Actions

Work Header

faith falls hard on our shoulders (but legends never die)

Chapter Text

I.

All things considered, Scott isn't entirely surprised by how it ends. Fear and blood and death. That's been his life for so long now that he can't help but feel defeat swamp him. The enemy isn't who he expected. It's not monsters, but men. People. Humans that he spent so much of his time saving. Giving up everything he had, giving all of himself, to trying to keep them safe.

He wants to ask them 'why?' even though he knows that it's fear that motivates them. Fear of the unknown, of power, of the supernatural and their impossible abilities. He wants to remind them he has known them his whole life. He's walked these streets since he was just a child. He was just like them once; an asthmatic boy just trying to get through school. He was just a curious kid that went into the woods with his best friend. A boy by a megalomaniacal wolf bent on revenge, sure, but an average boy all the same. He grew up with these same kids. He saved them and their siblings, their friends and their families from all the horrors that entered Beacon Hills. He lost friends, lost his first love, lost people he cared about to this. He knew fear. He knew pain and anger and loss. For all of his power, all of his special abilities, he was just a boy.

Just a boy.

There are bodies scattered all around him. In the furor to attack him, they hurt themselves and each other, too. A barrage of bullets from above, untrained and inexperienced, destroying everything in range. He sits huddled against the wall, an arm wrapped around his stomach, open wounds weeping, blood soaked clothes clinging to him. It's with a shaking hand that he digs his phone out from his pocket, leaving red smears on the screen as he scrolls through his contacts to find her. They were separated at some point; locking eyes even as they were forced to run in opposite directions, angry mobs of people pushing them apart.

She'd called his name, her voice higher, frantic in a way that's so unfamiliar to her. 'Scott! Scott!?' She's always so careful to hide her fear. Swallows it down and covers it with anger and action. But he could hear it. The sharp edge of worry that coats her voice as she cried out.

He called back, 'Lia! Run, Lia! I'll find you! Just run!'

She let out a wounded growl— he wasn't sure if she was hurt or it was in answer to what he said. He was pushed back, chased away, cornered in the library to fight it out with the blood-thirsty humans, stinking both of terror and anticipation.

His thumb hovers over her name now. Hoping against hope that she's safe somewhere. Maybe she found Lydia or Derek or hell, even Peter. Maybe they got her out. He needed her to get out. Because as he sits in a pool of his own blood, quickly growing bigger by the second, he knows. Of all the times he's faced death before, this time feels more real. More absolute. There's so much. So much he wants to do and say. So much of life he had left to live.

His mom is in the hospital, in a coma he can't pull her out of, and he's not sure what happens after this. How she'll handle it when she wakes up. If she wakes up. All she wanted was for him to be safe and he can't even give her that. She's done so much, seen so much, and she never left him. She deserved better than this. Better than a coma and a dead son. Better than anything Beacon Hills has ever given her.

Tears drip off the end of his eyelashes and fall down his cheeks in sharp, quick lines. He closes his eyes, draws a deep, rattling breath, and presses his thumb on Malia's name as he lifts the phone to his ear.

It rings and rings and rings.

His heart squeezes in his chest. Worry that she didn't make it- that she's hurt somewhere and he can't get to her- that she's just as doomed as he is. And he never got a chance. He never told her. He wanted to. God, he wanted to. This morning, when they were laying in bed, tangled together, her head on his chest and his fingers in her hair. Sun coming in through the slats of wood covering the windows, dust particles dancing in the criss-crossing light, the sound of her steady heart a balm to the fear that had been following them for weeks. He told himself he'd say it later. When the danger was over. When the world was put right again and they weren't running for their lives, he'd tell her.

"Scott?"

He breathes out, quick and hard. "Malia…" His eyes open and his brow furrows. "Where are you? Are you okay?"

She pauses before saying, "Yeah, I'm fine. What about you?"

He looks down at himself, blood squelching between his fingers, and he smiles crookedly. "I'm okay."

"You got away?"

His gaze moves over the bodies, overlapping each other in all directions. And as much as he wants to hate them for what they've done and who they've hurt, another part of him just pities them. Their fear erased their humanity. They died consumed with that terror and rage. "Not exactly," he tells her. "They cornered me in the library."

"Are they still there?"

He shakes his head, even though he knows she can't see it. "I can't hear any heartbeats nearby. They're all dead."

"Who killed them?" she asks, confused.

His mouth hitches up faintly. "You don't think it was me?"

"If it was, it was an accident. You don't kill. You're… too good for that."

His eyes squeeze shut. "I'm not. I've killed. I've hurt people."

"In self-defence."

"Does that make it better?"

"Yes," she says, blunt and honest. "I know you."

He lets out a breath he didn't know he was holding. "They killed each other. Not on purpose, they just… They were trying to kill me, but then they started shooting wildly and they just… They shot everyone."

She swallows tightly; he can hear it through the phone. "But, you're okay now?"

He can't feel anything from his stomach down. At some point, his legs had gone numb. Half his body is cold and limp and he knows it's a bad sign. But he doesn't want to tell her that. He doesn't want her to come running back here, not when he knows she's okay. Just because he can't hear heartbeats doesn't mean it's safe. "Better now that I know you're okay," he tells her instead.

"They chased me out of the school and into the lacrosse field… I tried to come back, but I couldn't."

"Where are you now?"

"The woods. They… They're everywhere."

"You have to go." He grits his teeth. "Find Stiles or Derek, anyone, just get out of Beacon Hills."

"There's no way out."

"You have to try. You can't stay here. They'll find you! You have to—"

"Scott!" she interrupts. "It's okay. I'm okay. They won't find me."

"You can't hide forever."

"I managed it for 8 years, I think I can manage a little longer."

"They'll kill animals too, just in case." He shakes his head, even as it starts to feel too heavy for his neck to hold up. "Malia, you have to find a way out. A tunnel or a car or something. Just…" He licks his dry lips and sucks in a deep breath. "I need to know you got out."

"Do you remember when all of this started?"

His brow furrows. "What?"

"Not this this. But… us…"

He frowns. "I… Yeah…"

"You were worried then too, even though you were the one that was hurt. You were still worried about me. You always are. About everyone. That's what I love about you. I had to learn how to care about people, how to protect them, but for you, it was so easy. Because you're so good, Scott. You're such a good person. And I wish I was more like you. I do. I wish I could care as much as you do. But I don't. I— I don't have it in me."

"You do." He smiles. "You do care. I've seen you care. I've seen you save people. You've put them before yourself and you've risked your life for them. For people you didn't even know. People who've hurt you. I've seen you grow and become this… amazing person. Because you are. You're amazing. And I… I'm lucky. I got to see you. I got to know you. I… I got to have you. And I'm so… grateful that I did."

Her voice trembles as she says his name. "Scott…"

"I wish it was different… I wish I could make it better. That we met another way. Maybe your car doesn't crash and you don't spend all that time running. Maybe I don't get bit and turn. Maybe we're just two people who find each other and the whole world doesn't keep falling apart around us. Maybe we get a chance to be together and nothing… none of it hurts."

"I like that dream," she whispers. "But I like our reality, too." She pauses. "Maybe not this part. All the blood and running and death. But… all the moments in between. When it's just us and we're happy and hopeful. I… I liked waking up with you. Sometimes I'd just lay there and pretend to still be sleeping because I didn't want to get up. I wanted to stay right there, with you. It wasn't Paris, but it's okay. You are so much better than Paris!"

He smiles faintly. "I don't know if I'm mysterious."

She laughs thickly. "I like that I know exactly who you are. That you wear all your feelings on your sleeve and you always try to do the right thing."

"I just…" He swallows dryly, his heart trembling in his chest. "I just wanted to save people."

"I know. And you did. You saved so many."

He stares upward at a darkening ceiling, his vision wavering. "I didn't tell you… I was gonna tell you…"

"Tell me what?"

"That I... I…" His breath leaves him shakily.

He thinks of her. Of muted light and sleep-mussed hair. Of steam collecting all around her, water sluicing down her bare skin. Of her fingers stroking through his hair as he sits next to his mother's bedside, her chin on his shoulder. Of how she hugs him, spooning him in his bed, holding him tight as he cries. Of her breath stuttering against his mouth as he leans in to kiss her for the first time, her eyes glowing a bright blue in anticipation. Of how she says his name in a grunt, a whisper, a shout, a cry. Of how she digs her fingers into his back so hard it almost draws blood but her mouth moving over his is soft as a feather. Of her hand in his, their fingers knit together, as they run, blindly, looking for a way out, a way forward.

"Scott?"

He wants to tell her everything. That he's not sure how he would've survived this long without her. That this thing between them has been building up for a while and he's glad they got a chance to explore it, even if it wasn't as long as he wanted. Because he wants more. He wants so much more. And yeah, it's only been a month and a half since all of this started, since the whole town's gone haywire and everyone turned on them. Since he looked at her and the thought of not kissing her was just impossible. And maybe he falls easy. Maybe, like every other feeling he wears on his sleeve, she's seen this one, too. But he wants her to know that he loves her. He loved every second they had together and they mattered. They were everything.

But his throat tightens like a noose is closing around it and his lungs deflate with all the flare of an emptying balloon. And he realizes that this is it. Whatever time he has left is dwindling fast. His mouth opens and closes but no words come. Just blood, coating his tongue and wetting his lips, dribbling down his chin as he tries to say her name, over and over again.

"Scott, are you there?"

His fingers flex on the phone before it slips from his grip to fall to his lap. It's one last grace that he can still hear her, that his hearing hasn't abandoned him just yet. So that when he goes, slipping away from the world, it's with her voice echoing in his ears.

"If you can't say it, it's okay. I… I think I know. At least, I know what I want to say and that's… I love you. I just… I need you to know that, okay? No matter what happens. Or who comes for us. I want you to know that I love you."

His eyes close, a tear slipping down his cheek, and then another. And he smiles, a tiny curl of his lips. It's okay, he thinks. It wasn't a long life. In fact, it was pretty short by some standards. But he was loved. By his mom and Allison and Stiles and Kira. By his pack. By Malia. It's not perfect. But it's something. It's more than some people get. He did his best. He tried. He tried so hard. And now it's over.

It's finally over.

He wishes he could do more. Not just for him, but for them. For the people falling victim to their fear. For his pack who relied on him, who trusted him. For his mom, who didn't deserve any of this. For Malia…

But he can't.

He can't.


...


"Hey."

Scott opens his eyes to find he is not in the library. Instead, he's in a car, on a hill, overlooking Beacon Hills. Which, contrary to what he remembers, is not currently a cesspool of fire and war. Instead, it looks calm and quiet. When he drags his gaze from the scene, he turns his attention to the driver's seat.

She's smiling back at him, her eyes soft and her grin wide and warm.

"Allison?" His brow furrows as he shakes his head. His hand reached for his stomach to find himself unharmed, his shirt no longer soaked in blood, his body free of bullet holes. "I… How?"

"Fate?"

"You don't believe in fate."

She half-smiles. "Maybe just a hallucination brought on by death then." She squeezes her hands around the steering wheel, twisting it as her smile dims. "A lot has happened, huh? I guess something is always happening in Beacon Hills— it's a hotbed of supernatural activity— but… this seems worse somehow."

"Death usually does." He stares at her searchingly, mapping out the face he knows so well. The face he's remembered in his best and worst dreams. The face that still makes his heart ache before it plummets into his stomach. "You're not real."

She turns and stares at him, wide brown eyes looking all over his face, memorizing him as she bites her lip. She looks real. She looks… alive. "You have a beta now. Liam, right?" She nods. "And my dad, he's been helping you and your pack… I hoped he would."

Scott swallows tightly. "He's saved us a few hundred times, yeah."

Her smile is soft and small, but sincere. "And Kira…"

"We were good for a while. She's gone now. Not permanently, but…"

"Permanent enough." She stares at his profile a moment. "I know you loved her."

"I… I did, yeah." He draws a deep breath and lets it out on a sigh. "She gave me hope. Made me feel something after everything… after you…"

"I'm glad." She hugs her arms around herself. "I am. I know I always kind of thought we'd end up together again, eventually, but… It's okay, you know? I just… I wanted you to be happy."

He nods. "I know. I wanted that for you, too."

"Do you miss her? Kira?"

"Yeah. Sometimes." He frowns. "Even if we weren't going to be together, she was my friend. She was strong and smart and a good person."

Allison gazes at him a beat. "Sounds like you."

He half-smiles. "You always saw the best in me."

"Not always. And I regret that. I had doubts. I was insecure sometimes. With everything going on, it was hard to know who or what was right."

"But, you made the right choices in the end. It's okay to be tempted, to get confused. In the end, I always knew who you were."

Her eyes glisten, a sheen of tears filling them. It takes her a moment, her voice strangled, but eventually she asks him, "And Malia?" She searches his face. "Does she make you happy?"

"I…" He stares back at her a moment before he nods. "She's different. She's not like you, not exactly. She's not like anyone I think I've ever met. And… we're different. Sometimes I wonder if we're too different, but then… I don't know. She makes me think. And she's always there. Even if she doesn't agree, she's the most loyal person you could ever meet. And… And I love her. I love how strong she is and how I feel when I'm with her and that when we're together, she lets her guard down. She lets herself be vulnerable with me because she trusts me and because…" He smiles. "Because she loves me, too."

Allison nods slowly. "You know you deserve this, right?"

He looks up, his brow furrowed. "Deserve what?"

"A chance. A real chance." She shakes her head. "Scott, you give so much, you try so hard, and you're always willing to sacrifice yourself if it means other people will be okay. Even now. After what they did… You still want to fight for them."

"This isn't them. Something else is controlling them. If they could just get away from it, if they could think clearly… I don't think they'd do this. Not to me or to anyone else."

Her smile is sad. "You always believe the best in people."

"A fatal flaw, I guess."

"You're not dead yet."

He frowns and darts his gaze around. "Aren't I? I'm talking to my dead ex-girlfriend."

"Hallucination, remember?" She reaches for him, her hand landing on his wrist and squeezing gently. "She's coming for you. Because that's what you do when you love someone and you know something's wrong. You fight for them and you do whatever it takes to bring them back."

There's a distant ringing in his ears, drowning out Allison's voice for a moment. His vision darkens around the edges and he gives his head a shake to clear it. "I don't… I can't hear you…"

Scott? Scott, can you hear me?

A different voice. Not Allison's, but feminine and familiar.

Why didn't you tell me you were hurt? Why didn't you ask for help? You're so stubborn…

"It's okay. She just wants to help you."

Scott opens his eyes, not realizing he'd closed them at all, and finds Allison staring back at him. Pale skin and flushed cheeks, her eyes so big and soft and sad. "She can't, can she? I lost a lot of blood. I died. At least, it felt like I did."

"That's the funny thing about you, Scott McCall, you have a habit of surviving." Allison cups his cheek and runs her thumb along the arch. "You're a fighter… And you're not done fighting yet."

Scott, I need you to hold on, okay? I can get you help, but you have to fight…

"I can't." He stares at Allison, his heart thumping and his stomach turning. "I'm tired. I— I'm exhausted."

"Sometimes a fight doesn't have to be physical. Sometimes it's just mental." She shakes her head. "She'll do the hard work. You just have to hold on."

He drops his gaze, defeat filling him. "And then what? I go back and I fight for real. I fight the town and whatever's controlling them. And I just wait for whatever or whoever comes next. That's all there is, right? Another horror story around the next corner. That's all there ever is."

"It feels that way," Allison agrees. "It feels like it's never going to end. Like you'll never get through it. But we both know that's not all there is… Sometimes you have to take whatever good you can find. Those little moments in between where you don't have to fight or hide or save anybody. When it's just you and your friends and the people you love... When the noise gets quiet and you can breathe again… I know you know that feeling. I know you found it again…"

.

( Kissing her is new and familiar at the same time. He's known her for so long, but not like this. This is new and a little scary, but even more exhilarating. This thing, this want, has been building up for a while now. This awareness of her has been right there on his periphery. He looks for her now. When they're in danger, he reaches for her. It's instinctive. The way he searches her out in a crowd. How he latches onto her voice and her heartbeat and her scent. She's been right there and just out of reach at the same time.

But now she's here, in reach, her lips moving against his, both hard and soft, quick and slow. One of her arms wraps around his waist, the other stretches up, hand sliding over his face. She pushes forward and he pushes back, leaving them both immoveable, caught in a give and take of equal power. He could push more, she could pull more, but they don't. Instead, they stay in that middle-ground, meeting each other halfway.

Until they're tumbling sideways, knocking into a dresser and a table and then the wall. They're turning, twirling, like it's a dance, and neither have to give up their control. It's an endless circle, flowing between them. They trip, falling back on his bed, and she's panting and flushed and smiling up at him. Her eyes are brown and blue, light and dark. They twist and flip and wrestle back and forth. She laughs and he laughs and he hasn't felt this in what seems like forever. This playful excitement that floods him.

When they finally stop, she's on top, straddling him, her hands pinning his wrists above his head. She's grinning in victory and he's smiling right back in surrender. To her, to whatever this is between them. She leans down, her nose nuzzling against his own, and her hands slide up from his wrists to cover his, palm to palm. He can feel her warm breath on his lips and he stares up at her, heart banging loudly in his chest. And he knows.

He knows in that split second before her lips meet his.

It's inevitable.

Loving her always was. )

.

( The world has fallen into chaos again. Or maybe just their once sleepy town is the only one affected. Maybe it's just the beginning of the infection. He's not sure. What he is sure of is that they've all had to go into hiding. Creeping around on the edges of it all, trying to put together pieces of how this happened, who caused it, and how to reverse it.

In between secret meetings over what they've all found and just trying to stay alive, he steals moments with her. Between fighting for survival and keeping his pack alive, he sneaks in brief kisses and the brush of their fingers and the simple whisper of her name. He pulls her into bed with him just to hold her for the few hours they might get before something else goes wrong. He wraps himself around her in the shower, taking his time kissing up the slope of her neck even as he knows that they're operating on borrowed seconds and minutes. That anybody and anything could interrupt. All they have are these moments. Caught in the fragments of time when something isn't chasing or attacking them. Holed away in a boarded-up house, in a room that isn't really his, but has to be for now. Folded together- slick, bare skin meeting - in the dead of night, the fear of death and pain nipping at their heels.

It's four in the morning when he wakes up to her tracing his face with her fingers, staring at him with that expression, equally stubborn and scared.

He takes a deep breath and tries to shake of the exhaustion clouding his head. "Hey…" He brushes his fingers through her hair. "You okay?"

"Mm-hmm." She nods, but she's not convincing.

"Talk to me." His hand slides down her back, drawing random shapes along her skin.

She doesn't say anything at first. Instead, she turns her head, resting her ear against his chest, and drops her hand to his arm, stroking the black, tattooed bands that ring it. "What happens after?"

"After what?"

"After we beat them. After we win…" She's confident enough in that, at least. "Let's say we fix it. Get rid of whoever is changing people, making them afraid of us. Then what? You go to college?"

"I want to. Eventually. When I know that things are okay here…" He stares down at her, but she won't look up. "You still planning to see Paris?"

"Maybe. Possibly… I don't know." She runs her thumb along the thicker band. "I thought Paris could be my thing, you know? Everybody else has one. Stiles has the FBI, you and Lydia have college. Even Mason and Corey know what school they want to go to."

"School's not for everyone and that's okay. You don't have to go to college. There are other things you can do."

Her lips purse. "Like what?"

"What do you want to do?"

She sighs. "I don't know. I'm only really good at this."

"At what?"

"Fighting."

"Okay, well, what about what Braeden does? Or Parrish and Sheriff Stilinski?"

She looks up at him then, her brow furrowed. "Law enforcement?"

"Sure. What's wrong with that?" He nods. "I think there's a cadet training program in Davis. It could help you get into a police academy."

"Davis," she repeats. "Like… where you are."

"Yeah. I…" He pauses. "I thought if you wanted… I mean, when all of this is done, I thought we'd still…"

She presses her lips together and searches his face.

"Is that why you were worried?" His brow furrows. "You thought I didn't want this to last?"

Her gaze falls sharply. "You didn't say…"

He smiles crookedly. "Neither did you."

Her eyes raise to meet his once more. "Then we are? Together, I mean."

"I thought so." His smile widens. "I want us to be."

"Okay. Then… we are." She nods decisively before placing her head back down again.

"It doesn't have to be cadet training if that's not what you want." He strokes her shoulder. "We can look at other things. Find something you'll like and just… make it work. Whatever's going to make you happy."

"You make me happy," she says, a little surer of herself now.

And Scott grins down at her. He combs his fingers through her hair and feels it as she relaxes; the tension and worry of before bleeds away.

As far as stolen moments go, this one feels bigger somehow. He falls back asleep with her cradled against him, content in the knowledge that this might just last.

He really wants it to last. )

.

( "I have to do this."

"No, you want to do this. There's a difference!"

"Malia…" Scott stares at her. "People are dying."

"People die. That's what they do!" She glares at him. "If you go out there, you could die, too."

