Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Macbeth, Act V, scene v.
When given sufficient thought, the sense of smell is an amazing thing. Invisible molecules float through the air; these molecules are inhaled and land on array of receptors which send signals to the brain. It’s both random and complex, and it becomes even more complex when taken into account that millions of combinations of molecules produce a thousand separate sensations after every single breath a living thing takes.
Humans may not rely as much or as often on their sense of smell as they do on sight and hearing, but they still use it every moment of every day. Furthermore, of all the senses, smell is the one most closely connected to emotional memory. A human can recognize trillions of individual scents and then associate them with pain, with comfort, with sadness, with all the best and worst parts of everyday life.
Consider how much more important the sense of smell must be then for a werewolf. Their noses average one hundred times greater sensitivity than any human’s. Easily, one of the first things that a bitten wolf must learn is how to manage the incredible variety of smells by which they are assaulted every day.
Nature has an answer for this, as nature has an answer for everything. Olfactory adaptation simply means that after a particular odor has triggered receptors often enough within a certain period of time, the brain stops registering its presence. It’s why people sometimes can’t tell when they have bad breath. It is also why a werewolf isn’t constantly overwhelmed by the chemo signals that flood the air around them when dealing with crowds of people.
In other words, in order to cope, the brain stops paying attention to things that are so mundane that recognizing them is unnecessary.
Scott put Belle, a very friend but unfortunately declawed Russian Blue, back into her cage. She had been named after the heroine of a Disney movie; Scott made it a point to try to learn all the animal’s names when he could, and the little girl who brought her in had shared the story without prompting. This practice paid off. He had memorized the names of most of his regular customers, and their owners were reassured by a veterinarian who bothered to treat their beloved pets as individuals. Belle was suffering from an infection due to an accident that the owner hadn’t noticed, but they had caught it in time and she’d be good as new in a few days.
Like Alan, Scott never talked to the animals as if they were people. He tended to be a lot more comfortable working with them on an instinctual level, exerting dominance over the dogs or suppressing his own nature when it came to those animals who would be frightened by it. It had been hard work over the years to learn exactly how to do that; he still had trouble letting go and calling upon his instincts. Derek had been helping him practice; Scott continually insisted that they spend time together training out in the Preserve, learning everything that Derek could teach him. Derek sometimes complained that he didn’t have anything left to teach Scott, and in answer Scott would always accuse him of holding out on him, though these days it was accompanied by a smile and then maybe a playful tussle.
It was true that it had been years since he had learned anything new from his beta; the truth was that he liked spending time with Derek.
Scott checked his schedule on the wall-mounted table. He didn’t have another appointment until two, and he had already cleaned out the cat cages. Alan kept insisting that they could hire some teenager to do such menial tasks, but Scott liked doing it. It reminded him of simpler days.
“Doc, if it’s okay with you, I’m going to head to the hospital.”
Alan stepped out of the back room. Deaton hadn’t changed much over the years, but when he smiled Scott clearly saw new lines piling up at the corners of his eyes and around the sides of his mouth. “Scott, you forgot again.”
“Huh?” Scott paused as he filed Belle’s paperwork. He tried to think of what he had forgotten.
“You’re my partner, not my employee. You don’t have to ask permission to take a lunch break.” The older man was obviously amused.
“Oh. I’m sorry. It’s a habit I guess. Can I bring you something?” Scott always felt embarrassed when, every now and then, he’d treat Alan as if he were still his boss. Hanging up his white coat, Scott pulled on his jacket.
“Thinking about the past?” Alan walked up to the counter and leaned on it with both hands.
Scott paused even though it was a relatively innocent question. “It’s … not really.” He felt around his jacket for his car keys.
The older veterinarian watched him with a knowing look. “The past can be very comforting, Scott. There’s nothing shameful about cherishing parts of it.”
“Only some parts.” Scott smiled weakly.
“Only some parts.” Deaton thought for a moment. “I think I’ll go out today for lunch myself. Our next client is usually late, anyways.”
Scott waved to the older man as he left the clinic. The sun was shining but a strong, cold wind still plowed through the town, bringing with it whirling dead leaves from the Preserve. The chill wouldn’t bother him, but the rest of Northern California was steadily coming to grips with the arrival of fall.
He slid into the driver's seat of his car, a forest-green Prius that he had bought the day after he had turned thirty. It was a responsible car; it got good gas mileage and it had a lot of trunk room for when he had to haul unexpected things like extra groceries or a dead body.
