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you're the only one (i have left)

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Malia was impatient. They’d been in bed all morning. It was almost ten and she needed to move. But Scott was sleeping, curled up on his side, an arm tucked under his pillow, the other outstretched across the mattress. Malia had been awake for a while; she woke up when Melissa started getting ready for work. She’d listened to her go through her whole routine, even tapping her toe along to Melissa’s singing as she showered. But Melissa left a while ago and now Malia had nothing to listen to but Scott’s heartbeat and the chirping of birds outside.

She rolled onto her side and frowned at his back. How could he sleep this much? Wasn’t he getting anxious? She couldn’t handle this much lack of movement. Last night had been fine, they’d exercised in other ways. But now she wanted to run. Strip off all her clothes and sprint through the woods for a few hours, immerse herself in the scents and sounds of the forest. But she couldn’t do that with him sleeping.

Well, she could, but he’d mentioned once that waking up and finding her missing was unnerving for him. And since they were officially together, she wanted to be aware of those things. Just like how he was aware that she didn’t like being the small spoon and so they compromised.

She considered poking him. Just a quick nudge that would wake him up. But that felt… abrupt. Maybe aggressive. There wasn’t anything wrong with a little aggression in bed, they both liked that sometimes, but this didn’t feel like the right time for that. And so, she went a different route.

Malia slid closer, tucked her chin in against the crook of his neck where it met his shoulder, and nuzzled her nose against his ear. He didn’t so much as twitch. With a sigh, she turned her head and pressed a kiss to his shoulder. Her eyes darted back to his face, looking for a sign he was awake. Still nothing. She shifted and started leaving a line of kisses from the curve of his shoulder down to his neck and up behind his ear. Sliding her arm over his side, she planted her hand on the mattress in front of his stomach, and lifted herself up. She kissed along the line of his jaw, letting her teeth nip at the edge of his chin.

His mouth started to curl, and she narrowed her eyes at him. “You’re awake,” she accused.

“For a while now.” He opened sleepy eyes to look at her. “You fidget when you’re bored.”

She rolled herself over his body to lay in front of him and rested her head on his bicep as he slid his arm out from his pillow. Poking his chest, she said, “I was being polite.”

He grinned. “You could’ve woke me up.”

She shrugged. “You like to sleep in.”

Humming, he slid his hand over her stomach, skirting under her shirt to tease his fingers over bare skin. “I’m up now. So…? What do you wanna do?”

“Run,” she told him frankly. “And then eat.” She paused, and then grinned. “Or, eat first, then run, then eat again!”

He chuckled lowly. “I like that idea. Pancakes?”

She nodded enthusiastically. “And bacon?”

Scott leaned down and pressed a kiss to her temple. “And bacon.”

Chapter Text

“That was not okay.” Scott was still half-transformed, his teeth more like fangs, claws out, his eyes a brilliant red. 

Malia wasn’t scared, just startled, and a little confused. “He was getting away.”

“Which is why we had a plan! Why we were going to pen him in. Not chase him into the woods and take him on alone. That’s not how this works. We have to act as a team. When you do this, when you go off like that, I can’t protect you!” 

Her brow furrowed. “I can protect myself. I don’t need you to–” 

“It’s not about need.” He sighed and shook his head. Slowly, his face became more human and less wolf. “Look, I know you’re strong. I know that you can take care of yourself. But I care about you. I worry about you. So, when things like this happen, when we’re in a fight and we need everyone to work together, I need to know that you’ll work with us. It’s not that you can’t take these things on alone, it’s that you don’t have to. Fighting alone is risky. Fighting together is smart and safe and…” His brows hiked. “And I just– I need you to be safe.” 

Malia’s heart pounded a little too fast in her chest. She stared back at him, his face so earnest and sad and haunted. Swallowing tightly, she nodded. “Okay.” 

“Okay?” 

“Next time… Every time… We fight as a team.”

Scott blew out a relieved sigh and half-smiled. “Good. Okay.” 

Shifting her feet side to side, she ground her teeth at the swarm of words and their too-heavy meaning hung at the end of her tongue. As he turned to leave, back to where his bike was parked in the lot outside the woods, she blurted them out. “I care about you, too.” It came out blunt and a little awkward, but it was sincere, and she refused to regret it. 

Scott stopped, and turned back to her. He smiled, slow and knowing. “I know.” 

“Well, good.” She walked over to him, her chin raised. “We probably lost him. We should have these talks after we catch our prey.” 

He shook his head. “They’re not prey.” 

She raised an eyebrow at him, unconvinced.

With a sigh, he rolled her eyes. “They’re a little like prey, except we’re not killing them.” 

Yet.” 

“Ever.”

“What if it’s a life or death situation?” 

“We’re not playing this game, ‘Lia…” 

She shrugged. “I’m just saying, we should have a scale we work off of…“

Together, they walked off toward the parking lot, hands brushing against each other until Scott folded his fingers between hers.

Chapter Text

Beacon Hills was burning. 

Malia was half-turned around in her seat, mouth ajar, watching the flames eat up everything they touched. 

Scott was at the wheel of his mother’s car, periodically looking back through the mirror, but mostly keeping his eyes on the road ahead. His hands were wrapped so tightly around the steering wheel, the plastic covering it whined under the pressure. 

“We can never go back,” she said, her brow furrowed. 

For so long, the woods had been her home. Even after she turned human, she’d longed for the comfort and distraction of the forest. But eventually, as she made friends and started to come into her own, she carved out a place for herself. As a human and a pack member. But now… Now it was all gone again. 

“They’ll rebuild,” Scott said. “When everything’s over, when the fire’s out…” 

Malia stared at the flames, licking up toward the sky, turning an angry black with smoke. “What if they don’t?” 

“Then we will.” He reached for her, a hand wrapping around her wrist and squeezing. “Home isn’t a house or a town. Home is people. It’s who you love and trust and who makes you feel safe.” 

She turned her gaze down, to stare at his hand, warm against her skin. “If that’s true then… you’re my home.” She raised her eyes to meet his. “Where will we go?” 

“Somewhere safe. A motel that’s far enough away the fire can’t catch up. Just until we can find somewhere long-term.” 

“What about the others?”

“My mom’s headed to the next town over, to help with overflow from the hospital. Stiles and Lydia are ahead of us; they’ll let us know which motel they’re at when they find it. And the others are safe, with family and friends.” 

Malia gnawed at her lip. “I don’t like it. We’re too spread out.” 

“It’ll be okay.” His fingers stroked up her forearm gently. “This is temporary. All right?” 

“How can you be so calm? You lost everything.” She shook her head. “Your house, your things, it’s all gone.” 

“Not everything.” 

She stared at him a beat, half-smiling at her, gentle and knowing. 

He turned back to the road then, but cleared his throat and said, “You’re my home, too.” 

Malia’s breath hitched, and she swallowed it down, her cheeks feeling strangely warm. Shifting in her seat, she turned around, facing forward, and nodded. “We’ll rebuild,” she decided. “Here or somewhere else. Together.” 

Scott smiled. “Okay.”

Chapter Text

Scott was no stranger to love. There was a time when he was overwhelmed with it. When he drowned himself in the hopes and dreams of what it could be, what it made of him, who it let him have. Allison would never be far from his heart. There was a place there dedicated solely to her. She was his first. His first everything, and no one could replace that. But more than that, because he held her as she died. ( it doesn’t hurt ) So, yes, Scott knew love. 

He knew love with Kira. A sweet, excited love that made him feel that spark of hope that had dimmed with Allison and every war that seemed to visit Beacon Hills, day after day, week after week. Kira was a light bulb, flaring bright at the end of a dark tunnel. But then things got twisted, and while he knew it wasn’t the same, that she was alive out there and not lost like Allison, it still felt a lot like a knife to the heart. 

He told himself that he was okay with it. He had so much on his plate anyway. Between the latest enemy to show up on their doorstep, and the stress of everyone relying on him, he probably didn’t have the time for love or dating or any kind of relationship outside of friendship. So, he built on that. He tried to be there for Stiles and Lydia and Malia, to mentor Liam, to be a good son for his mom, to be the alpha that his pack needed. He fought whatever came at him, and he hoped that that was enough. Even when it pulled him to his knees, left him bleeding, alone and terrified, and promised that eventually, he wouldn’t win. He wouldn’t last. He wouldn’t survive. But, he did. Somehow, he did.

Days turned to weeks turned to months turned to years. He could remember a time when he was an asthmatic teenager who had no hope in hell of making the lacrosse team. He practiced so hard. He tried so hard. But it just wasn’t in the cards. And then Peter happened. As much as his life was turned on its head, there was so much of it that became better. Harder, yes, but also better. Because he met so many good people. He saved people. Or, he tried to. He lost some, too. And those lives weighed on him. They dragged him down and they lingered in his thoughts and they kept him up at night. Wondering ‘what if’s’ he’d never really have an answer for. 

Hey.” 

He looked up, drawn out of his thoughts, and turned his head. “Hey.” He offered a smile, but it fell as quick as it came. 

Malia frowned. “You weren’t in bed. It’s almost 4 am.” 

“Yeah. Couldn’t sleep.” His gaze fell, and then moved to the window. The rain masked a lot of the noise outside, but he liked that. He could hear droplets hitting everything all around him, ricocheting off metal and wood and cement. It made for a strange kind of music.

Malia crossed the room, barefoot and wearing an old lacrosse jersey of his. She didn’t ask so much as demand to be brought into his space, lifting his arm and crawling into his lap, her knees falling to either side of his hips and digging into the cushion of the arm chair he was sitting in. She dropped her chest to his and ringed her arms around his waist, resting her chin on his shoulder. 

“I can smell your sadness.”

“Not sad, just…” He shook his head. “Introspective.” 

She raised an eyebrow. 

He took a deep breath, wrapped his arms around her, and skimmed a hand through her hair. “Thinking about home… About the past.” 

With a hum, she sunk into him a little more. “You miss it.” 

“Some parts.” 

He finished college last year and, after passing his licensing exam, got a year-long internship at the vet clinic he wanted to work in. At least until he could open up one of his own. He’d returned to Beacon Hills over the years, mostly for holidays and to see his mom. After the nemeton was de-beaconed (as Stiles liked to call it), the town was more sleepy than supernatural. But there were too many bad memories there, too many ghosts hanging around, and Scott felt better leaving them there. 

“We can go back,” Malia said, simple and sure.

And he smiled. She had just as many ghosts as he did back there, and while she came back with him whenever he went, he knew that she liked knowing there was an exit date. That she wouldn’t have to linger longer than a week or two. 

Stiles and Lydia had long moved on from there, settling down in New York. Liam and Mason were in college out of town and, so far as Scott knew, had no plans on returning to Beacon Hills anytime soon. In a way, it was like they had all just decided to put ‘home’ in their rear view. And, as much as he sometimes missed it, he was glad they had. 

“Maybe around Christmas,” he told her. “Mom’s been calling, especially since I said we can’t make it for Thanksgiving.” 

Malia turned her head to eye him. “We’re still having turkey though, right?” 

He grinned. “Yes.” He rubbed his hands over her back in soothing circles. “I already picked one up. I just can’t take off the weekend. The clinic’s too busy right now.” 

She smiled. “Lydia promised to video call me. She’s going to show me how to make that pumpkin mousse thing she made last year.” 

Scott paused. “Does it involve using the stove at all?” 

“No.” 

He relaxed. “Good. Okay.” 

She pinched his side. 

He laughed. “I’m just looking out for both of us. The last time you used the stove, you set a fire.” 

“A small one. And I took care of it.” She pouted. “I can cook.” 

His brows furrowed. 

“I can learn,” she insisted. 

He nodded. “Sure.” He squeezed her and turned his head to press a kiss to her forehead. “Just, no stove until I’m home…” 

Malia rolled her eyes. “Deal.” 

He leaned his head back against the chair then, and turned his gaze back to the window.

“What made you think of home?” she wondered, her voice a little softer, gentler. 

He dragged his fingers up and down her back lightly, absently. “It’ll be four years in two weeks.” 

She tipped her head back a little to look at him, brows furrowed.