"I can't just let this happen… I can't not help." He reaches for her, but she pulls away, and he sighs. "What if it was me out there? Or Liam or Mason or Lydia? Could you leave them?"

"Of course not. They're pack." She crosses her arms over her chest. "And if you go, I go. That's how this works."

"Those people out there, they're somebody else's pack. They have friends and family that love them."

"Their friends and family are trying to kill us!" She steps up to him, her brows hiked. "I don't want them to die, okay? Aside from a few very specific people, I don't want anyone to die. But, if I have to choose between someone else dying and you dying, I'm going to save you."

"I don't want it to be a choice." He shakes his head. "I want to do the right thing. I want to save as many as I can and I want us to get through this."

"Yeah, well, I want you to live. I want our pack to live. I want to get the people that matter to us out of here and I want to get as far away from whatever is causing this as I can. Because if we don't, then we are stuck here, Scott! We're being surrounded by people that want to kill us. There are only so many options."

"I won't run. Not yet. Not when we might be the only chance at saving people and stopping this… this… thing."

She growls at him, baring her teeth, but unlocks her arms from her chest. "Fine."

He cocks his head and stares at her searchingly. "Fine you'll stay or fine you're leaving?"

Malia rolls her eyes. "I told you… Where you go, I go. Even if that's straight into a grave."

Scott grins slowly. "You know what this means?"

"That we both have a death wish?"

"No, it means we made it through our first real fight as a couple. Look, no limbs lost or anything."

She snorts. "It's a miracle."

His grin widens. "You know I feel the same way, right? I want you to be safe just as much as you want me safe."

"I'd find that more believable if you didn't just spend ten minutes convincing me to stay and fight."

"I do want to go," he admits. "I want to run as far away as I can get because… I'm scared. Honestly. But I can't run if I think there's a chance that I can make a difference."

Malia purses her lips and grinds her teeth together. "Okay. So, we're doing this. Or we're trying anyway. But if I die, I'm gonna be seriously pissed. And if you die, I'll bring you back just so I can kill you myself."

When Scott reaches for her this time, she doesn't pull away, instead letting him tow her forward until their chests meet. He reaches up, brushing her hair back and off her face, tucking it behind her ear before he strokes his fingers down her neck. He smiles as she shivers, softening against him. "We won't die… I won't let you."

Malia leans in and drops her forehead against his. "I won't let you die either. And, I'm stubborn, so you can trust me when I say I'll fight literal death for you."

"I do trust you."

Her eyes soften and she reaches up, hooking her hand around his shoulder. "I just want us to be okay."

"I know." His fingers slide along her jawline delicately. "I do, too."

Malia closes her eyes and Scott leans back to kiss her forehead. Her fingers dig into him a little harder and he lets out a quiet sigh, just holding onto her a moment. They both knows they've made promises they can't really keep, but they want to.

They really want to. )

.

Scott draws an unsteady breath. "I didn't get to tell her."

Allison smiles at him gently. "You'll get your chance."

He raises an eyebrow, not so sure himself. "How do you know?"

"It's not over for you. Not yet." She takes his hands in hers. "Just hold on, Scott. Hold on to her. Hold on to all of them. Your pack and your mom and everybody who matters to you. They'll get you through it. Even when it hurts, when all you want to do is let go, don't stop fighting."

She's getting blurry. He's not sure if it's his eyes or his mind or what. But he knows he's losing her.

"It's okay," she tells him. "You're going to be okay."

"Allison?" She doesn't answer. "Allison?"

He can't feel her hands in his anymore. He can't really feel anything. It all goes dark around him, until he's free floating in nothingness. He remembers what she said, about fighting, about not giving up. And even though he's tired, even though every part of him aches and burns with exhaustion, he knows she's right. He has too many people relying on him to die now.


...


When Scott opens his eyes again, he's not in the car or in the library. He's staring up at a bald light bulb hanging above his head, so bright it burns his eyes for a moment.

He lifts a hand, his arm like lead, trying to block out the brightness. The movement pulls at his stomach and he groans as he feels the bullet holes of before pulling under the movement. His body is screaming with pain, enough that his vision swims and he nearly passes out again.

"Careful. I haven't pulled them all out yet."

He blinks, turning his head in search of-

"Mom?"

She grins down at him, even as her face looks tired and haggard, skin pale and damp with sweat. "Hey. You didn't think I'd let you die, did you?"

"Mom, how are you…? You were in a coma."

"I woke up." She presses a hand against his shoulder, pushing him down. "Argent figured out what I was hit with and mixed up his own antidote. I'm not in perfect shape, but I'm healthy enough to fix you."

He shook his head, blinking rapidly. "What happened? How did I get here?" Speaking of 'here,' Scott takes a looking around to see just where he ended up. Somehow, he's not all that surprised to find he's at the vet clinic, laid out on a metal gurney. "I was in the library at the school…"

"You were," Melissa agrees. "Malia found you and carried you here. You weren't looking too good. In fact, a lot of your friends didn't think you'd make it…" Her mouth tightens. "I wasn't so sure myself."

Scott reaches for her, his hand wrapping around her wrist and squeezing gently. "I'm sorry I scared you."

"Don't be sorry. Just, get better." She stares down at him searchingly. "This was close, Scott. Way too close."

"I know."

"Do you?" She motions to his stomach, littered in open wounds and blood-soaked bandages. "Your heart stopped. You weren't breathing. You did die. But, for some reason… You came back."

"I'm not done yet." He lays his head back down then. "I'm going to fix this. Whoever is doing this, I'm going to stop them."

"In the meantime, why don't we just focus on keeping you alive?" Her hand lands on his stomach, steadying him. "There are still two bullets left in you. It's going to hurt pulling them out."

"It's okay." He nods at her encouragingly. "I can take it."

Melissa sighs at him.

"Here."

Scott startles at the voice and looks up to see Malia stepping into the room from the hallway. "Hey…" he says, his voice softer.

Her smile is slow and tentative before she circles the table and takes his hand. He follows her with his head, gazing up at her as she stares down at his stomach. His heart feels a little unsteady, but he thinks that has more to do with her being close than the bullets his mother is about to pull out of him.

She said she loved him. Before he, well, died, she'd said the words that had been stuck in his throat as he slipped away.

He's pretty sure his grin has turned goofy, but she doesn't say anything. Neither does his mother. In fact-

Clink.

He frowns. Turning his head, he finds his mother has already dropped one bullet in a dish with the others. "How did you…? I didn't even feel anything."

Melissa glances at him and then to Malia.

Scott looks down abruptly and realizes that dark veins are crawling up Malia's arm from the hand she has tied to his. "Malia!"

She grimaces but doesn't let go. "You've had enough pain today."

He stares up at her. She's drenched in blood— his, he thinks. There's a gash in her forehead, dried blood crusted in her hair, and a healing bruise across her cheek. And that's just what he can see. "So have you."

"Not like this." She nods her chin down toward his stomach. Her attention turns to Melissa then. "Pull it out. I can take it."

Melissa looks between them before quickly turning her attention back to his stomach and a hole deep in his gut. He can feel it in a distant way. The pain is there, it's just muted. Malia's siphoning away enough of it that he feels a little floaty. His pain receptors are like static; white noise that doesn't quite compute.

There's another clink before his mother is patching that wound up, too. When she's finished, she pushes the tray away, smiles down at him tiredly, and then moves to the sink to strip off her gloves and wash her hands. With her back to them, Scott turns to Malia. She's still holding onto him and the set of her lips says she's not feeling so great.

"You can stop now."

She doesn't look at him, her gaze focused entirely on his stomach.

"I'll heal," he reminds her.

"You thought you were dying… That whole time, while we were talking, you were literally dying and you didn't say one word."

"I didn't want to worry you."

"You didn't want me to come back," she accuses.

Scott lets out a heavy sigh. "I wanted you to be safe. If you came back, they could've hurt you, too."

"So what, you were just going to sacrifice yourself? Let yourself bleed out in the library and hope we'd just go on without you?"

He presses his lips together, even though the answer is an obvious 'yes.'

She lets go of his hand then. The pain rushes in. Not as acute as it might've been while the bullets were being pulled out, but the rush of awareness is jolting. Suddenly he can feel all of it, every nerve is lit up like a Christmas tree, and it doesn't feel good. In fact, his stomach twists and turns and he can feel vomit or bile or something climbing up the back of his throat. His vision blacks out for a few seconds before slowly clearing. He can hear his heart in his ears, along with Malia's pacing footsteps. At some point, his mom left the room, giving them some time to talk it out.

"Malia…" He reaches for her, his arm almost too heavy to move in his exhausted, pained state. "Please, I just… I thought I was doing the right thing."

"You always do." She throws her hands up. "And whatever you think is right goes, screw what everyone else wants."

His brow furrows. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"It means that you don't see yourself the way I do. The way we do. Somehow, you're convinced that we can survive without you. But that's not how this works." Her hands find her hips, fingers tapping nervously. "You're so sure, so ready to sacrifice yourself, that you never think about the fallout. About what I'd do without you."

"Malia—"

The doors swing open then, cutting him off. Before Scott can process what she's said or even how he'll respond, he's surrounded. Stiles, Lydia, Liam, and Derek crowd around him. His pack. Worried, concerned, and relieved; it flows off them in waves.

They all look like they've seen better days; bruised, battered, and exhausted. In the time since this has started, his pack has stayed strong even through the worst of it. But he can see how it weighs on them now. The loss of life, the struggle to survive, the fear that some of them won't.

"Hey… Good to see you awake. We weren't sure you'd, uh…" Stiles moves to his side, gripping Scott's shoulder tiredly. "We just weren't sure." His mouth wavers and his eyes search Scott's face.

"I'm okay." Scott nods at him and then looks around to the people that have gathered. He can hear others in the distance. Argent and Deaton's heartbeats echo from somewhere in the clinic. Corey and Mason are talking in the front room in quick, hushed whispers. And Theo… Theo? Scott can smell him. Close, but not a part of the rest.

Lydia peers down at him knowingly, her mouth set in a frown. "It was close though, wasn't it?"

He wants to tell her that he saw Allison in a hallucination or a dream or maybe something else. Maybe something bigger than that. But this isn't the place or the time, so he nods instead. "Yeah. But it's all right…" He looks from person to person, lingering on a worried Liam. "I made it."

"This time."

Malia's words are like cold water.

She's standing apart from the rest, her mouth twisted. Before he or anyone can say anything to contradict her, she leaves. Shouldering through the door and stomping her way through the clinic.

Liam jumps a little, ready to follow her.

"Leave her. She needs a minute to cool down," Scott says. He doesn't want her to be alone, but he also knows that if Liam goes after he, he'll only get his head bit off.

Derek stands at the foot of the metal bed, his arms crossed over his chest. "She's not wrong. This was too close for comfort. If they're getting so desperate that they're shooting each other, then we need to be on alert. It's one thing to be dangerous, it's another to be reckless."

"They were hysterical. It was like they couldn't see who was around them. They were just firing rapidly, at everything…" Scott's eyes grow distant as he remembers the sound of the gunfire, the terrified cries of everyone around him, and there was nothing he could do. "They were blind to everything but their fear."

Lydia swallows tightly. "It's only going to get worse. The more people die, the more afraid they get."

"There's not a whole lot we can do," Stiles said. "Every time we save one person, we find out three others are dead."

"The bodies are piling up, human and supernatural alike." Derek shakes his head. "But even without that, the Anuk Ite is what's really causing it."

"How do we know it hasn't already merged? Deaton said that when both sides came together, it'd be unstoppable, right?" Stiles looks around at each of them. "So, how do we know it hasn't already?"

"If that's true, then there might not be a solution." Scott's mouth flattens. "We have to assume it hasn't. That there are two enemies out there that we need to take down. Not the humans, but whatever is controlling them."

"Great, so all we need to do is find someone pretty and someone ugly." Stiles waves an anxious, frustrated hand around. "As if those markers are going to solve anything."

"We know what the ugly side looks like. It's the skinless body." Lydia hugs an arm around her waist. "But the other one could be anyone. It could be Monroe for all we know."

"She's pretty enough," Liam agrees, drawing incredulous looks. "I'm just saying!"

Stiles rolls his eyes. "Who else?"

"Why are we assuming pretty means female?" Lydia's brows hike. "It could just as easily be a man."

"Great, that doesn't narrow our search down whatsoever…" Stiles taps his foot irritably. "If I were a beautiful creature hellbent on creating fear and violence everywhere I go, what would I look like…?"

"You'd want to blend in," Derek says. "Just because you're inherently pretty doesn't mean there aren't ways to hide that."

"So, someone who blends in with us or them?"

"Either. They have to be able to move between both groups without being noticed." Lydia begins pacing. "The ugly half can appear and disappear at will. When Malia attacked it, its physical body was like smoke. But the body in the morgue was corporeal."

"What if beauty's in the eye of the beholder?" Derek frowns thoughtfully. "If this thing is a shifter, maybe it's shifting its face… That's how it moves from the humans to the supernatural."

"What, like T-1000 in Terminator 2?" Receiving blank stares back, Stiles rolls his eyes. "An advanced prototype that was made out of mimetic pollyalloy that could reshape itself to look like other people, including clothes and weapons…? Worked for Skynet and tried to assassinate John Connor…? No, nobody? Okay, when this whole thing is over we're having a serious movie night."

Derek and Stiles start bickering then, about how serious things are versus how important it is to have something to look forward to. Scott is half-tuned out to it; exhaustion is creeping up on him and he'd give just about anything to pass out. His eyes are already half closed, the distant noise of his pack a strange comfort. Just as he can feel sleep encroaching—

The door swings open then, admitting an excited Mason and Corey. "We found something!"

Scott's eyes shoot open. He feels hope build in his chest, finally a solution to an issue, but then he feels something else. Something dark, like a shadow falling over him. It's swallowing him whole, a gaping sinkhole that's dragging him down. His vision sways and he lifts a shaking hand, dropping it down against his chest, claws digging into his skin.

"Scott?"

His heart clenches tightly and panic floods his system. A cold rush of dread climbs from his toes like inky lake water, ready to submerge him entirely. "Something's wrong…" His teeth clench and his eyes turn a vivid red. It's her, it's her, it's her. He can feel it in his bones. "Malia… Find Malia."

The others exchange a look before Derek and Liam are moving toward the door, followed by Lydia and Stiles.

As the room empties, Scott feels a tearing sensation in his chest— a fraying cord, a split tether, a connection splitting at the seams. His heart aches and pulls, like it's being torn from the ragged concave of his open chest. There's nothing he can do but roar.



Malia is angry. Pissed might be a more apt description. Scott is an idiot. A self-sacrificial, hopelessly hopeful, lamb of a wolf. Muttering under her breath, she leaves the clinic, needing distance and a minute to just breathe. It's not until she reaches the treeline that she admits that she's not so much angry as absolutely terrified. When she'd found him in that library, she'd been so sure she was too late. There was so much blood and his heart was barely beating. He didn't move, didn't react at all to her calling his name. She'd picked him up, carrying him through the carnage, and fled from the school. It was pure luck that she found the others. Stiles and Derek in that beat-up blue jeep. She wasn't sure what would've happened if they hadn't shown up. If she would've just run the whole way to the clinic with him dying in her arms. It was so far and he was already so lost to her.

She stumbles through the trees with a strangled sob in her throat, her hands shaking and her stomach bottoming out. The first time she tells him she loves him and he's dying in a pool of blood, unwilling to admit he needs help. That's not how she wanted this to go. And it scares her. How easy it is for him to embrace the idea of death. How easy it is for him to sacrifice himself for what he thinks is the 'greater good.' But she needs him. After everything, after all they've fought, all they've done, they deserve that, don't they? But then, maybe that's why it's easy for him. He's lost people, too. Boyd and Erica and Allison. Malia didn't know them. They were just shadows that trailed after him; a part of his life she wasn't there for. And after everything he's given, everyone he's saved, they still want to kill him. Maybe, for as much as he fights, there's a comfort in death he's unwilling to admit. A chance to finally stop fighting. Stop living on the edge of desperation.

And she'd heard him, hadn't she? His head in her lap as she stroked his hair and told Stiles to drive faster. As she begged Scott not to leave them— leave her. He'd whispered Allison's name. He'd called out for her in his dying breaths. Malia doesn't want to be a jealous person. She doesn't want to feel hurt by the lingering ghost of a girl she didn't even know. But she does. She can't help it. Because maybe some part of him is willing to go. Maybe some part of him is tired of fighting. There is no Allison here. There's just pain and hurt and an endless fight.

Malia's loved two people in her life. The first was Stiles. He taught her what it was to be human again. He indulged her more animalistic instincts. He gave her a hand to hold when she was stumbling through the world, unsure of herself in every way she could be. Some days, he felt like a mentor, a teacher, more than a boyfriend. Other days, he was the attentive partner she wanted and needed. But they weren't right for each other and she gets that. A part of him had always loved Lydia, which hurts, but she forgives them. Because they're pack and she needs them and because even if it hurt, she just wants them to be happy.

Scott is different. Scott sneaks up on her. He's her friend and her alpha and her moral compass. Whereas Stiles was a little gray on killing enemies, Scott isn't. Protect, protect, protect. She feels it down to her bones that as much as she wants to hurt and maim, sometimes she has to let reason blot that out. Scott reminds her that she is both animal and human and neither is better nor worse than the other. He makes her feel strong and capable and wanted. And before today, she believed she was the only one he wanted. She knew he'd loved before. That Allison and Kira had made a mark on his life that no one and nothing could erase or replace. She was fine with that. But she thought… She'd hoped that he'd moved on. That when he talked about the future, about Davis, about the police academy and vet school, that he saw her there with him. That he wanted her there with him. And maybe he did. Just not as much as he wanted someone else.

Her dad told her once that a person's first love is always the strongest. That it roots itself inside of you. Lydia was that for Stiles and Allison was that for Scott. And Malia's starting to wonder if there's a place for her anymore. She's pack. She'll always be pack. But she wanted something else, something more, and for just a moment, she thought she had it. But maybe her destiny was always supposed to be a placeholder. A present but not a future. A now but not an always.

She's not watching where she's going, stumbling through the trees, her heart lodged in her throat. An arm wraps around her stomach abruptly and yanks her backwards. Panic floods her. Instinct says to fight, so she does, with flailing arms and legs and a flash of teeth. But then a voice is at her ear-

"Shh! Shut up or they'll hear you."

Malia goes still. Theo?

He pulls her back until they're crouched beside a tree. "They're looking for you."

She raises an eyebrow at him.

"Fine, they're looking for Scott's whole pack, but a few people rate higher on that list than others." He frowns at her and then casts his gaze around the trees. "They want to lure him out and you're a sure-fire way to do that."

Malia presses her lips flat. "How do you know?"

"I've been tracking them. They're not all trained hunters. Some of them are just kids."

"Kids with guns," she mutters.

"Which is why we're hiding… We need to get back to the clinic. To the others."

A gun cocks and Malia feels a cold sensation drip down her spine. She turns slowly to find a boy, not much older than her, holding a gun between his shaking hands. There are tears in his eyes and a scared flush to his pale cheeks. His finger trembles against the trigger.

"Just… calm down." Theo's behind her, his hands slowly raising in surrender. "Do you know who this is? Huh? You don't want to kill us. We're collateral."

"We?" Malia snarks, her gaze stuck on the boy.

She can't see Theo, but she knows he's rolling his eyes. "Look, this is Scott McCall's girlfriend, okay? You want to drag him out of whatever hole he's hiding in, this is how you do it." Theo's hand falls to her shoulder and squeezes, hard. "Think about what the others would say… You want glory, kid? This'll get you all the glory you can take."

Malia feels a stubborn pull in her gut as a growl builds in her throat.

"Malia," Theo warns.

"I'm not giving them Scott," she says. "That's my pack, too. They can't have them."

Theo is already sighing and for a strange moment, he reminds her far too much of Peter. "You have no survival skills, you know that?"

"I'm loyal." She bares her teeth at the boy and flicks her hands, her claws out. "And I don't cower."

She lunges forward, swiping at the boy, sending him stumbling backwards, startled. She kicks his knee out from under him and snatches the gun from him, tossing it away. He reaches for a knife on his belt and she grabs for his wrist. She pulls him forward, until he's chest to chest with her, their arms out to the sides. As she snarls down at him, she can smell his fear and the bitter stink of piss pouring down his pants. This close, she can see fresh pimples on his face and braces on his teeth. A boy, she thinks. Just a little boy playing with a gun. And she thinks of what Scott would do. How he'd throw this kid away to run off, scared but alive. Her fingers loosen around his wrists.

Click-click-boom.

A shotgun blast sprays across her back. Her chest lurches forward as her head goes back in a strangled cry. Her knees give out and her eyes blink from blue to brown.

"No!"

She falls, landing on her knees in the damp forest ground. A cough sends blood spraying across her chin and she slips sideways, weightless.

Theo catches her, his eyes glowing gold. He snarls at the people surrounding them before looking down at her, panting through his fangs. "Hold on," he tells her.

Malia struggles to draw a breath. She wonders if this is how Scott felt in that library.

