Allison moves easily through the crowd towards the bar and slides onto an empty barstool. The people sitting next to her don’t look up. The bartender doesn’t notice her until she raises her hand. He nods to let her know he’s seen her, finishes up with his current customer, and then comes her way.
‘What can I get you?’ the man asks. He has a strong, solid build, but moves lightly. As she leans forward a little, she sees his nose twitch when he smells her. Obviously a werewolf.
‘Just a cola.’
‘We don’t usually let your kind in,’ the bartender says as he puts her drink in front of her.
‘You didn’t,’ Allison smiles. ‘I came in through your back door. Look, I’m just here for a drink, and I like your no fighting policy. Makes a girl feel safe.’
The guy smirks. ‘You telling me you’re unarmed?’
‘I’m safe in here, but there are all kinds of weirdos on the outside,’ Allison grins.
The bartender’s eyes sparkle with amusement. ‘I’m not gonna kick you out, but if someone asks you to leave, you go. No fuss.’
Allison grabs her drink, turns to look around the bar, and relaxes. It’s a busy night. All the booths are full, the pool tables have a crowd, and the people on the dancefloor can barely move. In any other bar, this many people would result in at least some brawling or arguments, but the atmosphere is light and happy.
Allison’s eyes get drawn to two girls on the edge of the dancefloor, one with long blonde hair dressed in all leather, and the other a short haired brunette wearing jeans and plaid. They are chest to chest, foreheads pressed together, smiling at each other and exchanging the occasional kiss. Allison can’t believe that the two biggest werewolf clichés are dating.
The sweetness of it makes something in her chest pang. It’s been a while since she’s been on a date, and even longer since she’s had a boyfriend or girlfriend. After she started going on solo missions, there never seemed to be any time.
She finishes her drink and signals the bartender for another.
‘I’d have thought with your job, you would want something stronger,’ he says.
‘Can’t really get drunk, and don’t care for the taste.’
‘We might have something.’
‘You mean the wolfsbane stuff?’ Allison laughs. ‘I tried that once. I was sick for three days after that. Thanks for offering, though.’
After finishing her second drink, she decides it’s time to go back to the hotel. She leaves a nice tip for the bartender and slips out the way she’d come in.
Allison’s fine with sleeping in motels, or even in the woods; she’s been doing that since she was a kid. But after a hunt, she likes to reward herself for a job well done. She deserves a nice bath and a soft pillow after kicking some vampire ass.
She’s yanked out of her daydream of sweet-smelling bath salts and fluffy robes by nails digging into her arm and someone yanking her back. She turns on her assailant and pushes them against the wall of the bakery she just passed, her free arm against their throat.
When Allison sees her attacker, she’s a little taken aback. The woman is shorter than her and looks panicked. Her eyes are wide and darting from side to side. Her red hair is a mess of tangles, twigs, leaves and dirt. When Allison lets go and takes a step back, she can see the rest of the woman isn’t in a much better state. The woman is wearing only shorts and a tank top, both torn and dirty, and there are scratches on her arms and legs. The shoes she’s wearing are at least still in one piece, although just as dirty as the rest of her.
‘Please don’t go,’ the woman says, her voice hoarse and barely more than a whisper.
‘Why not?’ Allison asks.
‘There’s something there.’ The woman’s eyes shift to the mouth of the alley Allison had been about to pass. ‘You can’t go any further.’
‘I won’t,’ Allison promises, placing her free hand on the one still gripping her arm. ‘I’m going to get someone who can help us find out what’s in there. Okay?’
If there’s one thing Allison has learned over the years, it’s not to discount the stories of the seemingly crazy. They usually have a good reason.
The woman looks hesitant, but lets go. Allison hasn’t even turned around when the woman starts whispering “no” repeatedly. Allison follows the woman’s gaze. A girl is walking towards them from the other side of the alley.
‘Stop!’ she yells, but the girl is on her phone and doesn’t hear her.
The woman moves as close to the mouth of the alley as she dares. Waving her arms, she tries to get the girl’s attention.
‘Please, stop!’ she begs.
The girl passes the building and is half way across the street when the woman starts to scream and moves towards the girl. Allison grabs her arm and pulls her to safety. The woman fights against the Slayer’s hold, but it’s too late. The girl is pulled into the alley.
Instantly, the woman stops fighting and collapses in Allison’s arms. Allison lowers her to the ground, propping her up against the wall. She pushes the hair out of the woman’s face. There are silent tears running down her face, and she’s shaking, but she’s awake. Allison shrugs off her jacket and wraps it around the woman’s shoulders.
‘I’ll be right back, okay?’ she says. There’s no reaction, and Allison worries the woman might be in shock. She can deal with that in a minute.
Sliding her hands into her boots, Allison pulls out the daggers hidden there. She grips them loosely and sidles towards the alley, staying low. She peers around the corner. It looks like an ordinary alley. There are dumpsters, dirt, graffiti, the backdoors to the shops on either side. As she moves through the alley, Allison becomes more certain there is nothing normal about what just happened. There is no trace of either the girl or whoever took her.
‘Shit,’ she mutters. She’d really hoped for a couple quiet days before arriving back at base.
She turns back to walk out of the alley, but finds it blocked by two figures.
‘I told you not to make any trouble,’ Bartender growls.
Allison lowers her daggers. ‘I didn’t.’
The other werewolf snorts. She’s a little shorter than the guy, but has the same dark looks. Probably family, definitely pack.
‘A girl was just taken, or killed. I can’t find anything, but you might.’ Allison slides her daggers back into the sheaths in her boots. Showing the werewolves her empty hands, she approaches them slowly, keeping her breath and heartbeat even. ‘I would like to go check on the woman who stopped me from getting hurt.’
With obvious reluctance, the werewolves let her pass.
The woman has stopped crying, but she’s still shaking. Allison sits down next to her and wraps her arms around her, pulling her close. She doesn’t say anything, she simply rubs a hand up and down the woman’s back.
‘There’s nothing there,’ Bartender says when he comes back out of the alley. ‘At least nothing that shouldn’t be there. It reeks.’
‘I’ll call it in. You go talk to them,’ She-wolf says, and walks a couple feet away from them.
Bartender crouches down to their eye level. The look on his face is carefully blank, but Allison can see mistrust in his eyes.
‘My name is Derek, and that’s my sister Laura. Can you tell me your names.’
The woman turns her head just enough so she can talk without her voice being muffled by Allison’s shoulder.
‘Lydia,’ Derek nods encouragingly. The blank look is gone, and there’s a reassuring smile on his face. ‘Can you tell me what happened?’
The woman opens her mouth, but she chokes up, and tears start streaming down her cheeks again.
‘It can wait until tomorrow,’ Allison says. ‘I’ll give you my number. Call me so we can set up a meet-up.’
Derek looks like he’s about to protest, but she silences him with a short shake of her head. She unwraps herself from around Lydia so she can get up and stands as close to Derek as he’ll let her. ‘She needs sleep. I need sleep. And I don’t think she knows what’s happening to her.’
‘Do you?’ Derek asks, raising his eyebrows.
Allison turns back to Lydia to help her up, but she’s already standing. ‘You know I can hear you, right?’ Lydia says, wiping at her cheeks with the sleeves of Allison’s jacket.
‘Sorry,’ Allison shrugs. ‘I’m staying at the Beacon Hotel. I can get you a room there. Or you can go with Derek and Laura, if you’d prefer.’
‘You said you might know what’s happening to me?’
‘I’ll go with you.’ Lydia looks like something wild and lost, and it should make her seem vulnerable, but the look in the woman’s eyes is one of determination.
Allison thinks she’s going to like her.
It’s only a couple blocks to the hotel, and Allison hadn’t thought it necessary to take her bike. Allison let’s Lydia talk, having a feeling that Lydia doesn’t want to think too much right now. She finds out that Lydia is twenty-two, only a little younger than her, and lives in LA with her mom and her dog. She’s working on her PHD in Math at MIT. She just got home for the summer.
When they arrive at the hotel and Allison requests a separate room for Lydia, Lydia shakes her head.
‘I don’t want to be alone.’
They get to the room, and Allison hands Lydia some supplies, directing her to the bathroom. The shower starts, and Allison boots up her laptop. She sends a short message to base, saying there might be a case in the town she’s staying in, but that she needs more info. She’ll contact them again the next night.
She changes into more comfortable clothes for the night, puts her sleeping bag and a couple pillows on the floor, and then waits for Lydia to finish in the bathroom.
Allison has never brushed her teeth so fast. She’s hoping to talk to Lydia before they go to bed, but she’s not going to wake the woman up if she’s already asleep. She breathes a small sigh of relief when she comes out to find Lydia sitting on the bed, trying to untangle her long hair.
Now that she’s all cleaned up, and they’re no longer in the middle of a crisis, Allison notices how pretty Lydia is, with high cheekbones and big eyes and a nice body, a little softer and more feminine than Allison’s own.
Lydia catches Allison staring at her, and raises her eyebrows in question.
‘Can I?’ Allison asks, approaching her and holding out her hand for the brush. Lydia hands it over, and Allison sits behind her. ‘Would it be okay if I ask you a couple questions? It’s okay if you say no.’
‘Would it help you figure out what is happening?’
‘Okay,’ Lydia nods.
Allison places her hands on Lydia’s stiff shoulders, and softly pushes them down. ‘You can tell me to stop at any time. It’s okay if you don’t know all the answers, but I would like you to really think before you answer. Some things might seem strange to you, but I want you to tell me exactly what you’ve seen or her heard, not what you think you saw or heard. Okay?’
‘Alright. Do you know where you are?’
Lydia hesitates for a second. ‘No, but I’m guessing I’m not in LA anymore.’
