Melissa is married and eight-months pregnant when the name appears on her wrist. It hits her like a bolt of lightning, and she drops the glass of OJ she was drinking. She watches it spill all over the floor, sticking to the dirtier patches on the surface she can no longer scrub. She watches the shards of glass dance in the light, and takes them for some kind of omen.
Przemyslaw, she thinks, traces, though she can’t begin to pronounce it.
(Stiles’s, she will find out later, is on his chest, just over his heart. Hidden, but betraying its sincerity.)
Rafe is an ass about it, unsurprisingly. In her more objective moments she supposes its because he thought they were in this together - both Loose Ends, trying to carve out their own life instead of the one destiny had chosen for them. It doesn’t make it easier to deal with. She’s uncomfortably pregnant and confused and baffled - she’ll be forty-two when her soulmate is eighteen, if she finds him at all.
Rafe comes around when Scott is born - tiny, squalling, Allison in thick lines on his calf - but its never the way it used to be.
The name Przemyslaw is Polish -- very Polish, Melissa has to practice -- and it stands to reason Melissa’s soulmate is as well. She doubts someone would have chosen the name otherwise. Could he be from actual Poland? Soulmates tend to come from the same general area, or at least the same continent… they tend to speak the same language too, but there’s no guarantee. And the age difference, god -- Melissa could have a platonic soul mate, of course, but the odds are against it. It feels like a bit of raw deal for her and the kid either way.
When Scott is nine Rafael gets transferred to Atlanta, and Melissa refuses to go. She likes to think she wouldn’t have stayed with him much longer, but she needs a push sometimes, a sign, and this seems to be it.
Rafael threatens to take Scott with him. “You think it wouldn’t be easy?” he asks. “With someone else’s name on your wrist?”
Legally, soul mate status shouldn’t make a bit of difference in custody battles, but Melissa isn’t that naive.
“Just try and take him,” she says, and she knows that its only in her head, but her wrist aches.
The first few years, Melissa looks for Przemyslaw everywhere. She guiltily skims Mate Bonding websites, reading ‘Looking For’ posts even though she knows its silly. Parents don’t look for their children’s bond names when they’re little unless they’re insane helicopter parents - Melissa intends to look over every Allison she comes across, but she won’t hunt the girl down - and even then there are so many liars and opportunists on websites like these, posting that she’s looking for a Przemyslaw is practically asking to get scammed.
It takes effort to put him out of her mind but she does it.
At some point, Melissa stops looking. She doesn't let herself. She wears a band over her wrist all the time, and she tries to date. She goes out with Loose Ends, like Rafe, like she thought she was once upon a time, and other people with bands, who don't feel like sharing the name of their soulmate with the world. Once or twice someone with a deceased soulmate, names gone white and uneven as scar tissue. People who don't care she wears her band all the time.
So far none of them have gone anywhere, but at least she tries.
Melissa never can quite remember the first time she met Stiles. It was probably when Scott was in the fifth grade, she thinks, the year he wanted to have his birthday party at the local roller rink-cum-arcade, even when she delicately explained the cost would mean hardly any presents. Somewhat surprisingly, even Stiles didn’t particularly stand out of a crowd of sugar high children on roller skates. Scott had him over for a sleepover maybe a month later, and Melissa remembers thinking how sweet and chubby-cheeked Stiles looked with short hair, mostly because it reminded her Scott needed a haircut.
She doesn’t specifically remember meeting either of Stiles’s parents. Of course she did at some point - she thinks she met John first, in the days when he was a Deputy - but when Claudia is diagnosed the Stilinskis become hospital fixtures. Stiles wandering the hospital corridors becomes a part of Melissa’s daily rounds. She watches him do his homework near Claudia’s bed, she watches the Sheriff slip Stiles dollars to buy snacks from the vending machine, she watches Claudia’s lucidity come and go. And when Claudia finally dies Stiles cries all over Melissa’s scrubs, choking, hands clutching her tightly.
[womp womp eventually it comes out they’re soul mates - the Sheriff doesn’t really put it together, or maybe doesn’t let himself, because even though Stiles was born with his name on his chest they weren’t really thinking his soul mate was 20+ years older. and real plot twist - Stiles actually figured it out a while before Melissa did, and sat on it a while.
The first time, Melissa is tired. She’s been at the hospital for one shift too many, one car wreck too many, all hands on deck and not enough sleep. She’s poured herself a generous helping of wine and settled in the ancient loveseat, the squeaky one with loose springs that cradles you just right every third Tuesday or so, if you’re lucky.
Stiles is there. Stiles is at the house often now, and not just when Scott is around. They don’t talk about it, the way he dogs her steps, the way he watches her, the way he wants.
She doesn’t remember what she said, if he asked about her night and she sighed, if she told him that he and Scott had better always wear their seatbelts or she’d kill them herself, if she said a too-sincere thank you when he refilled her wine glass unasked. But there’s a look that lasts a little too long, a moment that’s a little too pointed, and Stiles practically falls to his knees next to her.
“Stiles,” she says, “Przemyslaw,” perfect, even after all these years of keeping it only to herself.
‘Melissa’ comes to his lips easier, quicker, between breaths.
He goes down on her like it will hurt if he doesn’t, like if he doesn’t get his mouth on her now he’ll never get another chance. He’s kneeling on the scrubs he’d nearly torn off her, and she sinks her fingers into his hair just to touch him, to watch his eyes shudder closed and dart back up to her.
“Sweetheart,” she says, sweetheart, darling, soulmate, Stiles, with his smart tongue and his eager mouth soft and reddened and open for her. He shivers hard when she comes, nearly shakes apart, like she’s the one thing holding him together.