “Because he’s quiet…”

“I can be quiet,” He reasoned.

“You know what I mean.” Derek sighed pushing the rest of the backpack under the master bed for safekeeping.

“No I don’t-”

“Isaac the minute we wanted to talk you were ready to challenge the Alpha.”

“You weren’t happy about him ei-”

“I was cautious, showing dominance. You were just being stupid.”

He wasn’t being stupid. Isaac got them there and showed he wasn’t scared. They couldn’t push him around the first chance they got. The beta hung his head low, a small chill in the pit of his stomach. He wasn’t stupid, he was just being loyal. Suddenly, he didn’t feel that special to be in the same room as his Alpha. He couldn’t help but wonder if he was stuck in the room because Derek didn’t fully trust his judgment.

____________________

 

The crisp air was warm as the fire blossomed from the fire pit. Everyone was sitting around as they waited for the morsels to be cooked. Isaac learned the others by name even if he forgot it a second later. Stiles sat near Scott nudging him on another stupid joke. But would quickly be pulled into Malia’s lap like a ragdoll. She clasped her hand over his mouth to silence him. It was odd, was the best way to describe it. In the small interaction, Isaac watched her treat Stiles like he was her baby doll. She maneuvered him wherever she felt was needed, and pressed her nose into the nape of his neck and his to hers. Stiles eyes going wide as his arms flailed about trying to dislodge her from her tightening grip. While no one seemed to bat an eye, Scott gave a sympathetic pat on his arm.

Then there was the dynamic duo from earlier. Hayden and Liam who were quiet, but seemed to have an unspoken word. They seemed the most at ease, even when Hayden would remember they were around. Her shoulders would tense but softened when Liam’s hand would graze against her bare skin. Isaac wasn’t sure if they were in love or merely taking solace in each others company. The last person was a young girl, roughly the same age as all of them. She was the least intimidating out of all the females in Scott’s pack, but she was still scary. Scott and she would spare fleeting glances and would talk but there was this odd tension in the air. 

“So how long have you guys been on the run?” Liam wondered handing a knife over to Derek to help cut the pieces of meat.

“We’ve been running for a year give or take. The hunters came to our home. Thankfully they weren’t too bright and we managed to escape into the woods out back. We’ve been running ever since,” Isaac stated. He could remember when the hunters kicked their door down. That moment was etched into Isaac mind. Isaac turned the question back at Liam.

Liam parted his lips, his eyes darting around until landing on Scott’s. “Uh pretty much instantly,” His voice wavered. The elephant was getting bigger. Isaac glanced at the others his brows knitted together, a firm line pressed against his lips. Derek served the pieces of meat rationing it out equally as they used their fingers to dig into the meal.

“How did you find this place?” Erica asked this time after a stagnant amount of silence encircled them.

Scott thumbed over to Malia who was tearing into the tough meat. She used her claws to serrate the meat and tear it from small pieces of bone. “She has been living in these parts for a long time. Her old pack ran through here a few times.”

“Old pack?” Isaac’s brows furrowed looking at Malia who seemed content viciously attacking the morsel.

“Malia grew up as a coyote for most of her life. She ran with them all along California’s forest preserves.”

“Actual coyotes,” Stiles interjected, “She was the Mowgli of California. All she needed was a black bear and she would be set.”

“We don’t hang with the bears, we killed one though. It was trying to come near us so we-” It was Stiles turn to clasp his hand over her mouth. 

“Yuck! Scott, she licked me!” Stiles whined shaking his hand out and rubbing it down on his jean pants.

“Well, that’s what you get for putting your hand there.” Scott grinned chewing on a piece.

__________

 

After their dinner, they stacked the plates on top of one another. They started to make their way to their own cabins for an early nights rest. Malia dragged Stiles off in one direction as he tried desperately to go the other way. ‘My room is over there… This is kidnapping!’ Stiles continuously complained until the door shut behind the pair.

“You coming to bed?” Derek asked quietly, eyeing Isaac. Even though there were a few hours between when they last talked. Isaac wasn’t ready to go back and be faced with darkness and the sour taste that lingered in his mouth.

“I’ll be there in a bit.”  

Derek lingered looking his beta over. He slowly walked back to their cabin. Derek was silently hoping that Isaac would join him, but he couldn't force Isaac to do anything. With everyone gone Isaac slumped against the log, staring at the dying embers in the ashes. This was the darkest years of their lives and Isaac didn't feel right worrying about the little tiffs he had. There were more important things to focus on; food, water, and hiding to name a few. Dishes clattered behind Isaac, stirring him from his stupor. 