‘You’re in Beacon Hills,’ Allison says, frowning at the back of Lydia’s head. LA is a long way away, and by the looks of it, Lydia walked all the way here. It would’ve taken several days, at least. ‘Do you know what day it is?’
‘June twenty-third,’ Lydia says with confidence.
Shit, Allison thinks. ‘I’m sorry, Lydia, but it’s the twenty-sixth.’
‘Oh my god. My mom, she-’
Lydia starts to tremble, and Allison quickly pulls her into a hug, hoping the contact will work like it did before.
‘You can call her, let her know you’re okay.’
‘I can’t believe this is happening again.’ Lydia’s voice doesn’t sound scared, like Allison had expected. She sounds annoyed.
‘What do you mean again?’
‘When I was twelve, I had really bad nightmares and started sleepwalking. I once walked around for almost three days. I went into therapy, got medication, and it stopped.’
Allison hums absently and goes back to brushing Lydia’s hair. Ten years, that can’t be a coincidence. She wants to ask Lydia what the nightmares were about, but knows that now is not the time.
‘I’ve had the same nightmare two nights in a row, before… this.’ Lydia turns her head to look at Allison with imploring eyes. ‘Please tell me this makes sense to you. My grandma had the same things happening to her and she-’
Lydia doesn’t need to finish her sentence. If Allison is right, she has a pretty good guess of what happened to Lydia’s grandmother.
‘I’m almost certain. But it can wait until tomorrow,’ Allison assures her. She finishes brushing Lydia’s hair. ‘Do you want it braided?’
Lydia nods, and Allison quickly divides the hair in three.
‘I’m scared to go to sleep,’ Lydia says as Allison ties off the braid. ‘What if I have a nightmare or start sleepwalking again?’
‘I can move the bedside table in front of the door, and I’ll put my sleeping bag between you and the window,’ Allison suggests. ‘I’m not a heavy sleeper. I’ll know when something is wrong.’ She grabs her phone and hands it to Lydia. ‘Call your mom first.’
Allison rearranges the room while Lydia calls, trying to ignore the conversation as much as possible. When she’s done, Lydia is already under the covers. Allison crawls into her sleeping bag, thinking that she’ll have to ask for a room with a double bed tomorrow. She’s already missing the mattress, and she hasn’t even slept on it.
She wakes up before Lydia, takes a quick shower, and then orders some breakfast for herself, not expecting Lydia to wake up any time soon. She checks her messages; there’s an email from her dad and a voicemail from Derek, left late last night. Allison reads the email first. Her dad tells her to be careful, and that her grandfather has ordered her to stand down. Beacon County is Hale territory. They can handle their own problems.
Allison bristles a little at the command. She knows enough about the Hales to know they’ll probably be fine, and could probably handle this, but she’s a Slayer, and she can’t just leave. Even if her family doesn’t know that.
Derek’s message puts her in a slightly better mood. His Alpha wants to meet her and Lydia. He asks her to call him back.
‘This is Derek,’ a gruff voice answers the phone.
‘Sorry, did I wake you up?’ Allison asks, feeling a little guilty. Sometimes she forgets that not everybody is trained to wake up at sunrise.
‘Yeah. I’m calling for the meeting with your Alpha.’
‘Right.’ Allison hears movement and barely manages to keep in her chuckle when she hears a thump, followed by a curse. Derek Hale clearly isn’t a morning person. ‘It’ll have to be either this morning or tonight.’
‘Morning is better. That way we still have a whole day left for tracking. Eleven? At the bar?’
‘Sounds good. I’ll tell my mom. Fuck. I mean my Alpha.’
Allison laughs. ‘I’d already guessed. Relax. But if it makes you feel better, I’m Allison Argent. Gerard’s my grandfather.
There’s a stunned silence from the other end of the line, and then, ‘It’s too early for this.’
‘You have three and half hours to get some extra sleep. You should probably take them,’ Allison suggest, taking pity on the guy.
‘Right,’ Derek says gruffly. ‘Hey, Allison?’
‘You seem like a decent enough person, but if you ever call me before 9am again, I will kill you.’
‘Is that a threat?’ Allison gasps.
‘Shut up. Go sharpen your knives or whatever it is Slayers do at this hour.’
‘Sleep tight, Derek,’ Allison smirks and hangs up, hoping nothing really bad is happening here. She likes what she’s seen of the Hale pack. Though, when Allison’s eyes get pulled to where Lydia is still sleeping peacefully, she reluctantly admits that the Hales aren’t the only reason she wants things to look worse than they are.
She spends another half-hour on research before finally admitting that the internet sucks and writing a short research request for her dad. She checks the clock. It’s almost eight o’clock. She should wake up Lydia, or they won’t have enough time to talk.
‘Lydia,’ she says, right by the woman’s ear.
There’s barely a response, only a soft grumble, so Allison shakes Lydia’s shoulder. That does the trick, because Lydia shoots up, her eyes wild.
‘It’s okay,’ Allison says, holding up her hands, not sure if it’s okay to touch. ‘You’re safe.’
Lydia focusses on Allison and relaxes. ‘Sorry.’
Allison squeezes Lydia’s shoulder in reassurance. ‘I’ll order breakfast while you get dressed. What would you like?’
‘Coffee, and fruit.’
‘Coming right up.’
Lydia doesn’t say anything more. She slides out of bed, grabs the clothes Allison hands her, and disappears into the bathroom. When she emerges ten minutes later, her breakfast has arrived, and she immediately goes for the coffee, wrapping her hands around the mug.
‘You want to talk now, or do you want to wait until you’re a little more… awake?’ Allison asks.
Lydia squints at her in a silent accusation. ‘Maybe wait until I’ve finished the coffee.’
‘Okay. Want me to do your hair in the meantime?
Lydia nods and continues sipping her coffee.
Allison untangles Lydia’s braid and brushes it out. She really likes Lydia’s hair. It’s soft and thick and shiny. She decides to keep it easy, splitting the hair in two, and braiding each side before pinning the hair like a crown around Lydia’s head. She fastens the last pin just as Lydia puts down her coffee mug and grabs the bowl of sliced fruit. Lydia turns to face Allison.
Allison takes a deep breath. She’s been wracking her brain on how to start, but she’s still not sure. ‘This is probably going to sound a little strange. And I’ve never actually had to tell anyone this before, so I’m not sure I’m any good at this.’ Lydia pops a piece of apple in her mouth, and simply waits for what Allison has to say. ‘There is an entire world hidden underneath what most people see. A world where magic is real. A world where magical creatures are real. Some are good, some are bad. Most of them are just people. Derek and Laura are some of those people -they’re werewolves. I’m one of those people too, a Slayer.’
‘I think you’re a banshee.’
Explaining things to Lydia was a lot easier than Allison expected. Lydia is curious, smart, and a good listener, so Allison never had to repeat herself. By the end, Lydia expressed more than a little scepticism, but for now, she was willing to accept what Allison had told her as a possibility.
‘It’s only because I have no other explanation, without discounting most of what has happened,’ Lydia had pointed out. ‘I’m going to need some proof.’
‘I’m sure the Hales can provide that. We’re meeting them at the bar at eleven.’
Which is where they are now. The bar is completely empty, except for the five of them, Allison and Lydia, Laura, Derek, and Alpha Talia Hale.
Allison has never met an Alpha werewolf. By all accounts, Alphas are often ruthless, hardened by years of defending their position in the pack and keeping their territory safe. The woman sitting across from Allison is definitely tough, and carries herself with authority, but the hard edges Allison expected aren’t there. Alpha Hale is a mother above all else, Allison realizes. Not just of her own children, but of her entire territory. She’d immediately questioned Allison’s presence. Allison wasn’t surprised, she’s a Slayer and an Argent. The explanation of simply wanting a quick way home through peaceful territory seemed to satisfy the Alpha.
The werewolves are surprised when Allison tells them her suspicions about Lydia. Banshees are rare, especially sane ones. Lydia, still sceptical about the supernatural, scoffs a little, but when the werewolves go into their Beta-shift in front of her, she nods. Allison gratefully notes that Lydia didn’t seem scared, just curious. That’s one less thing for her to worry about.
‘Miss Martin, can you tell me what happened?’ Alpha Hale asks, when all the formalities are done.
Allison sees Lydia take a deep breath, like she’s steeling herself. She grabs Lydia’s hand and squeezes it lightly in support.
‘It started a couple days ago, almost a week now, I guess. I don’t usually remember my dreams, but I remember having the same nightmare two nights in a row. It’s completely dark, and there’s no sound. Then, the humming starts. At least I think it’s humming. It’s steady and calming, and I can almost discern a melody. So I listen closer, and I hear names being called, hundreds of them. The names and the humming fade away, and when everything is silent again a voice says: Goodnight, sleep tight, and don’t let the bedbugs bite. And then I wake up screaming.’ Lydia is silent for a moment, but nobody urges her to keep talking, giving her the time she needs. ‘I guess I must have dreamed it again on the night of the twenty-third, because that was the last date I remembered before I came to. I remember thinking that something bad was about to happen, and when I saw Allison about to pass the alley, I grabbed her. For a moment I thought everything would be okay, but the feeling didn’t go away. And then-‘ Lydia swallows, and breathes out a slow breath. ‘And then I heard the humming again, and it got so loud. And there was the girl, and I couldn’t stop her. And then the humming got so loud that all I could think of was to scream, just so I wouldn’t hear it anymore. I- I’m not sure what happened after that.’
‘The girl got pulled into the alley,’ Allison says, easily taking over. ‘Lydia couldn’t stand up on her own anymore, so I sat her down and then checked the alley. I couldn’t find anything, and when I walked back out, Laura and Derek were blocking my way.’
