Kira is woken up on her twentieth birthday by screaming.
It’s not happy screaming, or even sexy screaming. It is oh my god I’m going to die I didn’t leave Beacon Hills for this screaming. Kira leaps out of bed, grabs her katana from where it has lain, untouched, for the past six months, and storms into the living room.
She is met by Malia, hair singed at the ends, holding a pan of charcoaled bacon in one hand and a can of oil in the other.
“Happy birthday!” Malia says cheerfully, shoving the pan at Kira. “Did you know that if you spray oil onto a very hot pan it explodes?”
“Why are you cooking,” Kira says, rubbing at her eyes. She takes the pan and dumps it in the sink. “Why. Why are you here.”
“It’s your birthday.”
“It’s your birthday.”
“I have a katana and I’m very tired.”
“That was a threat, Malia.”
“You don’t look intimidated.”
“Would it make you feel better if I pretend to be?”
Kira huffs, placing her katana on the kitchen table. “Where’s Sara?”
“How am I supposed to know that? I don’t pay attention to your friends’ names, there’s so many of them.” Malia tugs off her jacket, humming pleasantly at the heat of the room. She's dressed only in a tight tank top and those tight jeans that make Kira whimper. “Do you have anything planned for today?”
“Sara’s taking me clubbing tonight.”
“Well,” says Kira thoughtfully, “I was planning on sleeping until –”
“Are you still angry about that?”
“It happened two minutes ago, Malia.”
“The past in the past.” Malia bops her nose. “Come on, we’ll create a nest on the couch and order pizza in.”
“It’s breakfast, Malia.”
“It’s your birthday.” Malia walks to Kira’s bedroom and drags the blankets off of her bed, piling them up on the sofa. “Come and cuddle.”
When it came down to it, Kira can deny Malia Tate absolutely nothing. She sinks into the sofa, lets Malia’s arms encircle her, and snuggles in. “It’s quite common,” murmurs Malia, “for coyotes to eat foxes, you know.”
“Was that a threat or a random fact,” Kira mutters back.
“Maybe it was both,” says Malia, ducking her head against Kira’s shoulder, breath hot against her neck. “Maybe it was a warning.” Before Kira could reply, she switches on the TV. “Let’s watch that movie you like, with the superheroes with ambiguous sexualities.”
“We are not having this discussion again. It ended badly last time.”
“I’m not the one who set the couch on fire.”
“Just turn on the movie.”
Kira closes her eyes, beginning to drift off to the sound of the Avengers’ theme tune. “Don’t scare me like that again, you butt,” she whispers. “I thought you were in danger.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” says Malia, eyes on the TV. “We’re not in Beacon Hills anymore, Kira.”
Kira goes out that night with Sara, as promised, gets spectacularly drunk, loses her shirt and finds another one, and wakes up the next morning along in her living room surrounded by a plastic flamingos with a hickey on her neck the size of a fist.
“Um,” says Stiles, standing in the doorway, having just switched on the light.
“Oh my God,” rasps Kira. “Turn it off. Please.”
“Um,” says Stiles, and turns off the light. “I was just. You weren’t answering your phone.” He squints at her. “Is that a hickey?”
Kira reaches up to touch her neck. “Um, I think so?”
“I didn’t know you had it in you, Yukimura.” Stiles holds his hand up for a high five. Kira blinks up at him.
“What are you doing in my dorm room?”
“Actually,” says Stiles, “this is kind of – uh, this is kind of my dorm room.”
“Why do you have plastic flamingos in your dorm?”
“That’s a long story, and not one that bears retelling.” Stiles shudders for effect. “The more important question is – uh, what are you doing in my dorm room? And have you seen my roommate anywhere?”
“The tiny terrifying one, not the werewolf who doesn’t live here but thinks he does.”
“Stiles, why are you shouting?” Stiles’ roommate – a spry, pretty brown-haired girl with a vicious sense of humour named Beth – steps out of one of the bedrooms, dressed in an oversized sweater. She stretches and cracks her neck. “Sorry about your sleeping arrangements, Kira. You passed out pretty much straight after the second round.”