Scott was a year into college and, frankly, struggling. Stiles had moved to New York by then, Lydia too, and his mom tried to be there, but she was busy with the hospital. He was doing okay in his classes, but not as well as he wanted to be. Things were just so different and strange, and he wasn’t sure where he fit. Before, he had his pack and he was the alpha and so much of his time was spent dealing with whatever problem had breezed into town. It had become so much of what and who he was that he wasn’t sure what to do with himself. He threw himself into school, but a part of him just wasn’t connecting to it. He felt lost and angry and lonely. 

Malia showed up at midnight one night with an extra large pizza and a movie. “Couldn’t sleep,” she said as she walked into his apartment.

“Yeah, me either.” He closed the door and followed her to the couch. 

She threw open the lid of the pizza box, handed him a piece and said, “You wanna talk about it?” 

Malia wasn’t always the best at understanding feelings. She acted more on instinct than anything. But she was working on it, and she was getting better at being empathetic. So, they talked. All night and well into the morning. They passed out together, tangled on the couch, somewhere around 7 am. When he woke up, she was gone, leaving a note scrawled on the empty pizza box that said to call her the next time he needed to talk. He did. 

For the next two months, they were inseparable. They’d spent time together before, especially since they were the only familiar faces on campus for a while, and then the only two to really get what life had been like before. But, this was different. At some point, he realized he wasn’t looking at her like a friend. Like he had been for years. Instead, he was looking at the way the light caught her hair or the way she tipped her head back when she laughed or the way her nose scrunched up when she was angry. He was noticing that shy smile of hers, when he complimented her. Or how close she was sitting to him, shoulder and thigh pressed close to his. How her eyes kept wandering to his mouth when he talked.

And then, one night, it just happened. He was mid-sentence, talking about something that happened in class, and she leaned over, caught his cheek with her hand and slanted her mouth over his. It was quick and hard and he froze, stumbled. She leaned back abruptly, completely still, and he could hear her heart hammering in her chest. 

“What…?” 

“Forget it,” she said. 

“Malia…” 

“It was dumb. It didn’t happen.” 

He smiled slowly. “I’m pretty sure it did.” 

“Well, it won’t again.” She crossed her arms over her chest. “Temporary insanity. That’s a thing, right?” 

“Usually for murder, not so much for kissing.” He stared at the side of her face, her cheek turning a noticeable shade of pink, and his chest warmed. “Can we talk about it?” 

“There’s nothing to talk about.” Her brows hiked. “I already explained–” 

“Insanity, yeah.” He shook his head. “No special reason?” 

She shrugged. “It was an impulse.” 

“That sudden, huh?” 

She raised her chin defensively. “I woke up wanting to kiss you, so… I did.” 

“Not sure how that’ll hold up in court.” 

She turned to look at him, brows furrowed. 

And he grinned. “Sounds pre-meditated to me.” 

Malia rolled her eyes. “Shut up.” 

“Make me.” 

Her eyes narrowed at him, confused. “What?” 

He leaned toward her, lifting his brows encouragingly. “Make me.” 

She swallowed tightly, her gaze falling for a moment. “But you didn’t…” 

“I was surprised. That’s all.” 

“So…?” 

“So, I want you to kiss me again. Or, I could kiss you. Or–” 

She leaned in and caught his mouth, her teeth scraping over his bottom lip before she tugged on it. And then she was was pressing against him, climbing into his lap, and Scott fell backwards on the couch, taking her with him. 

That was how it started, four years ago. His longest relationship, and one of his most important. Now, here he was, four years later, with his best friend/girlfriend in an apartment they shared and life was… better than he ever expected.

“I didn’t think I’d fall in love again,” he told her, reaching up to comb his fingers through her hair, from her temple to the nape of her neck. “Too much had happened. That first year, after we left Beacon Hills, it all felt off. Like a dream. I thought I’d wake up one day and realize it wasn’t real. None of it. That I was still back home and things were worse than ever… But, then you happened and… I started to think maybe it could be real. Maybe it could be better.” 

She plucked at his shirt with her fingers. “Is it?” 

He nodded. “I still miss home. The good things that happened. The people I knew… But I’m happy, ‘Lia. Where I am and who I’m with and who I am. I’m happy.” 

She hummed, and looked up at him. “Me, too.” 

“Good.” He smiled down at her. “You’d tell me if that changed, right? If you wanted something else, or to be somewhere else…” 

“I don’t. I like my job and my home and I like being with you. I like how I feel when I’m with you. And how I know you feel.” She rubbed her cheek against his chest, atop his heart. “Plus, the sex is amazing.” 

He laughed, deep in his chest. “Yeah?” 

“Mm-hmm. But it’s not just that. It’s…” She frowned. “I love you. And I always want to.” 

His heart squeezed in his chest. “I love you, too.” 

She smiled, and her whole body softened against him, settling in. 

They stayed there, wrapped in each other, listening to the rain make music outside. It wasn’t Beacon Hills, but there, with Malia, Scott found a different home, and he wouldn’t trade it for anything. 

Chapter Text

this story has been moved to become its own individual story-- "you lift me up and when me when i falling (for you)"

Chapter Text

Scott is standing just outside of the restaurant, nervously fiddling with his tie, while he waits for Malia to arrive. He checks his watch for the third time in two minutes and sighs. They had a reservation for 7, but it’s already 7:05 and he’s been avoiding looking at the maître d' since he can feel his stink eye burning into his back.

Finally, when he’s just about to pull his phone out and give her a call, a yellow taxi pulls up in front of the restaurant. Malia leans forward to pay, shoving a handful of wrinkled bills in the driver’s hand before hopping out. She smooths the skirt of her dress and walks toward him, attempting at and failing to smile. 

Scott frowns. “Are you okay?”

“What?” She startles. “Yeah. Yes! I’m completely fine. Why?”

“Because you grimace-smiled. You only do that when you’re upset about something. And also, you took a cab...” 

“What’s wrong with a cab? Taxi driver’s need to make a living, too.” She’s not looking at him, instead looking into the restaurant and frowning. “Did we have a reservation?” 

“Yeah, but we’re late, so--” 

“What?” She turns to him, eyes wide. 

“I said we’re late. Not by much, only like five minutes. But they’re kind of strict on things like that here...” 

“Oh. Right. That makes sense.” 

Scott reaches for her, his fingers gently grazing her forearm. “Lia, seriously, are you okay? Are you feeling all right?” 

“Just nauseous and slightly dizzy. It’ll pass.” 

“What?” He cups her elbow. “Do you need to sit down? Are you sick? What happened?” 

“No, no, I’m fine. Just...” She sighs. “I’m late.” 

“I know. But it’s okay.” He shrugs. “I mean, if they won’t let us in, we can go somewhere else. I know you don’t like dressing up for stuff like this anyway. There are other places--” 

“That’s not what I meant.” 

Scott’s face falls in confusion. “I don’t understand...” 

“I mean, I’m late.” Her brows hike as she turns to face him. “I took a cab because I was freaking out and I didn’t want to drive like that. I thought it’d give me some time to figure out what to say, but I can’t really think beyond the part where I’m super late and I don’t know what that means.” She pauses. “Well, I know what it means, I just don’t know what it means for us. Because I know we’re together and we weren’t breaking up any time soon, but we didn’t exactly plan for this. Maybe vaguely, like in a distant future kind of way. But you just finished vet school and we haven’t really decided on Davis or Beacon Hills to start the clinic and babies are expensive. Really expensive. I looked it up! There was a lot of Googling. Probably too much. I freaked myself out a little bit. I really shouldn’t have watched those home birth videos on YouTube... I think I’m scarred for life.” 

Scott stares at her, slack-jawed. 

“Are you okay?” Malia snaps her fingers in front of his face. “You better be. One of needs to be the sane, calm one and it’s not going to be me!”

He lets out a choked laugh. “I... I’m not freaked out. Just... shocked.” 

“Well, you have enough biology books at home to know how this happened.” She motions vaguely to her stomach.

Slowly, he smiles. “It’s a good shock. Unexpected and still a little scary, but... I’m more happy than anything.” 

Malia stares at him searchingly. “Really?” 

He softens and reaches for her hip, drawing her closer. “Malia, we’ve been together almost nine years. If I was going to have kids with anyone, I was pretty much sure it was you.” 

“Pretty sure?” 

He rolls his eyes. “Okay, I was very sure... You’re right, I thought we’d be a little more settled, but we have time. About eight months, give or take.” 

Malia lets out a relieved breath. “You handled the news a lot better than I did.”

He fingers stroke up her arm. “Are you happy? Beyond the freaking out, I mean.” 

She nods. “Yeah. I mean, I don’t have a lot of motherly influences in my life. There’s really only Melissa. Who’s a great role-model, but also kind of far away.” 

“Unless we moved back.” He shrugs. “I’m fine with either. Staying here or going back. I can open a clinic wherever we go. But...” 

“But raising a family is a little different,” she says knowingly. “And Beacon Hills is home.” 

He half-smiles. “It is to me. But if you want something else. Somewhere else...” 

“No, I miss it. And it’d be nice to have Melissa there. And my dad. Even Peter, if he behaves.” 

Scott nods. “So... We’re moving and we’re having a baby.” 

Malia takes a deep breath and smiles. “I guess we are.” Her stomach rumbles then. “We should celebrate with dinner. Preferably right now.” 

With a laugh, Scott leads her into the restaurant, where a slightly less annoyed (and clearly eavesdropping) maître d' leads them to a table for two. It’s not exactly what Scott had planned for the night-- the ring in his pocket was a much different surprise he expected to be celebrating-- but he’s beyond happy with the outcome. 

Chapter Text

Malia is unapologetically avoiding her homework. Somehow, she got sucked into a Youtube spiral and now she's attempting to paint tiny little ghosts and pumpkins on her finger nails. She's about 90% sure they're just orange and white blobs, but she's already wasted too much nail polish removing and redoing it to back out now.

A knock at her bedroom window startles her, causing her hand to jerk and what was a passable pumpkin to become little more than an orange slash. Rolling her eyes, she turns her desk chair and scowls at her window, where Scott is goofily waving at her. Sighing, she waves him in and caps her nail polish bottle, pushing it aside as she grabs one of the many used pieces of scrunched up toilet paper, scrubbing at her wonky looking thumb nail.

"You know I have a front door, right?"

Scott climbs inside and gently closes the window behind himself. "Yeah, but it's like, eleven. I didn't want to wake up your dad."

She snorts. "I think he's used to it by now. What's up?"

"Don't you have a math test tomorrow?"

Done with her now naked thumb, Malia leans back in her chair. "If you came all the way out here just to study-shame me—"

"No..." He smiles. "But I know you were freaked out about the test. Which, you shouldn't be. You've been working really hard this year. I'm pretty sure you have a better grade than me."

It's a sweet thing to say, which is what she blames for the warm tug in her stomach. Still, she rolls her eyes. "Hardly. So, why'd you really come out here?"

"Uh..." He shifts his feet around awkwardly. "I need a favor..."

Malia frowns. "What kind of favor?"

"There's this girl-"

"No."

"Malia, please..." His shoulders slump. "I just need you to-"

"Nope." She kicks her feet up onto the edge of her desk, legs stretched out in front of her, and carefully folds her hands together atop her stomach.

She also swallows down the sting to her pride. Helping Scott get a girlfriend and/or listening to him wax poetic about someone is not something she wants to do. Ever.

"I told you in freshman year, after Stiles asked me to help him make Lydia jealous, that I was never going to do it again. It was weird and his hand was always sweaty and we couldn't look at each other for like a week after one seriously awkward kiss..."

She still very much regrets that. All of it. The last thing she wants to do is attempt the same with Scott when she knows... Well... With Stiles, things were simple. She'd never had romantic feelings for him and she never would. With Scott... It was different.

Scott blinks at her. "Okay, but this isn't like that. And also, that kiss was awkward for everybody, not just you two."

Malia snorts. "Whatever. I'm still not pulling the jealousy card again. Besides, who do you even like? I thought you were still hung up on getting Allison back."

With a frown, he takes a seat on the edge of her bed. "No. She's happy with Isaac. I still care about her, but I want her to be happy. That's not with me, so..."