A woman steps out from the woods; beautiful with dark skin and a sinister smile. "Looks like my night is improving…"

Theo grips her tighter and growls at the men that step forward.

It's the last thing Malia sees.


...


Theo is calculating the odds in his head. There are at least eight hunters circling them. The clinic isn't far, but if he heads in that direction, he'll be serving up Scott and his pack on a silver platter. Not that he's particularly concerned about most of them, but he knows he has a better chance with Scott alive than dead. He also knows that keeping Malia alive will ingratiate him to the alpha. But there's not much he can do here, not with this many enemies, all packing guns, and a dying Malia in his arms.

"If you don't get her help, she's going to die here," Theo says, turning his attention to Monroe, the guidance counselor turned lynch mob leader.

"And that concerns me why?" She raises an amused eyebrow.

"You want Scott McCall don't you?" He stares at her searchingly. "He's been a thorn in your ass since this whole thing started. Him and his whole pack are the reason supernaturals are still walking these streets. Every time you gain an inch, he takes back three."

Her smile turns sharp. "Your point?"

"This is his girlfriend. Which means if she dies, one of two things happen… He finally snaps and kills every single one of you amateur idiots. Or he gets sloppy and still ends up killing all of you."

"And you're offering another solution, is that right?"

"Use her…" His hands dig into Malia's arms as he hears her heart slow. "Keep her alive and lure him to wherever you want. Kick his ass, kill him, whatever. And before you think about faking him out, if she dies, he'll know."

Monroe stares at him through narrowed eyes. "Say I do, what keeps me from killing you?"

The ominous sound of ready guns surrounds him.

Theo grinds his teeth. "You'll need a messenger, won't you?"

Her mouth curls. "I thought all you pack animals put your alpha first?"

His eyes flare gold. "I'm my own alpha."

With a hum, she considers it for a moment and then nods. "Grab the girl."

Theo is reluctant to let her go. Much as Malia would gladly gut him if he so much as looks at her wrong, she's a coyote, and half of him instinctively wants to protect her for that alone. As a few hunters gather up her limp body, Theo waits for the final verdict. Is he useful or useless?

Monroe stares him down, seeming to enjoy the perilous dangling of his life. "Take him, too," she finally decides.

Relief floods him, but it's short.

Malia's heart has stopped and, in answer, he can hear a heartbroken alpha's deafening roar split the sky.

Chapter Text

II.

Six Weeks Ago

Scott and Malia are both out of breath as they stumble into the safe house, clothes torn, hair tangled, blood and sweat damp on their skin. Malia's arm is around Scott's waist as she helps him down the hall and into his makeshift bedroom. The one he's taken as his since they'd gone underground in an attempt to avoid Monroe and her band of hunters. It's sparsely decorated, with little furniture and almost no natural light. Boards cover most of the windows to keep anyone from seeing who's inside - considering most of Beacon Hills has done the same, it doesn't stand out as much as it could. She helps him lean against a wall as she turns on his bedside lamp and then moves toward him, her face twisted up with worry.

His lip is split and his hand is spread over his cracked ribs, but he still reaches for her, his fingers tangling in the loose fabric of her unzipped hoodie, tugging to draw her closer. The way he's standing, his feet out and his back against the wall to prop him up, the extra inches she takes forward have her standing between his parted legs. "Are you okay?" he asks, his voice tight with pain.

She frowns at him. "Seriously?"

"It's okay." His mouth pulls up faintly. "I'll be okay."

"That's not what the broken ribs and bleeding cuts say." Malia reaches up and roughly rubs away a trickle of blood from a scrape across his cheek. "You shouldn't have done that."

"Done what?"

She glares. "You know what."

"Maybe I just want to hear you say it."

Malia rolls her eyes. "It was dangerous and stupid and you'd be telling me the same thing if I did it for you."

Scott's gaze is soft and a slow smile pulls at his mouth. "But, you would've done it anyway."

Her brows hike "You could be dead. You know that, right?"

"But I'm not." It's simple. Maybe too simple. But it's true. "And neither are you."

"That's not the point." She shakes her head, the loose curls of her hair bouncing at her shoulders.

He wants to reach up and touch them, comb his fingers through soft strands. His fingers twitch, but he doesn't raise them. Especially not now, when she's clearly pissed at him.

"Then what's the point?"

"I… You…" She takes a deep breath and lets it out on a frustrated sigh. "You're hurt. Because of me." She waves a hand at him and then crosses her arms over her chest. "And I don't… like that."

"Because…?"

"Why does there have to be a 'because'?" She groans. "Why can't you just accept that at face value?"

His smile grows. "'Cause I feel like we're on the edge of a breakthrough and I'm hoping it'll lead somewhere."

She pauses and casts her gaze over his shoulder, to the wall behind him. "Like where?"

"Where do you want it to go?"

Malia glares. "Why do I have to be the one that chooses?"

"I already know what I want." He shrugs, wincing as his ribs pull. "The real questions is whether you want it."

Swallowing tightly, she lets her arms fall to her side. "I worry about you," she tells him plainly. "Because you're my alpha and we're pack…"

He nods. "And?"

"And because… Because you're one of my best friends and I don't… I don't know what I'd do without you. Probably nothing good. Probably something very violent…" she admits, her brow furrowed. "Not because you control me or anything. But because losing you would hurt me and when I'm hurt or I'm scared, I lash out. Because a part of me is still that scared coyote living in the woods. I think I always will be. And I'm not ashamed of that. I just… I think it'd be better if you… you know, didn't die or get terribly maimed."

He stifles a laugh. "I think I'd prefer that, too."

Malia stomps a foot and lets her head fall back. "I'm doing this all wrong."

"I don't think there's a wrong way to do it."

"Of course there is. But it always comes out wrong."

"What does?"

"Feelings." She closes her eyes and lets out a sigh through her nose. "I don't— I can't— Ugh. I want to be better at it. At expressing myself. And on some things, I am. But others, on the important things, it's like my tongue gets all tied up and my head goes blank. It's like math."

"Complex or boring?"

She lifts her head then and meets his eyes. "Not boring. If anything, we probably need less excitement in our lives. Just… complicated."

"Okay, so… Break it down for me. What's going through your head?"

She takes a moment to consider his question, her mouth screwed up irritably. "I'm… angry. At the town, mostly. At Monroe. A little at you. Because you took a risk and you got hurt and you shrugged it off. Even though, if it was anybody else, you'd want them to be more careful or to realize how dangerous the situation was. But when it's you, it's like you don't see it. You don't realize how important you are. Like in the tunnels, when you were hit and you told us to go ahead and leave you…" She shakes her head. "Which was stupid and reckless and— and unfair."

"Okay." He nods. "You're right. I wasn't thinking straight. Sometimes I overestimate my own ability to heal and I don't consider the long-term ramifications. I've been doing this for a while and I guess, sometimes, I get a little… cocky."

"You should be proud. You're a good fighter. You've made it this far, so you've had to be."

"But I should be more careful."

"Yes. And tonight, with the hunters… When you got hurt, you told me to run, to leave you, that you'd catch up. But you'd never leave me behind. Or Liam or Stiles or Lydia. You wouldn't leave anyone behind."

Scott nods. "I just wanted to know you were okay. That you got out."

"But I can't just leave you…" She shakes her head. "I'd never leave you."

He stares at her, his gaze searching her face. "Lia... I wouldn't leave you, either."

She swallows, her throat bobbing, and something akin to fear and curiosity crosses her face. "This is different. It feels different."

"To what?"

"To the others. To the rest of the pack. How I… How I feel when I'm with you." Her hand reaches up, fingers rubbing against her chest, pressing against her heart. "And I know that it's been there, in the background, even if I wanted to pretend it wasn't."

"You wanted to pretend?" He tugs on her jacket and pushes himself off the wall, so they're face to face. "Were you scared...? Of me?"

"Not of you." She tilts her chin so she's meeting his eyes and he can feel the warmth of her breath against his lips. "Of this. Of… feeling something that I can't control."

"I don't think that's how feelings work." His smile is quiet and gentle. "Sometimes they sneak up on you and sometimes you always knew they were there, you just had to wait for the right time."

"How do you know if it's the right time?"

"That's the catch…" His gaze drops to her mouth. "You don't."

Malia swallows. "What if I screw up?"

He shakes his head, ever so slightly. "Then we talk about it, just like if I screw up, which I probably will. We both will. But that's okay…" He meets her eyes once more. "We're human, too."

"That easy?"

"In theory." His hand slides over her waist. "Wanna put it to the test?"

Her grin is slow. She leans forward until their chests are pressed together; he wonders if she can feel how hard his heart is beating. Just as the tip of her nose grazes his, her eyes flash blue, and then her lips are slanting across his. Scott's breath stutters briefly. He reaches up, the palm of his hand sliding over her cheek, fingers stretching into her hair. He can feel her hands gripping the sides of his shirt tightly, pulling at the fabric, at him. But her lips are so soft, so delicate as they move against his. Curious and searching. Tentative as they step forward into something simultaneously new and old; familiar and strange. All he knows for sure is that he never wants it to stop.


...


Present

The swinging doors to the examination room swing open, admitting a harried looking Liam. The first thing he says is, "We found blood."

Argent, walking just behind him with an exasperated Derek to his left, rolls his eyes at Liam's candid words. "I thought we agreed to ease him into it."

Liam glances at them, winces, and then shrugs. "I panicked."

Scott is on his feet, barely. His legs are shaking and every breath hurts, but he's standing. He hates that his body is keeping him back when all he wants to do is move. He needs to search for her himself, to do something. "Was it hers?"

Derek steps forward, a grim look on his face. "It was. And there was someone else with her. Another supernatural."

Liam grimaces. "It was Theo."

Scott grinds his teeth, a wave of anger that does little to dull the anguish and fear that's been flooding his system from the moment he realized something was wrong. "You think he did this?"

"I wouldn't put it past him, but… There were shotgun shells and urine. Human urine. I think..." Liam shifts from one foot to the other, knocking the knuckles of one of his hands in the palm of the other. "Personally, I think this was hunters and Theo was just there for the show."

"What do we do?" Mason voices, looking around the room as it crowds with familiar and worried faces.

"We do what we've always done… fight." Scott winces as his whole lower body pulls and throbs with pain; his gut is on fire and it feels like tiny needles are threading themselves through his organs. Just the short amount of moving he's already done has reopened his slowly healing wounds. He can feel his blood soaking through the bandages. The coppery smell isn't subtle either, which means the rest of his pack, those with increased smelling anyway, are aware of it, too.

"I don't want to be the bearer of bad news here…" Stiles circles the surgical bed to reach his side, wrapping an arm around Scott's waist to prop him up. "But you're not exactly in the right shape for that."

"I'll heal." His eyes briefly flare red— indignant and defensive— as he looks at his best friend. "This is Malia. And she's hurt."

Stiles frowns. "You sure that's not just you that's hurt?"

"There was blood. Her blood. And I…" His brow furrows. "I can feel it."

Derek's jaw tightens. He and Argent exchange a knowing glance before he speaks up, "When an alpha loses a beta—"

"She's not lost!" Scott denies.

Derek stares at him a beat, but presses on regardless. "It can feel like a missing limb. Like a part of you has been carved out. It's hollow and empty and if you let it, it can destroy you."

Derek's voice is gentle, but his words are too much, too soon. They feel like barbs raking against Scott's skin. He knows this feeling too well; he's not ready to feel it again.

"Good people, good alphas, struggle with that kind of loss... But it's worse if you're close to them… If you love them."

"Stop." Scott's mouth trembles. "Just stop."

"You'd feel it. You'd know if she was dead…" Derek stares at him knowingly. "What do you feel?"

Scott slams a fist down against the surgical bed; the metal bends and morphs under the pressure. Half the room jumps, the rest simply grow tense. "Right now? Angry." His chest heaves and a ripple of something sharp, something cold and dangerous flushes through him. "I don't know where she is, but we're getting her back."

"Scott…" Stiles says quietly.

He turns to him, his mouth set in a defiant frown. "Lydia would know. Lydia would feel it."

The group turns to her, standing off to the side, her arms wrapped around herself. She looks lost, her eyes a little too wide and her complexion pale as milk. "Death is everywhere. This whole town reeks with it."

"But you'd feel it if it was her. It'd be different." Scott stares at her. He needs her to say it, to confirm what he knows to be true. Malia is hurt— he doesn't doubt that. But she's not dead, not yet. Maybe for a moment. Maybe for a few seconds or minutes he'd felt the loss of her like a gaping wound in his chest. But it was different now. She wasn't lost to them completely. "You'd know if Malia was…" He can't say it; trailing off and letting her fill in the blanks.

Lydia draws a deep breath. "I felt something. It wasn't… It's not the same as the others. But, it wasn't as strong, either. It was like… A brush." Her eyes widen, shiny with tears. "She was close, but it didn't take her."

Shoulders slumping in relief, Scott nods. "That's enough."

"It's something," Derek admits. "But it doesn't tell us the whole story. If she's hurt enough that she nearly died, then we don't know how much time we have to get her back… We need to act quickly."

"Act how? We don't know who has her!" Stiles throws up a hand. "Half the town has turned into hunters. For all we know, it's not even one of Monroe's, it's just whoever had a gun and ran into her."

"Then we start looking," Scott insists. "Canvas the area. Check her den. It just happened. She can't be that far!"

"I'll go," Liam agrees, nodding stoutly. "I'll canvas the woods."

"I'll come with you," Corey offers. "If we run into anyone, I can shield us. It's not much, but it'll give us a chance."

"In the mean time…" Lydia seems to find herself and her inner-leader then, crossing the room to stand in front of Scott, her chin raised stubbornly. "Until we know what's going on, you need to rest. You're no good to us if you're bleeding all over the place."

Scott's brows dip. "I can't do nothing. This is Malia… She's my-" He pauses. "My beta. My responsibility." It's not what he wants to say, but in the time since he and Malia have gotten together, they haven't told anyone. Maybe it was selfish, but he'd just wanted this one thing, this one person, to be all his. And with so much going on, so much going wrong, they had each other.

"You can't help if you don't heal." Derek reaches out, giving Scott's shoulder a gentle squeeze. "She's my cousin. I'll do everything I can to get her back. But you need to get better before that happens."

Scott grimaces, looking between them, a war flaring inside him. He wants to tell them no; that he won't, can't, sit this out. But he can barely feel his legs, his stomach is throbbing with pain, and a fine sheen of sweat has broken out across his skin just from standing. Logically, he knows that he needs to rest. That when the time comes to get her back, he needs to be ready to face whoever or whatever has her. He also knows that if he can trust anyone with her well-being, it's these people. That doesn't stop a part of him from desperately wanting to do something, regardless of the cost to himself. But hadn't Malia argued with him about just that right before she left? With a sigh, he lets his shoulders slump. "As soon as you know anything…"

"You'll be the first person we tell."

He nods shortly. "Fine."

"There's a cot in the back," Deaton offers, standing at the back of the crowd, near the doorway. "It's not much, but it's better than the operating table."

With a sigh, Scott nods. He looks around at the group gathered before slowly turning to make his way through the door, Stiles propping him up as he goes. It takes a few minutes— Scott has to shuffle his feet when his legs protest any time he lifts his knees— but eventually, they're in a small room with a dressed cot. Stiles helps him sit on the edge before grabbing up the lone pillow and fluffing it just to keep his hands busy.

Scott spends a few seconds trying to catch his breath, the short walk taking entirely too much out of him. He spends them focused on the checkered pattern of the wool blanket he's sitting on, tracing a square with his finger.

"So, uh… When were you gonna tell me?"

Brow furrowed, Scott looks up at him, confused. "What?"

"I mean, I can read the signs…" Stiles shrugs. "I knew what was going on, but you never actually told me about you and Malia."

Scott's gaze falls away. "I'm sorry. I kept meaning to. But things were so busy and everything was happening so fast… I wanted to."

"Did you?"

"What do you mean?"

"I mean, you're dating my ex-girlfriend. You're in love with her…"

He says it with such certainty that Scott wonders just how long Stiles has known. If the rest of the pack has figured it out, too. Maybe it'd been obvious from the very beginning and they've all just been pretending not to notice.

"Maybe you were worried how I'd react," Stiles suggests.

Scott considers that for a moment before sighing. "Maybe I was… When it was happening, when we were still figuring out how we felt, I told myself that you'd be okay with it. I told her that too, because… I know you. You're my brother. And I think you'd just want us to be happy."

"I do," Stiles agrees. "I won't lie. It bugged me at first. Seeing the way she was looking at you and how you were looking at her… It hurt a bit. But, you're right. I love Lydia. I always have. I loved Malia, too, but it was different… Not like you do. Not like how I feel about Lydia."

"I never wanted to hurt you. Neither did she." Scott rubs a hand over his face. Everything feels like it's too much right now, this conversation included. He's wanted to talk about it with Stiles before, but the opportunity never came up. And now, knowing she's out there and hurt, feeling the way he does, it's like the worst possible time to be having this conversation. "We just… happened."

Nodding, Stiles tosses the pillow down on the bed. "She's gonna be okay."

Scott's face falls, his heart banging in his chest. "What if she isn't?" The very thought, the mere idea of it, has his stomach falling to his toes. He can feel the prick of tears across his eyes and that hollow burn growing in his throat. "I don't know what I'd do. I don't… She was so mad at me before she left. I'm the reason she walked out. Because I didn't tell her that I was hurt, that I was dying… And she was right, Stiles. I should've told her. I was just scared. I wanted to keep her safe." He swallows tightly then before he admits, "But I was also just… tired. Of all of this. Of fighting every day. And when I was in the library, it all just went away. It didn't hurt anymore."

"Scott…" Stiles' voice shook. "These last few years… They've been terrible. Every day we're fighting for survival. But you can't give up. Because if you do, so does everyone else. It's not fair, but it's true. You're holding us all together. Even when all we want to do is run or give up, you keep going. You give these people, this pack, a reason to keep fighting. You remind them that there's life after all of this."

"Is there?" His mouth trembles. "A few weeks ago, I was telling Malia that we'd go to Davis. Just me and her. I'd go to school and she could get into the police academy and we'd start our lives, away from all of this. But what if that's not what happens? What if we finish this fight and another one's around the corner? Or what if we die here? What if everybody does? My whole pack. And it's all my fault?"

Stiles stares down at him, hands on his hips, fingers twitching and tapping. "No." He shakes his head decisively. "No, that's not how this goes. We didn't do all of this, we didn't survive all of this, to die here. We didn't lose Boyd and Erica and Aiden and Allison so that they could win. We've given too much, we've sacrificed too many, to walk away now. So, I get it, okay? I know what it feels like to want to just give up. But you're stronger than that. We all are! So, you're going to stay back here and you're going to rest and heal. And when it's time to fight, you're gonna be at the front, doing everything you can. Because you're Scott McCall, okay? You're the True Alpha and you're my best friend, my brother, and I know you…"

Scott stares up at him and takes a deep breath. He doesn't say anything, he just quietly nods. As far as pep talks goes, it's a good one, but it's hard to feel encouraged when the situation feels so completely out of his control.

"Good. Now, lay down, okay?" Stiles backs up toward the door. "I'll come get you as soon as I hear anything."

As the door closes behind Stiles, Scott slumps, his head falling and his hands braced on either side of him, gripping the edge of the cot. He can hear the others moving around the clinic, talking amongst themselves.

Argent is comforting Scott's mother, telling her to "sit down before you fall over. You just woke up from a coma, remember?"

He can hear Deaton and Mason— "You think this could work?"

And Stiles and Lydia— "What if we're too late? I can't lose her, too, Stiles."

With a wince, Scott turns himself over to lay down on the cot, every muscle pulling and twinging. He rests his head on the pillow and stares at the ceiling, slats of thin, blue light criss-crossing above, peeking through the wood that's nailed across the single window sitting high on the wall.

Taking a deep breath, he tries to feel Malia beyond the achy emptiness in his chest. He's always been able to feel his betas in a distant way. An awareness of them. Liam more than the rest, probably because he actually turned him. But Lydia and Derek and, more recently, Corey. The more ties each person built to him and his pack, the stronger the bond. Still, it was different with Malia. She's rooted in him, like a vine coiling itself around his heart and his lungs and all of his organs, threading through his veins and embedding herself in him. Was it like this with Allison and Kira? Allison was human and as much as she was his, she wasn't too. They weren't together when she died, but he'd still loved her. Distantly hoping that eventually, somehow, they'd find each other again.

With Kira, she brought light back into his life. She showed him that he could survive that pain and grief and that it was okay to be happy again. Losing her hurt, a lot. But he also knew that she wasn't lost completely. She was out there. One day, she'd get her life back, he just might not be there to share in it. And he was okay with that. It took time, he understood. Beyond anything else, she was his friend, and he wanted her to get her control and power back.

Scott missed Kira. He loved her, but he wasn't in love with her anymore. Allison's death had crystallized his feelings— hung in suspension— making them feel like they might never end. But his mom was right when she told him that he would love again. He did and he does.