“The second round of what?” asks Scott, appearing behind Stiles in the doorway and looking confused. “Did you guys play a game?”
“Do we need to give him the talk?” asks Beth, snorting and grabbing a beer from the fridge. “Second round of sex, Scott.”
Kira watches Scott eyes get wider and wider with a kind of amusement. “You guys had sex? But Kira, didn’t you – didn’t you date that guy back in, uh, back a few months ago? Rod, Ryan –”
“Juan,” provides Stiles.
“Yes,” Kira says, staring up at the ceiling and wondering if stabbing herself in the eye would make this hangover go away. “That’s true.”
“And you dated me back when we were –”
“Young little tree friends in a big bad world,” finishes Stiles. “Fighting evil, kicking ass.”
“Um.” Scott throws him a strange look. “Yeah. So you…that wasn’t…”
“You’re not one of those straight girls going through a mid-college sexuality crisis, are you?” asks Beth, sitting down beside Kira on the floor and taking a swig of beer. “I always promised I’d never fuck a straight girl.”
“I’m bi,” says Kira. “Does anybody have some Advil?”
“You’re bi?” squeaks Scott. “Since when? You never told me this when we were dating.”
“Since I decided two seconds ago,” says Kira with the sort of sarcasm she can only summon when she has a hangover this severe. “Since my whole life, Scott. And you never asked.”
“Aw man,” says Stiles, holding his hand up for a high five.
“Get me Advil,” says Kira, flashing her eyes at him.
Stiles sighs. He gets her the Advil.
Classes restart the next morning after the break, and Kira wakes up, rolls out of bed with a groan, hits the floor and lies there for a while staring up at the ceiling. She doesn’t get up until Sara comes into her room, forces her into her clothes and drags her into her 9AM lecture with a coffee in one hand and a pen in the other.
She’s sitting down, staring up at the front of the room after Sara has dumped her there, when she realizes that she doesn’t have a notebook.
She turns to ask the boy sitting next to her, somebody she vaguely recognises from the swimming team. He smiles and happily rips her off a piece of paper, introduces himself as Michael, and they talk for five minutes about the upcoming tryouts before Kira’s interrupted by a growl.
“That’s my seat,” says Malia, claws lengthening beneath her laptop. Kira shoots her a look.
“Oh, my bad,” says Michael, standing and moving. He smiles almost in apology at Kira on the way past. Malia folds herself down into the seat beside Kira, sets up her computer and then proceeds to sniff at Kira’s neck. Kira wishes she had the self-control to stay mad.
“You smell like sex,” Malia says, her eyes flashing.
Kira says, “Um, well,” and then the professor enters the room and the lecture starts, and she is rewarded by five minutes of blissful avoidance.
Malia fidgets for exactly five minutes before she gives up and takes Kira’s arm, rubs her thumb over Kira’s pulse and makes her shiver. “I don’t like other people touching you,” she says in a low tone, fingers moving to the hickey fading on Kira’s neck. “Was it good sex?”
“I guess so,” Kira says. “I was kinda drunk. I just woke up the next morning in Stiles’ dorm room half-naked and surrounded by flamingos. Um – plastic ones, they weren’t real.”
Malia growls, low in her throat. “Stiles?”
Kira remembers, too late, that Malia and Stiles kind of have that – used to have that – maybe still have that – thing, with the bonding and the kissing and. Uh. “Not Stiles, his roommate.”
“No, the other one.”
“Bethany?” Malia hums. “She’s pretty. I guess that’s alright.”
“Thank you so much for your approval,” says Kira. She pretends not to notice the way Malia's claws are lengthening against Kira's palm, how her eyes briefly turn a jealous glowing blue.
“That is okay. Are you two mat– um, dating now?”
“No, it was just a one night stand,” says Kira. “I’m pretty sure Beth is at least a little bit in love with Derek. They’d make a cute couple.”
“Yeah, if Derek wasn’t living an hour away,” scoffs Malia. “Oh yeah, and completely gone for somebody else.”