Alpha Hale nods. ‘They’ve told me the rest. Those names you heard in your dream, do you remember any of them?’
‘No. I’m sorry,’ Lydia says. ‘Allison told me that banshees predict death. Those names, are they the names of people who are going to die?’
‘I can’t tell you that for certain. We know too little about banshees,’ Alpha Hale admits. ‘I think that only you can answer that question.’
Lydia deflates, dejection clear on her face. ‘I have no idea how to do that.’
‘Hey, my dad’s looking into things,’ Allison tries to reassure her, and then turns to Alpha Hale. ‘Do you know if you have any information on banshees?’
‘I’ll have to ask our researcher and our Emissary.’
Lydia nods, but doesn’t look encouraged.
Alpha Hale throws her a concerned look, and then continues, ‘In the meantime, we need to look for whoever is taking these people. Miss Argent, where do we start?’
‘What?’ Allison asks, taken aback by the question.
‘You have more experience in a case like this. As you mentioned, my territory is peaceful. We get very few unknown threats, and the last time people got kidnapped here by something supernatural was before my time.’
Allison looks around the table. Everyone is looking at her, expecting her to lead. It’s a little unnerving. She’s gone on solo missions for so long, she’d forgotten how heavy the weight of leadership could be. But there’s no time for philosophy, or a pity party; there are people to save and a monster to slay.
Allison grabs a notepad and a pen from her inside jacket pocket. She makes a list of tasks and they quickly divide them. Laura will take the pack’s tracker, Malia, back to the alley to do a more thorough search. Derek will be going to the police station to see if there are any more missing people. Allison is impressed when they tell her that not only is Derek’s best friend a deputy and a dragon, but the Sheriff knows about the supernatural too. Allison will taking Lydia shopping, to which Lydia protests until Allison points out that she’s going to need at least some clothes for the next few days. Allison says they’ll go over the police files together after that, and Lydia agrees.
After exchanging phone numbers, they say goodbye and start on their assigned tasks.
Allison is sitting on the bed, the files spread out in front of her. There are only six files, and Allison had easily sorted them in what was the probable order of the kidnappings. Lydia is sitting on the floor, a map of Beacon County spread out in front of her and notebooks by her side. She hadn’t wanted to touch the files again after the first time.
They’d just gotten back to the hotel when Derek called to tell them he got the files and was on his way. He handed the files to Lydia when he dropped them off, and the moment she touched them, she dropped them on the floor, scattering the papers everywhere, and clamped a hand over her mouth to muffle a scream.
‘Well, at least we know we got the right files,’ Lydia had said when she’d collected herself. She’d gone back into the room, leaving Derek and Allison to exchange raised eyebrows in the doorway.
‘Let’s start with locations,’ Allison says. ‘That way we can actually give the wolves something to do.’
It takes them almost an hour to figure out and mark all the locations on the map. Allison calls Laura to give her the addresses and then moves next to Lydia to look at the entire map.
‘I can’t find a pattern,’ Lydia says, fiddling with her hair in annoyance. ‘Shouldn’t there be some sort of pattern?’
‘Not necessarily. Some monsters just take what they want wherever they find it.’
‘Oh.’ Lydia eyes the files warily. ‘I have to go through them too, don’t I?’
‘You don’t have to,’ Allison says. ‘But they trigger something, and it might help.’
Lydia moves to the bed, and sits down.
‘You want me to sit next to you?’
‘To hold my hand?’ Lydia smirks. She shakes her head. ‘No, I think it would be best to do this alone.’
‘Okay.’ Allison brushes her hand through Lydia’s hair. ‘I’ll go get us some coffee from the coffee shop.’
When she comes back twenty minutes later, Allison finds Lydia crying over the files. She drops the food and drinks on the desk and sits next to Lydia so she can wrap her arms around her.
‘Talk to me.’
‘So much pain,’ Lydia whispers. ‘It was almost unstoppable.’
‘I’m sorry I made you do this.’
‘You didn’t make me do anything. And now we know they’re still alive.’
Allison grabs Lydia’s smiling face, brushing the tears away with her thumbs.
‘Are you sure?’
Lydia nods and smiles a little wider. Allison feels her entire world light up. She presses her lips against Lydia’s in elation, but pulls back immediately. Lydia is looking at her with widened eyes, but her smile hasn’t dimmed.
‘We, uhm, we should tell the others,’ Allison mumbles. She lets go of Lydia and slides off the bed.
After giving Laura the news, they drink their coffees in silence, Allison at the desk and Lydia on the bed.
‘Are we going to be awkward like this from now on?’ Lydia asks.
‘I don’t date,’ Allison says. ‘And definitely not on a hunt.’
‘Allison, we kissed. We don’t have to go looking for matching wedding bands.’
‘Alright,’ Allison laughs. ‘Let’s get back to the files.’
Lydia moves over a bit and pats the bed next to her.
For the next couple hours they pore over the files, trying to find anything else that might help.
‘There’s nothing here,’ Lydia pouts, throwing Matt Daehler’s file back on the bed. ‘And I’m getting a headache.’
‘I’ll call Laura,’ Allison says. ‘Maybe they found something that’ll help us know what to look for.’
Unfortunately, Laura doesn’t have any good news either.
‘We’ve been all over town. We found all the spots, but no clues. Malia thought there might be some similar scents, but she can’t be sure. Most of these sites were too old for us to pick up much.’
‘Exactly. We weren’t able to check Heather’s place though. She got taken from home, and her parents wouldn’t let us in without a deputy present. Although I doubt it would’ve made a difference. You guys having any better luck?’
‘Not really. All we’ve found out is that there is no connection, aside from the fact that they all live in Beacon Hills. They didn’t even go to the same high school, because Caitlin Williams and Heather Custer went to school in Beacon Heights.’
‘We’re heading home. I need a three hour bath to get the smell of alley off my skin,’ Laura grumbles. ‘You should probably take a break, too.’
‘Probably,’ Allison agrees. They say goodbye, and hang up.
‘I can’t stay in this room much longer,’ Lydia groans. ‘Let’s go do something. Go for a drive, to a park, watch grass grow. Anything!’
‘Okay,’ Allison laughs and pulls Lydia off the bed. ‘Let’s go be normal for a bit.’
They end up going to the movies. It’s an old Katherine Hepburn movie, and they’re both chuckling from the start. When they walk out an hour and a half later, Allison feels more relaxed than she has in years. She’d joked when she told Lydia they would go be normal for a bit, but when she sits down in front of her at the diner, that’s exactly how Allison feels. And when they walk back to the hotel, she hesitates only for a moment before grabbing Lydia’s hand. Thankfully, Lydia doesn’t say anything. She simply lets Allison twine their fingers together, and doesn’t let go until they’re back in the room.
Lydia goes back to the files while Allison starts up her laptop. She’s hoping her dad’s already found more about banshees than is in their main bestiary. When she logs in there is an email waiting for her, but there is no info in it, just a simple “Call us as soon as you can”. Allison glances at her phone, but then decides that she really wants to see her dad’s face.
‘Hey, dad.’ Allison waves at her dad’s grainy image on the laptop screen.
‘Hey,’ he smiles back at her.
‘I’m missing you all.’
‘We miss you, too. You’ll be home tomorrow, right?’
‘Actually, I won’t be,’ Allison admits. ‘I stayed in Beacon Hills. I want to put in an official request to stay and help.’
Her dad sighs, rubbing a hand over his face. It’s probably just to hide his smile. Her dad has never made it a secret that he’s proud of how Allison is always the first to volunteer for missions.
‘Hold on, I’ll get Gerard.’
He disappears from the screen, to be replaced by her grandfather a minute later.
‘Hello, dear. Your father tell me you have an official request.’
‘I do, sir. People here are being kidnapped. It’s definitely not ordinary. Whatever’s taking these people leaves virtually no trace. Not even a scent. They need my help.’
‘The Hales can deal with their own problems, honey.’ Her grandfather’s words are kind, but something icy has slipped into his voice. ‘I expect you to be on your way again tomorrow.’
‘What?’ There is nothing friendly left in her grandfather’s demeanour.
Allison feels her heartbeat double. She’s never done this before. She’s never disobeyed or flaked out. She’s always been their number one. But when she thinks of the people that have been taken, of Talia placing her trust in her, Allison realizes she doesn’t have choice. She looks at where Lydia is sitting on the bed, looking right back at her. The expression only Lydia’s face is questioning, and maybe a little hopeful. It makes Allison realize that even if she did have choice, she would still stay. She smiles, and turns back to her laptop, looking straight into the camera.
‘I’m not leaving. I’m staying to help.’
‘You pack your bags and hop on that motorcycle, young lady.’
‘No,’ Allison repeats. She squares her shoulders. ‘I’m a Slayer and I have a duty to protect these people. Alpha Hale has requested I stay, so I stay.’
Gerard’s face goes from furious to blank in an instant.
‘You are no longer welcome here,’ he says, and without saying goodbye, he disconnects the call.
Allison leans back in her chair, tears stinging in her eyes and breathing heavily. Her head is pounding. She wants to scream, or punch something, but she can’t move. She’d known there would be a backlash if she ever told them she was a slayer, but she hadn’t expected this. Gentle hands close around hers and Allison flinches, but the hands don’t leave. When Allison blinks away her tears, she sees Lydia kneeling on the floor next to her.
‘There you are,’ Lydia smiles softly.
Allison falls off her chair into Lydia’s arms. She buries her face in the red hair, and considers staying like this forever. Lydia is a good hugger, and she smells nice.
After a minute, Lydia pulls back. She brushes Allison’s hair out of her face, and looks determined.
‘What’s your favourite dessert?’ she asks.