Malia… She's his strength and his backbone and the pillar that keeps him standing when his knees give out under him. She's the other side of his coin. The yin to his yang. They don't agree on everything, but he's learning that's good. He doesn't need to be right. He has his boundaries, his reasons for doing things, and she pushes back at those sometimes. Ultimately, though, she wants to do just as much good as he does. Where Scott values control, Malia is unrestrained, and he loves that about her. She is wild and free and utterly stunning for it. But she's also used those aspects of herself to help others. She wrangles her own spirit and throws it into everything she does. Fighting, saving, loving.

He feels her. A delicate thread— like the thin, intricate line of a spider web— alive but not safe. He can feel an echo of her fear and her pain; a dull ache that thrums across his body.

And he promises himself, no matter what happens, he'll find her. He'll make this right. He can't lose anymore people. But more than that, he can't lose her.


...


Malia wakes to pain. Her back feels like it's on fire and she quickly realizes why. They're pulling the shrapnel out, piece by piece. She's strapped down on a gurney with her shirt cut open and her back shredded. She can smell her own blood on the air and the perverse satisfaction her 'doctor' is getting out of his work. Her eyes flare and her teeth lengthen, but then he's pulling another piece from under her shoulder blade and all she can do is scream. Her head pounds with a headache, her ears ring, and every nerve in her body feels worn and frayed.

They give her nothing for the pain. At least with Deaton, he'd try to find something to knock her out or numb her. But they don't care about that. They like that she's hurting. Her arms pull at the restraints holding her down, but they refuse to give. The metal whines against her strength, but doesn't bend. She pants, sweat beading down her face, and casts fuzzy eyes around, looking for— What? Who? She's not sure.

Distantly though, she can smell Theo. Everyone else is unfamiliar. Humans that stink of fear and rage and hatred.

"You're not really thinking of letting him go?" someone— a man— asks. He's not in the room, but he's close, maybe a hallway away.

"We need to be sure our message gets to McCall. He's a part of their pack and has a vested interest in making sure this one survives. Don't worry so much. We'll have other chances to put him down."

Monroe.

Malia recognizes her voice instantly. She's long memorized it over the last six weeks of being chased by her and her amateur hunting squad. Monroe is the one calling the shots; sending her people after Malia's pack every chance she gets. After innocent supernaturals just trying to survive. Malia wants her head on a silver platter. It's not what Scott would encourage, but she's beyond that in the moment. Pain has a way of sharpening her rage.

"And what if he doesn't? He could run and not say anything."

"So what if he does?" Monroe scoffs. "We have all of Beacon Hills surrounded. Nobody gets in or out. One way or another, they're all going to pay."

"What if McCall doesn't show? What if she's not enough?"

"Oh, I think she is…"

The tapping of heels against the cement floor grows closer and then Malia sees her. She turns her head and glares up at Monroe, who only seems to smile wider, showing off pearly white teeth.

"I know you. The beta. A werecoyote, right?" Monroe nods knowingly. "I've done my research. You killed your own family. Your mother and sister. Innocent victims… How does it feel to live with that on your conscience? Or do you even care?"

Malia lurches, pulling at her arms and growling at Monroe. "Don't talk about my family. You don't know the first thing about them."

"Don't I? They were human. They accepted you into their home. And how did you repay them?"

Malia feels guilt and sorrow flood her, but she blinks back the sting of tears and the burning lump in her throat. With a building growl, she snaps, "You think you're innocent? You think you're right? All you are is a killer. A murderer. You hunt and maim and destroy more than I ever have. You just make up excuses for why it's right. I've faced my guilt. I've lived it. And one day, you will, too. One day, when all that fear is gone, you're going to have to look around and realize what you've done and who you've hurt. Families, innocents, children."

Monroe stares down at her coldly, unmoved. "When this is over, I'll know that what I did was for the greater good."

Malia scoffs. "Keep telling yourself that, lady."

With a hum, Monroe steps back, looking her over curiously. "Even if she's not his, he'll come for her. McCall thinks of himself as a hero. He's always trying to prove his humanity… It'll be his fatal flaw."

Malia snarls, swiping at the air with her claws, wishing for nothing more than to sink them into Monroe's smug face.

"Get the boy." Monroe turns to the man beside her. "The sooner we send our message, the sooner this can all end. Starting with McCall."

Malia wants to snarl and rage and attack. Instead, she's subdued by the sharp pain of more buckshot being pulled from her aching back.

"Don't take it all out," Monroe says. "We only need her alive a few more hours."

Letting out an angry groan, Malia drops her head down to the gurney, her sweaty cheek sticking to the metal, and tries to breathe through the pain.

It doesn't help.


...


Three Weeks Ago

Malia startles awake, feeling someone's eyes on her. A ripple of awareness washes over her, putting her on high alert. She's careful not to move, to give them any idea she's noticed them. But then she smells it and her too-quick heartbeat begins to calm. She turns her head, spotting bright blue eyes through the darkness blanketing the room. Carefully pulling herself out of the bed, she moves Scott's arm aside, gently laying it back down before she pads across the floor. Closing the door behind her, she meets Derek in the hallway. He has a stern frown on his mouth and his arms crossed over his chest.

"What's that look for?" She scowls. "I don't like it."

His brows hike. "Do I need to tell you what a bad idea this is?"

She glances at the door and then back to her cousin. "Why? We're both single. It's not hurting anybody."

"Not yet it isn't." He reaches for her, tugging her by her shoulder to lead her further down the hall and into the kitchen. "Scott is your alpha. It's easy to get your feelings confused—"

"I'm not confused."

He sighs and takes a seat at the table, his hands clasped on top of it. "It wasn't so long ago that you were dating Stiles."

"More than a year. And he matters to me. But this is different." She pauses, taking a moment to check in on Scott. He's still sleeping; his resting heartbeat is a little slower and, even if he'll never admit it, he does snore.

There are two other people in the safe house, too. Mason and Corey are sleeping in another room. The rest are out on patrol, moving around the town, looking for anyone they can stop or help.

Certain that no one else will hear her, she pulls a chair out and puts her attention back on Derek. "I'm not saying I didn't love Stiles. I did. But when I'm with Scott, how he makes me feel, it's different. It… It's stronger and…" She grunts, irritated with herself. "I don't know how to explain it."

"Like he understands you."

"Yes." She stares at him. "It's like… Sometimes I think he understands me better than I do. And he doesn't judge me for it. Even if it doesn't always fit with how he thinks. Because it doesn't. We don't always agree. Sometimes he's too sacrificial and sometimes I'm too eager to fight. But that's okay, because… He likes me for me and he respects me and… And I feel the same way about him."

Derek doesn't say anything for a long moment, simply sitting, deep in thought.

It's strange to Malia, because she's a person of action. But Derek is a thinker. She often wonders what it might've been like if they'd grown up together as family. If maybe his capacity for patience might've rubbed off on her somehow. She doubts it. Maybe it's just her nature to feel like seconds are hours.

"When I met Braeden, I was suspicious of her. To be fair, I'm suspicious of everyone…"

"For good reason," Malia says.

He half-smiles. "It can be lonely. Living your life feeling like you can't get close to anyone. That they'll betray you or you'll do something that'll end up hurting them in the end… As much as I blame Kate for what happened to my family, I blame myself, too. I made a lot of mistakes and I paid for them in blood. It… changed me as a person. Changed who I was and what I wanted."

Malia nods slowly. "I get that. After my mom and Kylie died, I hated myself. I still blame myself for that. And finding out that the desert wolf orchestrated it, that my biological mother did it to kill me… I still felt guilty. I was angry, too. I wanted her to pay for what happened. But it didn't erase my guilt."

"My mom had a part in that, too. She was trying to save you by sending you away, but that also left you unprepared. You didn't know what you were, so you couldn't control it. What happened in that car, that was fear and instinct. A lot of mistakes were made. In the end, we have to live with them. How we choose to do that, to move forward, that's on us."

Malia nods. There was a time when moving forward wasn't possible to her. When hiding in the woods and living as a coyote was both a protective measure and the only way she knew how to pay for what she'd done. By removing herself from the world and hiding from the pain of her actions and her loss. But now, things were different. She was human again and, as hard it was some days, she was healing. She didn't want to be what her biological parents were— violent and homicidal all for the sake of power. She just wanted to be happy, to have people she loved around her.

"How did you know Braeden was different? That she'd help you do that?"

"I didn't. Not at first. Like I said, I was suspicious." Derek shakes his head. "But she was always there, trying to help, and things between us just kind of… developed. It was like we were drawn together." He takes a deep breath and lets it out on a sigh. "I could be weak around her. That was the biggest test. I was vulnerable, but when I was with her, I felt safe."

"You trusted her."

"Yes. And she trusts me."

Malia snorts then. "I'd hope so. She's having your kid."

A quiet smile pulls at the corner of Derek's mouth. "And she's going to be an amazing mom."

"Yeah, well, you might not be the worst dad." Malia shifts in her seat. "I don't know if what Scott and I have is like you and Braeden. I know I trust him. And I feel like he trusts me."

"Scott is one of the best people I've ever known." Derek pauses. "I guess I'm just worried about you. I know we haven't had as much time to spend together as I'd hoped. But you're family, Malia. You and Cora and even Peter are always going to be family. You can see how I might look out a little more for some of you than others."

She grins. "Peter takes some time to warm up to."

"Yeah." He huffs a laugh. "Look, I can't tell you what you and Scott are or if you'll last. I just want you to be happy. If that's with Scott, then great. Just be sure that whatever you two are getting into, you're on the same page. Talk to each other. Because the worst enemy any relationship has is a lack of communication."

Malia nods.

It might be the best advice she gets. Derek is good for things like that. Unfortunately, she's never been good at heeding advice.


...


Present

Scott wakes at nearly 4 in the morning. His body still hurts, but he can tell that he's healing. The pull of his muscles sends shards of prickling awareness through him, but it doesn't steal his breath like it did before. His knees are shaky as he stands from the cot, but they grow steadier as he leaves the room. While nobody's woken him, he still wants to know what any of his pack has found out. Have there been any signs of her or who took her? Even a sign of Theo would help. He can still feel her— knows that she's alive out there— but that doesn't dull his worry any. Whoever's grabbed her hurt her enough that she'd died, or come very close to it, which means that they're on a time crunch to figure this out.

Unfortunately, the only two people still in the clinic are Corey and Mason. Sitting at the front desk, they're pouring over a pair of books.

With his arm braced around his stomach, Scott makes his way toward them. "Where is everybody?"

The two boys startle. "Jesus..." Mason puts a hand to his chest and sinks back against his chest. "They're still out looking for any sign of Malia. So far, we've only really heard from Argent. He ran into some trouble with a few hunters, but it doesn't look related. Just the same old, same old..."

Scott grimaces, but nods shortly. His gaze falls to the books in front of them once more. "And that?"

Corey and mason exchange a look, heavy with shared knowledge, and then return their attention to him.

"It has to do with what we were talking about earlier," Corey tells him, "about having an idea of how to deal with this… two-faced Anuk Ite thing."

It's not exactly what he's looking for, but Scott knows that the Anuk Ite is important in itself. "I'm listening."

Corey grabs a chair and drags it over for Scott to take a seat.

He half-smiles thankfully and slumps down into it, one hand pressed over the bandages across his stomach. "What'd you find?"

"Okay, so, we were thinking about the idea of one creature and two faces. Deaton said that they were a part of each other and when they came together it would create something even more powerful, right? We've all wondered if that's already happened, which is why the town is going to hell, but, what if it hasn't…" Mason hands a book to Scott. "We've all heard the story of what happened in the tunnels. How, when Malia attacked, the ugly-half turned to smoke. Or how it burned up when Parrish took it on. But what if that body is just a figment? What if it isn't real at all?"

Scott's brow furrows. "I don't understand."

Corey leans over Mason's shoulder and points to a page with three forms; one is a woman with long hair, another is a faceless body, and in the middle, half and half of each. "We keep thinking that when they meet, they'll merge. But what if they need a body for them to merge into?"

Scott looks up. "Like a host?"

"Yes, but a very specific one. As in… if we can find the body they need to merge into and destroy it, it'll destroy them, too."

"But we'd have to find it before they do?"

Corey and Mason nod.

"How would we find it?"

"That's the thing…" Corey stands back. "I think we already know where it is."

Scott looks between them, his expression serious. "Where?"


...


Theo isn't an idiot. He knows that they'll follow him back to the pack if he gives them a chance to. So, he doesn't.

They drop him off at the school at just after 3 in the morning, shoving him out of an unmarked white van before skidding away, wheels squealing. He pulls himself up off the ground, dusts himself off, and starts walking. He makes it a point to wander aimlessly, moving in and out of buildings with no noticeable direction. If he has a tail, he can't see them, but it's good to be sure. For all he knows, letting him get to Scott is just a ploy to find out where the pack is hiding so they can massacre them in their sleep. He takes to the woods for coverage, before eventually circling around to the treeline just outside of the clinic. Digging his phone out, he makes a call.

"Where the hell are you?"

His mouth quirks up faintly. "Always with the pleasantries, Dunbar."

"Where's Malia? Is she okay?"

"Long story…" He grimaces as he thinks of Malia's pained screams echoing through the building. He'd been chained down in a cell, unable to do anything, but a part of him— the coyote half—instinctively wanted to fight and protect. It was constantly at odds with the other, more self-preserving parts of him. "Is Scott there?"

"It's five am, where else would he be?" There's some shuffling on his end of the phone, before finally, a sigh, and then— "He's not here."

Theo rolls his eyes. "Then where is he?"

"I don't know! I just got back a few minutes ago and I obviously thought he was still here," he defends. "Just… Give me a second, all right?"

The line goes dead for a few minutes. Theo spends it pacing, kicking absently at nearby flora, and casting suspicious looks around the dense woods.

Finally, an irritable Liam returns. "He took off with Corey and Mason to chase down a lead. They left a note. It's in code, but Lydia took about 3.5 seconds before figuring it out."

"What?" Theo's brows hike. "Last I heard, he was laid up with a few bullet holes in his gut…"

"Yeah, well, he's a little on edge and not really listening to reason. Now, are you going to tell me where Malia is?"

"Monroe has her. They loaded her up with buckshot and grabbed her from the woods. They're keeping her hostage to lure Scott out."

Liam grunts. "And you know this how?"

"Because I gave them the idea."

A low growl reverberates through the phone.

Theo purses his lips. "Keep the purring to a dull roar, all right? It was the only option I had. She was dying and they were going to let her if they didn't know her value. I spent an hour listening to her get metal pulled out of her back, but she's alive."

Liam scoffs. "And they just let you leave? Just like that?"

"No. I'm the messenger."

"Convenient…"

"Hey, I did what I had to," Theo snaps. "She'd be dead if it wasn't for me."

"Yeah, and you saved your own ass in the process. Why am I not surprised?"

"One of us needs to have some common sense. And since this whole pack seems to be running low, I thought I'd pick up the slack for the rest of you."

"Whatever," Liam mutters. "Where are you?"

"Close. Where did Scott go with Corey and Mason?"

Liam doesn't answer right away, but Theo can practically smell the indecision coming off him. He's used to it. They might see him as a tool— a means to an end— but he's been there when it mattered. And in this case, he's useful.

"Be pissed at me all you want, but Scott needs to know where Malia is."

Another beat passes before Liam says, "Eichen House. They went to Eichen House."

Without so much as a goodbye, Theo hangs up.

He has somewhere to be.


...


Two Weeks Ago

It's two in the morning and most of the pack is on patrol. They should be sleeping. There's only so much time that isn't spent chasing or running from hunters. But, here Malia is, sitting on the counter in the kitchen, wearing wool socks and one of Scott's shirts. He's standing at the stove in low-slung sweatpants, his hair in disarray. The only light on is the one above the stove, which is a little too bright compared to just how dark the rest of the kitchen is. They've had to raid grocery stores, which they can't do often, so a lot of what they have is canned or dry foods. The mac n' cheese he's throwing together is an obnoxiously bright orange, but Malia's mouth waters at the smell. She'd much rather deer or bacon or a big, fat cheese burger, but she's starving, so this'll have to do.

"I can hear your stomach grumbling." Scott's dimples show as he grins.

Malia shrugs. "I worked up an appetite."

"I remember…" He gazes at her from the corner of his eyes. It's a heavy look, one that makes her squeeze her thighs together and remind herself that other people eat in this kitchen. Other werewolves. Which means they will definitely notice if someone had sex on the counter. That doesn't stop her from considering it. But, food first. She has to have priorities.

"How much longer until it's ready?"

"Impatient," he tells her, but nods his chin toward the cupboard, silently asking for her to grab some bowls out.

Malia shifts over, pulls open the cupboard door, and grabs out two bowls. Scott reaches between her parted knees to the drawer beneath her, opening it to dig out a pair of forks.

She watches him dish out the food equally before he sets the pot in the sink and fills it with hot, soapy water. Malia kicks her legs back and forth as she eats, humming appreciatively. Scott returns, leaning his back against the counter, his hip pressed to her bare knee. It's distracting. A part of her is mad at herself for being so easily wrapped up in him. Another part of her wants to eat faster so she can nuzzle her face into his neck and wrap her arms around him. It doesn't matter that the whole reason they're eating dinner at 2 in the morning is because she already did that, multiple times, including in the shower. Maybe it's the adrenaline from patrolling. The constant state of uncertainty that keeps them on edge, waiting for an enemy to spring up around every corner. When they finally stumble back to the safe house, her adrenaline is still pumping and needs a release. Or maybe it's relief. They made it another day, another night, and this is just their way of celebrating. Both, she decides.

"I miss real food." Scott sighs. "And fast-food."

Malia's mouth kicks up. "I don't know. This mac n' cheese is pretty awesome."

"When all of this is over, we should go somewhere nice for dinner. With waiters and real menus and sports jackets."

Malia's nose wrinkles. "I don't own a sports jacket."

He huffs a laugh and turns to her, grinning. "I can find you one if you want. Or you could wear a dress."

"I haven't worn a dress in a while…" She thinks about it. About sitting down for a nice dinner in some fine dining restaurant. Trading in her shorts and tank tops for something a little fancier. Scott in a suit and tie. She's only seen him dress up once, for graduation. He'd looked good. Really good. "Could be nice."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah." Done her own mac n' cheese, she reaches over and spears a bite out of his bowl. "But I like this, too."

Scott hums, taking a look around the dark, empty kitchen. It's not home; far from it, really. Eventually, they'll trade in their patrolling shifts and safe house for life like it was. A little bit of Malia wonders how that'll look. If they can make this —them— work out there. It wasn't until things went sideways that they even acknowledged that there were feelings there. That they crossed that boundary. She can't help but wonder if they ever would have otherwise. Or if she'd be in Paris now and he'd be in Davis, living their separate lives, none the wiser to what they could have been. It's a strange feeling, being even kind of grateful for the situation they're in. But, she is.

"Could be worse," Scott says eventually. He takes their bowls to the sink and drops them into the pot to soak before making his way back over. He stands between her knees, his palms flat on the counter as he tips his head back to meet her eyes.

"How's that?"

His hands find her hips and tug her forward. She lifts her knees and wraps her legs around his waist. "I could be doing it all alone."

Malia combs her fingers through his hair, smiling when he turns his head to press a kiss against her wrist. "That's a lot of mac n' cheese for one person…"

He chuckles lowly, a rumble from his chest. "Good thing you're here then."

She drops her forehead to his and smiles. "Good thing."


...


Present

At some point, Malia must've passed out. She only knows this because the next time she opens her eyes, she's in a cell, her wrists shackled to the floor. The faint scent of Theo tells her he was here once, too. She's not sure where he is now, but his scent had faded enough that she thinks he might've left the compound. She wonders if it was by Monroe's doing or his own. She wouldn't put it past Theo to have snuck out somehow and left her behind. His attempts at heroics are few and far between; she's not going to hope today is one of the rare days he decides to put his underused heart to work.

Her back still hurts. An understatement, actually. It feels like it's on fire. Given how weak she feels, she thinks the 'doctor' might've cleaned out her wounds with liquid wolfsbane. Gritting her teeth, she tries to push past that to focus on her surroundings. She can hear the shuffling of feet moving to and fro, but there's only one guard in her line of sight. Given how high the windows are and the earthy, damp feeling of the cell, she guesses they're underground. Maybe a basement or bomb shelter or something similar. She can't reach the bars of her cell, the chains of her shackles are too short. She spends a few minutes trying to see if she can pull her shackles up from where they're bolted down, but between how weak she feels and the sweat that's collected across her skin, she can't get a grip or give it much of an effort.

Eventually, she collapses back to the ground, her back against a stone wall, and pulls her knees up to rest her arms against her legs. She's dirty, tired, and see-sawing between anger and fear. She wonders if this is what Scott felt like in the library. She's not defeated— yet— but earlier, in the woods, when Theo was trying to barter their safety for the rest of the pack, she'd felt every fiber of her being respond in the negative. She's mad at Scott. More, she's hurt by everything that's happened. But, she won't give them up to save herself. Maybe she would've before, when they'd first found her, but it was different now. They were her pack, her friends, her family. And as much as she wants to shake Scott for not realizing his importance to the pack, for accepting his own sacrifice so easily, she finds herself standing at the precipice of the same situation.