Kira frowns, giving up any hope of actually listening to the lecture. “Gone for who?”
“Oh, Kira,” Malia says, patting her on the shoulder.
“Who? Derek isn’t dating anybody,” says Kira. “I would know, Stiles would have told me. He knows all the gossip. Right?”
“Oh, Kira,” Malia says again.
When Kira and Scott broke up, it had been Big News in Beacon Hills. Literally. There had been a newspaper column written about it written by none other than Bobby Greenberg, titled “BEACON HILLS’ BEAUS BIG BREAK UP”, wherein the writer went around interviewing people who had absolutely no affiliation with Scott or Kira and still felt obliged to comment on their relationship.
The break-up had gone something like this:
“It’s not you,” says Scott. “It’s me.”
“I’m just – not really ready for a relationship, y’know? I thought I was, like – after Allison. I rushed into it too much? I don’t expect you to wait for me.”
“That’s it, I suppose. Did you want a hug?”
If Kira was being completely honest, she had been more relieved than heartbroken by the break-up. Lydia and Malia had comforted her, by which she meant that Lydia had comforted her with ice cream and Malia had said things like ‘Maybe we should just kill him and eat him, like praying mantises do’.
It had been oddly reassuring.
Of course, Kira’s plans post-BHHS had mostly involved going to Beacon Hills Community College with Scott and the rest of the pack and trying not to die. After the break-up, Kira had a brief moment of panic where she realised how stupid that was, applied to practically every college in America, got into Cornell and somehow managed to, accidentally, take most of the pack with her.
Of course, there were exceptions. Lydia, who was studying Mathematics at MIT; Derek, who had opened a small and bizarrely successful garage with Cora in New York; Scott, who was studying Veterinary Medicine at NYU but practically lived in Stiles’ dorm room anyway; Liam, who only just left BHHS last year and is taking a year out to 'find himself'.
Stiles was a ComSci major at Cornell while Kira was studying Comparative Literature and Malia had discovered an unusually strong affinity for Psychology, and they all lived in separate dorms in the same block, and it was nice. Like, not even third wheel nice, the three of them had bonded in a way Kira hadn’t thought possible. She found herself looking forward to Friday Genre Movie Night every week, if only because she got to have a slightly tipsy Malia draped all over her.
Friday Genre Movie Night is a bit different the week after Kira’s birthday, because Derek showed up in Stiles’ dorm room about thirty minutes ago and they’ve been yelling ever since. The last time they tried to interrupt one of Stiles and Derek’s arguments Derek had growled at Malia and Malia had clawed Derek’s abs, which must have hurt her more than it hurt him but it had bled a lot anyway.
So instead they start without Stiles, starting on with this week’s genre (So Bad They’re Good movies). They kick it off with the Notebook, which Malia finds absolutely ridiculous and incredibly amusing, and Kira starts crying halfway through at a moment that’s not even sad, and she doesn’t even have Stiles to comfort her. Malia doesn’t really understand the meaning of comfort, likes cuddling sometimes but a lot of other times doesn’t like other people touching her, has an idea that it’s comforting to say ‘they were going to die anyway it’s better that they got it out of the way now’ in the middle of a gut-wrenching movie scene.
This time Malia just kind of stares at her, then raises her hand and pats Kira on the head. “There, there,” she says awkwardly.
On screen, Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams are kissing in the rain. Kira sighs and lets herself be patted. “Am I ever going to have true love like that?”
“Like what? Those idiots? That’s not true love.”
Kira cocks an eyebrow at her. “Tell me then, what is true love?”
“Well, when you’re out in the wild, you find the mate best suited to your survival,” says Malia. “It’s like that with humans too. Just because somebody’s nice to you and you’re attracted to them does not mean that you’re meant to be with them. I think love is about finding somebody you feel murderous intentions towards at least 70% of the time but you would never actually kill them because you love them too much.”
“Oh,” says Kira. Because that kind of sounds like how she feels about Malia. But then again - by that same logic, Stiles and Derek are also in love with each other. Kira snorts at the thought.
She needs to ask an expert.
“Stiles,” Kira says.