‘You need something to cheer you up, even if it’s just a little. So, favourite dessert and favourite alcoholic beverage?’
‘Pancakes. And I can’t get drunk.’
‘Pancakes are breakfast.’
‘Anything can be a desert if you add ice cream,’ Allison says.
‘That’s true,’ Lydia chuckles. She stands up and pulls Allison with her. After clearing away all the police files, she points at the bed. ‘You sit here, and I’ll order us some pancakes and wine. You might not be able to get a nice little buzz going, but I can.’
Allison’s lips twitch up in a smile. Lydia grins proudly at her accomplishment before grabbing the phone and ordering room service.
When the pancakes arrive, Lydia is already excelling at distracting Allison from her conversation with her family. She’d grabbed the laptop and logged into her Instagram account, which is filled with pictures of her dog, and herself, in various outfits. They continue scrolling through the pictures, Lydia telling a little story with each one of them as they eat. Again, Allison is surprised at how normal Lydia makes her feel.
When Lydia stops in the middle of her story about Prada falling asleep in one of her Prada bags, Allison looks up to see her holding back a smile and pointing at her chin.
‘You’ve got a little syrup there,’ Lydia says.
Allison wipes at her chin. ‘Did I get it?’
Lydia laughs, shaking her head. ‘You’ve only made worse. Let me.’
Lydia grabs a napkin and wipes it over Allison’s face. A mischievous grin forms on her lips, and before Allison can duck out of the way, Lydia wipes the syrup on Allison’s nose.
Allison gasps in affront, tears off a piece off one of her pancakes and throws it at Lydia. It hits the woman square in the chest, and then slides into her shirt.
‘You actually managed to get it into my bra,’ Lydia mutters indignantly. When she looks up, she squints her eyes.
It devolves into a food fight from there. Lydia grabs a handful of ice cream to stuff down Allison’s shirt, while Allison tries to hit Lydia with as many syrup laden bits of pancake as she can. Allison expects her training will help her, but Lydia’s giggles, and her hands on Allison’s body, are very distracting. She ends up with Lydia straddling her hips and gripping her wrists to pin them on the mattress. Allison decides to just go with it. Maybe this is exactly what she needs.
Lydia suddenly pulls back, eyes wide, and gasping, ‘Allison!’
Allison feels her head sinking into something soft and cold that definitely is not a pillow.
‘Please tell me that’s not my ice cream.’
‘It wasn’t,’ Lydia giggles. ‘It’s mine.’
‘This is going to be horrible to wash out,’ Allison pouts.
Lydia pulls her up. She’s still straddling Allison, so now Allison has a lap full of Lydia and hair full of ice cream that she can already feel dripping into her shirt.
‘Let’s call for a clean-up,’ Lydia murmurs against Allison’s lips. ‘And then I’ll help you wash out all the ice cream.’
They clean up as much of their mess as they can, disappearing into the bathroom before the maids arrive to avoid their scolding looks. They hope the tip they left for them makes up for the mess a little.
Allison smiles at reflection in the mirror of Lydia trying to get as much ice cream out of Allison’s hair, and dropping it in the sink.
‘Thank you,’ she says.
‘For distracting me.’
‘That’s what friends are for,’ Lydia smiles.
Allison steps back and looks at Lydia curiously. She’s never really had a friend. She gets along fine with all the other hunters, but she wouldn’t consider them friends.
She doesn’t want Lydia to just be her friend, either. She wants more.
Allison steps forward again, trapping Lydia against the sink with her body. She presses their lips together, too hard and too desperate, the ache in her chest urging her to keep pushing forward. Lydia grabs Allison’s face, pulls back enough to softly bite Allison’s lip, and then places a soothing kiss over the bite. She looks at Allison with an understanding smile.
‘Let’s get your hair clean.’
When the water hits her hair and Lydia starts to massage in the shampoo, Allison feels the weight of what’s happened. She no longer has a home, or a family. She’s all alone. The tears start flowing freely. And even after they’re both clean, dried and dressed, they don’t stop.
By the time they leave the bathroom, Allison feels exhausted. It’s still pretty early, but she wants nothing more than to go to bed. They crawl under the covers and settle in. Allison starts to drift off, when Lydia stiffens next to her.
‘No,’ she whispers. She throws off the covers and runs out of the room without another word.
Allison curses under her breath as she slides out of bed, pulls on her boots, grabs shoes for Lydia, and runs after her.
Lydia is fast, and it takes Allison almost four blocks to catch up with her. She doesn’t stop Lydia, having a feeling about what is happening.
‘Do you know where we’re going?’ she asks.
Lydia shakes her head, her eyes wild and scared. Allison grabs Lydia’s hand, pulling her forward. They have to get there in time.
Lydia stumbles to a stops across the street from the police station. Allison pulls a knife out of her boot and moves in front of Lydia, waiting for whatever is out there in the dark.
They don’t have to wait long. The doors to the station slide open and a guy in jeans and a leather jacket walks out.
‘No,’ Lydia pants. It’s the first thing she’s said since she started running.
Allison looks from Lydia to the man. She can’t leave Lydia here, but that man is obviously going to be the next target.
‘Stop!’ she yells, not knowing what else to do. ‘Go back inside!’
The man stops and looks around, pulling out a gun when he spots them. Allison is going to assume he’s a deputy and not a criminal that just raided the police station’s armoury. The man scans the parking lot, slowly backing up. He’s almost reached the steps into the station when they hear glass shattering. Allison’s head snaps to the left, where one of the streetlights has gone dark. Barely a second later, the next one goes. One after the other, the lights go out, until the parking lot is covered in darkness. It takes barely five seconds.
Allison sprints across the street, but the spot where the man was standing is already empty. She covers her ears just in time to protect them from Lydia’s ear-splitting scream.
When the scream stops, Allison uncovers her ears and goes back to Lydia. There’s nothing she can do for that man, and there won’t be anything for her to find. She finds Lydia sitting on the curb, staring straight ahead. Allison sits down next to her, and Lydia puts her head on Allison’s shoulder, letting herself fall against her.
‘I’m going to call Laura, okay?’ Allison says.
While they wait for the werewolves to arrive, Allison quickly cleans Lydia’s feet, checks them for wounds, and puts the shoes she’s brought on them. Lydia barely reacts to any of it, when Allison is done, she curls back into Allison’s side.
Laura arrives with Derek and the brunette Allison had seen at the bar last night. She’s only been here a day, and it already feels like an eternity.
‘This is Malia,’ Laura introduces the brunette. ‘What happened?’
Allison tells them the story, and then Malia jogs off to investigate the lot.
‘That’s seven,’ Laura sighs. ‘How are we supposed to protect our people when the victims are so random?’
‘It’s not random,’ Lydia mumbles from Allison’s shoulder. ‘This guy was chosen.’
Allison doesn’t bother asking if Lydia is sure. Lydia wouldn’t have said it if she wasn’t. This raises some new questions, but she’s too tired to think of them now. A breeze reminds her that she’s only wearing her pyjamas, and she shivers. Laura and Derek quickly shrug off their jackets and wrap them around Allison and Lydia’s shoulders. The werewolves seem to understand they don’t want to talk, and they stay silent until Malia comes back.
‘I only have bad news,’ Malia says. ‘The lightbulbs were thrown out. Probably with stones.’ She then turns to Derek. ‘It was Jordan.’
Malia raises her eyebrows like he’s an idiot.
‘Shit.’ Derek pulls his phone out of his pocket. ‘I need to call the Sheriff.’
The Sheriff must’ve been working a late shift, because he walks out of the station only a minute later.
‘How the hell didn’t we hear anything inside?’ he asks them after Laura repeats what Allison told her.
‘Banshee screams aren’t that loud to humans,’ Allison explains.
‘You’re human,’ the Sheriff says.
Allison shakes her head. ‘Slayer.’
‘A wh-? Never mind. I don’t want to know,’ the Sheriff sighs. ‘Dammit. I have seven people missing and one of them is my best deputy.’ He closes his eyes and shakes his head a little. ‘It might even be eight.’
Everybody’s head snaps up.
‘What do you mean?’ Derek urges him.
‘Stiles might be missing, too.’
Allison watches everybody’s reaction with curiosity. Stiles must be important to them, because Derek drops down to sit on the curb next to her, Laura pales and her eyes flash, and Malia growls softly.
‘You know how he goes off sometimes for his magic stuff? After you told me about the kidnappings, I tried calling him. He didn’t pick up,’ the Sheriff explains.
‘He turns his phone off when he goes to the nemeton,’ Derek says, but he doesn’t sound very hopeful.
‘I know, but I asked Jackson to try and pick up his scent and he found nothing.’
‘Who exactly is Stiles?’ Allison interrupts them, curiosity finally getting the better of her.
‘Stiles is my son,’ the Sheriff says.
‘He’s also our Emissary in training,’ Laura adds. ‘That’s two people connected to the pack. This could be a challenge.’ She turns to Allison. ‘What do you think?’
‘I don’t know,’ Allison admits. ‘This day just never ends, and I’m exhausted. I need to get some rest before I do any more thinking.’
Derek seems about to protest, but the Sheriff stops him.
‘I’ll give you girls a ride back. If there’s one thing I know, it’s not to do any investigating with an empty battery.’
They agree to meet at the Stilinski house the next morning, and then Allison and Lydia drag themselves into the Sheriff’s car.
Allison doesn’t sleep well that night. She dreams of guns, screams, and invisible monsters. When she wakes up, she doesn’t feel rested, and she buries her head in Lydia’s hair to block out the outside world a little longer. When she finally does get up, Lydia almost has to drag her out of bed. They order breakfast and enough coffee to wake an entire army of sloths.