If they want to know where the pack is, how to lure them out, she won't be a part of it. She's prepared to die for that, even if the thought terrifies her. Because it goes beyond her feelings, beyond the ache she felt when she realized that while she was begging for Scott to live, he might've been hoping to die. Malia knows she isn't like her parents. It's moments like these that make it all too clear how different they are. Because as much as she doesn't see herself as a sacrificial person, she knows that when it matters—when it comes to those she cares about—she will go to whatever lengths necessary to keep them safe.

Malia smells Monroe before she sees her. She lifts her head to find the all-too-smug woman standing at the gate to her cell. "It's only a matter of time now…"

Her brow furrows. "For what?"

"We sent your little friend out with a message…" She checks her watch before saying, "Scott McCall has about an hour left until he has to meet us at the lacrosse field, alone, if he ever wants to see you alive again."

Malia's nostrils flare as she glares. "This is a waste of time… He won't come. Theo has no idea what he's talking about!"

Gripping the cell bars, Monroe peers down at her, seeming strangely excited at watching her captive. "Shouldn't you be convincing me otherwise? After all, it's survival of the fittest. You seem pretty strong to me, Malia. What's holding you back?"

"These chains for one. Without them, you wouldn't stand a chance." Malia grinds her teeth. "We could test my theory… Unless you're scared."

Monroe laughs sharply. "I'm not an idiot."

"Could've fooled me."

Her eyes narrow. "So, which is it? Do you think he won't come because you're not worth it? Or do you hope he won't come because you want to save your alpha-slash-boyfriend?" She searches Malia's face. "Or maybe it's both… Maybe if he doesn't come, you can convince yourself it's because he's making the smart move and not because he doesn't love you. Would it be easier that way? Either way, we both know how this ends for you."

A low growl builds in Malia's chest. "You think I'm afraid to die?"

"I think you're an animal and an animal can always tell when an enemy is closing in." Monroe pushes off the bars, ready to leave her with that thought.

But Malia won't let her have the last word. "There's a flaw in your logic."

"Oh yeah, what's that?" Monroe turns back, an eyebrow raised.

"When you corner an animal, it doesn't just lay down and die. It doesn't matter how many enemies surround it or what the odds of survival are. We always fight!" She pushes herself up to stand and walks to the cage bars, her arms stretched behind her, the cuffs of her shackles digging into her skin. "What will you do when you're surrounded? Fight or cower?" She smiles as she steps back into the shadows, until only the blue of her eyes can be seen. "I bet I can guess."

Monroe's lip curls with a sneer before she turns on her heel and leaves.

Slowly, Malia's grin falls away. She sinks down to the floor once more, drops her head back against the wall, and hopes that Scott knows better than to come. Her eyes sting with tears; death is on the horizon, she can feel it as surely as she can feel her heart thumping in her chest. But if she's learned one thing since becoming human again, it's the value of another's life. Maybe not Monroe's or her many hunters. But of her pack's. Of Scott's. She doesn't want to be the reason any of them die.

She refuses.


...


Scott stands at the mouth of a hallway, behind a closed metal door. A chill fills the air and the icy sensation of fingers crawls over his skin. His head knows that the fear he's feeling is manifested; it's not real. But his body reacts anyways. "This is where Deaton found the stone?"

"And where the other Hellhound was kept." Corey swallows tightly, his back against the wall, as if trying to keep as far from the hallway as he can. "Do you feel that?"

Scott nods. "You think it's in there?"

"Behind the wall." Mason nods jerkily. "Deaton says other people have killed themselves. That nobody lasts longer than 30 seconds."

"And I have to get through a wall and pull out a body?" Scott looks between them.

"If we can destroy it, the fear should stop. Which means everyone stops killing each other."

"So whoever has Malia might not hurt her…" He grinds his teeth and nods. "Okay. Let's do this." His hand wraps around the iron bars of the door. Even as he feels every fiber of his being revolt, he slowly opens it. An eerie creaking noise echoes around them, causing each of them to wince and shudder. Scott's gut gives a lurch of apprehension but he swallows it all down. Fear takes root in his feet, urging him to run, and climbs the rest of his body. His legs shake, his stomach curdles, his palm sweat, his heart hammers. It takes a massive effort to take a single step inside, but he does it. There's pressure coming at him from all sides, a ringing in his ears, and screams echoing in his head. Scott can feel his entire body trembling, his very bones telling him to stop, turn back, and then—

A hand yanks him out, drawing him through the door.

Scott stumbles until his back hits a wall. Looking up, he glares when he finds Theo in front of him. "What the hell? What're you doing here?"

"Playing errand boy."

Scott pushes off the wall. "What?"

"Monroe has Malia… And she has an ultimatum for you."

"You're with Monroe?" Scotts grips the front of Theo's shirt and slams him against the metal door. It clangs with the pressure, echoing down the hall.

Theo grits his teeth, but doesn't attempt to push him off. "I was with Malia when she was taken."

Scott's eyes glow a furious red. "Yeah. Why was that?" His nails tear through the fabric of Theo's shirt and scrape at his skin. "How is it she's the only one that got hurt?"

"Look, I'm not an enemy here!" Theo's eyes widen. "You're right, Malia is hurt, and unless you do what Monroe wants, she's gonna be dead."

Scott growls, pulling Theo forward only to slam him back against the bars again, his head bouncing off them. "Where is she?"

"You think they gave me a map to whatever underground lair they took us to? Be realistic… Monroe wants to kill you to prove a point. If she can put down a True Alpha, she can put down anyone. Once you're dead, it's only a matter of time before the rest fall." Theo shakes his head. "So, we can either make a plan on how to get you and Malia out of this safely or you can continue playing hero with these two. But something needs to happen and fast."

Scott wants to be angry. If only to blot out the fear that's consuming him. But another part of him realizes the truth in what Theo's saying. He still doesn't trust him, not really, but he might be the only link Scott has to Malia. Right now, he needs that.

Scott releases him slowly. "How fast?"

Theo pulls his phone out to check the time. "Forty minutes. She wants to see you on the lacrosse field, alone. She'll bring Malia. She says she'll release her but we both know that's bullshit. She just wants you out in the open so she and her army of hunters can take their best shot."

A muscle ticks in Scott's cheek. "Sounds a lot like you don't think I should go."

"I have no problem admitting that if it were me, I wouldn't." Theo meets his gaze, unafraid to admit his failings as a compassionate human being. "But it's you, which means you'll walk straight into whatever trap she sets up."

"Scott…" Mason steps forward earnestly. "If we can just get the body—"

"If you're wrong," Scott turns to him, "Malia dies."

Mason's expression withers and falls, along with his gaze.

"But if we're right," Corey insists, "it can save everyone."

Scott stares at him a moment and then looks to Theo. "He'll do it."

Theo frowns, looking from face to face. "What?"

Corey and Mason exchange a dubious look before turning to Scott, unconvinced. "Are you sure about that?"

"I'm sure." Scott nods. "Theo will get the body out of the wall and you two will destroy it."

Mason's brow furrows. "What'll you be doing?"

Scott steps back, expression stiff with resolve. "Meeting the firing squad."

Chapter Text

III-A.

"This is crazy." Staring down a dark and foreboding hallway, Theo feels every instinct inside of him telling him to run as fast and as far as he can.

"We're running out of time." Corey is staring at him, an eyebrow raised impatiently. "Are you doing to do this or not?"

"Give me a second, all right, Invisibility Cloak?" Theo waves a hand back at him to shut up and then hops on spot. He rolls his shoulders forward and bends his neck side to side before clapping his hands together. "Okay. Open the gate."

Mason pulls the metal door open while Corey stands on the other side, arms crossed impatiently.

Theo can feel sweat beading on his forehead and sliding down the nape of his neck, where every tiny hair stands on end. His body is tensed and a tightly coiled spring of apprehension builds in his stomach. Angry at himself for letting that fear slip in, he snarls, folds his hands into fists and takes off at a run. He lurches down the hallway, the icy cold fingers of dread clawing at his back. It's an all-encompassing feeling. As if something ominous is right at his heels, desperate to grab him and pull him down. But, Theo has seen hell. He's lived there. And a part of his mind is quick to remind him that this cannot compare. The other part of his mind is a coward.

"You're almost there," Mason calls out. "A few more doors."

Theo knows where he's going. He can feel the increased wariness of one door in particular. Like a creeping shadow that sucks up all the light, he can tell exactly where a blackhole of fear resides. His heart is hammering in his chest, palms sweaty, and knees shaking. He's nearly to the door when he hears something— rushing water first and then… a voice. Tara. She whispers his name against his ear. It's soft and sweet and a complete and utter lie.

Theo?

theo.

THEO!

Theeeeooo…

He shakes his head and keeps moving.

Theo... help me...

It's so cold...

Theo, please...

"Stop!" He reaches the doorway and pivots, but his legs collapse and he has to grab onto either side to keep from crashing to the floor. "Shut up!"

"Who's he talking to?" Mason wonders.

"Theo, it isn't real!" Corey shouts. "You have to go in the room. You need to find the body!"

"Without it, Malia dies!"

Theo grits his teeth and digs his claws into the doorway. With a shout, he pulls and launches himself inside the room. As soon as he does, he feels wet, cold fingers against his chest. Feels his ribs cave and warm blood spill as Tara's hand slips inside to coil around his heart. When he looks down, she's not there. It's in his head. It's all in his head. It's not real

Why'd you do it, Theo?

Why'd you hurt me?

Why'd you kill me?

"I was stupid." He presses his hands against his ears and drags in air like his lungs can't fill quick enough. "I- I was a stupid little kid."

That's no excuse.

I was your sister.

Your blood.

Your pack.

I would've done anything for you, Theo.

"I know." He closes his eyes and tries to push past the sound of her voice. Tries to count from 1 to 10; anything for a distraction.

Do you miss me?

Do you regret it?

Was it worth it?

"I don't know what you want." He drags his hands down the side of his head, leaving gory claw marks in his flesh. "What do you want from me?"

Her laughter echoes around him, melodic and sadistic.

And then her voice whispers against his ear…

Your heart .



Malia paces from one end of her cell to the other, chains rattling as she does. There's not enough space and it leaves her feeling even more edgy. She longs for the woods. To shed down to her coyote form and run through the trees, as far as her legs will take her, until her lungs scream and her body can't go any further. But she's weak, too weak to shift. Her back feels like one giant, open wound, festering and bloody. All she can do is walk and wait.

Time passes both too fast and too slow. She knows what will happen when the door opens, when she's led from her cell, and she doesn't want it.

She thinks of her pack— of all the people she's gotten close to. The people she'd fight to the death for. And she doesn't want them to come. She doesn't want them to make some grand, loyal gesture to get her back. Even though she's scared— terrified, really. Even though she knows she'd probably do the same for them.

The hunters are preparing. She can hear them laugh as they get their guns and their bullets, their bows and their arrows. To them, this is fun. This is what they want. They long to destroy everything that scares them— everything stronger than them— everything that makes them feel weak. They think that when they do, the fear will fade, but they're wrong.

They talk about shifters like they're mindless, bloodthirsty beasts intent on wiping out the humans. A part of her wants to show them the worst of her; wants to tear them to pieces for everything they've done and everyone they're hurt. For Melissa and the coma they caused, nearly killing her in the process. For all the children, barely old enough to shift, that were picked off, one by one. For everybody they've killed, calling it a 'necessity' instead of the murder it is. They deserve her rage. But she knows that will only prove them right. It'll just add fuel to their fire.

Malia's not sure what the answer is. War? So everyone can die together? Piles of bodies, just like in the library. Enemies and loved ones dying equally in the slaughter. There's no convincing the humans they're wrong. No telling them that supernaturals aren't all enemies. That things aren't so black and white. Which means that someone will die tonight.

There's no stopping it.



"No. No way." Stiles shakes his head, pacing from one end of the surgical room to the other. "This plan sucks!"

"It's not up for discussion." Scott stares at him, mouth tensed stubbornly. "Monroe agreed to meet, so I'm going to meet her."

"This is suicide!"

"I'm with Stiles on this." Derek steps forward, arms crossed over his chest. "As soon as you walk onto that field, you'll be surrounded by every hunter in the area, which means a few hundred guns trained on your heart. And if Gerard's taught them anything it's to make sure the bullets are laced with wolfsbane."

Scott sighs. "I know."

"Then why are you doing this?" Stiles lurches toward him, antsy and angry, emotions fragmenting across his face.

"Stiles… It's Malia."

"Yeah, I know." He blinks quickly against a sheen of tears. "You think I want her to die? Of course I don't! She— She's my friend." His voice trembles enough that he needs to take a beat to swallow and find his control. "But, if you do this… Scott, we don't just lose her, we lose you, too. Do you get that? This isn't a happily ever after where the good guys walk into a gunfight and leave the victor. It's you and Malia with no weapons and no back-up against half a town of terrified humans with guns."

"And if I don't, I have to live with the fact that I left her there to die…" He stares at Stiles searchingly. "I can't do that."

"And we can't lose you." Stiles reaches out, bracing a hand on Scott's chest. "Listen to me. I'm your brother. I want what's best for you. We are at war here. As much as it hurts to say it, you matter too much to be this sacrificial. You're needed here. You have people here that are relying on you."

"I know." Scott half-smiles gently. "Look, Mason and Corey are working on a plan. If things go right, all of this can end amicably. The fear can stop and me and Malia walk off that field alive."

"And if it doesn't?" Lydia asks, her voice thick and strained.

Scott looks past Stiles' shoulder to where Lydia stands woodenly, her arms wrapped around herself. "Then you'll lead them."

Her brow furrows. "What?"

"Lydia, you're one of the strongest people I know. If anybody else can lead this pack, it's you. You can bring the supernaturals together and unite them against the others the right way… I trust you with that."

"Trusting me means you're willing to die and I won't accept that." Lydia's chin raises as she marches forward to meet him. "I've lost enough already. I'm not willing to lose anymore."

Scott looks from her to Stiles to Derek. "I'm doing what I think is right."

"You're reacting to the possible loss of a loved one." Derek stares at him knowingly. "Look, we can't make you do anything that you don't want to do—"

Stiles scoffs disagreeably.

"—just be sure that you're willing to face the consequences of those decisions. Because it isn't just you and Malia that have to pay. It's the pack and your friends. It's your mother."

Scott's heart tugs painfully, but his mouth flattens into a line. "What would you do if it was Braeden?"

Derek keeps his gaze but doesn't answer.

He looks next to Stiles. "Or Lydia." He turns to her. "Or Stiles."

None of them reply. But Scott knows. They'd plan for the best and accept the worst.

"I'm going," he says. "That's final."



When the time comes, Malia is surrounded and carefully removed from her cell.

As she's walked through the building, she looks from face to face, staring back at her with unmasked hatred. They grip tight to their weapons, expecting her to put up a fight, to attack and maul and hurt. But she doesn't. Instead, she lets them shove her into a white, unmarked van.

Two men sit inside it with her, backs pressed against the metal grate that acts as a partition between them and the front cab, where the driver and a passenger sit. Everything is quiet as they begin to drive. Her guards say nothing to her; instead, they randomly spark their stun batons in an attempt to scare her. She never jumps. She simply sits on the floor of the van and stares at them. When they pass through a part of town where none of the street lamps are lit, the van is plunged into darkness, and she lets her eyes glow an unnatural blue. They won't admit it, but she smells their fear ratchet up another notch, and she feels warm satisfaction fill her.

Cuffs ring her wrists and ankles, bound together by chains that pool in her lap as she sits, cross-legged, waiting for them to arrive at the lacrosse field. The drive is bumpy, taking them over dirt roads and down back alleys. The farther they drive, the more she wishes for something to happen. For some divine intervention that keeps them from getting to the school. Whether it's her pack or something else, she doesn't care. But she knows what's waiting for her. As much as she wants to hope Scott won't come, she knows him. Maybe it's that sacrificial part of him, still willing to die for a cause. Or maybe it's the hero in him, unwilling to let anyone die without a fight. She's not sure. But she knows he'll be there. He'll walk right out into that field, unarmed and alone, and he won't even blame her for it.

Malia shouldn't have run. She knows that. She was mad and hurt and for good reason. But, she also knew they were in danger. That they were constantly being hunted. So, leaving the clinic and wandering off into the woods alone was a terrible idea. If she could take it back, she would. Malia is all too familiar with the feeling of regret. She spent all those years in the woods, desperately wishing she wasn't the reason her mom and her sister were dead, and it hadn't changed anything. There was no way around it, no changing what had already happened. The only thing she could do was face it. And she's willing to do that now. She's willing to pay for her mistakes. But she doesn't want to take Scott or any of her pack with her.

Instead, she gathers her strength. Sitting there in a body far too weak for her liking, she tries to push past the pain that ripples across her back, pulsing in agonizing waves. She drops her hands down against her knees and straightens her torso, sucking in air through her nose and letting it out through her mouth. Lydia taught her about meditation. About yoga and connecting with her body to help regulate emotions and control. Malia hadn't liked it. It was too slow and quiet for her back then. But she remembers it now. The breathing exercises Lydia showed her and how, if she really tried, she could push her consciousness beyond the pain and connect with a calm and distant part of herself. All Malia wants is to hide the pain, bury it somewhere, just long enough for her to do what she has to.

It works. Sort of. The more she focuses on her lungs, expanding and deflating, the less she notices the throbbing across her back. Slowly, each hole feels like nothing more than pin-pricks. It's enough.

Now or never, she tells herself.

They hit a deep bump in the ground that has her bouncing off the floor of the van. She uses it to get her feet under her and, before her guards can even see anything is different, she lunges at them. She throws her chains into the face of the one on the left while she swipes her claws down the front of the one on the right. Right Guard screams, lurching back from her only to slam into the partition.

Left Guard is clutching a hand to his face, blood spilling from his nose. "Bitch!" He thrusts his stun baton at her and finds her ribs; she feels fire light up her side. Her head is thrown back as her body tenses with the pain and pulses with electricity. But then she kicks a leg out, slamming her heel down against his knee, shattering it on impact. He howls in pain, dropping his baton abruptly.

Malia grabs it up and stabs it against his chest. 'See how he likes it!' Considering how he slumps over, unconscious, he probably doesn't like it at all.

The van starts swerving around, rocking her from side to side. The baton fall is lost as she gathers her balance and turns her attention back to Right Guard.

"Stop, please!" he cries, but she's not hearing it.

Malia slams her fist into his cheek, knocking him out cold.

Before she can revel in her triumph the van comes to a squealing stop, pitching her forward so she falls face first into the partition. Catching herself, fingers slotted through the holes, she feel her knees bang against the ground. When the front doors open, she has to scramble to get up. Back pressed against the wall of the van, she turns her attention from the side door to the two at the back, waiting to see which direction they'll come at her from. Her chest heaves both with the effort she's exerted and the panic that's filling her. She's enclosed in a small space and she knows, if pushed hard enough, they will kill her.

There's only two of them. 'I can take them.'

Their too-fast heartbeats linger just outside the van, scared and unsure. But then the side door is opening and Malia doesn't hesitate— she launches herself forward. A startled man gets the brunt of her weight. As he tumbles backwards, she wraps the chain from her wrists around his neck. He hits the ground while she stands, a foot pressed to his chest to keep him down, strangling him in the process.

"Let him go!" Another man stands a good ten feet to the right of her, a shotgun aimed at her face. He's white-knuckling it, sweat beading down his ruddy face. "I said—" He cocks the gun. "—let him go!"

Malia continues to choke him. "Pull the trigger," she taunts. "Go ahead."

The man's gaze drops to the guard— turning a nasty and telling purple— before quickly returning to her. "You're dead, you hear me? Dead."

"Then do it already!" Malia's eyes flare. "'Cause if you don't, he dies. And so do the other two. When I'm done with them, I'll kill you, too."

The man readjusts his grip on his gun, his heart hammering.

Malia bares her teeth even as tears sting her eyes. "Do it!"

This isn't who she is anymore. Even if these people deserve it for what they've done.

There's only two ways this can go. Either she somehow gets the gun away from this guy and makes a run for it, which seems unlikely at this point— he's too far away and he'll pull the trigger before she can make an attempt— or she dies here, just like this. She tells herself that it's okay. That Scott will know. He'll feel that she's gone and he won't come. None of them will. They'll live. Even if she won't.

Her mouth trembles and a tear streaks down her cheek. This isn't the life she wanted. This isn't how she saw things going. For just a little while, for a brief moment, she saw something else. A future with Scott. With a badge and a calling. And a place carved out, just for her. She was going to be a deputy. She was going to keep people safe. She was going to—

Something cracks against her head and her vision swims. She's not sure if it's a bullet— maybe he's just a lousy shot— or something else. All she knows is one second she's on her feet, the next she's on the ground, her cheek pressed against cold, coarse pavement. Blood drips into her eyes as her vision fogs. Her thoughts scatter, fear and relief stumbling over each other for top position. Is she happy she might die or relieved she might survive? Can she be both?

