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When Lydia Martin was a little girl her parents used to take her for picnics, just the three of them. Once a year, on the same day. And they always went to the same place. A little meadow in a park half an hour outside Beacon Hills, where the daisies springing from the ground seemed to far outnumber the grass.

Once, at their annual picnic, Lydia asked why they always had to come here. There was no one to play with here and Lydia was bored.

Her mother and father exchanged smiles and her father turned to Lydia. “I proposed to your mother here. It’s… sentimental.” He glanced at his wife and took her hand over the table. “That word means it’s special.”

(Lydia knew what it meant, of course; and it wasn’t just special. She knew it meant being strongly influenced by emotional feelings rather than careful thought and judgment. Just because she was four years old didn’t mean she was an idiot. In fact, at that point she was already beginning to strongly suspect she was smarter than everyone else.)

Lydia, being a curious little girl, liked to sit in the meadow and pull the daisies out of the ground, watching in fascination as she tilted the flowers to get a better look at the roots It was strangely curious to her how something so pretty could be hiding something so bare and vulnerable deep down that sustained it, even though it wasn’t obvious on the outside. But of course, her mother just reprimanded her for pulling out the flowers.

“They’re beautiful flowers, Lydia. If you want some we can cut them from the stem and bring them home. No need to just pull it out by those ugly roots.”

Lydia remembers thinking that the roots weren’t ugly at all. They were the most beautiful part, so essential, so fundamental to keeping the flower alive. But she didn’t think her mother would understand, so she said nothing.

Her mother didn’t understand a lot of things.

As the years went on, the picnics became a lot less special in Lydia’s eyes. In earlier years, yes, they were full of laughter and daisies and loving looks and a warm feeling. But as the years went on, she simply sat in the field pulling up daisies and listened to tense silences behind her, straining her ears to hear anything else. If she did hear anything else, it was usually a shouting match.

Several years down the line, the picnics stopped. And then came the divorce.

Lydia now hates that meadow with a passion. And if hating that beautiful meadow for the strong feelings it stirs inside her isn’t some twisted sentimentality right there, she doesn’t know what is.

She’s reminded of this today while she’s pulling things out of a box of her stuff and setting them in the appropriate places in her new apartment. She’d like to think she isn’t sentimental, but she kind of is.

“This is cute,” exclaims her new roommate Jasmine, who apparently has never learned social boundaries. Lydia turns her head from the clothes she’s been putting away in her closet to see the younger woman holding up a framed photo from the box. “Who are they?”

Lydia’s eyes flicker down to the picture in the frame. It’s an old candid, back from high school, that Melissa McCall took after a lacrosse game. She doesn’t even remember the night of it.

In the picture it’s the four of them— Lydia, Allison, Scott and Stiles— after a game, when everyone is streaming onto the field to talk to the players. Allison’s standing close to Scott, hand on the center of his jersey and her eyebrows arched up flirtatiously. Scott’s got a similar expression on his face as he looks down at her. Lydia stands near Allison, clearing having only reluctantly followed her friend onto the field, but even though her arms are folded she’s gazing at Allison with a hint of adoration playing on her lips. And then there’s Stiles, with one of his arms slung over Scott’s shoulders and a huge open mouthed grin, nose scrunched up in a way that can only mean he was mid-laugh.

She loves that smile. It’s so unbridled and carefree and full of life. Truth be told, she’s never really seen it in real life— by the time she started paying attention, it had stopped making appearances.

And so, the picture is beautiful. Hypothetical in its premise. What could have been. Lydia is stupidly attached to it.

“Lydia?” Jasmine asks, tilting her head in puzzlement. “Did you hear me?”

Lydia blinks and takes the photo from the other girl. She points. “That’s Scott. That’s Allison. High school friends,” she answers shortly, and really those words are inadequate to describe what they are but she doesn’t want to try to go any further, because if she does she knows she will fall apart- and she’s not interested in reliving the past anymore.

“Okay,” Jasmine says slowly after a pause. “Who’s he?”

Lydia doesn’t look at what her roommate is pointing at in the picture. She knows she omitted one person in her explanation but doesn’t care. Viciously, she folds a sweater and throws it to the top shelf of the closet because she’s too short to actually place it there. “No one.”

Jasmine sounds confused. “Oh.” She looks back at the picture. “Do you still talk to them?”

Lydia purses her lips. Instead of answering, she snatches the picture from Jasmine’s fingers with a speed that seems to surprise the younger girl. “I don’t need any more help putting my stuff away, thanks,” she says tightly. “You can leave, get your textbooks together, perform rituals, whatever it is freshmen do these days before the first day of classes.”

For the first time since Lydia arrived three hours ago from the airport, Jasmine is silent. Lydia almost feels bad for her. Bitchy Lydia hasn’t come out in a long while, but her poor roommate’s struck a nerve.

And then Jasmine speaks again, softly to her back. “They meant a lot to you, didn’t they?”

Lydia sighs, relenting. “Yes.”

“Even him.” And now Jasmine’s voice is a little sly.

Lydia’s not sure why she says it. Maybe just to get Jasmine off her back. Maybe just because she needs to. “Idiot with the buzz cut is my ex boyfriend.” She tries to inject venom into the words, but they just sound empty in her mouth. She’s not used to them. Something twists in her stomach like regret, guilt even; but she pushes it away. She doesn’t need this right now. She has a new life here. A paid research job at a university across the country from her old memories.

“Ohhh,” Jasmine says, in an understanding tone. “Aww, he’s so cute though! Why did you two break up?”

Lydia’s fingers tighten around the frame of the photo, and on an impulse she throws it to the top shelf as well, with all the strength she can muster. It makes a loud clunking sound as it hits the wall of the closet and falls onto the bed of sweaters she’s placed there.

Why did you two break up?

Isn’t that the question.

-x-

It’s not like she’s completely cut off from communication with them. She texts Scott, and Scott texts her, and she’s quite certain Stiles is probably reading over his shoulder all the while.

And sometimes Scott will send a random How are you these days? by text in the middle of a conversation.

Is it Stiles who’s asking? she knowingly replies.

Scott texts back instantly. He’s a wreck, Lydia.

Lydia reads it, purses her lips. She turns off her phone and goes back to work.

-x-

It’s strange, because the dreams don’t happen for a while.

After… it happened, the dreams stopped, so Lydia thought (with mixed feelings, if she was being honest) that they were gone forever.

She’s even forgotten about them, to an extent, with the whirlwind of a new life she’s gotten herself into on the East Coast, with her new friends, her excitable roommate, and the blue-eyed Duncan who works in her lab with her and has an easy smile. It’s also easy to forget when the only people who knew the dreams even existed were her and Stiles.

So when it happens again, a month or two after she left Cali, she’s not really prepared.

One moment she’s passing out on a pillow of her own paperwork and the next she’s blinking up at the ceiling of her childhood bedroom in Beacon Hills.

She’s staring at the light on the ceiling (it’s on) and trying to grasp her current reality, when she realizes there’s someone lying next to her.

She turns her head and it’s Stiles, wearing a red hoodie half unzipped.

They stare at each other for about half a second before, in unison, they both scramble off the bed to opposite sides of it in a flurry of movement.

When Lydia’s straightened up again, Stiles is running a hand through his hair, mouth falling open and closed repeatedly at alarming speeds.

They both stare at each other again, this time standing on opposite sides of Lydia’s purple bedspread, and then Stiles speaks, awkwardly.

“Hey.”

She bristles at just the sound of his fucking voice that she hasn’t heard in months. All low and raspy, but tentative under the monosyllable he’s just uttered. “Why is this happening again?” she snaps at him, ignoring the greeting.

He blinks, slowly. “Was it supposed to stop?”

“Yes!” He cocks his head at her, and she crosses her arms. “Well, I don’t know, maybe. They just stopped for so long that I thought that was it.”

That’s your hypothesis? Sounds to me like you’re trying to wildly extrapolate results that aren’t there,” he says slyly, going to plop back down on her bed in a sitting position, making the mattress bow slightly. She shoots him a deadly glare, and his teasing expression falls immediately into one more appropriate for the funeral of a loved one.

“Get off my bed,” she says instead.

“Why?” He’s now lying down with one arm propped under his head and he looks completely at home in her sheets, a thought that has definitely not come to mind ever before under any other circumstances. Ever.

“Do I have to repeat myself?”

“You’re not even lying down, why do you want me to get up?” He complains.

“Because I said so.”

“Now you’re just being mean,” he mutters, but he’s swinging his legs off the bed even as he says this and stands back up. A lengthy silence ensues. Lydia’s not sure what to say to him after everything and it looks like he’s feeling the same way. Even looking at him hurts a little bit. It’s been so long.

A tiny little voice in her head asks Did I make a mistake? She shakes the thought away even as it arrives. No, she didn’t. She made absolutely the right choice.

He looks tired, she notes. It’s not so much in the bruises under his eyes as it is in the colour of the irises themselves, in the line of his mouth, the fact that his hair is un-stylishly messy without any of that hellish hair gel.

She suddenly realizes that he’s scrutinizing her as well, eyes roving over her in something of a cataloguing fashion. She feels suddenly self-conscious, and not in a vain way. He’s looking at her with that concern, that look that says he’d prioritize her over everything else in the world if it meant keeping her safe. It’s that look of his that always has the capacity to give her a warm feeling in her stomach, knowing she is loved. It makes her want to run into his arms and never leave again.

And that’s not a feeling she wants anymore.

“Stop looking at me like that,” she snaps.

His eyes snap back to hers, the bright light of the room setting them to a tawny colour. “Like what?”

“You know what I mean,” she snarls, knowing this argument would sound irrational to— hell, literally anyone else. “Stop it.” He’s still doing it, looking at her with this soft, pained expression and it’s making her feel messy and confused inside. “Stop it.”

He looks at her helplessly. “Stop what?”

She can’t take that look in his eyes for a second longer, and she throws her hands up and turns away towards the wall. “Get out of my dream,” she snarls.

“Lydia, it’s our dream.” He’s teasing, but she can tell that behind it, he’s a little hurt. She remains silent, stewing with her arms crossed and eyes narrowed at her own impeccably painted pink walls, until he adds, “And you know neither of us have any control over it.”

She knows that, rationally. But she’s angry anyway.

She turns her head slightly, and this time when his golden-eyed gaze fixes on her she feels much calmer about it.

“What now?” He asks softly. He’s looking at her that way again. She knows what he’s asking, and it’s a weighty question. How are they going to live their lives separately when some stupid supernatural tether keep forcing them together while they’re sleeping?

She doesn’t know the answer to that quite yet, so she points stiffly at the opposite wall. “You stand over there, and I stand here, until the dream ends.”

He sighs and his expression transforms into a light-hearted one again. He rolls his eyes but begins to amble over to where she’s pointed, hands stuffed into his pockets. “Brilliant, Lydia. You know,” he says thoughtfully as he leans against her bedside table, “this might be a lot less painful if you stopped looking at me like I killed your dog.”

He’s wrong of course, she thinks as they settle into a terse silence. If it weren’t for her refusal to melt into his golden eyes, her attempt to distance herself, she’d find herself in a lot more pain down the road.

-x-

Stiles wakes up in his dorm room afterwards with a start. His heart is thundering, despite having spent what feels like the last eternity standing in the corner of a room without speaking and tapping his foot against the floor.

He’s just trying to absorb what just happened— Lydia, he saw Lydia— when a voice across the room pipes up.

“Did you sleep well?”

He immediately jackknifes up into a sitting position upon hearing the question. “Scott, you dick, you spiked my coffee with sleeping pills again?”

Scott looks smug when he answers. “Nope,” he replies, lips popping off the “p” sound as he roots around in his drawer for a clean pair of socks, “you just haven’t slept at all in like, a full week.”

“That is so not true.”

Scott’s not having it. “You were having a conversation with the curtains yesterday afternoon.”

“Okay, fine,” Stiles relents. “So what, I just fell asleep here?” He’s rather dubious of this claim.

“You fell asleep in the library. I found you and brought you back here,” Scott corrects, but the playful tone is gone and he just looks concerned. Stiles doesn’t care much for that expression on his best friend’s face, especially directed at him. He’s got enough to worry about without Stiles on the list.

“It’s been, like, two months and you’re still not sleeping,” Scott notes.

“I’m an insomniac, Scott, it’s not exactly unusual,” Stiles replies with a heavy dose of sarcasm, dragging a hand down his face.

Scott isn’t having it. “Is it because of— “

“It’s not because of her,” Stiles cuts him off, sharply.

There’s a pause and Stiles immediately wishes he’d kept his mouth shut. He went from being mellow to snappish in one exchange and he’s pretty sure he just proved Scott’s fucking point, but whatever.

Scott slowly pulls his socks onto his feet, staring down at his toes for a second before standing. “Okay, just— just try to sleep more, okay?” He says finally, starting towards the door with his backpack slung over his shoulder. He’s probably not expecting a response.

Stiles flops back into the pillows, suddenly very exhausted. But every time he closes his eyes he sees green eyes staring back at him. “I will.”

And he’s telling the truth— because he’s just now realizing he has a pretty convincing reason to.

-x-

After the last time, Lydia hopes it won’t happen again.

Stupid of her, really. And Lydia’s not stupid. But she knows people tend to make mistakes when they feel too close to a situation.

She was caught off guard this time, but next time, she vows, she’ll be prepared.

And in the meantime, she’s resolved to pour over the Bestiary looking for a solution to get rid of this.

(She doesn’t find a single damn thing.)

-x-

She’s not prepared the next time.

She’s not prepared for the scene that awaits her when the fog lifts and she’s standing on one end of a lacrosse field in the middle of the night.

That is, until the lights turn on all at once with a heavy echoing, damning sound, their constant electrical buzz causing her heart to start beating very, very fast. With the illumination comes the realization that Stiles is here too— she sees him distantly on the other end of the field, sitting cross-legged on… the Nemeton? That’s what it looks like, anyway.

He notices her— she can tell by the way his head is moving up— and they stare at each other for several heavy seconds.

He watches her until she looks away, and then so does he. She’s not sure how she knows this, except there’s a warm gaze on her back for a few moments that feels like it fades when she thinks that he looks back down.

She hugs herself with her arms, looking around at her surroundings and feeling increasingly creeped out. She can pinpoint the exact place in the shadows where Peter Hale usually emerges from at this point in her nightmares, prowling with a slick predatory grace towards her…

No. Her heart thunders in her ears, and she shakes her head vigorously, involuntarily. No, this isn’t a nightmare, she doesn’t need to think like this— and yet she can’t stop the way her breathing is quickening, the way her nails are biting into her palms—

“Lydia?”

She whips around instinctively.

He’s right beside her. Or, rather, she’s standing right beside the Nemeton, and he’s still sitting cross-legged on it.

Her mouth falls open. “How— how did I get over here?” She’d been standing on the opposite side of the field a moment ago.

He looks remarkably unfazed by the fact that she moved a hundred yards in the blink of an eye. “Who knows?” He shrugs. “If there’s one thing you and I have both learned in our clashes with the supernatural, it’s that dreams can be pretty fucked up.” She watches the material of his shirt stretch over his chest invitingly as he leans back on his hands, and finally catalogues what he’s wearing.

“Nice tie.” A smile tugs at her lips, although it’s a bitter one because she remembers the night that he wore it. It’s the same night that—

“Nice dress,” he echoes softly. She doesn’t look down because she knows which dress she’s wearing. It’s silvery and tied prettily at the waist with a black sash.

“At least this one’s not covered in blood,” she says, going for a light tone but ending up sounding tremulous. There’s been one too many nightmares about this, and she’s feeling anxious just standing here.

(She’d be terrified, but he’s here and her heart is back at a normal rate and she doesn’t even have the urge to look over her shoulder every five seconds.)

She looks back at him and he’s watching her with something like sadness, apparently having picked something up from her tone. “How often do you have nightmares about the stuff that happened to you, Lydia?”

She hates the way he’s looking at her right now so she crosses her arms over her chest. “Probably with about the same frequency that you do,” she replies tightly, because she knows she hasn’t got the monopoly on traumatic high school experiences.

There’s a brief silence that confirms her suspicions before he nods tightly. “Touche.” And then: “So, want to play a game of Go?”

She blinks. “What?”

Stiles nods his head to something Lydia hadn’t noticed— a board game set up in front of him.