Isaac had been an unexpected development. Malia likes him just fine. He's a nice guy. A little quiet and meek for her tastes, but she gets it. He had a rough home life. In a way, Allison balances that out by being as strong and confident as she is. Still, Malia always assumed that, eventually, Scott and Allison would get back together. She also assumed that Scott felt that way, too.

"I'm not trying to make anyone jealous," Scott says. "I'm trying to get someone to stop paying attention to me."

Confused, Malia shakes her head. "What? Who?"

"Her name is Lindsey. She's in my history class. And she's not a bad person or anything. She's really smart," he insists. "She just... I don't know. It's weird. It's like, every time I see her, she gets all... touchy."

"So? Since when do you shy away from PDA?" Unfortunately, Malia's seen Scott and Allison make out enough to know he isn't exactly shy.

He frowns. "It's different when it's someone I'm dating... Lindsey's nice, but I don't know her all that well. I don't want to hurt her feelings, but I also don't really wanna date her."

"So, tell her that." Malia shrugs, admiring her middle finger, probably the best ghost she made of all of them. "She'll get over it in like, a week."

"Thanks," he mutters. "But I think she's really sensitive. Last week, she started crying because someone showed her a picture of their dog on their phone..."

"Avoid her, then. The school's pretty big."

"What about in history class?"

"Sit somewhere else."

"Okay, all totally valid options." Scott pauses. "But, there's a small problem."

"What's that?"

"I kind of already told her I was seeing someone..." He smiles awkwardly. "She asked me to the Halloween dance and I panicked! I told her I was flattered, but I already had a date."

"Okay, then we just find you a date..."

Malia can think of at least three girls that would jump at the chance to date Scott. It's the floppy nice guy thing of his. All innocent and sweet and- ugh. It was gross how good he was. Annoying, really. What a kind and funny and genuinely supportive person he was. Meanwhile, she feels like a gargoyle with how very much the opposite of all of that she is on a daily basis. Scowling, she decides she wants to get this conversation over with so she can go back to playing completely oblivious to the slowly growing crush she has on one of her best friends.

(Crush? What crush?)

"What's the big deal?"

"She asked me who my date was and I told her I had a girlfriend, and then she was just staring at me, like she was waiting for me to say more, so I just sort of blurted it out..."

A cold feeling fills Malia's stomach as she abruptly realizes what he's about to say.

"I told her it was you." He winces. "In my defense, it makes sense. We hang out all the time and we've been friends since like, third grade. It's not a total stretch that we like each other... Right?"

"Let me get this straight..." Malia sits forward. "A girl likes you. A really smart, very nice, slightly emotional girl asks you to go to the Halloween dance with her. In an effort to spare her feelings, you tell her that you're dating one of your close friends, who has no idea about any of this..."

Scott nods slowly. "Yeah."

"And then you sneak into my house at 11 o'clock at night to ask me to be your fake girlfriend for the dance..."

"Well, maybe not just the dance. I mean, she might get suspicious if we don't hang out beforehand... And the dance is like, a week away, so... I mean, if it looks like we're not together anymore, she might ask me again."

Malia stares at him.

Scott groans. "I know. I'm a jerk!" He falls back against her bed with an overdramatic sigh. "I should've just told her I wasn't interested and moved on. But, she really is nice and I didn't want to make her feel bad."

"Scott..." Malia shakes her head. "Look, I'm not saying you didn't have good intentions, but... I mean, what if I wanted to go to the dance with someone?"

He lifts his head and drops his elbows down to the bed to hold himself up. "Do you?" he asks quickly. "I mean, you never said you liked someone. Last time Stiles asked, you shoved him into a locker."

"That was mostly because he ate all my fries when I wasn't looking." Defensively, she adds, "And I didn't even lock it."

Scott half-smiles, amused. "There was that time you tazed Jackson for hitting on you, too."

"He groped me in the middle of a party! It was gross and I'd be more than happy to taze him again!"

"I'm not saying he didn't deserve it." He sits up properly and stares at her searchingly. "You're right, it was a dick move. I should've been honest and I definitely should've talked to you before I said anything." Scott sighs. "I'll apologize to Lindsey tomorrow and I'll be up front. It's gonna be awkward and I really hope she doesn't cry, but it's the right thing to do."

Malia nods. "Good."

A beat passes then, with Scott not quite looking at her as he asks, "So, who were you gonna go to the dance with?"

She screws her mouth up. "Nobody. I just wanted to make the choice for myself."

He grins, ducking his head. "Then, you're free?"

"Free to dress up like a sexy nurse and wear shoes that pinch my toes, yup." She shrugs. "I was actually thinking of dressing up as Morticia or something. I've got a black dress that'd be perfect. Neck to toe lace."

"Yeah?" His voice is a little strangled before he coughs and rubs his hands against his knees. "Do you think... I mean, without all the Lindsey stuff, 'cause I'll definitely still tell her the truth, but... If you don't have anyone else you wanna go with, then maybe we could go together. I'd have to find a suit somewhere, but I think I could pull off Gomez."

Malia stares at him a long beat before a slow grin forms on her lips. Her heart is totally not beating so hard she's afraid it might escape her chest and start square dancing around her head... Except it definitely is. "Yeah?"

He nods. "Yeah. I mean, if you want to..."

"You know, Gomez and Morticia are pretty affectionate. There's a lot of arm kissing and pet names in different languages."

"My French sucks, but I aced Spanish."

"And the arm kissing?"

He grins. "Like you said, PDA's never bothered me before."

Malia's chest warms and butterflies fill her stomach, but she tries not to let her excitement show too much. Instead, she nods. "Okay."

His brows hike and his eyes widen. "Seriously?"

"Seriously." She drops her feet down to the carpet and sits forward. "I can help you find a suit if you want. Maybe after we can get dinner or see a movie or something."

"I— Yeah! Yeah, I'm up for that. I mean, whatever you want."

Malia chews her lip. "Cool. So, it's a date."

He grins goofily. "Soon then? Maybe this Thursday? I don't know what's playing, so I'll look it up, but..."

"Thursday works."

"Great. Okay." He stands from the bed. "Uh, I should probably go. It's late." He backs toward the window. "I'll see you tomorrow?"

She nods. "We have school, so yeah."

"Right. Duh." He shakes his head, his cheeks a faint pink. "Okay. Night, Lia."

"Night."

He climbs out her window and waves after he pushes it closed once more.

Malia waves back and tracks him as he leaves her porch. Alone now, she lets her smile fully bloom.

Turning her chair back around, she grabs up a tissue and her nail polish remover. Suddenly, she's less interested in pumpkins and ghosts and more interested in moons and stars and a tiny red heart in the bottom corner of her thumb.

Chapter Text

Malia never wanted to find her soul mate. She figured that out when she was young. When she realized her parents—crazy and homicidal as they were—had been brought together by the words on their wrists. On the one hand, she appreciated that their strange connection resulted in her, but there was something to be said about two people as troubled and wrong as they were being able to find each other. Like a mirror, reflecting the very worst of themselves, they found their other halves in the dredges of humanity. Malia didn't want to know who her mirror was. She didn't want to find out what kind of skeletons lived in her closet, a direct response to whatever darkness was inside of her. No, she was better on her own, ignoring her dad's frequent phone calls and effectively avoiding speaking to anyone unless they'd spoken first. That way, she knew what their first words were and if they weren't on her body, then she didn't have to worry about them.

Malia was content with this plan until she was fifteen years old and she met Scott McCall. On the outside, he was a nice, friendly, handsome boy with floppy hair and a crooked smile. But appearances were deceiving. Her parents were proof of that. At a glance, Corrine and Peter might look beautiful and accomplished, but she knew better. Mass-murdering, power-hungry shifters that they were, it was a miracle Malia didn't come out of her mother and kill the doctor delivering her. For that, she had Talia to thank. Her aunt had been the shining light of common sense in her life, raising her from a baby and showing her a better path. The only coyote in a house full of wolves meant that personalities clashed, but she liked to think she'd grown up okay. A little blunt, but nowhere near the monster her parents were. That's what she hoped, anyway. The idea of finding her so-called soul mate and seeing a reflection of either of her parents there scared her. Maybe it was only a matter of time before she followed in their footsteps.

Thus, her plan. This way, she might never meet her soul mate and she was okay with that. Until Scott said those fateful words— "Shit, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to… Oh. Whoa." He'd shaken his head, eyes a little wide, and then stuttered, "I mean, sorry, that was… uh… Here. I'll grab your books." Taking them without a word, she'd turned on her heel and quickly walked away, but her heart hammered hard in her chest.

Shit, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to… Oh. Whoa.

Shit

I'm sorry

I didn't mean to

Oh

Whoa

Malia escaped to the bathroom and yanked the leather cuff from her wrist, staring at the words written in small, slanted print. But, it wasn't for sure, right? If she never said his words, or if her words didn't match whatever was on him, then… He wasn't it.

Still, she refused to take a chance.

For the next year, Malia wouldn't say one word to him. She avoided even glancing in his direction. As far as she was concerned, Scott McCall did not exist.

Until he did.



Malia figured out Scott was a wolf halfway through sophomore year. His suddenly working lungs, agility on the lacrosse field, and growing confidence were red flags from the beginning. It was a little hard to ignore him then. A new shifter tended to cause problems in the community and she knew her aunt was going to want to hear about it. But, she put it off. For an entire month, she kept the information to herself. Until the guilt started to eat at her. Which was why she found herself sitting down at the kitchen table, stirring a cup of tea while she worked up the courage to say what she needed to.

"It's not like you to hesitate." Talia stared at her searchingly. "What's wrong?"

"I think… I know that one of the boys at the school is a shifter. And not like us-- I think he was bit."

Talia's brow furrowed. "Are you sure?"

"Yeah, I mean… A growth spurt is one thing, but he used to have pretty bad asthma, but now he's playing lacrosse like a pro." She shook her head. "Something's up."

"Have you talked to him?"

She shifted in her seat. "I'd rather not. I was kind of hoping you or Laura might do it…"

Talia hummed. "Any reason why?"

"Well, you're a lot more diplomatic than I am. I'd probably scare him." She shrugged. "Plus, if I'm wrong, I have to go to school with him for the next two years."

"Is that the only reason?"

Her brow wrinkled. "What other reason is there?"

Talia stared at her thoughtfully and then let her gaze fall to Malia's wrist. "I remember when you started wearing that. You used to love your words. You'd trace them every night before you went to sleep. For a long time, you treasured the idea of a soul mate. But then something changed…"

Malia swallowed tightly. "I don't need another half, I'm whole all on my own."

"Yes, you are."

She looked up, surprised. "Really?"

"Of course." Talia grinned. "A soul mate doesn't complete you. You don't need another person for that. They… compliment you."

"What about Peter and Corinne?"

Talia sighed. "Is that what this is about…? Malia, I'll be honest with you. Not all soul mates are good for each other. That's just how life is. You will meet good and bad and terrible people in your life. For whatever reason, you parents found something in each other that they liked. That's a reflection on who they are, what they value, but not on you. Being born of them does not define you. The decisions you make and people you choose to surround yourself are much more important than whose blood you share."

She chewed her lip. "What if I meet them, whoever they are, and I see something in them that I don't like? Something that's a part of me, too."

"I don't know what you think is inside you, but all I've ever seen is a strong, protective, loving girl." Talia reached across the table and covered Malia's hands around her mug. "The fact that you doubt it, that you're worried you could be anything like your parents, says a lot about who you want to be. Nothing and nobody can make you into someone you aren't."

Malia stared up at her, her mouth trembling and her eyes damp. "I don't want to be a killer."

"Oh, honey… You aren't." Circling the table, Talia pulled Malia up from her chair and hugged her tight, stroking her hair gently. "Words or no words, you are exactly who you want to be, and I think if you really look at yourself, you'll find a good, strong, smart young woman."

Malia pressed her cheek against Talia's chest and hugged her waist. Gathering up her courage, she admitted, "He said my words. Last year, we bumped into each other and he said them… I didn't say anything back. I haven't said anything to him since. I thought… If I never do, I'll never know, and then…"

"Then you never have to face what you're afraid of." Talia nodded. "I get it."