An email from her dad cheers her up a little. He says Gerard hasn’t changed his mind, but that he isn’t going to let anyone tell him to abandon his daughter. If she still wants his help, he’ll do what he can.
By the time they leave to talk to the Sheriff, Allison almost feels like a person again.
They’re the first to arrive at the house, despite arriving a couple minutes late.
‘Something’s wrong here,’ Lydia whispers as they follow the Sheriff to the kitchen.
‘Do you need me to distract him so you can do whatever it is banshees do?’
‘We really need to get more info on my special kind of crazy,’ Lydia grumbles.
‘Your crazy is unique,’ Allison grins. When Lydia glowers at her, Allison places a quick apologetic kiss on her forehead. ‘But I’m sure we can dig up more about banshees.’
‘You girls want some coffee? Or some breakfast? I made too much bacon.’
The Sheriff looks like he didn’t sleep any better than she did last night. There are bags under his eyes, and he seems jittery from too much coffee and too little sleep. The look on his face isn’t unfamiliar to Allison. Her own dad has had that expression of suppressed fear more than once, usually when she’s been on a difficult hunt.
‘Sir, if Stiles has been taken, he’s still alive. We do know that. And if he’s simply not picking up his phone, you can just ground him for three weeks,’ Allison tries to console the man.
‘He’s twenty-one. I’m pretty sure I lost my grounding privileges three years ago.’
‘I’ve found that there is no statute on a parent’s grounding privileges,’ Allison smiles.
The Sheriff huffs out a laugh. ‘Grounding didn’t even work when that boy was ten.’ He frowns and his face turns pensive. ‘I just wish these things would stop happening. He’s been through enough with his mom, and when his spark got discovered. I got shot about a month ago. It wasn’t bad, but it freaked him out. And now this.’
Allison doesn’t know what to say. She wonders if her parents ever felt the same, if they ever thought of shielding her from the horrors of the world instead of training her to fight them. She places a hand on the Sheriff’s arm and squeezes lightly. ‘You said something about bacon.’
Laura, Malia and Derek don’t arrive until most of the bacon is gone.
‘Sorry we’re late. Someone couldn’t manage to get his ass out of bed in time,’ Malia says, glaring at Derek, who ignores her and desperately clutches at his thermos with coffee.
‘Can you show us Stiles’ room?’ Allison asks.
The Sheriff nods and leads them up the stairs in silence. He pushes open a door at the end of the hallway. From where she’s standing, Allison can see piles of old books, newly printed papers, dirty clothes, and an unmade bed.
‘I think Malia should go in first,’ Laura suggests. ‘Then Lydia. Okay?’
Lydia and Malia both nod in agreement, and they all step aside to let Malia pass. She steps into Stiles’ room, sniffing lightly. In the middle of the room she stops.
‘Derek, get in here!’
Derek hands his coffee to his sister with a sigh and shuffles into the room to his packmate. His nose twitches has he sniffs the air
‘You smell that?’ Malia asks. ‘It was in the parking lot, last night.’
‘Green apple and smoke,’ Derek nods. ‘It was there when Tracy got kidnapped, too.’
‘We have a scent?’ Allison asks, perking up.
‘It’s gasoline and forest,’ Malia corrects Derek. She sniffs again, and looks around the room. ‘And maybe. The scent’s not actually in the room. It’s coming from something in the room.’
‘There’s a difference?’
‘The moment we take whatever gives off that scent out of the room, it won’t leave a trace. This means that we won’t be able to track the kidnapper, but we’ll know when we find its den.’
Malia pushes Derek out the door to continue her search in peace. She goes through the room systematically, starting by the door and working her way back. When she gets to the window she turns to them, a proud smile on her face, pointing at the windowsill.
‘Got it. It looks like glitter. What kind of monster would use scented glitter?’
‘Maybe it’s channelling David Bowie,’ Derek mutters.
Laura hits him on the head for that and turns to Lydia. ‘You should probably check it out. Don’t touch it!’ she adds when Malia reaches out a finger.
‘Do you want me to come with you?’ Allison grabs Lydia’s hand and holds it tightly for a moment. She’s seen what using her powers does to Lydia.
‘It’s okay,’ Lydia assures her. ‘Just wait here.’
Lydia takes a deep breath and steps into the room. As she gets closer to the window, her posture changes. Allison had expected her to become more tense, but Lydia seems to relax. Her shoulders drop, and her hands hang loosely by her side. She cocks her head, like she’s listening to something.
‘I can hear singing. It’s nice. It-‘ Lydia freezes, stumbles back.
Allison runs into the room to catch her.
‘They’re crying,’ Lydia whispers.
Allison turns to Sheriff, who has a pained expression on his face.
‘So my son really has been taken by this son of a bitch,’ he growls. ‘When you find him, can I shoot him?’
‘I’m not sure that will work, sir,’ Allison says
‘Will it hurt?’
‘Then I’ll shoot him.’
Laura places a calming hand on the man’s shoulder. ‘Do you have something we can put the dust in? So we can take it to Deaton?’
‘I’ve got some evidence bags in my coat. I’ll be right back.’
Allison watches the Sheriff turn stiffly and walk down the stairs. She can’t imagine what this must feel like for him, to be on the other side for once, to have to watch while others work to find his son.
She leads Lydia out the room. Lydia doesn’t look as affected as the other times she used her powers. Allison hopes it’s a good sign, but she doesn’t let go of her hand, just to be sure.
‘So,’ Allison starts, when the silence during their wait for the Sheriff starts to become awkward. ‘Who’s Deaton?’
Deaton turns out to be the town’s vet and the pack’s Emissary. He seemed like a nice guy at first, but after almost ten minutes of nothing but humming and turning the baggie with the dust over and over in his hands, Allison is ready to start throwing punches to get some answers. She’s not the only one who’s tired of waiting. Derek and Laura are glaring, Malia is playing with a puppy, and Lydia has started going through some of Deaton’s old books.
‘I can’t be sure,’ Deaton finally says.
‘What do you mean?’ Allison grits out.
‘There are many types of magical dusts and sands, Miss Argent. And since this looks to be a mix of two, I need to do some research.’
‘Any idea how long it will take?’ Laura asks.
‘I have an idea of where to look, so I’ll probably have some answers this evening. I’ll call the moment I find something concrete.’
The vet grabs one of his books and walks out of the room. It’s obvious they’ve been dismissed.
‘Great. What do we do now?’ Derek asks. He looks from his sister to Allison.
‘Have lunch,’ Allison says. ‘After that we’ll tell you everything we’ve come up with.’
Malia runs into the room. ‘Are we getting food?’
Derek huffs in amusement and gives her a playful shove out the door.
‘You okay?’ Allison asks Lydia, who has a book open in front of her. She doesn’t seem to have heard their plan about lunch.
‘No. Nothing about this is okay. There are werewolves, and Slayers, and magical dust. Oh, and I’m a banshee. A creature that predicts death, but I have no idea how my powers work.’ Lydia slams the book closed. ‘Most of these are about plants, and some aren’t even in English. So even if one of these could help me, I wouldn’t know.’
‘Hey.’ Allison puts her hand on Lydia’s shoulder, but Lydia shakes it off. She stands up and starts pacing the room.
‘Will my life ever be normal again?’
Allison wishes more than anything that she could say yes. She shakes her head. ‘I’m sorry.’
‘Will always be like this? With constant fear? Monsters around every corner?’
‘Hunts are,’ Allison admits. ‘But the supernatural does have its beauty. I saw a fairy migration once. It’s like watching the Northern Lights move through a forest.’
‘That sounds amazing.’ Lydia stops her pacing in front of Allison. She grabs Alison’s hands and holds them loosely. ‘You were right. About dating during a hunt.’
‘It’s too much.’
Lydia nods, biting her lip. ‘What now?’
‘Now we go get some lunch and explain to our werewolf friends what we’ve found so far,’ Allison says.
They decided it would be easiest to have lunch at the bar, and they’re now gathered in Derek’s office. It’s not actually big enough, but they didn’t want to risk someone seeing what they’re working on and causing a panic. They’ve pinned the map on the wall, the pictures of the victims surrounding it.
‘Are we assuming Stiles was the first?’ Malia asks. Allison nods. ‘So we have Stiles, Heather, Harris, Hayden, Caitlin, Matt, Tracy, and Jordan. Why them?’
‘We don’t know,’ Allison admits.
‘And he’s kidnapping them from all over the place. Without leaving anything but untraceable dust. How are we supposed to find them?’
‘We don’t know.’
They’re all silent for a moment, staring at the map like it will magically tell them where to go. Who knows, Allison thinks; it wouldn’t be the weirdest thing that ever happened to her.
They get pulled out of their reverie by the door slamming open. The blonde that had been dancing with Malia two nights ago is standing in the doorway, hands on her hips and eyes boring into Laura’s.
‘What’s going on? I haven’t seen my girlfriend in two days, and now you’re holding a secret club meeting in your office,’ she says. She looks Allison and Lydia up and down with more than a little disdain. ‘With two humans no less.’
‘Banshee, Slayer,’ Lydia says, pointing to herself and then Allison.
‘That only makes it weirder.’
‘Erica-‘ Laura starts.
But Erica seems to be on a mission. She walks into the office with determined strides and plants herself next her girlfriend. When she sees what’s on the wall, she raises her eyebrows.
‘Is that a murder board?’
‘Nobody has died,’ Laura sighs. She looks to Derek and Malia for help, but Derek just shrugs, and Malia has her arm already wrapped around Erica’s waist. ‘Fine, you can stay, but you can’t tell anyone about this without permission from Talia.’
‘Great. Now spill.’
Laura quickly tells her what’s happened. Erica’s face goes from surprised, to upset, to angry.
‘Like these people haven’t gone through enough,’ she seethes.