He turns his head back to the Nemeton from where he had approached. “There’s a board set up over there, all the pieces and everything.” When she doesn’t respond, he adds in a droning sort of voice, “Also known as baduk. Chinese board game— “

“I know what Go is,” she snaps.

He rolls his eyes. “Okay. Great.”

“I don’t want to play,” she continues. He watches her attentively, silently, until she elaborates. “I don’t feel like playing any games.”

The words hang in the air between them.

“You don’t?” he asks softly.

She swallows, trying not to notice the liquified gold of his eyes, or the subtle tilt to his head as he studies her. She eventually deigns not to answer, and instead plops herself down onto the Nemeton on the other side of the Go board. Because she’s tired, and her guard is down because she’s shaken, and because of his stupidly nice lips looking particularly red at this moment as if he’s been chewing on them, and because of this place.

This lacrosse field, which holds far too many memories she’d rather forget, is still rattling her from the inside. She feels like she has no option but to sit here and wait, like a string drawn taut, until something bad happens. Because here, with the night sky interrupted by harsh, humming lights, something bad always seems to happen.

Except now Stiles Stilinski is sitting beside her, and there’s nothing bad about the way his irises turn golden in the light, or the way he looks at her.

There’s nothing bad in the way his hand reaches out and runs itself over hers, his palm dragging over her knuckles and rubbing the back of her hand in soothing circles, and then coming back to simply place itself there. It feels too good. Too right. It feels like that point of contact is seeping warmth into every other part of her body where she wasn’t aware she was cold.

There’s nothing bad in the way that they sit in companionable silence— or perhaps, just a non-antagonistic one— until the sun rises and the dream fades and she wakes up with inexplicable tears in her eyes and an ache in her heart; the good kind.

-x-

He misses her.

He misses her a lot.

It’s on nights like these, when he’s sitting alone at his dorm desk in the middle of the night, his workspace illuminated by a single lamp because Scott is passed out in bed across the room, papers strewn everywhere, that he finds his eyes straying to the empty seat besides him. And it immediately like someone has driven a stake through his heart. Because she used to sit there, watching him cursing incessantly while bent over his books, blandly pointing out all the mistakes in the professor’s notes in her prissy little teacher voice, occasionally plucking the pen from between his lips and whacking him across the face with it when he yawned exaggeratedly halfway through her explanation. But he really didn’t mind at all; he loved to watch her brow furrow in concentration, the way she bit her lip, her hair falling over her face in a curtain. And eventually he wouldn’t be able to take it anymore, would announce “break time” for the fiftieth time that hour, and tackle her into his bed.

He misses her too much to be real. But somewhere inside, he acknowledges it’s his fault she left.

So he just sits there, studying, with a bottle dangling loosely from his fingertips. Drunk studying isn’t exactly fun, but it hurts less.

He’s only staring into space when he hears Scott stirring on his bed, and then sleepily muttering, “Stiles? You’re still awake?”

Stiles continues to stare at the wall.

He doesn’t turn his head but he hears Scott yawn and get up, sheets rustling, and a moment or two later he feels Scott’s hands on his shoulders, nudging him. “Dude. It’s late. Go to bed.”

It’s late? Stiles knows it’s late, he’s not a fucking idiot, and he’s just about to say as much to Scott but when his mouth opens what falls out is, “I miss her.”

Except, he’s more drunk than he realized, so it comes out more like “Imisherrrrr.”

Scott seems to understand anyway. He sighs heavily and bends at the knees and a moment later he picks Stiles up, just like that, in a fireman’s lift around his shoulders. “Yup, it’s definitely time for bed,” Scott says. Stiles doesn’t fight, just lets his head droop against the back of Scott’s shoulder. He weakly grabs a fistful of Scott’s T-shirt. “You don’ get it.”

Scott easily deposits Stiles into his bed and makes to turn away but Stiles grabs onto his lapel. “I miss her,” Stiles mumbles, because he’s drunk and not sure Scott got it yet and he needs him to get it, he needs someone to get it. Because there’s a hole in his chest that no one else can see; and it was carved out by a green-eyed girl with strawberry blonde hair, right before she walked away.

“I get it,” Scott reassures him, gently uncurling Stiles’ fingers from around his collar. “You miss her. So do I.”

“But Scotty, I misser. I miss Lydia.”

Scott blinks a few times. Stiles realizes in the back of his mind, somewhere where he isn’t actively drunk apparently, that he hasn’t said her actual name out loud since she left.

“Okay,” Scott replies simply, prying the bottle away from Stiles’ fingers and throwing it into a corner of the room. It hits a pile of other empty bottles and cans, which are all there simply because of the fact that they’re college students, and they all clatter around noisily. “What are you gonna do about it?”

And that’s how he leaves him, Stiles awake in the dark staring at the ceiling because what can he do about it? Nothing. She made a decision to walk away and now the only time he sees her is when she purses her pretty red lips at him in dreams, and that is that.

All he can do is miss her.

-x-

Lydia doesn’t miss him.

That’s what she tells herself, anyway, as she rides Duncan and clutches onto the headboard, closing her eyes to shut out everything except the mattress squeaking. She doesn’t miss Stiles Stilinski and his whiskey coloured eyes and bad jokes and flannel shirts at all.

Then again, the fact that she’s thinking about her ex-boyfriend as Duncan’s eager hands feel up her breasts is probably a good indicator that that’s actually not the case.

When they both finish, Lydia rolls off and passes out almost immediately. Being on top is tiring. And she’s not really big on post-coital talk or cuddling. Not with most people, anyway.

Nevertheless, she lets Duncan wind his arms around her middle and pull her close before she closes her eyes to the world.

When she wakes up, light is streaming through the window of her room, setting the insides of her eyelids orange. She opens her eyes when she feels Duncan’s lips on the back of her neck, and smiles sleepily to herself. Maybe she’ll go for another round before she sends him on his way.

Decision made, she slowly, leisurely, rolls her hips back into his. He stirs. She does it again, this time making sure to grind right on his groin. He sighs shakily.

She freezes. That’s not Duncan. She would recognize that sound anywhere. She turns her head and shrieks.

Stiles is behind her in her bed, eyes partially closed and lips flushed from sleep. He doesn’t stay that way for long, though, because she’s shrieking and jumping out of bed, taking the sheets with her to shield herself.

When the sheets rip away from Stiles his eyes open fully, and he scrambles into a sitting position. Lydia registers he’s wearing his usual sleeping combination, a blue tee and sweatpants. His hair is sticking up everywhere, his eyes are red-rimmed, and the way he scrubs his unshaven jaw with one uncoordinated hand leads her to come to one conclusion.

“You’re drunk.”

“You’re naked,” he counters, not denying the accusation flung at him. She can’t argue with that, but chooses to clutch the sheets a little closer to her chest.

His eyes flicker over her form for a few seconds before he suddenly runs his hand over his eyes, groaning quietly and throwing his legs over the side so he is sitting on the edge of the bed.

Then, quite suddenly, he removes his hand and stares at her again, looking more awake. “You’re naked.” He says those words like he’s just had a revelation, like he’s just understood what that means.

She can’t help but bristle a little; he’s got no right to sound so betrayed, and her brain should not be feeling guilty. “An astute observation, Stiles. Any other drunken revelations you’d like to add?”

“Well, for one, I’m clearly not drunk enough for this,” he mutters, glancing back at the sheets where he lay. She knows he’s wondering who is currently lying there in real life.

While he’s looking away, she sidles over to her closet, grabbing an oversize T-shirt within her reach. She doesn’t get a chance to put it on before he’s turned his head back to her.

She stares at him. He stares at her.

She suddenly feels weak for clutching her sheets in front of her, as if it’s protection against him. She doesn’t need a defence because if she needs a defence that means that there is something unnerving her to begin with. With that resolve, she lets the sheets fall from her fingers.

His gaze doesn’t waver from her eyes even though she’s now standing amidst a pile of pink sheets, completely naked. But she hears the hitch in his breath, sees how his hands that were resting on her mattress are now gripping hard to the sides of it.

She tosses her hair to one side and puts the oversized shirt on in a leisurely sort of way, her room disappearing for a moment until her head pops through the hole. When she sees again, he’s standing. She tugs at the material until it falls to her knees. He’s looking at her so intensely that she feels self conscious again. She looks down at herself and belatedly realizes the oversized shirt she just put on is an old one of Stiles’, a remnant of their time together that got packed away into her suitcase because she couldn’t part with it. But he was never supposed to know she kept it. She’s about to open her mouth to say— what, she doesn’t even know— when he beats her to it: “I miss you.”

Her heart clenches. Meanwhile, he blinks as though surprised at the words that fell from lips. His eyes look a little wet.

I miss you.

“You’re not allowed to say that to me,” Lydia hisses, turning away and eyes stinging.

He looks startled, takes a step forward. She takes an automatic one back, and that stops him right in his tracks. It takes him a moment to compose himself before he can speak. “Why not?”

That does it. She’s been near overboiling with frustration, regret and rage at one Stiles Stilinski for months, and she turns around and finally explodes. “Because you broke up with me!”

 

 

— SIX MONTHS AGO —

 

 

Lydia’s retraced their steps together countless times, and she thinks it’s quite clear, in retrospect, the exact point at which the two of them were really doomed.

The end of her relationship with Stiles started with his death.

-x-

Lydia is perusing the books on a shelf in a quiet part of the Stanford library on an early morning, but there is one book that is resting on a shelf just out of reach. Silently cursing, she stretches on her tiptoes. Her fingers barely brush the book’s spine. She wishes suddenly that she’d worn high heels when she’d left her dorm this morning.

Just as she’s debating climbing the shelf— she’s had to do that before, humiliatingly enough— A larger hand with much longer fingers suddenly appears in her line of vision, plucking the book easily from the shelf.

She looks sharply to her side, and of course it’s him— Stiles Stilinski, her boyfriend, a shit-eating grin on his face as he waves the book at her tauntingly.

She tries to grab for it, but he holds it slightly out of reach and opens it. “I don’t think books about supernatural legends are really required reading for your degree,” he comments. “You abandoned me in bed at the buttcrack of dawn to come look at this stuff?” His tone communicates what a harsh and cruel betrayal this was.

She snorts and finally snatches the book from his hands. “First of all, it’s eleven o’clock in the morning, you slob. And secondly, what exactly were you expecting? I lay down a red carpet for you every time you drive down for sex?”

He pouts. “I didn’t drive down just for sex. But if we’re talking about it, what I was expecting,” he says as she turns back to the shelf to examine the labels on some other books, “or kind of hoping, was to wake up with you lying next to me, wearing that black lacy thing from yesterday.” His voice is a little huskier at the end, and she has to suppress a shiver when he presses her lightly into the bookcase with his body, trapping her in.

“In your dreams,” she says lightly, feeling his breath pan over the nape of her neck, exposed by her hair wrapped in its bun.

She can hear his grin. “Pinky swear?”

She smiles slightly, knowing he’s referring to their occasional shared dreams, which makes seeing each other easier. Even though they’re just less than two hours apart, sometimes life gets too busy to take the trip up, or for him to take the trip down. And then those dreams get extremely... convenient.

When his hands start wandering around her middle, she turns around to face him. He instantly leans in for a kiss but stops a hair’s breadth away from her lips, waiting for her to close the distance. She looks down at his lips and back at his eyes, taking her time torturing him. “Hmm… maybe if we were in the fourth grade,” she retorts, referring to his question.

His eyes are half-lidded and dark. “I’m a kid at heart,” he replies, a little raspily, and she doesn’t give him the room to say anything else because then she kisses at him.

It instantly escalates; his hands slide under her sweater, almost feverishly warm on her waist and on the small of her back, and the book falls from her hands with a distant thump to the floor as she puts them around his neck instead.

It would probably go further— and even though they’re in semi-public, Lydia’s not really opposed— but then she feels a strange sensation on the back of her neck, like she’s being watched.

And she’s not the only one, it seems. At about the same time the sensation arises, she feels his shoulders stiffen under her elbows, and then he’s pulling his face away and glancing down the aisle. Lydia follows his gaze.

There’s a woman standing at the end of the long bookshelf. She’s blonde and pretty, and looks to be about Lydia’s age. She looks like a normal person, and there’s no reason Lydia should feel so suddenly tense.

Meanwhile, Stiles is glaring at the girl at the end of the aisle as though she’s done him a personal wrong, his lips flattened into a suspicious line.

The girl’s gaze lingers at where Stiles and Lydia are still very much intertwined before she smiles. Somehow this innocent gesture seems very nefarious. And just like that she’s gone, stepped past the bookcase and out of sight.

There’s a beat of silence where both of them only stare at the space the blonde has recently vacated before Stiles finally speaks, voice strained. “So was it just me, or did you feel that?”

“Yes,” Lydia breathes instantly. She knows exactly what he means. It felt like— there’s only one way to explain it, although it makes no sense— her hackles being raised.

“Well, I dunno about you, but I’m officially weirded out,” Stiles says finally with a frown. The mood is gone. “What do you think it was?”

“I don’t know,” Lydia frowns too.

Stiles stares a moment longer and then snaps out of it, shrugging his shoulders loosely and grinning at her. “It’s probably nothing.” He bends down and picks up the book Lydia dropped mid-makeout session.

She takes it back, her reply void of conviction. “Probably.”

-x-

It’s something.

-x-

It turns out, over the next week, that they’ve come to the attention of a rival pack living in the area around Stanford. Now, Lydia’s not an idiot— she knew that the McCall pack meeting another (normal, not juiced-up alpha pack or chimera pack, but just an actual werewolf) pack was not only a possibility but an eventuality.

It’s only when Scott calls her one night a few weeks later that she learns this, however:

“Their alpha came to visit me,” Scott had explained over the phone. He goes to UC Davis along with Stiles.

“In the middle of class,” Stiles yelled in the background, blatantly listening in. Lydia strongly suspected Scott’s hand was holding Stiles’ face back from the receiver. “No respect for education. Is anyone surprised?”

Lydia grinned widely because she was alone and he couldn’t see it. “What’d he say?”

It was quiet for a second until Scott spoke. “Apparently Raol’s pack has an issue with one of ours being in their territory.”

She raised her eyebrows. “I’m going to school, not plotting to kill their alpha.”

“That’s what I tried to explain to him,” Scott replied.

“Werewolves don’t listen to reason,” Stiles complained, nearer than before. Lydia then heard an “oof” on the other end indicating Scott had shoved him back.

“Dude, put it on speaker!”

“We’re in the library, Stiles,” Scott reminded with a hushing noise from farther away, and then his voice came back to the phone. “But apparently one of his pack saw you at Stanford recently and told everyone and now his pack wants you out of there.”

Well, the mystery of the blonde girl was solved. “And?” Lydia asked.

“It’s up to you, what you want to do. I’m still going to try to talk to this Raol guy, see if we can’t figure something out. He seems reasonable. I don’t want you to have to leave your school, but if you feel unsafe... ” He trailed off.

“I’m staying,” Lydia said firmly. Stiles sighed loudly in the background. She ignored him; she wasn’t giving up Stanford because of this. The supernatural had already interfered enough with her life plans.

“Okay,” Scott said agreeably. “Look, until we get this figured out, do you want me to get some of the pack to check in on you for the next few weeks?”

She thought about it for a minute. “No,” she replied firmly. “Wouldn’t that just make it worse, more of our pack in their territory?”

“Yeah,” he sighed wearily. “Okay. Be safe, okay?”

Lydia, knowing the conversation was at its end, nodded although he couldn’t see it. And then, because she wanted to reassure Stiles who was probably already going crazy at the prospect of her living alone in another pack’s territory, she said, “Put Stiles on for a sec.”

“You’ll have to call him yourself,” Scott replied apologetically. “The librarian kicked him out.”

-x-

Things don’t get figured out.

Instead, something of a pack war ensues, and it escalates horrifyingly fast.

Suddenly Raol’s pack is crawling over Beacon Hills, and Scott’s running defence. And Raol shows his ugly side.

In retrospect, it’s stupidly clear to Lydia that Raol’s true motive for starting this dispute was to steal Scott’s power.

If she’d known that from the beginning, she might have been able to stop what happened next.

But as it was, no one really knew how far the other pack would go to get at Scott, to weaken him. And no one could get under Raol’s skin like one Stiles Stilinski and his jabbing, sarcastic remarks. Raol had a bit of a quick temper. Everyone knew the kind of bond Scott and Stiles had. It made sense to try to break it, if the next step was to take on Scott in an emotionally weakened state.