“Erm, sorry. I was just trying to clean up. Didn’t mean to bother you.” Scott replied gathering all the plates.. 

“You’re the Alpha. You can do whatever you want,” Isaac watched Scott silently pile the dishes up along with anything else he was going to take inside. After one too many miss calls, Isaac grabbed a few out of Scott's hands.

“I- thanks. It beats making me go back and forth. C’mon,” Scott motioned him to follow towards one of the cabins that were near an assortment of outhouses. Scott nudged the cabin door open and there were buckets of water. They had a construction bucket, barrels, little plastic containers. There was also in the far back some supplies stashed away.

Scott hoisted one of the water containers onto a dilapidated desk. Chunks of wood kept the desk from rocking over. Right on top was an empty plastic container with a cup inside. “You don’t have to stick around I got it from here,” Scott spoke up. He took a small bit of the water running along the plates as he worked the grease off with his fingertips. They didn’t have any soap but there was a brillo sponge that had seen better days.

“Can I just hang here? I don’t really feel like sitting in the dark,” Isaac said standing on the other side of the desk. He grabbed one of the plates and started to clean alongside Scott. “How come you don’t have one of the betas do this?”

“They just don’t stick to it. Malia got frustrated and broke one of our plates, and the rest forget to keep doing it. So I do it. I don’t really mind it, my mom used to make me do it all the time so if anyone is equipped it’s me.” Scott gave a secret smile lost in his thoughts. It didn't last long as he became somber. Isaac wanted to say something, but what could he truly say? Isaac couldn’t ask about what happened to his mom, and it would weird if he offered condolences and she wasn’t dead.

“My dad made me do the dishes too. All the chores actually,” Isaac said.

“That must have sucked. At least you know how to upkeep a house,” Scott grinned unaware how Isaac’s father left a sour taste on his tongue.

“Yeah, the house was really clean. I have to give him that, my room at our pack house was really clean. Guess I should thank him for that, Derek never had to chew me out on being messy.” 

“You had a pack house?” Scott grabbed another dish setting the clean one off to the side.

“Yeah, Derek had this house his family owned. It was in the forest preserve so once he changed us we just moved in. It was pretty massive,” He remembered. The house was in shambles, but Derek did try to fix it up. They made it livable, but was it a home? Isaac doubted that.

“I never was able to do that, my mom would’ve freaked. But if we needed to talk it was usually at my house. I wish I was able to have that for them."

“You do though, this is one up. You have a town. It may not be The Ritz, but it’s pretty cool.”

Scott’s eyes lit up with another smile ran across his lips. This time it didn’t fade. Isaac was glad he was able to make one Alpha happy. If he tried to talk about this with Derek it would be quickly dismissed. Despite the unofficial title Isaac had, Derek never let him have an inch. Scott and Isaac idly talked and before they knew it the dishes ran out. Isaac wanted to make a mess again just to talk more. It felt like years since he had a decent conversation.  Which wasn’t plagued with the fear of hunters or how to survive until the next day.

When Isaac finally laid down in his bed. All he could remember was how nice it was. He counted the wooden boards above his head, they were nice too. All perfectly arranged still maintaining their light tan color. Derek light puffs as he shuffled in the cot below him. He curled up facing the far wall falling asleep with no fear for the first time in a while. It was nice.

Chapter Text

There was an outcry that they had to be registered. The Hale Pack had stayed quiet, but everyone else had something to say. It started off as rumors, that transcendents started to go missing. The news didn’t report it. It was as if they didn’t exist. Isaac didn’t know anyone who personally went missing but there were hush whispers. In the halls of the school. A girl was talking about her aunt’s boyfriend had gone missing.  

It wasn’t until the first riot that broke out in New York City that caught the media's attention. People held up all kinds of signs for the missing people. Isaac had heard that tear gas was used, and the riots were growing. Every night the news would cover another tragedy of a victim of the riot. Finally, Marshall Law was enacted and military men and women stormed the city. They seized it. A helicopter would show people what was happening, and the once marvelous city was a war zone.

No one heard about another death, just the government talking about how they needed to enact Marshall Law to protect the citizens. The whole story was stopped altogether like it never existed. People were still dying, that was clear. There were sites dedicated to the riots. They labeled it Red New York. They never did lift Marshall Law from New York, after that. It was the first city to completely fall.

It was easy to fall into a symbiotic routine. Once everyone got their hands dirty, they just worked. Day in and day out until nightfall. It was then they would share little tidbits of their lives, mostly with pained expressions before retiring for the evening and doing it all over again.  Although, it was abundantly clear they stayed away from anything wolf related. They were all curious about each other’s pack. Isaac had tried to pick through their walls, but they rooted deep and stood tall. Besides the late night storytime, The McCall pack had a system, a job to do. Everyone had an assigned job that would be switched out for guard duty.