A hand grips her shoulder and roughly turns her open. She stares up, blurry-eyed, at a smirking Monroe.

"Uh-uh. Not yet. I still need you…"

Malia's nose flares and her teeth clench, but her eyes flutter closed before she can gather enough for a reply.

She drifts away, afloat in some distant, empty space. It's kind of blissful, actually.

She can't feel a thing.



Corey is pacing. "We need to do something."

"Like what?" Mason follows him with his eyes. "Deaton barely lasted thirty seconds in that room. Theo's a dick, but at least he's strong, and he's barely keeping it together."

"Barely or not at all?" Corey shakes his head. "If we don't do something, Scott and Malia are going to die."

"And if we do do something, we might die. People have been known to commit suicide from whatever they hear or see in there."

"I can't speak for them, but I know I can't just stand here and hope Theo, of all people, is doing the right thing." Pulling up the sleeves of his shirt, Corey stares down the hallway, psyching himself up. "I'm going for it."

"Corey, wait!" Mason reaches for him, taking his hand and folding their fingers together. "This is crazy and I in no way think it's a good idea. But, if you're really going to do this, then… We go together."

Corey stares at him, a slow smile pulling up his mouth. "Okay."

Mason nods. "Okay."

They each take a deep breath and ready themselves.

But just as they're about to run down the hall, something abruptly comes flying through a doorway to land in the hallway.

"Is that…?"

It's a wooden box, sitting innocuously on the tile floor.

It's soon followed by a body. A panting Theo drags himself out, crawling on his belly. There's dust and blood all over him, open wounds down the side of his head, and claw marks across his chest. Struggling to his feet, Theo grabs up the box and makes a limping jog toward them. He falls through the door, caught in their arms, his entire body shaking.

Mason's eyes dart over him, shocked at the carnage he finds. "What the hell happened in there?"

"I fought my demons." Theo stands on his own two feet, swaying as he does, and shoves the box into Corey's hands. "Couldn't find a body. But, I did find this."

Mason and Corey exchange a look before carefully opening the top to peer inside.

Still trying to catch his breath, Theo swipes a hand over his face, wiping away sweat, blood, and what he'll never admit are tears. "Will it work?"

Mason meets Corey's gaze and nods. "Yeah, I think it will."

"Question is…" Corey frowns. "What do we do with it?"

Mason's brows hike. "I think I have an idea…"



"Are you going to talk to me about this?"

Scott is nearly to the front door of the clinic when he hears his mother's voice. He slows and lets out a heavy sigh, his should slumping. When he turns to face her, tears litter her tired eyes. He walks toward her, hands out in supplication. "Mom…"

"When all this started, Argent told me that you needed to leave, that if I wanted you to survive this you had to run as far away as you could get, and I refused. I've never told you to run before and I didn't want to start now. But Scott…" She takes his hands and squeezes until his fingers ache. "You will die if you do this."

He swallows tightly and meets her scared, sad eyes. "This is my fault… All of it… I'm the reason that bad things keep coming here. Me and Stiles and Allison, we opened up a gate that we can't close. It's never going to end. It'll just keep going, just like this. Maybe the humans are right to fear us. After everything that's happened, everything we've done, I get scared of us, too."

Melissa shakes her head. "All you've ever done is your best. You've given up so much to save everybody you can."

"And it wasn't enough. I didn't save enough." He sighs. "I wanted to believe that this was only because of fear. That there's still some humanity left, but I'm not sure… Maybe, no matter what we do, it was always going to end up here. Too much has happened, too many have died. And now we're paying for it."

"This is not your debt. Every evil thing that's come here, you've fought. I don't care if every human in town can't see that. I've seen that. I've seen you fight and win and lose and it never gets easier for you. But you keep going, Scott, because that's who you are. That's the type of person you are, werewolf or not."

"Which is why I have to do this."

She shakes her head, her eyes falling closed. "Do you understand what you're asking of me?" Her voice catches. "You're my little boy…"

"And I always will be." He smiles, pulling her forward and wrapping his arms around her. "I'm exactly who you raised me to be. Because you showed me what was right and wrong. Everything I did, everyone I tried to save, it's because I knew that's what you would do. That's what you would want me to do."

"I'm so…" She chokes on a sob, stroking a shaking hand through his hair. "So proud of you."

"I know." He buries his face against her shoulder for a long moment and just breathes. A beat passes and then another, before finally, he says, "I have to go."

She hums, but doesn't release him, still hugging him tight.

Scott lets her.

It's a good minute or longer before, reluctantly, she unties her arms from around him. She doesn't bother wiping her tears before reaching up to cup his face. "You fight, do you understand me? Whatever happens, whatever they do… You fight them until the very last second."

"I will."

Melissa nods. "I love you."

"I love you, too."

She pulls him in one last time and presses a kiss to his forehead. "Okay." She pushes him back. "Okay. Go."

He backs away, keeping his gaze locked with hers until it's time to turn. He walks through the door of the clinic with his head held high and the heavy sensation of impending death weighing heavy on his shoulders.



Malia wakes to find herself back in the van, with shorter chains this time. There are other guards with her now, which she can't help but find a little satisfying. In fact, she laughs about it. Rolling herself onto her back, she breaks out into hysterical giggling. The other guards aren't dead. At least, she's pretty sure they aren't. A few scratches, a broken nose, and a little electricity wouldn't kill them. But they sure as hell felt it, and for that she's glad.

"Yeah, laugh it up," one of the guards—a woman, says.

"Sara," the other warns. "Don't talk to her."

"Why not? She thinks it's funny. Steve and Jordan are fucked up. She nearly broke Dennis' neck! That could've been us."

Malia glares. "Still could be."

Sara stabs her stun baton against Malia's shoulder, making her whole body seize up. Fire pulse across her skin and Malia tries and fails to swallow a scream.

"All right, that's enough." The other guard reaches over and grabs Sara's wrist, stopping her. "Monroe wants her alive or her little alpha is going to figure it out and this whole plan goes to shit."

"She should pay for what she did!"

"She will. Just as soon as we've got Scott McCall in our sights, this one is dead." He sneers down at Malia, but his gaze is indifferent. To him, she's nothing. A waste of his time and energy. Not even human.

Malia stares back at him, wondering how anyone reaches that point. She's wanted to kill before. Mostly animals to keep her territory safe. But when it came to humans or supernaturals, it was only ever to save herself or the people she cares about. Did this man have a family? People relying on him? Or was this about him? About keeping some kind of order? 'Survival of the fittest,' that's what Monroe said. Is that what they were attempting? To prove that humans were more evolved than their supernatural counterparts. All she'd seen so far is the opposite. Scared, trigger-happy humans killing anything and everything in sight.

"It won't work," she tells them, her voice a strained croak.

They don't answer right away, but eventually, Sara can't help herself. "What won't work?"

"Even if you kill me… If, by some twisted miracle, you manage to kill Scott, too… You'll never kill all of us. We've always been here and we always will be. My pack will survive. They're smart and strong and good. And the others… They'll come. They'll hear about what you did and they'll cross states and countries and oceans. If you want a war, they'll give you a war." She swallows down the lump in her throat as a tear slips out of the corner of her eye. "If I have to die so the rest can fight, fine. Just as long as you know, you'll never win… So you can play with your guns and hunt us as far as you can reach. But somewhere out there, another wolf, another coyote, another shifter, is going to stand up and say 'no.'"

"Then we'll kill them, too."

Malia's heart jumps as she feels the van roll to a stop and she knows…

It's almost over now.

"Just remember… We tried to make peace. We tried to save you." She takes a deep breath and turns her gaze to the ceiling. "You brought this on yourself."



Stadium lights flood the lacrosse field, giving it an eerie glow as Scott starts his trek across it, damp grass squelching underfoot. Spread out along one end of the field are crowds of people. Humans. All baring weapons. At the forefront is Gerard, grinning madly, his white hair a draw to the eye.

Scott continues toward them, refusing to show an ounce of fear, even as his teeth grind and his gut twists. He casts his gaze from one end of the crowd to the other, searching for Malia but unable to find her. He knows she's alive— he can feel it. She has to be. But not seeing her makes him antsy.

He's nearly to the middle of the field when Gerard steps out to meet him, walking leisurely. He holds no weapon, but control is clearly in his hands. "Scott…" he greets cheerfully. "I'm surprised you came. After all these years, I thought you might've learned a thing or two."

"I could say the same for you." Scott searches his face. "I knew you hated my kind, but mass genocide seems a little over-the-top, don't you think? Didn't you used to have a code you followed? Not every supernatural is the enemy. There are plenty of innocent people who've done nothing to anyone."

"Innocent people, sure. But your kind aren't people. You're animals. It's only a matter of time before you hurt or kill others."

"You know that's not true."

"Do I?" Gerard smiles slowly. "I've lived a long life, Scott, and I can tell you one thing that's never changed. An animal cannot be tamed. No matter how human they look."

"You're wrong." Scott shakes his head. "But if you're supposed to be an example of humanity, then I'm happy I'm not on your side."

"A good thing, too. I don't think you have the stomach for doing what's necessary." Gerard grins then, all teeth. "Like your Malia. A means to an end, I assure you."

Scott's nostrils flare as he lets out a deep breath, balling his hands into fists so he doesn't reach out and strangle him where he stands. "Where is she?"

Gerard doesn't reply right away, seeming to relish in Scott's anger. But, eventually, he raises a hand to signal to the group.

The humans part, revealing a white van. The side door is thrown open and two people hop out, each of them holding chains. Malia follows after them, her arms and legs in shackles. She has to shuffle to walk behind them. Impatient with how slow she is, they pull and yank at her chains, forcing her to lurch and stumble.

A muscle ticks in Scott's jaw and his eyes flare red. He turns his gaze back to Gerard and bares his teeth. "I offered you peace."

"Which was your first mistake." Gerard sighs, long and disappointed. "You never did understand the hierarchy, did you? So eager to believe that there was always some kind of solution. Some bloodless agreement we could come to where harmony was found amongst us all."

"What's so wrong in wanting that?"

"It's unrealistic. The power dynamics lean too much in one direction, no matter how much you temper yourselves with all your attempts at heroism. In the end, it's the humans that always pay for your shortcomings. But no longer. This will be the beginning of it all. The first step toward complete annihilation. You and yours will be the first to fall, but far from the last…" Gerard walks backwards then, his arms out as if to measure the grand scheme of his plans. "Don't you see, Scott? It's survival of the fittest and human evolution has gifted us with a chance to take the world back."

"You don't seem so evolved from where I'm standing."

"And you don't look like much of a True Alpha from here." Gerard stops next to a smiling Monroe, his hand finding her shoulder encouragingly. "This is your show, my dear. I think it's time you got it started."

"Gladly." Monroe takes up one of the chains from the hunters and pulls on it, towing Malia behind her as she walks forward. The hunters move too, fanning out in a long line on either side of the field, penning them in. Scott can feel the creeping sensation of impending capture, but he swallows down the instinct to fight and focuses on Malia.

Standing at Monroe's back, Malia stops, gripping the chain behind her hands, unwilling to move.

The hunters react by raising their guns.

Scott steps forward, his heart squeezing.

"Don't you want to reunite with your alpha?" Monroe teases, pulling at the chain once more. "One last farewell before the curtains close."

Malia stares at Monroe before casting her gaze toward the sweating, panicked hunters collecting around them. People of all ages, races, and genders; some familiar and others unfamiliar with the weapons gripped tight in their clammy hands. The smell of their fear is so potent it's overwhelming. Finally, Malia turns her attention to him, standing alone in the center of the field, an arm outstretched toward her. He can hear her heart thundering in her chest, a mirror to his own.

This time, when Monroe pulls on her chains, she goes.

The walk isn't long, but for Scott, time slows. He keeps waiting for someone to panic, to pull a trigger and take him or Malia out before she reaches him. He lets out an unsteady breath when Monroe stops just short of him and no blood is spilled… Yet.

Monroe raises an eyebrow, warning him, "If you try anything, she dies. Look around, Scott, you're surrounded."

"I knew I would be way before I came here."

She stares at him curiously. "And you still risked it… Why?"

His gaze moves past her to Malia. "You were right before. I gave up. I was tired and scared and I didn't see a way out. But I should've asked for help. If not for me, then for the pack and my mom and you… I should've valued myself more. Not just as a leader, but as a friend, a son, and as your partner." He shakes his head. "When I was dying, all I wanted was to hear your voice one last time. I needed to know that you were okay because… If I had to die, at least I'd know it was different for you. That you still had a chance."

Malia stares at him, her mouth trembling.

"I get it now. How precious life is. Why you were so mad at me. All these years, I've done nothing but fight. I've given everything to try and keep the town safe. I've lost friends, people I loved, people who didn't deserve to die, and I carried that with me, every day. Every person I couldn't save. Every life that was lost. I carried that. And when all of this happened, when we were so close to getting out, so close to having a real life, away from all of this, it was too much. I thought we were gonna be free, but I was wrong. This town, everything that's happened here, it was never going to let us go. So, I gave in. I surrendered. And I regret it, I do. Because while I was thinking of everything I lost, I forgot about everything I found. It's been painful these last few years. It's hurt like nothing else has. But it's been amazing, too."

She blinks back a sheen of tears.

Scott swallows tightly. "I wouldn't trade it. Not one part of being a werewolf. Because being what I am, who I am, let me save lives. It gave me my pack. I always had Stiles. It was just me and him for so long. But then everyone else came along— Derek and Lydia, Liam and Mason and Corey— and everything changed. Not always for the better, but it's okay. Being a werewolf led me to you. It brought you out of the woods and it gave you a chance to have a life again. To forgive yourself for what happened and to find your dad. And that's enough. If I only got that, it'd be enough. But I got more." He smiles, even as a few stray tears slip down his face. "I got to love you, Lia. I got to see you grow and fight and become this amazing person. And that's a gift. Loving you and being loved by you is the best give I've ever gotten."

Malia stares at him, her cheeks damp. "Scott…"

"I know. You're gonna tell me to run. That I never should've come. That it wasn't worth it. But you're wrong…" He steps forward, until his shoulder brushes against Monroe's. "It was all worth it."

The chain falls from Monroe's grip, clattering in the grass. She takes a step back, her head tilted in amusement. "How very Romeo and Juliet…"

Scott turns to meet her gaze. "You know, Verona found peace in the aftermath of their deaths." He looks around at the hunters gathered around them. "If I have to die, I could have worse reasons."

"Idealistic of you. But, the more likely truth is that once the True Alpha dies, the others are quick to follow." Monroe stares at him, an eyebrow raised. "With your death, the rest of them will realize a lost cause when they see it." She backs away. "You're just another cog in the machine."

Scott stares at her a long moment, his mouth half-curled. "You don't know my pack."

"I don't have to..." She spreads her arms out to acknowledge the hunters. "I have my own."

Turning, Scott puts his attention on Malia, who's crossed the space between them. He reaches for her hands and breaks the chains from her wrists before soothingly rubbing his hands over them. "Are you okay?" It's a stupid question; she's bruised and bloody and clearly scared.

Staring up at him with wide eyes, she wonders, "What was your plan?"

He lifts her hands so he can kiss her knuckles. "Finding you."

"Scott…" Her brow furrows. "They're going to kill us."

"I have on last ace up my sleeve, but…" He looks to the hunters lined up like a firing squad. "I think we've run out of time."

She pushes her hands forward to grip the front of his shirt, pulling him closer. It's as much to be near him as it is to cover him.

Scott wraps an arm around her as their foreheads meet. He can feel her breath panting against his neck.

"Did you mean it?" she whispers.

He strokes a hand down her hair. "Every word."

He closes his eyes as he hears the jarring sound of guns cocking and arrows being drawn back against their strings.

"I love you, too," she whispers.

He turns his head, his mouth buried against her cheek. "I'm sorry."

"Where you go, I go." Leaning, back, she meets his eyes, just as fierce as ever. "Our way."

He smiles slowly, his eyes lighting a powerful red.

('You fightdo you understand me? Whatever happens, whatever they do… You fight them until the very last second.')

Scott nods. "Our way."

Together, they turn, with fang and claw at the ready.

Malia throws her head back as she growls, rocking back on her heels, ready to launch herself at whatever crosses her path.

And Scott howls. So deep and so loud that the benches rattle and the stadium lights shatter, sending sparks and shards of glass flying. A cry of shock and fear ripples through the crowd, but it's quickly dampened by a returning howl. Followed by another and another. The sound is deafening; it comes from every direction and it's getting closer.

Scott leans back, his ears perked.

Malia turns to him, blue eyes flashing as she offers a feral grin.

He smirks in reply.

Reinforcements.



Parrish has just returned to the safe house from patrolling when he's ambushed by Mason, Corey, and Theo. They drag him into the kitchen, where they have a box and two dusty books waiting.

"Here." Corey puts the box in front of him and flips the lid open.

Parrish glances at it before turning confused eyes on the trio of boys. "What is it?"

Theo rolls his eyes from where he stands at the sink, scrubbing at the dried blood that cakes either side of his head. "What's it look like?"

Parrish stares inside the box, arms crossed over his chest. "A heart…" He frowns. "A beating heart."

"We thinks it's part of the Anuk Ite. Two faces, two bodies, but one heart," Mason says. "This is how we kill it. At least, we think it is…"

"And you want me to do it?" Parrish looks from him to Corey. "I've fought it before and it never worked."

"You fought half of it." Mason fans his fingers out over his chin. "We thought, in order to merge, they'd need a host to hold them both, right? But Scott's mom said that the ugly body had no organs, no human tissue. It was just a skinless thing. So, what if in order for the pretty side to merge with the skinless body, it needed more than just flesh and bone?"

"It needed a heart…" Parrish nods slowly. "So, you think that if I destroy it…"

"It'll destroy the Anuk Ite." Corey stares up at him. "There's a chance it won't work, but we have to try."

Parrish shakes his head. "If this was in Halwyn's room the whole time, why didn't he destroy it?"

"We thought of that, too!" Mason pulls one of the books forward and turns it in Parrish's direction. "Here, see. They were charging it!"

"With fear," Corey explains. "In order for both sides of the Anuk Ite to merge, they need enough fear to build up. It's what gives them their power. Once it reaches a certain point, then the heart is viable."

Mason reaches inside the box to show Parrish pieces of what look like broken rock. "We think it was encased in something that would keep Halwyn from being able to destroy it. Those pieces broke away the more fear the Anuk Ite created. Which is why Halwyn was trying to stop them. Not kill them, but subdue them. That way, he could put them away again, just like with the Wild Hunt. They'd be trapped somewhere, unable to harm anyone, but he didn't get a chance."

Walking over to the table, drying his hands on a towel, Theo frowns. "If he knew that destroying the heart once it was charged would kill them, why didn't he do it?"

"Because!" Corey turns to him. "Look at how many lives it took to charge it! If he could subdue it, it never had to come this far."

"But now it has." Mason pushes the box toward Parrish. "So, we need to end it."

Parrish's eyes widened. "And by 'we,' you mean 'me.'"

Mason shrugs, an apologetic smile pulling up one side of his mouth. "You're a hellhound. We're pretty sure you're the only one who can."

Parris draws a deep breath and lets it out on a sigh. "All right… I can try."

"You might want to do a little more than try," Theo tells him. "Scott's probably getting himself killed right about now, so we only have so much time before those hunters turn their sights on the rest of us."

"What he means is that Scott and Malia are in danger and this might save their lives." Mason stares up at Parrish meaningfully. "Can you do this?"

Parrish hesitates for only a moment before nodding. "Yes." He reaches inside the box to lift up the heart. As if it knows, it begins to beat harder, and a feeling of ice cold terror wraps itself around him. His stomach bottoms out and his skin crawls. A cold sweat breaks out over his body and his hands begin to shake. Gritting his teeth, he focuses on the heart. On all the lives that have been lost. All the innocent people that have been killed. All the scared and dangerous people walking the streets.

Fire lights his eyes.

Parrish wraps both hands around the heart, draws a deep breath, and lets out a loud and powerful howl. As he does, his body ignites. His clothes burn away, falling in tatters around him. Flames encompass the heart. It screams in answer; a high-pitched squeal of agony that feels like glass tearing open their ear drums. It sends everybody in the room to their knees, clutching at their heads.

Parrish can feel blood seeping from his ears, but he refuses to back down.

He focuses on the heart, on the heat surrounding his body, and he encourages it to grow—

To burn—

To destroy.



The hunters turn their attention from Scott and Malia, swinging their guns wildly. Monroe is quick to corral them— "Don't shoot. Not yet."

"What?" One of the hunters, a woman, turns a sharp look on Monroe. "We don't know how many are coming!"

"It doesn't matter." Monroe shakes her head. "Let them come."

The ground quivers underfoot as supernaturals race across the field. Shifters of all manner, all ages, come out of the wood work, some all or half-shifted, some as human looking as their counterparts. But they don't attack. Instead, they make they way toward Scott and Malia, forming an army at their backs. He doesn't recognize them. He's surprised to find, in fact, that none of them are his pack. And they're afraid. He can see them shaking and smell their sweat and tears.