Scott glanced down at the pile of several weeks’ worth of mail in the passenger seat. He should really stop getting the mail in the morning on his way to work. He'd skim though it and then toss it into the passenger seat. If he ever wanted someone to ride with him, he’d have to find a place to shove all the bills.
The hospital really wasn’t that far away from the clinic; he easily could have walked there. Beacon Hills Memorial Hospital hadn’t changed much since its last remodel in the wake of his high school career. It had survived that turmoil and even got a face lift from the insurance money for its trouble. As things had slowly quieted down, the institution had settled into stable complacency; it had been over a decade since the last animal attack had been brought through its doors. Every time Scott put his hand on the door handles of the non-emergency entrance, he was reminded of that hard-won peace. He didn't count it as much of a success, but it was better than nothing.
The receptionist at the desk smiled at him. If she hadn’t known him through his mother, who was now Chief of Nursing, she’d still have known him because, once a week for the last four years, he had come to eat lunch with one of the doctors He even knew her name: Janet. He knew her scent as well, but he would never tell her that.
“Dr. McCall,” Janet smiled at him. “Dr. Holloway’s had an unscheduled surgery this morning. He should be out soon, but he asked you to go to his office and …” She peered at the note. “Order something good and not your usual slop.”
Scott laughed. It was a running argument between him and Nolan. Like many arguments between friends, it had evolved into a habit which bore no heat. Nolan mocked the restaurants that Scott relished, and Scott pretended to find the places Nolan liked to eat fit only for pretentious hipsters. Scott easily admitted that he liked junky Americana food – burgers and fries, fried chicken, pizza, pseudo-Mexican – from the local mom-and-pop restaurants. Nolan, on the other hand, was always trying something new from the boutique restaurants that popped up periodically downtown.
Scott knew the way to Nolan’s office. Unlike most of the other surgeons' offices, his was located on the top floor, a converted supply room. Melissa had arranged it for him, as there was a certain part of the hospital that Nolan avoided as much as he could. Some things, no matter how far in the past, would never fade. Scott was glad that when other things did faded, they were often replaced with better memories.
Like having lunch once a week with an old friend who didn’t used to be a friend.
Scott found the office door cracked open. Beacon Hills was still small enough that leaving your door unlocked wasn’t asking to be robbed. Inside, he found the stack of menus of the places that Nolan frequented. Scott didn’t bother keep menus, because you didn’t need to remember how to pronounce the entrees at the eateries he preferred to go to.
He sifted through them trying to find one that he could tolerate. Macrobiotic take-out. Thai take-out. Organic Thai take-out. Sushi take-out. He studied that last one, though he had no intention of ordering from it. Finally, he closed his eyes and put it back down on the table before returning to the pile. Russian take-out. Vegetarian take-out. Paleo take-out menu. Scott had never eaten whatever that last one was before. It would be nice to try something new.
He placed what he hoped was a good order and sat down on one of the chairs to wait. Nolan would have cancelled the lunch if he though the surgery would go on too much longer. With his phone, Scott read another chapter of an e-novel he had bought the other day.
“Sorry!” chirped Nolan as he came through the door about twenty minutes later, pulling the surgical cap off his head where he had left it on after leaving the operating room. “Someone decided to make my day exciting by suffering a burst aneurysm.”
“I hope they’re okay.” Scott stood up.
Nolan looked lightly aggrieved. “Of course they’re okay. I’m the best surgeon in this hospital. Dr. Geyer can suck it.” He winked and gave Scott’s shoulder a light squeeze. It lasted a hair too long to be completely innocent; Nolan flirted with anything with a pulse, no matter what species they were. Scott was flattered and not completely disinterested. Nolan have become even more attractive with age. His piercing blue eyes were now behind wire-rim glasses; it made him look far more mature. His easy and sometimes blustery confidence also made him a pleasure to be around. Scott hadn’t taken him up on the offer, for some reason that wasn’t even clear to him.
Scott rolled his eyes. “It’s not a competition.”
“Everything is a competition, alpha.” Nolan used the title, even though he wasn’t a werewolf, because he knew it made Scott wince when he used it in public. “What’d you order for us?”
Scott held up the menu for the paleo restaurant.
“Oh,” Nolan’s face fell for a moment. “I should have tossed that. You didn’t spend too much money, did you? The place is terrible. So terrible, I’ll pay for it and treat you to cafeteria food.”