"Really?" Malia looked up at her, unsure. "Am I a wimp? I feel like a wimp."

Talia cupped her cheek. "We all experience fear. Even alphas. It's how we choose to deal with that fear that shapes us. I won't tell you what to do. If you really want me or Laura to talk to this boy, then we will. But, we both know that avoiding a problem can only last for so long. Maybe this boy isn't your soul mate and maybe he is. Either way, you get to decide who you want to share yourself with in every way, shape, and form."

Malia nodded. "Okay."

"Okay, what?"

She took a deep breath. "I'll talk to him."

Talia's smile was slow and knowing. "Okay."



In the year since Malia had first bumped into Scott, she hadn't been as unaware of him as she would have liked. She told herself she was, that she avoided him at every opportunity. But the truth was, she noticed him. It was hard not to. Once those words were said, a tiny alarm in the back of head couldn't help but go off whenever he so much as passed her in the hallway. Being in the same grade, they shared classes, which often meant they were sitting next to or around each other. It was pure luck that they'd never been paired together for a project, basically forcing interaction. So, she'd seen him. Even kept an eye on him from a distance. Paid extra attention in class when he shared a thought or idea. Silently cheered him on from the benches when he played lacrosse. Never, in all that time though, had she acknowledged him. If he looked in her direction, she looked away. If he walked too close, she took a different route through the halls. The one and only time they touched, besides that first moment they knocked into each other, was when he passed her a pop quiz in math and their fingers had briefly brushed. She blamed the strange zing of energy she'd felt on nerves over her test and not on whatever their connection may or may not be.

But today… Today, she would talk to him. Today she would know, once and for all, if Scott McCall was her soul mate. Additionally, she'd know if he was a werewolf and if he'd be willing to meet her aunt about how that happened. Just quick and fast, that was all she had to be. The priority was finding out if he was a shifter. The soul mate thing was a side issue, one that would be dealt with in a matter of seconds, as these would be the first words she ever spoke to him.

After some searching, she eventually found Scott standing in front of a bank of lockers next to his best friend, Stiles. His thumbs were hooked in the straps of his bag as he nodded along to something Stiles was saying.

Malia slowed her footsteps and briefly considered turning tail and fleeing. It wasn't exactly in her nature. She'd always been more of the confrontational type. But in this, she found herself hesitating. When she first found out who her mother was, it was Peter that explained it. Corinne was wild and beautiful and deadly, and he meant that in the most sincere way possible. She wasn't just dangerous, like shifters naturally were, gifted with more strength than the average human. No, Corinne actively enjoyed her ability to kill, control, and destroy anything and anyone in her path. And Peter, being who he was, liked that about her. While he didn't actively go looking for people to slaughter, and maybe Corinne didn't either, he would take on whoever happened to get in his way, or stood between him and ultimate power.

Malia had never considered herself someone that needed power. Not over others, anyway. She never yearned to be an alpha or the leader of the pack. She left that to Talia and Laura. Instead, Malia liked being a beta. She liked having a place among her family's pack. And she liked the comfort that having an alpha brought, knowing that her aunt or her cousin would always do whatever was in their best interests. But that didn't stop her from wondering if maybe there was a bloodthirsty part of her hiding somewhere inside, waiting for some unknown spark to send her spiraling down a path she couldn't avoid. In a strange way, she thought Scott might be the answer to that question. Because if Peter and Corinne were a mirror to each other's darkness, then she expected to find a piece of herself tucked safely in her soul mate. Would that piece of herself be good, bad, or evil?

Taking a deep breath, she marched forward, moving past the criss-crossing students in her path, until finally she was there. Standing in front of Scott. "I need to talk to you. Now." Okay, maybe not the gentlest opening… But, she panicked and, technically, this whole werewolf thing was serious business.

Scott simply stared at her, his brows hiked.

"Dude, I think she means you." Stiles knocked a hand against Scott's chest before turning to Malia. "Can I, uh, ask what this is about?"

Malia glanced at him before returning her attention to Scott. "Is last Friday ringing any bells?"

Scott frowned and then looked at Stiles, who shrugged.

"Did you do something last Friday and not invite me?"

"No, Friday was when I…" Scott trailed off, his expression clearing, and then he looked at Malia searchingly. "It was a full moon."

She nodded and let her eyes flicker gold. "Like I said, we need to talk."

"Right now?" He pulled at the straps of his backpack and looked around the halls. "Isn't that kind of… risky?"

"So, we'll go somewhere people can't hear us." She shrugged. "Are you busy right now?"

"Right… now? Uh…" He looked at Stiles, panicked. "N-No."

"Great. Let's go."

"O- Okay." Scott pushed off the lockers and looked from her to his best friend. "Can Stiles come? I mean, he already knows, well, everything."

Malia rolled her eyes. "Of course he does. Because discretion is dead. Sure, bring him along." She walked away at a fast clip then, halfway down the hall before either of the boys caught up to her.

"So, how did you…? I mean, how'd you know that I…?" Scott looked up at her curiously, keeping pace at her side.

"Little things. Better lungs, better reflexes…" She looked him up and down. "You even grew a couple inches."

Scott grinned. "You noticed that?" He sobered. "I mean, that could've been a normal growth spurt."

"That made your severe asthma go away?" She raised an eyebrow before shoving the door open that led outside. Making her way down the cement stairs, she walked toward the parking lot, more to give them distance from the school than anything. "Chronic lung conditions don't just disappear because of puberty. I mean, the gym might add a few pounds of muscle, that I can believe. I'll even accept that a lot of lacrosse practice improved your hand-eye coordination. But, the lungs thing was the clincher."

"Just out of curiosity," Stiles said, "how'd you know he had asthma?"

Malia glanced back at him. "His wheezing gave it away."

"Right. But, you and Scott haven't ever taken phys ed together. The first time he really made it onto the lacrosse team he was already a wolf. So… when, exactly, were you around to hear him wheezing?"

She cocked her head, staring at him. "How do you know we've never taken phys ed together?"

"Because he would've told m…" He trailed off and let out a puff of air. "Uh, because we have. Scott and I. Every year, same class. And you were not there, so, uh… Yeah."

Malia hummed and then shook her head. "He had an asthma attack in English last year. Dust in those ratty old books or something." She shrugged. "The point is that you don't just grow out of that. Which means something else fixed it."

"And you want to know what?"

"No. I want to know who."

"Well, who turned you?" Stiles crossed his arms and tapped his foot. "Huh? Who made you head interrogator?"

"My parents. And my aunt." Malia put her hands on her hips. "I wasn't bitten, I was born this way. And my aunt is my alpha, which means that she wants to talk to you. Beacon Hills is under her supervision. We might not be the only pack in town, but they all come to her for guidance, so she'll need to know who, exactly, turned you and didn't let her know."

"That's gonna be a problem," Stiles muttered.

"Does a cat have your tongue or does he just always speak for you?" Malia asked, staring at Scott.

"More like a wolf." Stiles snickered, elbowing Scott's arm.

Malia frowned and centered her attention on Scott. "You don't know who bit you, do you?"

"Not really." Scott winced. "I was in the woods when it came out of nowhere. I haven't seen it since. At least, I don't think I have."

"How do we know it wasn't your alpha or someone else in your pack?" Stiles wondered.

"Only an alpha can turn someone and my aunt would never do that without someone's permission. Most of the packs around here wouldn't. Which means it had to be a stray alpha, looking to build a pack…" Her eyes darted thoughtfully. "And you haven't seen them since? Nobody's come up to you, asked you to join them?"

"The only person that knows what I am is Stiles. And now you…" Scott shrugged. "Jackson's pretty suspicious, but he can't prove anything."

Malia hummed. "Who was in town then…?" Turning on her heel, she continued walking down the sidewalk, talking aloud to herself. "We had pack meetings at the beginning of January. That's when you started to change. You made first line and were starring in all the games… We had alphas from all over California in town, but they wouldn't do this. Deucalion is too smart, Kali is hot-headed but controlled, the only one who might've done it is Ennis. He was pissed about peace treaty talks, but… Why wouldn't he come looking for you after? It doesn't make sense."

"How long have you known?" Scott wondered.

"What?" Malia turned around to look at him. "Known what?"

"That I'm…" He checked to make sure nobody was close enough to overhear him. "That I'm a werewolf."

Malia shrugged. "I had suspicions a month ago, but I wasn't sure. So, I kept an eye on it."

"For a whole month?" Stiles snorted. "And your alpha was okay with that?"

Her gaze darted away and then back. "She didn't know."

"Wait, so, you thought Scott was a wolf, just like you, and you just…" He shook his head, his eyes wide, "didn't say anything?"

"He wasn't hurting anyone. And also, I'm not a wolf."

"But, your eyes…" Scott's brow furrowed. "They were gold."

"I'm a coyote shifter. My dad's a wolf, but my mom's genes were stronger." She shrugged. "I didn't say anything to my aunt because if I was wrong it could blow up in our faces."

"It sounded like you had some pretty solid evidence." Stiles raised an eyebrow. "Seems weird, you not saying anything for weeks… You didn't even check in. Didn't drop any hints to see if he'd bite. You haven't said one word to him… ever."

Malia clenched her teeth. "So?"

"So…" Stiles squinted at her. "Scott said something to you though, didn't he? In freshman year, you two bumped into each other." He nodded, his eyes darting as he started to pull the threads of his thoughts together. "I remember, because Scott couldn't shut up about it after. He talked to you, but you didn't say anything back. You never have. Today is the first time and you said…" Stiles turned, his gaze abruptly falling to Scott's wrist. "Back in third grade, you remember when we compared marks and I said yours sounded like a principal getting pissed at you. But it wasn't, it was her."

"Stiles…" Scott stared at him, his mouth pressed flat in a line. "Stop."

Stiles paused, looking back at her and then to Scott. Finally, he held his hands up in surrender. "Fine. Figure it out amongst yourselves."

Malia lifted her chin, deciding not to acknowledge everything Stiles had just said. Instead, she rested her gaze on Scott. "My aunt can help you. Even if we can't find your alpha, you should talk to her. There's a lot more to being a wolf than just being good at lacrosse."

"Would I have to join her pack?"

She shook her head. "No. I mean, you probably could, if you wanted to. Or she'd help you find another one in the area. But, you don't have to. It's just good to have someone to go to for help. To answer the questions that a quick internet search isn't going to help you with."

Scott nodded slowly. "Okay. Yeah, that… that makes sense. I'll talk to her."

"Good." She rocked back on her heels. "You know how to get there? Through the preserve?"

"Uh… Kind of." He winced uncertainly. "At least, I think I do."

Malia rolled her eyes. "I'll drive you. After school, you can ride back with me and after you talk, I'll drop you off wherever."

"Okay, yeah." He ran a hand through his hair and smiled. "So, meet back here then?"

Malia nodded and then glanced at Stiles. "He can come, too. If he doesn't mind being surrounded by wolves."

Laughing awkwardly, Stiles gave her a thumbs up. "That's great. Thank you for that. I will take it under consideration."

With a feral grin, Malia turned on her heel and left.



Scott stared after her, his shoulders slumped and his mind still desperately trying to process the last fifteen minutes.

"Dude, do you know what this means?" Stiles elbowed him excitedly.

"That I have to talk to an alpha wolf in a few hours and have no idea what the hell I'm going to say to her?" He turned, eyes wide. "Stiles, I don't know who bit me. What if she's mad that I was turned? Or what if she wants me to quit the team so it doesn't draw attention?"

"I doubt it." Stiles waved a hand in Malia's direction. "She's on the track team and nobody's stopping her."

"That's different."

"How?"

"I don't know. She was born into it. And it's like she said, I used to have severe asthma." His brows hiked. "What if somebody else puts the pieces together?"

"And comes up with 'werewolf'? Yeah, I doubt it. Anyway, you're missing the bigger picture here."

Scott groaned. "What's that?"

"Malia Hale knows who the hell you are!"

He paused. While that was true, there was a much more pressing issue. "Yeah, because I'm a supernatural threat and she wants her alpha aunt to do something about it!"