Usually, Scott was the one always on guard. Isaac figured that out when he realized Scott didn’t always retreat to his cabin. Instead, he hung out in a tree with a pot and pan in his hand. Scott reminded him of a lost boy, using everything at his disposal to his advantage. Thankfully, no one ever came to the campground. People truly forgot that it existed, or maybe they were too far out for the hunters to touch them.

Isaac started to take over some night shifts to let the Alpha sleep. It was just another night while Isaac sat up in the tree. The rough bark scratched at his back. It didn’t bother him as much as the cold wind continued to get through Derek’s jacket. The nights were long, but it was when Isaac was truly able to think. With everything that happened to him, sometimes he wondered how he didn’t crumble. He thought that being a werewolf gave him supernatural coping abilities because he was a lot more functional than he should have been.

“How’s it hanging?” Scott’s voice called from the base of the tree.

“It’s going... “ Isaac said.

“Make room.”

Isaac didn’t know how he was going to make room on a tree branch, but he slid himself over using the branch above him to steady himself. Scott grunted as he climbed up settling in Isaac’s spot moments prior. “I kept it warm for you,” Isaac grinned, letting his legs hang off the edge. “Why are you here?” Isaac probed, brows furrowed in realization.

“Technically it was my tree first. Didn’t know you had an issue with me in my tree.” Scott grinned tipping his head slightly.

“That’s- no- I just meant… You should be asleep.”

“I couldn’t sleep. So I figured it was better to keep you company rather than lay awake… Unless you want me gone you want your alone time?”

Isaac knew he would have sent Scott back to his room but it was no use. Scott was considerate but honest. He would end up walking around until he grew tired or ended up not sleeping at all. At least he could have a companion to get him through a few hours. Isaac shook his head as he looked down at the world below. The grass looked soft beneath his feet but it would only end in him breaking a bone for a few hours. How the world could look so inviting but life graced them with the reality that it wasn’t always so nice.

“How is it tonight?” Scott piped up. Isaac motioned with a wave of his hand. There was nothing out there, except for an owl hooting in the distance. Everything was silent. The young Alpha shoulder slumped, fluttering his eyes shut. That was all he needed to relax, he was timid about what lurked out there. Isaac couldn’t blame him. Some nights he couldn’t sleep because every critter that ran past his cabin made him think it was a hunter.

Scott looked peaceful, but under the moonlight, Isaac could see the toll it brought on the Alpha. He had dark bags under his eyes, Worry lines across his forehead, and the dark stubble that lined his cheekbones. He played off the well-nourished strong alpha with power with grace, but Isaac spent weeks able to see the impact it left on Scott. The heavy imprint it had pressed into Scott’s skin and mind. Isaac has always known what the world was, but the stories they shared over the campfire told him Scott didn’t.

The stories were vivid and littered with comedic gold sprinkled with innocents. All of Scott’s pack, minus Malia, had that clutched to their chest. They weren’t the monsters people read about, these were the victims of what became of the world. Isaac wasn’t dumb, he didn’t hear the stories that made them shiver nor the ones that made their smiles never reach their eyes. He wasn’t sure if Isaac wanted to know. The Hale pack relied on dark pasts traject them forward. Each one clutched onto their newfound abilities as a lifeline because without it he doubted any of them would’ve fully made it.

“Take a picture it’ll last longer,” Scott peeked through his thick lashes.

“I’ll take a picture when you move out of the shot.”

Scott's eyes fluttered open for good, forgoing sleep. He shifted, grunting as the rough bark scratched at his back.

“You want my jacket?” Isaac offered, well it was Derek’s but at this point, he was claiming it for his own. It was warm and the leather was the good kind. It could take the abuse of the elements.

“No, I don’t need your boyfriend coming after me,” He waved it off, clutching the above branch to hoist himself into a proper sitting position.

“Boyfriend?” Isaac questioned, “You mean Derek?”

“Yeah… Are you guys not...dating?” Scott was careful to choose his words piecing it together. Isaac could see him trying to do the math in his head, but clearly coming up with the wrong answer each time.

“No! Why would you even- what?” The beta was sputtering out his words through choked laughter. He didn’t see how anyone could reach that conclusion. Derek made it clear he was superior, and he kept Isaac at arm's length at all cost. If anything Isaac would suspect that Derek either didn’t trust him or like him. Which was still up to debate in Isaac mind.