And so all these factors combine in a horrific way, leading to a climax of the rivaling alpha slitting her boyfriend’s throat right in front of her and Scott.

She’s not sure how that happened, exactly. The three of them— Lydia, Scott, Stiles— are walking around the darker corners of Stanford’s campus when they’re ambushed by two of Raol’s wolves, one being Cristina, that blonde werewolf that had seen Lydia on that very first day.

And so she and Scott are fighting tooth and nail side by side against these two wolves, when she hears a sound behind her.

It’s an awful, gurgling choking sound, and she’s going to remember it in her nightmares for the rest of her life. She’s certain of that. And then she turns around even as Cristina tries to pull her back. Her heart is already plummeting before her brain can catch up to it, and she sees Stiles fall with a heavy thud to the ground.

There’s one wolf that she and Scott didn’t account for— Raol himself, waiting in the darkness until his wolves could occupy Scott and Lydia, and he’s wearing a wicked grin and a shirt that is deep red with blood, with a few specks of white here and there betraying its original colour. God, there is so much blood— everywhere.

But Lydia’s smart— she knows people don’t necessarily die instantly from this kind of wound; it’s not like how it is in the movies. It can take longer. Slitting someone’s throat does three things: severs the trachea, so they can’t breath or speak; severs the carotid artery, so oxygenated blood from the lungs can’t reach the brain; and severs the jugular vein allowing blood to easily flow from the brain.

According to her reading, it can take up to thirty seconds to a minute until the blood loss and lack of oxygen eventually kills the person. But none of that could have ever prepared her to see the process happen so gruesomely to Stiles.

For several seconds he’s taking giant, gasping breaths, trying and failing to draw air through a severed windpipe, gargling blood and coughing. It’s the only sound Lydia can hear, until it cuts out because then he’s out cold.

Scott cries out, something like a sob before he dashes to where his best friend lies. Raol and the other wolves slink away into the darkness with dark laughter, their job finished, and Lydia Martin sinks slowly to her knees by Stiles’ head. But she can’t see anything except for that red gash, where his throat used to be all warm pale skin and Adam’s apple.

“Stiles,” she distantly hears Scott sob, trying helplessly to staunch the bleeding, but all Lydia can do is place her shaking hand on his cheek. It’s devastatingly cold.

And that’s when she feels it, that feeling coiling in her stomach trying to rise up her throat, scratching at the insides of her unsevered, fully functional trachea.

That scream.

Of their own accord, her lips clamp shut. That scream builds up in her throat, rising into her mouth and filling it with a foul, acrid taste. She doesn’t open the seal of her lips, denying the instinct in her that tells her to do it, that reflex that tells her to open her mouth. And so that powerful, unearthly force has nowhere to go but rebound back in.

It hurts. It hurts it hurts it hurts, it is agony in its purest form and she feels like she is splitting open, like a demon straight from hell is clawing wildly at her stomach, like a red-hot poker has been applied to the insides of her throat.

But Lydia Martin doesn’t open her damn mouth anyway.

And then— there’s no pain at all. There’s nothing.

-x-

It turns out that she passed out.

But when she wakes up forty hours later in a hospital bed Scott quietly tells her, joy shining in his eyes as he clutches her hand, that Stiles is alive; that she made a miracle happen because he should have been dead far before he got to the hospital. Instead, he wasn’t even in critical condition.

And so Lydia learns about her newest power.

She gets to see Stiles later, when they’ve both been discharged. There’s a heavy bandage across his throat and when he sees her he doesn’t say a thing, just envelops her in his arms, and they rock back and forth together, each drawing strength from the other because they both made it out. Again.

But when Stiles releases her, his eyes are shining wet. “You were in a coma, Lydia.”

She blinks, deciding now’s not the time to mention she still feels like the walking dead. “It was worth it.”

His mouth twists as though he disagrees.

“You know,” she goes on as she puts her head back onto his shoulder, “I would’ve gone out of my mind, too.”

-x-

The pack war is over. Apparently while she was out of commission and the rest of the pack were watching over her and Stiles’ recovery, Scott went to find Raol and went after him with a vengeance. Lydia’s not entirely sure what exactly transpired when Scott found Raol, but Liam quietly tells her that he very nearly ripped the rivalling alpha’s throat out, and there’s an almost terrified look in Liam’s eyes when she presses him for more details.

Suffice to say, Raol and his pack have left town with their tails between their legs, so to speak.

Life goes on, and the only indication of what happened is the scar across his throat. It’s very faint, much fainter than the stark lines across Braeden’s, but Lydia still sees it in certain lighting and feels her gut clench at how their lives almost changed forever.

Except, her life did kind of change forever, something she notices for weeks and weeks after.

Because Lydia doesn’t feel the same as before. She feels strange inside, hollow, like that scream has taken something from her very soul.

She thinks the pack notices to some degree, and Stiles notices very much so. And yet, she can’t bring herself to tell him, partly because she doesn’t even know herself.

“Lydia,” he murmurs one night while they’re lying in her bed together, fingers interlaced, “why are you crying?”

She touches her fingers to her cheeks, surprised to even find wetness there. “I don’t know,” she says with some surprise.

“What is it? Are you feeling something?” He looks so terribly anxious, and she hears the sheets rustling and now he’s leaning on one elbow to get a good look at her face in the moonlight.

Are you feeling something?

He probably means a banshee thing and it’s not that. “No,” she answers honestly. She doesn’t feel anything. That’s the problem— the ever constant void she feels late in the night when there’s nothing to distract her from her thoughts. “Nothing.” Tears continue to leak from her eyes anyway.

He’s silent for a few moments, watching her face, and his voice is rough when he speaks. “Don’t do anything like that ever again, you hear me Lydia?”

She knows what he’s talking about, but stays silent.

His hand comes up to wipe the tears away from her cheeks, and she closes her eyes at his touch, his touch that makes her feel something always. “You understand me, Lydia? I don’t care if I’m fucking decapitated, don’t do it. Don’t hold in your screams ever again. Okay, Lydia?” There’s a knowing sort of quality in his voice; she knows he sees the toll this miracle has taken on her.

But all she sees is the impossibly shallow looking scar, pale against Stiles’ throat, and the way her heart stopped when she heard his rattling, fruitless gasps for breath. When he says her name again her eyes flicker up to his and she woodenly replies, “I won’t.”

-x-

She does it again.

-x-

She knows them, these two girls in some of her classes at Stanford. Apparently even Ivy League campuses aren’t immune from the supernatural because Kayla and Izzie are witches, or something. Lydia only sort of knows them, though. They keep up on the supernatural goings-on— they helped the pack when the whole Raol thing was still an issue— but other than that, she doesn’t see them that much. But she’s said hi to them enough to know their names, to know that Kayla likes vanilla ice cream over any other kind and that Izzie has a strange love for boy bands.

Apparently witches aren’t immune to being hit by a semi truck, though.

She’s in an exam in the middle of the day when she feels the scream coming on. She doesn’t know how she can explain, but just like with Allison she feels like it’s them, like they have some supernatural trademark that allows her to identify them in her mind.

She drops her HB pencil, watching it fall almost in slow motion against the Scantron sheet, and her lips part of their own accord.

But just as her expression is contorting, the scream tunneling its way up her throat, she sees that scar on his throat again in her mind’s eye.

She shuts her mouth firmly and takes it, and so doesn’t hears the gasps when she slumps over unconscious and falls to the floor of the lecture hall.

-x-

Izzie and Kayla make it out alive.

This time she’s in a coma for three full days, and in a wheelchair because she’s too weak to walk for a few days afterwards.

And of course, she has visitors. And flowers on her table, lots of them. Two huge bouquets from Izzie and Kayla, with a message attached that simply says Thank you.

Scott tells her quietly, at her bedside, that she has to stop. “It’s only going to get you killed,” he tells her, worry evident in his words. She stares resolutely at the ceiling. “Lydia. Come on.”

Her eyes snap back to his. “You of all people should understand that if I have this ability, then I can’t just let innocent people die.”

He looks stricken, and rubs a hand over his forehead with a sigh. “Lydia.” But he shakes his head and is quiet about it, although she sees him later on just looking at her beseechingly, silently telling her to please stop.

Stiles is a whole other reaction, though.

“Lydia, for the love of god,” Stiles yells at her, his hands gripping fistfuls of his own hair, “what did I tell you! Don’t you ever fucking do that ever again!”

“I won’t,” she says.

-x-

(Life will make a liar out of her again.)

-x-

She’s started hanging out with Kayla and Izzie more— if only for the occasional coffee. She even shows them the invitation she received from Princeton with a research opportunity starting in the fall. “Will you do it?” Kayla asks, eyes wide. The two of them like to gush about how smart Lydia is to everyone they meet.

Lydia thinks about her place at Stanford, the fact that she’s two hours from her best friends in the world, her family, and then about the fact that this is really a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. “I don’t know,” she says quietly. She keeps the letter tucked in the inside cover of her notebook to think about.

That night she dreams of Stiles and he greets her with a hug, and when he asks her what’s new she thinks of that letter but shrugs and says nothing.

So he talks instead. Boy loves to talk, and Lydia’s not opposed to just sitting back to watch him gesticulate wildly and pull ridiculous expressions as he exaggerates every small thing his professors do into a full blown drama. Because she enjoys it.

Suddenly he stops talking and Lydia blinks, only to notice that he’s staring at her curiously.

“What is it?” she asks.

“Have you noticed your aura lately?”

She snorts. “My aura? When did you become a psychic?”

His eyes are wide; he’s not joking. He points his finger at a point several inches from her arm. “There’s… a dark cloud around you.”

She looks, really looks, down at herself for the first time. He’s right. There’s a strange darkness around her body. She feels like she’s standing in the midst of a storm, and he’s just outside of it, looking panicked.

He grabs her hand. “Lydia…”

Her eyes flicker up to meet his but before he can say whatever he’s going to say, the dream ends and Lydia startles up from bed for her 7 am class.

The next time they have a dream they don’t talk about it. In fact, it’s largely silent, like Stiles sees it but doesn’t know what to say; and she doesn’t know what to say to him, either. The frequent silences stretch longer than they normally do between them.

-x-

Stiles is there the next time it happens. She’s visiting him on his campus, and Scott sleeps at Kira’s to let them have the dorm room to themselves for the night if they promise to change the sheets.

Stiles is roused from sleep when he hears sheets moving around him, and he blinks blearily into the darkness only to see her naked back rising as she stands up gracefully from the bed.

“Lydia?” he mutters blearily, rubbing his eyes with the backs of his hands. “What time is it?” It’s still dark out, it can’t be morning already.

Her head turns slightly as she walks away from him completely naked, and he sees the glazed look in her eye— oh. She’s in full-on banshee mode.

He rises as well and manages to catch her shoulder before she can open the door. She pauses just long enough for him to wrap her bathrobe around her shoulders, and then his coat for good measure. She won’t stand still for anything else. “I don’t think you want to go wandering around at night naked again,” he says to her blank face, trying for a smile. It falls flat into a grimace instead.

She doesn’t say anything; as soon as he finishes tying her robe and zipping the jacket all the way to her chin she’s on the move again, opening the door.

He’s barely able to throw on his sweatpants before she’s slipping out into the corridor, so he grabs his T-shirt from the floor and pulls it on as he hurries to follow her.

They’re halfway across campus (he’s trailing her by several feet) when he realizes neither of them are wearing shoes. Shit, he knew they were forgetting something. Maybe he should call Scott. He automatically checks his pocket only to realize his phone is still on the desk in the dorm. Make that two somethings he forgot.

He shakes his head ruefully as they leave campus boundaries. He’s had to do this one or two times before with Lydia, but apparently he hasn’t learned anything from it.

It begins to rain once they enter city streets, and their bare feet are slapping against wet pavement. It’s truly the middle of the night, though, so the fact that they look like weirdos doesn’t matter because no one is really around the obscure neighbourhood Lydia is leading them to. He notes a hospital sign on their way and tells himself he doesn’t know why he carefully filed that away in his brain (he definitely does). Stiles has to catch her arm to stop her from crossing at a traffic light where it’s not safe a few times, and she lets him bring her to a halt, but as soon as he lets go she starts to walk again. He debates just grabbing her arm and bringing her back to campus, but for some reason— perhaps the set to her expression— he has a feeling that won’t fly.

He’s still trailing her when they find the body in the backyard of a little house in a quiet neighbourhood, a pale teenage boy lying on his porch sideways in his own pool of vomit. Stiles knows enough to connect the dots of alcohol poisoning, and the dude doesn’t look good. In fact, he pretty much looks dead already.

Lydia stops in front of him, hair hanging in sopping wet tendrils around her face, and he’s still keeping a quiet distance so he can’t quite see past her expression but there’s a feeling of foreboding rising in his stomach.

She has to scream. This guy is already dead. That’s all there is to it.

And he sees it clearly in the pouring rain— he sees the moment where her mouth opens, and her shoulders rise with the intake of breath needed to scream— but it’s gone as quickly as it comes, because she breaths it out hard through her nose and her lips clamp shut and he knows she’s become aware again and that’s when he moves.

She is sinking to her knees even as he skids to a stop behind her, and he kneels as well, wrapping his arms around her middle from behind, molding her body into his chest. Her hands are clutching at her head and he can see her eyes are screwed shut.

“Lydia,” he coos, voice trembling, “Lydia, open your mouth okay? Can you do that for me? You have to scream.”

Her fingers flex harder on her head, and behind her he’s shaking. He pulls her hair away from her face on one side, tucks it behind her ear so he can see her face, her eyelashes fluttering with the effort of clamping down on the urge. He presses his damp cheek against hers.

“Come on, listen to me, Lydia, scream,” he repeats desperately. He can see the pain in her expression and it kills him.

He renews his hold on her, tightly, and they both stare at the boy’s body lying on the porch a few feet in front of them. “Please, Lydia,” he begs. “Please, please please open your mouth and scream.”

She shakes her head violently.

“Please!” He yells, but all she does is tremble in his arms, and he’s frantically trying to think of a way to convince her. He knows she’s strong, he can’t physically force her to open her mouth. All he can do is beg, and even that doesn’t work. It’s agonizing; it’s almost like he can feel her absorbing death into her veins, and he breaks entirely.

It’s going to kill you, Lydia, open your mouth!” he screams in her ear, and a shudder goes up her spine but she still won’t relent. He sees the resolve in her eyes. She’s fighting the instinct, as long as she can. God, she’s so strong.

But he’s not.

“It’s going to kill you,” he utters again, lips pressed against her earlobe. But his voice breaks in the middle and then he’s sobbing, he’s sobbing openly into the soaked material of the jacket on her shoulder, because she just won’t stop. She just won’t listen.

Her shoulders, too, are racked with shuddering sobs. They are both crying, hanging onto each other in the rain, each unable to bear a different kind of pain. He can’t do anything for her.

All he can do is rock her back and forth as she gradually starts to go limp in his arms, and cry into the crook of her neck where she smells like rain and just the faintest hint of her perfume from earlier in the evening.

When she goes completely under, he feels her sag in his arms. He immediately lays her down gently to the ground, supporting her head with one hand so it doesn’t hit the asphalt. Her eyes are closed, lips slightly parted, glistening red and wet from the rain. He’s just gathering her up in his arms to pick her up completely when he realizes that she is not breathing.

He’s on her in an instant, tilting her head back, trying to breathe life back into her chest because that kid lying a few feet away took it from her, checking back desperately for breath, scrambling to remember the basics of CPR with his face wet with tears and rain and sobs still in mid-shudder in his chest.

But it’s worth it, because she breathes again, and when she does so does Stiles.

He closes his eyes and lets out a long breath, giving himself one moment to gather himself before picks her up off the wet pavement, making sure one of his hands supports her neck and the other arm under her knees, and he walks away, barely even noticing the kid stirring sleepily on his back porch.

-x-

The hospital is quiet this hour, and the nurses are enjoying the rather slow night, two of them playing with a ratty pile of cards at the emergency desk.

“I got nothing,” says one with a glance at her cards. “Go fish.”

But the other isn’t listening. His gaze is somewhere over her head, and his mouth dropping open from astonishment. The female nurse turns her head as well.