‘What do you mean?’ Allison asks.
‘They’ve all had some pretty shitty things happen to them. The stuff that happened to Heather and Hayden is probably in their files, right?’
‘Yeah, a kidnapping and a home invasion,’ Allison says. ‘And the Sheriff told us what happened to Stiles. What about the others?’
‘It’s not a secret Matt was terrified of water, he refused to even go near the pool during high school,’ Erica shrugs. ‘Caitlin saw her girlfriend get dragged off by a crazy witch. Tracy got lost in the woods once when she was little, took them days to find her. And Harris and Jordan were in the army. You see a lot of crappy stuff in the army.’
‘Maybe that’s it,’ Allison says. She can feel her heart beating a little faster with excitement. They finally have something. ‘Their traumas are what connects them. Maybe they never really got over them. Maybe whatever is taking people is feeding off it.’
‘How does this help us?’ Laura asks.
‘There aren’t that many creatures that feed off pain. And if we combine that with all the other things we know, we might find out what we’re up against.’
Lydia takes the notebook out of Erica’s hands and starts to sum up what they know. ‘It only takes people when it’s dark. The victims are still alive, so it should be somewhere big enough to hold at least eight people. And it needs to be remote. Eight people can make a lot of noise and would be noticed.’
‘Wait,’ Erica says. ‘How do you know they’re alive? I thought banshees were all about death?’
Lydia stiffens a little at that, and Allison throws Erica a glare.
‘Sensitive subject? Erica guesses. ‘Right, moving on, I guess. So for hidey holes, we’d be looking for a big place, that’s not too close to civilization?’
‘There are a couple abandoned motels on the edge of town,’ Malia suggests.
‘And the old bank building,’ Erica adds.
‘Not to mention most of the industrial district, the train depot, and the railway yard,’ Laura sighs, rubbing a hand over her face. ‘I’ll call mom to ask for extra help. We need to search all of these places. ‘Erica, Malia, you take the motels. Allison and Lydia, can you take the old bank?’
‘Sure,’ Allison says after a glance at Lydia, who nods. ‘I’ll need to go back to the hotel for my weapons though.’
‘Great. Derek and I, and the other search parties, will divide up the rest. If you find it, call me or Allison,’ Laura instructs. ‘Do not engage. Understood?’
‘Understood,’ Malia and Erica say at the same time, and then walk out of the room, hand in hand.
Allison feels her own hand tingle with the urge to reach for Lydia’s. When she glances to the side, she finds Lydia looking at her with a rueful smile.
‘Let’s get to the hotel. I need weapons,’ Allison says. She glances at the pumps Lydia is wearing. ‘And you need less noisy shoes.’
Being a Slayer sounds glamorous. It’s your destiny, fate. You fight monsters and save the world. The part they leave out is that most of your time is spent searching abandoned buildings. The smells of excrement, vomit, alcohol and weed invading your senses and getting absorbed by your clothes. Rats scurrying over your boots, not caring about the sharp, pointy objects you carry.
‘I still think it’s weird you don’t have a gun,’ Lydia comments, pointing at the bow in Allison’s hand.
‘Guns are too loud and clumsy. Bows are bigger, but you can actually use them in close combat. You can’t really run out of ammo either, arrows can be made out of almost anything. And for some creatures you need special ammunition. It’s a lot easier to make wooden arrows than bullets, and arrows are more easily poisoned too. Sometimes a substance needs to stay in a creature for a while before it takes effect. Bullets just blow through.’
‘I get it. Bow and arrow are better.’ Lydia smiles a little sadly. ‘I can’t imagine having to think of all these things.’
‘It becomes second nature,’ Allison shrugs. ‘One more floor to go.’
They find a lot of things. More rats, food wrappers, dust, discarded condoms, some old chairs, a broom, even some forgotten cleaning supplies, but not the eight missing people. They make their way back outside in disappointment.
‘Hey, Allison?’ The unsure tone of Lydia’s voice makes Allison look up.
‘Do you know what you’re going to do after this?’
Allison stops short. She hadn’t thought of it, hadn’t wanted to. She knows she can’t go home, and she knows she doesn’t want to leave Lydia just yet, but beyond that she has no idea. Perhaps her dad could give her tips about hunts. She could drive around the country on her bike, saving people on the way. Or maybe she can join Buffy and her Slayers. Though they probably wouldn’t be too welcoming to an Argent.
‘I don’t know,’ she says honestly, and continues walking down the stairs. ‘What about you?’
‘Go back home,’ Lydia says. ‘Then go back to school, or maybe come back here. I want to know more about all of this, but I also want to live my life.’
Allison doesn’t say anything to that. She can’t imagine having a life outside of all this. She’s not even sure she wants one. Being a Slayer isn’t easy. She’s hated by both the supernatural and hunters, and she gets in far too many life threatening situations. But she also helps a lot of people, and that’s worth it.
They continue on in silence for a while.
‘Would you come to LA with me if I asked?’ Lydia asks.
They’re standing at the back door they used to get in. Allison rests her hand on the doorknob, closing her eyes and letting her head droop. She wants to say yes, but a voice at the back of her head tells her it’s not a good idea. That it wouldn’t last.
‘I don’t know.’
Allison pushes open the door, and they step out into the sunlight and the fresh air. She hands Lydia her phone to call Laura and starts putting some of her weapons in her saddlebags. There’s a lot that she can hide on her body, but an entire quiver of arrows and a bow aren’t amongst them.
‘They need help covering the railway yard,’ Lydia tells her after hanging up. She hands Allison back her phone, pulling away her hand like it’s been stung when their skins touch.
Allison hates this. She never should’ve given in to her need to get closer to Lydia. They have a job to do and need to focus, but now they can barely talk without things feeling weird.
Allison nods, straddles her bike, and waits for Lydia to climb on. The changed between them punctuated by the fact that Lydia doesn’t hold on to Allison’s waist, but grabs the seat instead. Allison puts on her helmet and slams her visor down. Anger, that is what she needs. Sharp, focussed anger. The bike roars to life and they take off.
At the railway yard, a werewolf who introduces himself as Isaac is waiting for them. He must have sensed the tension between them, because he suggests that Lydia go with him while Allison goes with a werewolf in a deputy’s uniform named Jackson.
They find a lot of homeless people, some of whom they manage to persuade to get to a shelter. They don’t find the people they’re looking for. And by the time Allison gets back to her bike several hours later, she’s grumpy, hungry, and in need of a shower.
‘You wanna go get something to eat?’ Allison suggests when Lydia and Isaac arrive.
‘Laura’s got food,’ Isaac says. ‘We’re supposed to meet at a warehouse. It’s not far, you can follow us.’
The hours apart haven’t done anything to help the awkwardness between her and Lydia. When they get to the warehouse, Lydia walks off to talk to Laura, and Allison decides to sit down next to Derek to eat. He gives her a look, but doesn’t comment on her emotional state. None of the werewolves do. Talia raised her pack well.
Not having to hold up a conversation gives Allison time to think. They don’t have anything else to do. They’ve searched most of the town by now. There is no scent trail to follow. It’s already dark outside, and the only clues they have are the dust from Stiles’ room and Lydia’s powers. She should get back to the hotel; maybe her dad has already found something more on banshees.
‘Derek, have you seen Malia?’ Erica interrupts Allison’s thoughts.
‘She wanted to get some fresh air. She’s probably on the roof,’ Derek shrugs.
Erica is barely out the door to follow her girlfriend when a scream drowns out all other sounds. The werewolves all curl in on themselves, the glass is vibrating in the windows, but Allison shoots up off the couch and runs to Lydia. She hovers behind the woman, not sure if she’s needed, or even wanted. When Lydia stops, she’s trembling but still upright. She’s looking at Erica, who straightens up, sniffs and then runs down the steps. A minute later there is a furious howl from outside, and then the start of an engine.
‘Shit,’ Laura mutters. ‘Where could she possibly go?’
There is only one place for Erica to go for answers.
‘Deaton,’ Allison says.
‘Lydia, Derek, you’re with me. Allison, we’ll see you there. The rest of you,’ Laura says, directing herself at the others of the Hale pack. ‘Get back to the house. Brief Talia on what’s happened.’
Allison runs into the clinic to find Derek and Laura pulling Erica off the floor and Lydia examining a cut on Deaton’s arm.
‘Bullshit!’ Erica growls. She’s completely wolved out, straining against the hold Derek and Laura have on her. Has a bruise forming on her cheek, but it heels just as fast. ‘You know something. You always do.’
‘Miss Reyes, I don’t have much. And what I have could be dangerous if incorrect.’
Erica is snapping her teeth at her packmates. Derek and Laura seem to have it under control, but Allison slides a throwing knife out of her thigh holster just in case. She places herself between the three werewolves and Deaton and Lydia. The vet doesn’t look rattled by Erica’s fury, but he does look tired. Allison guesses it’s the only reason Erica actually managed to touch Deaton. Next to the Alpha, Emissaries are the most powerful members of a pack.
‘Is there anything you do know for certain?’ she asks. She doesn’t want to press the man, but they need something. Even if it’s just to calm Erica down.
‘Not much, and I d-‘
‘I understand it might not be safe, but right now it feels like were trying to hold sand in our hands, and it’s slipping through our fingers.’
‘You have no idea how fitting that metaphor is, Miss Argent,’ Deaton says. He grabs several books and two small containers and places them on the examination table. He opens the containers. ‘I’ve managed to mostly separate the two powders. I’m fairly certain this is Dream Dust.’ He slides one of the containers forward.
‘Dream Dust?’ Allison repeats, unable to keep the scepticism out of her voice. ‘You mean like the Sandman? That’s a myth, a children’s story.’
