The first time it happens, Kira blushes redder than Stiles’ favorite hoodie. Malia just gives her a serious look, raising their linked hands, and sagely explains, “This way we won’t get separated.”
That actually makes a fair amount of sense considering the masses of people, most of them much taller than Kira, wandering around while waiting for the Blink-182 concert to start. It’s outdoors, but the grassy park clearing is still packed, which only has Scott bouncing on his feet with excitement. Although that might also have something to do with the fact that they had to drive almost 5 hours to get to San Francisco, Kira reflects. Maybe he has to use the bathroom.
Derek grumbles under his breath, wrinkling his nose at every person who passes by and smells like weed. There are a lot.
Liam and Mason look starstruck, staring wide-eyed at everything, which Kira can understand. After living in New York, the Golden State City is nothing; but Liam and Mason are small pond fish suddenly realizing there’s a whole ocean waiting out there.
Stiles, on the other hand, just waves a hand in the air and tells Derek to do something Kira can’t repeat without blushing more with the stick apparently stuck up Derek’s ass.
She can barely hear this over the hammering of her own heart as Malia squeezes her hand. It’s not Kira’s fault, okay? Being a kitsune doesn’t magically make her impervious to attractive people. In fact, embracing her supernatural-ness and joining Scott’s pack has done the complete opposite by introducing Kira to a dozen people who could all easily be models. (She’s still 80% convinced the only reason Scott isn’t one is because of his crooked jaw, which, in Kira’s professional opinion, only adds to his charm. But whatever.)
And Malia? Kira actually had to reassess herself on the Kinsey scale because of her alone.
So when Malia beams and proceeds to drag Kira up front with Scott, Kira tries in vain to ignore the butterflies somersaulting in her stomach. Kira isn’t even sure if Malia knows what band they’re seeing tonight, but the werecoyote’s vibrating with excitement anyways. It’s kind of endearing, damn it. The sheer, unadulterated enthusiasm Malia shows just about any new human activity the pack has introduced her to—minus math—is practically infectious. Malia tends to wear her emotions on her sleeve, face revealing a vast spectrum ranging from frustration to joy. And Kira has gone and fallen in love with each and every one.
Kira manages not to let her disappointment show as Malia drops her hand when they reach Scott, but it’s a near thing. Not like Kira was committing the moment to memory or anything. Nope. Not at all.
When the lights dim and the screaming swells to a roar, Kira finds herself pressed up against Malia, whose arm is draped over Kira’s shoulders. The first guitar chords sing through the air as Kira glances up at Malia, watching the flashing lights dance across her ecstatic face and bright eyes. The sight takes her breath away, emblazons itself into her memory where the pounding music and exhilarating adrenaline should have been. Instead, she knows the things she’ll remember most are Malia’s curving mouth and light-splashed hair.
Kira sighs, but it’s drowned out by Scott belting Dick Lips at the top of his voice.
The second time it happens, Kira starts to get suspicious.
The cafeteria isn’t exactly what she’d consider crowded. Sure, the lunch line spills out the door and the tables resemble sardine cans with kids squished together in the usual high school hierarchy—populars in the middle with everyone else fanning outward in descending level of importance—but that’s normal. So Kira can’t help but, against her better judgement, cock her head questioningly at her and Malia’s joined hands.
“It’s a long way to the table?” tries Malia, offering a faint almost hopeful smile. She doesn’t drop Kira’s hand.
Even with Lydia gracing their friend group, the pack still scrounges around the outskirts of the cafeteria for a place to sit. Apparently one Lydia Martin isn’t enough to bring up their overall popularity average much. But Kira hardly thinks the 2 minute walk requires handholding.
Nevertheless, Kira holds her tongue and allows Malia, grinning, to lead her over.
Her palm is embarrassingly sweaty by the time they squeeze into the space left between Hayden and Mason, but Malia doesn’t seem to mind. She lets go of Kira’s hand at the table, but stays glued to Kira’s side for the whole 45 minute lunch period—thighs pressed together and shoulders nudging.
Torn between being overjoyed or terrified at their close proximity, Kira can’t even make a proper noise of complaint as Malia snags half of her tater tots from the tray. She’s too busy having a small mental breakdown over the feeling of Malia practically sprawled out in her lap, laughing at something Mason said.
When the bell rings, Scott shoots Liam worried look as they all get up to head to class; he noticed that Kira seemed distracted all throughout lunch and only heard about every other sentence someone said.
“Do you think kitsune-bane is a thing?” he whispers worriedly just loud enough for Liam’s werewolf hearing to catch it.
Liam’s eyes grow so big that Mason gives him a concerned look and a, “Dude? You okay?”
Behind them, Lydia just smirks. She’s the only one who noticed that Kira started zoning out right after Malia rested her head on Kira’s shoulder.
The third time it happens, they’re completely alone when Kira shouts victoriously, “Aha!” and Malia looks like her favorite food caught in the headlights.
“What?” Malia tips her head inquiringly, but her eyes are too innocent and Kira sees right through it.
“This,” Kira triumphantly lifts their linked hands.
“Yes?” Lifting one eyebrow, Malia looks at Kira like she’s lost her mind. “They’re called hands, remember? You’re the one who taught me that.”
“No, I mean twice is a coincidence, but three times is a pattern.”
Malia yanks her hand away like it’s been burned and shifts her feet uneasily. “Do we have to do this now? We’re supposed to be tracking down Scott. Derek got mad the last time we messed around during a training session."
"No way,” Kira insists, planting her feet stubbornly in the dirt, “you’re not getting out of it this time. You keep holding my hand and I want to know why.” Plus, Kira honestly doesn’t know how much longer she can go on with these small shows of affection that won’t ever lead to anything more. A person can only take so much unrequited pining.
Frustrated, Malia drags a hand through her hair, letting out a low growl. But Kira doesn’t budge. She knows the difference between Malia’s growls by now, and that was less of an I’m going to eat you growl and more of an I don’t know how to emote myself properly with words so I resort to coyote sounds growl.
“Think about it and then try again,” coaches Kira patiently. Her calm words easily roll off her tongue after months of rehabilitating Malia with Lydia, but belie the way Kira’s heart pounds in her chest. She doesn’t know why, but it feels like the moment teeters on the edge of a cliff, about to take a stomach-swooping plunge.
After a brief staring contest, Malia caves and looks away. Her averted gaze drops to the leaf-strewn ground as she mumbles, “Because I want to.”
Kira blinks. “Huh?” Kira had expected some half-concocted plan by Stiles and/or Scott to teach Malia about empathy via physical contact with someone close to her. Or maybe some devious scheme in which Lydia was trying to meddle with Kira’s love life. But that certainly wasn’t it.
Malia scowls, face burning. “Because I wanted to!” she repeats irritably. She doesn’t like the way her heart squirms uncomfortably in her chest and it makes her lash out. She glares at the ground like it can tell her why being human is so much harder than being a coyote.
Her angry staring is interrupted by a soft hand gripping her own. Malia looks up.
Kira offers a small smile, face radiant. “You could have just asked me, you know.”
Kicking a rock sourly, Malia mutters, “Stiles says people only hold hands if they like like each other. Otherwise it’s weird.”
“Maybe I like like you.”
Hope brightens Malia’s expression like a flipped switch. “Really?”
Kira squeezes her hand. “Really.”