Scott’s cheeks warmed, “Well uh… You sleep in the same cabin, he takes you everywhere, his eyes are constantly on you, your wearing his jacket, and you smell like him.”

“Oh...I’m not dating him,” Isaac stated peeking up at Scott. What could he even say to that? He could refute every point but it would only prickle his skin. No one needed to know that Derek possibly only tolerated the beta. Scott let out a long drawn out yawn, his arms stretching out on either side of his head.

“Well I’m going to head to bed, I’ll see you in the morning.” Scott didn’t wait for a good night as he jumped down off the branch. Isaac saw the tiny wave before making his way back towards his cabin. Guess he couldn’t handle the heat.

 

__________________

 

The next few days, Scott and Isaac managed to avoid each other. Instead, they kept themselves busy. Isaac was observant, in the subtle changes in Scott. Scott was still reeling from their late-night conversation, but Isaac didn’t understand why. Eventually, after the second day of avoidance, he chalked it up to embarrassment.

Isaac's hands were dug into the leather jacket, as his eyes carefully checked the traps they had around the campsite. It wasn’t a laborious job. It kept Isaac busy while a few of them were out hunting and gathering water. It was odd how for a pack that has been on the run since the beginning to have a lot of resources. The traps were animal cages that exterminators would use, and a few others were handcrafted through a series of twigs and ropes.

Isaac wandered along the outskirts of the campsite. It was a familiar route he took. The same tree that had fallen over still bared its roots to Isaac. The animals ran by always hidden under the bushes. He could always pick up the small pitter-pattering as they scurried by to grab food. They were just as innocent as Isaac, they never wanted to hurt a fly but were constantly on the run. A reality that had sharp edges dripped in death. Isaac was careful after having to experience his father. He had gotten good at evading things that wanted to hurt him. Isaac wouldn’t allow them to catch him. When his life didn’t mean much more than another agonizing breath that’s when he would stop running.

Isaac crouched down by where one trap was set up. It was covered in leaves, pushing it off to discover nothing had got ensnared. The breeze glided through disrupting more of the leaves scattering them around. Isaac could hear a soft buzz. The humming was undetectable unless your ears were sensitive to noise. It was like feedback from an electronic, or the sound his crappy earbuds made when he plugged it into his laptop.

He followed the sound, playing a terrible hot and cold game. It slowly grew louder when he reached the old hut. The hut’s door had a metal latch that had a small circle on its side where a lock should be. Isaac could make out someone talking through the static. He pressed his ear to the door in hopes to pick something up. It was garbled noise with bits cutting through.

Zzzz -How are you guys holding up? No wor- Zzzz -Do they know?.”

“We’re hanging in there, but we’re hungry.” Kira’s voice cut through the static. Kira had to click something because soon she started speaking once more, “No.”

“We’ll be- urday. 33.9344-” A series of numbers were rattled out as Isaac pressed in closer but nothing was distinct enough for him to make it out. The two talked some more but it was muffled on the other person ends. Isaac stepped back, satisfied he knew enough to tell Derek.

Isaac growled as he walked slowly towards the cabin. Someone knew his pack was with the McCall’s, and his pack was left in the dark. As he thought back to every conversation he had with the other pack, he didn’t hear any lies, but he could’ve been asking the wrong questions. He walked into his cabin settling on the edge of the bunk bed. Everyone would be coming back soon. A new wave of unease washed through him. His pack could be in danger. It was always odd that no hunters went by this campsite. The pack had a lot of resources, more than a pack who has been on the run for three years. Whoever it was, knew of the Hales pack, with so many stories shared over dinner. The person probably knew every detail needed, but for what?

They had a routine, working with the McCall’s, everything was on a set schedule. Most of the time they would follow the same path. At any moment they could be picked off one by one. As far as Isaac knew Kira was the only one in camp. It struck him, When did she return? Isaac realized she had left in a hunting party. How did she manage to slip away? There was a possibility Scott didn’t even know that Kira was in cahoots with someone.

No, now that was a stupid idea. An Alpha always knew what his betas were up to. Okay, Scott knows which means the whole McCall pack knew she was talking to someone. When and how did they get in contact with someone, and who were they? Isaac hunched over resting his arms on his legs trying to work it out.

Isaac sorts his thoughts out, piecing it all together to tell Derek. Quickly he urged Derek to follow him towards the cabin. The two walked in silence. Out of the corner of Isaac’s eye, Kira was staring them down.

“The others are hiding something,” Isaac said as he shut the door to their cabin. He was quiet keeping his ears primed for anyone listening. “The old hut we pass by a lot. Inside it has a radio or a walkie. I heard Kira talking to someone, talking about us.” Isaac stressed motioning between the two of them.