‘Some people would say the same about werewolves and banshees. Up until ten years ago, a lot of us in the supernatural world were sceptical about the existence of Slayers,’ Deaton points out.
Allison bends over the containers. The one Deaton had pushed forward is filled with very fine gold sand, the other with green.
‘What’s the green one?’
‘I have no idea, Miss Argent. Like I said, I don’t know enough. All I can think of is that it’s a different form of Dream Dust, maybe corrupted somehow. There is a mention of Mare Dust in this book.’ Deaton pulls a big volume onto the middle of the table, and opens it on a page full of detailed illustrations of what appear to be Fey. Allison tries to read the descriptions below the illustrations, but it’s not written in English. ‘I haven’t found any other reference to it, but it’s purpose seems straightforward.’
‘Nightmares,’ Lydia says. She’s wrapping a bandage around Deaton’s arm, a pout of concentration on her face. ‘So what happens if you combine the two?’
‘I don’t know. In theory, two opposites should cancel each other out. But this is magic, and it rarely follows the rules of logic.’
‘Could they amplify each other?’
‘It’s as possible as anything else.’
Allison can see the wheels in Lydia’s head turning. ‘What are you thinking?’
‘Dream Dust is supposed to put you to sleep, right?’ Lydia asks. ‘What if these two combined put you in a sleep so deep it’s almost like death.’
‘They’re in a coma?’ Laura interjects. ‘Great. They can’t escape themselves, and they won’t be able to make any noise for us to hear.’
‘We could smell them, and I know Malia’s heartbeat better than my own,’ Erica says.
‘We have no scent trail to follow,’ Derek reminds her.
Erica’s eyes flash yellow. Allison expects her to try to jump Deaton again. She tightens her grip on her knife, but all Erica does is whine pitifully. Allison didn’t know werewolves could make puppy eyes.
‘There might be a way to find out more,’ Deaton muses. He waves Lydia to a stool next to the examination table. ‘A banshee’s powers are mainly auditory. So, Miss Martin, we need you to listen.’
Deaton slides the two containers in front of her and steps back. They all wait for Lydia to do something, but she just keeps staring from one pile of Dust to the other.
‘This is useless,’ Erica growls.
‘Either shut up, or leave,’ Lydia says. She doesn’t look up to see Erica glower at her, but Allison shoots the werewolf a warning look. ‘I need to focus. Can I touch it?’
‘Yes, it’s harmless out of the hands of its owner,’ Deaton assures her.
Lydia nods and puts her fingers in the container with the Dream Dust, stirring it. A brief frown flashes over her face. She looks to the green Dust, and then mirrors what she’s doing with the gold. Lydia closes her eyes, and bends closer.
‘Dammit, I can’t hear it,’ she mutters, frustrated. She looks from one container to the other again, grabs the container with the gold and dumps it into the green. Stirring the two Dusts together, Lydia closes her eyes.
‘It wasn’t humming,’ Lydia says, more to herself than to anyone else. ‘It was the Dust, flowing.’
She keeps stirring with her fingers, mouthing words, and occasionally giving a shake of her head. Until she shoots up straight.
‘It’s a hospital.’
‘Are you sure?’ Erica asks, eyes intent.
‘Pretty sure. I can hear the beeping of the machines. And codes being called over the intercom.
‘We should-‘ Laura starts, but is interrupted by Erica tearing herself loose from her and Derek’s grip and racing out of the clinic.
‘Derek, go after her!’ Laura calls.
‘Take my bike,’ Allison says, throwing Derek the keys.
‘I need to call Melissa McCall.’ Laura digs her phone out of her pocket. ‘Let her know she has an angry Beta coming in. And I need to call my mom for back up. And-‘
‘I’ll drive, you call,’ Allison says, already walking out of the room.
When they arrive at the hospital a woman with tan skin and dark curly hair is waiting for them.
‘I think I know where they might be,’ the woman says, leading them inside. ‘There’s a floor being renovated, the old ICU. Derek and Erica have already gone up there.’ As they move into the elevator, the nurse briefly places a hand on Laura’s shoulder. ‘I’m sorry about Malia.’
‘I’m not happy with this,’ Allison says. ‘We’re too unprepared. We don’t what we’re up against, with no time for recon. Here.’ She shoves a small crossbow into Lydia’s hands. Lydia raises her eyebrows. ‘I’m not letting you go in unarmed. Pull the trigger. You have three shots before you need to reload, so I hope your aim is good.’
Lydia gingerly takes the weapon from her. Allison sighs when she realizes that Lydia has zero training. This is such a terrible idea. They should just wait for backup. She takes her bow off her back, and fits an arrow against the string anyway.
‘I’ll go first,’ Laura says. ‘Lydia in the middle. Allison, you’ll go last. Melissa, can you wait for my mom and the others?’
The three of them file out of the elevator and wait for the doors to close, hiding Melissa from view.
They move forward slowly and silently. Allison had expected the place to be a mess, but all the tools and supplies are stacked against the walls, leaving their path clear. There are sheets on the floor to protect it from paint splatter. It helps with an easy and silent advance, but it will also help their adversary with sneaking up on them. And they can’t count on Laura smelling it, because scent is all but useless with the smells of fresh paint pervading the air.
Allison has never liked hospitals. They remind her of pain and death, and she has enough of that in her life already. But this abandoned floor feels even worse. The bustle of the hospital is muffled, the sounds of sirens and voices over the intercom seeming like they’re coming from miles away. It makes Allison feel isolated, like there is no help coming for them.
A growl from the end of the hallway breaks through the silence, and they sprint the rest of the way.
The room is large, with beds against two of the walls and a walkway in the middle. The beds are pushed so close together there is barely enough room for a person to stand next to them. Most of the beds are occupied, their sleepers’ chests all rising and falling in sync, skin pale and shiny with sweat. Their fingers twitch and relax periodically. Allison thinks that if she could see their eyes they’d be moving too, but they’re covered with strips of fabric.
Erica and Derek are standing in the middle of the room. Derek has his arms around Erica’s arms and waist, trying to stop her from attacking the figure lounging against the far wall. It’s completely green with a golden glow to it, just like the Dusts when mixed together. It’s hard to make out its features. The Dust that makes up its body is constantly shifting, reshaping its face. She can’t even tell if there’s a real body underneath the Dust. The creature reminds her of a showman, or a circus’ ringmaster. Its stance is confident and open, and despite the shifting Dusts, Allison’s pretty sure it’s grinning at them.
‘More visitors!’ the Sandman cheers. It pushes off the wall and spreads its arms wide. ‘You are so very welcome. I was just telling these two lovely werewolves that I would be happy to let them join their friends and loved ones. But alas, they refused. I make you the same offer.’
The Sandman bows, holding out one hand towards them, the other behind its back. Allison can’t distinguish any eyes, but she feels him looking at her anyway.
As the Sandman keeps looking at them, Allison feels her eyes drooping. She remembers being scared to go to sleep. She would have nightmares of blood, demons and monsters. But her parents never comforted her by saying that it wasn’t real, that there was nothing to be scared of in the dark. Instead, they’d tell her to train harder, to study the bestiary more often. Allison never thought her dreams were anything special. She thought she was simply too much of a coward to become a hunter until she’d caught a whispered argument between her mother and Kate.
‘They all have those dreams,’ Kate had said, sounding excited.
‘My daughter is not some freak. If you tell Gerard, I will skin you,’ her mom had growled.
‘Victoria, if Allison becomes a Slayer, we can use that. We can use it to end them, once and for all.’
‘My daughter is human, and you will not use her for some magical experiment because of a couple nightmares.’
A week later, when her dad asked if the nightmares were still troubling her, Allison told him no. It was the first time she’d lied to her parents.
Pain shooting through her arm makes Allison snap her eyes back open. She looks down and sees that Lydia has pricked her with a knife she’d pulled out of Allison’s thigh holster. She hadn’t noticed that, just like she hadn’t noticed she’d closed her eyes. She looks up at the creature in the middle of the room. It’s looking at Lydia with a curious expression his face, and when it finally shifts its attention back to Allison, it looks sad.
‘Such pain,’ the Sandman says, its voice soft. ‘I can take it all away, you know. I can make you sleep forever.’
Allison raises her bow in warning. She can’t let it talk too much. She was already half-asleep after a minute, and when she looks at the others she can see they’re not doing much better. But the Sandman ignores the bow and opens its mouth to continue its story.
The arrow hits in the middle of its chest. The creature freezes and then falls apart, the Dust falling into a pile. Lydia sighs in relief
Things can’t be that easy, Allison thinks. They so rarely are. She has a new arrow in place, just as the creature reassembles itself, rising up out of the Dust.
‘Well, that was a little ungrateful,’ it says, rubbing over the spot Allison hit.
‘What are you?’ Allison bites out. It’s stupid, and she knows it. Questions will only prompt it to talk more, give it power, but she needs a way in.
‘Not sure, actually,’ the Sandman muses. ‘It doesn’t really matter. What matters is that my plan is working.’
‘No! Well, technically yes. But I like to see it as saving them from themselves. Like I saved myself,’ it smiles.
That smile seems to be the last drop for Erica. Her fury must’ve kept her awake, because she pulls herself out of a sleepy Derek’s arms. Snarling, she jumps the creature, and reaches for its throat. The Sandman’s smile only grows, and blows softly on its hand. A swirl of Dust disconnects from its body and blows into Erica’s face. Before Erica can drop to the floor, she dissolves into Dust, only to reappear on one of the beds. The creature walks up to her with a delighted smile and swipes a hand over Erica’s eyes. Allison realizes that what she’d taken for strips of fabric are thin layers of Dust to keep the sleepers sleeping.
‘How did you do that?’ she asks.