Malia looks back at them, her brow furrowed in confusion. With a sniff, she says, "These aren't ours."

Scott's mouth curls up faintly. "I know."

"Is it an alpha thing?" Malia peers curiously at the people around her and then shakes her head. "We can't adopt this many people."

"I think they adopted us."

With a sigh, she says, "Peter was right. None of us have any self-preservation skills."

The hunters have moved back, drawing together behind Monroe, creating a stand-off. Amused, she calls out, "Neat trick! But, I hope you know this only speeds up my timeline."

Scott grinds his teeth. "These are innocent people." he shouts in reply. "Some of them are children."

"How long until they're old enough to kill? Huh? How long until they're just like you?"

Malia growls. "The only one I want to kill is her…"

He squeezes her hand, both in an effort to comfort and to keep her from doing exactly that. To Monroe, he says, "If you do this, if you kill these people, you are no better than everybody before you. Don't you get it…? You're the monsters!"

She doesn't reply right away, and his hopeful nature can't help but think that maybe he made some small dent in her resolve.

He's wrong.

"Thank you, Scott. For doing exactly what I'd hoped. Now you can die with their lives on your conscience, too."

Malia's hand grips his tighter, her nails digging into his skin.

Scott turns to her; she stares back, feral and beautiful. And he thinks, if these are his last moments, then it's a privilege to spend them with her.

She smiles, despite the tears in her eyes. "You go to college and I go to the police academy. We move back to Beacon Hills and build our own home. You're a vet and I'm a deputy. We have dinner with your mom on the weekends and invite my dad to all major holidays. We have kids. Or maybe just one. I'm not sold on my ability to be a mom, but I think I could learn. With help. And we get old. Like, really old. With gray hair and wrinkles and terrible hearing."

Scott nods and laughs thickly. "I like it. It's a good dream."

"Yeah." She blinks quickly. "It is."

He lifts her hand and presses a kiss to the back. Taking a deep breath, he tells the other shifters, "You can leave. All of you. I won't blame you…"

"We won't run," one says, a boy that can't be much older than him.

"This is our fight, too," says a woman. Her hair is streaked with silver and lines of laughter and life fan out around her yellow eyes.

Scott nods, short and sharp, and then he looks to the hunters across from them. "Last chance!"

Monroe merely grins. "Do your worst."

Scott rolls his shoulders. His eyes flare red and he bares his teeth.

"Don't kill them," Malia says to the supernaturals.

A few of them snarl.

"They'll shoot to kill."

"Yeah, well, we're better than them. And I never said you couldn't maim… We just don't kill." With that, she launches herself forward with a roar.

Scott is right behind her.

Chapter Text

III-B.

"I don't think it worked." Parrish is panting, staring down at the charred and bleeding, but still very much beating, heart. Beneath him, the table he's standing in front of is burned, dark curls of smoke coming off it.

"Hit it again," Theo says.

"I threw everything I've got at it." Parrish shakes his head, ash falling from his hair to dapple his blackened shoulders.

"Not everything. Or we wouldn't be able to stand it." Theo frowns. "We have to take it outside."

"No, no way." Mason looks between them. "There could be hunters outside. If he lights up, it'll draw attention. We can't afford for this thing to fall into the wrong hands."

"Most of the hunters will be on the lacrosse field. And anyway, it doesn't matter. If he hits supernova status in here, he'll take the building down, with us in it." Theo crosses the room and shoves the back door open, eyes widened expectantly. "Well?"

With a sigh, Parrish nods. Heart still clutched in his hands, he makes his way out of the safe house.

Frowning, Theo follows. McCall's pack has been holed up in a lake house deep in the preserve. It's situated near a beach that hasn't seen any visitors since the summer. The completely empty parking lot that overlooks the lake is exactly what they need. It's eerily quiet around; the only thing he can hear is their echoing footsteps, which sound especially loud against the pavement. A single street lamp casts a flickering glow around them. The sky is a hazy purplish blue, a sign that the sun is coming but not quite there.

Mason and Corey worriedly scan the treeline, searching for any sign of life. When they come to a stop in the middle of the parking lot, silence abounds, until—

A roar. Distant but familiar. A sense of duty fills Theo like it hasn't in… too long. Scott's howl commands attention. It screams of anger and war and expected victory. It grows inside of Theo; a loyalty that he neither likes nor can he completely ignore.

Beside him, Corey's eyes glow, too. "It's Scott," he says, flashing in and out of view until Mason's hand finds his shoulder.

"He's doing his part…" Theo nods his chin toward Parrish. "Now we have to do ours."

Corey frowns. "What if he needs us?"

As if in answer, another howl fills the sky. It isn't one of Scott's pack— Theo knows what they sound like by now. It's followed by another and another. With a shake of his head, he lets out a snort. "Scott's got back-up coming his way. We need to focus on what's going on here." He points at the heart in Parrish's hands. "If you want to help them, this is how we do it."

Parrish nods. "Get back."

Theo takes Mason and Corey by the shoulders and drags them back. To Parrish, he says, "Just focus. Forget about the fear. Forget about Scott. Forget about containing yourself to keep us safe. Focus on the heart and nothing else."

Parrish stares at him a long moment. "Okay."

"What if it doesn't work?" Mason wonders.

"Then we stab the thing and see if that helps." Theo crosses his arms over his chest and shrugs. "One way or another, that thing has to go."



The hunters advance, shooting bullets and arrows in every direction. Some aren't as trained as others, shooting too high or too wide. It gives the shifters a window, small as it is.

The first line of shifters is the most at risk and Scott hears it as they're picked off. They fall, wounded and whining as they hit the ground. Everyone that follows must leap over them to continue toward their target. While they try not to trample them, some are not so lucky. Scott can hear the crunch of bone and the squish of blood.

Malia is the fastest of them all, dodging everyone with a kind of blind focus that is both admirable and terrifying. She throws herself at the nearest hunters, claws out. She knocks down the first three in her way, standing on one hunter's chest while she swipes and kicks at another. She takes the gun from someone swinging it toward her, yanks it from their hands and uses the butt of it to knock him out. In the end, four people lay at her feet, groaning or unconscious. She wastes no time before moving on to someone else.

Monroe moves deeper into the crowd, letting the front line take the brunt of the shifters.

Scott follows her with his eyes. As the rest of the shifters collide with the hunters, it's chaos. Feet are trampling over everyone; fallen shifters and hunters alike.

He's pushed from every direction and has to fight his way through, knocking out whoever he can. Flash bolts are fired into the fray; they explode on impact, blinding anyone that looks in their direction. Hunters stab electrified batons at everyone they can reach, swinging recklessly. A smoke grenade blankets one half of the fight, making it impossible to tell who is attacking who. The fight is clawing and desperate; each side attacking everyone and everything around them.

When a shotgun turns in Scott's direction, he grabs at it, bending it in half before shoving it back into a terrified hunter's chest, sending him stumbling back, until he trips over another body and falls to the ground. Pushing past the terror and the distractions, Scott continues to stalk Monroe. She looks back at him through narrowed eyes, ducking down and away. The crowd is thick, as is the potent scent of fear. Some of the hunters scatter, running for cover. Others start shooting in circles, just like in the library. They pick off their own people as they lose control. And Scott quickly realizes just how much of a blood bath this is truly going to be.

Scott watches a hunter throw an ultrasonic emitter like a lance; it spears a shifter through the stomach before letting off a piercing noise, meant to subdue and confuse every supernatural in hearing range. He has to cover his ears, but he squints, watching as another shifter yanks it free. A body falls, hands covering a gaping, bleeding hole. It's ignored as the emitter is returned. Even as the hunter who threw it flees for coverage, the emitter still finds him, slicing through his thigh and taking him to the ground.

The coppery smell of blood fills the air; it layers everything. For a moment, Scott is lost. It's too much. No matter where he looks, all he can see, hear, and smell is death and dying. Shifters and humans— screaming, crying, howling— they twist and turn from their attackers, lashing out, taking cover. The carnage is absolute. Scott's lungs seize; his shoulders spasm and his chest heaves.

In the distance, he can see Monroe reach Gerard. He stands at the back, smiling, as safe and as happy as can be. This is amusing to him. A means to an end.

Scott's panic and rage fight for dominance. Before either can consume him whole—

Fwack.

Something slams into the side of his head. It sends him careening sideways for a moment, his hand reaching for the bleeding gash across his cheek. His vision briefly blacks out, giving him brief flashes of color and movement, a few seconds pass before it refocuses. When he gets his bearings, he stands upright to find a girl— long dark hair, big brown eyes, and shaking hands. It pulls at his chest and, just for a second— he sees someone else standing there. She grips a crossbow aimed at his chest. Her lips tremble and tears streak her blood-spattered cheeks.

Scott stares at her, brow furrowed and his hands up. "You don't have to do thi—"

She pulls the trigger, releasing an arrow.

His heart squeezes, but before the bolt can reach him, a hand wraps around the shaft. Shocked, he follows the arm to find Malia staring back at him, her eyes a bright and angry blue. She flips the arrow over in her fingers and then throws it back. It slams into the girl's shoulder, sending her stumbling back until she falls. Malia marches over and grabs the crossbow from the girl's hands.

"Lia…" Scott's not sure what he's trying to say. Don't kill her? You're better than that? Either way, nothing more leaves his lips.

Malia merely glances at him before standing toe to toe with the girl, who glares back willfully. "I'm confiscating this." Malia yanks the bolt out of the girl's shoulder and knocks her out with a sharp kick to the head. Making her way back to Scott, she tosses him the bloody bolt. "You're welcome." Returning to the fight, she starts picking off hunters with the crossbow, never killing them, but injuring them enough to get them out of the way. A strange sense of pride fills him, despite the complicated situation they find themselves in.

Half-smiling, he looks down at the bolt in his hand. People rush past, knocking into him as each side fights for their chance at survival. When he looks up, he sees Gerard, grinning at him through the masses. Beside him is Monroe, standing behind a gatling gun.

A cold and startling drip of fear falls down Scott's back. His heart lurches and his eyes widen before he drops the arrow and yells. He waves at everybody around him to move— to run— to duck. But as soon as the gun starts firing, everyone is a target. From one end of the field to the other, it mows down everyone and everything in its path.

Scott races in the opposite direction. He knocks over everybody he passes, pushing them to the ground to take cover. Leaping over body after body, he doesn't stop until he reaches Malia. Grabbing her around the waist, he yanks her to the damp ground, soaked with mud and blood. Covering her with his body, he wraps his arms around the top of her head and presses his face down against her neck.

The noise is deafening— not just the bullets leaving the gun, but the terrible, echoing cries of pain and anguish and death. Scott can hear it all: bullets hitting flesh and bone; blood squelching; people choking and gurgling as they try desperately to breathe. It could be seconds or minutes, but it feels like it goes on forever. And when it stops, there is only the coppery smell of blood in the air, acrid smoke from the gun, and the sharp ring of laughter.

Gerard.

Scott pushes himself up a little and looks down at Malia beneath him. Her eyes are wide and her face is smudged with dirt, but she's alive.

"Are you okay?" He cups her face between shaking hands.

"Are you?" She reaches for him, searching for any open wounds.

"I'm okay." He looks out across the field then. People are piled on top of each other; alive, dead, and dying. As survivors begin to stir, to rise, some scream in horror and fear. Others are just trying to crawl away, to get free of the tangled mess of limbs and bodies.

"What do we do?" a young woman looks at him, panicked and unsure. "I don't know what to do."

"Go," he says. "Get everybody you can and run. You still have a chance."

She looks back at Gerard and Monroe, who are reloading the gun. "They'll shoot us."

"We'll hold them off." Malia growls. "Just run!"

The girl shakes her head, but then she's grabbing at everyone close to her. Pulling at the injured and the scared, helping them move.

Malia stands, yanking off her muddy jacket and throwing it to the ground. Her shirt is torn open in the back and soaked through with large spots of blood, her bullet wounds from when she was captured are still open and weeping. "You take Gerard," she tells him. "I'll take Monroe."

Scott joins her, nodding.

All around, people are groaning and crying. A good chunk of the shifters have run, racing across the field in the hopes of living a little logner. But some have stayed. Despite their wounds, despite their fear and their pain, they gather themselves up and make their way toward him, bruised, battered, and limping.

"You should go," Scott tells them.

"I have children. Four of them." A man shakes his head. "Or I used to. They already got one of my boys, I can't let them take the others, too. If we don't stop this now, nobody will get out of this town. They'll pick us all off, one after the other. I'm not walking away now, not until it's finished."

Scott stares at him a beat— resolved and steady as he is— and nods. "Then let's do this."

The shifters start at a jog and break into a run, racing toward Gerard and Monroe and what remains of her hunters. They stand, lit by the rising sun at their backs, aflame with their self-righteous fury.

The supernaturals are met with resistance; bullets and arrows and a newly re-loaded gatling gun. The noise will haunt Scott for the rest of his life; it sends a cold, sharp shiver down his spine. The barrage of bullets picks off everyone to his left. He closes his eyes as he feels the spray of blood across his face.

The clock has run out.

He waits for the explosive sting, for devastation, for death—

But it never comes.



The fire that consumes Parrish is greater than it's ever been before. It ripples across his skin in orange waves. Below, he can feel the concrete melting under his feet. Flames burst from him like firecrackers, landing in scattered, smoldering pieces across the ground, leaving fiery holes where they lay. The heart is slowing, beating erratically. He can feel charred muscle under his thumbs, like a piece of meat that's been left on the barbecue for too long. The smell is overwhelming. His stomach churns, bile crawling up his throat. But he doesn't stop.

He focuses on the heart. On the chaos the Anuk Ite has caused. The death and fear that has taken over the town, swamping it with rage and terror. He thinks of the bodies piling up. The morgue that's never been so busy. The parents that have lost children and the children who've lost parents. He thinks of his nightly patrols, walking the streets knowing that at some point, he will be met with the worst humanity has to offer.

The orange glow he exudes changes; it becomes a brilliant and consuming blue.

As the heart in his hands crack open, his mind is filled with a face. One and then another and another. Not victims, but hosts. Going centuries back, it's left a trail of horror in its wake. Packs, families, whole towns decimated. Leashed only by Halwyn, an attempt to keep it from its never-ending destruction. But here, now, this would be its end.



Theo's gaze moves past the blistering blue of Parrish to see two figures across the parking lot. They lurch out of the tree line, stumbling across the pavement. They start at a walk before breaking into a jog and finally, they run full tilt toward the distracted hellhound.

"Who is that?"

Mason and Corey step forward, squinting ahead. "It looks like…"

"Aaron," Corey says. "He's a freshman."

"And that's Quinn. She was attacked by hunters back before we went into hiding…"

"Yeah, I don't think they are who you think they are…" Theo starts moving to intercept them. He has to circle around Parrish, who is giving off enough heat that he can see it distorting the air. It makes it hard to breathe for a moment, but Theo takes up a position between them and Parrish, his claws out and his teeth bared.

As they run toward him, they begin to change. Their skin, hair, and clothes molt away, leaving faceless bodies in their wake. Only these have mouths; a seam that splits from one side of their face to the other, showing off razor sharp teeth dripping gruesomely with viscous blood. The closer they get, the more he can feel it, the sensation of ice cold fear that climbs from his toes to the top of his head. A distant whisper reaches his ear— Tara. But he's fought this fight already and somehow, despite the odds, he won.

So, instead of letting it pull him down, instead of giving in to the grief and regret his sister offers him in spaces, Theo takes a deep breath and lets it out on an earth-shaking roar before launching himself toward them.

A burst of hot air hits his back, enough to scald his skin and shred his shirt. His feet skid to a stop as blue light fills the parking lot, bright enough to momentarily blind him. He closes his eyes against it and when he opens them, the faceless bodies are ash, floating harmlessly in the air. Theo turns around to see Parrish on his knees; in his hands, where a heart once lay, is a fine black dust.

Panting, Parrish looks up at Theo from bleary eyes, his skin a mottled pink. "I did it."

As he falls sideways, Corey and Mason hurry to catch him, wincing as his hot skin burns their fingers. While they tend to the hell hound, Theo sets his gaze back on where the Anuk Ite once was and lets out a shaky breath of relief. The sun has risen, a warm glow against his cheek, and he wonders if maybe this new beginning can signal more than just the end of the latest war. Maybe there can be peace for him after all.



On the lacrosse field, the potent smell of fear begins to ebb. The icy trickle of dread, a permanent fixture down all their spines, abates. In its wake, there is uncertainty. And with it, humanity.

The shifters stop just short of the hunters; everyone stares at each other, wary and confused.

"What the hell are you doing?" Monroe demands. "Shoot them!"

Whispers ricochet around the remaining hunters— doubt abounds.

Finally, someone says, "They're just kids."

"They're murderers!" Monroe yells. "Killers! All of them!"

A hunter points to a teenager a few people over from Scott, an arm wrapped around his bleeding waist. "I know that boy; he's friends with my son. I've known him since he was six years old. He couldn't hurt a fly!"

"And I know her," another hunter says, pointing to someone else. "Rebecca Rose. She's a high school freshman. Barely has her braces off."

"That's my son…" A man breaks away from the hunters and races toward the shifters, gathering up a boy who's a good head taller than he is. "My— my boy… Oh, my boy."

"What are we doing?"

"I've known most of these people my whole life. I can't hurt them."

"Cowards!" Monroe spits.

Scott steps forward and throws his hands out in an attempt to cover the people at his back. "Stop and think! You're not scared anymore. You can do the right thing now…" Scott stares at her. "Is this really what you want to do? Hurt innocent people…"

Monroe shoves the man to her left out of the way and steps behind the gatling gun, aiming straight for Scott. "You're not innocent."

A gun cocks, the barrel aimed at Monroe. "Put it down," Melissa McCall tells her. "Or I'll put you down."

"Ah, ah, ah…" Gerard stands at her back. "I think we have ourselves a good old-fashioned stand-off, my dear."

"You shoot me if you have to." Melissa shakes her head. "She is not killing my son."

"If that's an invitation…"

Bang.

Scott's heart lurches in his chest. But it isn't his mother who slips to the ground in a lifeless heap. It's Gerard. And it's Argent who shot him.

Scott stares at him, mouth ajar.

"Told you," Malia mutters.

Part of their pack stands behind Argent— Lydia, Stiles, Derek, and Liam. The latter quickly begin gathering weapons. Most of the hunters release them without argument, some even drop them to the grass and step back, horrified at what they've done. Others offer theirs begrudgingly; a reminder that while fear may have motivated them, they were scared for a reason. The shifters return to the bodies behind them, looking for survivors, for friends and family and anybody they can help. Slowly, some of the humans join them.

Argent zip-ties Monroe's wrists and pushes her down until she sits in the grass. As soon as she's subdued, Melissa lets her gun drop. Her shoulders slump soon after and then she's rushing across the field to gather Scott in a hug.

He leans into her, relief filling him from head to toe.

"Do you have any idea how lucky you are?" Her voice is thick and edged with hysteria. "Huh? Do you?"

"Yeah. I do." He squeezes her. "I'm sorry."

She steps back to stare at him seriously. "We'll talk about it later."

Scott nods.

"Scott!" Stiles is moving toward him, eating up the field in long strides. Lydia is right behind him, grabbing Malia into a hug in the same moment that Stiles wraps his arms around Scott. "I wasn't sure… I didn't think you'd…"

"I know." Scott claps Stiles' back. "But I'm okay. We both are." He turns his head to see Malia over Stiles' shoulder. She smiles back at him and he nods before asking, "Mason and Corey?"

"They found a heart," Stiles says. "Brought it to Parrish to work his Hellhound magic and here we are…"

He breathes out, nodding. "So, that's it? It's over."

"Looks like it."

Scott leans back, looking grim. "It didn't end too peacefully."

"You tried." Stiles claps his shoulder. "I know you did."

Scott did, he knows that. He just wishes it was enough.



At some point, while the wounded are being carted off to the hospital or returning to their packs to take care of themselves, Malia slips away. Her pack is occupied with victims; keeping them calm and helping with their pain while they wait for ambulances and medics to arrive. Scott is busy with his dad— the blockade that kept people out of Beacon Hills was taken down, letting Rafael McCall through to both check on Scott and to deal with whoever he can. Overwhelmed, Malia leaves. She makes a pit-stop at the clinic to see Deaton about the aching wounds on her back before making her way to where she really wants to be.

A couple years ago, she might've snuck away to her den and hid there. She would have welcomed the comfort of her fur and the home she'd kept for so long. It would be so easy, too. To slip away from the responsibility and pain of what had happened and just sink into her hindbrain and hide from it all. This time, however, she finds herself standing in Scott's room at the safe house.

They're free to go elsewhere now. The town has been expunged of its fear and the violence it created. It doesn't mean everything's perfect. The town is all too aware of shifters and the supernatural world; there's no going back from that. She overheard Argent and Sheriff Stilinski talking about having some kind of town meeting to answer questions and help everyone come to grips with this new awareness. For Malia, it all seems a little too much too soon. She's still reeling from her capture and the war and the outcome she honestly wasn't expecting.

