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Make This Place Your Home

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Just know you're not alone

Cause I'm gonna make this place your home

- Phillip Phillips 

 They are six years old the first time one of their parents' friends says they're sure that Melissa and John are going to end up married.

Both children loudly exclaim to the contrary, springing away from each other and shooting the offender of such a heinous suggestion a matching expressions of shock and disgust. There is laughter and teasing and eventually the topic is dropped. Melissa and John aren't in love. That's just ridiculous.

They are twelve years old when they decide that should they end up grown up without anyone else in their lives, Melissa and John are going to move in together. She is lying on her back staring at the sky while he bounces a green rubber ball off the fence separating their back yards. John laughs at the suggestion at first, sure she is kidding. But when Melissa's earnest expression doesn't change, his own face turns to something more serious, and he walks over and flops down next to her.

“Yeah okay,” John says, his upper arm just brushing hers. “Best friends forever?” It's childish but it's almost dusk and it's chilly outside and she seems off for some reason and he has to say it.

“Best friends forever,” she agrees. Melissa links her pinky with John's and they stare at the myriad colors of the sunset sky until her mother calls out the back door that if they don't come in soon they're going to be too tired to finish their movie.

Melissa thinks that if she is gonna spend the rest of her life with someone it might as well be John.

John thinks that forever doesn't sound too bad if it's Melissa and nobody's expecting them to start kissing or something.

They are seventeen years old when Melissa starts dating Rafael McCall. John takes an immediate dislike to him, but Melissa seems happy and so he lets it go. She still eats dinner with him roughly twice a week, and he still watches movies at her house. Nothing seems to have changed, except Melissa is gone more.

She smiles more too though, so John figures it evens out.

They are eighteen years old when John and Melissa start college together. They are in the undergrad dorms for a year before getting an apartment together, both of them working part time jobs as well as scholarships and student loans. It isn't much but it's all theirs and it's home.

Besides, Claudia From Downstairs is really cute, and Melissa keeps teasing him about her, but John actually plans on asking her out this time, he really does.

They are twenty years old when Melissa moves in with Rafael. Claudia From Downstairs agreed to dinner with John and they've been dating for a year, so that softens the feeling of loneliness, but he still retains that instant dislike of the man his best friend is in love with, that sense that something about him is Wrong. But again, he lets it go. Because Melissa is happy and also he is happy and he probably is reading too much into it except that he isn't.

Later he will be sure it was his fault for not noticing how she stopped smiling. He was distracted, imagining a future with Claudia From Downstairs, daydreaming so deeply he forgot about the future he imagined with Melissa at dusk on a Friday when they were twelve.

They are twenty two years old when Melissa gets married. Rafael's been pressuring her about it for about two years, and she finally caves, though elaborate events have never been her thing. John is her Maid of Honor even though his brother teases him mercilessly about it, but this is Melissa's wedding, and he stands proudly at her side as she says her vows.

After that she starts to smile again, and she and Claudia giggle quietly over their plates at shared dinners between the four of them. John cannot bring himself to laugh with Rafael. The man's grin never reaches his eyes.

Melissa catches John's gaze across the table and hers does reach her eyes, so again he tries to just let go.

They are twenty four years old when Melissa tells him with stars in her eyes that she is pregnant, curls bouncing around her face while she smiles at him. John picks her up and twirls her around, hugging her tightly. He can tell how happy she is. Rafael seems happy too.

He proposes to Claudia a month later, spontaneously, when she nervously hands him the white stick with the pink plus on it. They settle into the delighted haze of something unplanned but wonderful. John tells Melissa the next day, with Claudia's permission, and though she cannot physically lift and twirl him, he knows that her joyful enthusiasm is just as great as his was.

They are twenty five years old when their children are born, almost exactly one month apart.

Melissa says to him as she is rocking Scott that she hopes they and up just like her and John. He says he hopes so too. He's pretty sure they will.

They are thirty years old when Melissa kicks Rafael out of the house the first time. Three years later he is gone in the middle of the night and Melissa shows up on his doorstep and Scott spends the night in Stiles' room, while his mother sits on the couch downstairs and doesn't cry, just stares rather blankly at a wall. John does cry, but he cries in the morning, when the hospital calls and says that Claudia, who has been sick for far too long, has died.

