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 A/N: Written as a treat for the [community profile] femslashex  fic and art exchange. 

Memories Hurt So Sweet
Rating: PG
Word Count: 620
Fandom/Characters/Pairings: Teen Wolf, Melissa McCall, Claudia Stilinski, Sheriff Stilinski 
Content/Kinks/Warnings: Polyamory, Grief
Summary: Melissa McCall misses Claudia Stilinski the same way the Sheriff does.

It’s easy to see Claudia in Jim. From the careful way he stirs his coffee, to the remembrance of small events that she loved. Remembering them now has to hurt like pulling stitched flesh apart. Melissa’s done that, accidentally, hitting a sliced arm against a wall, so she’s pretty sure of the analogy.
But Jim does it anyway. He keeps up with birthdays, hers and Stiles’ and Scott’s, the deputies’, even some of the nurses they got closer to during, well, during. He takes the boys out, letting them pick their present, bringing back cake for everyone. Melissa’s grateful that Scott at least has that much of a father. She always gets a note in her mailbox on hers, maybe some flowers, sometimes chocolates or a small trinket he knows Melissa will like. Melissa can’t mind how it’s delivered, although it hurts, because that’s another way Claudia is still with them. 
They do talk, though, on easier days. About the boys, about work, upcoming school events, attempts at dating, always leaving space for that third voice to chime in the first couple of minutes. Now that she knows about the supernatural, Melissa’s very glad it has never come. Claudia deserves rest; not a ghostly, staticked existence, always trying to be heard.
Sometimes she wonders how Jim sees Claudia in her. Melissa’s bad at art, at traditions, beyond attempts at cookies and a good meal on the right day. She can’t reproduce the Polish delicacies Claudia was so deft at, although she has the recipes, and Melissa can hardly breathe some days for how much she misses her, craving a soft, fried dough sprinkled with sugar. 
They’d tried for a few weeks after she died, taking comfort, deluding themselves into thinking it might work. But Melissa had realized quickly that they were off-kilter, spinning themselves in a metaphorical wall. She’d ended it, and buried herself in work, ignoring how Jim’s drinking got steadily worse. It had taken a year before they’d gotten past the bitterness of it, stopped flinching at the memories the other invoked. 
Now they play “do you remember” gingerly, still afraid, but looking into the abyss of loss with eyes cried dry years ago. They’ve settled into a comfortable friendship: a supportive, well-oiled team at wrangling two foolhardy, physically inept teenage boys who have almost as many mental scars as their elders. 
Melissa’s never been one for ceremony, and so she stops by the grave often. She cleans it, keeps the flowers looking nice, occasionally brings a drink to toast with, trying to twist her tongue around half-remembered toasts, too full of vowels. This is her way of keeping the dead, beyond caring for the living. She can’t do the same for her parents, their graves hundreds of miles away, too far to reach. 
Jim only comes one day a year, Stiles in tow, dressed in their best. Melissa waits them out, letting each private moment take place, letting Stiles melt away to home or to Scott, and then she joins her old lover, her old friend. She feels awkward in her dress, although it’s a match for the suit Jim wears. Sometimes they just stand there, silent, lost in their own thoughts. Sometimes they talk to Claudia like she’s there, recounting the year as a team, rich in detail. They stand, arms holding each other together, always leaving one free, open for the person who can’t be there anymore. 
Then they go home, and get one with living, days of work and leisure, moments of parenting and quiet building into a life. It’s a memorial to the dead in its own way, getting on with life. Melissa hopes that wherever she is, whatever she is now, Claudia is getting on too.

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