“Oh my God,” Stiles yells, rolling out of his bed and hitting the floor with a thump. He lay there for a moment, staring up at the ceiling as if he is questioning everything he knew about the Universe. “You lot need bells. Collars. Bells on your collars. Not in a kinky way.”
“Stiles,” Kira says again, “this is important.”
“PM. You slept all day, Stiles.”
“Can you stop saying my name that way. It makes me feel about 2 years old.”
Stiles hits himself on the forehead, then winces as if he regrets it. “Okay, shoot.”
“How do you know you’re in love with somebody?”
Stiles clambers back onto the bed again and looks at her. “Are you – oh my God, please tell me you’re not in love with Beth.”
“Um,” says Kira. “No.”
“Thank God. Because I’m pretty sure she’s in love with Derek.”
“Yes, that’s what I thought.” Kira flops down onto the bed beside Stiles and he shuffles up to make room for her. “But Malia says Derek’s already in love with somebody else.”
“I don’t know. She was acting all weird about it. So love – how do you know you’re in love?”
“Why are you asking me? How do you know I’ve ever –”
“You must have, right?” Kira sits up in the bed. “I mean, there was Lydia.”
“I guess. But that wasn’t exactly the epitome of healthy romance.” Stiles shrugs. “Love is…I guess you know you’re in love when that person makes you feel alive, happy and angry and so warm, like there are fireworks going off in your stomach when you see them and all that crap. Like, sometimes they annoy the hell out of you, but you love them because of that.”
“You love them because they annoy you?”
Kira squints at Stiles. “That’s silly. Are you in love with Derek?”
Stiles splutters, flails, and falls off the bed again. “What? No. No way!” Kira stares at him. “What are you even – yes, okay, maybe, yes I am stop staring at me like that.”
“You should ask him out,” says Kira.
“I – no way, he would never say yes, have you seen him? All we do is argue and –”
Kira stares at him.
“Do not use my own words against me.”
“I didn’t say anything.”
“I feel victimised,” says Stiles. “I am feeling very victimised right now. Who are you in love with? This should be a two way street here, I am feeling like this is a very uneven relationship, very unhealthy.”
“Malia,” says Kira, trying out the taste of the words on her tongue. “I’m in love with Malia.”
Stiles stares at her from his seat on the floor. “I think you’re going to need to start from the beginning.”
Every full moon, the pack gets together at Derek and Cora’s garage and has a quiet night in. For the most of it they can handle their shifts now, so they mostly just bask in the comfort of the others’ presence. One night Kira misses the full moon, has an unavoidable commitment at college and ends up getting home around eleven o’clock, too tired to go back out. The dorm’s quiet, Sara having gone out. She moves through the apartment, pausing by her bedroom door. There’s a silhouette outlined in the living room, a feminine figure with sharp claws and fierce glowing eyes.
Kira mentally calculates how long it would take her to get to her katana before she blinks and realises she recognises those blue glowing eyes. She switches on the lights and finds her friend standing there, coyote’d out to the nines.
“Malia?” Kira asks, confused.
Malia growls, low in her throat. And that’s when Kira realises that Malia’s lost control of the shift, that she’s fighting not to rip Kira to pieces. It’s funny how she doesn’t even consider going for her katana anymore.
“Malia,” says Kira, “what’s your anchor? Come on, listen to me, you’ll be okay. We’ll get through this.” She approaches slowly, hands held out in front of her.
Malia growls again, fiercer this time, and Kira holds back a flinch. There’s something so terrible in Malia’s eyes – something not angry or vicious, but sad. “Come on,” Kira whispers. “Come on, Malia, just listen to my voice, okay? Listen to my voice.”
This time when Kira takes another step towards her, Malia only hisses slightly. Kira takes a deep breath and grabs Malia’s hand. Malia lashes out, slashing along Kira’s arm. Kira bites her lip against the pain and says, “Malia, it’s me. It’s Kira.”