Scott is asleep and so is Stiles and they sit on the couch and hold each other while he cries and she Doesn't Cry and everything is breaking. He says it is not her fault, that she couldn't have known what would happen, and she says it is not his fault, that he couldn't have known what would happen.

They wish they were twelve years old again but they are not. They are the adults now, and nobody ever taught them how to break, so they try and hold each other together.


They are thirty three years old when Melissa holds John's hand at his wife's funeral.


They are thirty three years old when John holds Melissa's hand as she signs the divorce papers.

They are thirty four years old when John and Melissa sit at Melissa's kitchen table, silently contemplating the idea they've both been thinking for a year but neither have said.

“We don't have to do this on our own,” John says, and his voice is soft. Melissa's hand is softer where it suddenly lays over his.

“We could do this together,” she agrees, and her eyes are solemn. She is as serious as she was when she was twelve and unknowingly told their future in her backyard. So is he. They start moving their things into Melissa and Scott's house, which is bigger than John and Stiles', the next day.

It's easier this way. After a while people stop judging (out loud), stop asking when they're getting married (in front of them).

Nobody ever believes either of them when they insist that no they really aren't in love, at least not the way everyone seems to think. It's enough for them, and it's enough for their kids.

It takes Scott and Stiles a bit to adjust. Melissa isn't Claudia, but she never tries to be, and Stiles always wanted Scott as a brother. John isn't Rafael, but that's a blessing, and Scott really doesn't mind sharing his room with his best friend.

It works out well for them, even if it's a bit unconventional to everybody else.

They are ten years old when Stiles nervously sits on Scott's bed, looks his best friend (his brother now, he reminds himself) in the eye, and says, in a nervous voice that shakes like his voice never does, “Scott, I'm a boy.” His hands shake in the pockets of his oversized hoodie as he watches Scott process this information. Then Scott smiles and says this changes nothing, Stiles is still his best friend.

“Really? You mean it? You don't think I'm...” The words stick in his throat and he swallows at the lump there, tries not to cry.

“Course. I don't mind having a brother instead of a sister.”

And Scott hugs him and says everything is going to be okay cause Stiles looks like he's about to burst into tears, and by the way, what does he want Scott to call him?

Not Katherine. Katherine is not his name and he knows it because that's a girl's name, and Stiles is not a girl. So he thinks about it for a second and blurts out 'Stiles', which had been a five year old Scott's first botched attempt at pronouncing his last name and stuck on as a nickname.

Later that week, with Scott next to him in a solid pillar of support, clutching his hand like Melissa had clutched John's the day they told their kids they were moving in, Stiles goes first to his father, then to Scott's mother, and by the next year everyone knew, and no one calls him Katherine any more.

He asks his father, in a shy, quiet voice, if he would please give Stiles a new name, because they need something to put on records, and a nickname won't do for that. John panics at this responsibility and says, without thinking, his grandfather's name, which is what he and Claudia had picked for a boy's name. It's hardly pronounceable, and nobody can spell it for the life of them, but Stiles beams and says he loves it.

Everybody just calls him Stiles still, but that doesn't stop a tiny smile spreading across his face every time a teacher stops at a dead halt when they get to his name on the attendance chart.

They are eleven years old when they decide, as a family, to file the adoption papers. Scott asks his mom why, if John was gonna be his dad and she was gonna be Stiles' mom, weren't they getting married. Melissa smiles ruefully, she knew this question was going to come up eventually, and explains to him that not every family was the same, and all he needs to know was that John loves them both very much.

“Baby, people love each other in different ways. The way me and John love each other is different than the way Lionel's parents love each other. It's pretty simple.”

Scott looks affronted and for a second Melissa is struck with a spear of worry, until he says, in an indignant tone, that his friend wants to be called Lydia and she is a girl thanks very much.

“Oh, I'm sorry. I'll remember that next time. Anyway, we love each other different than Lydia's parents love each other, and different than you and Stiles love each other. All kinds of love are different, Scott. Doesn't make any one kind any more or less important, and it doesn't make us any less of a family.”

Her son nods thoughtfully, kisses her cheek, and runs off. Melissa shakes her head at him as he goes and turns back to her papers.