It's morning outside, sunny and bright, but wood slats still cover the safe house windows, blocking most of it out. Malia sits on the edge of the bed, staring at the shafts of light that cross the floor. It's a strange feeling to realize it's over. After six long weeks and a hellish final battle, they won. She's relieved, despite the fact that so many are either injured or dead. It could've been so much worse. But her pack survived, just like she'd hoped. Even her. Maybe that's the most startling part of it all. It leaves her shaken and confused and completely unsure what to do with those feelings.

"Hey… I thought I'd find you here."

Malia looks up to find Scott standing in the doorway. "Hey."

He walks toward her slowly, head cocked, and gaze gentle. "You okay?"

She shrugs.

"Deaton check you out?"

"Yeah. He picked out the rest of the buckshot before he went to the hospital to help there. I'll heal…" She reaches for her shoulder and turns her head, as if she can see the damage through the hoodie she's wearing. It was like she was on auto pilot once she reached the safe house. She'd simply gathered up some fresh clothes and hopped in the shower to try and wash away the blood, sweat, and tears of the last ten hours. It's not her hoodie; it's one of Scott's. It's a little big on her, bright red, and one of his favorites. It's comfy. She tells herself that's why she picked it, but she knows that's not entirely true. Dropping her hands to her lap, she picks at the ends of her sleeves.

He comes to a stop in front of her and then lowers himself until he's kneeling, looking up to catch her eyes. There's something guileless about Scott's face. It might be her favorite thing about him. The honesty and sincerity that bleeds from him so freely. As if to be anything but who he is, to act on anything that he doesn't believe in, is so far beyond him that he doesn't even think to hide what others might see as a weakness.

"I need you to talk to me," he says. "A lot happened and a lot was said and… I need to know what I can do to help you through it."

Malia chews on the inside of her cheek. "I don't know what to say."

"You've had a couple near-death experiences, it's normal to be scared or angry or… something."

Malia isn't sure what she is. Mostly, she thinks she's just trying to process it all. Because, for a while there, she truly thought she was going to die. In fact, she attempted to make her own death happen in an effort to save others. And now that it's over, the reality of that is crashing on top of her.

"I…" Her throat burns and she swallows tightly. "The first time… When they caught me in the woods, it was just instinct. Attack the attacker. And Theo, he was trying to bargain with this— this scared kid. But, everything he was saying, about using us to get to you, I knew he was right. That's exactly what they would do. And I couldn't…" She shakes her head. "It wasn't even the kid that shot me. It was one of Monroe's hunters. They came up from behind. The next thing I remember, I'm on some make-shift surgical table with some pain-freak playing doctor. But, Monroe was there. She was so smug, like she was so close to victory, and all I wanted to do was claw her eyes out…" Her own eyes flare with anger, but she tamps it down and rubs at her nose, sniffling.

"I knew they'd keep me alive. They needed me at that point. The whole time I was there, I just kept hoping… Not to die, not exactly. Just that something would happen, that you'd know to stay away. But then we were in that van and we were on our way to the field, and I knew. I knew you'd come, because that's just… who you are. And I remember thinking about what it must've been like for you, sitting in that library, dying. Did you hope we would come or that we'd stay away? Because I didn't want you to come. I didn't want to see you walk out onto the field just to die… So, I thought—" Her breath seizes for a moment. "I thought if you just knew… If you thought I was dead… That you would stop." She blinks quickly against the tears that burn her eyes. "And I attacked them. I fought them, because I knew, if I was exactly what they thought I was, they'd kill me. And if I was dead, you'd be safe."

"Malia…" He reaches for her, cupping her face, his thumbs gently wiping away the tears that slip down her cheeks.

"I told them to do it. I- I told them to pull the trigger." She nods, her eyes wide and her heart thumping hard in her chest. "I told myself that it was okay, but—"

"It wasn't." He pulls her down until she's kneeling with him, and he strokes his hands through her hair. "I don't ever want you to feel like… like my life is more important than yours. Or like you have to sacrifice yourself for everybody around you." He shakes his head. "I made a stupid choice in that library. I was tired and scared and I let that control me. But that's not how it should be. I want to help people, and I always will, but never at the expense of you. Not at anyone's expense."

She stares at him searchingly, her mouth wobbling. "What does that mean? For us and… and for the pack?"

"It means… It means, I'm human. I make mistakes. I don't always do the right thing." His hands slide down to her shoulders and squeeze. "Malia, I didn't walk out onto that field because I'm some kind of martyr. I did it because… I love you. Because from the moment I realized you were hurt, that they had you, I was lost. I was angry and terrified and there was nothing I could do to make it better. I had to rely on the pack to try and find you, on Corey and Mason to come up with a back-up plan, on Monroe not to kill you. I had to trust Theo to do the right thing. And I had to believe that you would do whatever you could to survive, because that's who you are. And I love that about you. I know it seems like I'm willing to sacrifice myself for just about anybody, but usually I go into things thinking there's some way out of it…" He shrugs. "I really hoped that Corey and Mason would figure the Anuk Ite thing out. I hoped, somehow, the humans would snap out of it or the pack would find a way to save us. But, if they didn't, then at least I knew I'd see you again."

"I'm just so…" Malia blinks quickly. "Sick of all of it. All the fighting and the almost dying and the hiding. I just… I want to live and see the world and just be… happy. But I'm scared that, no matter what we do, we're never going to get that."

"I know. I am, too." His hands find hers and fold their fingers together. "Which is why I think we should go… The Anuk Ite is destroyed. My dad took Monroe into custody. The town is putting itself back together. So, I think we should leave."

"Go where?"

"I talked to Peter this morning. I guess Derek let him know what happened. He's not my favorite person, but he does feel like he owes you something after everything that's happened. So, he said, if you want, he'd pay for your trip to Paris. And, if you'll have me, I'd like to come, too."

Her brow furrows. "What about Davis?"

"I'll defer until January. I've already missed six weeks of classes, I might as well put it off a little longer. That gives us some time to get away, see what Paris has to offer. We can come back for Christmas, visit my mom, have your dad over for dinner…" He grins. "It's a major holiday, after all."

Malia's heart lightens and a grin forms on her lips. "We're really going to do this?"

Scott nods. "Yeah, I think we are."

She lets out a giggle of excitement. But then she remembers something and it sets her sitting back on her heels for a moment.

"What's wrong?" Scott stares at her searchingly. "Is it the Peter thing? Because he offered. Apparently, he owns an apartment over there, he said we could stay there while we're—"

"Allison," she says abruptly.

Scott pauses and blinks. "What about Allison?"

"I… You said…" She folds up her mouth and sighs through her nose. "When I found you in the library, I panicked and I just picked you up and started running. I thought if I could just get you to the clinic… But then, Stiles and Derek were there in the jeep, which was a lot more logical. Anyway, it didn't look good for you. You lost so much blood and I could barely hear your heart. But… I asked you… I begged you to hold on and you…" Her brow furrows. "You said—"

"I said her name." Realization dawns and he half-smiles knowingly. "Malia…"

"I'm not going to hold it against you. Or I don't want to. I know that she was your first love and when she died… I know what she means to you. And maybe, when you were dying—"

"No." He shakes his head. "It was never about that. It was never… I wasn't letting go because I thought it'd bring me back to her or something. I wasn't even thinking of Allison. Not really. But, when I died— or at least, if felt like I died— she was there. And she… She told me to hold on, that you were coming." He squeezes her hands. "I do love Allison. I always will. But, I'm not in love with her. She was an important part of my life. And losing her that way, it still hurts. I feel like it's my fault. If I'd just done something, if I'd never met her at all, maybe she'd still be here. I don't know. But I know that when I was dying, the only voice I wanted to hear was yours. And I tried, really hard, to tell you that when it was happening, but… I took too long."

"So, you're not… You don't…" She frowns, unsure how to put these feelings and insecurities into words.

"Allison was a big part of my life. So was Kira. But I'm with you because I want to be. Because you make me happy. And because… when I think of my future, you're there. I know we talked about it like it was a dream. Maybe we never thought it could really happen. But, I think we could do it." He meets her eyes. "I want to try."

Malia takes a deep breath and nods, smiling slowly. "Okay."

He grins. "Yeah?"

She nods. "Yeah."

He leans in then, his mouth hovering just short of hers.

Malia crosses the last bit of space between them and kisses him. A culmination of fear and relief makes it a little rough, her arms winding around his neck and her teeth scraping at his lips. She presses against him, until he tumbles backwards, laughing as he lands on the floor with her on top of him. She grins, straddling his waist, and dips her head to kiss him again. His hands slide up her back, pulling her as close as she can get. With the comfort of knowing their friends and family and pack are all safe, they lose themselves in each other, content to forget everything and everyone else.

It's a few minutes of messy, lazy making out before she yawns, breaking up the moment, and Scott laughs. "Come on…" He sits up, bringing her with him, and flops onto the bed. "It's been a long night. I think we deserve a nap."

Amused, Malia sprawls out beside him. "You don't think the pack will come looking for us?"

"They're busy. Besides, they know we're okay." He nuzzles his nose against her cheek and kisses the corner of her mouth. "Just a short nap, then we'll find them."

She stares at him a moment, his eyes already closed. Pressing a kiss to his forehead, she snuggles against him, and closes her own eyes. A nap doesn't sound so bad.



When Scott and Malia make it to his house that afternoon, the pack is hanging out in the living room. Mason is telling the story of Theo getting the Anuk Ite heart out of the wall and Parrish destroying it to a rapt Stiles. Lydia is explaining to Argent and Sheriff Stilinski about how she would put together a supernatural Q and A with the townspeople. Liam and Corey are bickering over the last slice of pizza, despite the fact that Scott can smell another one baking in the oven. And his mom is on the phone with his dad, promising him that as soon as she sees Scott, she'll have him call.

Malia looks up at him, a little more well-rested since they had a chance to sleep. Their hands hang between them, tangled together. He gives hers a squeeze as they walk deeper into the living room.

"Hey!" Stiles looks up, a plate of half-eaten pizza in his lap. "We called you guys hours ago. Where've you been?"

"Sleeping." Scott makes his way over to an arm chair and falls into it happily, with Malia taking a seat on the arm next to him. His hand falls to her knee and hers covers it. "You get everything figured out?"

"Parrish is back at the station. We've had more than a few people voluntarily turn themselves in for what happened these last six weeks." Sheriff Stilinski sighs. "We're still trying to figure out how we're going to deal with it. As much as this Anuk-whatever was affecting them, they still hurt, even killed, a lot of people…"

Scott nods. "So, what are you going to do?"

He shrugs. "Take it on a case-by-case basis, see what we can do…"

"The hospital is packed. Morgue doesn't have enough room for both the bodies in the library and the field." Melissa grimaces. "You ask me, we'll probably get more than a few people checking them in for psych evals in the coming weeks."

"Your dad's kept things mostly off the FBI's radar, but…" Stiles shrugs. "All it takes is one person to spill the supernatural beans."

"Where's Derek?" Malia wonders.

"He took off this morning," Lydia answers. "Braeden called. Looks like Derek has a new baby girl."

Scott grins. "Good for him."

"I should call him…" Malia stands and makes her way into the kitchen for privacy.

Scott watches her go before eventually turning his attention back to the room to find many of them grinning. "What?"

"So, you finally made it official then." Lydia raises an eyebrow. "What took you so long?"

His brow furrowed. "You all knew?"

"Most of us are shifters. We could hear you." Liam rolls his eyes before muttering, "Half the town could probably hear you…"

Scott purses his lips. "We thought we were being, I don't know, subtle."

"You failed." Mason grins. "But, congratulations. You guys are pretty great together."

"When you're not Romeo and Julietting all over the place," Stiles says, but his smile is friendly.

Scott drums his hands against the arms of his chair. "I guess this is a good time to tell you that Malia and I are going to Paris…"

"What?"

"When?"

"With whose money?"

He smiles. "Peter's. We have a place to stay and… I think it'll be good, for both of us. We need to get away from here for a while." To his mom, he says, "Don't worry, though. I still plan on going to Davis. I just… need a break."

His mom stares at him a long moment and then nods. "Okay. It's not exactly what I had planned for you post-high school, but… I trust you. And you deserve this. You've been playing hero around here a while. You deserve some time off."

"Thanks." He looks around at the rest of them. "I know it's a little soon and you probably need some help around here—"

"No, your mom's right." Lydia shakes her head. "We can handle things here. Don't even worry about it."

Unsure, he looks around, checking in with each of them, but no one puts up a fight. Instead, all of them look happy for him. "Okay, but if you need anything…"

Lydia rolls her eyes. "We'll handle it."

Scott grins. "I know you will."

Malia makes her way back into the living room then and, seeing how they're all staring at her, she frowns. "What?"

"I told them about Paris."

"Oh." She shrugs and crosses to take a seat beside him once more. "Why are they smiling funny?"

"Apparently we sucked at hiding our relationship."

Malia hums. "Derek knew like three weeks in."

"What?" Stiles squawked. "He didn't even say anything!"

While the rest of the pack starts bickering about who figured it out first and how, Scott looks up at Malia. She slides off the arm of the chair and into his lap, resting her back against his chest. "Hey."

"Hey." He hugs his arms around her and drops his chin to her shoulder. "I love you."

A smile pulls at her mouth. "I love you, too."

"I'm gonna say it so much you're gonna get sick of it…" He grins. "Like, all the time. An annoying amount of love."

Malia's nose scrunches up and she drops her forehead against his. "I can take it."

He kisses her, and laughs, waving a hand as the room erupts in teasing cheers and whistles.

This, he thinks. This makes all of it worth it.



Two days later, Malia loads the last of their bags into the trunk of her car while Scott says goodbye to his mother, promising to call often and check in. A town meeting is scheduled for the end of the week. She knows Scott feels a little bad he won't be there to answer questions personally, but he deserves this. They both do.

"Leaving already?"

Malia looks up, unsurprised to find Theo walking toward her. "Why am I not surprised you're showing up after most of the clean up's done?"

"I'm not much of a cleaner…" He crosses his arms over his chest loosely. "Dunbar mentioned you and Scott were taking off to Paris today."

She nods and closes the trunk. "And you thought you'd drop by to tell us to have a nice trip?"

"Something like that, yeah." He shifts his feet and looks away. "About everything that happened… I know you blame me for Monroe taking you hostage—"

"I don't," she interrupts. "I was pissed at first, that you were bargaining with them, but… You made the right choice. It probably saved my life."

His brows hike. "Probably?'

"All right, it did." She rolls her eyes. "Of course, it also could've gotten me and Scott killed, so I wouldn't get too excited if I were you."

He ducks his head as he laughs. "You're always good for keeping my ego in check, you know that?"

"Someone has to." She tosses her keys from one hand to the other. "Why are you really here, Theo?"

He stares at her a beat. "Is it that hard to believe that maybe I wanted to see for myself that you were okay?"

She searches his face and frowns. "Corey and Mason told me you had some kind of blow out at Eichen House. Looked like you went toe to toe with something pretty intense."

His face falls; gone is the snark and confidence of before. "Yeah, well, I had some demons I needed to work through."

Malia nods. "I can't forgive you for what you did to your sister. That's not my place. And I can't forgive you for what you did to Scott… That has to come from him. I guess I could forgive you for shooting me in the stomach, but I'd be lying if I said I did."

He half-smiles, not at all surprised.

"But…" She stares at him. "What you did, risking your life to try and help me and Scott. Fighting instead of running… It's a step."

"Toward what?" he wonders.

"Redemption."

He stares back at her and swallows tightly. "Not sure that's my really my thing."

"Me either," she agrees. "But if you ever felt like trying… You might not totally suck at it."

He grins then and raises an eyebrow. "Is that an invitation into your pack?"

"Hardly." She scoffs. "Besides, you really wanna be pack with us? Our rules generally conflict with yours."

"Yeah, they do." He nods. "But you guys might be onto something."

Malia hums. "It takes some getting used to. It's worth it, though. To be a part of this."

"And Scott?"

"What about him?"

Theo stares at her knowingly. "He's the reason you were in the woods, right? Why you were distracted and crying?"

Malia clenches her teeth. "We worked that out."

"Good." He even sounds like he means it. "He's good for you. And you're good for him. Maybe if I had more people around me like him when I was growing up, I would've turned out differently." He smirks then. "Or maybe not. I don't know."

Malia doesn't feel like unpacking all of Theo's many issues. Instead, she wonders, "Where will you go?"

"Haven't figured it out yet." He draws his hood up over his head then and winks. "But, I will."

As he leaves, Malia hears the front door open. She turns to watch Scott and Melissa cross the porch.

"Mom, I'll be fine. Really. If anybody should be worried, it's me. Beacon Hills hasn't exactly attracted the best people in the last few years."

Melissa waves a dismissive hand. "You know me, I'll be fine."

"It helps that she's hooking up with a hunter," Malia calls out.

Scott grimaces. "Not words I ever wanted to hear in reference to my mom…"

"Yeah, well, get over it." Melissa pokes his shoulder. "Come on. One more hug."

"That's like the sixth 'last' hug you've given me since I started packing."

"You almost died two days ago, I think I deserve this." She pulls him in and then waves a hand. "Malia, you too."

Leaving the car, Malia makes her way up the porch and lets herself be absorbed into the McCall's affectionate farewell, her arms looping around their waists and her chin resting on Melissa's shoulder as she grins. They stand like that for a good few minutes before Scott says, "We really do have a flight to catch."

"Fine." With a resigned sigh, Melissa lets them, but drops a kiss on Malia's head before cupping Scott's face. "I want a call as soon as you land. And if anything happens, I mean anything, if you even half-way recognize someone in the street, I want to know."

"Mom…"

"You have enemies. We're not the only town with hunters, okay? So, just, remember that and do this for me."

He stares at her a moment and then nods. "Okay. You're right. We'll call. Regularly. And the same goes for you. If anything starts going weird around here—"

"I know." She kisses his forehead then and rubs her thumb against his cheek. "Drive safely."

"We will." Scott moves down the stairs then, taking Malia's hand as he goes, drawing her along with him.

Malia waves at Melissa, smiling warmly, and follows Scott to the car.

They honk as they pull away. Melissa lingers on the porch, waving at them until they're out of sight. The drive through town is a reminder of just how much rebuilding still needs to happen. Scattered buildings, stores, and houses are just burnt out husks. But there are people everywhere, no longer hiding in fear. Instead, they're coming together to try and put things right. The school hasn't reopened and likely won't for a while yet. But steps are being taken in the right direction and, for that, Malia's relieved.

They pass a sign that reads, 'You are now leaving Beacon Hills,' as they pull onto the highway. There's something both sad and encouraging about it. In a couple hours, they'll be on a flight for Paris, far away from every terrible thing that's been chasing at their heels for years now. They'll be free.

In the same vein, however, she knows that distance won't change everything. Two days ago, they were in the thick of war. They can't just fly away from those feelings or memories. In the weeks and months and years to come, she'll find herself remembering what happened and how close they came to dying. She'll wake up in a cold sweat, thinking she's right back there. Locked in a cell, bound in chains, waiting for death. Standing in a blood-soaked field, surrounded by the dead and dying.

Scott's hand find hers, folding their fingers. "You okay?"

She glanced at him, half-smiling. "Just nervous."

"Me, too."

Malia lets out a slow, shaky breath. "I'm happy we're doing this."

He grins. "Yeah? You're not mad I'm tagging along on your Paris trip?"

"No, not at all. I'm glad you're here… I wouldn't want to do this with anyone else." Her eyes fall for a moment, before she tells him, "I don't know what happens after this. I know there are things that I want. But a part of me is still scared that tomorrow I'm going to wake up and something else will be waiting around the corner. I don't want our lives to be one big fight after the other, even if we do get an occasional trip to Paris to change things up."

"I know. I don't want that either." Scott nods. "I don't know what's coming. I wish I did, so we could prepare. All we can really do is live our lives and hope for the best."

Her brow furrows. "Is that enough?"

"We only have a few options. We either try to have a good life and take the bad when it comes or we live in fear. I don't want to do that. I'm not gonna lie, I get tired sometimes. When it feels like nothing ever changes, I feel like giving up. But then I remember you and my mom and our pack. And I think the best thing we can do is lean on each other. When we're scared or we're not sure we can do it, we have to talk about it." He rubbed his thumb along hers. "And I think you had a good idea before. We can set goals and have dreams and we can work toward them. Maybe they won't all come true, but I don't want to stop hoping they will."

Chewing her lip, she nods. "I like that."

"Yeah?"

She smiles at him. "Yeah."

Scott lifts their hands then and presses a kiss to her fingers. Her heart jumps and warms.

Taking a deep breath, Malia looks ahead, to an open road. The war is won, this one at least. Maybe there are more to come. She can't know for sure. She does know that she has Scott. That despite whatever odds they face, they and their pack have fought and survived before and likely will again. And a future that was once just a distant dream is now in reach, so she is going to do everything in her power to enjoy it.