Scott’s eyes grew wide in a semblance of fear. “Bad enough for you to eat cafeteria food? Oh my God.”
“It’s not my fault that I have a sensitive palate.” They went down to the cafeteria and got some food that didn’t look too horrific and then followed Nolan’s suggestion went to eat on the roof. It was even cooler up there, but Nolan said he didn’t mind. Even on those rare days that he ate the cafeteria’s food, he refused to eat in the cafeteria. He shuddered at the very thought of it.
They ate and talked on the roof as the noon hour passed. Nolan had actually arranged for a park bench to be placed there with Melissa’s collaboration. Between them, they joked about how often they tended to end up on the roof anyway, so they might as well make it comfortable. Scott and Nolan discussed work and the coming of fall. It was light, weightless conversation, but they weren’t here to be serious. They were here to be in each other's company.
Nolan had never become part of the pack, even though he had been invited several times. Liam had been particularly insistent, but Nolan had politely demurred every single time. Scott had finally asked him during one lunch about why. The doctor had explained that he didn’t feel he would belong in a pack he had once tried to destroy, and no matter how much Scott had reassured him that he wouldn't be the first, Nolan remained adamant in his refusal.
So he was with the pack but not part of it. That was okay with Scott. He only wanted someone with which to eat lunch. It could have been Liam, but his beta got stuck with supervising lunchtime detention more often than not at the high school.
“I’m going to propose something to you. What are you doing the weekend after next?”
“Avoiding having a birthday party,” Scott quipped. “It’s on a Saturday this year.”
“Excellent.” Nolan smiled widely. “A few friends and I are going to go sailing. I don’t know my ass from a hole in the ground when it comes to boats, but my friends all do, and they think it would be really fun to watch me fall overboard and drown. They said I could bring someone.”
Scott smiled and shook his head. “Uhhh, thanks but …”
“Scott, come on? You said you wanted to avoid birthday parties. I promise, there won't be any on that boat.”
Scott wanted to turn him down. It just didn’t feel right, going out on with Nolan and people socially whom he didn’t even know. The idea made him uncomfortable. “Okay. Let me think about it?”
“You said that the last time I invited you away for the weekend, and the time before that.” Nolan took a bite of his sandwich.
“I promise, I’ll give it real thought.” He was absolutely going to turn it down, he just didn’t want to hurt Nolan’s feelings too much by doing it to his face. “Thank you for thinking about me, though.”
“You said that the last time, too.”
Scott stirred his lukewarm noodles with a fork. Nolan hadn't said anything that wasn’t true, but it wasn’t like he avoided hanging around the doctor. He had never been sailing before, and it might be fun, but he couldn’t shake the feeling that he shouldn’t go. So, he turned the conversation onto other things, and let that topic die.
“Are you doing anything interesting this weekend?”
“Oh, this weekend, I’ve got to help mom with the yard. Dad’s got a ‘business trip.’” Nolan exaggerated his grievance with a sour face. “He just doesn’t want to clean out the back yard.”
Scott laughed. “I’ve been corralled into the same thing. Derek wants to plant more flower beds, so we have to clean out the brush before the leaves fall.”
The conversation turned to Derek’s endless quest to turn the New Hale House into a possible subject for a spread in Better Homes and Gardens. Who had known that the former alpha would return to being grouchily obsessive when it came to decorating his new home, built in a different part of the Preserve?
Well, everyone knew. Especially Braeden. She complained about it a lot, but she secretly loved it. She enjoyed coming home from a job to something that smelled of pie and wood and family.
Scott drove out there that next Saturday afternoon, looking forward to an afternoon's labor. Every other time he had done something like this with Derek, they had ended up working silently together for hours. Once, it had been cutting down trees. Another time it had been digging trenches to bring water pipes to an outbuilding. They’d end the days sweaty, tired and covered in dirt, but Scott would feel nothing but content.
He sniffed as he came up the stairs, a strange overpowering scent in the air. Derek must have had a fire going in several different fireplaces. It wasn’t nearly cold enough for that yet, but he did see cords of firewood piled neatly in one corner of the yard. He decided he'd tease Derek about it, as he rang the doorbell. Derek kept telling him that he should just assume the door was open for him, but it still felt weird. He may be Derek’s alpha, but he wasn’t Braeden’s and he didn’t know her well enough just to walk into her house unannounced.
Braeden opened the door. “Oh, hey. Derek told me you were coming.” She smiled at him.