They are twelve years old when Scott and Stiles have shared a mom and dad for three years and a couple of months. Once more they sit on Scott's bed, and he can't help remember the last time his brother had looked at him like that, when they were ten. This conversation is different than the last one, but it is also important, as they speak in quiet, short sentences about a report they're doing for school, about their family.

Stiles wonders if his mother, watching him from wherever she was now, would hate him if he called Melissa mom.

Scott wonders if John, sitting in the living room and reading a newspaper, would hate him if he called him dad.

Talking about their situation goes late past bedtime, and both of them end up turning in the project late, not having any words for when the teacher asked why neither of them had handed anything in. Melissa comes home that night and finds Scott sitting at the kitchen table, hands twisting around each other. He is nervous and his eyes are reddened slightly, like he hasn't been sleeping, or like he's about to cry.

She asks him where Stiles is and he tells her he's asleep in their room, and then he blurts it out quickly, words slurred together. Now Melissa is the one trying not to cry, a whoosh of breath passing slightly parted lips as her twelve year old son asks her if John is gonna hurt them or leave if he accidentally calls him dad. Without answering she holds him close to her, lips pressed to his head, a dull roar in her ears. There is no answer she has to offer him.

John holds her later that night, tells her this is not their fault, they couldn't have known what would happen. They are good parents. They love their kids.

Miss Rasheed gives the full credit when they finally turn in their projects, much longer than the requested two pages, detailing what mom and dad means to them, how their patchwork quilt family was sewn together. The boys in her third period class were confusing to her, but they all knew the story. She tells Scott he could be a writer. His words flow beautifully.

They are fifteen years old when Danny Malhealani starts a club called Haven, which is basically a support group for kids who aren't straight or who are trans. Lydia Martin and Stiles join immediately. So does Jackson Whittemore, to the surprise of all around. It's assumed that he joins because he's Danny's best friend, but he's still a straight boy, which makes Lydia nervous, and the others agree with her. Only Danny seems relaxed and safe, but he won't say a word about why, so the general consensus changes from straight to closeted. Beacon Hills has a fully functional gossip chain, and it loves things like this.

The situation with Jackson peaks the day someone eavesdrops on him and Danny, talking on a park bench, Jackson distraught and on the edge of panic because he 'told them' and 'it didn't go well'. This conversation ends with a muffled comment that may have been a relieved and grateful 'love you', and the rumor mill runs wild off that until one day Danny, with permission from Jackson and the help of his first boyfriend Andre, pointedly sticks flyers explaining what 'aromantic' means up on the involved parties' lockers. People shut up after that. Haven gained a new member, too.

The day after Scott asks Stiles as they're doing their homework if it's normal to like both boys and girls, he shows up at Haven with nervously wringing hands. They smile at him and tell him there's a word for him too, and he understands for the first time why it's called 'Haven'.

They are fifteen years old when Isaac Lahey becomes the talk of the school. One day when picking the boys up at Haven, Jackson pulls John aside with a tremble in his fingers and fear in his eyes. Isaac hadn't shown up for school that day and nobody has said anything about it because everyone assumed he was sick.

Isaac is quiet and kinda shy but sarcastic and entertaining when you spent a good amount of time with him. Erica and Boyd had brought him over to sit with them at lunch one day and they've considered him a friend ever since.

The day has been strange, with Isaac missing and Jackson acting odd, and Danny and Lydia keep pulling him aside and talking in harsh voices, and then the afternoon rolls around and the news breaks. Isaac Lahey's father has been arrested and Isaac himself is in the hospital. He won't speak to anyone. He stares blankly ahead and says nothing.

Outside the hospital room John speaks quietly with Melissa, their sons sitting in the waiting room. This boy has been to their house, stayed the night several times. He is a friend of their children. There's a part of them that thinks this is their fault. That if they had looked a little closer, listened a little harder, that kid wouldn't have a bruise on his cheek matching one on his father's face that he'd earned during his arrest. He wouldn't be in the pediatric wing of the hospital at which Melissa worked. Isaac was a good kid. He didn't deserve any of this. Nobody deserved anything like this.