"Oh my God, how are you this dramatic and obtuse at the same time? Did we listen to the same conversation? Everything she said, everything she noticed, that's not just keeping an eye on you to make sure you're not a wolf. It's bigger than that. And seriously, the not talking to you and then her first words." He grabbed Scott's wrist and pointed at the thick watch that covered it. "I know those words. And she said them."

Scott shook his head. "If that's true then I said my first words to her over a year ago… And she's been avoiding me ever since. The only reason she talked to me now is because I'm a werewolf. Which means—"

"What? You think she doesn't want you?"

"All signs are pointing to yes." He sighed. "And you basically told her I have a crush on her."

"You do. You've been mooning over her since Freshman year, when she kept hitting Jackson with spitballs and then hiding the straw before he could figure out who it was."

Scott grinned goofily. "She hid it up the sleeve of her shirt and winked at me when I noticed."

"I know." Stiles rolled his eyes. "You've told me a few thousand times."

"Hey, I listened to you talk about Lydia since kindergarten!"

"Whatever." Stiles waved a hand dismissively. "Can we focus on the important part of all this?"

"That Malia's aunt is going to grill me after school?"

"No, that you might've found your soul mate in a gorgeous werecoyote with perfect spitball aim."

Scott inhaled deeply and let it out on a sigh. "What if she is and she doesn't want to be?"

"Then, that'll suck, but… You won't know until you ask." Stiles patted his shoulder. "You've got a couple hours to get motivated, so I'd start working up your courage now."

Scott groaned.



After school, Malia stood waiting against her car, phone in hand as she texted her aunt to let her know she'd be bringing Scott, and possibly his fidgety friend Stiles, by.

"Hey."

She looked up to find a nervous Scott standing in front of her, no Stiles to be seen. "No back-up?"

"Didn't think I needed any… Do I?"

Malia shook her head. "Nope." She walked around to the passenger side of her car and motioned for him to climb in.

As he did, he sat awkwardly in the seat beside her. "This car looks… expensive."

"It is." She plugged her seatbelt in and turned the ignition. "My dad makes up for a lack of parenting with expensive gifts."

"Oh. Are… Is that… I mean, that sucks. Kind of." His brow furrowed. "Gifts are nice, I guess. But, you must miss him."

"Sometimes." She backed out of her parking space and maneuvered through the lot to get onto the main road. "If you knew my dad, you'd know he's better in small doses. Anyway, my aunt is great. You'll like her."

"Cool." He tapped his fingers against his knees.

"Your heart is pounding like crazy." Malia glanced at him. "She's not going to do anything bad. Not unless you have."

"I haven't!" He shook his head. "At least, I've tried really hard not to."

"Must've been weird for you. Waking up to find you're not human anymore… Not having a pack to help you through it or to teach you about the shift."

"It wasn't easy… But, I had Stiles. He helped a lot."

"Good." She nodded. "That's really good."

"So, if you were born this way, have you always shifted? Like, even when you were a baby?"

"No, it doesn't trigger until you're older. There'll be signs of it, but a full shift doesn't hit 'til around puberty. I turned when I was nine; trauma or a lot of stress can cause it to happen early. It was rough, I didn't really know what was happening. I got scared and I shifted into a full coyote, tried to run and hide in the woods. But Talia can shift into a wolf, too. She tracked me down and stayed with me through the whole thing. When I was ready, I shifted back, and she taught me how to control it."

"A full coyote? Like, an actual animal?"

Malia nodded. "Not everybody can do it. The Hales more than most, but it's still pretty rare."

"Wow." Scott slumped against his seat. "I guess there's a lot I still have to figure out about this stuff."

"Talia will help."

Scott stared at her profile a moment. "You've taught me a lot already."

She felt a warmth bloom in her cheeks and cleared her throat. "Yeah, well, I probably should've said something earlier. When I first suspected something was different."

"Why didn't you?"

She chewed on her lip and shrugged. "It was complicated."

Scott didn't reply right away, seeming to think something over. Eventually, he said, "Stiles thinks that you have my words. That you didn't talk to me because you didn't want to confirm that I was your…"

"Soul mate?" The word leaves her with a lot more weight than she meant for it to. She wasn't sure what she wanted to do. Deny it? Confirm it? Shrug the whole thing off?

"Yeah." Scott played with his fingers. "My parents were soul mates. Dad took off when I was a kid. He calls and stuff, but it's not really the same. My mom used to worry it'd make me bitter. Like I wouldn't trust in the mark or something. And I don't know if I do. I mean, I like the idea of it. Of finding someone that'll fit with you better than anyone else. But, I also think you can't put that kind of weight on it, you know? A relationship isn't going to work just because you both said the right thing at the right time. You've gotta be able to talk after that, find some kind of common ground, work through the hard stuff. If you just expect it's going to be easy or you stop trying then of course it's going to fall apart. My parents, they loved each other, and maybe they do work together in some ideal situation, but… When my dad drinks, he's someone else, and whoever that person is, he's not good enough for my mom." He shook his head. "I think if you can find the person that has your words, then great. But that's just a beginning. All the other stuff, the middle and the ending, you get to decide how that goes. And how hard you're going to fight for it."

Malia swallowed tightly, his words leaving behind a sense of wonder in her. "My parents were soul mates, too. Maybe the worst kind. It's weird because when people talk about it, it's like this cosmic force that pulls people together and everybody rides off into the sunset in some pumpkin-shaped carriage. But, it's not like that. Terrible people find each other too and they don't magically fix all the awful parts of each other, sometimes they feed into them instead…"

She turned off the main road, past a sign that read 'Private Property.' "I was raised by my aunt because my mom was a killer and her biggest target was me… When a coyote gives birth, they give part of their power to their child, but my mom doesn't like to share and she wanted her power back. My aunt wasn't going to let that happen. So, she fought Corinne and she won. For a while. When I was nine, my mom came back. That's when my dad told me everything, about her and what she did, that she never really wanted me and she felt like I stole from her. It was weird, you know? I mean, I knew I had a mom, but I'd never really met her. I thought she left me with Talia because she thought I'd be better off there, but that was never true. It was too much and I shifted. Talia took care of me and Peter… My dad fought my mom and he won. He promised me she'd never hurt me, but I knew what he really meant. She was dead and that was the only reason I was alive."

"Are you scared you'll be like them?" Scott wondered.

"Wouldn't you be?" She glanced at him. "Peter might've saved me, but he's not exactly winning a Dad of the Year award anytime soon. I know he loves me, but his priorities have always been clear. Money, status, power, then me."

"But you're not like that. Not like him or your mom."

"I appreciate the sentiment, but you hardly know me."

"We're not friends, but I've been going to school with you since kindergarten… In third grade, you used to bring Missus Bradley a gummy worm every week because you said apples were overrated."

"I had a sweet tooth."

"In sixth grade, you punched Jared Wyatt in the face because he pulled Lydia's hair."

"He made her cry." Malia shrugged. "So, I made him cry."

"I think it's more than that. I think you saw someone get hurt and you wanted to protect them."

"So, I hurt someone in retaliation? I'm not sure my aunt would say that was the right response."

"Maybe not, but you were also eleven… You remember last year, when Jessica Davy told the school she was date raped by a basketball player. It turned into this whole thing about drinking culture and everybody was sending pictures around of what Jess was wearing at the party and it was just… awful."

"I remember. The school said they couldn't do anything about it." Her lip curled in a snarl. "Which was bullshit."

"Yeah. And you walked Jessica to every one of her classes that whole year. You sat with her at lunch. You drove her home. And when the basketball team tried to bully her, you never flinched. I don't know if that's a coyote thing or not, but I definitely think it's a Malia thing."

They were parked in front of the house now, the car shut off as they talked. "Jessica didn't deserve that. Nobody does."

"No, they don't. And I think it says a lot about you that you don't just think it, but you do something about it."

Shifting in her seat to face him, she said, "I wanted to hurt him. I wanted to hunt him down for what he did to her. That he thought he had any right to touch her. To touch anyone without their permission…"

"Why didn't you?"

She took a deep breath. "Because I didn't think I could stop myself. It's one thing to punch some eleven-year-old kid in the eye because he pulled Lydia's hair. Or to hit Jackson in the head with a few spit balls. It's another to systematically hunt down a person like they're prey… I wanted him to face justice and I'm glad Jess's mom took it to the Sheriff. Because if it was left up to me, I don't think he'd be alive."

"But you knew that and you stopped yourself…"

"Yeah, and I still don't know if that's the right thing to do. Life isn't black and white. There's a lot of morally grey spaces. Maybe he learns something in juvie. Maybe he gets counseling and he learns what consent is and he never does it again. Or maybe he doesn't. Maybe he moves somewhere else or he goes to college and he does the same thing. And maybe tearing his throat out would've been a gift to the rest of the human race."

"Maybe," Scott allowed.

She looked at him, surprised.

"I don't know what the answer is. I know that I never want to kill anyone. That I don't think I have it in me to do it. But I'm also saying that when I'm not being threatened. When nobody I know or love is in danger. Maybe if things were different, I'd have to test that boundary. But I do know that you don't want to be a killer. That when you think about what your mom or your dad did or what they value, it's different from you. And I think if you know that, if you remember it and you hold onto it, that can be what guides you."

"So, what, anytime I think I might be making a bad choice, I just ask myself, 'What would Peter do?' and then do the opposite?"

He grinned. "Sure, if that helps."

Malia snorted. "It might."

Leaning back in her seat, she looked ahead to her house. A minute passed and then another. She wondered if he could feel the weight of a thousand unspoken conversations like she could. All the missed opportunities in their past. Taking a deep breath, she told him, "I never talk to anybody first… I always let them speak and then I answer… That way, if they say my words, I don't have to find out."

"How's it working out for you?"

"Well, I spent a year avoiding you when it sounds like I might've been better off knowing you."

Scott smiled, slow and warm. "Yeah?"

"I've never liked being afraid. It goes against all of my instincts. Talia raised me to be strong and confident and I think I am, with most things. But when it comes to feelings, to soul mates… I panic."

"I get it."

"Really?"

He nodded. "There's a lot of pressure to be perfect. To be good looking and smart and everything someone's looking for. But I'm just me. And up until last month, I was a severe asthmatic that had no chance of making it onto the lacrosse team."

"Do you think you're better off now?"

"I don't know… I'm happy and I think I've grown a lot. I know I'm stronger and faster and my lungs don't give out on me after a light jog, but… I hope that even if I hadn't been bit, I'd still find a way to be happy with my life. I'd still have Stiles and my mom and… I'd still have your words on my wrist, so…"

Malia's gaze wandered toward him. The tips of his ears were pink and she could smell his nervousness, but it was endearing more than anything. "I'm not always great at saying what I'm feeling, at least not the soft feelings, but I'm also blunt about pretty much everything else."

"So, we work on our communication."

"I might push you away when I get scared…"

"I'll learn how to find you."

"And I might suck at it… Being a soul mate."

"I might, too." Scott shrugged. "I've never been one before. There's probably a learning curve."

She bit her lip as she smiled. "So, we're doing this?"

"I'd like to." He stared at her searchingly. "We can start slow. Just talk and get to know each other and see where it goes."

"I think we've got a head start on that."

He grinned. "Then we're doing pretty good."

Malia nodded. When she looked up, she spotted Talia on the porch, hugging her cardigan closed at her waist. "That's my aunt."

Scott looked ahead, his brows arched faintly. "She looks intimidating."

Malia smirked. "She can be."

He looked back at her, his expression softening. "So, after this, or maybe sometime this week… Do you think we could hang out? We can get dinner and talk or see a movie… Whatever you want."

Malia stared at him a long beat, her heart beating a little too fast. Pushing past her fear and the uncertainty that still nipped at her heels, she nodded. "I could eat."

Scott's grin was big and goofy and she bit her lip to hide a similar expression growing on her mouth. "Okay. Great. Uh, I'll just…" He motioned toward Talia. "Don't change your mind. Please?" He hurried out of her car then and raced up the driveway to meet Talia.

Malia shook her head. "I won't."