There’s a young man walking through the entrance to emergency, dripping wet from his matted dark hair to his soaked through shirt to his bare feet, leaving puddles with every step. His face the picture of exhaustion and he sways on the spot. But there’s more: he’s holding the body of a young woman in a bathrobe in his arms, also soaking wet, hair dripping water on the floor, eyes closed and skin pale.

No one speaks for a moment, but the nurses rise slowly from their seats. The young man’s lips crack open and he speaks raspily as though he hasn’t spoken in his entire life. “Please help her,” he croaks. “Please.”

They rush into action immediately and the young man looms over them as they work like he’s standing guard, but as soon as she is stabilized in the ICU, he falls into the chair by her bed and passes out right there.

-x-

When Lydia wakes up, they say she’s been under for a week. They think she has a host of medical issues of course, and ask her several questions, some quietly prodding about whether the boy who brought her in might have had anything to do with her condition. Lydia dispels that notion immediately, reassuring them that he is indeed related to her (she can only assume Stiles has cobbled together some bull story about how he’s her second cousin or something).

As soon as the nurses leave the room Scott and her mother enter, her mother looking close to tears.

“Mom, I’m fine,” Lydia says, but she’s enveloped in a hug instead. Over her mother’s shoulder, she mouths at Scott, is the boy okay?

Scott nods, but his eyes are sad.

Malia and Kira come to visit shortly after she wakes up, the kitsune toting a massive teddy bear and Malia with an offer to hunt down and capture Stiles.

Because Stiles hasn’t been to visit the entire time she’s been awake.

“Are you sure?” Malia asks, hands on hips. “I have a pretty good sense of smell, and he has a pretty distinct scent. Especially when he’s anxious.” Kira wrinkles her nose. “Which is most of the time.”

“It’s fine,” Lydia replies hollowly, because she thinks she knows exactly why he’s not here.

Scott comes by, answers her question that she didn’t even ask. “He didn’t leave the hospital once while you were out,” he tells her quietly. “But as soon as you woke up, he took off.”

She looks away, tears pricking at her eyes.

“He’ll come around,” Scott reassures.

She nods.

Neither of them feel that convinced.

-x-

As soon as she’s discharged from the hospital, she drives to Scott and Stiles’ dorm. There’s a walker in the backseat of her car but she decides she doesn’t need it. It’s probably not the best idea, judging by the way she hobbles up the hall on shaky legs. Nevertheless, she gets to the door without falling.

When she knocks, it’s Stiles who opens the door, and there’s an unfamiliar set to his jaw. He’s alone, and he looks her up and down before stepping aside to let her in.

She walks in slowly, trying not to betray how exhausted she already feels. “Stiles— “

He cuts her off. “Are you okay?”

She feels more like death than ever. “I’m fine.”

He exhales shakily. “Really? Cuz I’m not.”

There’s so much pain hanging in those words, and although Lydia doesn’t remember much, a sudden flash of memory comes to her when he says that: an image of her bent over, trying to keep the death inside of her, and Stiles wrapped around her, sobbing helplessly into her shoulder.

The image is gone an instant later, and she blinks. “It was worth it.” It sounds weak to her ears.

His response is instant and derisive. “No, it fucking wasn’t.”

“I saved someone’s life,” Lydia snaps at him, hands on her hips. “He would’ve died.”

“He spent, like, three hours in the hospital,” Stiles spits, “and was discharged way before you were and is probably getting drunk all over again as we speak, having no idea of how you nearly gave your life to save his ungrateful ass.”

“It was worth it,” she repeats.

“It was never worth it, Lydia. You should’ve seen that from the start.”

“It was worth it for you.”

A beat.

“Not if it does this,” he says finally. There are bags under his eyes more prominent than just his usual insomnia. “I’d rather get my throat slit a thousand times over than see you like this once.”

She says nothing.

He swallows and then grabs her hands in both of his and says, hoarsely, “Please. Don’t do it again.”

“I won’t,” she says, because by now it’s become an automatic reflex, the correct response to say every time one of the pack asks her this question.

But she also sees the way the some of the pack members look at her when they say this. There’s a particular look in some of their eyes, like they’re wondering if the day Lydia decides to stop might coincide with the day they are in mortal danger too.

This time his golden eyes watch her sadly. “You’re not gonna stop, are you.”

There’s a finality to his tone that she doesn’t like, like he’s accepting something. It makes her panic at what that might mean, and she blurts out the first thing she can think of that might distract him.

“I”m going to Princeton in the fall.”

He blinks once, twice. Lets go of her hands. She misses his warmth immediately.

“For research,” she hastens to explain. “For a year. I’m leaving soon. It’s a really good opportunity, and with a professor who’s a world-renowned mathematician, so I’ve decided to accept.”

He still says nothing, and Lydia finds herself continuing to babble uncharacteristically. “It’s only a little while, and I’ll come back for Christmas and I’ll — “

“Lydia,” he cuts her off again, softly. “I already know.”

This time she blinks. “You knew?”

“The letter fell out of your notebook,” he replies, expression inscrutable. “I saw it. Sorry.” His tone is void of emotion.

She can’t avert her eyes for some reason, stuck in his gaze. “And you were okay with it?” She asks, hardly daring to breathe.

“Yeah, of course I was,” he replies. “Not that it would matter if I wasn’t, would it? You would go anyway. You wouldn’t listen.” His voice is still oddly toneless, and it unnerves her. “You wouldn’t listen to anything anyone said, even if they were just trying to look out for you.”

She gets the feeling he’s not talking about Princeton anymore and takes a step forward. “Stiles…”

He licks his lip, a nervous action, and then he’s taking an automatic step back. It stings. “Maybe… this is a good thing… distance, you know…”

“Stiles?” She asks tightly, her voice more high-pitched than usual. “Stiles, what are you saying?”

He’s just standing there quietly now, looking down at the floor, but when she takes another step forward he matches it with a step back.

“Stiles, what do you mean by that?” she says desperately, heart pounding painfully against her chest. “Are you… breaking up with me?”

He stares at her for a long moment, a moment that stretches out into an eternity as Lydia waits for his answer. “I guess,” he finally mutters and Lydia instantly feels so dazed it’s like he’s delivered a blow to her head. His eyes widen a second later as if he’s just realized what that means. “I— I don’t know.”

“What does that mean?” She can’t help the volatile, accusatory note that enters her question.

He finally looks up at her. “It means I can’t do this anymore.”

“What?”

His head ducks down and his hand runs through his hair haphazardly before he speaks. “I can’t do it.” It’s like he’s talking to himself at this point. “I can’t watch you do this over and over, Lydia, it fucking kills me. I’m done.”

She’s at a loss, unable to believe that one of the most treasured relationships of her life is falling apart right before her eyes. “So what, you just want me to leave?” She snaps, and god, she wants him to yell at her more than anything. She wants him to show emotion in his voice just as powerful as the emotion already spilling out of his eyes. But he won’t. He’s just standing there, looking as sad and defeated and hollow as she feels.

“I can’t do it anymore,” he says simply, softly. “Did you know when you went into a coma this time the only reason I kept trying to sleep was because maybe I’d see you in our dreams? But I didn’t, Lydia. You weren’t there. I was all alone and it was like you were dead already.” He sounds shaky.

“I’m not dead.”

He continues as if she hasn’t spoken. “Do you know what it feels like? To see you do this to yourself over and fucking over again? Do you know how fucking helpless I felt!” His voice breaks a little, but at least now there is emotion in it. That, she can deal with. What she can’t deal with is indifference. “And you don’t have any plans of stopping, do you? If— when— you have the urge to scream again, you’re not gonna open your mouth, are you?”

There’s a pleading note in his voice, as if he’s begging her to deny this even if it’s a lie, like he’s ready to accept any answer that comes from her mouth right then. But suddenly Lydia doesn’t have it in her to lie. She doesn’t say anything, and that seems confirmation enough for him.

She sees it in how he nods almost thoughtfully to himself, eyes unusually bright. “Okay.”

Lydia feels her knees shaking; this word breaks her, his simple and quiet acceptance of the fact, and then her knees buckle under her and she’s collapsing from exhaustion both physical and mental.

But he’s there to catch her, taking three steps forward to steady her with arms around her waist, bodies swaying close together for a heartbeat or two before he steadies her. While she’s clinging to him, he leads her to his bed where he lays her down gently into the sheets.

The door opens and Scott enters. He stops in his tracks at what he sees.

But Lydia only has eyes for Stiles right then. “Stiles—” she tries, but she doesn’t even know what to say to him, in lieu of the empty promises that have become her habit.

He backs away from the bed even as she reaches for him and turns to Scott, who’s watching on with a bewildered expression. “Can you drive her up to Stanford tomorrow?” Stiles asks his friend quietly. “She’s too tired to drive right now.”

“I can drive,” Lydia snaps. Neither pays her any attention because they all know she’s lying.

“Yeah, I can do that,” Scott says slowly. “But—”

“I’ll sleep on Kira’s couch tonight,” Stiles replies shortly. He’s staring at the wall when he says after a pause, “maybe I’ll see you later, Lydia.”

Lydia’s struggling to get up from the bed, to stop him, but her muscles are failing her.

So all she can do is watch while he— the boy who loved her long before she returned the favour— walks out the door and out of her waking life.

 

 

— PRESENT DAY —

 

 

You broke up with me!

There’s a long silence between them, as if they’re both remembering what had happened to bring them to this point.

“That’s not fair,” Stiles says finally. He looks incredibly alert now, like these words were a bucket of ice water to the face. “You know I didn’t want that.”

“When you walked out the door it sure sounded like you did,” Lydia snaps at him.

He’s glaring at her now, the soft gaze of moments earlier gone. Lydia’s words have ripped a bandaid off a raw, open wound neither of them have healed from. “You hurt me, Lydia! Whether you meant to or not!”

Lydia blinks because she has had a similar experience. “I know that,” Lydia snaps back at him. “I don’t plan it, Stiles, it just happens. I can’t just let innocent people die if I have the power to stop it.”

“You sound like Scott.”

“Scott does the right thing.”

“Scott doesn’t die every time he tries to save someone.”

“I’m still in front of you, aren’t I?”

“Because you haven’t felt the urge to scream since then.”

Well, he has her there, but it doesn’t matter. She folds her arms. “I’ve pretty much recovered from the other times now, Stiles. If it happened again, it wouldn’t be nearly as bad.”

“That’s fucking comforting. And I can still see the weird darkness of your aura, by the way. Just as black and deathly and ominous-looking as ever.” He spits this out sardonically, blinking rapidly with derision.

She’s had it with him. “What do you want me to do, Stiles? Let innocent people die?”

“Maybe they’re supposed to die,” he retorts. “You can’t save everyone, Lydia. People die. It happens. It’s not your job to save them. Especially not if it does this to you.”

“What if it’s Scott?” she asks.

He rears back, blinking. She presses further.

“What if it’s Scott who’s dying, huh? What then? I should let him die because death is supposed to ‘happen’?”

His silence is answer enough for her.

Hot, slick anger wells up in her stomach at his hesitation— how dare he judge her? — and she shoves him back with both hands. He falls back a few steps, towards the wall. He looks torn, but she doesn’t have it in her to feel any sympathy for him right now. She advances on him. “Tell me, Stiles,” she hisses, “what exactly makes our lives more important than anyone else’s? Are you even capable of caring about people other than yourself?” He still isn’t saying anything, and she feels the anger surge in her more deeply, and she snarls: “You absolute, selfish hypocrite, Stiles Stilinski!”

She shoves him, hard, this time with the help of her powers. She knows this is a dream so he won’t really be physically hurt, but damn does it feel good.

This time he flies backward, back hitting the wall. Except, to both of their surprise, the wall doesn’t act like a wall at all. It crumples into Stiles like it’s simply a bedsheet hung up to the ceiling, and Lydia, losing balance, falls with him through the curtain.

They fall through the illusion of this bedroom they were in, and suddenly they find themselves falling through black, empty space in a freefall for several terrifying seconds. It’s so brief she doesn’t have much time to do anything but curl her fingers in his cotton T-shirt and watch his eyes widen with surprise and terror.

Then they land. Or, rather— he lands, flat on his back with a painful-sounding oof, and Lydia right on top of him. It’s a hard, metal surface, and once Lydia can raise her head she sees they’re on Deaton’s operating table in the clinic, Stiles lying flat on his back on it.

He groans, bringing her back to the situation. She raises herself onto her hands to look down at him, feeling the anger rise back again as if nothing had just happened, as if the dream isn’t falling apart around them. “So, who should I save, Stiles? Are you going to make a nice little list for me so I can check it every time I sense someone dying, that way you can make sure it’s not someone you care about?” She flings these words at him without hesitation, but she feels a little tinge of regret a moment later when he flinches.

“I care about you!” he roars at her with his eyes flashing, looking a little red in the face because she’s sitting quite squarely around his middle. “You’ll have to fucking excuse me if that takes precedent over a random stranger. So hell yeah, I’m selfish. That’s who I fucking am. You already know that, Lydia. I’m not a good person, okay? But you and Scott are. You are not supposed to die. You can’t die— I can’t let you die— I can’t— “ he takes a few deep breaths, gulping in air shallowly, “I can’t— “

It takes Lydia a moment or two to recognize the start of a panic attack.

She leaps off of his chest and onto her feet next to the operating table. He rises up immediately to a bent over position, one hand pressed against his chest and the other braced on the cold metal behind him, eyes screwed shut tightly as he heaves in rapid breaths. “I can’t—” he repeats, and Lydia reaches for him frantically, “— breathe—

The dream ends before her hands can make contact with his face.

She bolts up in bed, completely naked beside a barely stirring Duncan, and flings the covers off. She practically leaps towards the table where her phone is and hits Scott on speed dial with shaking fingers, ignoring Duncan’s waking confusion. Stiles is in trouble, and he’s too far away for her to be able to help him. But someone else can.

-x-

Suffice it to say, waking up with a panic attack is just not a great way to start the morning. Stiles is flat on his back, but he feels paralyzed; he simply can’t move, not with a huge hole gaping in his ribcage, letting all the air he tries to breathe back out. All he can do is stare at the ceiling and shudder with rapid, shallow gulps of air while trying desperately to calm himself.

Lydia’s voice comes out of nowhere in his head, unwarranted, from years and years ago. Just try and think about something else, anything else. Uh, happy things. Good things. Uh, friends, family.

It doesn’t help. Again. Because suddenly all he can see in his mind’s eye is Lydia’s lifeless body, eyes open wide and unseeing, and Scott’s next to her, neck bent at an odd angle. His hyperventilating accelerates, if that’s possible.

He feels darkness edging into the corners of his vision and distantly thinks he hears a cell phone ring followed by the sleepy rumble of Scott’s voice. A moment later Stiles feels himself being lifted off the mattress and onto the floor against the wall, and there are warm hands on his face, stroking back his hair.

He blinks again, and Scott’s hovering above him, jaw set.

Stiles tries to say his name, but he can’t quite get the syllable out.

Scott shakes his head. “It’s okay, buddy. Just try to breathe. It’s okay. Just breathe.”

Stiles tries. Scott keeps talking, a steady stream of reassurances as he holds Stiles’ face in his hands. “Look, count your fingers if it helps, okay? I’m so proud of you buddy, you’re doing such a good job. It’s okay. I’m here, I’m not going anywhere.” It’s this last sentence that makes Stiles’ breath begin to ease out into a steadier rhythm, and a minute later he can let his head fall back to the wall with a thud, eyes falling closed.

Now he becomes aware of a tiny little voice from Scott’s cell phone, yelling out of the receiver from where Scott’s tossed it on the floor. Scott glances at it and back at Stiles; Stiles has the energy to muster a nod, and Scott walks over to grab his phone. “Hey, Lydia.”

Stiles’ eyes snap open as Scott continues talking.

“Yeah, he’s good. I think.” Scott pauses, listening, and then lowers the phone to look at Stiles. “How you feeling?”

Stiles sighs and speaks as loud as he can, hoping Lydia will hear his voice. “I just woke up and I feel fuckin’ exhausted.”

Scott puts the phone back to his ear. “Yeah, he’s feeling fine. Kinda hungover though, I think. Thanks for calling me, Lydia.” Stiles eyes the phone hungrily, knowing Lydia’s on the other side but at the same time too conflicted to ask for the phone. “No, you shouldn’t feel bad. This isn’t your fault. Not at all. Okay, bye.” He tosses the phone onto his bed and looks at Stiles. Stiles avoids his gaze. “Um. So. What happened?”