Derek was quiet, his arms crossed over his chest, resting against the wall. “What did they say?”

“I couldn’t make it out,” Isaac said, “The person on the other end asked if we knew, something, and she said no. It was hard to make it out through this static. The guy mentioned some numbers like the two would be meeting up soon. I think they are working with hunters.”

Derek was unmoving, pensive, as he looked through Isaac. Derek was always lost in his thoughts. It was like he was making twenty moves before someone could make the first one, all in an attempt to keep his pack safe.

“And this is in that old hut?”

Isaac nodded his head, casting a cursory glance out the window. Everyone was going on about their business. Erica was watching Boyd break thin branches for the fire.

“For now. Don’t do anything different, I’m going to figure this out,” Derek said.

“What’s your plan?”

“It’s nothing for you to worry about, Isaac. Just keep doing what you’re doing. If you hear anything or see anything you let me know.” Derek made his way to the door.

“That’s it? I do nothing? Derek I can help. We can go into that hut and take a look for ourselves.”

“No.”

“No? C’mon Derek let me help you out!”

Derek swung around, his eyes a murderous red as he stalked towards Isaac. He loomed over his beta, never breaking eye contact. “I said no. That’s an order!”

The blood drained from Isaac’s cheeks leaving him cold and bitter. Derek did a good job at making Isaac feel insignificant. Isaac stared down at his dilapidated shoes, listening to the heavy footsteps and the door shutting.

Chapter Text

“Everyone is calm,” Isaac muttered to Erica. They were taking a break from combing through the thorny berry bushes.

“Why shouldn’t they be? We haven’t seen a human in a long time,” Erica combed through her curls, untangling the tight knots that were hidden in her hair.

“Don’t you think that’s weird?” Isaac tried to push past the thorns, a few sticking him when he wasn't looking. Erica was a good support system for Isaac when things had gotten rough. She always seemed to calm him down. 

Erica paused looking at the little campsite that housed a bunch of rogue transcendents from being slaughtered. Her brows etched together, “Not at all. We’re finally free.”

“But they have thousands- millions - of people wanting us all dead, and we’re here. With no one looking?” 

“So? They’re too stupid to look this far out. I bet a bunch of others are doing the same thing we are.”

“We were once those stupid people, ya know? But c’mon Erica, you can’t deny this is just weird.”

Erica huffed, standing up giving up on her hair. “It’s not weird. Stop being so sus’ about everything. You’re starting to really piss me off. This is the third time we’ve been over this. We have a good thing here. Just stop!” Erica grabbed her long cloth for the berries, “If you need me I’ll be getting food for everyone.”

Isaac sent a murderous stare her way as she slinked back off towards the bushes. No one wanted to listen, but all the signs were there. Isaac remembered when they weren’t complacent to strangers wanting to become their friends. They knew the other person didn’t have good intentions, and they were always on guard. But being on the run for so long had them become mindless. They were okay with accepting strangers. They all seem to forget that they only had each other in the end. 

He grabbed a few berries eating them off the bush as he tried to ease his mind. He remembered when they were all good. It was when they first all turned and Derek had vanished to Arizona. Isaac had felt the wolf coursing through his veins. It encouraged him to fight. He looked through the sea of students. They were once his equals, but what they didn't know was that they were nothing. He walked through the halls a new man. 

Erica was the first one to suggest throwing a party. She was perched on a picnic table with bright blue shorts and a low hanging tank top. Her eyes were tantalizing as she looked at Boyd and Isaac with unyielding hunger. Boyd was able to hide his desire better than Isaac, but he stumbled over his words telling her they could do it. Isaac was onboard just because he could do it now. He was able to do anything he wanted. They snuck into Derek's house in the woods and started to clear it up. Isaac pushed the sofa back against the wall with a slight push. Erica was blaring a new pop song off her speakers. She sashayed around the gloomy house working her magic. Erica had them wrapped around her finger. Her nimble fingers danced across Isaac's chest working down towards his belt when the two were alone. 

She smelt like mint. He was in love with the smell of mint, it was his new favorite gum, ice cream, shampoo. It was all he wanted to bathe in. The way her eyes flashed a brilliant yellow when she peered down at his tight jeans. Isaac wanted to find the nearest surface, bend her over, and fuck her until she screamed his name. Erica's fingers toyed with his belt. She had no idea what he wanted to do with her. But what she had in mind was beyond anything he could think of. Boyd heavy footsteps above pulled the two apart. Erica took her time, whatever bottled up arousal she had, she knew how to plug it back up. Isaac was pretty sure her and Boyd were hooking up when he went out to grab snacks. 