Chapter Text

Scott woke to fingers walking up his chest. His mouth turned up at one corner and his eyes slowly opened, blinking against the muted glow of the sun coming through the blinds. He squinted, let out a tired sigh, and turned his head. Her fingers continued their slow climb, dipping into the hollow of his collar bone, skimming up his neck, and trailing from one side of his jaw to the other before circling back to hang off the end of his chin.

From his vantage point, she was mostly mussed brown hair. She was laying on her side, one of her legs hooked around his, her thigh warm against his own. She let her fingers fall back from his chin and slide down his neck, making a quick but soft path down his body until they came to a stop just under his navel. 

“Are you trying to wake me up?” he wondered, his voice deep and thick with sleep. 

Malia shrugged. “Maybe.” 

He reached up, drawing her hair back and off her face. Her gaze was on his chest, brow furrowed. “You okay?” 

“Mmhmm.” 

His hand flared out and cupped her shoulder, thumb rubbing a circle against warm, bare skin. “You sure?” 

She sighed, her mouth pursed. “I’m being dumb.” 

“About what?” 

Her eyes rolled and she hooked her hand around his side, wiggling closer so she was pressed up close to him. “I missed you. I know you had papers due and break is only a couple weeks away, but... I don’t like it. I don’t like sleeping alone or not having dinner together. I know we still text and you tried to fit me in between study sessions, but... it sucked. And I know that’s whiny and needy, but I got used to a certain level of us time and it was just weird not having you there.” She scrunched her nose up. “I told you it was dumb.”

Scott’s smile stretched slowly. “It’s not dumb.”

She looked up at him uncertainly. “It’s not?” 

“No.” He shook his head. “I missed you, too.” 

Her mouth twitched, but she bit her lip to hide her smile. “Yeah?” 

“Yeah.” He turned over to face her better, their legs tangled. She tipped her head back and his hand found the hinge of her jaw, thumb stretching along her cheek. “I like it when you stay over. Even if your feet are always cold.” 

She rolled her eyes. “I tried wearing socks! You said the wool was scratchy.” 

He laughed lightly, a rumble from his chest. “I like it. I like warming you up.” 

“Yeah, well, you run extra hot.” She dragged her knuckles along his ribs, smirking when he twitched at the ticklish sensation. “Go back to saying nice things.” 

Scott licked his lips and stared down at her, his gaze soft. “I think I know a way we could change things.” 

Her gaze narrowed. “You’re not quitting school, are you? Because Melissa might kill you, and then me.” 

“No, I’m not quitting school.” He shook his head. “But, I thought if we shared an apartment, at least we’d have more time together. No more switching places on the weekend or trying to find time in between study sessions. And we’ll save money on rent and bills and we’ve been together two years, so... I-- I just think it makes sense. I’ve been thinking about it for a while, actually. And with the break coming up, we’ll have time to start to moving everything in. Your lease is up at the end of December anyway, right?” He paused. “I mean, if you want to. I’ll understand if you don’t. There’s no pressure if you feel like it’s too soon or you need that space or--” He stopped when her finger pressed against his lips. 

Malia grinned at him. “Okay.” 

He blinked. “Okay?” he managed around her finger. 

Malia dropped her hand lower, fingers perched on the end of his chin. “Moving in make sense, even just from an economic point of view. But mostly because I like being here.” 

His smile made his dimples pop. “Yeah?” 

“Of course I do.” She rolled her eyes. “Two years, Scott. I think we’re pretty solid.” 

“I know. I just like hearing it.” He stared at her searchingly. “It didn’t start out so easy. Sometimes it feels a little surreal to look back on everything.” 

“Yeah, it does. But, we made it. We’re alive and safe and you’re in school and we’re moving in together and... it’s all very normal adult junk.” 

He laughed under his breath. “Exactly.” 

“And like the very serious adult I am, I’m going to totally ignore your morning breath, because I love you, and we just took a huge step in our relationship.” She stretched up then, her nose grazing his own, and met his eyes as her breath fanned over his lips. 

“Is that right?” 

She cupped his cheek. “Mmhmm.”

Scott laughed into the kiss, but it broke off in a moan. What started out as a simple kiss quickly grew. It wasn’t just a good morning peck, but a celebration, and he was feeling more and more awake. She leaned into him until he fell back and she slid onto his chest. His hands slid down her shoulders and along her back, reaching her hips and pulling her in close. It was a few long minutes before she kissed away from his mouth, nipping at his chin, and sitting up. She stared down at him, her cheeks flushed and her mouth full and pink. “You’re sure you want me and my cold feet sharing your bed every night?” 

Scott nodded. One of his hands left her waist and slid under the blanket to search out her foot, squeezing it teasingly and making her laugh. “These are the only cold feet I want to warm up.” 

Malia shook her head. “Dork.” Leaning down, she smoothed her hands up his chest and kissed him again, softer now. “We should get out of bed... soon... ish.” 

“I like the ‘ish’ part.” He stroked his fingers through her hair and down her neck.

Laying down flat against him, chest to chest, she pressed her cheek to his shoulder. “Me, too.”

Hugging his arms around her, he kissed the top of her hair.

“Hey?” She tipped her head back to see him. “I feel better now.” 

Scott smiled. “Good.”

It would take some adjustment, but he had a good feeling about this. She was right. They were solid. And this was just one more step in their relationship. Scott smiled to himself; he was already looking forward to coming home to her. 

Chapter Text

It should be easy. Once the war ends, the exhaustion should abate. But, it doesn’t. Scott’s feet drag, his eyes struggle to stay open, and his shoulders slump. Maybe it’s compounded; every battle before it, every day that went on too long, he’s feeling them now. They won, but it doesn’t feel like it. They’ve been on the run, three steps behind Monroe and her cronies for months, even years. Until they weren’t. It’s really over, at least for now. Until the next Monroe or Peter or Dread Doctor comes out of the wood work. 

Malia finds him in his bedroom, a bag on the floor, half unpacked. A part of him wonders how long it’ll be before he’s packing it again. Either to go underground due to the next enemy or because somehow, finally, he’ll be headed to school. Given the last few years, he’d put his money on just trying to survive the next attack. 

“Hey...” She leans in the doorway, arms crossed loosely, staring at him searchingly. “You look like crap.” 

His mouth kicks up on one side. “I feel like it.” 

She crosses to him. Her hands find his shoulders and push him back, giving her room to climb into his lap. 

His own hands find her hips, thumbs hooked in the loops of her jean shorts while his fingers tuck under the fabric of her shirt to gently stroke her skin. Three years ago, they stood in this same room and finally crossed the threshold, admitting they had feelings for each other. It was the best thing to come out of all of this. After three years of fighting Monroe, he was... tired. 

“Talk to me.” She slid her hands up, one folding around his nape while the other took his chin and raised it so they were eye to eye. 

That was one thing he loved about Malia, among a few thousand others. She was straightforward and she didn’t tend to tiptoe around things. Maybe in the beginning, when they were still trying to figure things out. But after all this time, there’s no hesitation. She says what she wants and needs and she expects the same of him. 

“Feels weird. Being back here, knowing it’s over... My head doesn’t want to believe it, but my body...” It felt like his body was fully aware the danger had passed and just wanted to shut down and reboot. “I’m tired.” 

“Then we sleep.” 

“I don’t think it’s just about that. I think...” His brow furrowed. “It’s like everything, the war, crept into everything, every part of me. And now that it’s done, I feel stuck. Like I don’t know what to do now. It’s over, but... it’s not. Not really. There’s always going to be something or someone else.” 

She nodded. “And we’ll fight them, too.” 

“But, when do we stop fighting?” His brow furrowed. “When do we get to rest?” 

"Right now. I don’t know what happens tomorrow.” She shook her head. “I wish I did. But all I really know is what’s happening in this moment. And that’s nothing. No Monroe, no enemy, nothing. It’s just me and you. So, we rest and we recuperate and maybe tomorrow is the same. Maybe we get weeks or months or years.” 

He took a deep breath and let it out on a sigh. “I know you’re right, but... Tell me what to do.” 

“What would you tell Liam if he was saying this? Or Lydia or Corey or me?” 

He pressed his lips flat. “To take the time you do have. To... enjoy it. Be with people you love. Rest when you get a chance and when it’s time to fight, we will. But don’t spend every day waiting for it or you’ll miss the time you have in between.” 

“Right.” She smiles. “So, let’s do that. If you’re tired, let’s sleep. We can spend the whole day right here. When you get hungry, I can call for take out. Nothing is stopping us.”

He wraps his arms around her waist. “I like how that sounds.” 

“Take out or sleeping?” 

“Spending it with you.” He tips his head back and searches her eyes. “We got pretty good at staying in motels and eating cheap diner food and fighting everything we came up against. But I really just want to lay down and... hold you. Without worrying about every little sound or who might track us down or what’s around the next corner.” 

Malia’s palms are warm against his cheeks, her thumbs gently stroking under his eyes. “If anyone’s holding anyone, I’m holding you.” 

Scott grins. “That works, too.” 

Malia softens. “We’re okay, you know? I know it doesn’t always feel like it. But we’re going to be okay.” 

“Yeah? Says who?”

“Says me.” Her brows arch. “And I learned it from you.” 

He snorts. “I guess I deserve that.” 

“And a lot more.” She leans in then and presses a kiss to his forehead. It’s soft and sweet and gentle in a way that most wouldn’t apply to Malia. He closes his eyes and feels lucky that he gets to witness it. That it’s focused on him. That all of her hard edges turn marshmallow soft when they’re alone and everything else can just melt away.

She kisses down the side of his face and hovers just short of his mouth. “Nap?” 

His arms wrap around her and he leans himself back, bouncing against the bed as he lands. She laughs, resting on top of him, mouth curled in a smile. 

“Like this? Seriously? You don’t want to get more comfortable?” 

His hands stroke up her back, tucked under her shirt. “Nope. This is great.”

“You’re ridiculous.” 

She doesn’t move, though. They stay like that and he lets himself relax. He’s still tired, and he wishes life was easier on the both of them. But, there is comfort in knowing that eventually, the hard days end, and when they do, they’ll always have each other. 

Chapter Text

"I feel drunk."

"That's the morphine." Scott searched her face, his brow furrowed. "Deaton got all the shrapnel out, but the only way to do it was to weaken you, so we had to use wolfsbane. He said the affects will last a few hours. You won't be able to heal until it's out of your system. That's why you're on a drip."

Malia hummed, her eyes half-closed. "Who found me?"

Licking his lips, he dropped his gaze to her hand, cupped between both of his. Her fingers ere cold and he kept rubbing them in an effort to warm them. "You don't remember?"

"Mm-mm."

"We got a lead and we followed it, but it was a trap... You figured it out at the last second and you pushed Liam out of the way, so you were the only one that was hit..." He swallowed tightly. "He, uh, he carried you back."

Malia hummed and opened her eyes a little more. "Is he okay?"

Scott's heart lurched. "Yeah," he rasped. "Yeah, he's okay."

Her brow pulled together. "Am I?"

He nodded and pulled her hand up, pressing his lips to the back. "Yeah. You're gonna be okay, too."

"Why do you look so sad then?" She attempted a smile, but as tired as she was, it barely moved her mouth. "Your betas are tough, Scott McCall."

"They are." He stroked his fingers down her wrist and brought the back of her hand to his forehead. Closing his eyes, he squeezed them tight against the sting of tears. "I almost lost you."

"But, you didn't."

He half-smiled. "I know. And I'm happy about that. Really happy. But... It was close. It was really close."

Malia stretched her fingers out, brushing against his hair. "I know the feeling. You've been there a few too many times yourself."

"Yeah." He cleared his throat. "And you bit my head off every time."

"Losing you scares me. When I'm scared, I bite..." With a snort, she added, "Sometimes I bite when I'm not scared, too."

He snorted. "I know." Opening his eyes, he looked up at her, bruised and exhausted. The wolfsbane meant that nothing was healing; not the cuts on her face or the bruises under her eyes and down her arms. And it was hard to see her like that. She was alive, which was a relief, but it was days like these that made the war that much harder to stomach. Sometimes, he thought about running. It was always brief and he felt terrible after. Like he was betraying his pack and the people that followed him for even considering it. But they snuck in— thoughts of what it might be like to get out, to be free, to walk away from the intense responsibility that had fallen on his shoulders since he was just sixteen. Every battle that had come before the war had cost him in some way. But the war was different. It never felt like it was going to end. That was a hard way to live. His pack, Stiles, Malia, they all made up for that in their own way. They gave him a reason to keep fighting. A reason to brush off those moments of doubt and to get back up and keep fighting.