Stiles ignores the question and pushes himself back up to his feet because something has just occurred to him. “I need to talk to Deaton.”

-x-

“You know,” Deaton says thoughtfully with his back turned to them, “Lydia came to me with the same questions several months ago.”

Stiles blinks rapidly, while Scott unfolds his arms in surprise. Stiles supposes they shouldn’t be shocked— of course Lydia had gone to Deaton first to ask about her powers. It just made sense.

“And I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to tell you the same thing,” Deaton continues, looking apologetic. “I don’t know enough about her kind to be able to say anything about this power of diverting death.”

Scott leans forward. “She diverts death?”

“Yes,” Deaton confirms. “Death is an interesting philosophical dilemma. Some see it as the state of simply being void of life, while others see it as an actual thing that invades. For the purpose of this explanation, we have to see death as a thing, a darkness. When she holds in the scream, that darkness stays inside of her rather than being let out. Holding all that death in one’s living soul can take a tremendous toll.”

“So there’s nothing?” Stiles asks with despair. “There’s nothing we can do to fix it?”

“Anything is possible,” Deaton replies lightly. “But I don’t know of a permanent solution.”

“Permanent?” Stiles immediately asks, latching onto the word desperately. “What about temporary?”

Deaton’s expression changes; he almost looks conflicted for a second.

“What?” Stiles says sharply.

Deaton’s brow furrows for a moment before he sighs and shakes his head. “There is something you can do,” he finally relents.

Stiles’ heart rate kicks up a notch, and Scott goes still. Anything, Stiles thinks to himself, he’ll do anything. It doesn’t matter what. “Tell me,” he demands.

Deaton sighs again. “I didn’t tell Lydia this, but I think that it’s your choice to make.” He looks up, directing his gaze squarely at Stiles. “You and Lydia have already been proven to have an emotional tether to one another. A connection between your very souls. Now, it’s just a theory— but I believe that you could take some of the darkness from hers through that connection. It would be a temporary fix,” he warns quickly when Stiles leans back, “and taking on that darkness into your soul will cost you. But if you can get close to her, you might be able to do it.”

“But how could he get close to her?” Scott wonders. “She’s on the other side of the country.”

“I think Stiles already knows the answer to that,” Deaton replies, giving Stiles a meaningful look. Stiles swallows. Neither he nor Lydia have ever told anyone about the dreams they share; but Stiles gets the feeling that Deaton knows more than he lets on anyway.

-x-

It’s a few weeks before there are any more dreams.

He’s sitting on the benches that overlook the rink. He looks down at himself; baggy sweater that now hugs his body perfectly, skates laced neatly on his feet. He’s wearing the same clothes he wore on an evening years and years ago with Scott and Allison, but he looks like his present self. Pretty sure this is another dream, he looks up to search for her.

She’s easy to find, some ways away in the skating rink. Lydia hasn’t seen him yet. She’s looking down at herself, lifting the hem of her skirt to look at the material. This far away it’s hard to be distracted from the black, oily looking aura swirling around her. He wants nothing more than to take that away. As quietly as he can he gets to his feet and enters the rink, skating slowly towards her.

She finally looks up and notices him, and he watches her expression flit through several different emotions before settling on guilt. He skates right up to her, turning his feet to the side in order to halt in front of her. “Hey.”

She swallows. “Stiles—“

“It’s nothing,” he interrupts. “It wasn’t our argument that did it, okay? So you can stop beating yourself up over it.” This is truthful, at least. Although he’s not gonna lie, the way that she yelled at him, shoved him backwards, had unnerved him. This was more so because she wasn’t really the type to do that, a physical confrontation. But he’d noticed the way her aura turned darker as she shoved him, like the darkness was relishing in the violence.

He didn’t care about himself getting hurt by her, but he did care about the darkness around her soul trying to turn her into a person that she wasn’t.

She still looks distressed and it kills him. “You were in trouble and I couldn’t do anything—“

Stiles bites back the strong instinct to tell her that that’s how he feels every fucking day now that she’s on her little suicide mission. He’s kind of tired of arguing. He’s tired of being on the opposite side of Lydia Martin. He’s tired of yelling at her and trying to get her to see reason. He knows he can’t win this game. All he can do is settle.

“Look, I’m fine,” he says, his gaze shifting to her aura. He tries to focus on it as he talks. “And you’re fine, clearly.” Her expression doesn’t change. “Hey, don’t you want to skate? I seem to remember you doing those terrifying pirouette thingies the last time we were here.”

“The last time we were here,” Lydia murmurs, “we were with Scott and… Allison.”

“We were,” he agrees, feeling a twinge in his chest at the memory of Allison trying to teach Scott how to skate.

Lydia’s silent for a long moment, and he waits patiently for her to say what’s on her mind. He can tell when something is there, niggling at her, and she’s debating whether to say it, to expose that weakness.

“I could’ve saved her,” Lydia finally says, staring down at the ice between her skates. “I could’ve saved Allison. I just had to keep my mouth shut.” She looks close to tears. “But I didn’t.”

His heart drops somewhere into his stomach. “No, Lydia,” he insists, and on a whim he seizes her hands in both of his, pressing their palms together. She lets him; she even curls her fingers against the backs of his hands like she’s trying to bring them even closer together. “That’s not your fault.”

“How?” she whispers, and when a tear rolls down her cheek, shiny and wet and glistening in the overhead lights, Stiles is absolutely overcome with the desire to make her feel better. He wants nothing more than to take that anguish from her.

“Because,” he retorts, “you weren’t ready for it. You were too far away from Allison when she died. You didn’t get any warning. You discovered this power because when I was dying you were there, and you saw it happening, and you could do something about it. Okay?” When she says nothing, he squeezes her hands. “Don’t do that to yourself, Lydia. You loved Allison. I know you would’ve saved her too, if you could. But you couldn’t.”

Lydia looks up at him then, eyes shiny with tears and lips pursed in an effort to keep them from wobbling. He sees it anyway. He’s not sure his words had any impact at all. And his heart clenches because he wants to make an impact, he wants to see her smile.

And that’s when he notices.

The darkness around Lydia—it’s swirling, still there, but there are little tendrils of it breaking away from the aura and reaching him instead, and he can’t really see it once it reaches him but he knows when it does because he feels suddenly… heavier. Or rather, his soul feels heavier.

Lydia, on the other hand, is blinking away tears and prying one of her hands away to wipe her nose. He continues to concentrate on breaking wisps of darkness away from her, watching as she sniffs a few times, offers him a watery smile.

“Okay,” she says. She doesn’t sound entirely certain, but they can work on that. He simply keeps on doing what he’s doing to her aura, and while he does, Lydia begins to skate; leading him behind her with the hand she’s still holding.

As they skate around the rink Stiles takes as much of the darkness as he can, trying not to think too much about the heaviness suddenly weighing on his mind because he can feel it there, ready to pull him under.

And yet the more he takes from her, the wider her smiles get as they skate. And at some point, when he takes a rather large piece of it, she actually wrenches her hand free from him and starts to do pirouettes, crazy ones, in front of him— spinning on the spot while straight, and then on one leg, and then just some plain showing off, but the fact of it is that with every spin she seems to smile brighter and laugh louder and he can’t help but laugh with her because he did it. He took some of it away, and despite whatever that has done to him, he feels happier than he has in a long time.

After a while of skating around by herself, she skates back to him with a wide grin on her face. There’s a flush to her cheeks, and he realizes that she’s not slowing as she approaches him.

She collides with him, pushing him back on his skates gently so they both glide backwards, and her chest hits his and her face is upturned so that their noses bump against each other and he’s far too aware of her body heat and the sparkle in her green eyes that he hasn’t seen in such a long while.

And she giggles.

He almost has to do a double-take because she’s... giggling?

It must be because of what he’s doing, he realizes. This darkness has been weighing on her for months and months, and he’s taking a significant portion away in one fell swoop. He supposes it’s got to have some sort of endorphin rush effect to feel all that guilt flood away.

And that’s when guilt surges in him.

This wouldn’t even have to happen if it weren’t for you, a small voice in his head says. If you’d kept your mouth shut around Raol instead of taunting him every five seconds with complete disregard for what he might do, he wouldn’t have slashed your fucking throat. And then Lydia wouldn’t have ever had to discover this power.

Careless, careless, careless. You never think about the consequences.

On some level he knows this ugly, inner voice is just a by-product of the darkness he’s just taken on, but on another level it’s really not. Stiles has had his own special brand of darkness in him since day one, that the nogitsune only compounded. And what he’s taken from Lydia is just making it louder.

Great.

He’s barely realizing this when Lydia, who hasn’t pulled away from his face, leans in the extra half inch and presses her lips against his.

He’s frozen for a few seconds, letting her continue the kiss without really reciprocating, before he starts feeling guilty again and pulls away from her, taking a step back. She pouts at him, lips looking particularly red in the lighting. Stiles has to forcibly remind himself that Lydia isn’t really herself right now.

Thankfully, Lydia doesn’t seem too bothered. Instead she tugs on his arm to lead him in another circle around the rink, and he pushes everything to the back of his mind until the dream falls away and he can wake up feeling vaguely shitty (but that’s how he always feels so whatever).

Seeing Lydia smile again was totally worth it.

-x-

The dreams continue, though few and far apart. Lydia doesn’t come back to California for Christmas like she was promising, instead opting to stay put and work on her research. Stiles knows this because he listens in on her and Scott’s phone calls whenever he can during break, like the complete creepy stalker he apparently is. Yes, he knows that Scott knows he does this, just like how he knows Scott turns his phone volume up to maximum so that Stiles will be able to eavesdrop better. But that doesn’t mean he wants to talk about it with Scott.

Still, apparently Scott wants to talk about it. One day a few weeks into the new semester, they’re taking a break on the couches in one of the school’s secluded lounges. Stiles is frantically trying to beat his highest score on Don’t Tap the White Tile on his phone while Scott is busy texting someone, and all is well until out of the blue Scott asks, “Are we ever going to talk about how Lydia knew you were having a panic attack?”

Stiles’ thumb slips and hits a white tile. As the app audibly gloats out his defeat, he flings his phone onto the table and glares at his best friend, who looks completely unrepentant. “How do you always seem to know exactly when I’m ten points away from defeating my high score?”

“Alpha senses,” Scott replies easily.

Stiles blinks. “Wait, seriously?”

Scott rolls his eyes. “No, dumbass. Now stop avoiding the question.”

Stiles sighs, rakes a hand through his hair and answers with a question of his own because he doesn’t feel like responding to that one right now. “Do you think I did the wrong thing?”

Scott’s brow furrows, successfully derailed from his own line of questioning. “What?”

“When I broke up with Lydia. Do you think that was the wrong thing?”

He suspects Scott’s struggling with himself to repress the “obviously” that wants to come out of his mouth because he doesn’t answer for a good minute. “Well, that depends on why you ended it.”

Stiles mulls it over for a second, because it’s a good question. And then he answers. Truthfully.

“Because it hurt,” he replies. “It hurt more than it felt good.”

“And?”

“And what,” Stiles grumbles.

“Does it hurt any less now?”

Stiles’ mouth opens and closes for a few seconds. “I don’t know. Not really, I guess.”

“So you broke up with her and it didn’t even help, so now you’re both miserable. Awesome.”

Stiles holds up a finger to stop him. “Okay, but technically I didn’t actually really break up with her, you know. She just decided to take it that way for some reason. I just said a break would be good for us since she was moving across the fucking country anyway.”

“Dude,” Scott says, “I can’t believe I’m trying to give you relationship advice right now, but… that was definitely a break up.”

Stiles tips his head up to the ceiling. “I know,” he relents with a sigh.

There’s silence for a while, and Stiles is considering having another go at the game he was playing when Scott says softly, “You still love Lydia, though.”

Stiles snorts, closing his eyes because just her name sends a powerful ache washing through his bones, a reminder of just how much his love for her consumes him at times. “Yes, I’m painfully aware of that.”

“She still loves you.”

He chews his lip. “I guess.” There’s a habitual part of him, left over from high school, that’s not entirely convinced of that now that they have broken up.

“Then isn’t that enough?” Stiles doesn’t say anything, so Scott presses on. “Look, I know that it hurts you— on way more levels than you’re willing to tell me right now, which is fine— but you realize that she’s hurting too, right? She’s probably feeling really alone right now.”

Stiles knows that. She just moved across the country away from all of them. And he loves her, yes. He wants to be there for her, yes. But he’s just not sure he has the strength to be at her side to watch her self-destruct, to crumble into dust in his arms in front of his own eyes. Maybe it’s just better to see such a thing from a distance, if it is inevitable.

But he doesn’t want that, either; at the same time, he wants to be with her, god, he just wants to be a part of her life, for however long she’ll tolerate him. He just doesn’t know what to do; he’s crippled with indecision. The one thing he does know is an overwhelming sadness that is crushing him with the knowledge that he’s useless to help her with any of it. “But Scott,” he whispers, and he’s back to looking up at the ceiling so maybe he can delude himself into thinking Scott won’t realize he’s blinking back tears, “she won’t stop. And I can’t do anything. I can’t help, Scott.” He rubs his face with both of his hands, suddenly very tired.

“You can help,” Scott disagrees softly. “You help her just by being there.”

Stiles says nothing. She wouldn’t even be in this mess if he hadn’t gotten his own throat slashed. Maybe Scott’s wrong; maybe Stiles being there just makes it worse.

-x-

Lydia feels… good.

After a particularly good dream skating with Stiles a few weeks back, she woke up feeling almost giddy at how good she felt, and is delighted at how she seemed to be healing. Maybe the darkness isn’t as permanent as she thought.

In any case, she’s occupied with work. Two papers, actually. And for one of them she’s going to be the first author. She’s immensely pleased with the way things are turning out, and her supervisor is impressed with her. Obviously.

Weeks and weeks pass into the new semester, and Lydia’s elbow deep in work. Dreams with Stiles are few and far between, and she tells herself she likes it better that way. Although… he makes her feel better. He always has, in his own fashion, but recently the dreams she shares with him have made her feel better in a somehow more significant way.

So, things are going well for once.

-x-

At least, until they don’t.

(Death follows Lydia wherever she goes, not just in California. She should’ve remembered that.)

She’s on the phone with Kira on her way into her apartment that evening, chatting idly and looking forward to going back to her apartment and sinking into the bath and maybe using one of her bath bombs (unless Jasmine has depleted her stash again).

“...I’ll call you later, then,” Kira is saying cheerfully. A pause. “Things with you alright, then?”

“Fine,” Lydia says noncommittally as she lets herself in. Kira accepts that answer, which is exactly why Lydia speaks to her on a semi-regular basis. Unlike the other pack members, Kira knows when not to push it. And Lydia has been on ‘don’t-push-it’ mode pretty steadily for the past seven months.

“Okay, bye,” Kira says as Lydia rounds a corner. Lydia opens her mouth to say it back but she’s stopped dead in her tracks by the body in front of her.

It’s… Jasmine. Body sprawled out on the kitchen floor.

She’s hardly even aware of how she’s lowering the phone from her ear even as Kira quizzically says, “Lydia?” and a few moments later hangs up, probably assuming Lydia was about to anyways.

Lydia’s eyes stray to the bottle of pills next to Jasmine’s slightly curled fingers, palm side up. She knows it’s empty by the paleness of Jasmine’s usually richly toned skin, and the itch that is starting to climb up her own throat.

The memory comes to her again, horribly— Stiles’ wide, glassy-looking eyes, the blood that was everywhere—

The scream rises in her throat—

But Lydia just purses her lips and closes her eyes.

-x-

Lydia wakes up in hospital twenty four hours later, where she finds out that Jasmine has made a spectacular recovery. Jasmine’s parents quietly thank her for finding their daughter before it was too late, telling her that they’ve already contacted mental health professionals to get Jasmine help and apologizing that seeing it all had triggered Lydia’s ‘sensitive medical condition’, as the doctors called it. In other words, they had no idea what the hell was going on.

Which is fine with Lydia. She’s starting to hate hospitals a lot, though. She wakes up in them far too often.

But here’s the thing— she was only out for twenty four hours, and sure, maybe she won’t be running a marathon any time soon, but she doesn’t need a walker or anything. Compared to how it was before, this is nothing.