The best part was how the three worked together and brought the party to life. Three nobodies gathered the most popular kids into their domain. Isaac felt on top of the world, he was knocking back drink after drink. His metabolism worked quickly through the alcohol but he savored the buzz he could get. The trashy EDM hits played with a mix of trashy pop songs. Isaac watched as the girls used the formal living room to use as their personal stage.

Even when Derek came home later that night, furious of what they did, they knew he wasn't that mad. They thought he just hated that they did it under his nose. But they never bothered to throw another party just in case. All three of them lounged around the ruined living room for the rest of the night. Boyd told them how he had finally talked to the girl he liked and told them all about how he met her. Boyd had never told anyone about who he liked except for his mom, but she didn't count in his eyes. Isaac just relayed how he managed to outdrink people and how cool he seemed to others. It was cool. He had started to make his mark on the school. 

Isaac smiled sadly down at the berries he gathered. Erica never told them about her cool experience that night but Isaac knew. That's what a good friend is for. Even when he felt like he was becoming the furthest thing from a friend to them. 

“No! I’m done with this Scott!” Stiles shouted. Isaac couldn’t see them but he could hear them. The two were close, close enough to catch their scent. He followed the scent to the two of them behind Scott’s cabin. Isaac stayed behind the adjacent wall, keeping himself out of view.

“Stiles, please, you can’t go out there. I promise you we will get her back. Just give us more time.” Scott urged.

“More time? We’ve been here for a year. We haven’t done anything and Lydia is out there. I can go back. They wouldn’t hurt me I’m a human, and I’ll find her and bring her back.”

“Are you kidding? Stiles, they know you, you’ll be dead or worse if you go back… They’ll kill you. Just- Just stay here and we’ll get her back somehow.”

Stiles let out a frustrated scream, taking a rock and throwing it hard. It whizzed past the cabin and the wall Isaac was hiding behind. “You don’t have a plan, do you? You haven’t had a plan for a long time and you’re sitting here while she is dying for you ,” Stiles sneered, “It’s been a year and a half, Scott, fucking do something!”

“I am! We will get Lydia back, I promise. Just don’t go, Stiles. You’re my best friend. I can’t lose you too. Give me more time, and we will figure it out,” Scott pleaded, practically begging.

“She was your friend too.”

Isaac watched Stiles walk past him carrying a wave of anger inside of him. His bag was packed high with daggers and rope attached to the knapsack. Out of everyone in Scott’s pack, Isaac always assumed Kira was the closest. She was the closest thing to second in command, but friendship is stronger than a second. Isaac was learning that the hard way. Scott started to follow Stiles. Isaac held his breath, but Scott knew. He glanced at Isaac, for a brief moment, storming past him towards the fire pit.

The rest of the day went by in a blur. Isaac couldn’t pinpoint anything significant after the fight. It all meshed together, one moment flowing into the next. Their outlook on life was only for the next day. It’s the reason why they all secretly cherished dinner. Each person got a nice helping of tart berries with a pinky size morsel to gnaw on. They got to tell stories about a life that felt like a dream. Most of them were human before the change, and their lives were robust. It was seasoned with sweetness, hilarity, and familiarity. When it was done, the stories, they each felt somber.

The tension was thick throughout the entire night. Everyone persevered, but Isaac could see it. Scott and Stiles weren’t talking, Kira was guarded, Derek never talked, and so forth. Half of the problems Isaac knew he started but he didn’t care if it meant being a step ahead. Isaac tossed his shoes into the corner of the cabin, getting ready for his night off.

Isaac could hear Derek getting ready by his own bed, but neither one wanted to talk. Isaac threw his shirt onto the bed below.

“Are you still mad?” Derek wondered. Isaac fought to grind his teeth together as he worked on undoing his jeans. “I’ll take that as a yes.”

“I’m not- I’m not mad,” Isaac said.

“Then how are you feeling?” Derek’s condescending tone was like nails on a chalkboard for Isaac.

“I feel exhausted. Good night.” Isaac climbed up onto the top bunk burrowing under the blanket. He shut his eyes hoping to pass out right away. He could pick up on Derek rustling around the room.

“When you’re done being mad, let me know.”

“Can you shut up? You don’t want to listen and I want to sleep.”

“I heard you loud and clear. You’re acting like a child because I said no.”

“Then tell me how I’m supposed to act,” Isaac wasn’t going to sleep now.

“Like an obedient beta, and accept my decision,” Derek said. Isaac swung his legs over the edge of the bed and hopped off. He was shoving his legs through each hole of his jeans. “What are you doing?”