“You’re home? How was your last job?”
She opened the door to let him in. “It was actually kind of boring. The trouble that my employer was afraid would happen didn’t happen, so I babysat a package for nothing.”
“That’s good right?” Scott came in. “Even if it was boring.”
Braeden shrugged. “If I wanted a quiet job, I’d work at an insurance company. He’s in the living room.”
Scott knew the way. Derek had a thing for French doors, and the ones into the living room were closed. He must be listening to music, so Scott pulled them open.
“Surprise!” A chorus of voices rang out with childish joy. Scott blinked; there must have been nearly twenty people in the living room and he hadn’t heard anything. “Happy Birthday!”
The first thing that went through Scott’s mind was astonishment that there were this many people who would be able to attend a surprise birthday party for him. There were only so many people who knew him in town well enough to attend but would not wonder about the overabundance of wood smoke from three chimneys and the white noise generators.
The second thing was anger. Hadn’t his friends learned yet that he didn’t want to celebrate his birthday? Ever since he’d permanently resettled in Beacon Hills six years ago, he’d avoided celebrating his birthday with anyone every single year. He had always, always refused a party when asked and made sure to spend the day away from others to prevent things just like this. It was with great effort that he kept his eyes from flashing in irritation.
The third thing was resignation. It wouldn’t hurt for him to celebrate it just once. The party was going to be less for him than it was going to be for everyone else. He plastered on the best fake smile he could.
“Guys, you shouldn’t have.” Scott said. He locked eyes with Derek. “You really shouldn’t have.”
“No, no, don’t blame Derek.” His mother came over and tried to squeeze the life out of him. She then led him to the couch. “I wanted you to have this, so I may have blackmailed him.”
Braeden popped her head up. “Blackmailed him with what?”
Derek and Melissa were saved by the appearance of a gaggle of children. Talia, Derek’s eldest, carried a cake with thirty-three candles lit on it. Vernon, his younger child, carried an oddly shaped package like it was a priceless treasure. Liam and Hayden’s four rambunctious toddlers were carrying a single box above their heads. It swayed and threatened to fall over as they made their uncoordinated way to the coffee table. The Dunbar Mini-Pack, as they were affectionately called, deposited the huge box right in front of him.
Finally, Marie came up behind the other children, standing a little ways behind them. Even after all this time, Scott couldn’t believe he had a sister. He let a smile spread across his face; he couldn’t stop it even if he wanted to. She held an envelope in her hands. “What’s this?”
“We all got you a present,” she said. She was quiet for a ten-year-old. She had his mother’s eyes and his mother’s hair, but she had the face and the reserve of an Argent. She had both families’ passion; she seldom shouted but when she was angry someone had better watch out.
Scott loved Marie. He wished she had been born ten years earlier, because he wanted nothing less than to have grown up with her, even though he knew that it was impossible. Chris and his mom wouldn’t have gotten together if it hadn’t been for him. He resented missing most of the first half of her life, so he always made it a point to attend every event she participated in.
It saddened him, though, that Marie didn’t seem comfortable with him. Even now the other kids were crowing and jostling about whose present he should open first, and she was just standing there. It bothered Scott, but he was very careful not to show it. No one could force a person to like them. His mom and Chris had assured him repeatedly that she’d warm up to him eventually. He’d missed the first five years of her life, and he worried that maybe she’d never be close to him.
He blew out the candles of the cake first to the excited shrieks of the children and the cheers of the adults. His mother, beaming, swept the cake out of the way in order to cut it up. While he held up each gift in turn, getting the children to shout loudest to see what he opened first, Marie did not shout.
There was a theme to the gifts. Vernon (no doubt with his mom Braeden’s help) had gotten him a new motorcycle helmet. He ooohed appreciatively and placed it on the child’s head. The big package was an acoustic guitar. It was a pretty nice one.
Scott gave them a wide-eyed grimace. “Someone has to teach me to play it!”
“You know!” shrieked the Mini-Pack. “Play for us!”
Scott did as he was asked, playing a little tune that he remembered from the times he had practiced. It was awkward and not very good. He hadn’t practiced since he was twenty-one. He frequently had to travel light; there wasn’t room for a guitar.
At least he hadn’t embarrassed himself too much. Scott didn’t meet any adult’s eyes. Instead, he turned to Marie. “Do you want to open it for me?”
Marie shoved the envelope at him. “No.” Her denial was insistent.