So she’s coming to the conclusion, giddily, that maybe she’s actually capable of healing from whatever it is that holding in her screams does to her. It’s been several months since the last one before Jasmine. Maybe as cheesy as it sounds time does heals all wounds, etcetera.

So that night, when she dreams and wakes up in the boy’s locker room of Beacon Hills High School with Stiles Stilinski, she can’t even be bothered to work up a scowl on her face.

He’s leaning against a row of cubbies, hands in the pockets of his red jeans. “You look happy,” he says.

He doesn’t, Lydia thinks to herself. She shrugs.

“It happened again, didn’t it.”

Her eyes snap back to his. “What do you mean?”

“You screamed,” he says, conversationally, “I can tell. It’s around you.” He gestures with one hand. “It’s darker around you.”

Curiously, he doesn’t sound too bothered, which makes her narrow her eyes at him suspiciously.

And that’s when she notices. Maybe it’s the lighting, maybe it’s not— but she sees something around his aura— some faint darkness.

She blinks, and it gets a little darker; suddenly it all clicks.

“You’re taking it from me,” she says quietly, stepping closer to see better.

He cocks his head at her, and she sees it, she actually sees it, a wisp of darkness pulled away from her and reaching him, watching him absorb it without so much a hitch in his breath. “What are you talking about?”

“You’re taking it,” she repeats, a frantic fervor entering her voice. She now understands why she was less affected by stopping Jasmine’s death than the rest. Because he’s shouldering some of that burden; a burden he was not meant to shoulder. “Stop it!”

“Stop what?”

“Stop this!” And then, with a powerful mental pull of her own— she’s not sure how she does it, actually— she’s wrenching the darkness back. It’s difficult to do, because he’s resisting, but she manages to do it.

She thinks he must be more practiced at it than her, though, because he’s taking it back before she can blink.

Now that she’s aware of it, she can feel it. She can feel the weight shifting imperceptibly off of her shoulders. “Stop,” she breathes raggedly. He doesn’t even blink, just continues to stare her down. “Stop, Stiles!”

He’s not stopping. In fact, he appears to be pulling more, and he’s watching her plainly now with a challenging look in his eye, like what are you going to do to stop me?

She goes the few steps that it takes to shove him, so that he falls against the row of lockers. “Stop,” she says, “stop. Stiles, you don’t know what it could be doing to you— You’re human, not banshee, you’re not even built for this! Stop!”

His lips part and pause, as if considering, and then relishing the response that they deliver, slowly. “No.”

Her eyebrows rise and his expression doesn’t change at all. He’s watching her with a sort of dark look in his eyes. He’s enjoying this, she realizes. He’s enjoying turning this on her and watching her sweat for it and oh she knows exactly what he’s doing.

They’re flush together now, her hands are on his shoulders and she knows she’s pressing him against the row of lockers that they once kissed against and she can feel his heartbeat quickening. “Stop taking it,” she snaps at him. “You’re hurting yourself.”

He looks down at her balefully even as she says this. “Gee, I wonder what it feels like to see someone do that.”

She curls her fingers into his sweater, hands forming fists. His breathing hitches, and his pull on her darkness falters.

Hmm.

She’ll tell herself later that it made sense to distract him by doing this, so that she could stop him from taking it.

She presses her mouth against his.

She means for it to be a closed mouth kiss, innocent on the face of it, but somehow their mouths meet open and wet, colliding messily, and her tongue (somehow) slides into his mouth. He makes some kind of incoherent noise. She’s not sure what he’s trying to get out before his hands fall to her hips, flexing there several times before roughly pulling her closer to him.

She gasps, their lips separating for a breath as she throws her head back. But then she’s suddenly aware that while she’s doing that, he’s tugging at the darkness around her aura again. When she looks back his eyes are hooded, and he licks his lips, wetting them so that they’re glistening and red.

She narrows her eyes. He thinks he can steal it from her so easily?

She impulsively leans forward to bite that plump bottom lip of his, pulling at it for a moment or two, until she lets go and tries to pull the wisps of darkness back. He resists, and she finds herself in a mental game of tug-of-war for a moment before he relents.

“Give it back,” she orders him, eyeing the lingering darkness that he’s been collecting for weeks, still hanging around him. It doesn’t suit him. It makes him look more haggard. More tired.

His pupils are blown wide, and though she’s literally as close as she can get to them, she can hardly see any of the gold iris around them. “No,” he answers raspily, and the rough timbre of his voice sends shivers down her spine.

She’s outraged. “No?”

He licks his lips again. “I guess you’ll just have to take it from me.”

It’s like a dam breaks then, so many months of frustration coming to a head.

She reaches for him again, but he gets to her first and then he’s licking straight into her mouth, tongue nearly gliding against the roof of it. Her hands go up to tangle themselves in his thick, wild hair, running through the strands endlessly as he spins them around so that she is the one slammed against the row of lockers. They’re kissing roughly, headily, and all around them the death that’s been hanging onto Lydia for months swirls between them like a terrible fog, pulled in one direction and then the next by their stubborn battle of wills.

“I get it, okay? I feel it,” she hisses at him in frustration when they break for air, fingers tightening around the hair she’s gripping at the back of his head. “You can stop trying to prove your point now.”

His lips glide over her neck. “It’s not just about proving a point.”

And that’s the worst part, isn’t it? He’ll keep doing it and not listen to her no matter how many times she tells him to stop; not because he’s being twisted, but because he wants nothing more than to help her. She hates that this fact alone proves the point more than anything before it.

As he scrapes his teeth down the column of her throat, her hands grab fistfuls of the back of his hoodie, trying to ground herself despite the shock waves that ripple through her at the touch of his lips.

He bites down gently, and she gasps audibly despite herself. He looks up with a cocky looking grin. “But I’m enjoying that, too.”

“Shut up and take off this stupid hoodie,” she hisses at him, because his layers of clothing are an incredibly annoying obstacle and always have been.

He shrugs it off without any objection, and she helps pull it off of his arms. When she’s successfully thrown it across the locker room and watched with satisfaction as it lands on the floor, she glances back to see him watching her with a crooked smile.

“What?”

He blinks. “What what?”

“Why are you smiling?” she persists, now hungrily taking him in without that shapeless hoodie on. He’s wearing a black T-shirt that hugs his chest and arms so very nicely, and it’s almost with a feverish touch that she smoothes her hands back and forth over his forearms and biceps. It’s been a while; she can’t be blamed.

He leans forward, forehead leaning against hers, and braces his forearms on either side of her head. “‘Cuz you’re not even trying anymore,” he singsongs. And she realizes that his aura is darker than it was a minute previously.

He laughs in something like delight at the indignant look on her face, like he’s enjoying this. She’s furious.

“You think this is a game?” she snarls as she mentally tugs at the tendrils whirling around his form. Taking whatever weird stuff has been weighing down her soul for so long is serious, not some— some fun little challenge for him, and she’s completely infuriated that he’s carelessly treating it that way.

He grins lazily, tilting his head. His lips nearly brush against hers when he speaks again. “If it is, I’m winning.”

She opens her mouth angrily, to do what she doesn’t really know. But then the dream ends, abruptly. And then she has no choice but to startle awake in her bed with the sheets twisted around her ankles. She wakes to her heart pounding with fury and something else; a feeling that’s powerful and sharp, something that brings a flush to her cheeks and a dampness between her legs and makes her feel oh so very alive.

Yeah, she’s not even pretending like this is just about the whole darkened aura thing anymore.

-x-

It’s not that Stiles really sees it as a game, as he might have explained to Lydia if his alarm clock hadn’t so rudely woken him up for his 8 am class, but if she gets to take her life for granted so much then Stiles will too, and see how she feels about it. Yes, it’s reckless, he knows that, and he can feel that whatever he took from her has been weighing on him for a while— but it’s not like it’s permanent, it eventually all drifts back to her again through that tether and Stiles is stuck waiting for the next dream so he can snatch it from her again.

Of course, now that she’s aware of what he’s doing, it’s making it just that much more difficult.

He goes several weeks without dreaming about her again, to the point where he’s growing suspicious that she’s purposely trying not to sleep at the same times as him, which is fucked, and he will tell her so the next time he can catch her.

He’s just resolving to do this when his instructor for Business Law calls out, “Stiles, do you have any suggestions for us?”

He sits up straighter in his seat, blinking rapidly. Right, he’s in class right now. Business Law class. It’s one of his hardest classes at UC Davis, and there’s an exam next week so he should really really be paying attention. And, like, he might be.

Except Lisa— the instructor for the class— has apparently taken it upon herself to make Stiles as uncomfortable as possible.

Unfortunately Stiles came in late to class today, again, because he hasn’t slept properly for the last few days and tried to fit a power nap in beforehand, and the only seat available was in the front row. Normally he would be semi-okay with this, if it weren’t for the fact that Lisa is one of those instructors that likes to walk around the front of the class and sit on people’s desks while she talks and... occasionally lean over them.

Here’s the thing. Lisa wears these super low cut shirts, and her breasts are most likely surgically enhanced and— Stiles doesn’t care for them, he really doesn’t because Lydia Martin’s boobs already ruined him for anyone else’s— but the fact remains that when she’s leaning across his desk and peering at him his eyes feel like they are magnetically drawn to her chest anyways. Well, everyone’s eyes are, not just his. Stiles has noticed more than a few of his peers go up to their instructor after class and ask her boobs if they would consider re-marking their paper.

Like, they’re huge. Way more in-your-face than Erica’s were. It’s kind of hard not to look there, if only in a kind of curious fascination.

So it’s either pay attention and be unable to help staring (he’s a visual learner, he has to look at whoever’s talking), or not pay any attention at all to any of it, and he’s been choosing the latter out of habit because when he and Lydia were dating that was really kind of the only option. Frankly he’s not sure why he even comes to class anymore.

“Uh,” he stammers, trying to look his instructor straight in the eyes, which is hard because he’s exhausted and unfocused. He’s jiggling his knee anxiously under the table, but when he notices it’s shaking the table itself and therefore… other things, he immediately stops. “T— torts. We were talking about torts. Right?”

There’s a bit of snickering that ripples through the class, and Lisa’s red-painted lips spread into a smile. “Yes, Stiles. That’s what the exam next week is on. Tort law. And I recommend that you all get studying.” She finally straightens up from his desk and Stiles breathes a sigh of relief, at least until Lisa crosses her arms tightly over her chest and her cleavage is amplified even more. For a moment Stiles is envious of Deucalion for being blind. “You only pass this exam if you get over eighty. It’s going to test your knowledge and it’s going to test whether you’ve been coming to class and paying attention,” she emphasizes. “And I’m a little concerned for some of you.”

Stiles feels her eyes on him again. He stares down at his notebook. She hovers there for another moment or two before he hears her four inch heels click-clacking away from him and he breathes a sigh of relief, settling his head into the cradle of his arms on the desk.

A minute or two later, he finds himself drifting despite the fact that class is still in full session around him. Sure, Lisa has great boobs, but her monotone is what will really kill him.

When he startles awake and lifts his head from the table, the lecture hall is empty. He blinks a few times, blearily, and then realizes he was slightly wrong in that assessment. He’s not alone at all.

Lydia is standing at the front of the room, hair curled around her face in one of those half-up half-down styles and… oh jesus.

She’s wearing the tight skirt and half-unbuttoned shirt that Lisa was wearing a few minutes previously.

Stiles feels a flush rising to his neck almost immediately while Lydia looks down at herself and then back up. “Really, Stiles?” It’s clearly a demand for an explanation.

“Uh, clearly I’ve got a student-teacher kink,” Stiles lies immediately. It’s better than admitting to the alternative.

Lydia, of course, isn’t buying it. She looks down at herself again, the tight black pencil skirt, high heels, and the white three-quarter sleeve with its obscenely plunging neckline. On Lydia, it’s not disconcerting at all. It’s just… really hot.

Stiles isn’t sure he should mention that, though, especially when she’s starting to look increasingly irritated. He doesn’t say anything, simply letting his knee jiggle nervously under the table, until she looks back up again. “This is what that Lisa woman wears.”

Stiles winces. He’d been hoping she wouldn’t connect the dots. “I’m in her class right now.”

She narrows her eyes at him and begins to approach, slowly. He keeps his eyes glued to her face as well, swallowing when she leans forward a bit. He immediately tips his chair back, keeping his eyes glued to her face. She stares at him, and then asks sharply, “Are you fantasizing about your instructor?”

“No,” he says immediately. The line of her mouth tightens. He hastens to go on. “I can’t control the dreams any more than you can. And really, we’re both here. So clearly, we’re both fantasizing about Lisa. Under that logic.”

Lydia’s expression is now one that Stiles associates with that time he almost stepped on her dog (but come on, that thing was tiny, how was he supposed to know it was lurking underfoot anyways). “I definitely wouldn’t be fantasizing about your cougar of an instructor,” she sniffs.

Stiles rolls his eyes. “This again?”

“Yes, this again. From what I hear, she’s always leaning over your desk and shoving her boobs in your face.”

“We’ve been over this, she doesn’t do that,” Stiles says weakly, even though it’s true. “Okay, fine, she does, but she does it to whoever is in the first row, okay.”

“No she doesn’t.”

“How would you know?”

“You think I don’t have friends at UC Davis?”

Stiles finds this amusing. “Have you been keeping tabs on me?”

“I’ve been keeping tabs on cougars who keep batting their eyelashes at my—” Lydia catches herself at the last minute, and there is a moment of hesitance before she goes on. “At you.”

Stiles is silent for a second. “She’s only, like, thirty.”

“And so?” Lydia says suddenly very loudly, “What, is it okay then? Do you like the fact that she shoves her cleavage in your face?” As she says this, she leans forward further, slamming her palms onto Stiles’ edge of the desk. Her voice is very sharp. And turning him on, a lot. “Do you think about it later, after class? Hmm? Do you jerk yourself off to Lisa, Stiles?”

“I only jerk off to you,” Stiles says sincerely.

Lydia snorts. “How sweet.”

“I try,” Stiles says, shooting her a crooked grin. Her clear jealousy is kind of adorable. Terrifying, but adorable.

In a sudden movement, Lydia pushes the desk out of the way, or rather enough to the side that she can walk around it and plop herself down on Stiles lap and— ohhh. Nothing about this is adorable anymore.

“Oh my god, Lydia,” Stiles groans, attempting to keep some semblance of his cool. At eye level the only thing he can see are her breasts, filling out that shirt in a far less threatening way than Lisa’s did. Automatically, he places his hands on the outsides of her thighs, startling when he realizes that he’s touching bare skin. When he glances down, her pencil skirt is hiked up to her hips and he can see a flash of her pink panties underneath.

Lydia makes an ahem noise and he immediately cranes his head up, up up so that he’s looking into her eyes again, and trying to ignore how her hands curl around his neck, fingers carding through the hair at the back of his head. He is way too aware of his own breathing. It sounds embarrassingly fast.

Although hers is starting to speed up a little, too.

“Why are you asleep in class, Stiles?” she asks.

“Why are you asleep in the middle of the day?” he fires back. She hesitates for a fraction of a second and that’s all he needs as confirmation. “Oh my god, Lydia, you have you been trying to sleep at weird times to avoid me— What the fuck?” He thinks he sounds kind of hurt, although he tries to keep it out of his voice.

Her green eyes soften for a fraction of a second before they go hard as emeralds again. “Well, I’ve been trying not to give you an opportunity to take any more of whatever’s around my aura, sort of like what you’re doing right now.”

“I’m not,” he lies. He’s not sure why he does. It’s pretty clear that he’s doing it.

She ignores him and he doesn’t blame her. They once again engage in a silent game of tug-of-war for the wisps of darkness he’s trying to wrench from her aura. “Which brings me back to my original question. Why are you asleep in class?”

“Lisa’s boobs bore me.”

Her hands around the back of his head force his face back down to look at her cleavage. “How about you tell the truth for once?” Her tone implies she’s not appreciating the snark.

It’s a lot harder to think from this viewpoint, but he struggles to remember the question anyway. “Uh… right. I have an exam in her class next week and it’s fucking with me because I keep falling asleep because I can’t focus.”

“Oh, you can’t focus?” And her fingers tighten around the back of his head and then she’s pushing his face into her cleavage while also pushing herself up on his lap. “How about now?” he hears her voice from above.

Stiles makes an unintelligible sound. That’s about all his mouth is capable of producing right now, while sandwiched between Lydia Martin’s perfect breasts. His hands glide up and down her thighs, unsure of what to do with themselves.