Melissa and John take him home with them, with the thought in mind that it's only for a few days. They're both certified foster parents, thanks to Claudia insisting that she and John do so, as she was adopted by the family that had fostered her. Melissa had done it because John had, and they'd kept up to date. There is nowhere else for Isaac to go right now, nobody in the area willing to take in a fifteen year old boy on such short notice. It's them or a group home.

He stays in the guest room.

They are sixteen years old when everybody admits it was never 'only for a few days'. Isaac's room is across the hall from Scott and Stiles'. Neither of them gets furious at him. Not even when he wakes the whole house in the middle of the night when he wakes feeling as if he's still locked inside a freezer screaming for help that won't come.

Help does come. Not in a way he had expected, but it does come. Melissa's hands are kind and gentle, like Scott's. Stiles has John's hands, strong and steady. He does not fear those hands, but shakes in their grasp, hoping this won't turn bad.

He doesn't cry. He screams, but he doesn't cry. Melissa is a little worried. He didn't cry the night his father was arrested, not at the subsequent trial, not any of the nights he wakes scared.

Until one day Melissa is teaching him how to drive, and her words are gentle and worried and affectionate. He parallel parks successfully for the first time and Melissa laughs out loud with the sheer joy of the situation, reaching over and hugging him. That is when he cries, with Melissa McCall laughs and tells him 'good job, honey!' and hugs him. She holds him tight, stroking his hair and whispering softly. It feels safe.

It feels like home.

They are sixteen years old when Isaac says he might not be straight, with a quaver in his voice suggesting that this is not a conversation he expects to end well for him. He talks quietly and says he doesn't know why but there's something wrong with him, he can't feel like that about anybody, doesn't want to kiss anyone, or do any of the other things the kids their age brag about. He refuses to look either of them in the eye until Scott smiles broadly and says that's okay, that one of the kids in Haven gave him a link about this stuff. Isaac comes to the next Haven meeting with them, spends most of it talking to Aisha, the girl who gave Scott the link about asexuality in the first place.

On Christmas, Scott and Stiles, identical grins on their faces, present him with a carved black stone ring.

“Aisha told me a lot of aces wear them, on their right middle fingers,” Scott says as he hands it to Isaac, who takes it with an unreadable expression. He stares at it for a moment then spontaneously walks a pace forward and wraps his left arm tight around Scott, his right reaching out and drawing Stiles close as well. If he was crying, neither of them said anything about it.

They are seventeen years old when Scott and Stiles officially have another brother. It's been years since Camden, and the word tastes strange on Isaac's tongue. Not in a bad way, though. He likes it.

After a while Isaac gets louder. Snarkier. He always has a smart comment ready for whatever situation is at hand. Melissa thinks he's hilarious. John groans that Stiles was enough sarcasm for one house already and he knows they've made progress when Isaac doesn't cringe and bow his head at the comment, but grins slightly. Shyly.

They are seventeen when Isaac is standing in the hallway, the first time Melissa yells up the stairs for Scott to 'get your brothers out of bed or you're all gonna be late'. She doesn't realize until a second or two after Isaac has walked right into the kitchen and hugged her hard, his back curved to bury his face in her shoulder, exactly why that sentence had been different. They were a couple of minutes late but she didn't really mind. A couple of weeks later the reciprocal 'mom' came near silently across a bowl of cereal. 'Dad' takes a bit longer, for reasons which John understands.

Melissa and John smile at each other at opposite ends of the table, Scott debating with Stiles over whether or not Mr. So and So really did have it out for all three of them while Isaac laughs at them.. He mouths 'I love you' at her and she mouths it back and it's unconventional and maybe it's strange, but it's theirs and it works.

They are forty three years old when Melissa and John watch their sons cross the stage and get their diplomas. This is not where they had planned on being, no way of telling they would end up here. Except maybe some part of them did know. Twelve years old, in Melissa's backyard. She looks at him when he's watching their boys, he looks at her as she's staring damp-eyed at the stage Scott, Stiles, Isaac, and all their friends are walking across.

Suddenly, they are twelve again.

Melissa thinks that if she is gonna spend the rest of her life with someone it might as well be John.

John thinks that forever doesn't sound too bad if it's Melissa and nobody's expecting them to start kissing or something.