Scott took the envelope from her gently. This was not the time to figure out what that meant. Inside was a brochure and tickets for a cruise to Japan. He stared at them dumbfounded before he realized that such a cruise was an incredibly expensive vacation.
“Guys ….” Scott protested.
“Nope!” declared Hayden. “You don’t get to complain. Say thank you.”
Scott sighed. “Thank you. But there are two tickets here.”
“You have months to find someone go with,” Liam piped up. “You can’t possibly screw that up.”
Everyone laughed as if it were an enormous joke. Scott laughed along with them, even though there was nothing funny about this. The only person who had expressed an interest in him recently was Nolan, and he was indeed waving his arm like a madman in the back of the room. They were all looking at him as if it were as simple as making the choice to do it. Like all he had to do was pick up the phone and he could find someone. They didn’t understand, and part of him wanted to explain it to them, right then and there. He didn’t want a goddamn birthday party.
Instead, Scott said: “Let’s have some cake.”
Melissa has finished carving the cake and Derek, Deaton, and Parrish help pass it out. Scott got up to wash his hands in the bathroom. He needed a little bit of time away from the messy knot of feelings that he was experiencing so he used one of the upstairs bathrooms. It was the guest bathroom, done in the softest blue and shell white. How did Derek keep his place this pretty with two kids? It brought a smile to his face. Derek was so happy with his children and his storybook house. He deserved it.
Scott left the bathroom, assured that he would be able to keep the smile up through the rest of the evening. He expected they would eat some food, tell some stories and then the night would be over as soon as the kids got tired. What he had not expected would to be hear an angry conversation coming from one of the bedrooms.
It was the sheriff. “You’ve known about this for a month, Stiles. Both you and Rafe have.” Noah was angry. “He hasn’t noticed that neither of you are here yet.”
“Look” Stiles voice was barely audible. “The bad guys don’t clear their schedules with us beforehand. We have to move when we have to move. I’ll make it up to him later.”
The sheriff spoke bitterly, so bitterly that Scott thought for a moment about going in and comforting him. “A long time ago, you were terrified that you and Scott would grow apart. Well, this is how that happens. One night, Stiles, that’s all we asked. You’ve seen him like three times in two years, and you’re four hours away.”
Scott shook his head even though no one could see; Noah didn’t need to be worried about him. He was doing just fine. He left before he could hear what Stiles said in reply. He understood now, of course, what had happened with his father, had continued to happen with his father, and what was happening to Stiles. Sometimes there were things more important than everyday life, and they had to take priority.
Scott went back downstairs and ate his cake. He smiled and he smiled and he smiled until he couldn’t bear to smile one minute longer and, with a hurried explanation, he went out back. He had to be alone for a few minutes.
Of course, he could not be alone for long. His mother came out to him. He heard her when she left the house. He thought about running into the woods and leaving her behind, but he couldn’t do that to her.
He waited at the tree line, as the sun was plunging behind the hills. Twilight soft.
Melissa came up to him and put a hand on his arm. “What’s wrong, honey.”
“Nothing. I just needed to get some air.”
Melissa brushed a lock of hair out of her eye. It was shot through with gray. It made Scott’s heart ache in a way he couldn’t explain. “Yeah, that didn’t work when you were fifteen, it’s not going to work now.”
Scott tried to wait her out, but it seemed that his mother was going to be just as stubborn as he was. It was curious; he thought he had inherited that from his father.
Finally, he relented, or they were going to be here until the sun had disappeared entirely. “You knew I didn’t want a birthday party.” He forced the words out. “If I wanted one, I wouldn’t have spent years avoiding them.”
“I know.” Melissa nodded enthusiastically. “That’s why I threw one where you couldn’t avoid it.”
Scott looked at her sharply.
“Don’t give me that consent crap. It’s a parent’s right – no, it’s her duty – to interfere when their child is hurting themselves, no matter how old you are. And, you, bucko, were hurting yourself.”
Melissa grimaced at him in frustration. “Scott, you don’t do anything but work. You do your work as a veterinarian. You do your work as an alpha. Sure, you visit people when they badger you enough. The rest of the time I can only assume you sit in your darkened apartment watching your plants grow.”
“I …” Scott snorted. “I don’t watch my plants grow.”
“When’s the last time you took a vacation?” Melissa demanded.
“I went to Puerto Rico five years ago …”
“You went,” Melissa snapped, “to Puerto Rico to conclude peace talks with Monroe to end her crusade. Spending one afternoon on a beach between negotiations with a woman who wanted to kill you since forever is not a vacation.”