If she’s trying to distract him so that he can’t take any of the darkness from her, well, it’s working. It works even better when she lowers herself back down, grinding onto his lap. He gasps into her chest at the sensation.

And she does it again, and again; he can’t help but meet her rhythm, hands tightening around her thighs to guide her and give her better friction.

Her knees tighten around his waist to gain leverage, and the hands that were keeping his face firmly planted against her chest are now on his shoulders as she ruts against him. It’s all a little too much for Stiles, who finally turns his face to the side so that his cheek rests against her cleavage instead.

When she moans it’s definitely too much for him, and he’s pretty sure he’s panting with abandon now.

“Lydia,” he gasps after a minute. “You— you have to stop.”

Her hips still after a few moments. Stiles is both thankful and incredibly, deeply disappointed. “Why?”

Her tone of voice makes him look up and see the way her top teeth are worrying at her lip. It strikes him what she’s thinking, and he very nearly laughs at the absurdity of this situation.

Her expression wavers with vulnerability, as if she thinks that he doesn’t want her anymore. As if her face isn’t the most lovely thing he’s ever seen, her body the most beautiful thing he’s ever touched, her mind the most attractive thing he’s ever experienced; as if he doesn’t love Lydia Martin with all his heart and whatever’s left of his soul.

But Stiles has never been incredibly great with words. “Here’s the thing,” he says, a little hoarsely. “I mean, I would love if you kept doing that, but— I’m not sure I would really— well— I’m literally in class right now and I have no idea what would happen if I— um— “

She tosses her head back, hair flowing over her shoulders as she laughs; and god, he could listen to that sound forever. He grins a little too, when she finally climbs off his lap. “You should really work on your endurance,” she says dryly. “It’s like building a tolerance, you know.”

He adjusts himself quickly before standing as well, and reaches for her. When his fingers catch onto the buttons of her shirt he thinks he hears her breath hitch a little bit from surprise. He quickly buttons up her shirt all the way to her collarbone, hiding all her smooth skin behind it. Once he’s smoothed down the collar from where it’s been standing crookedly, he feels like he can breathe easier. “Lydia, who the hell could build up a tolerance to you?”

She glances up at him, looking unsure of how to respond for a moment, and Stiles thinks that maybe that was the wrong thing to say, at least until her face breaks out into a cute grin and she looks away. She looks a little out of her depth but in the best way possible.

They stand facing each other for a few moments, until it’s clear that the dream isn’t going to end here and they have more time to kill.

“How’s your research going?” He asks her quietly.

She shrugs. “Good.” Of course it is.

Another silence seems like it’s about to drop on them, and Stiles thinks to himself that maybe this is the part where they go stand on opposite sides and try to ignore the other for as long as possible, until the dream ends and they go back to reality.

But then Lydia asks, “So what about your course material were you having problems with?” in the most business-like tone, and Stiles perks up and goes to the bookshelf to heave out the textbook while Lydia reads the chalkboard where Lisa had written the main things on the exam.

They both sit on the table and Lydia quizzes him on tort law from the textbook, and he gets a bunch of shit wrong but she explains it to him, and he thinks he’s finally getting it. And then because she’s Lydia Martin she starts presenting different legal scenarios to him, difficult ones too, that require complete understanding of conversions and trespass to chattels and negligence and vicarious liability to solve. While she’s speaking, Stiles thinks to himself that maybe he does have a teacher-student kink after all.

And by the time the dream begins to fade and Lydia’s voice begins to become less clear and more like she’s on the other side of a very long, echoing tunnel, Stiles starts to feel confident that maybe he might not actually fail this test.

He wakes up to a hand tapping on his desk. He startles up fast, so fast he kicks the table from underneath and it starts to tip forward but he manages to slam it back in place at the last minute. There’s snickering in the background while Lisa leans over his desk, hand planted close to his, and says, “Stiles? Do you have any thoughts on the definition at hand?”

Stiles glances wildly at the board. Trespass to chattels.

He looks back up and he grins. “I do, actually…”

(Later, he’s pretty proud of himself for channelling his inner Lydia Martin.)

-x-

He aces the test.

He tells Lydia this while they’re kissing in the meadow Lydia’s parents used to bring her to play when she was a little girl, and she sniffs regally.

“Of course you aced it. Because I helped you.”

He bends down to pluck a daisy from the rich green grass around them, and when he straightens back up he tucks it into her braided updo, winking cheesily. “That’s my thank you gift.”

She rolls her eyes at him and later she shoves the daisy down the front of his flannel, causing him to yelp in surprise, but in that moment he thinks he saw a glimmer of pride.

-x-

The dreams continue, and they continue to be messy.

Lydia would’ve liked to say the only dreams about Stiles she had were purely mechanical byproducts of her tether, but apparently the universe won’t allow her even that small mercy.

She realizes this after bolting up from bed with her panties damp and her legs trembling, trying to catch her breath and realizing Stiles Stilinski’s dark-haired head is not, in fact between her legs right now, muttering the dirtiest things against her thigh, but rather that she’s imagined it all.

It takes her a few minutes to really acknowledge this to herself. An actual normal dream, about Stiles Stilinski, nothing to do with tethers or the supernatural whatsoever. Just Lydia Martin’s hormones.

She’s not sure what’s worse.

-x-

The semester is drawing to a close.

It feels sudden. A week before it’s over Lydia realizes in one jarring moment what that means: she’s going back to California soon.

California means pack.

Pack means the reliving of bad memories.

Which leads her to… Stiles.

They haven’t really worked anything out at all in their dreams, now that she comes to think about it. All they do is chat inanely and make out and pretend that they are not both fighting over the same piece of darkness he’s trying to take into himself.

The air isn’t clear between them at all, and it’s this realization more than anything that makes her dread going back.

-x-

Nevertheless, she gets on the plane in early May anyways. Her classes are done, she’s packed, bid goodbye to Jasmine— who is doing better— , her papers are published, and her work is done, thoroughly. In fact, she was offered another year here.

She had thought about it.

And then she declined.

She’s thinking about this as she sits in her window seat on the plane, hands folded neatly in her lap and surreptitiously checking out her reflection in the window’s glare. She’s thinking about why she declined. It was a gut decision and one she couldn’t really imagine going the other way, but she can’t decide if the main reason she said no was because Princeton had nothing left to offer her, or because she missed the people she had grown to love as her family.

Or if it was about him.

She’s still thinking about it when her head droops onto her shoulder.

Naturally, she wakes up and the entire plane is empty, except Stiles is now sitting in the seat next to her instead of the older gentleman who had been snoring rather loudly in reality.

He’s got his earphones in, the white wires disappearing into his hoodie, arms folded in front of him absentmindedly. She watches his profile for a moment or two, watching the way he blinks rapidly when he suddenly seems to realize where he is, and then whips his head around, first the other way, so she’s treated to the back of his head, and then to her.

His lips part slightly, and he looks a little wide-eyed. “Hey.”

She doesn’t say anything. She doesn’t really know what to say. In a few hours, she’s going to see him in person and she doesn’t know how to breach that topic with him just yet.

He doesn’t look like he knows, either. “So— so, you’re headed back home?”

She nods. “Yeah.”

They stare at each other, both thinking the same thing, she’s sure.

He bites his lip. She notices his hair isn’t sticking up like it usually is, but rather is lying messy but flat (relatively, anyways) on his head. It’s a good look.

He must notice the way her eyes stray to his hair because he says as an explanation, “I just took a shower.” He runs a hand through his hair self-consciously.

This time she bites her lip. Thinking about him in the shower doesn’t really help things, especially when he’s looking at her like that.

She’s not really sure how it happens, but one moment they’re sitting there looking at each other and the next he’s got her lying down over both the seats with the armrest out of the way, and they’re kissing. And a minute later he’s leaning over her with two of his fingers deep inside her.

She wonders, rather distantly as she rakes her nails down his back under his hoodie and T-shirt, whether they should talk about this. Hooking up and fighting and talking in dreams is one thing, but she hasn’t actually spoken to him outside of them for close to a year.

They should probably work on that.

“I was thinking,” he says to her conversationally as he fucks her slowly with his fingers. She can feel every movement, feel every knobbly joint of his long fingers. “If you and me are the only ones here, then who the fuck is driving this plane?”

Flying this plane,” she corrects him. He deigns not to answer, instead crooking his fingers to hit a new angle.

“Ideas?” He asks breezily. When she doesn’t respond, his hand stills, waiting for her answer.

She grinds her teeth, hating the little smirk tugging at his mouth. “Maybe it’s Lisa’s boobs. Since you seem to fantasize about them so much.”

He sighs, blowing air onto her flushed throat. “I only fantasize about you. We’ve been over this.” She glares at him in answer. He’s not discouraged. “What do you fantasize about?”

There’s clear laughter in his voice; he’s just toying with her. She squirms. “You actually finishing the job for once.” She grinds down into his palm to make her point. “You know, I can easily do this myself.”

“You like my skinny fingers though.” And then all at once he’s moving again, and she’s not prepared for it so her head tips back and hits the windowpane with a smack.

She sees stars for a moment, and his unoccupied hand is immediately cradling her head. “Shit, are you okay? Sorry,” he’s saying frantically. Whereas a moment ago his voice was low and sexy, he now sounds only adorably concerned and flustered. “Oh my god, that was so— I’m sorry.” He helps her shift her body away from the window so that her head is on the cushioned seat. He smoothes down her hair, feeling for a bump, a touching gesture she might appreciate if she weren’t so close to the edge. She swats his hand away and while he’s still stammering she seizes his collar to bring him down for a brief kiss. Then she releases him and says sternly, “I’m fine. Get back to work.”

He offers her a crooked smile as he adjusts his fingers inside her. “Will do.” Within moments she’s brought to climax with a gasp, tugging on his hair; he works her through it, kissing down her jawline and nudging the collar of her dress away from her shoulder to press kisses against the skin there, too.

He looks irritatingly smug at how long it takes her to catch her breath and unwind her legs from around his back. “Do I get a pat on the back now?”

She thinks about it. Then without ceremony she hooks her finger into the elastic waistband of his sweats and reaches into his pants.

He gasps, face flushing immediately. “I—” she observes with amusement as he chokes on his words for a second and lets her hand move lazily. “That’s— not even remotely what I meant—”

She knows that. She knows that he wasn’t asking for this at all; he was just being a little shit. She sidles closer to him and speaks with her lips brushing his jaw. “Are you complaining, though?”

He groans, eyelids fluttering. “Fuck— no…”

-x-

Lydia wakes up a minute or two later, irritated that she couldn’t get him off before the dream ended. Then again, depending on where he fell asleep, that might be extremely messy anyways. She glances at the old man who was sleeping in the seat next to her. He’s awake now, but the clueless friendly smile he gives her when he notices her looking at him tells her that she didn’t move at all in her sleep.

She can’t help but feel a little relieved about that.

-x-

When Lydia lands in California, Malia and Kira are there to pick her up, holding up a huge poster board that says WELCOME HOME LYDIA! It was clearly Kira’s idea, if her wide smile is anything to go by.

“This is unnecessary,” Lydia informs them pompously as soon as she reaches their side, although she’s secretly glowing inside, “and the glitter? Tacky.”

But she laughs when the two girls that she hasn’t seen for nine months engulf her in a big hug.

And of course, there’s a surprise party. Lydia’s not sure why she didn’t expect that, when Kira takes the turn to Beacon Hills and insists they have to run an errand but they actually end up at Scott’s mom’s house where they’re having some sort of end of year party (or at least that’s what they say, but they’ve never had one before so Lydia knows it’s just for her).

It’s an hour or so into the party, and she’s just hanging out on the couch catching up with Mason and Scott when she finally sees him.

Stiles hovers in the doorway for a good minute, and when their eyes connect she loses her breath for a second.

He’s holding a beer in one hand loosely, and he’s wearing a blue flannel with rolled up sleeves on top of a grey shirt and dark washed jeans. His hair is now sticking up like usual. When he sees her, he takes a visibly sharp intake of breath, brings the bottle to his lips, and takes a long drag. His Adam’s apple bobs several times before he finally lowers the bottle from his lips, wiping them with the back of his hand without taking his eyes off of her. She’s not too sure what her expression looks like, although she’s trying to go for cool and collected.

Then he approaches.

Seeing Stiles Stilinski in person is so much better than whatever her dreams could conjure up. He is solid and real and here, and when he speaks his voice sounds richer in quality than it ever has in her head.

“Lydia.”

“Stiles,” she acknowledges. There’s a silence.

As they stare at each other, Lydia hears Mason cough and ask quietly, “Are they still fighting?” Mason has problems accepting the reality that they broke up.

“They broke up,” Scott informs him. Again.

Mason nods sagely. “Still fighting, then.” He rises off the couch and wanders off into the kitchen, where Melissa is setting pizza on the table. With one last questioning look at Lydia, Scott disappears as well.

Stiles doesn’t sit down where Mason was, but rather chooses to stay standing, towering over her. He gives her and her low cut red dress a once over. Lydia would be lying if she said she didn’t dress today thinking at least a little bit about the fact that she would see him.

“You look good,” he says eventually, and then takes another swig from the bottle.

She eyes the beer with distaste. “Do you have to be drunk to talk to me now?”

He shrugs, lowering the bottle to let it dangle loosely from his fingers. “Okay, first of all, I’m tipsy, not drunk. There’s a distinction. And besides, this conversation feels a lot less awkward if I’m tipsy.”

Well, she’d be lying if she said this doesn’t feel at least a little strange. Especially considering the fact that they were getting each other off a few hours prior.

Their relationship has changed a hell of a lot over the past nine months. The only problem being, it all happened in their dreams.

So did it really happen at all?

If the way Stiles is now cracking open another bottle is any indication, he’s not any more ready to answer that question than she is.

Seeing her staring, he offers the bottle to her. She takes it. He gets another one for himself. They drink in silence.

-x-

She doesn’t talk a whole lot to Stiles for a couple weeks, and he doesn’t really talk to her aside from when the pack is all together.

She’s relieved every night when she wakes up and hasn’t had a dream with him. She doesn’t know the first thing she would say.

-x-

The confrontation had to happen at some point.

It’s purely by coincidence, of course. She’s napping at Kira’s place. Scott is living with Kira for the summer before school starts up again, and apparently Kira was kind enough to let Stiles stay at her place for the summer as well, something Lydia would probably not do for her boyfriend’s best friend; but that was just Kira for you. Luckily, though, today Lydia doesn’t see him when she comes by, because according to Kira he’s been in the basement for the past four hours on a Wikipedia spiral.

When Lydia wakes up from her nap, she checks her phone to see that Kira’s left her a text that she and Scott run off for an errand or something. Yeah, right. Lydia doesn’t believe it for a second. More than likely she and Scott are off on a spontaneous date.

Shaking her head ruefully, she pulls herself up from the couch and wanders in the direction of the washroom, but halfway down the hall the slightly ajar door of the guest bedroom catches her eye. Through the open space, she sees a stack of papers haphazardly spread over a desk. There’s a pen on top of it all, with chew marks in the lid. Stiles’ stuff, obviously.

She frowns in confusion; he doesn’t have any classes going on right now. Bowing to her curiosity, she slowly pushes the door open and walks inside to pick up the stack. Her heart skips a beat once she reads the title and realizes what it is.

It’s her paper. The one with her as first author.

She flips the thing open immediately, disbelieving that he’s actually read it, but there’s more. There’s annotations in the margins, a few terms underlined and “what the fuck” written under a few things, and stickies he’s placed over things that he researched and figured out. And somehow there’s a stupid typo that she missed in her endless revisions of it, because he’s circled it and simply scrawled a smug looking happy face under it.

As she leafs through it, all she can think to herself is: Stiles read her paper. And understood it, even though she’s certain he hasn’t taken any math courses since his first year of college. She’s always known he was smart, of course; smart in the type of way that he picks things up very quickly.

But she never imagined that he’d be spending hours trying to pick up her year’s worth of research.

Unable to wrap her head around it, she puts it back on the table and picks up the one beside it. It’s the exact copy of her paper again, but this one is pristinely black and white, untouched by Stiles’ red pen. But the edges are bent, crinkled, as if it’s been paged through many times. And suddenly she’s imagining him bent over at this desk, a pen between his teeth and his laptop open to multiple tabs of Google searches, his keen eyes roving over the lines of fine black ink, and once in a while reaching for his annotated copy to write down a note.