‘All we are is dust in the wind, sweetheart,’ the Sandman says, looking up from Erica. Some of its bravado seems to have dropped, and Allison thinks it looks almost sad. It steps back into the centre aisle, its cockiness back. ‘Have you reconsidered my offer? You can see that your friend is perfectly comfortable.’
Laura and Derek, rudely awakened by what happened to their packmate, jump the Sandman together. It blows on its hand again, but having seen the trick already, the werewolves easily avoid the swirls of Dust. Derek moves behind the creature to pin its arms behind its back. Laura extends her claws and swipes at its throat. The claws never make contact, because the Sandman dissolves, sliding out of Derek’s arms, and reassembles next to him.
But Laura is still swiping her claw at where the creature was standing, and Derek has stumbled forward at the sudden loss of his captive. There is no time for the werewolves to react. The Sandman grabs Laura’s wrist, saving Derek from his sister’s claws. Allison’s relief is of short duration, because the Sandman blows on its arm twice in quick succession.
Laura and Derek dissolve as the Dust hits their eyes.
While the Sandman busies himself with making Laura and Derek comfortable, Allison shoots a look to Lydia. Lydia is trembling with anger. Allison grabs Lydia’s arm, and walks them backwards, as far away from the creature as they can get without leaving the room.
This isn’t the first time Allison wishes her life was a movie or a television show, because then there would be something to help her out of this sticky situation. She needs something to stop the creature from dispersing and reforming itself, or disperse it permanently. But there are no handy hoses or buckets of water, there are no fans that she can turn on, no exposed high voltage wiring. All she has are her weapons, and Lydia.
‘Lydia,’ she whispers. ‘Scream.’
Allison had hoped the scream would distract the creature enough that maybe she would be able to make one of her arrows stick. But with Lydia standing next to her, the screaming is too painful. Allison drops her bow and claps her hands over her ears. The Sandman doesn’t have a much better time. The Dust begins to shift erratically over its body, and it starts to lose its humanoid shape. It flings a ball of dust at the banshee in anger, knocking her off her feet and silencing the scream.
There’s no time for Allison to pick up her bow and aim a new arrow. She draws her daggers out of the sheaths in her boots and advances on the Sandman while he’s still distracted by Lydia.
It doesn’t stay distracted for long enough, and when she’s within arm’s length, it blows on its hand. Allison closes her eyes and twists to avoid the Dust. She raises up her arm to plunge the knife into where she knows its neck will be. But a hand that feels like sandpaper grabs her wrist, and on instinct she opens her eyes. The creature grins. Golden eyes shining with glee, it blows on the hand holding Allison’s wrist.
The Dust reaches her eyes, and starts pulling her eyelids down. Allison’s knees buckle, and she thinks that sleep might not be such a bad idea. She wouldn’t have to worry about where she’s going next. She wouldn’t have to deal with what is happening between her and Lydia. Things would be so much easier.
She manages to open her eyes one last time, to say goodnight to Lydia, but Lydia is no longer where she’d been knocked back against the wall. The banshee is running forward, a new scream on her lips. When she reaches the creature, Lydia extends her arms and shoves the Sandman back. It doesn’t dissolve, and Lydia’s hands don’t push through it. When Lydia’s hands connect with the Sandman’s chest, it’s like a shock wave goes through the Dust. A man is pushed out of it, flying back until he hits the opposite wall. The Dust stays where it is, standing in the middle of the room in the shape of a man for just a moment before it dissolves and disappears.
Allison catches herself just as she hits the floor, wincing when her wrist doubles painfully. She turns onto her back, staring at the ceiling. She can hear the sleepers waking up. People are running towards them in the hallway. Talia Hale is shouting orders.
Allison closes her eyes and breathes out. It’s over.
‘Allison?’ Lydia’s concerned voice makes her open her eyes again. ‘Are you okay? I saw you falling.’
‘I’m okay. I fell on my wrist, though.’
Lydia sighs in relief and presses her forehead against Allison’s. ‘Don’t do that again.’
‘Okay.’ Allison can feel a smile curve her lips. She buries a hand in Lydia’s hair, keeping her in place for a moment. ‘Can I get up now?’
Lydia pulls back and helps Allison up. The room is almost empty, with the last of the victims being led out by members of the Hale pack to be checked by Melissa. Then, the only people left in the room are Allison, Lydia, Laura, Derek, Talia, and the guy that had come out of the Dust. He’s sitting against the wall, his knees pressed against his chest and his head on his knees, making himself as small as possible. His shoulders are shaking, and Allison thinks he might be crying or having a panic attack.
Talia approaches him slowly and kneels down in front of him.
‘Stiles,’ she says, her voice soft. ‘Stiles, can you look at me?’
Stiles lifts his head up to meet the Alpha’s eyes. Tears are streaming down his face. Allison hears a whine from beside her, and when she looks over, Laura has her hand on Derek’s shoulder to stop him from moving forward.
‘Stiles, can you tell me what happened?’
‘It’s all my fault, isn’t it? I just wanted to sleep. One night without waking up screaming. One night where I didn’t watch everyone die,’ Stiles says between ragged breaths.
Allison feels her heart ache in sympathy. She knows the feeling.
‘I tried to summon the Sandman, just for one night. Something went wrong, and we got bound together. What happened after… it’s fuzzy and dark, like a dream and a nightmare combined.’ Stiles looks down at his knees again. His voice almost inaudible when he says, ‘I just wanted to stop the nightmares.’
‘I’m sorry, Stiles,’ Talia says. She pulls Stiles out of his protective posture and into a hug. ‘We should’ve know you were in pain.’
Stiles just hums and buries his face into his Alpha’s shoulder. It reminds Allison of the hugs her dad gives her when she comes back from a hunt. She swallows down a lump in her throat, realizing she might never get one of those hugs again. She really wants to go home. A tug on her hand pulls her out of her sad thoughts. Lydia is looking at her with a soft smile on her face.
Lydia is a good hugger too, Allison remembers
‘How much trouble am I in?’ Stiles asks, after standing up with a groan.
‘That’s for Deaton to decide,’ Talia says. ‘You are not yet my Emissary, but still his student.’
‘I’m going to be cleaning the cat cages for the rest of my life,’ Stiles mutters as he walks past the Alpha towards the door. Derek and Laura intercept him with hugs of their own, and Talia herds the last of her pack out of the room.
Allison is the last one. She gathers her weapons and turns to look back one more time. But Lydia grabs her hand, and pulls her towards the others, who are already waiting by the elevator.
This time, when Allison goes to the Hales’ bar, it’s almost the opposite from her first visit. The place is still packed, but she barely makes it ten feet before she’s wrapped up in a drunken hug by Stiles, who is then pulled off her by an apologetic Derek. Erica and Malia wave her over to dance with them. People she recognizes as pack members clap her on her back or shoulder as she makes her way to where Laura is tending the bar.
She’d always thought that she liked not being noticed. It had made it easy for her to do what she needed to do. Now she realizes it had just made her feel lonely.
‘Hey,’ she greets Laura. ‘Is Lydia here?’
‘She’s at the other end.’
Allison looks over and sees Lydia talking to a guy next to her. Well, it’s not so much talking as leaning away from him with an annoyed expression.
‘I think I should go save her,’ she says.
‘Garrett's harmless,’ Laura says, when she sees the way Allison glares at the guy. ‘Mostly. I think it’s more likely that you’ll save him from getting punched in the face.’
Allison can see that Laura’s right. The hand that Lydia has laying on the bar is balling into a fist. She quickly makes her way over to the two and positions herself so she’s blocking Lydia from Garrett’s sight as much as possible.
‘I thought that with all the extra senses, werewolves would know when they’re not wanted,’ she says.
‘Just keeping the seat reserved for you, honey.’ Garrett smiles, and slides off the stool.
‘That is very thoughtful of you,’ Allison says. She raises her eyebrows and keeps looking at Garrett until he gets the hint and walks away, probably looking for his next victim.
‘I guess I owe you a drink for saving me,’ Lydia smiles at her.
‘You saved me from becoming Sleeping Beauty. I think we’re even.’
‘Don’t worry. I would’ve kissed you.’
Allison opens her mouth to say something back, but doesn’t know what. So she snaps her mouth shut and stares at her hands. She hasn’t seen Lydia since they left the hospital the night before. Lydia had opted to go with the Hales, and Allison had gone to the hotel. The room had seemed too quiet and empty without Lydia there; after only a couple days, the woman had carved herself a place in Allison’s life.
‘You going back to LA tomorrow?’ she asks after a couple moments, still staring at her hands.
‘Yeah. My mom is still worried, and I can’t blame her. I’m coming back here in a couple weeks, though. The Hales have a lot of books that might help me figure out more about my powers. I want to go through as much of them as I can before I have to go back to MIT.’
‘My dad still hasn’t found anything. I’m sorry,’ Allison says. The apology feels heavy, like she’s apologizing for so much more, even though she has no idea for what.
Lydia places a hand on her arm. Allison looks up to find her smiling at her with a soft expression. ‘It’s okay.’
It’s now or never, Allison thinks. If she doesn’t do something, Lydia is going to walk out of the bar and go back home, and she might never see her again.
‘If you want, I could give you a ride,’ she blurts out.
‘That would be great,’ Lydia says, her soft smile turning into a happy grin. ‘You ever been to LA?’
‘No. Never had to.’
‘I could show you around. Do all the stupid touristy stuff with you.’
‘That sounds good.’ Allison feels her own smile threatening to split her face in two, and her heart is beating out of her chest from excitement. ‘I’ve never really had a vacation before.’
Lydia slides her hand down Allison’s arm towards her hand, and tangles their fingers together.
‘It’s a date, then.’