“I’m being a disobedient beta and leaving.” Isaac barely made it a few steps towards the door before Derek’s grasped his arm.

“Why do you have to be so difficult?” Derek's eyes flickered from a bright red to his honey brown. There was a war inside Derek, a war Isaac started. Despite Derek looming over Isaac partially intimidating the beta, Isaac stood his ground.

“Let go,” Isaac snarled. The beta tugged at Derek’s grasp, but he barely budged, “If I want to be pissed at you, I can. The only one who’s making things difficult is you, now let go of me!”

Derek’s grip got tighter, his fingers digging into Isaac’s arm. He let go of Isaac, watching him stagger trying to catch his balance. Isaac hated that he couldn’t intimidate Derek. It was fruitless when Derek was the superior wolf and alpha. Isaac wasted no time, storming out of the cabin into the brisk night air.

The funny thing about storming off, you needed a destination. A place where you can relax without anyone disturbing you. Isaac had an entire forest dedicated to relaxation. He walked through the campsite. He can hear everyone snuggle into their cots, exhausted from a long day’s work.

Isaac wandered through the outskirts of the camp. He listened to every step, rustle, and creak that came from the surrounding trees. It was easy to get lost in the forest, even for a werewolf. Wolves couldn’t stop themselves from getting lost but they knew how to get back home. Isaac heard, once, that wolves could find their way home no matter where they are. It was something out of a Disney animal movie like Homeward Bound. It had something to do with their instinctual need to go to their pack or find someplace safe. Isaac thought it was possible, but cats have been known to come home quicker than any dog. He assumed wolves had to be a bit better than any diluted genetic pooch.

There were so many transcendent beings out there. There had to be some that could find their way no matter where they went. Maybe able to hide. There were miles upon miles of woodland around him. Something had to be out there with them trying to outlast this genocide. Isaac didn’t know every transcendent being that walked the earth but it was possible. There were such things as fairies, they could’ve been out there with him. They had to be a lot safer than any human-like being.

Isaac settled down against a tree, slumping into the dirt. He stared at the dark woods in front of him, leading back towards the camp. Their life was shit and it will be this way until something happens. Isaac blinked wearily letting out a loud yawn. He had dozed off for a few minutes. The exhaustion and desire to go back to sleep had him sink lower into the ground. His eyes were barely able to stay open. Isaac almost didn’t catch the sound of tires kicking up rocks.

It was a noisy truck barreling through the terrain. It was far, about a few miles out. Isaac had to strain his ears to follow the sound. It had to be following a gravel path that the campsite must have forged. Isaac started to follow the truck. The hunters had to be close. They must have thought they cleared the area of beings. Normally, hunters wouldn’t go through the trouble of hiding their actions, unless they were hunting. They would drive through any town in broad daylight with a team sitting in the back.

This was something else. The forest was dead and the only thing out this far was the wolves and any hunters walking. Isaac concluded that this had to be something top secret for the hunters. When he saw the truck’s lights starting to peak out, he slowed down. Isaac snuck down low into the dirt. He crawled about 1000 feet from the truck. As he was inching closer, he could smell a wood burning soot, that clung to the vehicle.

It was a 4x4 black truck. It had the bed of the truck with boxes strapped down. They were varying sizes, mostly unmarked. Isaac was across from the truck, the lights were peering away from him. He was able to make out a man in the back. Another two in the front. The scent wasn’t overwhelming, but he knew it had to be worse close up.

The truck lingered, it didn’t move or even bother to turn the headlights off. Isaac’s brows narrowed as the two in the front hopped out. They were older, but it was hard to make a lot out. The man driving had a cowboy hat and a thick leather belt that had a holster. Isaac could see the big black gun sticking out. He had a beige button-down shirt with a puffy vest covering up his broad shoulders.

While the passenger was petite. She had thick black curls pulled into a tight ponytail. She seemed tenser than the driver. Her foot continued to tap into the ground, or she took a few steps forward peering into the darkness. The third person leans against the roof of the car, standing inside the bed of the truck. Isaac could barely see him at all. He just knew the man was younger than the others.

They were fairly calm while they waited. Isaac dug himself low and waited too. It wasn’t long until three people emerged from the clearing. The woman looked towards the trio and erupted into a cry, “Oh Scott!”

The woman darted over and hugged Scott tightly. These were who the other pack were waiting for. While Scott hung on tight to the woman. Isaac was able to make out Kira and Stiles who walked side by side with the Alpha. It didn’t take long for Stiles to hug the driver of the truck. Kira stood back her sword clasped at her side. Everyone just hugged one another, the woman continued to pat the boy’s faces.