She’s so enthralled, so overwhelmed by this concept that she doesn’t realize he’s standing behind her until he makes an awkward sort of coughing noise.

She whips around, and he’s standing there with his hands in his pockets, cheeks flushed red. “Uh… wow, I didn’t know you were here...”

She turns to face him, seeing him with new eyes again. She’s not even embarrassed to be found snooping through his desk. “Stiles…”

He nervously scratches the back of his head with his hand, glancing at the paper she’s holding. “I admit I started reading it because you wrote it, but I actually got into it and wanted to understand it so I might’ve gotten a little carried away but I swear I wasn’t trying to be creepy—”

“It’s not creepy,” she cuts him off.

“Oh good,” he says, relieved immediately. “Because there’s still a thing or two in there I couldn’t figure out, as you could probably tell. I was actually going to… ask you about it.”

“Why didn’t you?”

Silence for a moment.

“I was waiting for the right time,” he finally confesses. “But there didn’t seem to be one.”

Slowly, Lydia places the stapled papers back onto his desk and walks towards him. He stays rooted to the spot, watching her with wide eyes until she stops in front of him. “I’d say now is as good a time as any.”

He watches her a moment before replying. “It never seems like it.”

“You don’t think so?”

“The whole timing thing never seems to work out for us, in general,” he says softly, and she’s completely certain they’re not talking about her paper anymore.

“We can make it work,” she insists, taking a step closer, tilting her head up so she can see him, the way his eyes are filling with emotion, and no, she doesn’t want him to look sad but his mouth is turning that way anyway.

He’s silent and— curiously— still for a few moments, like he’s struggling with something. A moment later, all at once, he blurts out, “Lydia, I’m really sorry.”

She blinks, not expecting it. “For what?”

“Well, for starters, I’m sorry for leaving.”

“I’m the one who flew off to Princeton,” she reminds him, trying to make her words light and failing.

But for once, he isn’t in the mood for joking. “You know what I mean. I couldn’t take it anymore, so I left you alone to deal with it yourself. That was… shitty. I’m not going to do that anymore,” he tells her. “I’m going to spend the rest of my life trying to find a way to help you.”

She draws in a sharp breath. “Stiles— “

“But even if we don’t,” Stiles continues, “even if God Himself sat me down right now and smacked me across the face and told me we’d never be able to save you and that I should get over it, it still wouldn’t change what I feel.”

Despite herself, Lydia’s lips twitch at the vivid imagery he’s provided.

“What I’m trying to say is I’m with you,” Stiles continues. “I’m with you in dreams and in reality and wherever the hell else I can be with you, from now on. And I’m sorry I left in the first place.” He swallows. “I’m with you… If you want me there.”

He looks like he’s done talking now, and so Lydia finally speaks.

“Of course I do,” she says honestly. He doesn’t look convinced. She hates it, because she can see so clearly by the way his eyes shine how much he loves her— which is amazing in itself— but she always gets the impression that he thinks she doesn’t love him quite as much as he does her.

Which is ridiculous, because often Lydia thinks she loves him more.

“After this whole thing started,” she tells him, “I felt like… whatever I did, it took away some part of my soul. Some part of my soul that lets me feel things, especially when I’m alone with myself and have to face it, you know?” He swallows, eyes shining as Lydia reaches forward to takes his hands in both of hers. “But when I’m with you, I feel everything. And it’s like… I’ve never felt more alive. Stiles, you make me feel so alive.” It’s a struggle getting the words out, things she’s not used to saying, emotions she’s not used to revealing; but he needs to know, he deserves at least that from her.

He blinks slowly, understanding the three words that she’s trying to get out in a soliloquy. “But I wanna see you feel alive on your own,” he says softly. “I want you to be happy all the time.”

“I don’t think either of us will ever get that,” she points out ruefully. They’ve been through too much to ever fully be free of their nightmares. “But I’ll take what I have in the meantime.”

He gives her a sad little smile in agreement, and steps forward at the same time she does.

She wraps her arms around his shoulders and he wraps his around her waist and their lips meet somewhere in the middle in a closed mouth kiss, lips pressing against each other as if sealing some promise between them; it is a kiss full of faith and the confidence that they will get through whatever life throws at them together from now on. He breaks the kiss for one moment to take a deep, shuddering breath, and then he leans back in to gently capture her bottom lip in both of his, nibbling on it briefly in what feels like a soft reassurance. It is such a tender action that it brings tears to her eyes. When they break apart she presses her cheek against his shoulder and breathes in his scent, trying to keep herself together while he rubs her back in slow, gentle circles.

She feels him turn his head towards her. He hesitates and then repeats, “I’m with you. I’m with you til the bitter end, if it comes to that.” She knows what he means by the end. If the power Lydia’s discovered eventually ends her, he’s saying that he’ll respect her decision to keep trying to save people even if he has to watch her waste away in front of him. It’s more than she could ever ask from him. It’s not even fair to him, and she’s not even sure she would be able to do the same in his place. Her heart aches that he’s just accepted that, that he loves her just that much.

“You shouldn’t be,” she says, regretfully, because it’s the truth and he needs to know. “You’d probably be happier if you weren’t.” He would probably be happier if he hadn’t fallen in love with her in the first place, but that ship sailed a long time ago.

Stiles is silent for a moment, as if he’s turning her words over in his head, actually considering them. Finally, he shakes his head and presses a kiss to her temple. “You know, I really don’t think that’s true.”

She closes her eyes at the touch of his lips to her forehead, returning the sentiment silently.

-x-

Life goes on.

All summer, they look.

There’s no solution waiting for them. And September rolls around again, and with it Lydia back at Stanford’s campus, back to seeing the rest of her pack only on weekends and her boyfriend mostly in dreams. Except now that they’ve cleared the air between them, it feels so much better to see him.

He keeps trying to take the darkness away from her aura in their dreams. She hates seeing him do it. But she lets him, although she hates to see how it enhances the bruises under his eyes, because she knows that he’s hating it every moment that he has to see that darkness around her.

-x-

It’s a chilly evening in late September when it happens.

One minute Lydia’s walking to the library, fresh out of her class, and the next thing she knows she’s blinking and finding herself in a completely unfamiliar part of the surrounding forest. She looks around, trying to get her bearings. She’s already feeling dread pool in her stomach because she knows what this means, that she went into a fugue state and wandered off again.

She stops dead at what she finally sees in front of her.

She hasn’t seen Raol in a year, but she would recognize him anywhere. And she’d recognize Cristina too.

But she’s not prepared to see Raol’s prone body lying on the ground, his face splashed bright red with the blood seeping from the gash in his throat.

Hovering above the alpha is Cristina, the blonde werewolf, and she looks up in the same instant that Lydia feels the itch in her throat.

The blonde werewolf smiles, and her canines are as bright red as Lydia’s lipstick, chin dripping with blood.

The scream starts to rise in Lydia’s throat. She knows what she’s witnessing. Cristina, killing her alpha and taking his power to become the alpha of the pack herself.

Lydia knows she could save him if she wanted.

She hears Raol’s pathetic gasping, but all she really hears is Stiles trying to breathe, air rattling raspily, uselessly in his chest; and when she looks down at the gash in Raol’s throat, all she sees is the way Stiles fell to the ground with a dull thud and the faint scar she can still see in certain lighting; and when she tries to think rationally that someone is dying in front of her, all she can think is that this right here is what started it all. And one word: Good.

Her eyes lock onto Raol’s in that moment.

Cristina laughs, an ugly sound. The werewolf knows what Lydia is going to do, and as Lydia opens her mouth, drawing breath from some source other than her human lungs, suddenly all she can see of Cristina is the way she kept Lydia back so that she couldn’t save Stiles from getting his throat slit.

Lydia looks at Cristina with all the hatred she’s held back for so long and she screams.

The scream isn’t just a death scream; it is weaponized, but it’s even more than that.

It is Death itself, ripping itself away from Lydia’s soul and hurtling towards the two werewolves.

She knows the moment Cristina realizes because her eyes widen, but she doesn’t have time to react beyond that.

Even werewolves aren’t faster than the speed of sound.

Lydia closes her eyes and lets whatever darkness has been shrouding her soul channel through her anger. When it’s over, she opens her eyes.

Raol is dead, she can see that from the way he’s lying glazed-eyed, chest not rising. Cristina is slumped over him, eyes closed and frighteningly pale. Lydia approaches them slowly, bends down next to the blonde’s body, and pulls her hair away from her face.

Black blood leaks from the werewolf’s ears; there’s an odd, grotesque dent to her temple, like her skull has been bashed in. Lydia puts her fingers to her throat. Cristina’s pulse is there, but it’s weak and slowing. She might die, or she might live to drag herself out of here and heal.

Lydia finds that she doesn’t really care either way.

But it’s not even that which phases her; she’s inflicted much worse damage on people with her screams. It’s only when she straightens up from her kneeling position that she really takes in what she’s done.

It’s… destruction.

On the path in front of her all the grass is brown, wilted; the trees around them have blackened branches, shrivelled brown leaves. Even the air around her feels too silent, too stifled to be natural. She can clearly see the path her scream has taken by the line between the healthy grass and the brown, the green versus the wilted, the line between life and death.

But Lydia… feels lighter.

Like she’s just given up a burden, given back to the world what she took away. Balance restored.

She glances down at the ground beneath her feet. The grass will bounce back, she’s sure.

And now she knows she will, too.

-x-

She goes home that night triumphant but exhausted and falls into bed, vowing to call her friends in the morning. But apparently, that isn’t necessary. She has a dream with Stiles that very night.

She wakes up on one side of their high school’s library and he on the other. As soon as he sees her, his eyes widen almost comically and he points frantically at her. She can’t help but giggle at the way his mouth drops open.

He’s not laughing at all. He practically runs over to her, tripping over at least three chairs and nearly running into a bookcase on his way. When he finally reaches her, she’s grinning unabashedly. He doesn’t seem to notice; as if in a trance, he slowly puts his hands on her arms and smooths them up and down, eyes flickering up and down her form. “Lydia, it’s gone,” he says, looking awed, “It’s gone.”

“I know,” she replies. She knows he’s talking about that dark aura.

“You did it. You found a way,” he deduces immediately.

“I did,” she says, feeling goosebumps rise on her bare arms where his fingers run over them. “Stiles, I think it’s— it’s over. I can control it, now. I finally know how. I think I figured it out.”

His hands that were on her arms have reached up to cradle her face, and upon hearing those words his whiskey-coloured eyes grow wet. His thumbs stroke her cheeks, and it’s a minute before he replies. “Of course you did,” he says raspily, sounding dazed, like he’s just waking up from a dream. He leans in a little closer, so that their noses brush up against each other, and plants a soft kiss on the side of her mouth, just the corner of it. “Of course you did.”

She winds her arms around his neck, feeling her eyes stinging. Strangely, she feels like she’s about to start crying herself, because it’s over, it’s over and she can finally breathe again.

And she can see by the way that he murmurs near-reverently, “Oh, Lydia, of course you did,” before he leans in fully to kiss her, hot and wet and messy with emotion, that he is feeling like he can finally breathe again, too.

 

 

TWO DAYS LATER

 

 

Lydia hops out of the Jeep before Stiles has even put it into park.

“Whoa, slow down there, Sonic,” Scott calls out the window. She hears Stiles chortle.

She doesn’t look back, instead choosing to take in the meadow in front of her, the pretty daisies swaying in the wind, the grass green and sprightly as if it’s never been touched. She walks some ways away from the Jeep, wading into the tall grass, and then looks behind her.

Stiles and Scott have now hopped on the Jeep’s hood and are watching expectantly.

“Are you ready?” she calls to them.

“Yep,” Scott says, “But why did you want to show us here, again?”

She chews on her lip for a moment before answering. “This is where my parents got engaged,” she says, loud enough that they will hear. “And also where they decided to get divorced.”

And without further ado she turns around, opens her mouth and screams.

This time she keeps her eyes open for it, watching her scream ripple it’s way across the field as she channels more of the darkness hanging around her soul into it. She watches the wave of death wash over the meadow, the daisies wilting instantly as they’re subjected to the scream.

At the end of it, there’s an awed silence. Lydia is breathing heavily. The boys are too far behind her to really hear clearly, but she thinks she hears Scott whisper, “Dude. Don’t divorce her.”

She can’t be sure if that’s exactly what he said though, because when she whips around they’re both still lounging on the Jeep hood, faces innocent.

Scott looks awed. Stiles looks both awed and slightly turned on.

“Holy shit,” Scott finally says slowly, hopping off the Jeep to walk over and take in the full effect. Stiles follows his lead. “Lydia, I know you already told us but… holy shit.” That seems to be all he’s capable of saying at the moment.

“Can you turn that on my administrative law professor?” Stiles inquires after a second of their contemplative silence, “I mean, I wish my endless screaming would kill him, but instead he just says I’m being ‘disruptive’ and need to ‘leave class immediately’,” he snarks, holding up finger quotes. Scott snorts a laugh.

“Oh, is that what Lisa says too?” Lydia says with a raised eyebrow.

He sighs dramatically. “Lydia, just a quick question, are you ever gonna stop milking that?”

“Wait, isn’t that your business law instructor? The one that’s got the hots for you?” Scott asks curiously.

As Stiles sputters, Lydia rounds on him. “I told you.”

Stiles throws his hands up. “Whatever. Fine, she’s evil, and next week I’m sure it’ll turn out she was a kanima all along. Happy now?”

“Not really,” Lydia says, but it’s kind of a lie in it’s own way because there’s a giddy, light sort of feeling taking flight in her chest right now and if she were to describe it in a word it would be happy.

She’s smiling unabashedly as she says it though, so Stiles takes it as his cue to wrap his arms around her waist and kiss her. Scott makes retching sounds in the background until Stiles breaks it off to glare at him.

Scott is unrepentant. “Spoils the mood, doesn’t it?” He shrugs and tells Lydia, “He did that to me all the time in high school.”

“Shut up and start the car,” Stiles grumbles, “so I can kiss my girlfriend.”

Scott clambers into the car with a smirk on his face, but Stiles continues to squint at him until Lydia gently turns his face back to her. His expression melts immediately upon meeting her eyes. This time, she is the one to lean forward to kiss him. He immediately wraps one hand around her waist and the other buries itself in her hair. That hand drags slowly down through her long curls, and the weight of it strikes her as the most comfortable burden she’s ever known.

The other burden, the one that she’s been carrying around for an entire year, is gone. She can hold death in her soul, but she can let it out too. And it’s gone again, isn’t it? Dissipated into the wind, easily. Lydia should’ve known. The second law of thermodynamics— entropy, the tendency of the universe to go towards disorder— should’ve been her biggest clue that it wouldn’t sit quietly inside of her for too long.

A few moments later, Scott swears in the background. “Dude, the engine isn’t turning on.”

Stiles sighs against her lips and finally pulls away to grumble, “For the love of god, are we ever going to get through a makeout session uninterrupted?”

She slides her hands to the back of his jeans and hooks her fingers through his belt loops. “When we get back to my place,” she promises in a low voice, “we’ll make up for it.”

His eyes brighten immediately. “Yes ma’am.” He leans forward suddenly, and it seems almost involuntary on his part that he drops one last soft, lingering kiss on her lips.

He doesn’t go far after, but stares at her with his hands in her hair and his deep searching gaze warming her soul from half an inch away, until the giddiness feels like it’s about to overwhelm her so she has to clear her throat and say, “You know, the sooner you help Scott fix your Jeep, the faster we can get there.”

He blinks. “Hmm. You make a very good point. A very, very good point.” He beams at her, looking as happy as she feels. She nods at him, and he finally lets go of her to clamber into the Jeep to search for the duct tape.

She watches them work for a minute or two, but Scott and Stiles trying to fix the Jeep somehow devolves into throwing little pieces of tape at each other like kindergarteners. While they bicker, Lydia turns and wanders back into the meadow by herself; she picks her way through the field of wilted daisies, this destruction her scream had unleashed, and stops in the middle. She’s hit by a sudden burst of inspiration.

She reaches down carefully and tugs one daisy up out of the ground to examine it at eye level. Ignoring the brown, brittle petals and fragile stem, Lydia lowers her gaze, searching for something more profound. She smiles to herself at what she sees.

The roots, as always, remain untouched.

 

 

 

— END —