It was a miracle his pack had survived this long. Ever since Monroe had taken over, he felt like he was just barely scraping by, trying to hold the threads of his pack together. Some days were good. They were faster, stronger, smarter. Other days were bad, leaving them bloody and battered and begging for some kind of relief. Today was one of those days. Today, he had to watch Liam carry a blood-soaked Malia back to him, and for a moment, he wasn't sure he could hear her heartbeat. In reply, he thought his own stopped.

"You know I love you, right?"

Malia blinked sluggishly. "Yeah."

"You know I would do anything for you." He stared up at her, eyes red-rimmed and damp. "I know those are just words and it's hard to believe that when we're stuck in the middle of a war, but--"

"I know." She traced one of his eyebrows with her finger. "I know you and I know how much you care."

"I do." He nodded. "I care about this war and what we're doing and our pack. I care about stopping Monroe and the fear she's spreading. I care about making sure there's a future for us and shifters everywhere. And all of that comes with a sense of duty a-and purpose and responsibility. But you... Loving you and being with you, that's different."

"Scott..." Her voice was soft and thick. "You don't have to—"

"I want to." His mouth trembled. "When I lost Allison, I couldn't imagine feeling that kind of pain again. Before that, I lost Erica and Boyd and... I blamed myself. I still do. For all of them. If I could go back, if I could change it somehow, I would. For everybody we lost. And I'm not saying they matter less than you, but today, when I saw you, I... I thought that was it. I lost you, too. And I couldn't breathe. I couldn't think or move or... I-I didn't know how I was supposed to keep going if I lost you." He shook his head. "I don't say it enough. I get caught up in planning and surviving and sometimes I forget to take a minute to just be with you and tell you that I... I love you, so much. Most days, I wake up and, even though I know that it's going to be hard, I know you're there and it makes it easier." He gripped her hand a little tighter, his fingers tucked tight against her palm. "You make me feel strong, and when I'm weak you hold me together. And I hope I do that for you. I—"

"You do." She smiled at him, a little stronger now. "You always have."

He stared at her a long beat and nodded. "Then I always will."

"Good." She tugged on his hand then. "C'mere."

Half-smiling, Scott climbed the bed and laid down next to her. Her IV drip was on the other side, safely out of the way, along with the good drugs that Deaton had connected to help dull the pain while the wolfsbane slowly worked its way out of her system. "Is this okay? You're comfortable?"

She grinned at him. "I'm floating, I'm good."

Scott snorted. "You think you'll remember any of this?"

She hummed. "I have an excellent memory."

"Maybe when you're not high."

She turned her head to see him better and her gaze washed over his face, memorizing him. She reached for him, letting the tips of her fingers trail from his forehead to his chin. "I love your dumb face."

"Dumb?"

"Sad and hot and dumb."

"I'm not sad."

She raised an eyebrow.

"I'm less sad... now that we talked," he corrected. "And now that I know you're going to be okay."

"I don't know, I’m kind of liking the floaty feeling." She squinted at him. "You have two mouths. Mirror mouths. But they're close enough that if I kiss one, I still have a pretty good chance."

Scott laughed. "Yeah? You wanna try?"

She hummed and leaned in. Their noses smushed together so she pulled back and then dove in again, this time kissing his chin. "Hold still."

"I haven't moved."

"Shhh."

He stared down at her fondly, brushing her hair back from her face. "Take three?"

"I'll take as many as I want," she told him rather haughtily.

His chest shook as he muffled a laugh. But then her lips were on his, a little sloppier than usual, but still a kiss. Still Malia. She bit his bottom lip and then leaned back, looking triumphant. "See?"

"Which mouth was that?" he joked.

She shrugged. "I aimed for the middle."

Shaking his head, he caught her chin and dropped another, softer and sweeter, kiss against her lips. "You should rest."

"Fine. But you have to stay." She dropped her head back to the pillow and pulled his arm around her, her finger stroking his wrist.

He kissed her shoulder and then pressed his forehead to her cheek. "I'm not going anywhere."

"Good," she said plainly. "Me either."

Scott smiled. No, she wasn't. He felt a little surer of that now. There might not be any certainties when it came to how they lived or what they were up against, but she was strong. And he had a feeling they would both fight to get back to each other, no matter who or what they faced. That was the best that he could ask for.

Chapter Text

Scott was on a first date. Her name was Kendra and she was perfectly nice, super smart, down to earth, and just about everything he could ask for in a girl. She got a full ride to school for playing soccer, was close to her parents, and loved dogs. They had a biology class together and after joking about their strange TA, she’d asked him out to dinner. About 98 percent of him wanted to say no, but the other 2 percent convinced him this was good. It was better to move on than to keep holding on to someone that had made it clear they needed to let go of each other. Malia broke up with him a month ago and it still stung. He missed her. Missed waking up with her, going to sleep together, hearing her voice on the phone, and just her random texts throughout the day. He caught himself sometimes. After a really good day at school or even a really terrible one, wanting to text or call her. Halfway through dialing her number, he would remember and stop.

So, he said yes. They went to an Asian Fusion restaurant that she liked. The food was good, and she was easy to talk to. She had a great laugh and her eyes sparkled when she got excited and it was easy to get comfortable. By the end of the date, he walked her back to the dorms, hands tucked in the pockets of his jeans, nodding along to a story she was telling about growing up back home. Kendra was from a small town, she'd had the same friends since kindergarten, and she missed them. Scott could relate in a lot of ways.

"Stiles, my best friend, is in Virginia. He, uh, he's training with the FBI."

"No way!" Kendra's brows hiked. "That's amazing."

"Yeah, he's gonna be great at it." He nodded. "Lydia's there, too. She's going to college, but if you give her another year, she'll probably be the Dean."

"That smart, huh?"

"The smartest." He nodded. "Most of my friends are in school. Not here, though. We're kind of scattered around."

"Not all your friends, though?"

"No. One skipped the whole school thing. She went to Paris. Originally just for vacation, to get away, I guess. But, she decided to stay." His brow knit and he shook his head. "She's happy, so..."

Kendra stared at him a beat. "Ex-girlfriend?"

He turned to her quickly, his eyes wide. "Uh... Yeah. How'd you know?"

"I know that face." Kendra shrugged. "My ex-girlfriend isn't anywhere as cool as Paris, but, she seems to like Seattle. We tried the whole long-distance thing for a while, but couldn't make it work. So, we pulled the plug and... I know it was for the better, long term. But the short-term sucked."

Scott nodded. "Yeah. It does."

"I know it's terrible first date etiquette, but... How long were you together?"

"Three years. We got together right out of high school and... It was a few years before I got here. There was a lot going on back home and... She was there for me. I like to think we were there for each other. But, maybe it was too much. I don't know. We were okay when I first started school. We did the same thing, with Face Timing and we were talking every day. I missed her, but I figured it was just a few more weeks before she came back. And then..." He shook his head.

"That sucks. You guys were together for a while, too."

"Yeah, and friends a couple years before that."

"That's a lot of history."

Scott half-smiled. "What about you and your ex?"

"Uh, a little over a year. We both kind of knew we were going in different directions, but we fell for each other anyway. And when it was time to let go, we did. That's kind of the hardest part, realizing that someone is better off without you and your time is up."

Scott hummed.

"This is me." She came to a stop in front of her building and waved a thumb over her shoulder. "I had fun tonight. I'm glad you said yes."

Scott nodded. "Me, too."

"I think we should do it again. Maybe see a movie or something."

"Sure. I'm up for that." He reached up and rubbed a hand over the nape of his neck. "Thanks for—"

She was kissing him. His eyes widened and he went stock still for a second. Scott had kissed exactly three girls in his life, all of whom had been girlfriends. And if he was honest, he'd known from the moment feelings started to crop up exactly where it was going. With Allison, he fell quick. It was a whirlwind of intense emotion and drama, intertwined with the chaos of his newly werewolf life. With Kira, it was a little slower. Hesitant but hopeful. His life was all ups and downs, but she made him feel anchored again, strong and stable. And when he realized he had feelings for Malia, they already had a solid friendship behind them. She always had his back and he had hers. She was wild when he first found her, and that feral beauty never quite faded. But she found control. She learned empathy and kindness and she became one of the most protective of the pack, and of him. He'd matured by the time he and Malia found each other. He knew himself, as a person and as an alpha. And after three years together, he thought they were stable. That if a war couldn't tear them apart, then nothing would.

Kendra was beautiful. She was smart and funny and kind. But his heart was still somewhere in Paris and as much as he liked Kendra, he wasn't sure it would ever go beyond that.

"Usually, when I kiss someone, they kiss back." Their mouths were still together, which meant she was mumbling against his closed lips. Awkward was a nice way of describing it.

"Sorry."

Sighing, she leaned back. "It was the exes talk, huh?"

He winced. "Kind of." He shook his head. "But it wasn't you. Everything tonight was great, I just—"

"Aren't that into me?"

"Not the way I should be..." His brow furrowed. "I think you're great and I think we could be good friends, but—"

"But you're still in love with Malia."

Scott sighed. "You were right. It's a lot of history. And I'm not over it. I'm not sure when I will be, either."

Kendra nodded. "It sucks, for sure. But, I get it. And I appreciate that you're honest about it."

"So, no hard feelings?"

"Nope." She took a step back and crossed her arms over her waist. "Maybe in a couple weeks when the embarrassment totally wears off, I might even take you up on that friends thing."

Scott half-grinned. "I hope you do. You've got great taste in restaurants."

She laughed. "Have a good night, Scott."

"You, too." As she made her way up the stairs to her dorm, Scott turned on his heel and walked back to his own. Halfway there, he dug his phone out and scrolled through the contacts. His thumb hovered over her name for a long moment and he blew out a sigh. Licking his lips, he tapped it and raised the phone to his ear. It was dark out as he made his way to a park bench and took a seat.

It rang over and over with no answer. He waited, expecting her voice mail to kick in, but it never came. Just as he was about to hang up, there was a click.

"You know it's seven in the morning, right?"

His heart jumped. "Uh, yeah, sorry, I wasn’t... I didn't really think of that."

She sighed roughly and he could just imagine her, eyes half closed, scrubbing a hand over her face. "What happened? Is someone hurt?"

"Huh?" Cluing in, he shook his head. "No, nothing like that."

"It's what, 10 o'clock there on a Friday...?"

"Yeah."

"Shouldn't you be doing something fun, like a party? Or not so fun, like studying?"

His mouth twitched. "Probably." He leaned back against the bench. "I had a date tonight."

She didn't answer.

"Her name is Kendra. She's nice, you'd like her. She plays soccer and she likes to hike and she has t-shirt with that band you like on it." He nodded. "Anyway, she asked about you. Not specifically. It was about all my friends, really. But we ended up talking about you, which... I feel like I do that a lot, lately. I don't even think Stiles listens to me anymore, he just puts me on speaker and does other things while I complain."

She snorted.

"She didn't ask why we broke up. I think she assumed it was just the distance. But, I was waiting for it. Mostly because I try to figure out what I'm going to say. 'Cause I don't really have an answer. If someone asked me two months ago if I thought we'd ever break up, I would've said no. And maybe it was the distance. Maybe Paris is just where you're supposed to be and I need to be here and that was always going to be the thing that broke us up. But I think if I had a choice... I'd still be trying. I know it's different, not being there with you physically. And I know it's hard trying to get all the time we used to spend together packed into a video call. But... I miss you. I didn't even want to go on this date, I thought I had to because at some point, I know I need to let go and stop hoping things change. But all it did was make me wish things were different. That I did something or said something that changed your mind."

She didn't answer for a moment, enough that Scott might've thought she hung up if it wasn't for the fact that he could hear her heartbeat through the phone. "It wasn't anything you did."

"Then what was it?"

"I wasn't good enough."