Malia seems to hesitate for a moment, head hanging. Then slowly, so slowly, the claws retract. So do the teeth. When she raises her head again it’s Malia looking back at her. She crumples, falling into Kira’s arms, and Kira carries them to the sofa. Her arm’s bleeding but that can wait, Malia’s weight heavy on her lap. She presses her lips to Malia’s hair. “Silly girl, what happened to you?”
Stiles calls Kira a few minutes later, his voice urgent when he asks, “Is Malia with you?”
“Yeah, she – she was pretty bad, Stiles.”
“She ran out on us. Nobody saw it come. She’s never had a problem like that with the shift in – well, in months, even years.”
“She must have an anchor, right?” Kira strokes Malia’s hair, propping her phone between her chin and shoulder. “She’s controlled the shift for so long.”
“I think,” says Stiles, and then pauses. “Kira, I think that –”
“I think you’re her anchor.”
Kira wakes up the next morning alone. Gut twisting, she gets to her feet and walks into the kitchen, where she gets halfway through making a cup of coffee before she realises there’s somebody else in the kitchen with her.
“I hurt you,” says Malia, sitting on top of the kitchen cabinet.
Kira looks at her. Blinks. Looks down at her arm. While she was sleeping Malia must have bandaged it, because it’s now wrapped in a thick gauze, barely bloodied at all. She had forgotten about the wound altogether. “You weren’t yourself.”
“Yeah.” Silence. “Sorry.”
“That’s okay.” Kira pours boiling water into the mug and nearly misses and pours it onto her hand. Swearing, she rights the mug and says, concentrated very hard on the kettle, “Am I your anchor?”
“I think we should start having sex,” says Malia.
“What,” says Kira.
“Yes, you’re my anchor.”
“I still mean what I said, though.”
“You always smell like arousal when I’m around you,” says Malia bluntly. “Isn’t that the point?”
“I don’t just –” Kira runs a hand through her hair. “Malia, I don’t just want to have sex with you.”
“I want to…uh, I don’t know.” Kira laughs nervously. “I want to fall asleep with you. I want to watch bad TV with you. I want to go on coffee dates with you and have pizza at midnight with you and spend most of my life with you."
“You mean like a mate,” says Malia cheerfully.
“Um – yes, I guess so.”
“We already do that stuff, Kira.”
Kira frowns. “Huh?”
“Cuddling and sleeping and watching bad TV and all that stuff. We already do it together.”
“What you’re saying,” says Kira, “is that we’re already in a relationship.”
Malia advances on her, taking the mug from her hands and placing it on the side. "When you came to class and you smelt like Bethany," Malia says 'Bethany' like it's the worst kind of insult, "I wanted to rip her to pieces for touching you. I wanted to mark you so nobody but me would ever touch you like that again. Last night, when you were not there, I was scared. You keep me human, Kira. I want you to be my mate."
“Girlfriend…is the correct term. I think.”
Kira kisses her.
“You never answered my question,” Malia says later, when they’re pressed up against each other, sliding skin on skin. "Will you be my girlfriend?"
“I –” Kira gasps as Malia’s fingers dip below her waistband. “I – yes, you idiot, of course.”
Kira turns up at her 9AM lecture the next morning with a grin on her face.
“You look far too happy for this hour of the morning,” says Stiles, collapsing in the seat beside her.
“It’s a beautiful day,” says Kira innocently. “The sun is shining.”
“You so got laid last night. Good news?”
“Derek kissed me,” says Stiles, eyes to the front. “I accidentally punched him in the eye.”
“We’re going to coffee tomorrow.”
Kira wakes up to soft honey-coloured hair and warmth. She turns over and almost falls out of her not-big-enough-for-two-people bed, clutching at the sheets to keep her stationary. Malia huffs and turns into Kira, burying her face in Kira’s neck.
“If you really were a fox,” says Malia sleepily, “and I was a coyote, and it was winter and my pack wanted to eat you, I would kill all the other coyotes just to keep you safe.”
“That,” says Kira, “is strangely one of the sweetest things anybody has ever said to me.”
“You’re a dumbass.”
“I love you anyway.”
Kira presses her face into Malia’s hair. “I love you too.”
“You’re still a dumbass.”