“Did anyone follow you?” The driver asked.

“No, it’s been dead around here,” Kira spoke for the three. Despite what she said, she slowly took steps scanning the treeline. Isaac buried his face down into the mud, just in case.

“Good, good. How’ve ya’ll been?” The driver asked.

“I should be asking you guys that,” Scott spoke up.

“We’re here, aren’t we? It’s been interesting back home, but good. You know we have more and more people joining us.” The third guy piped up. “We can really use you guys back home.”

“See? I say we go home,” Stiles spoke up. He was already climbing into the bed of the truck unsnapping the cables. The third guy started to help Stiles out. The two were quick pulling different crates to the floor.

“It’s not smart, Stiles. They’re still looking for us,” Kira warned. She stood behind Scott. She didn’t look at Stiles or the other guy, she continued to look at the treeline. Her fingers were itching at the sword.

“He’s right kiddo. I don’t want ya’ll getting hurt. You’re better off staying here,” Stiles gave the driver a murderous look, “For now. Just until we figure out how to keep ya’ll safe.”

“We should be keeping you guys safe, dad. We should be able to take care of ourselves.”

“Stiles,” Kira warned. Everyone from the group was vocal about their plans. Scott was the only one who was quiet. Him and the woman, they held each other tight. Tight knit, tight-lipped.

Isaac hadn’t seen many packs, but their roles melded together. No one seemed to look towards their Alpha. Scott seemed to have a lot of good traits about him, but he was no leader. He walked like a beta, talked like one, and had maternal instincts. In every way, Scott shouldn’t have been an Alpha. He doubted if Scott could fall into a Beta role. Scott just watched the people he knew bicker and continually pull rank.

“Why don’t we just enjoy these few minutes, huh? It’s been at least a month since we last saw each other,” The woman urged.

“Is it? I can’t count the days,” Stiles snarked back.

“Stiles! C’mon my mom is only trying to help.” Scott said. Stiles shook his head and went back to unloading the truck. Stiles’s father rested against the truck, no one knew what to say anymore. It was all trivial, no one really cared how anyone was. When their lives were on borrow time, and they were being led towards an unforeseeable future. The small things didn’t matter.

“On the bright side, all of you guys are safe. And when you guys are ready and able to come home we have people waiting for you. There’s a lot of- well you’ll see. We’re trying to bring you guys home. Just hang in there.” The woman spoke of hope, but it was on deaf ears.

Isaac decided he had heard enough, slowly standing up he tipped toed backward. He somehow managed to make his way back to the campsite. The night progressively got colder leaving him with a chill deep inside his bones. He had dirt caked on his body. Isaac had no desire to go take a cold shower. When he made it back into the cabin, Derek was still there turned to his side. They both knew Derek was wide awake, but the Alpha remained quiet. Isaac was thankful for that as he climbed into his bed.

There were so many nights Isaac had slept with barely any hope. He missed the warm showers, and how there wasn’t grime stuck to parts of his body. No amount of soap would take away a year's worth of wilderness. Yet for the first time, he knew there was something out there. Whether it was a war or the thought of peace, he didn’t care. As long as it meant he was somewhere better than nowhere.

Once the fall of New York other cities started to be put under Marshall Law. It was hard to gather the smaller cities but the bigger ones had it hard. The government realized over time that it was hard to register creatures who could easily outlast everyone. It didn’t stop the fear circulating through the people who didn’t know better. Finally, with all the pockets of uprisings that started to take place, local governments shut down. Until the federal government was under siege.  

No one knew what went on. The newscasters didn’t want to get close. Isaac assumed people on the East Coast knew more, but California was in the dark. When everything is falling apart, there were a lot of riots in the streets. The beta’s high school shut down for the time being, and all they can do is prepare.

Eventually, the siege was lifted. The Hunter’s Coalition rose and instated Lieutenant Parson into power. No one really knew what happened to The President, but most assumed he ran to another country. The Guards and hunters all alike stood together occupying nearly every town and major city. They demanded death to all transcendent creatures and anyone who helped them. Lieutenant Parson ended up changing the words of the Pledge of Allegiance to suit their agenda. Derek told them the new pledge was one of the oaths a hunter took, a way to boost their loyalty. The Lieutenant promised it was only temporary until they eradicated all the transcendents.

Somehow after a few weeks school started up again. The riots to try to stop the new regime started to dwindle. So did the population. They had cleansings on the first Friday of every month. They made it televised so everyone knew their agenda. There was a perversion that a lot of people carried. “At least the world didn’t end.”

Then it did.