He frowned. "What are you talking about?"

"Scott, you're in university, you're gonna be a vet, you have this amazing life plan, and I... I have none of that. I'm a fighter. As much as I hated everything to do with that war, it was comfortable for me. But when it was over, I didn't know what to do. So, I went back to what I was going to do before all this happened. I came to Paris and... It's easy; there's no expectations here. Peter even set it up so groceries are just delivered to the apartment. And at first, I thought, okay, I can make a plan from here. But then you were talking about Davis and you were so happy and I just thought... I'm gonna screw it up somehow if I come back. Because you know what you want and I don't. I have no idea what I'm doing. I'm just over here, waiting for life to start and not sure where it's going and I hate it. I hate being away from the pack and you. And I hate even more that sometimes I miss the war, because at least then, I had a purpose. I knew what I was doing."

Scott closed his eyes. "You don't have to do that alone."

"I didn't want to bring you down. You were finally free and you were so..." She sighed. "I just wanted you to be happy."

"I was." He scrubbed a hand over his eyes. "I was happy with you. I was happy because I thought you were gonna come home and we could do all of this together. You're not bringing me down. If anything, you help keep me up. School's great and I love it, but sometimes I feel like a fraud. Nobody else knows what happened or what we went through and sometimes I want to talk about it. But everywhere I look, it's just strangers. People living totally normal lives while I have to keep this secret. And I know I can call Stiles or Liam or Mason or Lydia, but... It wasn't the same. When you were here, even when you were there and I could call you, I felt... It was okay, because you get me. Because you know what it felt like and you know who I am, all of me. I just... I wish you'd talked to me. I wish we could've figured this out a month ago."

"I'm sorry," she whispered, a fine tremble shaking her voice. "I do miss you. All the time. I just didn't want to become this burden when you were trying to start over."

"It's not starting over. It's just... going forward. And I think we're better at it together."

She sniffled. "Now I'm all gross and weepy at 7 in the morning on a Saturday... I was gonna learn how to make scones today."

He grinned. "Without starting a fire?"

"That was one time!"

He chuckled under his breath. "Can we at least start video chatting again? I miss your face."

"Not right now you don't. It's probably blotchy and my nose is running." She hummed. "But yeah, we can start there. You can help me figure out this 'moving forward' thing, without all the claws and running for your life junk."

He nodded. "And you could visit on break, or I could visit you."

"I'd like that."

Scott bit his lip. "So, is this a tentative thing, or can I have my girlfriend back?"

He could practically hear her rolling her eyes. "I used to think you had patience."

His smile widened. "I lasted a month."

"You called me multiple times and hung up."

"I forgot we were broken up! And I called you a lot more than that, I just hung up before it connected."

She snorted. "I called you, too. Sometimes I just wanted to hear your voice."

"Feel better now that you have?"

"Maybe."

"When's your cooking lesson?"

"In a few hours."

Standing from the bench, Scott started walking again. "Wanna fill me on the last month?"

"Mmm... I accidentally stabbed Peter."

"What? Why?"

"He broke in."

"It's his apartment."

"Yeah, but he's not living here. am. So when someone breaks in, I attack first and ask questions later."

Scott laughed. "Okay, good point."

"Thank you. He obviously didn't see it that way."

As Malia continued to talk, Scott absorbed it all. Her voice and her story and the all-encompassing warmth that came with knowing they were solid again. It would take some time for them to figure things out and get completely back on track. But, this was progress.

Chapter Text

Scott woke to a thump. Scrubbing his eyes, he checked the clock on his beside table and frowned. It was three am. Which meant they either had an intruder, which was unlikely, or—

"It's your turn." Malia's voice was muffled by the pillow she was face-planted on.

His mouth twitched with amused affection.

Padding feet and a familiar giggle reached him from downstairs. Pushing off the blanket, he climbed out of bed, pulled on a pair of pajama pants and made his way downstairs. Eyes closed, he yawned, hand sliding along the banister. Hitting the floor, he made his way down the hall, where the light of the open fridge could be seen in an otherwise dark kitchen. Flipping the light switch on, he smothered a grin at watching the kids freeze abruptly, going stock still like he wouldn't see them.

"You guys know it's three in the morning, right?"

Slowly, Bailey turned around to face him with her big brown eyes and round, cherub cheeks. She stuck her lower lip out. "But we were hungry." She elbowed Niecy next to her. "Right?"

Niecy nodded, her dark curly hair bouncing at her shoulders. "It was just PB&J's. We were gonna clean up after, I swear."

Scott crossed his arms. "Yeah? And what are the chips for?"

Their gaze moved to the open pantry cupboard, a bag of chips sitting on the counter right next to it.

"Well..." Niecy chewed her lip. "You see..."

"Potassium," Bailey announced with a nod.

"Potassium?" he repeated.

"Potatoes have lots of potassium, and we need our vitamins."

He stared at his daughter a long beat and then shook his head. "That's what your mom used to say when she was pregnant with you."

Bailey grinned. "See?"

Rolling his eyes, he crossed the kitchen, put the potato chips away, and closed the pantry door. Then he moved to the counter where their half-made sandwiches were. He shifted the step ladder out of the way and finished spreading a wealth of peanut butter and jam on four slices of bread. Folding them together, he put each on a plate and cut them into fours, then grabbed out two glasses for milk. Ushering them over to the kitchen island, he laid out their mini-feast and watched them climb onto the stools to dig in.

The two girls exchanged triumphant looks as they ate, giggling and smiling at him cheerfully. Scott rested his elbows on the counter and yawned. "Does your dad usually let you get up and make food this late at night?"

Niecy turned her eyes up thoughtfully. "Sometimes. Sometimes I wake him up and we eat cookies and milk and watch TV until I'm sleepy again."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah, and sometimes he falls asleep but I don't." She shrugged. "Then mom comes out and gets me. She tells me stories until I fall asleep."

"What kind of stories?"

"About how she was a Marshall and the bad people she'd chase."

"Did she catch 'em all?" Bailey wondered, rubbing her hand at the jam that had dripped onto her chin.

"Mostly." Niecy nodded. "She says her and Aunty Malia caught the worst one together. Momma was chasing her for a long time."

"The Desert Wolf," Scott said knowingly.

Niecy's eyes lit up. "Yeah!"

"Mom caught a wolf?" Bailey's expression screwed up in confusion. "Why?"

"It's a long story." Scott scrubbed a hand over his face. "Eat up. Then we're going to wash our sticky hands and faces and get back to bed, okay?"

They nodded back.

It was a few minutes before the plates held little more than crumbs and the odd dab of jelly. Scott ushered them up the step ladder to the sink. He poured soup into the palms of their hands and had them rub them together. "Scrub, scrub, scrub. Get all the little nooks and crannies."

"Bubbles!" Bailey held them up for him to see and then clapped her hands together to send them flying around.

Shaking his head, Scott grinned. "Okay, now let's rinse them off."

They leaned forward to dip their hands under the water and washed away all the soap. While they did, he wet a cloth and caught Bailey's chin, turning her to look at him. He gently wiped away any leftover peanut butter and jam and then did the same for Niecy.

"All done." Bailey hopped off the ladder, ready to hurry back to her room.

"Almost. You guys need to brush your teeth."

Groaning, Bailey let her shoulders fall dramatically. "Da-ddyyy..."

He laughed under his breath. "I'll know, too." He pointed, and the girls sighed, but ran down the hall.

Scott cleaned up as he listened to them climb the stairs and rush to the bathroom. He heard them talking in hushed whispers about Bailey's Spiderman themed toothpaste, and then the whoosh of water being turned on. Wiping off the counters and putting the dishes away in the dish washer, he turned the lights out and made his way to the stairs.

They scurried past him toward Bailey's bedroom and were comfortably tucked in, shoulder to shoulder, by the time he found them. Bailey's beside lamp was on low, a small stack of books on her end table. They were colorful and animated, full of wily animals that loved adventure. Her favorite was the one about a momma coyote and her pup.

Taking a seat on the edge of the bed, he pulled the blanket up to their chins and tucked them in tight. "All right. Sleep now?"

They nodded.

"No more getting up for peanut butter sandwiches or potassium?"

Giggling, they shook their heads.

"Okay. I'll tell you what. If you guys stay in bed the rest of the night, outside of needing to go to the bathroom, then I'll make waffles for breakfast, okay?"

Bailey kicked her feet excitedly. "With deer bacon?"

Scott nodded. "With deer bacon."

Abruptly, Bailey squeezed her eyes shut and nudged Niecy's elbow for her to do the same.

Scott bit his lip at the display, amused and overwhelmed with affection. Standing, he leaned over and dropped a kiss on each of their foreheads. "Night, girls."

"Niiight!" they chorused.

Turning the light out, Scott crossed the room and gently closed the door. He padded down the hall to his bedroom, listening to their quiet voices talk about how excited they were to wake up. Bailey, in particular, loved waffles, especially with extra fruit on top.

"You spoil them," Malia's tired voice said from the bed.

Scott shrugged and crawled in next to her, flipping the blanket up and over himself as he slid across the bed until his front found her back. Hand sliding over her waist, he hooked his chin over her shoulder. "Are you sure you aren't just mad I didn't bring you a PB&J, too?"

She snorted. "Couldn't hurt." Turning her head to see him, she covered his hand with her own. "Waffles, huh?"

He winked. "And deer bacon."

"Mmm." She leaned into him. "If I knew having Niecy stay over every other weekend meant I'd get more deer meat, I would've set things up with Derek and Braeden years ago."

He laughed, his chest rumbling with it. "What happened to not spoiling them?"

"I don't mind if I'm getting spoiled, too."

"Oh yeah?" His brows arched as he smiled at her.

"Of course. Throw a little deer my way and I fold, easy. It's my Achilles heel."

"I'll remember that." He pressed a kiss to her cheek and felt her smile. "I think they'll stay in bed now. We might even get seven hours of sleep."

Malia snorted. "Yeah, right. They're going to be up at 6, demanding waffles."

She had him there. "I should've added sleeping in to the negotiation."

"A lesson to remember for next time."

Humming, he nuzzled her cheek. "I did pretty good though, right?"

She looked up at him, her eyes soft. "No chips, washed hands, and brushed teeth. You're an expert."

He grinned. "She almost got me with that potassium line."

Malia laughed. "She's smart."

Scott nodded. "She is."

"I blame you."

"The sneakiness is all you."

Rolling her eyes, she turned her head down against her pillow, her fingers stretching along his. "Wait until she's sixteen and she can do it without you noticing."

Scott frowned. "I'll probably need something better than waffles then."

"Look on the bright side... She probably won't be fighting Dread Doctors or Alpha packs or Nazis." She paused. "She better not be..."

Scott nodded. "That's true."

"Yup. Just hormones and full moons and relationship drama."

Kissing her shoulder, he closed his eyes. "That, I can handle."

Malia hummed. "It'll be a walk in the park in comparison."

They fell asleep then, wrapped in each other. Until 5:56 am, when the girls raced into the room, jumped on the bed, and cried, "Waffles! Waffles! Waffles!"

Malia sat up, her hair tangled and wild. She pushed the blanket off and caught each girl in her arms, lifting them over and over her shoulders as they shrieked and laughed. "What's this about waffles?"

"And deer bacon!" Baily cried excitedly, dangling down her mother's back.

"Deer bacon?" Malia pretended to be surprised. "Are you sure?"

"Yes!" they cheered back.

"Okay, if you say so. But that's some pretty special breakfast you're getting there." She made her way out of the room, carrying the girls along with her. "I think we should do something to show our appreciation."

"I can draw!" Niecy said, wiggling around.

Bailey gasped. "Me, too!"

"Yeah, you want to draw a thank you card?" Malia wondered.

"Yeah!"

"All right. Let's do it." As Malia carried the girls into Bailey's room, where all her art supplies was tucked away, Scott sat in bed a long moment, just smiling to himself.  

As tired as he was— and he certainly could've slept for a couple more hours— he would much rather the only exhaustion factor in his life to be his precocious daughter and her cousin. He'd faced much worse before and it was moments like these that reminded him that he had long earned a much simpler and happier life. What a miracle that he actually got it.