Scott rolled his eyes. He hadn’t believed he would get away with that.
Melissa wasn’t done. “When’s the last time you rode your motorcycle?”
“Mom, I’m not twenty anymore.” Scott protested.
“Seriously, Scott? That’s your answer? You’re not twenty anymore? You loved that motorcycle, and you haven’t had it out of the garage since Marie was born.”
Scott shrugged. Maybe if he just didn’t answer she would give up.
Melissa’s voice got soft. She was very concerned for him. He could hear it. “When’s the last time you dated anyone? I don’t mean having a good time, I mean letting yourself love someone.”
Scott took a deep breath. He didn’t want to have the conversation; not today. Not any day. But his mother didn’t look like she was going to stop wanting to have this exact conversation anytime soon.
“There’s a simple answer for it.” He replied. He searched the tree line for another way to get her to understand. The Preserve, as always, was unhelpful. Melissa took her hand off of his arm and put it on her hips. It was a fighting pose.
“One hundred and forty-five. Every morning I wake up and I count to one hundred and forty-five.” He said with a grim confidence. “That’s the answer. That’s the number of people who died because I didn’t that night in woods. I don’t want to celebrate my being alive when they aren’t.”
Melissa’s jaw dropped; anxiety poured off of her. This was what he had been trying to avoid.
It was a mantra that he often whispered to himself. Eleven died when he took the captaincy from Jackson. Erica, Boyd, Ennis, Jennifer, and an ambulance driver died when Deucalion tried to make him join the Alpha Pack. Twelve died when Jennifer sacrificed them to the Nemeton to stop that very same pack, and she killed Kali. Twenty-six died to it. Sixteen people were killed as targets of the Dead Pool, nine assassins were killed, and eight Calavera hunters and two berserkers died rescuing him from Kate. Nine chimeras died and stayed dead when the Dread Doctors took advantage of the re-energized Nemeton. Forty-one people died to the Beast. Five died when Douglas ate their pineal glands. It was one hundred and forty-five people who died when he hadn’t.
“Those weren’t your fault.” His mother’s voice was firm.
“I didn’t say they were my fault. It doesn’t matter whose fault they were. They’re still dead. And I’m still alive.” Scott replied just as firmly. “I stopped counting after high school. It was too difficult to get real numbers.”
Melissa reached out to touch him. It was an unconscious gesture of comfort and he pulled away.
“Do you know how hard it was to wake up in a dirty old motel and get ready to fight people you don’t know for people you don’t know? Do you know how hard it was to withdraw from school for the third time because you have to go a foreign country and get shot at with machine guns? Do you know how hard it is to plan missions when you’re jealous of the teens you see on MTV’s Daytona Beach Spring Break Party?” His voice rose in pitch and anger. At first, he wanted to say that it wasn’t directed at his mother, but it was.
“So I counted them. I counted them because I needed to. I counted them because you wanted me to. You told me if I could do something to help, I had to help. So I did. You told me that what made me different was that I had power and I cared enough to use it. So I cared. You told me not to run, so I didn’t run. I found a way to do what I needed to do, and that meant that every time I got weak, every time I wanted to give up, I counted. I counted the people who were dead.”
“I didn’t mean for you …” Wonderful, he had made his mother cry.
“I know what you meant, but it doesn’t work that way. You can’t spend a decade telling yourself that the life your living is the right thing for you to do and then suddenly start living an entirely different way.” He looked her in the face. “I can’t stop counting now.”
“It’s been five years.” His mother wiped at her eyes. “You can stop now.”
“Mom. You can’t predict the future. Neither can I. Being ready is the best for everyone.” He went and put his hand on the tree. “I understand that you might not get that. You know what Malia said when she broke up with me? Other than the fact that she appreciated that we actually talked about breaking up?”
His mother shook his head. He had never told anyone about his break up with Malia. Not even Stiles.
“She said she had spent eight years living in the woods as a coyote out of guilt. She wasn’t going to spend eight years as a soldier out of love.” Scott turned back to Melissa. “No one is going to pay for my choice. You have to promise me you won’t tell anyone what I told you.”
His mother jutted out her chin. “No. Nothing you said here makes me think this is good for you. I’m your mother, I’m not your pack.”
Scott had been afraid of that. She wasn’t going to let this go. Frustrated, he turned and stalked off into the Preserve.